1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Hogg

William Maginn, "Gallery of Literary Characters: James Hogg" Fraser's Magazine 5 (February 1832) 97.



Clear ye your pipes, O Muses, and sing of the Shepherd of Ettrick—
Hogg, from the mountain of Benger, invading the city of London!
Opposite see he stands, wrapt round in pastoral mantle,
Covering his shoulders broad. His hand is graced with the bonnet
Such as the shepherds wear in the lowland country of Scotland.
Comelily curled is his nose; his eye has a pleasantish twinkle.
Open his honest mouth, whence flowed such rivers of verses,
(Whither, we need not say, flowed in such gallons of toddy).
So does he look in the morn, ere yet the goblet or tumbler
Pours forth its copious stores, and puts a cock in his eyelid.

Hail to thee, honest bard! — the bard of bonny Kilmeny!
Author of Hogg on Sheep, in fifty magazines writer,
Song-maker sans compare, who sang of Magillivray Donald!

But really, in writing a sketch of the life of a Scottish shepherd, whose fame is built on his intense knowledge of his own vernacular, and not in the slightest degree tainted by any suspicion of his having any "Bits of Classicality" about him, it is, we must admit, somewhat out of place to make use of the ponderous verse of Homer or Virgil, or Dr. Southey. We should sing him, if it were in our power, in the manner of a Border ballad, and celebrate his irruption into the south, as his predecessors on the banks of Tweed sang the march of the Douglas "Into England to take a foray."

We need not trouble ourselves with writing the life of Hogg. We may say, with the Grub Street author mentioned by Horace Walpole, that not even Plutarch himself, much less a cat, has had so many lives as Hogg. He has written three or four himself; Wilson, Lockhart, Dr. Morris, Grey, and half a score others, have biographised the Shepherd. And at the great dinner given to him last week, he favoured the company with a sketch of his personal history, which was so minute as to supply the details of his birth, the moment at which that auspicious event occurred, and the various adventures of the howdie on that memorable occasion. It would be repeating a twenty-times-told tale to explain that Hogg was reared a shepherd — that at twenty years old he could not read or write — that at forty he had published those poems which have been so familiar to all the world ever since — and that he has since continued to labour with hand and head, putting a stout heart against a stiff brae, and year after year accumulating fresh fame. All this is sufficiently known to the inhabitants of the old world and the new.

He has been ever and always a true and consistent Tory, which we mention to his great honour; although it confers little honour on the Tory party, that his exertions in their cause should have been so lightly rewarded.

Had Hogg taken the other side, that to which it might have been conjectured his humble origin would have inclined him, and turned his song-making talents to Whig or Radical purposes, we hesitate not to say, that he might have been a dangerous man in the bias he could have given to the lower ranks of Scotland, a country in which such songs as his have always had great influence. Instead of that, he, though of the soil, clung to the Tory cause, and through good report and evil report has been constant and earnest in his sincere adhesion to the party. Therefore we say that he has done the state some service; that he has done himself any, we should scruple to assert, but that we know that the approbation of a man's own mind for honest, honourable, and disinterested conduct, is above all praise.

We wish him success in his new speculation, and hope that his series of works will sell off in tens of thousands. We were gratified to see his countrymen rallying round him in such numbers at the dinner which they gave him; but we trust that their admiration of his talents and his honesty will be shewn in some more substantial style.

Adieu, kind Shepherd! — sixty years have pass'd
Since through this world you first began to jog;
Five dozen winters more we hope you'll last,
The pastoral patriarch of the tribe of Hogg!