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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