1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Hogg

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 277.



One of the best lyric poets of Scotland, Hogg (1770-1835), often called the "Ettrick Shepherd," was born in a cottage at Ettrick Hall, and was the son of a shepherd. His mother had good humor and a rich store of song. He had little education, but showed great aptitude in imitating the old strains which he got from his mother. He had withal a taste for music. In 1801 he published a small volume of poems, and in 1807 another. He helped Scott in collecting old ballads for the Border Minstrelsy. It was not till 1813 that he established his reputation by The Queen's Wake, largely made up of Scottish songs and short romantic ballads. Among them that of Bonny Kilmeny is one of the most charming and poetical of fairy tales. Hogg wrote several novels. His worldly schemes were seldom successful, and he failed as a sheep-farmer. He had a passion for field sports. He was generous, kind-hearted, and charitable far beyond his means, and his death was deeply mourned in the vale of Ettrick, where he had lived on seventy acres of moorland, presented to him by the Duchess of Buccleuch. He breathed his last with the calmness and freedom from pain that he might have experienced in falling asleep in his gray plaid on the hillside. Hogg's prose is very unequal. He had no skill in arranging incidents or delineating character. He is often coarse and extravagant; yet some of his stories have much of the literal truth and happy, minute painting of Defoe.