For the 2015 Tea at The Priory event, hosted as always by Victoria and Henry Engleheart, Ray Rumsby delivered a stirring defence of George Crabbe, a much maligned poet these days. As became clear from Ray's discussion of Crabbe's life, this is largely because it is difficult for us to put ourselves in the context of the times 250 years ago and the fact that Crabbe largely wrote solely in heroic couplets, a form much despised now.
But as Ray made very clear, Crabbe was very forward thinking, giving, for example, a picture of the life of women in his time with great equanimity. How he achieved his deep understanding of their situation is quite remarkable.
It seems that Crabbe had a start-stop career, firstly taking an apprenticeship as a doctor at an apothecary in Stowmarket, but cutting that short when he felt it wasn't suitable and he wasn't being taught properly. He then went on to begin studying for the clergy, but again did not complete it.
Crabbe's poetic output was enormous, and as Ray showed with a close reading of a couple of fragments of his poetry, he was not simply churning our rhyme, but was thinking deeply about his subjects.
Ray's talk was cut short by time, Ray having too much to tell us about George Crabbe. However we choose to view his poetry now, I think that we all left with a deeper respect for the man.