Born in 1770 in the Ettrick Valley in the Scottish Borders, James Hogg came from an unlikely literary background. (He is sometimes referred to as ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’.) Yet his best-known work, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, published in 1824, is judged by many to be one of the greatest Scottish novels ever written, and one of the most famous men of the time, Romantic poet William Wordsworth, published a poem on hearing of his death in 1835.
Hogg’s father was a sheep-farmer and his son followed him into that calling after his schooling was cut short. He read widely however and began writing poetry, contributing some ballads to Sir Walter Scott’s Border Minstrelsy collection. There is no doubt Hogg’s connections with Scott helped him to reach a wider audience and granted him an entry into the literary world of writers and publishers.
James Hogg married in 1821 and the marriage produced five children. He did not give up on his farming background, dividing his time between Edinburgh and the Borders, but his farm was not financially successful, leading him to financial difficulties and bankruptcy. He died in 1835.
Edinburgh University Press are publishing the Collected Works of James Hogg, edited by Douglas Mack and Gillian Hughes.