The Crabtree Foundation
“To the immortal memory”
“Much was known about Joseph Crabtree, poet and polymath, in the nineteenth century; much was forgotten or deliberately obscured in the twentieth century – until 1951. In that year it happened that, at one of Professor Hugh Smith’s weekly seminars for scholars of all disciplines or none, two or three of those present discovered a common interest in the life and work of the extraordinary great man, Joseph Crabtree. This interest grew and intensified until Hugh Smith and others at University College London were inspired to set up the Crabtree Foundation at the College.”
(from the Prolegomenon to Volume 1 of the Collected Orations of the Crabtree Foundation)
On 17 February 1954 Professor James Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at UCL, delivered the oration entitled “Homage to Crabtree”. The meeting was presided over by Professor Hugh Smith, Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at UCL, and twenty-four scholars were present.
This was the inaugural meeting of the Foundation which ever since has been dedicated to researching and publicising the life and work of Joseph Crabtree (1754-1854). Crabtree’s achievements had been grievously overlooked, misinterpreted, occasionally traduced and in some cases quite deliberately suppressed, leading to a situation amounting, in Professor Sutherland’s words, “almost to a conspiracy of silence”.
Since that inaugural meeting the Foundation has met annually in UCL on the Wednesday closest to Saint Valentine’s Day, the day of Crabtree’s birth, for a dinner and an oration by a distinguished scholar on some hitherto undiscovered aspect of Crabtree’s career and genius. There are now over 400 members, or more correctly “scholars”, of the Foundation, and scholars, in the first President’s words, “scattered as they are over the face of the world”, have established overseas chapters in Australia, Italy and Southern Africa each of which holds its own annual celebration of Joseph Crabtree. Their findings have established the international scope and diversity of Crabtree’s life and achievements.
The Orations of the UCL Chapter of the Foundation have been published in two volumes, and copies of these remarkable works are available from Mr Frank Penter, Keeper of the Scholars (e-mail: f.penter(at)ucl.ac.uk) at £35 for Volume 1, £25 for Volume 2, or £50 for both volumes.
Enquiries about the Foundation and its activities may be directed to Martin Butcher, Secretary of the Crabtree Foundation (e-mail: martin.h.butcher(at)hotmail.com).