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No foot-print, save the covey's or the flock's,
To My Son.
But far and further still my view I bend,
The Thanksgiving off Cape Trafalgar.
Soft sighs the gale that late tremendous roared,
GEORGE CRABBE. The Rev. GEORGE CRABBE, whom Byron has characterised as 'Nature's sternest painter, yet the best,' was of humble origin, and born at Aldborough, in Suffolk, on the Christmas-eve of 1754. His father was collector of the salt-duties, or salt-master, as he was termed, and though of poor circumstances and violent temper, he exerted himself to give George a superior education. is pleasing to know that the old man lived to reap his reward, in witnessing the celebrity of his son, and to transcribe, with parental fondness, in his own handwriting, the poem of 'The Library.' Crabbe has described the unpromising scene of his nativity with his usual force and correctness:
Lo! where the heath, with withering brake grown o'er
Exposing most, when most it gilds distress. The poet was put apprentice in his fourteenth year to a surgeon, and afterwards practised in Aldborough; but his prospects were gloomy, that he abandoned his profession, and proceeded to London i i literary adventurer. His whole stock of money amounted to
only three pounds. Having completed some poetical pieces, he offered them for publication, but they were rejected. In the course of the year, however, he issued a poetical epistle, The Candidate, addressed to the authors of the Monthly Review.'. It was coldly received, and his publisher failing at the same time, the young poet was plunged into great perplexity and want. He wrote to the premier, Lord North, to Lord-chancellor Thurlow, and to other noblemen, requesting assistance; but in no case was an answer rcturned. At length, when his affairs were desperate, he applied to Edmund Burke, and in a modest yet manly statement disclosed to him the situation in which he stood. Burke received him into his own house, and exercised towards him the most generous hospitality. While under his happy roof, the poet met Mr. Fox, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and others of the statesman's distinguished friends. In the same year (1781) he published his poem “The Library,' which was favourably noticed by the critics. Lord Thurlow—who now, as in the case of Cowper, came with tardy notice and ungraceful generosity-invited him to breakfast, and at parting presented him with a bank-note for a hundred pounds. Crabbe entered into sacred orders, and was licensed as a curate to the rector of his native parish of Aldborough. In a short time, Burke procured for him the situation of chaplain to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. This was a great advancement for the poor poet, and he never afterwards was in fear of want.
He seems, however, to have felt all the ills of dependence on the great, and in his poem of “The Patron,' and other parts of his writings, has
strongly depicted the evils of such a situation. In 1783 appeared “The Village,' which had been seen and corrected by Johnson and Burke. Its success was instant and complete. Some of the descriptions in the poem-as that of the parish workhouse-were copied into all the periodicals, and took that place in our national literature which they still retain. Thurlow presented him with two small livings then in his gift, telling him at the same time, with an oath, that he was as like Parson Adams as twelve to a dozen. The poet now married a young lady from Suffolk, the object of an early at. tachment, and taking the curacy of Stathern, adjoining Belvoir Castle, he bade adieu to the ducal mansion, and transferred himself to the humble parsonage in the village. Four happy years were spent in this retirement, when the poet obtained the exchange of his two small livings in Dorsetshire for two of superior value in the vale of Belvoir. Crabbe remained silent as a poet for many years. Out of doors,' says his son, he had always some object in view—a flower, or a pebble, or his note-book in his hand; and in the house, if he was not writing, he was reading. He read aloud very often, even when walking, or seated by the side of his wife in the huge old-fashioned one-horse chaise, heavier than a modern chariot, in which they !!!. ally were conveyed in their little excursions, and the conduct of
which he, from awkwardness and absence of mind, prudently relinquished to my mother on all occasions.'
In 1807 he published his 'Parish Register,' which had been previously submitted to Mr. Fox, and parts of this poem-especially the story of Phæbe Dawson-were the last compositions of their kind that 'engaged and amused the capacious, the candid, the benevolent mind of this great man.' The success of this work was not only decided, but nearly unprecedented. In 1810 he came forward with • The Borough,’ å poem of the same class, and more connected and complete ; and two years afterward he produced his • Tales in Verse,' containing perhaps the finest of all his humble but happy delineations of life and character. The public voice,' says his biographer,
was again highly favourable, and some of these relations were spoken of with the utmost warmth of commendation, as, The Parting Hour, The Patron, Edward Shore, and The Confidant. In 1814, the Duke of Rutland appointed him to the living of Trowbridge, in Wiltshire, and he went thither to reside. His income amounted to about £800 per annum, a large portion of which he spent in charity. He still continued his attachment to literature, and in 1817 and 1818 was engaged on his last great work, “The Tales of the Hall.' fancied that autumn was, on the whole, the most favourable season for him in the composition of poetry; but there was something in the effect of a sudden fall of snow that appeared to stimulate him in a very extraordinary manner.' In 1819, the ‘Tales' were published by Mr. Murray, who, for them and the remaining copyright of all Crabbe's previous poems, gave the munificent sum of £3000.
In an account of the negotiation for the sale of these copyrights, written by Moore for the life of his brother-poet, we have the following amusing illustration of Crabbe's simplicity of manner: 'When he received the bills for £3000, we-Moore and Rogers-earnestly advised that he should, without delay, deposit them in some safe hands; but no-he must take them with him to Trowbridge and shew them, to his son John. They would hardly believe in his good-luck at home if they did not see the bills.” On his way down to Trowbridge, il friend at Salisbury, at whose house he rested—Mr. Everett, the banker-seeing that he carried these bills loosely in his waistcoat pocket, requested to be allowed to take charge of them for him; but with equal ill success. “There was no fear,” he said,
“ of losing them, and he must shew them to his son John.' Another poetical friend, Thomas Campbell, who met him at this time in London, rcmarks of him: ‘His mildness in literary_argument struck me with surprise in so stern a poet of nature, and I could not but contrast the unassumingness of his manners with the originality of his powers. In what may be called the ready-money small-talk of conversation, his facility might not perhaps seem equal to the known calibre of his talents; but in the progress of conversation, I recollect remarking that there was a vigilant shrewdness that almost eluded you, by keep
ing its watch so quietly. This fine remark is characteristic of Crabbe's genius, as well as of his manners. It gathered its materials slowly and silently with intent but unobtrusive observation. The * Tales of the Hall were received with that pleasure and approbation due to an old and established favourite, but with less enthusiasm than some of his previous works. In 1822, the now venerable poet paid a visit to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh; and it is worthy of remark, that, as to the city itself, he soon got wearied of the New Town, but could amuse himself for ever in the Old.
His later years were spent in the discharge of his clerical duties, and in the enjoyment of social intercourse. His attachment to botany and geology seemed to increase with age; and at three-score and ten, he was busy, cheerful, and affectionate. His death took place at Trowbridge on the 3d of February 1832, and his parishioners erected a monument to his memory in the church of that place, where he had officiated for nineteen years. A complete collection of his works, with some new pieces and an admirable memoir, was published in 1834 by his son, the Rev. G. Crabbe.
The Village,' 'Parish Register,' and shorter tales of Crabbe, are his most popular productions. The Tales of the Hall’are less interesting. They relate principally to the higher classes of society, and the poet was not so happy in describing their peculiarities as when supporting his character of the poet of the poor. Some of his episodes, lowever, are in his best style—Sir Owen Dale, Ruth, Ellen, and other stories, are all marked with the peculiar genius of Crabbe. The redeeming and distinguishing feature of that genius was its fidelity to nature, even when it was dull and unprepossessing. His power of observation and description might be limited, but his pictures have all the force of dramatic representation, and may be compared to those actual and existing models which the sculptor or painter works from, instead of vague and general conceptions. They are often too true, and human nature being exhibited in its naked reality, with all its defects, and not through the bright and alluring medium of romance or imagination, our vanity is shocked and our pride mortified.
The personal circumstances and experience of the poet affected the bent of his genius. He knew how untrue and absurd were the pictures of rural life which figured in poetry. His own youth was dark and painful-spent in low society, amidst want and misery, irascible gloom and passion. Latterly, he had more of the comforts and elegancies of social life at his command than Çowper, his rival as a dcmestic painter. He not only could have 'wheeled his sofa round,' let fall the curtains, and, with the bubbling and loud hissing urn'en the table, welcome peaceful evening in,' but the amenities of refined and intellectual society were constantly present with him, or at his call. Yet he did not, like Cowper, attempt to describe them, or to paint their manifold charms. When he took up his pen, his mind turned to Aldborough and its wild amphibious racemto the parish