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on 30 September 2013
A good immersion into Scottish writing. Not that easy to read for newbies but it gets the grip as you go on. Recommended
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Snubbed by many critics in his lifetime it was to take decades before James Hogg and his works were to start being seriously looked at by many. He was self-taught and of course like many writers he wrote some real duds, but this book is certainly not one of them. Originally published anonymously the author did actually write himself into the story as references are made here to a letter appearing in Blackwood’s Magazine, and this was really done.

A gothic tale and an historical novel of sorts (as well as taking in other genres) Hogg actually makes very few mistakes in his history – unlike certain bestselling authors in the genre today. Told from two narrative perspectives so we have the beginning and the end by the editor, and the body filled out by the actual confessions of our anti-hero.

Set perfectly in its time and place so we see the effects of antinomianism and the religious and political situation of the period. Thus, we see here the deadly sin of pride, and the questions raised of whether we have free will, as well as whether being saved is just by faith, or by good acts as well.

Hogg really seems to get himself into the psychology of Robert, the sinner as well as other characters and whilst there is some humour provided at times with more conventional forms as well as satire, this is quite a detailed, thought provoking as well as a dark tale. With the Devil leading on Robert so we can see how those who do not know theology can easily be caught up and confused by conflicting messages. As a study of bigotry and religious ideas so this in ways reflects our current world, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and fascism being the most prominent to us today.

Always a very powerful and enjoyable read, if you have never read this before then you really are in for a treat.
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on 15 September 2014
An informative and thoroughly annotated edition of a fascinating literary classic. Hoggs' story is as interesting as his novel- which is surprisingly accessible just as 'a read'. A slice of classic gothic storytelling with dual narratives, a compelling demonic 'villain' and an array of intriguing supporting characters. Also a great insight into a Scottish society at the time.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 December 2007
After a slightly laborious beginning this turns into a stunningly clever novel. It tells the first half of the story from the point of view of 'the Editor', a man who is attempting to piece together an event that happened many years earlier- then the same events, and further events, as told from the personal diary of Robert Wringhim who in the first section had been 'the bad guy', but who in his own words is now distinctly ambiguous. Finally the tale is wrapped up in a 'present day' account of how 'the Editor' came into possession of the manuscript that he is publishing, accompanied by an incredible twist.

The novel deals intelligently with the idea of pre-destination and. In parts it treads the same path as the classic fale of Faust selling his soul to the Devil, in other places it seems to be dealing with schizophrenia, a century before it was medically identified.

The introduction to this Wordsworth Classic edition from David Blair is excellent too. Although placed at the front of the book, it is written in two parts, the first part to be read before the novel, which sets the scene in terms of Scottish politics of the day in which the novel is set, the second part to be read afterwards and which discusses the themes and conclusion and in my case provoked some ideas and twists I hadn't thought of.

Definitely worth a read and far superior to many other 19th century novels that are today considered 'classics'.
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on 3 March 2017
Excellent condition as would be expected. Delivery was prompt.

As a literature student I would recommend this book for anyone who likes to read supernatural and Gothic novels. The writing style is captivating and easy to read and Hogg is very clever with his characters, settings, and narrative. A fantastic example of the Scottish Gothic genre.
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on 12 October 2006
Like most people i stumbled accross this book without any real knowledge on the author and the book itself.

After reading this book i was simply amazed as to how such a book has not managed to emerge on the public scene with the ferosity as some modern day novels. I read some of the reviews that suggested reading the book in various ways and provided some sort of descritpion as to the meaning etc etc.

JUST READ IT AS THE AUTHOR INTENDED and then take what you want from it. It is such an insightful book.

However, one note of warning, it is written in Old Scots, and as such some of the language may be difficult for some, yet there is a glossary at the end. As a relatively young scotsman, i had trouble with some words, as they are predominantly lothian and east coast. But dont let that put you off, it is well worth it.
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on 25 April 2016
This is THE great novel of Scottish literature although one wonders how on earth
did Hogg manage to produce such a piece when some of his other work is not
worth reading.
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on 8 January 2009
This is a remarkable book, remarkable because it predates Stevenson, James and Poe and yet matches them at their very best, remarkable because for all that it remains such a little known work. Indeed, it would have remained more or less forgotten had it not been for a friend lending a copy to Andre Gide in 1924, leading to its eventual republication in 1947. As Gide puts it in the excellent Afterword to this version, "how explain that such a work should have failed to become famous".

But then, how does one categorise a novel that comes at you from so many directions. It is certainly the tale of a serial killer every bit as gripping as Jack the Ripper, except it not only gives you the who-dunnit, the Confessions are recounted by the who-dunnit. It is a tale of devilry and persecution, of surrealism and the supernatural, and its exposition of religious bigotry transcends time.

The story is told twice, firstly by someone called "the Editor", a somewhat self-agrandising soul setting out his view of the protagonist, Robert Wringhim, many years after the event, and giving us the benefit of his own sly prejudices and take on the world. The second account is by the protagonist himself, a tortured individual who takes us through his lonely life and deep into his psyche, to show us the extraordinary development and flowering of a psychopathic mind.

Set in early nineteenth-century Edinburgh, the book also does a pretty good job of painting that background canvas, with the broad variety of religious beliefs on offer, life lived freely on the one hand or under considerable moral strictures on the other and the everyday violence of the times. One passage, for example, reveals the alarming readiness and ease with which a group of seemingly respectable individuals turn themselves into a rampaging mob within minutes.

This is a challenging read and both the Notes and Glossary prove extremely useful. This version also contains the excellent Preface by Ian Rankin, as well as Gide's Introduction to the 1947 publication, included here as an Afterword. I would read the original novel first, leaving the excellent accompaniments as a prelude to a very worthwhile second time around.
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on 30 November 2002
Hogg's novel is about 150 years ahead of its time. Published in 1824, the work has everything readers of post-modern novels could ask for, including clustered narratives, self-reflexive point-of-view, unreliable narrators, unsympathetic-protagonist, etc. Hogg is engaging in a highly playful exercise, yet at the same time the novel can be read as an entirely chilling depiction of what may happen to the human psyche when it is given absolutely free-reign. The story takes place in Scotland in the early 18th century, a time of political and religious foment. It chiefly concerns the religious "progress" of Robert Wingham. Robert's mother is a religious enthusiast who has left the household of her husband, George Colwan, laird of Dalcastle, because he does not meet her stringent standards of pious behavior. Before she leaves, she delivers a son, whom Colwan names after him and names him his sole heir. A year after she has left she delivers another son, Robert, whom the editor-narrator who first tells the story is too polite to say is illegitimate, but it's evident by all appearances and intimations that Robert is the son of Lady Colwan and the Reverend Wringhim, a dour, intolerant, "self-conceited pedagogue," who is the polar opposite of the easy-going laird. Reverend Wingham undertakes the instruction of young Robert and eventually adopts him. Robert, like his father, is a cold fish, who abhors the presence of women and anything else that he thinks will lead him to sin. Young George, on the other hand is naturally open and fun-loving, engaging in the "normal" activities young men of the time preferred. This attitude piques the ire of Robert, who sees any activity that is not directly related to religion as frivolous. He starts showing up uninvited whenever and wherever George and his friends get together. When they try to play tennis, Robert stands in George's way and interferes with the game. The same thing happens when they play a rugby-like game on a field outside Edinburgh. Even after George loses patience and punches Robert , the younger brother keeps on insinuating himself, uninvited, every time George and his friends meet. When the Reverend Wingham learns that his precious boy has been roughed up, he incites his conservative faction to retaliate against the liberals with which George and his friends are in league. A full scale riot ensues, reminiscent of the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet. Neither the editor nor Wingham ever give full assent to the fantastic elements in the story. Events are depicted in as realistic a light as possible, which lends weight to the storyline and keeps things from drifting off into never-never land.
Everything about this novel "works." The editor's framing narrative subverts Wingham's "confession" narrative at just the right points, so the subversion actually adds to the solidity and texture of the work as a whole and adds to its plausibility. The comic characters are wonderfully depicted (including Hogg himself, who puts in an appearance as an unhelpful clod who's too busy observing sheep at a local fair to assist the editor and his party when they want to dig up Wingham's grave). Wingham's descent into fanaticism and his subsequent psychological disintegration is handled as well as it possibly could be. It is also a perfectly drawn cautionary tale about the pitfalls of antinomian religious beliefs. Hogg describes for the reader a splendid representation of just where the path of predestination can lead a susceptible mind. That's where the comparison's to Crime and Punishment evolve. Wringhim, like Roskolnikov, considers himself above the common rung of humanity. Unlike Rodyan, however, Robert never does discover the full import of his megalomaniacal doctrine until it is entirely too late. Readers might be interested to note that Hogg's novel had a direct influence on Stephenson' s Jekyll and Hyde and on Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. Hogg was considered by his contemporaries to be something of a rustic genius, and the poetic successor to Robert Burns. He was known as the Ettrick Shepherd, because he did earn his livelihood from raising sheep and was entirely self taught. He was a friend of Sir Walter Scott. He's still highly revered in his home country. If more readers become familiar with this one-of-a-kind book, he will be revered more universally. It really is that brilliant a novel.
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on 21 September 2013
Scotland has produced few true literary masterpieces, but this is definitely¡y the greatest novel from the Auld country. A plausible insight into fanaticism, madness and perhaps even supernatural evil. It is funny, disturbing and feels timeless in its concerns.
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