Letter from James Hogg, 1770-1835, poet and novelist

Scope and Content

Correspondence to an unnamed recipient, probably William Jerdan (editor of the Literary Gazette) 1832

Administrative / Biographical History

James Hogg (1770-1835 ), poet and novelist, was born at Ettrickhall Farm, Ettrick Forest, Selkirkshire. His father was an unsuccessful tenant farmer. He had little formal education but was a great story-teller and learned many ballads from his mother, who came from the Laidlaw family. In  1790  he was employed as shepherd by William Laidlaw of Blackhouse in Selkirkshire, who encouraged him to write. In 1801, visiting the sheep market in Edinburgh, Hogg took the opportunity to have his Pastorals, Poems, Songs etc printed but it was given a poor reception. In  1803 Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832 ) published several of Hogg's mother's ballads in Border Minstrelsy, volume 2. In  1807  Hogg published The Mountain Bard and invested his earnings from it in an unsuccessful attempt at farming. He was subsequently unable to get work as a shepherd and in 1810 was forced to move to Edinburgh. The Forest Minstrel (1810 ) again met with little success but was followed in  1813  by The Queen's Wake which was better received. In  1815  the Duke of Buccleuch granted him the farm of Altrive (Edinhope) rent free (later left to him by the Duchess), and in 1820, despite continuing financial problems, he felt secure enough to be able to marry Margaret Phillips.

James Hogg became an established figure in Edinburgh Society and as well as producing poetry and prose he was a regular contributor to Blackwood's Magazine with his series of tales The Shepherd's Calendar. He also featured as the Ettrick Shepherd in Noctes Ambrosianae by  John Wilson (1785-1854 ). Writing on the supernatural, as with his Kilmeny and The Witch of Fife, Hogg described himself as the 'King of the Mountain and Fairy School'. Other examples of his work which demonstrate the influence of Burns and the traditional Scottish ballads are The Author's Address to his Auld Dog Hector and the Village of Balmaquhapple. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824 ) is considered to be his best work and explores the theme of split personality which was later tackled by  Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894 ) in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Against the wishes of the Scott family, in  1834  Hogg published Domestic Manners and Private Life of Sir Walter Scott.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

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Acquisition Information

Purchased in 2003 from Dailey Rare Books, Los Angeles, with funds from Stirling Minds

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Further details about the collection are held on Stirling University Library web-based catalogue  http://libcat.stir.ac.uk/.

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Additional Information

Fonds level description compiled by H M Kemp and Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project, 10 May 2002.