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The Scottish Nation
Hogg


HOGG, WILLIAM, an ingenious translator into Latin of English poems, lived in the seventeenth century, and was a native of Gowrie, In Perthshire. To better his condition he went to London, but being disappointed in his views, he was reduced to great distress. Dr. Birch states that he died of want in the streets. In 1690 he published at London ‘Paraphrasis Poetica in tria Johannis Miltonis viri clarissimi Poemata, viz. Paradisum Amissum, Paradisum Recuperatum, et Samsonum Agonistem,’ an edition of which was printed at Rotterdam in 1699. Of this version of Milton the notorious Lauder made considerable use in his dishonest attempt against the reputation of that great poet. The other principal translations of Hogg are, ‘Liber Primus Principis Arcturi,’ (a Rich. Blackmore, Esq. Aur.) Latine red. 1706; ‘Paraphrasis in Jobum Poetica,’ 1682; ‘Satyra Sacra, sive Paraphrasis in Ecclesiasten Poetica.’ Part of his sacred poetry is reprinted in the ‘Poetarum Scotorum Musae Sacrae.’

HOGG, JAMES, the Ettrick Shepherd, one of the most remarkable of Scotland’s self-taught poets, was born in a cottage on the banks of the Ettrick, Selkirkshire, January 25, 1772, the anniversary of the natal day of Burns. His progenitors were all shepherds, an occupation which his father, like himself, followed for many years. He received but a scanty education, and spent only about half a year at school. At seven years of age he was sent to herd cows, and his boyhood was devoted to keeping sheep upon the hills. Among the first books that he read were ‘The Life of Wallace,’ and ‘The Gentle Shepherd,’ which he was disappointed were not written in prose instead of verse. He also read Bishop Burnet’s ‘Theory of the Conflagration of the Earth,’ which he sates nearly “overturned his brain.” His first attempts at versification were made in the spring of 1796; and his first published song was ‘My name it is Donald M’Donald,’ composed, in 1800, on the threatened invasion of Bonaparte, which soon became very popular. In 1801, when attending the sheep market at Edinburgh, he ventured to publish a small volume of poems, which, however, was soon consigned to oblivion. The attention of Sir Walter, then Mr. Scott, being drawn to the poetical talent of Mr. Hogg, by his advice he published, in 1807, a volume of ballads, under the title of the ‘Mountain Bard.’ These compositions, emanating from a rough untutored mind, bore many latent indications of that high poetical imagination which afterwards shone out so brightly in ‘Kilmeny;’ and the work being successful, with its profits and a premium which he gained from the Highland Society for an ‘Essay on Sheep,’ published the same year, he was tempted to embark in an agricultural speculation, which unfortunately proved a failure.

Disappointed in his views, he now determined upon settling in Edinburgh, and following the precarious calling of an author. Accordingly he arrived in that city in February 1810, and the same year he published a volume of songs, called ‘The Forest Minstrel,’ from which, however, he derived no pecuniary benefit. At this period, when poverty was pressing hard upon him, he found kind and steady friends in Messrs. Grieve and Scott, hatters, whose well-timed benevolence, we are told, supplied all his wants. His next adventure was a literary publication called ‘The Spy,’ chiefly devoted to moral essays, tales, poetry, and sketches of life. But Hogg at this time knew nothing of men and manners, and very little of contemporaneous literature; and his periodical did not outlive the year of its birth.

      In the spring of 1813 he produced his ‘Queen’s Wake,’ a legendary poem, which consists mainly of a series of metrical tales written in imitation of the old Scottish ballads, and connected and diversified by a fiction of considerable ingenuity, in which the bards and minstrels of Scotland are represented as contending for prizes before Mary Queen of Scots and her court at Holyrood. Overlooking a few defects of style, the ‘Queen’s Wake’ is undoubtedly one of the finest poems in the language; and by far the best and most imaginative piece in the volume is the beautiful episodical tale of ‘Kilmeny,’ which for sweetness and simplicity cannot be excelled. In the course of a short time the ‘Queen’s Wake’ went through several editions, and at once secured for the author a degree of popularity and fame that has seldom fallen to the lot of a modern writer. His portrait is subjoined.


[portrait of James Hogg]

      In 1815, Mr. Hogg published ‘The Pilgrims of the Sun,’ a poem of unequal merit, although in some passages worthy of his now established reputation. In 1816 appeared ‘Mador of the Moor,’ in the Spenserian stanza, which is greatly inferior to its predecessor. The Shepherd next applied himself to collect original pieces from the principal living poets of Great Britain, but the refusal of Sir Walter Scott to assist him in the project, with other untoward circumstances, caused him to change his plan, and write imitations of the whole himself. The ‘Poetic Mirror,’ published anonymously, was the result of this bold attempt. It comprised many pieces of great excellence, and soon passed into a second edition. It was followed by ‘Dramatic Tales,’ in two volumes, a work which, with the exception of ‘The Hunting of Badlewe,’ a tragedy previously printed separately, contains little surpassing the ordinary standard. In 1818 he published ‘The Brownie of Bodsbeck, and other Tales in Prose,’ 2 vols. In 1819 he brought out the first volume of the ‘Jacobite Relics,’ the second volume of which appeared in 1821. In 1820 ‘Winter Evening Tales, collected among the Cottagers in the South of Scotland,’ made their appearance. This work was one of his most successful publications. In 1822, when George IV. Visited Scotland, Hogg welcomed his sovereign in ‘The Royal Jubilee, a Scottish Masque,’ which took no permanent hold of public attention.

      In 1814 the Shepherd had received, at a nominal rent, from the duke of Buccleuch, the small farm of Altrive Lake, in the wilds of Yarrow, which continued to be his residence till his death. After his marriage, in 1820, he determined once more to farm on a large scale, and accordingly took a lease for nine years of the adjoining farm of Mount Benger. Having lost about £2,000 by his agricultural speculations, to raise money, he wrote, in a few months, two extravagant Border romances, each in three volumes, the one entitled ‘The Three Perils of Man,’ for which he received £150; and the other ‘The Three Perils of Woman,’ which produced the same sum. In 1824 he published anonymously a book abounding in horrors, called “Confessions of a Fanatic,’ which had a tolerable sale, though he reaped no benefit from it. In 1825 he gave to the world ‘Queen Hynd,’ an epic poem, by no means one of his happiest efforts. About this time he wrote, for Blackwood’s Magazine, a series of interesting prose sketches under the title of ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar,’ published separately in two volumes in 1829.

      In 1832, in which year appeared his ‘Queer Book,’ Mr. Hogg visited London, and during his short sojourn in the metropolis, he was “the observed of all observers,” and was honoured with a public dinner. In 1834 he produced a volume of ‘Lay Sermons,’ and shortly after ‘Domestic Manners of Sir Walter Scott.’ In the following year, during the short period that the conservatives were in power, Sir Robert Peel transmitted to him £100 as an earnest of an annual pension to that amount, which he did not live to enjoy. His constitution had been long sinking under the united effects of pecuniary embarrassments and intense literary labour, and he died at Altrive Lake, November 21, 1835. He had married, in 1820, Margaret, youngest daughter of Mr. Phillips of Longbridgemoor, Annandale, who, with five children, survived him. In 1854, his widow received a pension from government of £50, in consideration of her husband’s services to literature.

      Hogg was fond of all athletic exercises and field sports, and was long made to figure conspicuously in the ‘Noctes Ambrosianae’ of Blackwood’s Magazine, which gave his name a celebrity beyond that acquired by his own writings. He wrote two interesting autobiographies of himself, which will be found published with his works.


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