“One gloomy day towards the close of the year 1779, he had strolled to a bleak and cheerless part of the cliff above Aldeburgh, called The Marsh Hill, brooding as he went over the humiliating necessities of his condition, and plucking every now and then, I have no doubt, the hundredth specimen of some common weed. He stopped opposite a shallow, muddy piece of water, as desolate and gloomy as his own mind, called the Leech-pond, and ‘it was while I gazed on it,’ he said to my brother and me, one happy morning, ’that I determined to go to London and venture all’”
About thirty years later, Crabbe contributed to a magazine (The New Monthly) some particulars of his early life, and referring to this critical moment added that he had not then heard of “another youthful adventurer,” whose fate, had he known of it, might perhaps have deterred him from facing like calamities. Chatterton had “perished in his pride” nearly ten years before. As Crabbe thus recalled the scene of his own resolve, it may have struck him as a touching coincidence that it was by the Leech-pool on “the lonely moor”—though there was no “Leech-gatherer” at hand to lend him fortitude—that he resolved to encounter “Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.” He was, indeed, little better equipped than Chatterton had been for the enterprise. His father was unable to assist him financially, and was disposed to reproach him for forsaking a profession, in the cause of which the family had already made sacrifices. The Crabbes and all their connections were poor, and George scarcely knew any one whom he might appeal to for even a loan. At length Mr. Dudley North, of Little Glemham Hall, near Parham, whose brother had stood for Aldeburgh, was approached, and sent the sum asked for—five pounds. George Crabbe, after paying his debts, set sail for London on board a sloop at Slaughden Quay—“master of a box of clothes, a small case of surgical instruments, and three pounds in money.” This was in April 1780.
POVERTY IN LONDON
Crabbe had no acquaintances of his own in London, and the only introduction he carried with him was to an old friend of Miss Elmy’s, a Mrs. Burcham, married to a linen-draper in Cornhill. In order to be near these friendly persons he took lodgings, close to the Royal Exchange, in the house of a hairdresser, a Mr. Vickery, at whose suggestion, no doubt, he provided himself with “a fashionable tie-wig”. Crabbe at once began preparations for his literary campaign, by correcting such verse as he had brought with him, completing “two dramas and a variety of prose essays,” and generally improving himself by a course of study and practice in composition. As in the old Woodbridge days, he made some congenial acquaintances at a little club that met at a neighbouring coffee-house, which included a Mr. Bonnycastle and a Mr. Reuben Burrow, both mathematicians of repute, who rose to fill important positions in their day. These recreations he diversified with country excursions, during which he read Horace and Ovid, or searched the woods around London for plants and insects.