There anchoring, Peter chose from Man to hide,
There hang his Head, and view the lazy Tide
In its hot slimy Channel slowly glide …
George Crabbe, eighteenth-century poet, clergyman and surgeon-apothecary, is best known for ‘Peter Grimes’, the tale of a sadistic fisherman that inspired Benjamin Britten’s opera of the same name. The brutal crimes and ‘tortur’d guilt’ of Grimes play out within the bleak, improbably beautiful setting of Aldeburgh. While Crabbe has fallen in and out of fashion, the Suffolk town and its landscape have continued to captivate writers and artists, including Britten, Ronald Blythe, Susan Hill and Maggi Hambling – all drawn to the stark coastline, eerie mudflats and open skies.
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.