George Crabbe Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Little has survived of the nonverse writings of George Crabbe (krab). Extant are critical prose prefaces to various of his published verse collections, a treatise on “The Natural History of the Vale of Belvoir” that appeared in 1795, an autobiographical sketch published anonymously in The New Monthly Magazine in 1816, a selection of his sermons published posthumously in 1850, and certain of his letters, journals, and notebook entries that have been published in varying formats throughout the years since his death. With the exception of several of the critical prefaces, particularly that which accompanies Tales in Verse, and portions of the letters and journal entries, these do not shed significant light on Crabbe’s poetic accomplishments. In 1801-1802, Crabbe is known to have written and subsequently burned three novels and an extensive prose treatise on botany.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

The problem of assessing George Crabbe’s achievements as a poet has proved a difficult one from the start. It vexed Crabbe’s contemporaries and continues in some measure to vex scholars today. To a large extent this may be caused by the difficulties in classification. His works bridge the gap between neoclassicism and Romanticism and on separate occasions—or even simultaneously—display characteristics of both movements. As the bewildering variety of labels that have been applied to Crabbe indicate, the multifaceted nature of his canon defies easy categorization. He has been termed a realist, a naturalist, an Augustan, a Romantic, a sociological novelist in verse, a psychological dramatist, a social critic, a poetic practitioner of thescientific method, a didactic moralist, a social historian, a “Dutch painter,” and a human camera. Such labels, often supportable when applied to selected portions of Crabbe’s work, do not appear useful in describing his total achievement. Nevertheless, it is on such restricted interpretations that estimations of Crabbe have frequently been built. While attesting to his artistic versatility and providing a focal point for isolated instances of detailed analysis and appreciation, the result has been in large part detrimental to the establishment of a sound critical tradition with respect to Crabbe, for readers of all types—and especially the critics—are most often reluctant to give serious consideration to an artist who cannot be conveniently classified.

Crabbe’s earliest literary productions were clearly derivative, most often fashionable satires...

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(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Bareham, Tony. George Crabbe. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1977. Examines how Crabbe’s poetry reflects contemporary ideas on religion, politics, psychology, and aesthetics. Emphasizes that Crabbe was a “proper spokesman” for mainstream English thought. The 245-page text includes an index and a chronology of major events in Crabbe’s career.

Crabbe, George. The Life of George Crabbe by His Son. 1834. Reprint. London: Cresset, 1947. This standard biography, written from the unique perspective of the poet’s son, offers a benign yet candid glimpse into the poet’s personality. An introduction by Edmund Blunden provides further criticism of Crabbe’s poetry, including an interesting discussion on the influence that Crabbe’s training as a physician and clergyman had on his writing.

Edwards, Gavin. George Crabbe’s Poetry on Border Land. Lewiston, N.Y.: E. Mellen Press, 1990. This critical work, organized by subject, takes a social historical approach to Crabbe’s poems, dealing with Crabbe’s ability to reflect his time accurately. It thoroughly discusses the concept of Crabbe as a realist, suggesting his poetry has a more complex relationship to history than just simple realism.

Hatch, Ronald B. Crabbe’s Arabesque: Social Drama in the Poetry of George Crabbe. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976. Attempts to show how Crabbe grew beyond being simply a social critic by focusing on his handling of social issues in his poetry. Suggests that Crabbe’s development can be seen in the way his poems’ dramatic structures handle conflicting questions that either clash or are reconciled. Includes a chronology of Crabbe’s life, a selected bibliography, and index.

Mahood, M. M. The Poet as Botanist. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Contains a chapter looking at the descriptions of plants in Crabbe’s poetry.

Pollard, Arthur, ed. Crabbe: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972. An interesting compilation of criticism of Crabbe’s writings by his contemporaries, including William Hazlitt, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, along with later commentary. Arranged by individual works, the book also contains an informative introduction on Crabbe and his writing and indexes to names, works, characteristics, and periodicals.

Powell, Neil. George Crabbe: An English Life, 1754-1832. London: Pimlico, 2004. A readable biography of the poet that draws largely on the biography of his son and namesake.

Whitehead, Frank S. George Crabbe: A Reappraisal. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1995. A critical assessment of Crabbe’s work with bibliographical references and an index.