English Men of Letters: Crabbe eBook

Alfred Ainger
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 219 pages of information about English Men of Letters.

  “With anger fraught, but willing to persuade,
  The wrathful father met the smiling maid: 
  ‘Sybil,’ said he, ’I long, and yet I dread
  To know thy conduct—­hath Josiah fled? 
  And, grieved and fretted by thy scornful air,
  For his lost peace, betaken him to prayer? 
  Couldst then his pure and modest mind distress
  By vile remarks upon his speech, address,
  Attire, and voice?’—­’All this I must confess.’ 
  ’Unhappy child! what labour will it cost
  To win him back!’—­’I do not think him lost.’ 
  ’Courts he then (trifler!) insult and disdain?’—­
  ‘No; but from these he courts me to refrain.’ 
  ’Then hear me, Sybil:  should Josiah leave
  Thy father’s house?’—­’My father’s child would grieve.’ 
  ’That is of grace, and if he come again
  To speak of love?’—­’I might from grief refrain.’ 
  ’Then wilt thou, daughter, our design embrace?’—­
  Can I resist it, if it be of grace?’
  ’Dear child! in three plain words thy mind express: 
  Wilt thou have this good youth?’—­’Dear father! yes.’”

All the characters in the story—­the martinet father and his poor crushed wife, as well as the pair of lovers—­are indicated with an appreciation of the value of dramatic contrast that might make the little story effective on the stage.  One of the Tales in this collection, The Confidant, was actually turned into a little drama in blank verse by Charles Lamb, under the changed title of The Wife’s Trial:  or the Intruding Widow.  The story of Crabbe’s Confidant is not pleasant; and Lamb thought well to modify it, so as to diminish the gravity of the secret of which the malicious friend was possessed.  There is nothing but what is sweet and attractive in the little comedy of The Frank Courtship, and it might well be commended to the dexterous and sympathetic hand of Mr. J.M.  Barrie.




In the margin of FitzGerald’s copy of the Memoir an extract is quoted from Crabbe’s Diary:  “1810, Nov. 7.—­Finish Tales.  Not happy hour.”  The poet’s comment may have meant something more than that so many of his Tales dealt with sad instances of human frailty.  At that moment, and for three years longer, there hung over Crabbe’s family life a cloud that never lifted—­the hopeless illness of his wife.  Two years before, Southey, in answer to a friend who had made some reference to Crabbe and his poetry, writes: 

“With Crabbe’s poems I have been acquainted for about twenty years, having read them when a schoolboy on their first publication, and, by the help of Elegant Extracts, remembered from that time what was best worth remembering.  You rightly compare him to Goldsmith.  He is an imitator, or rather an antithesizer of Goldsmith, if such a word may be coined for the occasion.  His merit is precisely the same as
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English Men of Letters: Crabbe from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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