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Name: James Hogg (The Ettrick Shepherd)

From: 1770

To: 1835

Biography: Hogg was born the son of a sheep farmer in 1770 at Ettrickhill farm in the Ettrick valley: Owing to his father's bankruptcy, his formal education ended at the age of 7 and he began work as a cowherd and later shepherd. Whilst a shepherd at Blackhouse farm in Yarrow (1790-1800) he survived the horrendous snowstorm of 1794 (an experience he later described in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine in 1819), and here too he was granted access to his employer's books. Hogg read extensively and began to write, hoping to emulate Robert Burns (1759-96) as a champion of 'ordinary' Scottish country people's experiences, views, insights, preoccupations, and traditional culture. With the encouragement of Sir Walter Scott (q.v.), his Scottish Pastorals (a collection of poems) was published in 1801. Hogg, and particularly his mother, had helped Scott by supplying traditional Ballads (q.v.) for his Minstrelsy, although neither Hogg was entirely happy with how they finally appeared. Hogg's (1834) Domestic Manners and Private Life of Walter Scott gives an intimate portrait of their long-standing and sometimes difficult relationship.

From now on Hogg divided his life between farming concerns in the Ettrick Forest and a literary life in Edinburgh, between the traditional rustic ways of the Border and the enlightened sophistication of the city. The two sometimes combined when members of the Blackwood's 'Noctes Ambrosianae' circle (e.g. John Wilson, [q.v.]) drank deep at the Crook Inn in Talla Valley, and Tibbie Shiel's Inn at the south-west end of St Mary's Loch. Recognition came in 1807 with publication of more poems in The Mountain Bard, but he is best remembered today for the novels he produced from his late forties onwards. In these he examined supernatural themes with both force and subtlety, and how such beliefs collided and complemented a strict Calvinist faith

Hogg spent his last years at a farm gifted to him by the Duke of Buccleuch: Altrive in Yarrow. He was buried in Ettrick Churchyard beside his grandfather, Will o' Phaup, who was supposedly the last man to talk to the fairies. Another monument to his memory stands beside St Mary's Loch.

Background Reading: For useful themes and links see:

Titles: The Mountain Bard | The Shepherd's Calendar | The Brownie of Bodsbeck | The Hunt of Eildon | Winter Evening Tales: Collected Among the Cottagers in the South of Scotland | The Three Perils of Man | Mary Burnet | Tales of the Wars of Montrose |

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