Thursday, 7 January 2016

Well-known Poet's Scandalous Youth

John Lucas, himself a poet, and proprietor of the admirable Shoestring Press, (all the more admirable for having brought out a couple of my things), has just written a book on George Crabbe. I’ve always thought Crabbe tedious; he wrote long poems about village life and, with very few exceptions, anything much longer than a page isn’t really poetry; it’s verse. But if John thinks Crabbe worthy of a book then I should investigate, so I climbed on a chair to reach the ‘C’s in my poetry shelves. I found just one little paperback, published in 1886 by Cassell. There is an introduction by Professor Henry Morley, and this contains a startling revelation — one that might partly explain why Benjamin Britten and E.M. Forster were so interested in him — about the time Crabbe spent apprenticed to a G.P.:

‘Crabbe swept out the surgery, carried out medicine, and slept with the ploughboy.’

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