chapter  1
8 Pages

HOMAGE TO CRABTREE

WithJames Sutherland

I need hardly say how deeply I appreciate the honour of being invited to deliver the first Annual Oration to the members of the Crabtree Foundation, and with what a lively sense of my responsibilities I approach the task of celebrating that great and neglected man of letters. The neglect into which the poet Crabtree has fallen-amounting, it sometimes seems to me, almost to a conspiracy of silence-is a matter for wonder, but also, I venture to submit, for reproach. When I reflect that not one single copy of his various works is to be found in the library of University College-this famous college with whose foundation he was obscurely but none the less effectively associated-and when I remind you that although our great National Repository does fortunately possess copies of most of his works, they have been absurdly attributed in the catalogue to William Joseph Crabtree (1773-1829), author of a deservedly forgotten work on Diseases of the Cow-when I recall those facts to your attention, you will agree with me, I hope, that though Crabtree has long found ‘an audience fit though few’, it is not fit that they should be so few as they demonstrably are. No article on Crabtree in the Dictionary of National Biography; not a word about him in the Cambridge History of English Literature! Let us hope that the Oxford History of English Literature (whose General Editor we are happy to see with us here tonight) will make some amends when the relevant volume of that history comes to be published.