James Hogg (1770-1835) was a Scottish poet, playwright, short story writer, and novelist. He was born at Ettrick Hall, a remote farm in the Ettrick Forest, and was forced by poverty to become a cowherd at the age of 7. Eventually rising to the position of the shepherd (hence the nickname ‘the Ettrick Shepherd’), he taught himself to read and write and published a poem in the Scots Magazine in 1794. Scottish Pastorals (1801) made little impact but in 1802 he met Walter Scott while the latter was touring the Selkirk area collecting songs for Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.
In 1807, with Scott’s backing, he published The Mountain Bard, a collection of original ballads, along with a treatise on sheep diseases. Both were financially successful. His weekly periodical, The Spy, containing articles, poems, and tales mostly written by Hogg himself, was published between 1810 and 1811 but collapsed following the printing of a, particularly scandalous story. He moved to Edinburgh in 1810. He edited a magazine and in 1813 made his name with The Queen’s Wake, becoming friends with Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, John Murray, and other literary figures. He was on the board of Blackwood’s Magazine, to which he frequently contributed, notably to the Chaldee MS’ and the Noctes Ambrosianae (where he is depicted as the buffoonish Shepherd’). Granted a farm in Yarrow in 1816, he lived there for most of his remaining years.
His modern reputation rests mainly on the novels The Three Perils of Man(1822) a historical romance, The Three Perils of Woman (1823), and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), none of which was highly regarded in his lifetime. Other important works include The Domestic Manners and Private Life of Sir Walter Scott (1834), the three-volume Tales of the War of Montrose (1835), and an edition of Robert Burns (with William Motherwell, 1834–5). His death elicited one of Wordsworth’s last great poems, ‘Extempore Effusion’.
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