Suffolk fens

‘That little venal borough’: a poet’s jaundiced view of Aldeburgh

‘To talk about Crabbe is to talk about England,’ E.M. Forster declared in a radio broadcast in May 1941, but few people today talk about this Suffolk-born poet or indeed read him. This makes Frances Gibb’s slender but thorough account of George Crabbe’s life and work all the more welcome. In his time he was considered a leading, though controversial, figure, who wrote with stark realism about the spiritually and morally impoverished lives of East Anglian villagers and townspeople, in particular the inhabitants of the ‘little venal borough’ of Aldeburgh, where he was born in 1754 and spent an unhappy youth. After failing in his first career as an apothecary-surgeon,