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Hogg, James, Poetry


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405188104.2012.x


To his own generation James Hogg (1770–1835) was known not as the novelist of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a justified Sinner (1824), but as the Ettrick Shepherd, a Scottish labouring-class poet. He was an ‘original genius’ within a tradition theorized by Edward Young and others and exemplified by models such as James Beattie's Edwin in The Minstrel , James Macpherson's ancient bard Ossian, and in particular the self-conscious persona of Robert Burns as Ayrshire ploughman-poet. Burns's influence, according to Sir Walter Scott, was overwhelming on would-be poets of humble background: ‘Poets began to chirp in every corner like grasshoppers in a sunshine day. The steep rocks poured down poetical goatherds, and the bowels of the earth vomited forth rhyming colliers …’ ( Curry 1977 : 96). In his ‘Memoir of the Author's Life’ Hogg describes his first contact with the poetry of Burns in the early 1790s, the hillside recital of ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ by a ‘half daft man, named John Scott’, as forming a new epoch in his life: ‘Every day I pondered on the genius and fate of Burns. I wept, and always thought with myself – what is to hinder me from succeeding Burns?’ As Burns in popular Romantic iconography is discovered by the Muse guiding the plough, so the genius of Burns reaches out to Hogg among his flock of sheep. In ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ English poetical classics and local tradition ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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