1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Hogg

Anonymous, in Review of Hogg, Pilgrims of the Sun; Universal Magazine S3 2 (February 1815) 116-17.



Mr. Hogg, though vastly inferior to Burns, stands somewhat higher than Bloomfield. He has a more creative imagination, and an infinitely more felicitous diction: but he has faults that outnumber all his excellencies, and it is impossible to pronounce, of his poems, a higher judgment than that they are remarkable as the productions of a man so situated. Our readers are doubtless aware that Mr. Hogg (we use his own words) "is a common shepherd bred among the mountains of Ettrick forest, who went to service when only seven years of age; and since that period has never received any education whatever." By the latter assertion nothing more is meant than that he received no education at school after his seventh year; though the construction of the sentence seems obviously intended to imply that he received no instruction whatever after that period. All his writings, however, amply prove that he has diligently availed himself of such intellectual resources as chance may have placed within his reach. Scotland has produced so few poets of eminence that any native rhymster, with only ordinary pretensions, is sure to find more than ordinary patronage and encouragement; and hence, when Mr. Hogg's first work appeared, some years ago, containing a few traditional ballads and sundry copies of verses, instead of remaining unnoticed, as would have happened amidst the plenitude of excellence in the south, he was immediately sought after as a rarity, and countenanced by all whose national taste and feelings led them to prefer a Scottish ballad to an English epic. We do not mean to boast of our neglect of obscure talent: and adduce it only as a proof of our opulence, that we can afford to let poets bloom and perish unobserved because we have always such an ample stock upon hand for use. It is only by encouraging the breed that any country can hope to have fine and sufficient supplies: and therefore we are far from blaming our northern brethren who catch linnets and bullfinches till they are able to find or rear a nightingale.