chapter  15
8 Pages

JOSEPH CRABTREE AND THE NORTH

WithPeter Foote

It is a reasonable inference that Crabtree in his early years at Chipping Sodbury became acquainted with the world of Northern letters, simply because this was a subject much discussed in the periodical literature of the time. His interest would certainly have been aroused, for example, by reading an old number of The Monthly Review (1758), in which a writer pointed out that it was ‘mere calumny to accuse the Icelanders of addiction to brandy’. Later on it must have amused him hugely to see his own ornate and ceremonious version of a popular low ballad unceremoniously lifted by Mathias in his Runic Odes, published in 1781. Mathias printed, in what purported to be a translation from Icelandic, these lines:

No more this pensile mundane ball Rolls through the wide aerial hall; Ingulphed sinks the vast machine-

but Crabtree of course had used the plural, not the singular, in his Augustan exercise on this poem, which, as you will be aware, is otherwise only known to us in an insipid modernised text, often attributed to an anonymous aviator.