Tales of Love and Mystery by James Hogg; edited by David Groves

Canongate, 1985. 216 p.


Hogg is the author what is perhaps the prototypical novel of Scottish identity, or lack thereof, The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner. Its themes of Calvinism, doppelgängers and identity have rung down the decades in Scottish fiction.

Astonishingly given that book’s importance and considering Hogg was writing in the 19th century, the collection of stories and poems in Tales of Love and Mystery was not brought together until 1985. Some of the stories and poems within it had not been in an accessible form since their first airing nearly 200 years ago. Partly this is due to the disparagement and Bowdlerisation Hogg underwent in the majority of the intervening years.

Hogg wrote in Scots and English with equal facility. For those who require it a helpful glossary of Scots words is appended, though there are some omissions within it.

There is an introduction by David Groves which is better left until the book itself is read as it contains spoilers.

As is to be expected with Hogg, religion and the supernatural are to the fore – as are relationships between the sexes. There is a wonderful use of “burke” as a verb (Hogg was writing in the 1820s and 30s.)

None of the stories speaks to the modern reader quite as strongly as Justified Sinner does but the two poems are as relevant as ever. As reminders of a time and a culture long gone, though, Tales Of Love And Mystery is worth a look – but perhaps only for those with an interest in Scottish fiction.

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