George Crabbe was born on December 24th, 1754 in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. He was sent to school at a very young age and soon developed an avid and precocious interest in books.
Crabbe was sent first to a boarding-school at Bungay, and a few years later to a school at Stowmarket, where he learnt mathematics and Latin. His early reading included William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, Abraham Cowley, Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser.
Medicine had now been settled on as his future career and, after three years at Stowmarket, in 1768, he was apprenticed to a local doctor at Wickhambrook, near Bury St Edmunds. In 1772, a lady's magazine offered a prize for the best poem on ‘hope’. Crabbe entered and won. The magazine then printed other short pieces of his during the year. His first major work, Inebriety, was self-published in 1775. By this time he had completed his medical training and returned to Aldeburgh. Low finances meant his intention to go to London to study at a hospital was abandoned and instead he worked as a warehouseman. The following year, 1777, he did travel to London to practice medicine, but returned home with financial woes. Crabbe continued to practice as a surgeon but with limited surgical skills, he received only the poorest of patients, together with small and undependable fees. He moved to London again in April 1780, to see if he could make it as a poet, or, if that failed, as a doctor. By the end of May he had been forced to pawn his surgical instruments.
With the publication in May 1783 of his poem The Village, Crabbe achieved popularity with both the public and critics. Samuel Johnson said of it in a letter to Reynolds "I have sent you back Mr. Crabbe's poem, which I read with great delight. It is original, vigorous, and elegant."
In 1796 their third son, Edmund, died at the age of six. The death shredded Sarah’s mental health and she never recovered. Crabbe, a devoted husband, tended her until her death many years later.
In September 1807, Crabbe published a new volume of poems which included The Library, The Newspaper, The Village and The Parish Register, to which were added Sir Eustace Grey and The Hall of Justice. It had been decades since his last publication but now he was seen as an important poet.
Crabbe's next volume of poetry, Tales, was published in 1812. It received a warm welcome from the poet's admirers, and critics. It is now considered Crabbe’s masterpiece.
In the summer of 1813, Sarah felt well enough to visit London again. George, Sarah and their two sons spent nearly three months there. The family returned to Muston in September, and at October’s end Sarah died at age 63.
In June 1819, Crabbe published his collection Tales of the Hall.