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transport of which he is capable, when he hears of his gainful adventures, and his new accumulations. Nor can we tell how near he must get to his grave, or how far on he must advance in the process of dying, ere gain cease to delight, and the idol of wealth cease to be dear to him. But when we see that the topic is trade and its profits, which lights up his faded eye with the glow of its chiefest ecstasy, we are as much satisfied that he leaves the world with all his treasure there, and all the desires of his heart there, as if, acting what is told of the miser's death-bed, he made his bills, and his parchments of security, the companions of his bosom; and the last movements of his life were a fearful, tenacious, determined grasp, of what to him formed the all for which life was valuable." (pp. 276-278.]
The Mountain Bard, with a Memoir of the Author's Life,
Written by Himself. By James Hogg. 3d Edition. 12mo. Edinburgh. Oliver and Boyd. 1821. pp. 350.
A THIRD edition, with a life of the author !-what an inviting title !--and there is something so new, and so delightfully captivating withal in the announcement! The world, though it cares not a rush about the verses, may, probably, be more curious to know why Mr. Hogg betook himself to “ the idle and unprofitable trade of poesy." Possession of this information cannot, nevertheless, be had without the incumbrance thereto appertaining; and the book, in consequence, may perchance sell, and the Mountain Bard, and his Memoirs, may be permitted to visit posterity together. Auto-biography is, in our opinion, infinitely amusing, though grievously tormenting and impertinent in the estimation of the more testy portion of our brethren. We confess our frailties, and with due penitence acknowledge that we are exceedingly prone to be diverted at the importance and self-consoling
vanity of the biographer, who, of course, condemns booksellers and critics, en masse, because they have not made themselves and the world sufficiently acquainted with his merits; and, as he considers himself the most likely person for the purpose, he undertakes to give mankind a proper estimate of his talents, formed, of course, upon an unbiassed opinion of self, and self-estimated productions. We have watched the “ languishing and lazy beau,” scarce with condescension greeting the humbler caparisoned acquaintance whom chance has thrown across his path — we have seen the first mounted chariot, and the city dame redolent therein -- we have seen critics, perhaps we have seen ourselves, with the first fruits of an author within their gripe – we have beheld blacking, literary, and lottery puffs, teeming daily from the groaning press ;-but none of these rarities can, in any degree, compete with the vanity, self-conceit, and importance displayed by the self-memoired man, whose face and form, reflected in every line, grins most approvingly, and with supreme satisfaction, at his own appearance and deportment; while the half-diverted, half-mortified reader watches his progress with wonder and contempt.
How far the foregoing remarks may be justified in their application to Mr. Hogg, we leave his readers to determine, Some idea may, we hope, be formed by ours, from the extracts we shall presently lay before them; but we feel that a paramount sense of duty will not permit any attempt to extenuate the coarseness, vulgarity, and profaneness, which, we are sorry to observe, forms a very large portion of the composition. It may not be uninteresting to give a brief epitome of the author's life, with such occasional extracts as may best illustrate our opinions respecting his merits, or defects.
James Hogg, the second of the four sons of Robert Hogg and Margaret Laidlaw, was early brought up to the occupation of a shepherd in Ettrick Forest. His education was very limited, the utmost extent of his school attainments being a somewhat doubtful acquaintance with the shorter catechism, and the Proverbs of Solomon, and one quarter's encounter with the Bible; of which we are apprehensive that he knows little or nothing, but as a task-book at school. Writing was out of the question, except for a few weeks, in which he had “ horribly defiled," as he expresses it, “ several sheets of paper with copy-lines, every letter of which was nearly an inch in length.” It will be unnecessary to follow him through a very circumstantial account of the vicissitudes of his lot, especially as they do not essentially differ from those which the children of poverty, in general, cast on the wide world for nurture and support, must inevitably experience, when, unprotected, they have to endure the evils incident to a state of suffering and dependence. The first glimpse which he had of the treasures, and hitherto unexplored path of literature, was in his eighteenth year, when he obtained a perusal of the Life and Adventures of Sir William Wallace, and the Gentle Shepherd; but, certainly, that glimpse of the promised land was fearfully uninviting. We will quote his account of it in the author's own
« I could not help regretting deeply that they were not in prose, that every body might have understood them; or, I thought, if they had been in the same kind of metre with the Psalms, I could have borne with them. The truth is, I made exceedingly slow progress in reading them. The little reading that I had learned i had nearly lost, and the Scottish dialect quite confounded me; so that, before I got to the end of a line, I had commonly lost the rhyme of the preceding one; and if I came to a triplet, a thing of which I had no conception, I commonly read to the foot of the page without perceiving that I had lost the rhyme altogether. I thought the author had been straitened for rhymes, and had just made a part of it do as well as he could without them. Thus after I had got through both works, I found myself much in the same predicament with the man of Eskdalemuir, who had borrowed Bailey's Dictionary from his neighbour. On returning it, the lender asked him what he thought of it. I dinna ken, man,' replied he; I have read it all through, but canna say that I understand it; it is the most confused book that ever I saw in my life !” (pp. xv. xvi.]
He soon after read Bishop Burnet's Theory of the Con flagration of the Earth, which nearly overturned his brain. This, and some old newspapers, with which his mistress supplied him, he pored over very diligently, beginning at the date, reading straight on, through advertisements of houses, farms, balm of Gilead, and all; but, alas ! they left him after their perusal no wiser than when he began. Some further idea may be formed of his progress in literature at this period, from the circumstance of his being obliged to write to his brother, and having never drawn a pen for a number of years, he had actually forgot how to make sundry of the letters; these, therefore, he had either to print, or to patch up the words in the best way he could without them.
The first time he attempted to write verses was in the year, 1793. Mr. Laidlaw, his master, having a number of valuable books, which were open to the perusal of our author, he began to read attentively; and no sooner did he begin to, read so as to understand, than, rather prematurely, he began, to write. His first attempt was a poetical epistle to a friend, great part of it composed of sentences from Dryden's Virgil, and Harvey's Life of Bruce. But the earliest poem to which he lays any claim on the score of originality of composition, was a rhyme entitled, “ An Address to the Duke of Buccleugh, in beha'f o' Mysel', and ither poor Fock.” The
next was, " The Way that the World goes 'on,” and “Wattie and Gordie's Foreign Intelligence,” an eclogue. It was on conversation with an old woman of Lochaber, that he founded the story of " Glengyle, a Ballad ;” and, likewise, the ground plot of “ The Happy Swains, a Pastoral.” Mr. Hogg's manner of composition is truly original :
Having," he writes to a friend, " very little spare time from my flock, which was unruly enough, I folded and stitched a few. sheets of paper, which I carried in my pocket. I had no inkhorn; but, in place of it, I borrowed a small vial, which I fixed in a hole in the breast of my waistcoat; and having a cork affixed by a piece of twine, it answered the purpose fully as well. Thus equipped, whenever a leisure minute or two offered, I had nothing ado but to sit down and write my thoughts as I found them. This is still my invariable practice in writing prose; I cannot make out one sentence by study, without the pen in my hand, to catch the ideas as they arise. I never write two copies of the same thing. My manner of composing poetry is very different, and, I believe, much more singular. Let the piece be of what length it will, i compose and correct it wholly in my mind, or on a slate, ere ever I put pen to paper, and then I write it down as fast as the A, B, C. When once it is written, it remains in that state; it being, as you very well know, with the utmost difficulty that I can be brought to alter one syllable; which, I think, is partly owing to the above practice.” (p. xix.]
A number of other pieces are enumerated, that flit thick as motes in the sun-beam; but as they came like shadows, so, we apprehend, they departed; for we do not recollect having heard of the greater proportion of the songs, tragedies, and dramas, which our author has here enumerated. After an unsuccessful journey to the Highlands, where he went on some farming speculations, he again hired himself as a shepherd in Nithisdale. It was while here that he published “ The Mountain Bard,” and going to Edinburgh respecting it, he called with Mr., now sir Walter Scott, on Mr. Constable, the bookseller:
• Who received me," he tells us, very kindly; but told me frankly that my poetry would not sell. I said, I thought it was as good as any body's I had seen. He said, that might be, but that nobody's poetry would sell; it was the worst stuff that came to market, and that he found; but, as I appeared to be a gay queer chiel, if I would procure him 200 subscribers, he would publish my work for me, and give me as much for it as he could. I did not like the subscribers much; but, having no alternative, I ac, cepted the conditions. Before the work was ready for publication,
VOL. IV.NO. 7.
I had got above 500 subscribers; and Mr. Constable, who, by that. time, had conceived a better opinion of the work, gave me halfguinea copies for all my subscribers, and a letter for a small sum, over and above. I have forgot how much; but, upon the whole, he acted with great liberality. He gave me, likewise, that same year, £86, for that celebrated work, Hogg on Sheep,' and I was now richer than I had ever been before.” (p. xxviii.] With this money he took a farm, and by a number of imprudencies soon contrived to make away with his own property, and, likewise, some money belonging to other individuals. Finding himself, at length, fairly run aground, he gave his creditors all he had, or rather suffered them tó take it, and set off and left them; but, on returning again to Ettrick, he found the countenances of his friends astonishingly altered for the worse; but he laughed at, and despised those changelings, resolving to show them, by and by, that they were in the wrong. Having appeared, both as a poet, and a speculative farmer, no one would now employ him as a shepherd; so finding himself without either money or employment, in February, 1810, he took his plaid on his shoulders, and marched away to Edinburgh, determined to push his fortune as a literary man. Bút, alas! in vain did he apply to newsmongers, booksellers, editors of magazines, and the like, for employment; not a farthing was he able to extract for his productions from these unfeeling monsters : and he remarks, with great naiveté, o this suited me very ill.” Through the kindness of Mr. Constable, however, he again got a volume of songs published; but they did not sell: and finding himself shunned by every one, he determined to push his fortune independent of booksellers, whom he now began to view as beings obnoxious to all genius. His plan was to publish a weekly paper, for which he was rarely qualified, considering that all this time he had never been once in any polished society, had read next to nothing, was now in the 38th year of his age, and knew no more of human life and manners than a child. As might, therefore, be expected, this undertaking soon fell to the ground; for at the publication of his third or fourth number, it grew so indecorous, that seventy-three subscribers gave it up; and the literary ladies, in particular, agreed that he could never write a sentence fit to be read. A reverend friend, he informs us, often repeats a little observation which he made, on being told of this defalcation : “ Gaping deevils! wha cares what they say ! if I leeve ony time, I'll let them see the contrair o'that." The name of this weekly admonisher was