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SUFFOLK POETS
The heathland around ALDEBURGH, the little houses facing the sea and the quay at
SLAUGDEN with its marshes and mudflats, were the inspiration for Suffolk’s greatest poet,
GEORGE CRABBE (1754-1832). In the elegant seaside resort of today, famous for its
music festival, visitors are scarcely likely to meet ‘A wild, amphibious race/With sullen woe
display’d in every face’, but Crabbe, whose early life was hard, experienced the depression
and brutality of a poor fishing settlement. In his great poems The Village and The Borough
he drew on that experience to become one of the first landscape poets to write realistically
about humble people. His story of Peter Grimes, included in The Borough, inspired a later
son of Suffolk, Benjamin Britten, to compose his opera based on it.
The simple beachman’s dwelling where Crabbe was born at SLAUGHDEN QUAY was
swept away by the sea in 1779 and, apart from Crabbe Street, the only memorial to Crabbe
in Aldeburgh is the marble bust in the north aisle of the Parish Church.
After Crabbe left Aldeburgh in 1782 he lived for a while at RENDHAM, where he actually
wrote The Borough. His house there, Ladywhincups, still stands in Grove Farm Lane, off
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the B1119, and a blue plaque commemorates Crabbe’s residency.
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Another famous Suffolk son is EDWARD FITZGERALD (1809-1883). FitzGerald’s best-
known work is a free literary translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In
BREDFIELD ‘FitzGerald House’ incorporates what remains of Bredfield Hall, where he was
born, and has a large plaque on the garden wall.
The cottage in the grounds of Boulge House where FitzGerald later lived was burned down.
A footpath from BOULGE across the fields to Bredfield Church still exists. FitzGerald
walked it many times to visit his friend George Crabbe, the son of the poet, who was vicar of
Bredfield. FitzGerald is buried in BOULGE CHURCHYARD, not in the crumbling family
mausoleum, but entirely alone, and the tradition is that the roses growing on his grave are
derived from those on the grave of Omar Khayyam himself.
FitzGerald in his letters was part of a wider literary scene, and his friends Carlyle and Tennyson
visited him when he was living in WOODRBIDGE. Farlingay Hall, where he actually wrote the
Rubaiyat, is now a school and housing estate, but the house on Market Hill has a plaque to
commemorate his stay there, and his last house, Little Grange, still stands in Pytches Road.
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A close friend of FitzGerald, who although born in London lived almost all his life in
WOODBRIDGE, was BERNARD BARTON (1784-1849). ‘Barton Cottage’, where he
lived with his daughter Lucy, is in Cumberland Street. For forty years he worked as a clerk
in the bank of Dykes and Samuel Alexander in the town. He wrote great quantities of verse,
most of it of little value – sadly, because Barton was an amiable and friendly man greatly
liked by all who knew him. Fitzgerald, Barton, with the painter, Thomas Churchyard, and
George Crabbe, the son of the poet, achieved some celebrity as ‘The Wits of Woodbridge’
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