Painting of James Hogg, poet and novelist (1770-1835) - By...
Painting of James Hogg, poet and novelist (1770-1835) - By Sir John Watson Gordon, 1830
James Hogg (1770-1835) had little formal education, which makes the range and quality of his literary output all the more surprising. Born on a farm at Ettrick, he had ambitions to be a writer from an early age and came to believe that he might emulate Burns. He was still working as a shepherd when his first, unsuccessful, volume of poems appeared in 1801. The following year he met Scott who would champion him over many years.
He contributed to Blackwood's Magazine over many years and was himself portrayed there as 'the Ettrick Shepherd' in John Wilson's hilarious sketches, 'Noctes Ambrosianae'. Watson Gordon's portrait, which hints at both poet and shepherd, was painted in 1830 to hang in Blackwood's salon. Hogg's last work of note was Domestic Manners and Private Life of Sir Walter Scott which was published two years after Scott's death - to the annoyance of Scott's biographer, Lockhart - and shortly before Hogg's own death. He was buried in Ettrick churchyard.
Hogg's appearance on the literary scene was established by The Queen's Wake which came out in 1813. Many times reprinted, it contains his most quoted piece of verse, 'Kilmeny'. Thereafter his work ranged from the brilliant parodies of contemporary poets in The Poetic Mirror to the works in prose: The Brownie of Bodsbeck, The Three Perils of Man, and, most remarkable of all, The Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which introduced the theme of the evil doppelganger into Scottish literature.