Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a

came.

s

[ocr errors]

66

notice to be taken of his name : but either he For Sabbath duties; yet he is a man had not been prepared for being spoken of at

Whom no one could have passed without remark.

Active and nervous is his gait. His limbs so.early an hour, or was entirely thrown off his

And his whole figure breathe intelligence. balance by the extraordinary flood of eloquence which Mr. Wilson poured out to do honor to his genius; for nothing could be more visibly fair to remember that they were written

In estimating Hogg's works, it is but unaffected than the air of utter, blank amazement with which he rose to return his thanks. only too often under a load of cares; that He rose, by the way, long before the time he was following tant bien que mal his

He had listened to Mr. Wilson for occupation of a sheep-farmer, with insufsome minutes, without comprehending the drift ficient capital, and bills falling due; and of his discourse; but when once he fairly dis- that he was not merely wasting time as a covered that he himself was the theme, he welcome guest in many quarters, but that started to his feet, and with a face flushed all in his lodges in the wilderness at Altrive over deeper than scarlet, and eyes brimful of or Mount Benger, he was exercising a tears, devoured the words of the speaker,

hospitality he could ill afford. In EdinLike hungry Jew in wilderness,

burgh he could hardly call his time his Rejoicing o'er his manna.

own; and the atmosphere of the garrets, His voice, when he essayed to address the which were his only places of seclusion, company, seemed at first entirely to fail him; was scarcely favorable to sustained lit. but he found means to make us hear a very erary labor. While in the country, tour. few words, which told better than any speech ists on the Borders made his home in could have done. “I've aye been vera proud; Ettrickdale an object of pilgrimage, and gentlemen,” said he, "to be a Scots poet, and

not the man to shut his I was never sae proud o't as I am just noo."

Hogg was I believe there was no one there who did not doors in their faces. They brought him sympathize heartily with this honest pride. incense that gratified his vanity, and in For my part, I began to be quite in love with return he spread his table with hotchthe Ettrick Shepherd.

potch and salinon, mutton and muir-fowl

vide his bills of fair as given in the "NocIt would have tended very much to disturb tes ” — and indulged in "cracks” far my notions of propriety had I found Hogg into the small hours, with spirits congen. drinking Hock." It would have been a sin ial and uncongenial, over steaming tumagainst keeping with such a face as he has. blers of toddy. Bed and breakfast were Although for some time past he has spent a offered in due course; and the Shepherd, considerable portion of every year in excellent, who could not deny his hospitality even even in refined society, the external appearance to the Cockneys he'ridiculed in the Blue of the man can have undergone but very little change since he was a “herd on Yarrow.” His Parlor, was all the poorer in leisure, in hands and face are still as brown as if he lived health, and in money. Then he was comentirely sub dio. His very hair has a coarse pounding periodically with creditors who stringiness about it, which proves beyond dis- harassed him; or raising money for impute its utter ignorance of all the arts of the mediate wants, either by turning out a friseur; and hangs in playful whips and cords tale of pages for the booksellers, or by about his ears, in a style of the most perfect kite-flying. He had no capacity for busiinnocence imaginable. His mouth, which when ness of any kind, and suffered by having he smiles nearly cuts the totality of his face in two sets of irons in the fire. His attentwain, is an object that would make the Chev. alier Ruspini die with indignation ; for his tion was distracted between his sheep teeth have been allowed to grow where they and his literary works, though it was the listed and as they listed, presenting more re. sheep who were generally driven to the semblance in arrangement (and color too) to a wall. And he was unfortunate as well as body of crouching sharpshooters, than to any careless; from the days when, at the outmore regular species of array. The effect of a set of his literary career, two publishers forehead towering with a true poetic grandeur broke successively in his debt, to the above such features as those, and of an eye later speculations in which he threw away that illuminates their surface with the genuine the solid profits of his magnu opera. lightnings of genius,

Taking all these circumstances into ac

count, the work he accomplished is the Shaggy and deep, has meanings which are brought From years of youth,

more wonderful; and he could never pos. these are things which I cannot so easily did, had it not been for his happy and in

sibly have achieved the half of what he transfer to my paper. Upon the whole, his exterior reminded me very much of some of souciant nature. Next to that nature he Wordsworth's descriptions of his Pedlar :

was indebted to the generosity of his

landlords of the house of Buccleuch, who,

Plaid his garb, Such as might suit a rustic sire prepared

giving him his farm either rent-free or on

An
eye,

that under brows

:

moderate terms, never pressed him for | visible in the mirk of the gloaming in inconvenient payment on settling days.

these eerie solitudes. Yet there is nothSo, to judge the Shepherd's writings ing morbid or mystical in his dreams. fairly, we must carry these biographical On the contrary, each sentence of every facts in our memory, and then we shall article gives the conviction of vigorous find ourselves regarding him with ever-life — of the cheery and sunny soul that growing adiniration. With ever-growing animates the stalwart body. They may admiration in a double sense, because the be unsigned or undated from Altrive or progress of his self-education was steady Mount Benger, but there is no mistaking and rapid. Eager for knowledge of con- the Shepherd's masculine hand, whatever genial kinds, and quickly and very tena. may be the matter of the articles. ciously receptive, although scarcely a His first contribution appears in our student and never a bookworm, he must opening number, — the first of a short have skimmed various works in his mid series on the “Tales and Anecdotes of dle age; and above all, he profited by the Pastoral Life." We may imagine familiar intercourse with companions of that the editor had begged him to “feel genius and the highest culture. When his feet" for the first time on his own he began contributing to the magazine, fainiliar ground. And the Shepherd, unhis prose style may be said to have been troubled by literary nerves, bad plunged formed; but it is always fresh, racy and straightforward in his usual slap.dash original. We should be ungrateful indeed manner — without standing hesitating on did we not direct attention to the merits the brink of what he might have felt to be of those articles; for undoubtedly, they a momentous venture, or losing himself, did much to assure our early popularity: after the manner of timid novices, in an So conscious of that were Blackwood involved preface of stilted phrases. “ Last and Wilson, that subsequently, after one autumn, while I was staying a few weeks of Hogy's causeless quarrels with them, with my friend Mr. Grumple, minister of they arranged that a certain number of the extensive and celebrated parish of articles should be annually paid for, Woolenhorn, an incident occurred which whether published or not. They merely hath afforded me a great deal of amusestipulated that they should have a voice ment; and as I think it may divert some in the selection of subjects, though he of your readers, I shall, without further might be allowed a wide latitude." The preface, begin the relation.” He had not fact being, that while he not unnaturally to go far to find his leading characters in failed with his Spy, in which he wrote what was a comedy of rural manners ile omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis, he founded upon facis. Any minister of scarcely ever failed to succeed when his those parts might have sat for the morose foot was on the Border pasture-land. In Mr. Grumple, though there are sly touches his sketches of shepherd life and Border in the description which some individual manners, characters, and superstitions ; might undoubtedly have appreciated. But in reminiscences of his early years; in Peter Plash, who comes to ask the minisnotes of wild field-sports; in recalling ter to marry him, and bids the minister's traits of the sagacity of sheep-dogs, etc., friend to the frolics at the wedding, is a he is inimitable. When writing on such Border shepherd in flesh and blood. And topics, the effect is only heightened by Hogg, willi much of the intuitive art of quaint turns of common though not vul. the romance-writer, which he generally gar speech, by characteristic comments, shows in the details if not in the plots of and by homely idioms. He paints the his fictions, arrests his readers with a scenery, not as the summer tourist, but strong sensation at once, in place of let. as one who had been bred to keep the ting the interest drag through a languid hill in all weathers, and who, like the prelude before landing them among the Great Shepherd,“ had risked his life for humors of Mr. Plash's nuptials. Mr. the sheep,” in the stilling drifts of blind. Plash has brought a lordly salmon by way ing snowstorms. He paints the hill-folk of gift-offering to the priest; so it is only as one of themselves, showing them up natural that he should diverge into the from within rather than from without story of a night's “ leistering.” “Oh, He who has been called the poet-laureate man, I wish ye had been there! I'll lay of the “ Court of Faery." is not ashamed a plack ye wad hae said ye never saw sic to own the sensible influences of supersti- sport sin' ever ye war born.” We dare tion, which made him imagine the neigh- say the minister never did, though Hogg borhood of the beings of an invisible must, many and many a time. The fun is world, who might nevertheless be made l broader and the episode almost as pic

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

turesque as the similar scene with Dandie | takes care to set himself right with his Dinnont near Charlie's Hope. No less readers by explaining that, although he animated, and far more original, are the could not afford the double tax, he nevertime honored rites and ceremonies, the theless declined to accept the price which rough Border racing, the rude borse-play, had been agreed upon for his faithful dog. the feasting, the drinking, and the rural The most important of his prose works flirtations, at this Border wedding, as de which appeared in the magazine was scribed in the articles that follow. Then “ The Shepherd's Calendar;” and it was Hogg, as we have said, is great upon prefaced by the dedication to Lady Anne sheep-dogs; and some of his stories are Scott, which is perhaps the most graceful so curious and interesting, that we have of his poetical effusions. The title of some idea of reprinting them. Very ap- Shepherd's Calendar” is deceptive, inpropriately, in the statue erected to him asmuch as the work was made up in great near St. Mary's Loch he is represented measure of detached tales, which are with one of those faithful companions loosely knit together by the most slender crouching fondly at his feet. The love of links, and some of which have nothing the Shepherd for some of these friends of to do with the shepherd's occupation. his solitude, has not a touch of the cyni. Many abound in quaint drollery the cism expressed in Byron's famous epitaph “ Laird of Wineholin,” for example - in on the inonument to “ Boatswain” in the which the “ghost” of the laird, who is grounds at Newstead. The Shepherd's supposed to have been snugly deposited gratitude and affection to the humble fol. in the family vault, comes back to haunt lowers whose devotion and obedience his perturbed dependants; or “Window were as wonderful as their intelligence, Watt's Courtship,” where a rustic lover that seemed, as their wistful looks met jockeys the false confidant who would his, to have souls that were craving for have tricked him out of the affections of the faculty of expression, — have inspired his innamoratı. Otliers again, like the some of Wilson's finest passages in the “ Witches of Traquair,” are founded upon “ Noctes.” So the Shepherd's grateful superstitious traditions and wild folk-lore. reminiscences are often strikingly pathet. Most of them bear more or less the stamp ic. We must advert to one of them, not of a fantastic originality. But without only for that reason, but because it shows any doubt, the most powerful chapters the condition of Hogg as a peasant con- are those that embody his pastoral expe. stantly on poortith's brink,” and some-riences. In a thrilling narrative of facts, thing more. He had bought a ragged, told in simply impressive language, al.

. hall-starved young collie ; and though he though the inpression may be colored had paid a guinea he could ill afford, he and heightened by his instinctive literary never invested money to better purpose. genius, we know nothing in his writings Sirrah was somewhat cross-grained in the to equal his Notes upon Memorable temper, even towards his master, but his Storms.” Consequently we cannot resist services proved invaluable as his loyalty, making some extracts, though it must be was boundless. But Sirrah grew old, and remembered that the passages suffer ma. his master had to replace him with a terially by being read apart from the conyounger animal; while he could hardly text. In the first, tradition has gone command the means to pay the tax for abroad as to dates, although it can hardly both. Very reluctantly he parted with have greatly exaggerated the circuniSirrah to a neighboring sheep farmer. stances, otherwise they would have been The old dog refused to work in his new forgotten or confounded in more recent quarters; but time after time he would calamities : come back to Hogg's sheiling, in the hope that he might be reinstated in his old

“Mar's year,” and “that year the Hielandduties. When it became clear to his sa- ers rade,” are but secondary menientoes to the gacity that he had been shelved for good, year nine and the year forly: these stand in he ceased to pay these disheartening bloody capitals in the annals of the pastoral visits. Yet day after day he would find life, as well as many more that shall hereafter his way to a spot on the bills whence he be mentioned. The most dismal of all those could see his former master driving out

on record is the thirteen drifty days. This exthe sheep to their pastures, though he traordinary storm, as near as I have been able

to trace, must have occurred in the year 1620. never approached near enough to provoke It is said that for thirteen days and nights a repulse. We can hardly conceive a the snowdrift never once abated. The ground nore afiecting incident, and it is very was covered with frozen snow when it comtouchingly told. No wonder that Hogg | menced, and during all that time the sheep

66

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

never broke their fast. The cold was intense can bestir themselves, by the sense of his to a degree never before remembered.

absolute impotence; and the Shepherd's About the ninth and tenth days the shepherds deep-seated feelings of religion are quickbegan to build up huge semicircular walls of ened by his reliance on "the everlasting their dead, in order to afford some shelter to

arms” that enfold him. So much of su. the remainder of the living; but they availed little, for about the same time they were fre. perstitious awe is blended with religious quently seen tearing at one another's wool with emotion, and the contrasts with the death their teeth. When the storm abated on the which is brooding over the blinding snowfourteenth day from its commencement, there drifts without doors are brightened by was on many a high-lying farm not a living glimpses at the interior of the lonely farmsheep to be seen. Large misshapen walls of steading, where the blazing peats cast dead, surrounding a small prostrate flock, like their glow on the buxom maidens crowded wise all dead, and frozen stiff in their lairs, round the ingle-neuk, who tend the “sair

to cheer the forlorn shepherd and his master...". And the fina forfoughten” shepherds like ministering

angels. consequence was, thatı-about nine-tenths of all the sheep in the south of Scotland were de

“The Shepherd's Calendar," like all stroyed.

Hogg's prose writings, is an odd jumble

of the good, bad, and indifferent. It is Untaught or self-taught as he was, there the most favorable specimen we could is a nervous simplicity in Hogg's style have selected for notice; and the others when he describes events which he thor- we may pass over lightly. Of the “Three oughly understands, and which come Perils of Man – Wine, Women, and strongly home to his feelings and sym- Witchcraft," the idea was good and the pathies, that leaves nothing to be desired. execution deplorable. As be piteously He seizes instinctively on the most dra- remarks himself, “ What a medley I made matic features of the incidents, and throws of it!” Like the “ Three Perils of Wonsome halo of romance over the whole of an,” which followed, it had been hurriedly the expressions or allusions that come planned on the spur of the moment to naturally to him. Thus be evokes in a send off pressing liabilities, and it is conlurid grandeur of gloom this catastrophe spicuous for talent uncorrected by taste; that may have occurred in James VI.'s while there are evidences of bookmaking days, when the Border reivers were in every chapter. There is far more char. being hung to their own " covin trees acter in the “ Confessions of a Fanatic;" by rough-and-ready Jedburgla justice. yet the whole conception is wild to exNarratives of the kind caine in with travagance. In very different vein and their spirit and their freshness as agree- style are the “ Lay Sermons," a series of able interludes to the political and literary dicourses rather ethical than religious, articles of Wilson and Lockhart. And if which Wilson highly commends in the he could reproduce traditions with such “ Noctes.” They are plain and to the vivid realism, he naturally becomes still point if not profound, and many country more impressive and effective when he folk must have found them profitable relates his personal adventures and hair. reading. The“ Altrive Tales,” illustrated breadth escapes in circumstances that by Cruikshank, promised well: they prowere very similar to those which we have fessed to have been collected among the quoted above. For the disastrous storms Scottish peasantry and from foreign adthat will live in the memories of unborn ventures, and those that were intended to generations, still burst upon those pas commence a series were circulated freely. toral solitudes from time to time, and the But Hogg was again pursued on that ocyouthful berd had experienced one of the casion by his persistent ill-luck, and the worst of them on the 24th of January, “Altrive Tales were stopped by the insol1794. Nothing can be more vivid than vency of their publisher. Of the Brownie his reminiscences of the portents that of Bodsbeck we have already said someforeboded that fierce outbreak of the ele thing. We may only add that Hogg never ments; nothing more graphic than his had a happier thought or missed a nobler sombre pictures of the grimmest aspects opportunity. The sufferings, the hairof the pastoral life. Incidents that left breadth escapes, and enthusiastic piety indelible impressions on his mind are re of the persecuted “hill-folk,” recommende corded with the touch of a master; there ed themselves alike to the servent reli. is a delicate undercurrent of unconscious gious sympathies of the peasant and the poetry in the narrative : seeble man, bow- Iancy of the poet. His imagination might ing before the force of the storm-blasts, well have been warmed by the local irais appalled, when his benumbed faculties | ditions that had fondly consecrated the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

memory of martyrs, and become house- It might seem at first sight that there hold tales by many a cottage hearth ; and can be but slight connection between the the locality of the plot was in the wildest “ Chaldee Manuscript” and Hogg's poscenery anywhere between Cheviot Fell etry. In reality the success of the one inand the Lammermuirs. We delight to dicates the characteristics or the shortdip in the book in spite of its absurdities; comings of the other. Hogg was a marbut the author, while aiming at the sub- vellously facile imitator, but his best lime, is always stumbling into the ridicu. poems want individuality: First, as we lous. The incidents are wilder, more have seen, he was fired with the ambition ghastly, and more grotesque than any of succeeding to Burns: hence the earlier thing even in the "Confessions of a Fa- songs and lyrics that originally brought natic;” improbabilities face us at every him into notice. Next and chiefly, as turn; and even the faith of the perse was very natural, he owned the influence cuted remnant, though treated in a of the “great magician who dwelt in the solemn spirit, often provokes a smile, so old fastness, hard by the river Jordan;' strangely does it seem travestied by the and seeking to rival Scott in popularity, context. What is most noteworthy, per- he imitated the romances of the author baps, is the peasant's conception of Clav- of the “ Lay.” When the scheme to erhouse, as contrasted with the picture in which we have alluded, of laying all the "Old Mortality” given by the chivalrous great living poets under contribution, had Scott. The man whose sympathies are practically failed, the irrepressible Shepall with the proscribed, revenges himself herd by no means lost heart. He set to for the cruelties of the “bluidy Claver'se” work, and did for himself what some of by landing the gallant though steel-heart- his brother bards had declined to do for ed soldier in a situation contemptibly him; and the reflection of their several ludicrous; and our notions of historical styles in his “ Poetic Mirror showed probabilities are shocked by seeing the something more than a happy knack of future hero of Killiecrankie shaking in parody. He seems to strike chords that the grip of a stalwart Whig, like the resound in sympathy with their souls, and muir-fowl quivering in the singles of a sometimes he appears almost to have falcon.

penetrated the minds of thinkers, deeply Hoya's name is nearly associated with philosophical as Coleridge or Wordsthe “Chaldee Manuscript.” Of course worth. But such a gift of adaptability, he claimed credit for having, written the as we have said, is fatal to individuality; skit, and undoubtedly he originated the and so his poetry, though of a higher idea. The rough draft came from his pen, order than much of his prose, is for the and we cannot speak with certainty as to most part less original. Many of his how it was subsequently manipulated. more pretentious works, like his novels But there is every reason to believe that and prose tales, were hurriedly composed Wilson and Lockhart, probably assisted and ill considered; and the facility of by Sir William Hamilton, went to work composition was even more injurious to upon it, and so altered it that Hogg's them than the facility of imitation. There original offspring was changed out of all are highly poetical and most original fanknowledge. We may imagine that in the cies; there are striking and impressive first outburst of pious indignation on the episodes; there are melodious passages part of the public, Hogg might have of rare sweetness; but a languor steals plausibly repudiated all responsibility for over us with the feeling of monotony; and a production which had so shocked' pro- the pleasing expectations which had been priety, and which had been changed awakened are apt to die away in listless. materially since leaving his hands; but ness or disappointment. He has an exthat, when “the Chaldee" brought its traordinary richness and fertility of fancy, authors more enviable notoriety, he again which too commonly run into extrava. revived his claim. That at least is the gance: not unfrequently he soars near only plausible theory to account for many the border-land of the very loftiest pojesting allusions in the "Noctes," which etry; but as often as not he hangs in his would otherwise be wholly unintelligible. flight, or comes fluttering towards the The first chapter, with fragments of the earth again like crippled eagle. second and third, and the conclusion of “ Kilmeny," as Wilson observes in the the last, may safely be assigned to the “Noctes” to its author, may be “one Shepherd; and that opinion is generally poem that will not dic.” But then“ Kil. confirmed by a passage in the autobiog. meny” is, after all, but a fragment from raphy:

the "Queen's Wake," which is weighted

66

a

« VorigeDoorgaan »