Research Spotlight- The Reverend George Crabbe

George Crabbe (24 December 1754 – 3 February 1832) was an English poet, surgeon and clergyman. In the 1770s, Crabbe began his career as a doctor’s apprentice, later becoming a surgeon. In 1780, George Crabbe abandoned his career as a doctor in order to pursue his dream of becoming a poet. After encountering serious financial difficulty and being unable to have his work published, he wrote to the statesman and author Edmund Burke for assistance. Burke was impressed enough by Crabbe’s poems to promise to help him in any way he could. The two became close friends and Burke helped Crabbe greatly both in his literary career and in building a role within the church. Burke introduced Crabbe to the literary and artistic society of London, including Sir Joshua Reynolds and Samuel Johnson, who read The Village before its publication and made some minor changes.

Crabbe’s poetry earned him many admirers including Jane Austin and Byron, who referred to George as ‘Nature’s sternest painter yet the best’. Later, in 1945, Benjamin Britten composed the opera Peter Grimes based on the character in Crabbe’s poem, The Borough. Burke secured Crabbe the important position of Chaplain to the Duke of Rutland. He developed friendships with many of the great literary men of his day, including Sir Walter Scott, whom he visited in Edinburgh, and William Wordsworth and some of his fellow Lake Poets, who frequently visited Crabbe as his guests.

Later in life Crabbe settled down as rector of Trowbridge. He continued to write whilst sitting under a mulberry tree in the rectory grounds of St. James church, where he was reputed to have taken opium with no ill effects. He also indulged in his hobby of fossil and herbarium collecting. As well as collecting flora and fossils, Crabbe was known as a coleopterist and recorder of beetles, and is credited for discovering the first specimen of Calosoma sycophanta L. to be recorded from Suffolk. He published an essay on the Natural History of the Vale of Belvoir in John Nichols’s, Bibliotheca Topographia Britannica, VIII, Antiquities in Leicestershire, 1790. It includes a very extensive list of local coleopterans, and references more than 70 species.

dried and pressed dandelion
Part of Crabbe’s Herbarium
G Crabbe by WM
G Crabbe by William Millington




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