Home  »  Volume XI: English THE PERIOD OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION  »  § 6. Sir Eustace Grey

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

VII. George Crabbe

§ 6. Sir Eustace Grey

Of the other poems in the 1807 volume, The Hall of Justice is a strong and horrible narrative, in stanzas, of the life of a gipsy woman; while The Birth of Flattery is a pompous allegory showing how flattery is the fortunate child of poverty and cunning. More remarkable is Sir Eustace Grey, a poem very different from Crabbe’s usual pedestrian and minutely “natural’ work. In or about 1790, Crabbe had been recommended by his doctor to take opium for severe indigestion; and opium-taking became a habit. It was suggested by Edward Fitz-Gerald that opium influenced Crabbe’s dreams, and, through them, Sir Eustace Grey and The World of Dreams, a poem of somewhat the same nature, which was first printed after his death. The scene of Sir Eustace Grey is a madhouse, where a patient, once rich and happy, relates to his physician and a visitor his downfall and the visions of his madness. Parallels have been found between some of these imaginings and those recorded by De Quincey in The Confessions of an Opium-Eater. The poem, which is written in eight-line stanzas with linked rimes, is wild and forcible in a very high degree; but Crabbe, with fine art, allows it to sink gradually to rest with Sir Eustace’s account of his conversion by what the poet admitted to be a “methodistic call,” his singing of a hymn and the reflections of the physician.