Increasing audience engagement with the work of James Hogg

Submitting Institution

University of Stirling

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

James Hogg (1770-1835) is an important but hitherto little known nineteenth-century Scottish author and songwriter. In recent years, Stirling research has demonstrably expanded the audience for Hogg's songs and poetry in Scotland, the wider UK, and USA. Contemporary writers and artists have become more engaged with Hogg's work, and among the public this research has generated greater appreciation of the Scottish literary and music tradition in particular, while promoting Scottish cultural heritage in general, at home, and around the world.

Underpinning research

Much of Hogg's work had not been reprinted since his time, had appeared only in manuscript, or had been seriously weakened by bowdlerisation. Known first for his songs and poetry, by the 20th century he was recognised almost exclusively for The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. The Stirling/South Carolina (S/SC) Edition was founded in 1993 as an international venture anchored in Stirling, with Douglas S. Mack as General Editor providing expertise in Hogg, textual editing, and publishing; and benefiting from collaborative research assistance at the University of South Carolina, with its valuable G. Ross Roy Collection of 18th — and 19th-century Scottish literature and culture. The first volumes were published in 1995, and the renowned Scottish poet Edwin Morgan observed in 1996 that the process of recovering Hogg was `immeasurably helped by the provision of proper and unbowdlerised texts, in many cases for the first time, and in this the ongoing Collected Works will be a milestone' (Scottish Literary Journal). To date twenty-seven volumes of Hogg's prose, poems, songs, plays, essays, and letters have been published, of an eventual thirty-nine, produced by a global team of editors. Appropriately for this study, in a review for the London Review of Books, Liam McIlvanney (Otago, New Zealand) remarks on how the S/SC Edition has thrown light on texts overshadowed by Hogg's Confessions: `[W]hen the current Collected Works reaches its culmination, Hogg's great novel should seem a little less oddly unique, and some other astounding books [...] may receive their share of belated glory'.

Two permanent Stirling staff members have been involved in editing S/SC volumes. The late Professor Emeritus Mack (1986-2009) edited three, co-edited two, and contributed to five. Dr Suzanne Gilbert served on the Hogg team as an MHRA research associate (1996-1997) before joining the English staff (1998-present); she has edited two volumes, co-edited one, and contributed to one. Gilbert was appointed one of two General Editors in 2010.

In autumn 2006, the AHRC awarded a supplementary grant to Mack to support innovative ways of disseminating the outcomes of research undertaken for the original AHRB grant: creation of a website and the recording and manufacture of an audio CD. Highlighting Hogg's songs and early poetry, engagement with oral tradition, and global reach, the aim was to supplement existing volumes and to extend the public audience for volumes under development (The Mountain Bard and Scottish Pastorals, Together with Other Early Poems and Letters on Poetry, edited by Gilbert; Songs by the Ettrick Shepherd, 1831 and Contributions to Musical Collections, both edited by Kirsteen McCue (Glasgow), with Janette Currie (RA Stirling), and general-edited by Mack and Gilbert). The latter two volumes of songs were subjects of a large AHRC grant awarded to Mack as Principal Investigator and McCue as Co-Investigator. Gilbert served as Production Co-ordinator of the website and CD. The team developed and maintains the website James Hogg: Research, which includes (1) a listing of early American publications of Hogg texts, and the text of a previously unrecorded Hogg short story; (2) a listing of early sheet publications of Hogg's songs, with digitised reproductions of song-sheets and texts of the songs; (3) articles discussing the research findings; (4) downloadable recordings of selected Hogg songs performed by Kirsteen McCue (Glasgow), David Hamilton (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama), and traditional Scottish singer Sheena Wellington.

References to the research

The outputs listed here reflect only a portion of those related to this project. In particular, they focus on research carried out at Stirling that involves recovering and presenting Hogg's works in poetry and song, as well as exploring his engagements with oral tradition.

• Douglas S. Mack, editor, with Meiko O'Halloran and Janette Currie
The Queen's Wake, by James Hogg; critical edition of Hogg's most famous book-length poem (Edinburgh University Press, 2004)

• Suzanne Gilbert, editor
The Mountain Bard, by James Hogg; critical edition of Hogg's first major collection of literary ballads and songs (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)

• Kirsteen McCue, editor, with Janette Currie
Songs by the Ettrick Shepherd 1831 and Contributions to Musical Collections, by James Hogg; critical editions of Hogg's songs (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming)

• Suzanne Gilbert, `James Hogg and the Authority of Tradition'
in James Hogg and the Literary Marketplace: Romanticism and the Working-class Author, edited by Sharon Alker and Holly Faith Nelson; chapter in edited book (Ashgate, 2009)

• Ian Duncan and Douglas Mack, editors
The Edinburgh Companion to James Hogg; collection of essays (Edinburgh University Press, 2012)

• Suzanne Gilbert, editor
Scottish Pastorals, Together with Other Early Poems and `Letters on Poetry', by James Hogg; critical edition of Hogg's earliest poems and songs (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming)


• ARHC research leave extension, awarded to Mack; for editing of The Queen's Wake (2003)

• AHRB large research grant (July 2002-December 2006), awarded to Mack; £309,936; for `The Stirling/South Carolina Research Edition of the Collected Works of James Hogg'

• ARHC Supplementary Dissemination Grant (January-December 2007), awarded to Mack with Gilbert as Production Co-ordinator; £10,500; for development of the James Hogg: Research website and the CD `I'll sing ye a wee bit sang': Selected Songs by James Hogg

• AHRC large research grant (2005-2008), awarded to Mack (Principal Investigator) and Kirsteen McCue, Glasgow (Co-Investigator); £148,751; for `Stirling/South Carolina Edition of Hogg Songs'; completion of research for two volumes of Hogg's songs: Songs by the Ettrick Shepherd,1831 and Miscellaneous Contributions to Musical Collections

• ARHC research leave extension, awarded to Gilbert (Autumn 2009); £27,063; for editing of Scottish Pastoral: Together with Early Poems and `Letters on Poetry'

• Early in the edition's history, grants or donations were received from the Glenfiddich Living Scotland Awards, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Association for Literary Studies, and the James Hogg Society.


Every volume of the S/SC Edition has undergone intense scrutiny. Across academia and creative practice, volumes have been enthusiastically reviewed for their originality, significance, and rigour. The late Susan Manning (Edinburgh) observes that, thanks to the `exemplary' S/SC Edition', `a major Scottish writer whose work has never been subject to serious editorial scrutiny is being put on the map internationally' (Eighteenth-Century Scotland). Renowned Scottish author James Robertson has acknowledged the importance of the Hogg Edition, writing in The Herald, `A quiet revolution in Scottish literary studies has been going on [...] The Stirling/South Carolina research edition of the collected works of James Hogg has been steadily forcing a reassessment of one of our best-known but least-read authors'. American professor John Plotz (Brandeis) credits the series' `nuanced account' of Hogg's milieu for `[setting] the stage perfectly for Hogg's experiments in undecidability' (Novel). For study of Hogg, these volumes are the standard reference, as can be seen in peer-reviewed journal articles and monographs dealing with Hogg and his period (e.g., Penny Fielding's Scotland and the Fictions of Geography: North Britain 1760-1830 (CUP 2010)).

Details of the impact

Expanding the audience for Hogg. Research at Stirling introduced Hogg to new audiences through the internet, and through the public literary association, The James Hogg Society. Both the James Hogg: Research and Hogg Society's websites top Google's listings for Hogg. Both are referenced by a range of online sources appealing to the general public, including the New York-based Best of the Web, which aims to provide `a comprehensive list of categorized, content-rich, well-designed websites' and includes the Hogg Research site as among the best in Britain and Ireland (Hogg Society was included until June 2013). Websites devoted to Gothic, for example The Literary Gothic and The Sickly Taper: A Bibliography of Gothic Scholarship, have links to Stirling's Hogg sites. They even feature on the highly specialist Border Collie Museum site (Hogg, who was a shepherd from Ettrick for much of his life, was a fan of these working dogs). The Scots Language Centre, which supplies general public information about Scots dialects, observes, `A major research project about the early 19th century Scottish writer James Hogg is culminating in the creation of a growing and valuable online resource. It currently contains articles and talks about Hogg, along with a large collection of Hogg's songs — both in the format of song sheets and as audio files'. The James Hogg Society, founded at Stirling, has promoted greater understanding of Hogg's work through its general appeal; approximately half of its membership is non-academic. It has hosted biennial conferences (three of them at Stirling) attended by people from all backgrounds, including Hogg's own descendants from New Zealand; hosted a series of general-public lectures in the name of the late Hugh McNaughtan, a Hogg enthusiast; produced a journal; and made available information and educational material via a website, also based at Stirling. Members have engaged with the site and Hogg research, for example by providing photographs and contributing notes for `A Walk in Hogg's Footsteps' in the Borders, which traces the path of the fictional character Robert Wringhim in Hogg's Confessions. An article aimed at general readers, `Hogg as Songwriter', was co-authored by Mack and Gilbert; it was posted on the website and contributed to the general-interest Association for Scottish Literary Studies' newsletter, ScotLit 26-37 (2009): 3-4. The same association posted copies of the newsletter and CD to its members, all Scottish libraries, and every secondary school in Scotland; it also distributed 1,500 CDs at its `Scottish Writing Exhibition' at the Modern Language Association annual convention, December 2008, which some attendees have incorporated into their teaching. Researchers are frequently involved in public events related to Hogg; for example, Gilbert gave an invited public talk attended by 100 people at an ASLS conference, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (Gaelic college, University of the Highlands and Islands, Isle of Skye), speaking on Hogg as a Lowland `mountain bard' in the Highlands (June 2012).

Engaging contemporary writers and artists. James Robertson, an award-winning, bestselling author known for his engagement with Hogg in his own novels, The Fanatic and The Testament of Gideon Mack, acknowledges that the S/SC Edition `is certainly where I would now first go if looking for information about any Hogg text or for a definitive version of such a text'. Under the heading for `Sheena Wellington', the Scots Language Centre notes, `Stirling University has a substantial research department devoted to James Hogg. Well known as a Scottish writer of novels and stories, often with supernatural themes, Hogg also collected and wrote songs in Scots'. Wellington became more acquainted with Hogg as a result of her connection with the Stirling project, and this busy performer and educator has incorporated more of his songs into her repertoire. The centre also notes that the Scottish fiddler Lori Watson `is also undertaking research about James Hogg'. Watson, who has recorded Hogg's song `Maggie' and has been granted permission to play a fiddle that Hogg owned, developed a stronger interest in Hogg's songs following her contribution to a Stirling symposium (May 2006). Songs that were introduced to Watson through the Hogg project mean that Hogg features regularly in her performances, for example in one at the Davy Lamp Folk club 25 February 2012 which may be found on YouTube.

Generating greater public appreciation of Scottish culture around the world.
The CD `I'll sing ye a wee bit sang': Selected Songs by James Hogg, reviewed as `instructive as well as eminently listenable' by Robert Calder (Studies in Hogg and His World 18 (2007)), presents a selection of Hogg's songs from miscellaneous song sheets and a variety of published song collections. It has appealed broadly to those seeking information regarding Scottish literature, music, and culture. International libraries (e.g., the Johns Hopkins Libraries; the Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance, Cornell; York University Library) have catalogued the CD; and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has a link to the website. General-interest requests for copies of the CD have come, for example, from members of the St Andrews Society in San Francisco and from an individual seeking to play the songs as part of a presentation to the Melrose Literary Society. Folk singers from Oxford contacted Stirling researchers to report their delight at discovering the CD at an English folk festival. In April 2013 the CD was requested through the website by the president of the Mid-South Celtic Arts Alliance in Earle, Arkansas. As a result, songs from it are being played on Strands of the Celtic Knot, a weekly programme which has run for 22 years on WEVL FM in Memphis, Tennessee; this radio station also has an internet presence and is widely extolled for its programming in folk and roots music. Mudcat Café, the Pennsylvania-based folksong networking resource which hosts the Digital Folk Song Database of 9,000-plus items, refers readers to the James Hogg: Research website for information on Hogg's songs. The CD has been adopted by teachers who obtained copies at the MLA convention; for instance, a professor of English at Trinity Western University, British Columbia, reports `it has been invaluable for a number of lectures' and a St Andrews Society talk. The S/SC edition's reputation as a whole was singled out for praise by MSP Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, at the launch of Stirling University's strategic plan at the Scottish Parliament (29 September 2011).

Sources to corroborate the impact