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Always Worth Reading
on 25 September 2017
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.