Direction & Orientation in “The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner”

Taken from a paper “‘The Devil Drives His Hogs to an Ill Market’: Direction & Orientation in A Justified Sinner,” presented at 2017 James Hogg Conference, held at Stirling University, Scotland.

Disorientation from the start…

The original 1824 edition of The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is an ingenious work of literary art. One that challenges our perceptions from the very start.

Immediately, the book disorients us, with the Fac Simile reading in one direction. And the title page in another.

And the advisement of the Fac Simile, to “See Page 366” tempts to break us away from tradition, from reading a book cover to cover, and page by page.

Those who are led astray will indeed find themselves duped, reading the same words only in manuscript form—that is, another duplicate, another form of likeness. And they will soon find themselves at a crossroads, having to decide whether to turn back to the beginning, or continue reading the memoir.

Those who ignore the temptation of the advisement, and continue reading page by page, risk a nagging curiosity about page 366 and its significance, as they read on.

This initial experience should tell us something about formal significance. And as close reading and formal analysis can reveal, there is tremendous significance and meaning in the form of the original 1824 edition.

Formal Analysis & Direction/Orientation

Considering the theme of the conference, indeed, aspects of direction, orientation, and identity bear formal significance in the original 1824 edition:

  • Formal manipulations conceal a nexus of identity, belief, fallacy, judgment—and place.
  • And they conjure an illusory, if not delusory interface—in the form of the “supernatural” composition of the book itself.
  • Formal aspects also constitute the “curse” within the memoir—part of Hogg’s clever parody of the “supernatural design” of the bible, and his ingenious literary hoax.

Michael Rifaterre, Text Production

Before we look at some evidence of formal analysis, let’s briefly consider three key points from literary theorist Michael Rifaterre. Least of all, Rifaterre explains how formal analysis must consider the reader’s response. Which provides a theoretical bridge to reckon the productive performance of an author with the interpretative performance of the reader. And toward characterizing a literary work, Rifaterre pinpoints ungrammaticality, as the place where the author’s ideas and the reader’s interpretation interchange.

For if books can lead us on a journey, and transport us, ungrammatical significance can help us find the keys when we get there. Like any good AirBnB host. Or an angel with the keys to the bottomless pit in the Bible (Rev. 9:1).

Formal orientation: western door

For example, on page 306, there is something perceptibly ungrammatical, about western door—the only italicized words on the page.

Granted, this is an obvious form of ungrammaticality, which can also manifest in various forms, from adjunction to zeugma, and any garden variety of rhetorical devices from a-z.

However, this example conspicuously involves altered typesetting, which should tell us something.

If we consider the location of the western door, it appears precisely to the west—on the west side of the page—should we reckon that the top of the page bears north.

If we continue this line of inquiry, we shall find other examples where things west, likewise occur to the west on the printed page. For example, westward appears on the west side, on page 61.

And north-west aligns precisely with a bearing to the north-west on p. 361.

And likewise, the term north-east aligns precisely with a bearing to the north-east on page 130.

But this just coincidence—and hardly a formal scheme of direction and orientation… Because if it were more than coincidence, we should expect to find corroboration in the handling of things eastern, on the eastern side of the page. And we should expect to find eastward to the east as well.

Yet I find no evidence whatsoever that things to the east occur to the east of the printed page. Nor would I know where to look to find such correlations [obviously, spoken in jest].

However, if we analyze all the instances of things west throughout the original book, strangely, they all occur to the west. And so it seems that words about direction, orientation, and place—occur in their correlative place within the typesetting of the original 1824 edition [taken from the Afterword].

Granted, “the West Port” may seem like an obvious outlier. However, there’s a difference between staring at words in an abstraction, and encountering them while reading.

For example, while reading about a character traveling from the west, to a city in the east, then “the West Port” occurs precisely where it would be along such a journey.

Likewise, the phrase “passing east and west” may seem out of place. However, in reading such a phrase, your eyes pass the east—and pass the west. So this arrangement creates the illusory effect that the words we are reading are somehow following us.

With awareness of this formal scheme of orientation, direction, and place in mind, let us pose a more sophisticated line of inquiry: What in the devil?

While we have evidenced just a fraction of the formal significance in the 1824 edition, we have made no attempt to explain it.

Likeness, Orientation, Identity & Form

To better understand and characterize the 1824 edition, it may help to consider how formal significance can extend narrative significance—and how the two can be enmeshed. And as we have seen with the Fac Simile, it is through likeness, that narrative significance and formal significance often interact, and inform and intensify our experience in reading the book in its original form.

For example, likeness as a guiding principle, can explain how the words western, westward, and west within the narrative, are correlatively placed within the formal composition and typesetting in the original book.

Of course, there are many examples of likeness found within the narrative, including references to:

  • the “chameleon art” (p. 188);
  • “the profound wiles of the devil to appear like one” (p. 183);
  • and the perception of people appearing so alike “in every lineament” (p.138).

And as formal analysis reveals, there are also many examples of formal likeness as well, including:

  • likeness through “supernatural” correlations between words, numbers, and their place;
  • likeness through the numerical identity of the Devil (666),
  • and other devilish forms of likeness (like cloven feet)

And since we’re dealing with likeness and the Devil—the justified sinner himself—it seems wise to consult The King James Bible, particularly The Book of The Revelation, the most authoritative source about this subject.

The Book of the Revelation/Memoir Comparison

Indeed, there are many formal similarities between the original edition of “A Justified Sinner” and The Revelation.

For example, the memoir ends with a warning to those who dare alter and amend its words. Likewise, the King James Bible ends with The Revelation—and a similar warning to those who add or take away words, that they too shall be cursed.

“Supernatural Design” & “Twelve”

And words are also arranged in peculiar form in the Revelation as well. For example, the first time the number “twelve” occurs in the Revelation, it is repeated 12 times, as in the Great Bible of 1540.

“Supernatural Design” & “Twelve”

And since the Geneva Bible of 1560, and versions of the King James Bible thereafter, the world “twelve” is also repeated 12 times. And the word “twelve” initially occurs in the Revelation precisely at Chapter 7, verse 5—where 7 plus 5 equals 12.

Also, the repetition of “twelve” spans 4 verses, that each have 3 sentences: 4×3=12.

“Supernatural Design” & “Twelve”

Mysteriously, the word “twelve” does not appear again in the Revelation until precisely Chapter 12. And it occurs at 21:12, which forms a doubled palindrome involving 12.

Textual/numerical correlations involving “twelve” occur elsewhere in the King James Bible. For example, in Acts 6:2; Acts 19:7; and Matthew 11:1. And there are other instances involving other numbers as well, but too many to enumerate here.

Yet likewise, similar textual/numerical correlations occur in the original edition of A Justified Sinner—yet with a more devilish nature.

“sins… by a moderate calculation…”

For example, on page 161, character Robert Wringhim attempts to reckon his “great number of sins.”

If we consider his 150,000 sins per minute, by “moderate calculation,” we shall find that the equivalent percentage of sins per second: .01666…  (the peculiar percentage of anything per minute, or second).

And strangely, should we consider “moderate calculation” in terms of degree, we shall find equivalence in a “second of arc”:  41.666… or 1/3600 of a degree, according to Babylonian astronomy, (which oddly, bears an interesting association with Revelation 17, and Babylon the Great, aka Mystery, the Mother of Harlots).

That is, the number of sins—by moderate calculation—bear a likeness to 666: the Devil’s number (Rev. 13:18); the number of the beast…“who goeth into perdition” (Rev. 17:11).

While there are many similar instances throughout “A Justified Sinner,” perhaps the most elaborate correlation between words, numbers, and their place occurs on page 17—which involves a devilish interplay between narrative likeness and formal likeness.

“Seventeen” on page 17: a most peculiar hapax legomenon

Much like the peculiar arrangements of “twelve” in The Revelation, formal analysis reveals that likewise, the word “seventeen” has a peculiar arrangement in the original 1824 edition of “A Justified Sinner” as well.

The word “seventeen” occurs only once throughout the entire book—precisely on page 17. It refers to the number of hours that Lady Dalcastle and Rev. Mr. Wringhim discussed the different kinds of “FAITH”— the only word on the page set in small-cap typesetting.

Mis-taken Faith?

And depending upon your beliefs and perception, the calculation involving the “eight different kinds of FAITH” may represent mistaken math—or mis-taken FAITH.

Revelation 17:11

That is, “eight different kinds of FAITH” plus “other five” does equal “twelve in all”—if one believes in the Devil. As Revelation 17:11 tells us: “the beast that was and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven” kings, and “goeth into perdition.”

Accordingly, if the eighth is of the seven, then, 8 (as 7)—plus 5 equals 12, according to Faith.

A “Leap” of Faith

Granted, the reference to Revelation 17:11 may seem like a leap of faith itself. However, the very bible verse that reckons how “the eighth is of the seven” occurs precisely in Revelation 17:11. And coincidentally, or not, the ungrammatical presentation of the word “Faith” occurs precisely on page 17—and even more precisely on line 11 in the 1824 edition. Hence, a formal likeness involving 17:11.

Also, in considering formal precision, the phrase “nearly seventeen” occurs precisely at the end of line 16—that is, nearly on line 17.

In addition to the enmeshing of Revelation 17:11, the next verse, Revelation, 17:12, refers to kings who “receive power with “one hour with the beast.” Likewise, the next sentence upon page 17 involves the seventeen hours Lady Dalcastle and Rev. Mr. Wringhim spent together.

Also, the Revelation often deals with proportions, such as “a third part” of things being damned, whether burning mountains, seas of blood, etc., and the rest—that is the other two-thirds, or .666 percent—left cursed, (Rev. 8:8). A similar phenomenon occurs on page 17 as well.

Devilish Proportion

That is, the proportion of faiths held by Lady Dalcastle equal the percentage of .41666… And the proportion of faiths held by Rev. Mr. Wringhim bear the percentage of .666… and “goeth into perdition…”

Convergence of Likeness, Identity & Place

Should we continue to consider formal likeness and equivalence, it would be wise to consider the proverbial wisdom of character Bessie Giles, who declares in her testimony on page 102 that, “Like is an ill mark”—citing a bit of Scottish proverbial wisdom.

And we would be wise to consider a similar bit of proverbial Scottish wisdom: “The devil ay drives his hogs to an ill market.”

The wisdom of these proverbs, and matters of identity, direction, and likeness converge at a most peculiar place: at the ewe fair, or the shepherd’s market on page 378.

Devilish convergence at “the ewe fair…”

Here, we find the Ettrick Shepherd, character James Hogg, “standing near the foot of the market…beside a great drove of paulies.”

And should we look around for perceptible ungrammaticality, the italicized words “foot” and “paulies”—appear to stand out.

And even more so, if we recall an earlier episode in the book, when character Robert Wringhim believed his mysterious companion had feet like the Devil—“cloven into two hoofs…” as told on page 312.

Here’s what clo-ven in two looks like, as presented on page 310.

Foot of Paulies

I mean, the cloven foot of a paulie looks like this: cloven in two, like the Devil.

And also like the drove of paulies surrounding Hogg at the foot of the market. But let us not be fooled by superstitious likeness in form—or by a form of presentism, the likes of which support the fallacies of Whiggish history.

The Definition of Hogg

Let us avoid such historical fallacy, and also avoid etymological fallacy and consider the meaning of the term “hogg”—not according to present-day meaning, but instead, the historical meaning of “hogg” at the time this story was written.

Should we consult an authoritative source, we shall find that a “hogg” is a young sheep. And we shall find examples of the term, such as one from 1768. But let us not be fooled by the example of the author James Hogg, who used the word “hogg” in one of his literary works, for who knows what reason.

Let us not be fooled into thinking there could be ungrammatical significance, or double meaning in the word Hogg on page 378.

And let us not be fooled into thinking that a word that signifies a young sheep, could have anything to do with the foot of paulies, or the “Lamb of God” as told in the Revelation.

Have we overlooked meaning in form?

And while we may have found “Hogg standing near the foot of the market”—let us not be foolishly led astray by some wild, proverbial allusion that “The devil drives his Hoggs to an ill market.”

Especially since we may have overlooked much of the ungrammaticality, and formal significance in the original 1824 edition.

And likewise, we may have overlooked Hogg’s ingenuous composition and typesetting in producing the original book—a meticulously precise work of literary art.

This paper was presented at the James Hogg Society Conference, Stirling University, 20 July 2017, by Jaix Chaix.

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James Hogg’s “Confessions of a Justified Sinner” & Word Frequencies

James Hogg manipulated not only the placement of words—but also word frequencies—throughout the original 1824 edition of his book, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

As the Afterword of this edition explains, Hogg also ingeniously used word frequencies to conceal meaning throughout the book. This brief video highlights some of the peculiar word frequencies in Hogg’s “Justified Sinner.”

And the ways that Hogg used word frequencies is ingenious: it ultimately conceals a notion about likeness and identity, and good and evil.

“Like is an ill mark”

Not to give it all away—and ruin the experience and interpretation for yourself—but it’s worth noting that Ancient greek philosophers were preoccupied with ideas about (numerical) identity. For example, how is it that 12 can be “equal” to three sets of four (3×4). And how could they be “equal” or the same, when in fact they are not. How can “twelve” be “equal” to 6+6, or 13-1, or 9+2—when they are in fact different sets of numbers?

And while matters of identity and likeness—such as the witting quote “Like is an ill mark” on page 102—are part of the narrative, yet matters of identity and likeness are also part of the composition of the original book as well.

Indeed, it seems Hogg used this notion as a principle in formulating word frequencies throughout the book. For example, their are plenty of bedeviling pairs of words of equal frequency.

Peculiar pairs of words with equal frequency…

Hogg’s use of verbs with equal frequency in the past and present tense

Here are just a handful of peculiar pairs of verbs with equal frequency in their respective past and present tenses:

used 484 times each

14 times each

9 times each

9 times each

5 times each

And there are other peculiar pairs of words and word frequencies throughout the book, as explained in the Afterword of this edition—the only edition that reproduces every word, on every line, and practically the same place as the 1824 original book.

There’s also a list of word frequency pairs that highlight other “sets” of peculiar word frequency schemes.

In sum, while there’s much to be deciphered, overall it seems Hogg’s manipulation of word frequencies adds a bedeviling dimension of significance regarding likeness and identity—to an already extraordinary novel.

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James Hogg’s “Justified Sinner”: Schemes of Words & Numbers from the Bible

This short video briefly explains how early bible translators used correlations between words and numbers to create an illusion of the supernatural design of the bible—and how Scottish author James Hogg used similar schemes in the form and composition of the original, 1824 edition of his book.

Regrettably, these clues are missing from every subsequent scholarly edition—so be sure to read Hogg’s book in its original form.

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200 Years of Trickery: How James Hogg’s “Justified Sinner” Has Bedeviled Literary Scholars

James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

‘The devil ay drives his hogs to an ill market”
—Scottish proverb*

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, was first published “anonymously” in 1824, and soon attributed to Scottish author James Hogg.[1] Although it seems like the original does not bear the identity of “the author,” it actually does, but that’s a whole other story…

In discussing ‘this most multifarious of novels’, Penny Fielding explains how ‘one does not have to read far in the novel to realise that the conventional terms of literary analysis (…) are not going to be helpful in any straightforward sense.’[2] Likewise, toward formulating conclusive interpretations, Susan Manning concludes, ‘every exegetical attempt leads straight into a cul-de-sac’.[3]

Charles Bruder and other scholars have argued that it is perhaps best to characterize the novel by its lack of coherence.[4] While Meiko O’Halloran and others consider that like other works in Hogg’s oeuvre, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is an episodic, intertextual pastiche guided by a “kaleidoscopic” principle offering “readers with a wide range of interpretive choices.”[5]

And Marina MacKay highlights how “ambiguity is at the heart of Justified Sinner” considering not just the psychological turns the characters take, the irreconcilability of conflicting perceptions, and that “the editor’s perceptions may be no more reliable than those of the justified sinner himself.”[6]

However, such determinations are based predominantly upon thematic, narrative, and contextual considerations—and not intrinsic formal characteristics of the book itself. These interpretations have more to do with constituting thematic associations, constructing misinformed character identities, and formulating contextualizations than identifying and understanding formal aspects of the book itself.

Yet carefully reading the original book—in its original form—clearly and precisely reveals the identity of the Editor, the “unknown” author, and other “narrator/characters” in the book, and provides a dimension of significance and meaning missing from every subsequent scholarly edition.

The curse of “contextualizing” instead of analyzing…

Most contemporary literary critics and scholars are far too preoccupied with finding and formulating external, contextual significance and meaning, when they should be taking more time to understand intrinsic characteristics inherit in books themselves. In other words, they’re far too busy looking outside, instead of inside the book itself.

This should seem deeply troubling, especially since critics and scholars have yet to produce a single formal analysis of the original 1824 edition (until now). And while The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner may very well involve the confounding of precise judgment within a seemingly incoherent “text” of conflicting “narratives” arranged in a kaleidoscopic juxtaposition of generic elements told by unreliable narrators in a fog of socio-psychological ambiguity—formal analysis of the original book tells a much different story.

The 1824 Original—An Astoundingly Precise Work of Art

Formal analysis evidences that the original 1824 edition is an astoundingly precise literary work of art. It is an illusory book involving deft manipulations of formal elements, including the particular placement of a particular word, on a particular page, on a particular line, even in particular positions. Significant formal aspects of the book include textual/numerical correlations, including not only words and numbers within the text, but page and line numbers as well; much like the textual/numerical correlations in the King James Version of the Bible.

Formal manipulations within the original edition also involve peculiar word frequencies and word positioning, such as the curious placement of the word seventeen, which occurs only once in the entire book precisely on page 17, within the phrase “nearly seventeen,” coincidentally at the end of line 16 (hence, nearly on line 17).[7]

Scholars Have Obscured Significance & Meaning

Paradoxically, these elements—which constitute the illusory form and character of the original book—have been overlooked and consequently obscured in every subsequent scholarly edition.[8] And in this regard, the “curse” pronounced by character Robert Wringhim upon those “who trieth to alter or amend” his memoir seems as factive as it is fictive.[9]

And by altering the form and content of the original book—and accepting some other version as a substitute for the original—literary critics and scholars have become part of Hogg’s trickery and part of a literary joke (and extraordinary, literary meta-hoax) that has lasted the better of two centuries.

By altering formal aspects of the original 1824 edition, subsequent editions have obscured and disconnected formal elements from their significance and layers of interpretive possibilities and meaning. In other words, you’ll never be able to fully reckon or interpret The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner unless you read the original (or an exact reproduction of it).

The problem stems from the status quo of literary theory and scholarship. For the past 50 years or so, critics and scholars have been more concerned with “texts” and far less concerned with books as works of literary art with significance to be found in their form.

While hardly anyone would substitute an altered copy of the Mona Lisa and and hold it with the same regard as the original painting, literary critics and scholars (along with readers) oddly seem to have no problem substituting versions of a “text”—as though nothing of artistic value or significance exists in the original form of a book. That’s a problem, and one that leads to misreadings and misinterpretations aplenty.

Moreover, the formal oversights in more recent editions of the The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner are a byproduct of the general aversion to authorial intent and concomitantly formal aspects of a book, including elements of design, composition, and typesetting, which has arguably haunt contemporary literary theory, scholarship, and criticism—and will continue to do so, until critics and scholars “shift their paradigm” or adopt a new “theoretical lens”—or just pay attention and carefully read books in their original form.

Until then, critics and scholars will remain confounded by their own devices and unwitting victims of the cultural practices of the literary “black arts” Hogg not-so-ironically tells of in the book [10].

In the mean time—which will likely be a long while, considering the reluctance of egos, the lethargy of academia, and the near reverse machinations of institutionalized education—Hogg shall continue to have his rightfully deserved last laugh…


Works Cited

* “Allan Ramsay’s Scot’s Proverbs,” Part III of the The Edinburgh Budget of Wit and Amusement, 1808.

[1] The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Edinburgh: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Greene, 1824).
[2]Penny Fielding, ‘The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner: Approaches’, in The Edinburgh Companion to James Hogg, ed. by Ian Duncan and Douglas Mack (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2012), 132.
[3]Fielding 132; also Susan Manning, The Puritan-Provincial Vision: Scottish and American Literature in the Nineteenth Century, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 83.
[4]Charles Bruder, “Structuralism, Form, and the Individual Text: An Initial Reading of James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner” (Ph.D. diss., University of Nebraska, 1976), 65.
[5]Mieko O’Halloran, James Hogg and British Romanticism: A Kaleidoscopic Art (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 2. See also, Silvia Mergenthal. “James Hogg and British Romanticism. A Kaleidoscopic Art by Meiko O’Halloran” Scottish Literary Review 8, no. 2 (2016): 170-172.
[6] Marina MacKay, The Cambridge Introduction to the Novel, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010) :62-3.
[7] The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner p. 17.
[8] These include: Gide 1947; Carey 1969; Hunter 2001; Rankin 2008; and Duncan 2010.
[9] The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, p. 368.
[10] The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, p. 340.

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James Hogg’s “Confessions”: A Related-Reading Tool Kit

Related Reading

As with reading most novels, there are no prerequisites for reading James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner, or this edition, which features “An Afterword; Revealing Secrets of the Curse.”

However, if you want to enhance your interpretation and your appreciation of Hogg’s masterpiece, consider these related works…

“A Scots Mummy”

“A Scots Mummy. In a Letter from James Hogg” was published in the August 1823 edition of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazinea year before The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

In “Confessions of a Justified Sinner” the “Editor” refers to James Hogg and the “Scots Mummy” letter on page 376 in this edition (as in the original). And in this regard, the letter is as factive as it is fictive—and blurs the line between.

Hogg addressed the letter to Sir Christopher North, which may give you some perspective and direction about the nature of the letter and the point of it all.

Indeed, you will miss out on some splendid significance if you overlook the “Scots Mummy.” And as with references in general, it is perhaps best to refer to the letter when you encounter it on page 376 while reading “Confessions of a Justified Sinner.”

“A Scots Mummy. In a Letter from James Hogg” excerpted from the August 1823 edition of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. [PDF 1MB]

The complete 1823 edition of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. [Google Books PDF]

“…like reading the bible and the jest-book, verse about”

As one might expect from a novel about the memoir of a religious fanatic, the “justified sinner” himself, there are numerous burlesques, entanglements, parodies, quotes, subversions, and other manipulations of bible verses throughout The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

For example, on pages 6-7, “the Editor” tells of character George Colwan’s remark about what living a life of constant religious devotion would be like: “…It would be like reading the Bible and the jest-book, verse about” (p. 6-7).

“The bible…”

Colwan’s anecdotal literary comparison may seem as humorous as it may be blasphemous.  As pointed out in the Afterword in this edition, Hogg’s quotes and parodies of bible verses are perhaps better appreciated with at least some knowledge of their source.

In keeping with the historical trajectory and context of Hogg’s “Confessions,” it is perhaps best to reference the King James Bible, also known as The Authorized King James Version, an English translation of the bible commissioned in 1604 by King James (who ruled as the King of Scotland as James VI, and at the same time, the King of England and Ireland as James I).

I’ve referred to a copy of the 1611 edition of The Authorized King James Bible,  as well as The King James Version of the Bible available at Project Gutenberg, and other “random” versions of the 1769 Oxford Edition, without adverse discrepancies in overall text or meaning (putting more nuanced discussions of bible editions, variations, and scholarship aside).  So, just about any version of the King James will serve you well for reference purposes.

“…the “jest-book”

Yet to fully consider character George Colwan’s remark, if we consult the bible, then of course we must consult the “jest-book”—if not several…

Indeed, familiarity with Scottish proverbs and anecdotes can enlighten and enliven your reading experience and appreciation for Hogg’s “Confessions.”

For example, character Bessy Gilies recalls a rather key anecdote: “Like is an ill mark” (p. 102). The significance and devilish variations of the anecdote are discussed in the Afterword (p. v).

And while there are many jest-books, and collections of jokes and humorous anecdotes of the late 1790s through the 1830s that can prime your imagination for the humor of Hogg’s era, one is particularly notable for its popularity during its time, and availability during ours:

The Edinburgh Budget of Wit and Amusement: Being A Select Collection if Anecdotes, Bon Mots, &c.. of Celebrated Characters, &c. Including Many Originals. Containing Also Allan Ramsay’s Scots Proverbs, published in 1808.

The reference to the anecdote “Like is an ill mark” that character Bessy Giles mentions on page 102 in “Confessions,” can be found on page 396 in “Allan Ramsay’s Scot’s Proverbs” which is Part III of the The Edinburgh Budget of Wit and Amusement.

Seeking out other jest-books, particularly those of the age in which character George Colwan is situated, also offer some rather enlightening perspectives.

The Translation from an Ancient Chaldee Manuscript

The October 1817 edition of Blackwood’s Magazine features an article by James Hogg and others that in many ways can be seen as an important precursor to The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner. At the least, “The Chaldee Manuscript” exemplifies a combination of “the bible and the jest-book” in parodic form. For example, it parodies the justified column-format of the King James Bible and its side-note commentaries, which Hogg, and his fellow writers John G. Lockhart and John Wilson, used mostly for mockery and satire.

A good quality copy of “The Chaldee Manuscript” in its original form is available from the DiscoverArchive at Vanderbilt University.

Forming your own literary interpretation…

Instructing others about how to read, interpret, or approach Hogg’s “Confessions of A Justified Sinner” would be most antithetical to the premise and very purpose of the book itself. So I shall try to avoid doing just that.

That said, the modern reader may miss some of the subtlety and significance of the novel without considering these key, related works—which can enhance your enjoyment of reading and appreciating this literary work of art.

So read them for yourself—and form your own interpretation.
Works Cited

The Authorized King James Bible, 1611.

The Edinburgh Budget of Wit and Amusement: Being A Select Collection of Anecdotes, Bon Mots, &c.. of Celebrated Characters, &c. Including Many Originals. Containing Also Allan Ramsay’s Scots Proverbs, 1808.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner: With an Afterword; Revealing Secrets of The Curse, edited by Jaix Chaix, Word Exo Inc., 2016.

Hogg, James. “A Scots Mummy.” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 14, no. 79, 1823, pp. 188-190.

MLA Citation for this article:

Chaix, Jaix. “James Hogg’s “Confessions”: A Related-Reading Tool Kit.” Word Exo Inc., 4 Dec. 2016. Web.

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