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ment, and his reverses never preyed in the smallest degree on his spirits. He believed, in his own mind, that he had always done everything for the best, and so long as no man could accuse him of dishonesty he laughed at the futility of his calculations, and contentedly let his earnings go as they came, determined to make more money as soon as possible, although it should go the same way as before. This uniform happiness was partly owing to a good constitution, and partly arose, as he is careful to remind us, “from a conviction that a heavenly gift conferring the powers of immortal song was inherent in my soul.” It was the effort to conquer circumstances that led Hogg, on the failure of his farming schemes, to take up his residence in Edinburgh, with the view of making a living, in one way or other, by his pen. One hardly knows what he did at this time, and one hardly cares to inquire, lest it should be found that he had become the veriest literary hack in the Scottish capital. We know that for three years he earned a very precarious income by writing songs, poems, and prose tales, and by editing a weekly periodical called “The Spy,” which expired after a dreary existence of twelve months. At length, in 1813, came “The Queen's Wake,” which at once turned the tide, and changed the author from a literary hack to a literary lion. Up to this time Hogg had been regarded simply as “a clever sort of good-for-nothing body,” but he now took his place among the literati of his country. Men wondered to find an uneducated, rough-looking shepherd sing so eloquently ; and the general feeling of his country friends was pretty well expressed by one of their number who, meeting the poet on the High Street of Edinburgh a few days after the publication of the work, saluted him with the remark: “Man, wha wad hae thocht that there was sae muckle in that sheep's head o' yours?” “The Queen's Wake" is the best of all Hogg's larger works. It consists of a series of tales supposed to be told or sung by a number of old minstrels before Mary Queen of Scots at Holyrood, all strung together so gracefully that the reader is surprised both by the delicacy and the genius of the author. “Kilmeny,” a tale of Fairyland, sung by a Highland bard from Loch Earn side, is incomparably the finest piece in the entire production, and, had Hogg written nothing else, his place as one of the greatest poets of his country would still have been assured. Regarded as the work of a man who had but six months’ schooling, and who could read and write but imperfectly when almost out of his teens, it is one of the greatest marvels of genius in the wide realms of literature. For the whole poem, Scott says the Shepherd should have received from 24, 1oo to 24, 200, but his publishers failed—as, alas ! he too often found they had a knack of doing—and he got nothing. In short, he discovered that poetry, though it might lead to glory, was not in his case to lead to guineas, and as even genius must dine and dress, he turned his thoughts once more to his native Ettrick. He had reached his forty-fourth year when the Duke of Buccleuch set him into a small farm called Altrive Lake, on the banks of balladhaunted Yarrow, “a habitation once more,” as Hogg himself says, “among my native moors and streams, where every face was that of a friend, and each house was a home.” Six years later he took unto himself a wife, and was fortunate in drawing a prize in the matrimonial lottery. The wives of some of the poets, as we all know, have not been the happiest of mortals, but this was not the case with the wife of Altrive Lake. The Shepherd says that he always liked the women better than the men—what poet does not? and his sweetest songs seem to be the flowers of his own experience. “So smooth and happy,” he says, “has my married life been, that on a retrospect I cannot distinguish one part from another, save by some remarkably good days of fishing, shooting, and curling on the ice.” Having got the wife, Hogg foolishly thought that with her help he might manage a second farm, and accordingly took a lease of Mount Benger, which lies next to Altrive Lake. Like all his previous ventures in the same line, this too ended in failure, and after living for several years at Mount Benger, he gave it up and returned to Altrive Lake, where he permanently resided until his death in 1835. All this time he was earning a good income by his pen—for he knew something of the “pot-boiler,” like many other literary men— but the bad seasons and the worse investments swallowed everything up. Nor must we forget that his profuse hospitality helped greatly to drain his purse. He kept simply an open door for all and sundry who chose to enter. Henry Scott Riddell tells how a certain individual came to dine with the Shepherd and his family only, and how before the day was over no fewer than fourteen additional visitors turned up to share in the dinner. No wonder if his fortunes became embarrassed The launch of Blackwood, in 1817, at once provided a medium for some of the Shepherd's literary work. The famous “Chaldee Manuscript” appeared in an early number, and, as everybody knows, led to prolonged strife and great bitterness of feeling. The object of the article was to describe, in the style of a Scripture allegory, the beginning and early history of the magazine, and the discomfiture of
a rival publication started by Constable. There are four chapters, containing two hundred and eleven verses, all of which, with the exception of the first thirty-seven, were from Hogg's pen ; but the production is not of the slightest interest now. Very different were the “Noctes Ambrosianæ,” printed in the same publication some five years later. These imaginary conversations were supposed to be between “Christopher North,” the Ettrick Shepherd, and some minor celebrities, but they hardly do justice to the Shepherd. They represent him as a pompous and bombastic individual, ready to give an opinion on any subject, and quite confident about the infallibility of that opinion. The James Hogg of real life was a much more lovable personage than the boasting Falstaff of the “Noctes," as those who knew him and Mrs. Garden's excellent biography amply testify.
A good deal has been said about Hogg's social habits. One reviewer, we believe, has somewhere described him as “a boozing buffoon.” There is more of alliteration than of truth about this statement, which is, in fact, maliciously inaccurate. The author of a recent book on Yarrow and its poets tells us that he has conversed with many persons who knew the Poet intimately, and their unanimous testimony is that he was thoroughly temperate in his habits. Of course, the times of Hogg were in this respect very different from the times of to-day, and it was only to be expected that a man in his position-a farmer, and a good-natured fellow to boot-should conform to the social customs of his day. The jovial hours spent with “Christopher North” and others under the kindly roof of “Tibbie Shiels” were not spent without some handling of the cup which both cheers and inebriates, and there is some suspicion about Hogg's morning order, given in a stentorian voice from beneath the blankets, to “bring in the loch.” But all this proves nothing in favour of Hogg's being a confirmed tippler. It simply shows that he had an occasional spree, and that is showing no more than could be shown of many a worthy member of the kirk to-day. Nothing would ever have been heard of the little. irregularities of Hogg, any more than of Burns, if his literary genius had not set him before the eyes of all men.
The Shepherd's frequent breaches of kid-glove and drawingroom etiquette must have given many a shock to those who could not, as Scott did, look beyond his manners to his naturally kind and simple heart. “Well as Scott knew,” remarks J. G. Lockhart, “that reflection, sagacity, wit, and wisdom were scattered abundantly among the humblest ranges of the pastoral solitudes of Scotland, there was
here a depth and a brightness that filled him with wonder, combined with a quaintness of humour and a thousand little touches of absurdity which afforded him more entertainment, as I have often heard him say, than the best comedy that ever set the pit in a roar.” That droll story which Lockhart tells must have been one of those that competed with “the best comedy that ever set the pit in a roar.” The Shepherd was invited by Scott to dinner. He came dressed “precisely as any ordinary herdsman attends cattle to the market.” Mrs. Scott, being in a delicate state of health, was reclining on a sofa. The Shepherd, after being presented and making his best bow, forthwith took possession of another sofa placed opposite hers, and stretched himself thereupon at all his length, for, as he said afterwards, “I thought I could never do wrong to copy the lady of the house.” His foul shoes and greasy hands smeared the chintz ; but Hogg saw nothing. He dined heartily and drank freely. He jested, sang, told stories. Soon the wine operated, and let loose his vulgarity. From “Mr. Scott” he got to “Sherra” (i.e. Sheriff), from “Sherra” to “Scott,” from “Scott" to “Walter,” from “Walter" to “Wattie,” and finished by calling Mrs. Scott “Charlotte,” which fairly convulsed the whole party. Such is Lockhart's story; but we fear he was as little capable of appreciating the real merits of the Shepherd as Professor Blackie is of appreciating an Italian song in a Scotch drawing-room. In person Hogg was manly and prepossessing, being a little above the middle height, and of a stout, well-set figure. His hair was light, and even so far on as his sixtieth year he looked so ruddy and vigorous that men half his age might have envied him, as no doubt they did. Carlyle has left this interesting sketch of him. “Hogg is,” says the author of “Sartor,” “a little red-skinned, stiff rack of a body, with quite the common air of an Ettrick Shepherd, except that he has a highish, though sloping brow, and two clear little beads of blue or grey eyes that sparkle, if not with thought, yet with animation. Behaves himself easily and well; speaks Scotch, and mostly narrative absurdity therewith. Appears in the mingled character of zany or raree show. All bent on bantering him, especially Lockhart; Hogg walking through it as if unconscious, or almost flattered. His vanity seems to be immense, but also his good-nature. I felt interest for the poor herd-body; wondered to see him blown hither from the sheep-folds, and how, quite friendless as he was, he went along cheerful, mirthful, and musical. I do not well understand this man; his significance is perhaps considerable. His poetic talent is authentic, yet his intellect seems of the weakest; his morality also
limits itself to the precept, 'be not angry.' Is the charm of this poor man to be found herein, that he is a real product of Nature, and able to speak naturally, which not one in at housand is? An unconscious talent, though of the smallest, emphatically naïve. Once or twice in singing (for he sang of his own) there was an emphasis in poor Hogg's look-expressive of feeling-almost of enthusiasm. The man is a very curious specimen. Alas! he is a man ; yet how few will so much as treat him like a specimen, and not like a mere wooden Punch and Judy." There is a kind of patronising air about all this that one does not like, and the picture is, besides, not particularly accurate ,
The closing years of Hogg's life afford but little material for the biographer. One of the last outstanding incidents of his career was a visit to London, where he was received with every mark of distinction by all classes of society. We read of a great festival being given in his honour, which was “attended by nearly two hundred persons, including noblemen, members of Parliament, and men of letters." We strongly suspect the Shepherd must have felt very much like a fish out of water in the midst of all the fêting and feasting of this time. A story is told of his being taken to the Opera, where he very soon gave unequivocal signs of drowsiness; yet to any inquiry implying a doubt of his feeling entertained he replied, “Eh ! I like it gae weel, sir.” When he did give his attention to any part of the performance, his eyes were observed to be fixed on Costa, the conductor. At length he could no longer restrain his curiosity in regard to the man with the bâton, and exclaimed, “Wha, and what the deil's that fellow that aye keeps wagging the stick yonder ?”.
Hogg's misfortunes pursued him almost to the end. When old age began to creep on him he was anxious to make some provision for his family, and the only way he could think of doing this was by issuing a collected edition of his works. It was, we believe, about this time that he wrote to Byron asking a recommendation to Murray. In the letter he speaks of his last publisher in no friendly terms, declares his “bills” are never “lifted,” and adds, totidem verbis, “God d- n him and them both.” Byron, telling a friend about this incident, remarks : “The said Hogg is a strange being, but of great though uncouth powers. I think very highly of him as a poet; but he and half of those Scotch and Lake Troubadours are spoilt by living in little circles and petty societies.” But Byron was unable to help Hogg, and the latter got into the hands of a publisher who failed after the first volume of the poet's works had been issued. Thus was Hogg's last hope left unrealised. In the autumn of 1835