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and Peebles shires, also in parts of the adjoining counties of Roxburgh and Dumfries, is one of considerable trust and responsibility. The shepherd has placed under his care large flocks of sheep, which feed over wide tracts of country, at the distance of many miles from the house of their proprietor, and during winter their shelter from snow storms requires more than usual diligence and labour. In order to insure fidelity in the discharge of his onerous duties, the shepherd is rewarded in a peculiar manner. Besides some distinct wages in money and kind, a certain number of sheep of his own are entitled to mingle and feed with the sheep of his master; and of these animals he has the wool and the natural increase, the sale of the whole being negotiated for him at the ordinary markets. Thus interested in the business of his employer, with whom he may be said to have a small risk and partnership, the shepherd enjoys a position superior to that of hired servants generally; and with time and inclination for study, and a mind deeply imbued with religious knowledge, he offers, in point of fact, one of the most favourable specimens of that remarkable class of men-the Scottish peasantry. A member of this highly-intelligent body James Hogg, like his forefathers, was now about to become. Having struggled through a desultory species of apprenticeship in the way of herding cows, he now, as he tells us, was promoted to the rank of a shepherd; still, however, occupying the situation of an assistant, and only looking forward to a place of trust as years crowned his endeavours.
At fourteen years of age he was able to save five shillings of his wages," with which," says he, “I bought an old violin. This occupied all my leisure hours, and has been my
favourite amusement ever since. I had commonly no spare time from labour during the day; but when I was not over-fatigued, I generally spent an hour or two every night in sawing over
my favourite old Scottish tunes; and my bed being always in stables and cow-houses, I disturbed nobody but myself and my associate quadrupeds, whom I believed to be greatly delighted with my strains. At all events they never complained, which the biped part of my neighbours did frequently, to my pity and utter indignation.”
This taste for playing the violin, as well as for reading, is far from uncommon in the district; and at dances and other merrymakings, some rural Orpheus is usually found to keep the party in amusement. But besides this love for the fiddle, Hogg seems almost, from infancy, to have possessed that vividness of fancy which prompts to versification. The fond and discerning eye of a mother early marked his talent in this respect, and she used to say to him, “ Jamie, my man, gang ben the house, and mak me a sang," while she proposed a subject for his muse.
How he succeeded in these boyish efforts is not stated in his memoirs ; yet the effects of such a training on such a mind may easily be conceived.
It contributed to fan the spark of poetry which nature had implanted in his bosom into a flame that poverty, nor misfortune, nor neglect, nor even the sneer of the polished critic, could ever extinguish or diminish. It cannot be doubted that the nature of the scenery amidst which he was placed also helped to foster and inspire his genius. “The glens and the mountains of Ettrick and Yarrow combine almost all the soft beauty and wild sublimity that Highland scenery exhibits. In the lower district of Yarrow, that lovely stream winds among hills of no great height, gently swelling, and green to the summits; in some places finely wooded, but generally naked, and well suited to the pasture of flocks. This is their common character; but some miles from the mouth of the valley, dark, heathy mountains are seen towering to a considerable height above the surrounding hills, and give an interesting variety to the scene. Towards the head the glen widens, and embosoms St Mary's Loch and the loch of the Lowes; and above these sweet lakes terminates in a wild mountain-pass, that divides it from Moffatdale. In the loftiest and most rugged regions of this pass, the Gray-Mare's Tail, a waterfall of three hundred feet in perpendicular height, dashes and foams over stupendous rocks. This celebrated fall is formed by a stream that flows from Loch Skene, a dark mountain lake about a mile above it, surrounded by inaccessible heights on all sides save one, and that is strewed by a thousand black heathery hillocks of the most grotesque and irregular forms. This place is so solitary, that the eagle has built her nest in an islet of the lake for ages, and is overhung by the highest mountains in the south of Scotland. The character of Ettrick is similar to that of Yarrow, except, perhaps, that its tints are softer and more mellow, and it is destitute of lakes. These valleys, so celebrated in Border legend and song, are skirted by hills extending many miles on both sides; and as there is no great road through them, the people have long lived shut out from the rest of mankind, in a state of pastoral simplicity and virtuous seclusion, alike remote from the vices of boorish rusticity and fawning servility. Among the wild mountains at the head of Ettrick and Yarrow, the sturdy champions of the Covenant found an asylum when they were chased, like wild beasts, by a relentless persecution from every other part of the country. Their preachers held their conventicles in the most sequestered glens, and made many converts, from whom a number of the present race are descended; but while they cherish the memory of these glorious men, and, as well they may, retain all the noble-mindedness that arises from the consciousness of an illustrious ancestry, their moral features have lost much of the sternness of their fathers, and are softened down into the gentler virtues of more peaceful times; yet if we were asked what people of Britain had suffered least from the evil consequences of excessive refinement, we should answer, without hesitation, the inhabitants of Ettrick and Yarrow. In these inte
or a cleugh that is not famed for some act of romantic chivalry, or tenanted by some supernatural being, or sanctified by the blood of some martyr. In such a country, full of chastened beauty, and dark sublimity, and visionary agency, and glorious recollections, it was the good fortune of Hogg to be born, and to spend the greater part of his life.” *
Notwithstanding these varied aids, Hogg's muse was tardy in bursting into notice; his almost utter want of education, and other circumstances, keeping him in obscurity. Not until his eighteenth year, while serving on the farm of Willenslee, in Peeblesshire, did he obtain the perusal of any kind of books, the Bible excepted; and then it was only the Life of Sir William Wallace and the Gentle Shepherd which fell under his notice. These charmed him; but the rhymes, and the Scottish dialect, which he had not previously seen in print, were puzzling; His mistress afterwards gave him the perusal of some theological treatises, and also the newspapers, which he pored over with great earnestness. To give some further idea of the
he made in literature at this period, he mentions that, being obliged to write a letter to his elder brother, he composed it in letters of the italic alphabet, having forgot what little he had learned of the script hand.
At Whitsunday 1790, Hogg left Willenslee, and hired himself to Mr Laidlaw of Black House, with whom he remained as a shepherd till 1800. Mr Laidlaw, a generous and intelligent man, showed him the greatest kindness, and encouraged, to the greatest degree, the peculiar talent with which the young shepherd had been gifted." Mr Laidlaw's library, a respectable one, was placed at the command of Hogg, and served to a certain extent to remedy the early defects of his education. It was while in this situation, in the spring of 1796, that Hogg first made the attempt to write verses. His account of this enterprise is given in the following graphic language :
"For several years my compositions consisted wholly of songs and ballads, made up for the lasses to sing in chorus; and a proud man I was when I first heard the rosy nymphs chanting my uncouth strains, and jeering me by the still dear appellation of Jamie the poeter.'.
I had no more difficulty in composing songs then than I have at present; and I was equally well pleased with them. But then the writing of them !—that was a job! I had no method of learning to write save by following the italic alphabet; and though I always stripped myself of coat and vest when I began
pen a song, yet my wrist took a cramp, so that I could rarely make above four or six lines at a sitting. Whether my manner of writing it out was new, I know not, but it was not without singularity. Having very little spare time from my flock, which
* Edinburgh Magazine, vol. ii. 1818.
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 phial, which I fixed in a hole in the breast of my waistcoat; and having a cork fastened by a piece of twine, it answered the purpose fully as well. Thus equipped, whenever a leisure minute or two offered, and I had nothing else to do, I sat down and wrote out 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, and 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 with the utmost difficulty that I can be brought to alter one syllable, which I think is partly owing to the above practice.
“ The first time I ever heard of Burns was in 1797, the year after he died. One day during that summer a half daft man, named John Scott, came to me on the hill, and, to amuse me, repeated Tam O’Shanter. I was delighted. I was far more than delighted— I was ravished! I cannot describe my feelings ; but, in short, before Jock Scott left me, I could recite the poem from beginning to end, and it has been my favourite poem ever since. He told me it was made by one Robert Burns, the sweetest poet that ever was born; but that he was now dead, and his place would never be supplied. He told me all about him: how he was born on the 25th of January, bred a ploughman, how many beautiful
poems he had composed, and that he had died last harvest, on the 21st of August. This formed a new epoch of my life. Every day 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 to follow in the steps of Burns.”.
The friend and confidant of the Shepherd on the important step, of writing verses was Mr William Laidlaw, one of the sons of his employer. This ingenious and simple-hearted young man was a kindred spirit; “like himself, an unspoiled pupil of nature
, who to a vigorous imagination added an acute judgment, and soon discovered the genius of the future poet through the ungainly exterior that concealed it. With a knowledge of character almost intuitive, he saw, under the unpretending simplicity of the Shepherd, a mind of strong originality, and capable of ex, traordinary things. He admired him to enthusiasm, and roused
him to a sense of his own importance, cheering him in his poetical attempts, and zealously propagating his fame; and though many of those to whom he showed his verses received them with indifference or condemnation, he continued unshaken in his judgment of the powers of his friend. Some time after the period of which we have been speaking, Mr (afterwards Sir Walter) Scott and Mr Leyden began to make their collections for the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. They had heard of Mr Laidlaw as a man likely to assist them in the object of their search. To him they applied, and by him Hogg was introduced to Mr Scott. He was at first rather surprised to hear that the poems to which he had been accustomed to listen to with such delight from his infancy, and which he supposed were little known out of his own glens, were sought after with such avidity by the learned and ingenious; yet he was proud to comply with the requisition, and wrote out several ballads for insertion in that work. Some of his own poetry was shown to Mr Scott, who approved of it. This was a sanction from which there was no appeal; and the most infidel of his acquaintances among the farmers and shepherds now began to discover merit in those productions which had lately been the subject of their ridicule. His fame now began to spread, and he was spoken of in Edinburgh and other places as a surprising man for his opportunities. At the first meeting between him and Mr Scott, that gentleman, after spending some hours in his company, declared that he had never met a man of more originality of genius, and henceforth became his zealous friend. From the time he began to write poetry, he had never doubted of his ultimate success. He felt within him the stirrings of inspiration so strong, that he could not doubt of his vocation. Yet the countenance of such a man was a triumph to him and his friend for which they had hardly dared to hope. All that he now wanted was a little mechanical skill, and he applied to his beloved art with the natural warmth of his temperament, kindled into enthusiasm by applause so highly valued, and was naturally enough led to the imitation of the Border ballad."*
In 1801, and while still untrained in writing, Hogg had the boldness, or, more properly, the recklessness, to print some of his productions, in order, as he says, “ to appeal to the world at once. This noble resolution was no sooner taken than executed; a proceeding much of a piece with many of my subsequent transactions. 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
head that I would write a poem or two from my memory, and get them printed. The thought had no sooner