chapter  7
7 Pages

CRABTREE IN FRANCE 1791–1800

With the memorable exception of Jones’s oration Crabtree and Science, all our explorations have been in the field of English letters. To me falls the honour of pioneering in the field of French…

But a painful choice had to be made at the outset. Confronted with the long and eventful life of our poet, stretching, in terms of French History, from the age of Louis XV and Mme de Pompadour, of Voltaire, Diderot and the beginnings of the Encyclopédie, through the Revolution, the Empire, the Restoration, the reign of Louis-Philippe as far as the early years of the Second Empire, the mid career of Victor Hugo and the early career of Baudelaire I had to opt between an attempt to trace the various journeys and sojourns of Crabtree in France during the seventy years between his first voyage across the Channel in 1783 and his death in 1854, and a piece of more detailed investigation into a limited period. My struggle was brief and decisive. It seemed to me that the traditions of our Foundation demanded that I refrain from mere anecdotage and gossip in order to concentrate my efforts upon one small but scholarly piece of real research. I am convinced that all serious lovers of literature prefer depth to breadth, genuine evidence to hearsay, fact to conjecture. Nevertheless the attentive listener to my oration may notice from time to time a hypothesis, an assumption based upon circumstantial rather than documentary evidence. But when circumstantial evidence is cumulative to the point of being overwhelming it must be considered valid, even though a woman’s honour, already some what tarnished, may lose a little more of its brightness.