George Crabbe: Poems Background

George Crabbe: Poems Background

Due to his chronological placement at the end of the line in the extensive use of the heroic couplet behind John Dryden, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson, George Crabbe is often referred to as the last of the Augustan poets. His specialty was exceedingly down-to-earth though no less evocative renderings of the daily lives he observed with a keen eye playing out around him every day. Chronologically, Crabbe belongs to the age of the great Romantic poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge. Stylistically, however, he is as out of place among that crowd as a poet could get and still be considered a viable artistic voice. Eschewing lyrical flights of fancy and symbolism in favor of rhyme, rhythm and a narrative stroryline.

Indeed, no less an iconic figures of Romanticism than Lord Byron himself was one of Crabbe’s greatest admirers. More importantly for his career, another titan of the age who looked favorably upon Crabbe’s talent was Edmund Burke. Burke’s patronage arranged for Crabbe to publish The Library in 1781 and introduced Crabbe to circles of influence that included Samuel Johnson. Two years later with the publication of The Village: A Poem in Two Books, Crabbe’s reputation was solidified and his legacy ensured.

Crabbe’s place in literary history may well reach beyond the measure of his own verse. Correspondence with Jane Austen suggests that the writing of Mansfield Park may have been heavily influenced by the poetic descriptions of life along the Portsmouth coast in the work of Crabbe. His poem “Procrastination” has been suggested as one possible stimulus behind the creation of Austen’s novel Persuasion.

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