REVIEWED BY JEFF TAYLOR
Frances Gibb (The Lutterworth Press: 2022)
The recent pandemic, although mostly seen as a negative thing, did have some
positives. Frances Gibb’s new biography of the poet George Crabbe was one such positive. In the Acknowledgements she writes, ‘This book is a product of the pandemic: for some time I had thought of writing about George Crabbe, particularly after leaving journalism at The Times. But it was being “locked down” in Suffolk that gave me the chance – the time and the peace – to tackle the project.’
Over recent centuries the Suffolk landscape has been gradually suffused by the endeavours of many writers and many places in the county have become linked with one or more authors. One such place is Aldeburgh which is particularly linked to George Crabbe (1754-1832). Much has been written about him – several biographies including one by his son, also called George, criticism of his poetry, critical assessments of his letters and journals. Many people will know of the link with Benjamin Britten whose opera Peter Grimes is based on The Borough (1810) a collection of Crabbe’s poems, arranged as a series of letters covering aspects of life in the borough of Aldeburgh including the stories of certain inhabitants including, in Letter XXII, that of Peter Grimes.
Frances Gibb doesn’t dwell too long on the Britten link, getting it mostly out the way in the first chapter ‘George Crabbe’s Aldeburgh’. The following five chapters cover his early life in London, his middle years as a clergyman and botanist in Leicestershire and later in Suffolk, the fourth on religion and politics, the fifth looks particularly at the influence of Aldeburgh on his writing (Britten returns here) and the fifth on his later years and death.
The blurb on the back of the book describes perfectly the scope of this fascinating book: ‘In A Time and a Place, Frances Gibb engages afresh with Crabbe’s writing – tracing for the first time, the resonance of this place in his life and work. She delves into his creative struggles, religious faith, romantic loves and opium addiction. Above all, she explores the continual lure - for Crabbe and those who have followed – of the “little venal borough” and the land and sea beyond.’
If you think you know a lot about George Crabbe or nothing at all, this book is for you.
We are very pleased that, on 9th February 2023, award-winning journalist and local writer, Frances Gibb, will join us at the Ipswich Institute to talk about her new book, A Time and a Place: George Crabbe, Aldeburgh and Suffolk.