James Hogg

Gillian Hughes

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
James Hogg

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James Hogg (b. 1770–d. 1835) was known as the Ettrick Shepherd because of his original occupation as a shepherd and the place of his birth, Ettrick Valley in Selkirkshire in the Scottish Borders. Hogg had only a few months’ schooling and largely educated himself as an adolescent and in early adulthood. Hogg originally worked as a shepherd, with various failed attempts at raising his status to that of tenant-farmer. After 1810 he was primarily a writer, earning a steady income from periodicals as well as various lump sums for his volume publications, though the literary earnings of his later years were swallowed up by farming. His self-presentation as peasant poet following Robert Burns was embodied in various autobiographical writings, in numerous songs, and in poetry such as The Mountain Bard (1807) and The Queen’s Wake (1813). It was also distorted into the quasi-fictional Shepherd by the writers of the long-running Noctes Ambrosianae symposia in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, while Hogg’s lower-class status made his work vulnerable to censorship and led to the undervaluation of his more unconventional prose fiction. Hogg is now best known for his novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), frequently invoked in discussion of Gothic fiction and the literature of the double. Far from being a one-book wonder, however, Hogg wrote in a variety of genres including travel writing and drama, while The Poetic Mirror (1816) reveals a brilliant Romantic parodist. Hogg’s reputation has risen with the provision of unexpurgated editions of his work within a critical context of postmodernism and magical realism, focusing attention on the wizardry of The Three Perils of Man (1822), for instance, and on the circular narrative of The Three Perils of Woman (1823). Although Sir Walter Scott is still the point of comparison for criticism of Hogg’s historical fictions such as The Brownie of Bodsbeck (1818), they are now seen as embodying an alternative worldview to Scott’s or as issuing a challenge to him rather than as ineffective imitations of the Waverley novels. A rapidly developing interest in periodical culture and in the magazine as the birthplace of the short story has revealed the range and extent of Hogg’s contributions to annuals and to monthly magazines, particularly Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. A burgeoning interest in life writing has stimulated critical interest in Hogg’s Memoir of the Author’s Life (1832) and its earlier versions, particularly in his snapshot portraits of contemporary writers, a strain of his work also embodied in the two versions of his Anecdotes of Scott (1834).

Article.  14432 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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