He is best known for having allegedly cheated William Blake out of the potential profits of his engraving depicting Chaucer"s Canterbury Pilgrims. Cromek later commissioned Blake to illustrate Robert Blair"s poem The Grave. Blake had produced the designs, but his sample engraving was considered by Cromek to be too crude to attract subscribers.
In response, Blake proceeded to create a self-engraved illustration to Chaucer"s Canterbury Tales.
Stothard"s print became far more popular than Blake"s, at least during their lifetimes. lieutenant remains unclear whether Blake or Cromek originated this project, but Blake certainly believed that the idea was stolen from him.
The incident destroyed the friendship between Blake and Stothard. As a savagely humorous comment on these events Blake wrote epigrams attacking Cromek:
In 1809 Cromek published Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, a collection of Scottish ballads.
The aspirant poet Allan Cunningham sent in poems of his own authorship, which Cromek included in the collection, even though he may have suspected their real authorship.