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I find it impossible to divest myself of an inherent vanity." Of this no one can doubt either the truth or the candour of the confession. He tells us that he was the second of four sons of Robert Hogg and Margaret Laidlaw, the wife in Scotland often retaining her maiden
That his father was a shepherd, but, saving money, had taken the farms of Ettrick-house and Ettrick-hall. At the latter place Hogg was born, he says, on the 25th of January, 1772 ; but he assigns this date to his birth out of his desire to resemblé Robert Burns, so much as even to have been born on the same day and month. He used to boast of this, and even of some similar occurrence, as of having been in some sort of danger at his birth through a storm, and the necessary help for his mother being difficult to procure in night and tempest. He has related, in his life, that he was born on the same day of the month as Burns, but on referring to the parish registry it did not bear him out, but showed him to have been born on the 9th of December, 1770. He tells us that his father was ruined, and that they were turned out of doors without a farthing when he was six years old, but that a worthy neighbouring farmer, Mr. Brydon of Crosslie, took compassion on them, leased the farm of Ettrick-house, one of those Hogg's father had occupied, and put him as shepherd upon it. Here the embryo poet went to the parish school just by for a few months, and then at Whitsuntide was sent out to service to a farmer in the neighbourhood, as a herd-boy. The account that he gives of himself, as a lad of seven years old, in this solitary employment on the hills, is curious enough. “My wages for the half-year were a ewe lamb and a pair of new shoes. Even at that early age my fancy seems to have been a hard neighbour for both judgment and memory. I was wont to strip off my clothes, and run races against time, or rather against myself; and in the course of these exploits, which I accomplished much to my own admiration, I first lost my plaid, then my bonnet, then my coat, and finally my hosen, for as for shoes, I had none."
The next winter, he tells us, he went to school again for a quarter, got into a class who read in the Bible, andı." horribly defiled several sheets of paper with copy lines, every letter of which was nearly an inch long." This, he says, finished his education, and that he never was another day at school. The whole of his career of schooling he computes at about half-a-year, but says that his old schoolmaster even denied this, declaring that he never was at his school at all ! What a stock of education on which to set up shepherd, farmer, and poet!
Like Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, and other illustrious men, Hogg, of course, fell in love in his very childhood, and, to say truth, his relation of this juvenile passion is as interesting as that of any of theirs. “It will scarcely be believed that at so early an age
I should have been an admirer of the other sex. It is, nevertheless, strictly true. Indeed, I have liked the women a great deal better than the men ever since I remember. But that summer, when only eight years old, I was sent out to a height called Broadheads, with a rosy-cheeked maiden, to herd a flock of new-weaned lambs, and I
had my mischievous cows to berd besides. But as she had no dor, and I had an excellent one, I was ordered to keep close by her. Never was a master's order better obeyed. Day after day I herded the cows and lambs both, and Betty had nothing to do but to sit
Then we dined together every day, at a well near to the Shiel-sike head, and after dinner I laid my head down on her lap, covered her bare feet with my plaid, and pretended to fall sound asleep. One day I heard her say to herself, “Poor little laddie! he's joost tired to death :' and then I wept till I was afraid she would feel the warm tears trickling on her knee. I wished my master, who was a handsome young man, would fall in love with her, and marry her, wondering how he could be so blind and stupid as not to do it. But I thought if I were he, I would know well what to do."
By the time he was fifteen years of age, he says he had served a dozen masters, being only engaged for short terms and odd jobs. When about twelve years old, such was the flourishing state of his circumstances that he had two shirts, so bad that he could not wear them, and therefore went without, by this means falling into another difficulty, that of keeping up his trousers on his bare skin, there being no braces in those days. Yet he had a fiddle, which cost five shillings, with which he charmed the cow houses and stable lofts at night, after his work was done. In his eighteenth year he entered the service of Mr. Laidlaw, of Black-house, near St. Mary's Loch,on Yarrow. He had been in the service of two others of the same family, probably relatives by his mother's side, whu was a Laidlaw, at Willensee, and at Elibank, on the Tweed; and he now continued with Mr. Laidlaw, of Black-house, ten years, as shepherd. William Laidlaw, the son of his master, and afterwards the bailiff of Sir Walter Scott, and also the author of the sweet song of Lucy's Flitting," was here his great companion, and they read much together, and stimulated in each other the flame of poetry. These must have been happy years for Hogg
The year after Burns's death he first heard Tam Shanter repeated, and heard of Burns, as a ploughman, who had written beautiful songs and poems. “Every day,” says he, “I pondered on the genius and fate of Burns. I wept, and always thought with myself, what is to hinder me from succeeding Burns ? I, too, was born on the 25th of January, and I have much more time to read and compose than any ploughman could have, and can sing more old songs than ever ploughman could in the world. But then I wept again, because I could not write. However, I resolved to be a poet, and follow in the steps of Burns !” A brave resolve, to be a poet, in a man that could not write. Nevertheless, he composed songs and one of these, called M‘Donald, had the luck to get sung at a great masonic meeting at Edinburgh, and was taken up by a General M‘Donald, who fancied it was written upon him, and had it sung every week at his mess. Hogg, now thirty-one years of
resolveu to astonish the world with his genius, and the account of the way he took is not a little amusing.
“In 1801, believing that I was then become a grand poet, I most sapiently determined on publishing a pamphlet, and appealing to the world at once. Having attended the Edinburgh market one Monday, with a number of sheep for sale, and being unable to dispose of them all, I put the remainder into a park until the market on Wednesday, Not knowing how to pass the interim, it came into my head that I would write a poem or two from my memory, and get them printed. The thought had no sooner struck me than it was put in practice; and I was obliged to select, not the best poems, but those that I remembered best. I wrote several of these during my short stay, and gave them all to a person to print at my expense ; and having sold off my sheep on Wednesday morning, I returned to the forest. I saw no more of my poems until I received word that there were one thousand copies of them thrown off. I knew no more of publishing than the man in the moon; and the only motive that influenced me was, the gratification of my vanity by seeing myself in print. All of them were sad stuff, although I judged them to be exceedingly good. Notwithstanding my pride of authorship, in a few days I had discernment enough left to wish my publication heartily at the devil, and I had hopes that long ago it had been consigned to eternal oblivion, when, behold! a London critic had, in malice of heart, preserved a copy, and quoted liberally out of it last year, to my intense chagrin and mortification ;” i.e. while Hogg was, but four years before his death, lionizing in London.
His adventures afterwards in Edinburgh, publishing his subsequent poems, are equally curious. How he published by subscription, and one-third of his subscribers took his books but never paid for them. How he set up a weekly literary paper, “ The Spy,” which he continued a year. How he became a great spouter at a debating club called " The Forum.” How he wrote a musical farce, and a musical drama; all ending in ruin and insolvency, till he brought out the Queen's Wake, and won a good reputation. Here he with great simplicity tells us, that Mr. Jeffrey never noticed the poem till it had got into a third edition, and having given offence to Mr. Anster by comparing the two poets, he never afterwards took any notice of any of his writings. Whereupon, Hogg says, proudly, he thinks that conduct can do him no honour in the long run ; and that he would match the worst poem he ever published with some that Mr. Jeffrey has strained himself to bring forward. But Hogg was now a pcpular man, His Queen's Wake went on into edition after edition. He was introduced to Blackwood, who became his publisher ; and Hogg looked upon himself as on a par in fame with the first men of his time. The familiar style in which he relates his first acquaintance with Professor Wilson will excite a smile.
“On the appearance of Mr. Wilson's Isle of Palms, I was so greatly taken with many of his fanciful and visionary scenes, descriptive of bliss and woe, that it had a tendency to divest me occasionally of all worldly feelings. I reviewed this poem, as well as many others, in a Scottish review then going in Edinburgh, and was exceedingly anxious to meet with the author; but this I tried in vain for the space of six months. All I could learn of him was, that he was a man from the mountains of Wales, or the west of England, with hairs like eagles' feathers, and nails like birds' claws, a red beard, and an uncommon degree of wildness in his looks. Wilson was then utterly unknown in Edinburgh, except slightly to Mr. Walter Scott, who never introduces any one person to another, nor judges it of any avail. However, having no other shift left, I sat down and wrote him a note, telling him that I wished much to see him, and if he wanted to see me, he might come and dine with me at my lodgings in the road of Gabriel, at four. He accepted the invitation, and dined with Grieve and me; and I found him so much a man according to my own heart, that for many years we were seldora twenty-four hours asunder when in town. I afterwards went and visited him, staying with him a month at his seat in Westmoreland, where we had some curious doings among the gentlemen and poets of the lakes."
According to Hogg, he had the honour of being the projector and commencer of no less a periodical than Blackwood's Magazinewhether this was true or not, certain it is that he became and continued for many years one of its chief contributors, and figured most conspicuously in those admirable papers, the Noctes Ambrosianæ. In these, language the most beautiful and poetical was often put into the Shepherd's mouth; but, it must also be confessed, much oftener language of a very different kind. He was made to figure as a coarse toper and buffoon. That he was at once proud of figuring so largely in the Noctes, and yet felt acutely the degrading character fixed on him there, is evident from his own statement in his autobiography. In speaking of Professor Wilson, to whom he deservedly awards a noble nature, he says: “My friends in general have been of opinion that he has amused himself and the public too often at my expense: but, except in one instance, which terminated very ill for me, and in which I had no more concern than the man in the moon, I never discerned any evil design on his part, and thought it all excellent sport. At the same time, I must acknowledge that it was using too much freedom with any author, to print his name in full to poems, letters, and essays, which he himself never saw. I do not say that he has done this; but either he or some one else has done it many a time.”—Memoir, p. 87.
But speaking of Blackwood, the publisher, he assumes a different torie. "For my part, after twenty years of feelings hardly suppressed, he has driven me beyond the bounds of human patience. That magazine of his, which owes its rise principally to myself, has often put words and sentiments into my mouth of which I have been greatly ashamed, and which have given much pain to my family and relations; and many of these, after a solemn written promise that such freedoms should never be repeated. I have been often urged to restrain and humble him by legal measures, as an incorrigible offender deserves. I know I have it in my power, and if he dares me to the task, I want but a hair to make a tether of."Memoir, p. 107.
It must be confessed that no justification can be offered for such
treatment. Such was my own opinion of Hogg, derived from this source, and from prints of him, with wide open mouth, and huge straggling teeth, in full roars of drunken laughter, that, on meeting him in London, I was quite amazed to find him so smooth, welllooking, and gentlemanly & person.
Of his cotemporary authors Hogg speaks in his life with the highest honour. He confesses that he used most unmeasured language towards both Sir Walter Scott and John Wilson, when they offended him, but records their refusal to be offended with him, and their cordial kindness. Of Southey, Lockhart, Sym, the Timothy Tickler of Blackwood, Galt, &c. his reminiscences are full of life and interest. Of Wordsworth's poetry he entertained the high notion that a true poet must do ; but there occurred a scene at Rydal which James gives in explanation of his caricaturing Wordsworth, which, as it is his own account, is worth transcribing.
“ I dined with Wordsworth, and called on himself several times afterwards, and certainly never met with anything but the most genuine kindness; therefore people have wondered why I should have indulged in caricaturing his style in the Poetic Mirror. I have often regretted that myself; but it was merely a piece of ill nature at an affront which I conceived had been put upon me. It was the triumphal arch scene. This anecdote has been told and told again, but never truly ; and was likewise brought forward in the Noctes Ambrosianæ, as a joke ; but it was no joke ; and the plain, simple truth of the matter was this :
“It chanced one night, when I was there, that there was a resplendent arch across the zenith, from the one horizon to the other, of something like the Aurora Borealis, but much lighter. It was a scene that is well remembered, for it struck the country with admiration, as such a phenomenon had never before been witnessed in such perfection; and, as far as I can learn, it had been more brilliant over the mountains and pure waters of Westmoreland than anywhere else. Well, when word came into the room of the splendid meteor, we all went out to view it; and on the beautiful platform at Mount Rydal, we were walking in twos and threes, arm-in-arm, talking of the phenomenon, and admiring it. Now, be it remembered, that there were present, Wordsworth, Professor Wilson, Lloyd, De Quincy, and myself, besides several other literary gentlemen, whose names I am not certain that I remember aright. Miss Wordsworth's arm was in mine, and she was expressing some fears that the splendid stranger might prove ominous, when I by ill luck blundered out the following remark, thinking that I was saying a good thing:–Hout, me'em! it is neither mair nor less than joost a triumphal airch, raised in honour of the meeting of the poets.'
“ • That's not amiss. Eh ? eh ?—that's very good,' said the Professor, laughing. But Wordsworth, who had De Quincy's arm, gave a grunt, and turned on his heel, and leading the little opium-chewer aside, he addressed him in these disdainful and venomous words :Poets ? Poets? What does the fellow mean ?—Where are they?'
“ Who could forgive this ? For my part, I never can, and never