George Crabbe, an English poet, born at Aldborough, Suffolk, Dec. 24, 1754, died at Trowbridge, Wiltshire, Feb. 3, 1832. His father, who was a collector of salt duties, exerted himself to give him a superior education, and at the age of 14 years apprenticed him to a surgeon near Bury St. Edmund's. Three years later he was transferred to another surgeon at Woodbridge, with whom he completed his apprenticeship. His father was a subscriber to a "Philosophical Magazine," the last page of which, devoted to poetry, he was accustomed to tear off before sending the numbers to be bound. These rejected sheets had first excited the poetical tastes and powers of his son, who, even during his school days, made many attempts at versifying. While at Woodbridge he competed successfully with a poem on " Hope" for a prize offered by the "Lady's Magazine," to which he continued to contribute. In 1775 his first separate publication, a poem on "Inebriety," was issued anonymously at Ipswich. Never pleased with his profession, he determined to abandon it for literary adventure, and, provided with a loan of £5, he worked his way in a sloop from Aldborough to the metropolis, where he arrived in 1780. He found no publisher; and his first printed poem, " The Candidate," which appeared anonymously in that year, was coldly received and brought him no profit.
He wrote to Lord North, Lord Shelburne, and Lord Thurlow, but received no answer. Threatened with arrest, he applied without an introduction to Edmund Burke, at whose door he left a simple and manly letter, and then in his agitation walked Westminster bridge throughout the night. Burke received him kindly and introduced him to Fox, Reynolds, Johnson, and others, gave him advice and criticism about his poem "The Library," and secured for it a publisher in 1781. It was favorably noticed, and a second edition was published in 1783. Lord Thurlow, with tardy generosity, now invited him to breakfast and presented him with a bank note for £100. At Burke's persuasion he qualified himself for holy orders, was ordained a deacon in 1781 and a priest in the following year, and after a short curacy in his native parish was made chaplain to the duke of Rutland at Belvoir castle. In 1783 he published "The Village," which obtained immediate popularity, some of its descriptions, as that of the parish workhouse, being copied into nearly all periodicals. Lord Thurlow, declaring that he was "as like to parson Adams as twelve to a dozen," presented him to two small livings in Dorsetshire, and in 1785 he married a lady who was the object of his early love.
After the publication of "The Newspaper" in that year he did not resume authorship for 22 years, assigning the death of his distinguished friends as his reason, but in truth being occupied in most diligent and faithful discharge of the duties of his parish and home, as well as in the study of botany. In 1807 he published "The Parish Register," with some other pieces and a reprint of his earlier poems, for the purpose of sending his second son to Cambridge. These were followed in 1810 by "The Borough," and in 1812 by "Tales in Verse." The next year he suffered the loss of his wife, and from this time he made occasional visits to London, and associated with a younger generation of poets, among whom were Moore, Rogers, Campbell, Scott, Wordsworth, and Southey. In 1819 he completed his last publication, " Tales of the Hall," for the copyright of which and of all his previous works he received from Mr. Murray £3,000. His health began to decline in 1828, but his mind still retained its clearness and cheerfulness.
His death was deeply felt in Trowbridge, where he had endeared himself to the people by his many charities and his blameless life. - The finest productions of Crabbe are "The Village," "The Parish Register," and some of his shorter tales, which are unrivalled for their severe and minute descriptions of humble life. The whole force of his genius, rarely diverted by bright ideal scenes or pictures of elegance and refinement, was bent upon delineating the circumstances and anatomizing the characters of poverty, vice, and misery. He is styled by Byron " nature's sternest painter, yet the best." A complete edition of his poetical works was published in 1834, in 8 vols., the first volume containing his letters and journals, and his life written by his son, the Rev. George Crabbe. His works were republished in 1847, in one volume.