Thomas Humphry Ward, ed. The English Poets. 18801918. Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
Critical Introduction by William Minto
James Hogg (17701835)
[The Ettrick Shepherd, born in 1770 in Selkirkshire, where his forefathers had been sheep-farmers for generations, was discovered by Sir Walter Scott very much in the same way in which Allan Cunningham was discovered by Cromek. Scott struck across him while engaged in his search for The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. The living minstrel, in this case however, was not under the necessity of passing off his own poems as relics of an older time; Scott at once recognised his talent, and gave him a helping hand. Hogg threw aside the crook for the pen, migrated to Edinburgh, and wrote for the magazines and the booksellers. He was one of the projectors of Blackwoods Magazine in 1817, and became famous as one of the interlocutors in the Noctes Ambrosianae. The Queens Wake, on which his poetic reputation chiefly rests, was published in 1813. He died in 1835.]
HOGG owed his introduction to letters to the same sort of accident as Cunningham, and there was not a little similarity besides in their careers. Of both it may be said that there was as much of the elements of poetry in their lives as in their books. Hogg was a more boisterous character, with a much less firm grip of reality, and most at home in wild burlesque and the realms of unrestrained fancy. The combination of rough humour with sweetness and purity of sentiment is by no means rare; but Hogg is one of most eminent examples of it; all the more striking that both qualities were in him strongly accentuated by his demonstrative temperament. His humour often degenerates into deliberate loutishness, affected oddity; and his tenderness of fancy sometimes approaches childishness, or, as the Scotch call it, bairnliness. But with all his extravagances, there is a marked individuality in the Shepherds songs and poems; he was a singer by genuine impulse, and there was an open-air freshness in his note.