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Set in early eighteenth-century Scotland, the novel recounts the corruption of a boy of strict Calvinist parentage by a mysterious stranger under whose influence he commits a series of murders. The stranger assures the boy that no sin can affect the salvation of an elect person. The reader, while recognizing the stranger as Satan, is prevented by the subtlety of the novel' Set in early eighteenth-century Scotland, the novel recounts the corruption of a boy of strict Calvinist parentage by a mysterious stranger under whose influence he commits a series of murders. The stranger assures the boy that no sin can affect the salvation of an elect person. The reader, while recognizing the stranger as Satan, is prevented by the subtlety of the novel's structure from finally deciding whether, for all his vividness and wit, he is more than a figment of the boy's imagination. This edition reprints the text of the unexpurgated first edition of 1824, later 'corrected' in an attempt to placate the Calvinists.


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Set in early eighteenth-century Scotland, the novel recounts the corruption of a boy of strict Calvinist parentage by a mysterious stranger under whose influence he commits a series of murders. The stranger assures the boy that no sin can affect the salvation of an elect person. The reader, while recognizing the stranger as Satan, is prevented by the subtlety of the novel' Set in early eighteenth-century Scotland, the novel recounts the corruption of a boy of strict Calvinist parentage by a mysterious stranger under whose influence he commits a series of murders. The stranger assures the boy that no sin can affect the salvation of an elect person. The reader, while recognizing the stranger as Satan, is prevented by the subtlety of the novel's structure from finally deciding whether, for all his vividness and wit, he is more than a figment of the boy's imagination. This edition reprints the text of the unexpurgated first edition of 1824, later 'corrected' in an attempt to placate the Calvinists.

30 review for The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    I have no idea what this book is about. Nobody does. The narrative is so dense that it is impossible to make a solid interpretation of the events, but I shall try. I shall try to tell you why this book is so utterly excellent. Perhaps the most obvious interpretation to start with is the religious angle. Robert, our sinner, has been claimed by Satan. The prince of destruction dominates his mind and controls his actions. The novel can be read as a didactical message about the dangers of a sinful m I have no idea what this book is about. Nobody does. The narrative is so dense that it is impossible to make a solid interpretation of the events, but I shall try. I shall try to tell you why this book is so utterly excellent. Perhaps the most obvious interpretation to start with is the religious angle. Robert, our sinner, has been claimed by Satan. The prince of destruction dominates his mind and controls his actions. The novel can be read as a didactical message about the dangers of a sinful mind. That’s all there in the text, but it is only the beginning. Robert opened the doors when he accepted the Calvinist principle of predestination; he believes himself to be one of God’s elect. He already has a free ticket into to heaven, so whatever he does on earth doesn’t matter. History has already been written: his soul has already been saved. Now this is a terribly dangerous mind-set. It means that Robert has absolutely no one to answer to on this earth. It can be his playground. Mortal consequences are trivial when compared to the immortal salvation his soul will receive. So why not have some fun? You might be punished, but that doesn’t matter. God has already saved you since the start of time. You can manipulate, murder and steal, and it just doesn’t matter. Again, perhaps Hogg is demonstrating the dangers of such a situation. We all need someone, or some authority, to answer to and to guide us; otherwise, we can create our own sense of twisted rules and live in the darkness. Then there are the elements of the double to consider. Gill-Martin, our Satan, may just be an element of Robert’s mind; he may represent the division within his tormented soul, a soul torn by religious doctrine and his carnal nature. His predestination allows him to let loose. His dark impulses take over in the form of his double mind-set. Sure, there is plenty to suggest that he has a physical presence within the novel, but there is also the fact that this text was written by an unreliable narrator. Robert is the author of his confessions, so there is a degree of bias in everything he says. He often represents things in the way that Gill-Martin, Satan or the dark element of split consciousness, tells him to. How far can we give his narrative any credence? Satan, the double, the mysterious Gill, can also been seen as a physical representation of sin and temptation. The figure is also a shapeshifter-if it wasn’t already complicated enough- and in his earliest form he captures Robert’s ambition. This is the form of McGill his nemesis at school. I’d argue that Robert has been persecuted by this figure, whatever he actually is, all his life. He tempts Robert into self-improvement, and coerces him into adapting any means at his disposal to remain top of the class. The young Robert lies, cheats and steals to watch his rival fall. This is the beginning of his enthrallment. Later when this figure appears, he becomes an object of lust: As I thus wended my way, I beheld a young man of a mysterious appearance coming towards me. I tried to shun him, being bent on my own contemplations; but he cast himself in my way, so that I could not well avoid him; and, more than that, I felt a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him, something like the force of enchantment, which I could not resist. He is stunned by this man, by this otherworldly creature. The homoerotic language suggests more than a simple admiration. He becomes this creature’s creature. Robert also makes it very clear early in the narrative that he doesn’t like women. He has no time for them because, ironically, according to him, they turn men into sinners. He prefers this princely being. When Robert first sees the figure of Gil-Martin he remarks he was held by “the force of enchantment” in which he cannot resist the power of this mysterious man. He becomes enamoured by this being, which completely transfixes him. He is frequently referred to as an object of fascination and his words are enthralling and persuasive to Robert. He begins take on the traits of this character, that much so that his mother remarks that his countenance has changed after their meetings: he has been dominated. As we approached each other, our eyes met and I can never describe the strange sensations that thrilled through my whole frame at that impressive moment; a moment to me fraught with the most tremendous consequences; the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it. The homoerotic language used to describe Gil-Martin is suggestive of an idealised man. The double takes on Robert’s own form, and can be read as an unconscious projection of what he would like to be. This man eventually comes to absorb his personality, and removes any sense of morale awareness Robert had. Robert’s double is an object of desire, which suggest an unconscious drive to engage in the acts of depravity they carry out. This can be read as a man who is haunted by homosexual lust, or the idea of betterment, as his double takes on the form of his secret desire. Incidentally, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde drew heavily on this, and it can also be read in a very similar way. “We are all subjected to two distinct natures in the same person. I myself have suffered grievously in that way.” There’s just no definitive way to read this. Every interpretation has its own set of problems and leads to another interpretation. Eventually, Robert comes to believe in the evil of Gil-Martin and sets about printing the “Private Memoirs.” Gil- Martin, however, pursues and torments Robert, and eventually, Robert allegedly takes his own life. But how much of this can we trust? What happened in the end? Is it all one man’s imagination? Or is it something more? I’ll never know. A good book stays with you; it becomes part of you as you perpetually ponder its mysteries whilst it lingers on your mind. This book will always haunt me because I will never have a conclusive answer as to what it is actually about. Hogg has created a story that is bizarre, intriguing and rather mystifying. As a result, it is completely excellent.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    A "post-modernist" early 19th century Scottish novel featuring multiple narratives and at least one--possibly three--unreliable narrators, "Sinner" is a curious congeries of doppleganger tale, abnormal psychology, moral fable, anti-Calvinist satire, and historical fiction with a little comic relief thrown in. Part of its attraction may come from its very strangeness, which in turn may be a result of the fact that Hogg is not completely in control of his material, but that in no way diminishes th A "post-modernist" early 19th century Scottish novel featuring multiple narratives and at least one--possibly three--unreliable narrators, "Sinner" is a curious congeries of doppleganger tale, abnormal psychology, moral fable, anti-Calvinist satire, and historical fiction with a little comic relief thrown in. Part of its attraction may come from its very strangeness, which in turn may be a result of the fact that Hogg is not completely in control of his material, but that in no way diminishes the novel's fascination--or its continual power to puzzle and surprise.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    The 1001 books list says that this is "at once gothic comedy, religious horror story, mystery thriller and psychological study." Way to go James Hogg! Either this book is so deep and complex that no one can actually fathom enough of it to pigeon-hole it in a convincing manner, or it is in fact, everything it says on the tin. Personally I saw this book as a good example of what might happen when you tell a lot of people that they have an unlimited get-out-of-hell-free card. The deal is this: you The 1001 books list says that this is "at once gothic comedy, religious horror story, mystery thriller and psychological study." Way to go James Hogg! Either this book is so deep and complex that no one can actually fathom enough of it to pigeon-hole it in a convincing manner, or it is in fact, everything it says on the tin. Personally I saw this book as a good example of what might happen when you tell a lot of people that they have an unlimited get-out-of-hell-free card. The deal is this: you are one of God's chosen few and no matter what you do, you will be undoubtedly ascending the golden stair case to the pearly gates of heaven. Cherubim will nudge you gently through the gates while choirs of heavenly angels sing, play their trumpets, herald in tidings of joy and generally get down with all their usual angelic business. So, bearing this crucial knowledge in mind, do you go ahead and live an orderly, polite and most importantly morally correct life or do you decide to see how far you can stretch the whole definitely not going to hell type deal? Protagonist Robert opts for the latter choice and with a life sized devil at his elbow rather than a cute little one perched on his shoulder, heads out onto the highways and byways of Scotland to mock, molest and murder various people who may or may not have wronged him. But its ok, remember, he's still holding that all important pass to heaven. As time goes by, and the body count starts to escalate, Robert begins to doubt the infallibility of the heavenly bus pass and the wisdom of some of his recent behaviour. But, once you've welcomed the devil into your life, he's not an easy person to shake - like the last person to leave a party, Gil-Martin is in for the long haul. Now witness Roberts' slow descent into madness and he maybe, possibly kills a whole bunch of other people, loses track of time and generally becomes detached from reality... or is he in denial? Towards the end the whole thing gets a bit inexplicable. Is it a morality tale, a Gothic murder mystery, a damning indightment against doctrines of predestination or an early example of a story featuring someone with dissociative identity disorder? Maybe it is all of these things. Basically you're left to make up your own mind. Before you judge Hogg and consider this to be a plot cop-out, consider that this book, although basically ignored for ages, was totally ground breaking and introduced the world to a whole new selection of literary tools and devices. Wordsworth noted that although Hogg was a genius he was also a man of coarse manners and low and offensive opinions. James, if you were alive today, I'd definitely be trying to befriend you on Goodreads!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Geneva Gothic by way of Glasgow or Calvinists on the Verge of a nervous breakdown One of the great bad good books, or good bad books, one or the other, or even just maybe both. Nested unreliable narrators within a clumsy framing narrative or editorial seek to obscure, distance and add veracity to a horror story of sound theology unleashed. One of those books that like Janus looks forward as well as back and is more powerful in its potential to inspire than in it's ability to deliver on its own term Geneva Gothic by way of Glasgow or Calvinists on the Verge of a nervous breakdown One of the great bad good books, or good bad books, one or the other, or even just maybe both. Nested unreliable narrators within a clumsy framing narrative or editorial seek to obscure, distance and add veracity to a horror story of sound theology unleashed. One of those books that like Janus looks forward as well as back and is more powerful in its potential to inspire than in it's ability to deliver on its own terms. Reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie I was pointed back to this book, which itself looks back to Doctor Faustus and forward again to Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by way of Paradise Lost. Doppelgänger, dualism, fraternal rivalry, divided self, external-interior, possession vs psychosis, it's all here and more besides. Set out within the framing mechanism of a forgotten manuscript found and presented to the reader this Calvinist inspired horror story is set around the year 1700 in Scotland, and features the involvement of a mysterious diabolical figure in a sibling rivalry, or maybe it doesn't, let's allow the narrator to confuse things: ...I seemed hardly to be an accountable creature; being thus in the habit of executing transactions of the utmost moment, without being sensible that I did them. I was a being incomprehensible to myself. Either I had a second self, who transacted business in my likeness, or else my body was at times possessed by a spirit over which it had no controul, and of whose actions my own soul was wholly unconscious. This was an anomaly not to be accounted for by any philosophy of mine, and I was many times, in contemplating it, excited to terrors and mental torments hardly describable. To be in a state of consciousness and unconsciousness, at the same time, in the same body and same spirit, was impossible. I was under the greatest anxiety, dreading some change would take place momently in my nature; for of dates I could make nothing: one-half, or two-thirds of my time, seemed to me to be totally lost. I oftan, about this time, prayed with great fervour, and lamented my hopeless condition, especially in being liable to the commission of crimes, which I was not sensible of, and could not eschew. and, I confess, not withstanding the promises on which I had been taught to rely, I began to have secret terrors, that the great enemy of man's salvation was exercising powers over me, that might eventually lead to my ruin. These were but temporary and sinful fears, but they added greatly to my happiness. (p.182) The confession of the main character makes up the majority of this text, it is framed by an Editor's narrative, the closing part of which says that one James Hogg (ie the author) wrote a letter to Blackwood's magazine about the mysterious grave of a suicide at the meeting point of three farm's where Hogg worked not as a pig keeper but as a shepherd (view spoiler)[ indeed Hogg's USP was that he was the 'Ettrick Shepherd' (hide spoiler)] the Editor goes on to tells us that Blackwoods is an unreliable magazine that frequently prints all kinds of rubbish (view spoiler)[ Hogg actually wrote and had a letter published in Blackwood's a year prior to the publication of this book (hide spoiler)] so therefore we ought not necessarily believe what we are reading...then he goes on to explain how fired up by this letter some men dig up the grave and find a printed pamphlet in the pocket - concluded by a hand written diary - this is the confession of the main character, to which the editor writes an introduction (which by this time we have already read because it is at the beginning of the book) and concludes by telling us how incredible difficult and impossible the main character's confession is to understand, all of which lives us feeling distinctly pre-modern post-modern and in dire need of spiritual assistance. At the same time the main character's narrative is distinctly easy to understand - a young Calvinist, believes he is numbered among the elect and believes firmly in what is sometimes called double predestination happens to meet a mysterious stranger who might be Tsar Peter the Great of Russia (view spoiler)[ well known for his habit of wandering Europe incognito and inspecting the fortifications of towns that he would later attack (hide spoiler)] , or who might be the Devil himself, or who might well be a state of mind because reading the narrative with carefully crossed eyes one notices how dreadfully incorporeal this mysterious stranger is. Also later one notices the main characters habit of having a tiny drink and then blacking out for months at a time and remembering nothing. Hogg was a contemporary of Walter Scott, but this is certainly tartan noir rather his tartan romance, and seemingly more strongly related to the trend I associate more with German literature of the period towards stories that straddle the fantastical and the psychological. Hogg's story, coming a generation (I think) after the second great awakening (view spoiler)[ the Great Christian revival that infected Britain and the USA (hide spoiler)] strikes me as very bold with it's plain warning of being mistrustful towards great certainty of faith and extremism thereof, in fact in the second edition of the novel Hogg toned down the Calvinism (in so far as one can). The denial of the veracity, and general rubbishing of his own manuscript strikes me as a stroke of genius blurring the lines between the real and unreal just as the confession itself does. On the downside the first part of the editor's narrative is not quite so clever, although it does overlap with the confession and provides us with nested unreliable narrators, but it also breaches the conceit that it was assembled by the editor from publicly available materials. Still a beguiling work, looking back and forward.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    An eerie Caledonian fable about religious dogmatism, which works simultaneously on dozens of levels – atmospheric, intellectual, generic, geographical – and all of them engaging. With its in-jokes, its metafictional structure and even a cheeky authorial self-insertion, it reads very much like something faked-up by Pynchon or Coover or some other contemporary experimentalist: a postmodern rewrite of Gothic Romance. But this is very much the original article. The accoutrements of the genre are all An eerie Caledonian fable about religious dogmatism, which works simultaneously on dozens of levels – atmospheric, intellectual, generic, geographical – and all of them engaging. With its in-jokes, its metafictional structure and even a cheeky authorial self-insertion, it reads very much like something faked-up by Pynchon or Coover or some other contemporary experimentalist: a postmodern rewrite of Gothic Romance. But this is very much the original article. The accoutrements of the genre are all there – doppelgängers, sublime nature, black-clad figures, looming architecture, eldritch forces that man should not wot of – but fused, here, with the Scottish landscape in a way that locates the horrors of the story firmly ‘at home’. (This is unlike Gothic fiction from south of the border, which tends to go abroad to find its otherworldliness – Switzerland for Frankenstein, Italy for The Castle of Otranto, France for Udolpho, Romania for Dracula.) The supernatural elements are also built up over a scaffolding of fascinating religious debate that comes out of the split between Calvinists and religious liberals in Scotland in the nineteenth century. The root of the story is in the dispiriting notion of predestination, which, as Hogg's protagonist points out, makes ‘the economy of the Christian world…an absolute contradiction’. Seeing that God had from all eternity decided the fate of every individual that was to be born of woman, how vain it was in man to endeavour to save those whom their Maker had, by an unchangeable decree, doomed to destruction. Not only does this theory, taken to its logical conclusion, make preaching and religious guidance a complete waste of time, it also means that your own actions have no bearing whatever on your eventual fate amid the celestial choirs or the sulphurous pits. In which case, if you happen to know that you're heading upwards – that you're theologically ‘justified’ – then what's to stop you doing anything you like? Rape…murder…fratricide…there are no limits. The concept is a brilliant one and Hogg plays it for everything it's worth. His interest in ideas of confused identity, psychological breakdown and multiple ‘truths’ makes it easy to understand why the book was so enthusiastically rediscovered towards the end of the twentieth century after decades of neglect; throw in the religious extremism and it's never been more relevant. It's also genuinely creepy. The character of Gil-Martin is one of the best literary treatments of the Devil I've encountered, and some of the set-pieces have a real uncanniness to them which is hard to pull off. A fascinating book, and an excellent choice for anyone in search of a suitably nightmarish Hallowe'en read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont

    So, what is the best Gothic novel ever written? For me there can only be one candidate: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, a nineteenth century Scottish poet and author. Hogg wrote it with a straight-forward intention: as a good macabre tale and as a satire on the Calvinist theology of his native Presbyterian church. But with the passage of time more complex readings can be made; as an examination of a mind on the brink of collapse or, perhaps more import, es So, what is the best Gothic novel ever written? For me there can only be one candidate: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, a nineteenth century Scottish poet and author. Hogg wrote it with a straight-forward intention: as a good macabre tale and as a satire on the Calvinist theology of his native Presbyterian church. But with the passage of time more complex readings can be made; as an examination of a mind on the brink of collapse or, perhaps more import, especially from the perspective of the last century, the way in which people, both individually and collectively can be seduced into crime; and I’m thinking here not of crime as a social pathology but as a state-sponsored practice. So, before proceeding, let me say a word or two about Calvinist theology. One of the central tenets is the doctrine of predestination. In simple terms this means that one is either bound for heaven or hell irrespective of one’s earthly actions. God, in other words, has already determined who will be among the Elect and who will be among the Damned. He does not do deals; so the Catholic teaching of justification by works-or the sale of Indulgences-is totally without merit. It’s a complex doctrine, almost impossible to explain in a few words. But the important point is this: one cannot be removed from the company of the Elect, because God cannot be wrong. Earthly actions are of no relevance whatsoever. It is around this that Hogg’s novel takes shape. The narrator, Robert Wringham, the supposed author of the papers that make up the The Private Memoirs, is approached by a Mephistophelean figure known only as Gil-Martin. It is Martin who seduces Wringham, telling him that he is among the Elect, convincing him to believe that he is in this august company. So, what does it matter what he does in life? After all, this great truth cannot be alerted. Convinced of this truth, and now beyond all normal moral boundaries, Wringham is seduced into murder and other crimes. So, here in proto-type, is the central dilemma later posed in existentialist literature, in the work of people like Dostoevsky and Camus. If there is no God, if there are no ethics, then the strong, those beyond the limits of good and evil, can do and act as they will. The book caused an outrage among certain sections of the Scottish Presbyterian community when it was first published in 1824, so much so that subsequent editions had to be modified. The Private Memoirs is a simple yet complex text, well ahead of it’s time, in the use of narrative and perspective; of stories within stories, of truth as lie, and lie as truth. The ambiguity is quite wonderful. We never quite know if Gil-Martin, who may very well be Satan himself, is real or simply a product of the narrator’s disturbed mind. Hogg never reveals the full truth!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    CONFESSIONS OF A SINFUL READER What a strange unpleasant unique difficult novel. There are a lot of solid reviews of this already, and everybody liked this a whole lot more than me, so I should be clear – it was a two star reading experience but it’s a five star literary artifact. TWO STARS BECAUSE The first seventy pages of “Editor’s Narrative” giving the facts of the sad case of a Scottish murder between two brothers was funny, jovial and zippy. But the next 140 pages of the murderer’s confessio CONFESSIONS OF A SINFUL READER What a strange unpleasant unique difficult novel. There are a lot of solid reviews of this already, and everybody liked this a whole lot more than me, so I should be clear – it was a two star reading experience but it’s a five star literary artifact. TWO STARS BECAUSE The first seventy pages of “Editor’s Narrative” giving the facts of the sad case of a Scottish murder between two brothers was funny, jovial and zippy. But the next 140 pages of the murderer’s confession is morbid, drear, sclerotic, demented, and crammed with bad weirdness expressed longwindedly and theological niceties teased out into hairpullingly fractal detail. I dragged my eyes through the last half. It was not the least bit fun. FIVE STARS BECAUSE Hot damn, this is like discovering the Missing Link. What connects Frankenstein and Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde? James Hogg. What connects gothic romance with Freud? James Hogg. What connects theology with psychopathology? James Hogg. If only I could have got more excited about the laborious jawbreaking whinings of this justified sinnerboy. YOU SAY IT’S WRONG TO MURDER RANDOM PEOPLE BUT I SAY ANTINOMIANISM There was a big fight in Christianity between Catholics who thought Good Works on Earth were important to get some brownie points on their score card, and the Protestants who said Good Works are Nothing in the eyes of the Lord, only Faith will get you to heaven. In religion sometimes mad logic takes over and it did for some here – they said well, God knows who will be saved and go to heaven and who will be cast into the pit of angry snails and he has always known from the year dot because he’s omniscient and he made this whole thing anyways so of course he knows so that is as much as saying everybody is PREDESTINED, and this led some mad people to think if a person has been predestined by God to be Saved, he can’t be un-predestined, right? So whatever the saved person does, he will end up in Heaven listening to Beethoven’s Fifth. So he can like do anything and it won’t matter. This is the logic. He could light firecrackers and shove them into old ladies’ letterboxes and God wouldn’t care. He could shoplift sex toys and leave them outside the vicarage, and God would just smile. SO THIS SMUG BASTARD Our confessor believes he is one of the Saved. Now there is a big obvious question here – how do you know you are saved? Maybe you aren’t. Huh? Ever think of that? But alas, this is not discussed, this guy just KNOWS. Man. Those kind of people are irritating. They just know. Anyway, before you know what’s happening this guy is experiencing a full psychotic episode with bells and flashing lights and a florid hallucination of an evil doppelganger who explains he is allowed to murder people and so on, which he then does. You might think this makes interesting reading but this sinner’s style is so strangulated and wearisome I just wanted him to be eaten by a Scottish sheep, I know they eat grass but they could make an exception. However, I see a lot of people seem to have enjoyed this. There must be some tough readers on Goodreads. PLAYLIST In particular, I brought myself to despise, if not to abhor, the beauty of women, looking on it as the greatest snare to which mankind was subjected, and though young men and maidens, and even old women (my mother among the rest), taxed me with being an unnatural wretch, I gloried in my acquisition; and, to this day, am thankful for having escaped the most dangerous of all snares. Devil In Disguise : Elvis Presley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emjLX... Devil Woman : Marty Robbins https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yfc7o... Devil In Her Heart : The Beatles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGe-j... Poison Ivy : Coasters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRfRI... Bad Girl : Miracles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT778... and... of course.... Sinnerman : Nina Simone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QH3Fx...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Antoinette

    This book was written in 1824. Why I mention this is because it does take a while to adjust to the vernacular of the text. I can't say I was enthralled with the book. This book is about Robert, who we know is the murderer of the story. The purpose of the book is to show how Robert became who he was and who influenced him to such a degree. This book revolves around religious fanaticism and how your beliefs can lead you down strange paths. I read this book for an upcoming course I will be taking i This book was written in 1824. Why I mention this is because it does take a while to adjust to the vernacular of the text. I can't say I was enthralled with the book. This book is about Robert, who we know is the murderer of the story. The purpose of the book is to show how Robert became who he was and who influenced him to such a degree. This book revolves around religious fanaticism and how your beliefs can lead you down strange paths. I read this book for an upcoming course I will be taking in Oxford this summer. I am hoping that my professor (called tutor in Oxford) can enlighten me!

  9. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    I came across Hogg through his interactions with de Quincey, and so I grabbed his most notable work from Project Gutenberg, expecting another 'Opium Eater' about some clever reprobate's adventures through the Victorian. If you know anything about this book, then you can imagine my shock and wonder at discovering the story it actually contains. It begins simply enough, as a witty picaresque set in Scotland and making some mockery of self-righteousness and Calvinist pre-destination in particular. B I came across Hogg through his interactions with de Quincey, and so I grabbed his most notable work from Project Gutenberg, expecting another 'Opium Eater' about some clever reprobate's adventures through the Victorian. If you know anything about this book, then you can imagine my shock and wonder at discovering the story it actually contains. It begins simply enough, as a witty picaresque set in Scotland and making some mockery of self-righteousness and Calvinist pre-destination in particular. But then the thing breaks off, it becomes suddenly clear that it is impossible for it to continue as it began, and we are split off into a second telling of the same events from a new point of view, a la Rashōmon. This second version is much darker and the prose becomes experimental, until we seem to be dealing with a crazed serial killer attended and impelled by a strange figure who may be the devil himself--if indeed he exists, at all. The narrator is what we'd call a 'flat character', as despite his doubts and concerns, he remains static throughout and does not go through a great revelation about his state. This can be somewhat frustrating, as often, the only thing we desire of the character is for him to show the slightest bit of self-awareness, but the story is also a kind of satire of allegory, and those of us who recall The Pilgrim's Progress, Piers Plowman, and Everyman will see that Hogg's work provides a sort of parallel to Candide , and that the wooden characters are a fuel for mockery, and for deeper thought. Yet I found Hogg's work much more interesting than Voltaire's, for as much as Voltaire turned the allegory on its head, in the end that's just an inverted allegory, relying on the same stereotypes for its message, but mocking instead of lauding them. Hogg, on the other hand, manages to make the whole thing conflicted, self-consuming, deluded, and mad. His treatment of Calvinist doctrine might be said to play rather straight, but all the other notions his story is concerned with intermingle and subvert beyond any straightforward interpretation. But for all that, I'm not sure what to say about it. As a piece of art, it is powerful and unusual, prefiguring existentialist and experimental literature, but for what it all means, I feel somewhat less qualified to say.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    This book opens with an anonymous Editor offering a 70-page Narrative, the story of what happened here. He tells it slyly, almost as if the humor and skewerings in the telling were unintentional. It's a Cain and Abel tale, a fratricide. This segues into the Private Memoirs and Confessions of the killer, who indeed fancies himself a Justified Sinner. Something on the order of the Devil made me do it. It is nothing less than a descent into madness. The Editor re-appears briefly at the end, explaini This book opens with an anonymous Editor offering a 70-page Narrative, the story of what happened here. He tells it slyly, almost as if the humor and skewerings in the telling were unintentional. It's a Cain and Abel tale, a fratricide. This segues into the Private Memoirs and Confessions of the killer, who indeed fancies himself a Justified Sinner. Something on the order of the Devil made me do it. It is nothing less than a descent into madness. The Editor re-appears briefly at the end, explaining how a fella named James Hogg directed him to the killer's journal. Well, Hogg mis-directed him, but the canny Editor found it anyway. The Editor reads it, and, as I just did, asks himself what it is. Is it a religious tract or, rather, a religious parable? An allegory? Or just the ranting of a maniac? Well, it's at least a statement, of the madness of religion. _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ There were Gothic turns in the book - women change outfits so they couldn't possibly be identified; look-alikes appear to throw crimefighters off the track - enough to annoy. But there was humor too, and a wonderful use of the Scottish dialect to distinguish class and insert wisdom. Like this, between a horse's ass of a preacher and his servant: 'Are you thankful in your heart, John, for such temporal mercies as these?' 'Aw doubt we're a' ower little thankfu', sir, baith for temporal an' speertual mercies; but it isna aye the maist thankfu' heart that maks the greatest fraze wi' the tongue.' 'I hope there is nothing personal under that remark, John?' 'Gin the bannet fits ony body's head, they're unco welcome to it, sir, for me.' 'John I do not approve of these innuendoes. You have an arch malicious manner vending your aphorisms, which the men of the world are too apt to read the wrong way, for your dark hints are sure to have one very bad meaning.' 'Hout na, sir, it's only bad folks that think sae. They find ma bits o'gibes come hame to their hearts wi' a kind o' yerk, an' that gars them wince.' 'That saying is ten times worse than the the other, John; it is a manifest insult: it is just telling me to my face, that you think me a bad man.' 'A body canna help his thoughts, sir.'

  11. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    Such a strange book! The whole story is essentially told twice. The first time by an editor who states what happens between the Colwan brothers. The elder, George recognised by his father, the laird; the younger, Robert brought up by his mother and the rabid Reverend Wringhim. Then the second section of the book is the confessions of Robert. The story is doubled because doubles are part of the plot, Roberts friend Gil-Martin who may or may not be the devil or a demon, and he’s often a double for Such a strange book! The whole story is essentially told twice. The first time by an editor who states what happens between the Colwan brothers. The elder, George recognised by his father, the laird; the younger, Robert brought up by his mother and the rabid Reverend Wringhim. Then the second section of the book is the confessions of Robert. The story is doubled because doubles are part of the plot, Roberts friend Gil-Martin who may or may not be the devil or a demon, and he’s often a double for Robert, or indeed his brother. In the end both narrators are unreliable, there’s no definitive answer as to whether Gilmartin is the devil or if Robert is just mad due to his fanatical religious upbringing or perhaps guilt for his sins. There’s a lot about religion here, and if you’re not up on the specifics of theology of the Scottish church in the early 1700s (like me) it can go over your head. But there’s a lot to enjoy, the gothic like atmosphere, strange humour and vivid imagery.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Who is he that causeth the mole, from his secret path of darkness, to throw up the gem, the gold, and the precious ore? Hogg should be better remembered. Justified Sinner is a dark revelation, one less gothic than psychological. The novel is a headbirth which ignores Lewis/Walpole/Radcliff and instead Babadooks from a nascent emotional realism, one like Fyodor's magic door where everything is tinged yellow and seizures lead to murder. Speaking of crows, I heartily endorse the subtext as being an Who is he that causeth the mole, from his secret path of darkness, to throw up the gem, the gold, and the precious ore? Hogg should be better remembered. Justified Sinner is a dark revelation, one less gothic than psychological. The novel is a headbirth which ignores Lewis/Walpole/Radcliff and instead Babadooks from a nascent emotional realism, one like Fyodor's magic door where everything is tinged yellow and seizures lead to murder. Speaking of crows, I heartily endorse the subtext as being an opposition to fanaticism or any dogmatic approach to life or social order. (Please leave the room, Rick Santorum). The novel is two tiered, a found editor's investigation and a journal form the eponymous: the latter is vain, contradictory and doomed. Sorry for the spoiler: what else could you expect from an early novel where Old Scratch is the wingman? There are veiled thoughts on marriage and inheritance at play, poky pines towards Church imposition. That said, this proved an enjoyable bout with the more sinister angels of our nature.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Issicratea

    I felt as one round whose body a deadly snake is twisted, which continues to hold him in its fangs, without injuring him, farther than in moving its scaly infernal folds with exulting delight, to let its victim feel to whose power he has subjected himself …. Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner is one of those works that was experimental at the time it was published, and still reads as pretty experimental almost two hundered years on (it was published in 1824). This is late-Gothic at its most I felt as one round whose body a deadly snake is twisted, which continues to hold him in its fangs, without injuring him, farther than in moving its scaly infernal folds with exulting delight, to let its victim feel to whose power he has subjected himself …. Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner is one of those works that was experimental at the time it was published, and still reads as pretty experimental almost two hundered years on (it was published in 1824). This is late-Gothic at its most modern and psychological. Hokey devilish overtones aside, it’s a powerful examination of identity at its most fraying and fissiparous, as well as a sly and scathing indictment of the psychology of self-conscious “righteousness” and its consequences. Hogg’s target is the Calvinist doctrine of election, but his point has much more general application. I had read this book before, years ago, and retained sufficiently fond memories of it to have even attempted another of Hogg’s novels, the endearingly batty The Three Perils of Man. I’m not sure I would recommend Three Perils to anyone other than a specialist in nineteenth-century Scottish literature, but Confessions certainly more than stood up to a rereading. What struck me in particular, returning to this novel, was the peculiarly intimate, quasi-erotic character of the relationship between the “justified sinner”, Robert Wringham, and his real or imagined nemesis, Gil-Martin. Setting aside the novel’s theological theme, this surely has to be some kind of strange love story, exploiting the element of narcissism implicit in double-identity narratives and the dark erotics of tales of demonic and vampiric possession. Eve Sedgwick has a nice reading of this novel in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, bringing out particularly the parallels between Robert Wringham’s toxic blood-brothership with Gil-Martin and his curious, succubus-like relationship with his own brother (or half-brother) George, whose “normality” serves as a foil to the “sinister, feminized, uncanny” Robert. Hogg’s life story is fascinating. He was a shepherd and a farmhand in his youth and had no formal education whatever (for lovers of literary trivia, he is also a collateral ancestor of the Canadian writer Alice Munro). I found myself wondering as I read this novel whether Hogg’s outsider background factored into his sympathetic treatment of the outsiders within the novel: not only Robert himself, whom we first encounter lurking like a rancorous, black-clad beetle on the sidelines of golden George’s careless, aristocratic Edinburgh life—and who, curiously, ends up masquerading as a shepherd at one point (more doubling?)—but also the fascinating, though undeveloped, character of the prostitute Arabella Calvert, who teams up with George’s father’s mistress at one point as an unlikely team of middle-aged female detectives. Some advice for anyone reading Confessions for the first time: don’t give up if you find it slow to get into. The novel has a complex structure, revisiting the same narrative from different perspectives (something that has led to it being hailed as an antecedent of the postmodernist novel). Some of the most compelling material comes relatively late in the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Old-Barbarossa

    Ranting Scottish religious fundamentalist goes a bit bonkers and it all ends in tears. An early book with different viewpoints presented as "found" papers. A few in-jokes, a bit of murder, and some self righteous godbothering. Or is it a study of the descent into mental illness? A bit of work for the modern reader at times but well worth the effort. Ranting Scottish religious fundamentalist goes a bit bonkers and it all ends in tears. An early book with different viewpoints presented as "found" papers. A few in-jokes, a bit of murder, and some self righteous godbothering. Or is it a study of the descent into mental illness? A bit of work for the modern reader at times but well worth the effort.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lynne King

    This book was, well, utterly boring. I actually fell asleep on two occasions whilst reading it. If you suffer from sleeping problems, I highly recommend this book. A book the likes of which will not be repeated, I hope!

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    The dark side of Predestination I first discovered this book when I was perusing the shelf of a friend of mine from university and the title literally jumped out at me. The first thought that went through my mind was 'wow, this seems to be a good, whole hearted, Christian book' and asked her if I could borrow it. She kindly lent it to me, but I never go to finish it because after a week she asked for it back (having assumed that I have finished reading it, which I hadn't). Anyway, that was the l The dark side of Predestination I first discovered this book when I was perusing the shelf of a friend of mine from university and the title literally jumped out at me. The first thought that went through my mind was 'wow, this seems to be a good, whole hearted, Christian book' and asked her if I could borrow it. She kindly lent it to me, but I never go to finish it because after a week she asked for it back (having assumed that I have finished reading it, which I hadn't). Anyway, that was the last I saw of that book until I was wondering around a number of second-hand bookstalls in Melbourne's Federation Square and once again it jumped out at me, so I immediately purchased it with the intention of finishing it this time. I note that when I first saw it my thoughts were that it was a Christian Book. Well, it's not, at least not in the traditional sense of what you would consider a Christian book. Actually, it seems to be part gothic horror, part satire, and an early incarnation of a crime novel. What Hogg is exploring in this book is the idea of predestination as it is understood by Calvinists, and that is that one is predestined to be saved from birth, and if you are predestined as such, then there is nothing that can take away your salvation. So, the question that is raised is: if you are one of the elect, and if nothing can take your salvation away from you, then does that mean that you have a license to basically do whatever you want? Well, the Biblical answer to that question is no, and I suspect that most Calvinists would suggest that if you were one of the elect then your actions would be severely restrained by your character, which means that you could not actually go and do what the anti-hero of this book went and did. However, that is not really the question that Hogg is exploring here, because the anti-hero was raised by a strict Calvinist preacher, and had this teaching poured into his mind since he was a child. As such he came to believe that due to him being one of the elect nothing that he did could effect that salvation. This belief was compounded when he meets Gil-Martin, a rather strange character that is generally recognised as Satan. What Gil-Martin does is that he feeds on this belief that the anti-hero has and encourages him to go around and start murdering people because, well, they are all sinners and deserve to die. This is where the interesting part of the novel arises. Note that it was written in 1824, around the same time as Frankenstein. As I have written in my commentary of Frankenstein, what we have during this period is a shift away from demons and angels to a more scientific approach to viewing the world. I would suggest that this book is no different. Since most of it is told from the point of view of the anti-hero, we really don't know whether Gil-Martin is real, or merely a figment of his imagination. However, it does not matter whether he is, or he isn't, because he is still incredibly dangerous because this figment of his imagination (if that is what he is) is justifying his actions in committing various crimes (such as murder). While I am religious myself, and believe that religion has done a lot of good to the world, it can also be a very destructive force, as Hogg is indicating, especially if you are dealing with children. Our anti-hero was fed an extreme form of Calvinism from a very young age, and as such had a lot of difficulty being able to differentiate reality from fantasy. What is scary is that there are still a lot of children, even today, being fed such dogma and being denied the ability to be able to work things out for themselves. One final thought is that when this book was originally released it wasn't all that well received (probably because it upset the Calvinists, and it ended up being rewritten to placate them) and it was not really picked up until modern times. Mind you, I probably wouldn't call this a classic, not in the same level as Frankenstein and the like, but it is still interesting to see how relatively obscure books can come out of the shadows and start to enthral people years after it was written. It makes me wonder what other obscure, and relatively unpopular books, are lying around today that are going to become the fad a hundred years from now (maybe my blog sarkology.net).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I was predestined and ordained from the beginning of time to love this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    I found this totally addictive and read it in two sittings. He's not the writer Scott was, nevertheless I found the style and tone to be highly readable. In fact, I thought his coarser style was more appealing in many ways. By turns sinister, terrifying, amusing, fanatical, complex, simple,realistic, supernatural, ludicrous, coarse, lyrical,poetic...All combining to make a wonderful read. Although not always my cup of tea in novels, I found the multiple narratives to be hugely interesting and enli I found this totally addictive and read it in two sittings. He's not the writer Scott was, nevertheless I found the style and tone to be highly readable. In fact, I thought his coarser style was more appealing in many ways. By turns sinister, terrifying, amusing, fanatical, complex, simple,realistic, supernatural, ludicrous, coarse, lyrical,poetic...All combining to make a wonderful read. Although not always my cup of tea in novels, I found the multiple narratives to be hugely interesting and enlightening. My only real criticism of the writing is that the last third of the sinner's confession (although admittedly diabolic and suitably frightening from a believer's perspective) did labour a little in terms of the sinner's travels being constantly shadowed by the hellish creatures. I did skim a little in some of these parts. That said, I did think it a remarkable book and one which I would gladly re-read. Of course, today the duality of Man's nature is an oft-repeated theme in writing but nothing modern can match this text for imagination and poetry. As an aside, I adored the minor character of Bessy Gillies, the maid. Her re-telling in court of the robbery was a piece of genius! I've never read such wonderful dialogue. I'd never tire of reading it. But, it wasn't merely clever and amusing, it spoke so much truth about "Like [being] an ill mark." She really spoke to the heart of the story, despite being such a small part. I loved her! "For my part, I am resolved to keep a clear conscience, till I be married, at any rate." A gem. And a gem of a book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    140220: second reading. years (decades...) after first, so i knew what i was getting, as this is one of the first sort of postmodern works i read, or maybe metafiction. at any rate, it is narrative within narrative, genres deliberately confusing from fiction to non, supernatural to psychological, repetition of plot from multiple points of view, radically unreliable first person, no comfort in resolution of first history, at close of deluded confessions, or much later in uncertain publication... 140220: second reading. years (decades...) after first, so i knew what i was getting, as this is one of the first sort of postmodern works i read, or maybe metafiction. at any rate, it is narrative within narrative, genres deliberately confusing from fiction to non, supernatural to psychological, repetition of plot from multiple points of view, radically unreliable first person, no comfort in resolution of first history, at close of deluded confessions, or much later in uncertain publication... is it parable, allegory, madman’s writing etc.? i am related through aunt a with the author but that is not the reason i love it. or why i return to read it, now much more familiar with nested structures, but rather it is the surreal horror depicted in his clear language, with occasional scots dialect, that has such powerful effect. in reading it again i am able to enjoy the ‘popular’ horror aspect as it becomes inseparable from the psychological reading, of the confessions particularly blinded to itself by fanaticism, in his case religious, and remark how early this work is. this is a case where an original has not been surpassed even if details of beliefs are... rereading this has been often more a case of recollection than revelation, but even when i have details clear in memory this does not diminish the text. the afterword by Andre Gide suggests that this work is undervalued but that is just back in 1924, i hope it is known better now...

  20. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is the first reading experience I have ever had that would have been enhanced by having a church organ belt out some thunderous riffs every now and again in the background. Published in 1824, and rediscovered in the 1940s when it must have seemed incredibly apt, The novel is a fascinating mixture between gothic novel, crime story, psychological thriller, and study of religious fanaticism. Actually to call it a mixture is to do the book a rank disservice, its more of a multi- layered gem. Tw This is the first reading experience I have ever had that would have been enhanced by having a church organ belt out some thunderous riffs every now and again in the background. Published in 1824, and rediscovered in the 1940s when it must have seemed incredibly apt, The novel is a fascinating mixture between gothic novel, crime story, psychological thriller, and study of religious fanaticism. Actually to call it a mixture is to do the book a rank disservice, its more of a multi- layered gem. Two brothers are born to a deeply Calvinist mother very unhappily married to a irreverent lord. The eldest accepted by her husband is raised to be a carefree country squire, the youngest is renounced and raised separately by his mother and adopted father a Calvinist priest and most likely his true father. Death ensues. The first part of the book is an editorial written from the perspective of a omniscient narrator and the second part from the perspective of the justified sinner in question. I felt a little daunted by the dense paragraphs and was occasionally defeated by the authors use of dialect when the lower orders but my gosh it was worth it for the skin crawling conjuring up of evil. A book that will stay in my mind for a very long time indeed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Thing Two

    Don't wring him, Wringhim. Someone is saying prayers for me, The grace I earn I never see, In all things he do, I interferes, All I know is trouble as soon as he appears. Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim. I'm gonna wring him. When I say my prayers my character changes, My whole mind and body rearranges, This strange transformation takes place in me, Instead of myself everybody can see... Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim. I'm gonna wring him. When you see my brother, make s Don't wring him, Wringhim. Someone is saying prayers for me, The grace I earn I never see, In all things he do, I interferes, All I know is trouble as soon as he appears. Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim. I'm gonna wring him. When I say my prayers my character changes, My whole mind and body rearranges, This strange transformation takes place in me, Instead of myself everybody can see... Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim. I'm gonna wring him. When you see my brother, make sure it's not me, I've got to the stage I can't tell who we'll be, That loveable fellow who'll buy you a drink, When he's drunk, I'll change in a wink into... Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim. I'm gonna wring him.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Very interesting. Loved it!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tristram Shandy

    Cloven Hooves in Goody-Two-Shoes It was thanks to one of my Goodreads friends’ reviews that I came across James Hogg’s disturbing novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which was published anonymously in 1824 and which can be read as a warning against religious fanaticism – were it not for the difficult language, it should therefore belong to the set books of our schools – but which is much more than that. The Private Memoirs tells the story of the fervent and utterly sel Cloven Hooves in Goody-Two-Shoes It was thanks to one of my Goodreads friends’ reviews that I came across James Hogg’s disturbing novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which was published anonymously in 1824 and which can be read as a warning against religious fanaticism – were it not for the difficult language, it should therefore belong to the set books of our schools – but which is much more than that. The Private Memoirs tells the story of the fervent and utterly self-righteous young Calvinist Robert Wringhim – and boy, could I have wrung him! –, who is brought up by his prim bigot of a mother and his “spiritual”, and probably also natural, father, the Reverend Wringhim, and raised in the belief that God’s true elect are not obliged to obey the law and do good works. In fact, the antinomians around Wringhim reject any form of work righteousness as downright sinful. Robert also has a brother, a young, healthy and wild man by the name of George, who is living with his father, the Laird of Colwan, who is likewise a friend of the creature comforts and who lives in separation from the mother of the two boys. One day, Robert, who has a sneaky character and is driven by envy and ambition, learns from the Reverend that he, too, is one of God’s chosen few, a status which he cannot forfeit no matter what deeds he commits on earth, and that very day he also meets a mysterious youth who calls himself Gil-Martin. Gil-Martin has the special gift of adopting other people’s outward appearance – in fact, during their first encounter he looks like Robert himself – and of thereby also knowing what these people think and feel, and by and by, he inveigles young Robert into a career of crime, which will even include fratricide and eventually lead to his own downfall. Whoever expects something like a reverse The Pilgrim’s Progress may rest assured that The Private Memoirs is quite on another level. I would not go so far as André Gide and call it “the most convincing representation of the power of evil in our literature” because after all, Gil-Martin can be read as a exterior influence, and not necessarily as Robert’s alter ego and the personification of, and means of justifying, his darker impulses and the whisperings of his overreaching ambition. In fact, many of the witnesses’ statements make it quite difficult to maintain the interpretation of Gil-Martin’s just being an hallucination of a devious and deluded scoundrel since other people can see the mysterious stranger, too. Therefore, Gil-Martin may be regarded as Satan himself, and there are quite a few passages that bear out this interpretation, e.g. Gil-Martin’s objection to joining Robert in his prayers or his allusions to his being a mighty potentate that has great plans with Robert. Interestingly, these details are often also compatible with the idea of seeing the stranger as a figment of Robert’s imagination. Robert’s darker thoughts may indeed scare him off prayer, and the idea that Gil-Martin is a potentate – Robert identifies him with Peter the Great – is well in tune with the young fervent’s egocentric ambition. Somebody as big-headed as Robert may indeed not find anything odd in the idea that the Russian tsar would spend so much time with him. But still, the other witnesses’ testimony actually rules out the idea that Gil-Martin is completely made up by Robert. And yet, even though we might probably have to regard Robert as somebody who is actually being tempted by the Devil, we get a lot of insight into the darker regions of his inner world. His tendency to lie – a product of an oppressive education? –, for instance, combines with his ambition when he plots against one of his classmates who always gets the better of him in their studies; this actually happens before Gil-Martin makes his first appearance. Apart from that, the deeper Robert gets entangled into the mangroves of murder, the less he seems at ease with his mysterious friend, who at first was so dear to him that he had the impression of their selves being amalgamated. Maybe, the ambiguity is kept up on purpose for the reader to wonder if evil has its roots inside a person or really needs to come into this world through some metaphysical agency. Psychologically speaking, Robert may not be likeable but we can easily understand why he has become the murderous egomaniac that he is: After all, he grew up under the influence of a couple of religious fanatics, was rejected by his father, the Laird, and might have seen himself, tainted with the suspicion of being an illegitimate son, as doomed to playing second fiddle to his happy-go-lucky brother. It’s no wonder that his character would come out warped in circumstances like these. The ambiguity created here is also increased by Hogg’s way of telling his story in that the book falls into at least three accounts given by three more or less unreliable narrators. Especially the middle part, in which Robert himself gives his view on the events bears the marks of an unreliable narrator, for not only is Robert keen on presenting his own actions in as favourable a light as is possible – many details given here are not compatible with the introductory tale presented by the editor – but he also has a tendency to leave larger and larger blanks, saying that he simply cannot remember. Thus, we have a highly subjective account, based on the protagonist’s will to justify himself – ironically, according to his own beliefs, he is already justified so that he actually would not need to go through all the trouble of presenting his point of view –, an editor’s reconstruction of the events, and a mixture of legend and superstition as well. It is strange that, with Hogg having written such a brilliantly experimental book in terms of point of view, 19th century writers should have stuck so diligently to the omniscient narrator and to narrative unambiguousness through so many years. The Private Memoirs is therefore also tricky to pigeon-hole: Have we got one of the first psychological novels, a gothic tale, a crime story, an extremely bitter satire, or a simple jab at extreme Calvinism? I don’t know for sure, but I think that part of the novel’s appeal may lie in this very ambiguity and in the possibility of also reading it as an example of how a narrow-minded and bigoted perversion of religion can induce us to justify our mean impulse to set our own beliefs and ideas above those of other people, with fatal consequences to them and ourselves. This is probably a very shallow reading, but it is certainly prompted by what is going on in the world right now. Let me close this review with a quotation I especially liked, the servant’s reply when the Reverend reproached him with thinking that Robert was the clergyman’s illegitimate child: ”’Man’s thoughts are vanity, sir; they come unasked, an’ gang away without a dismissal, an’ he canna help them. I’m neither gang to say that I think he’s your son, nor that I think he’s no your son: sae ye needna pose me nae mair about it. […] Auld John bay dee a beggar in a hay barn, or at the back of a dike, but he sall aye be master o’ his ain thoughts, an’ gie them vent or no, as he likes.’”

  24. 4 out of 5

    Moon Rose

    THE PHARISAICAL VIEW Predestination is an infallible and rigid belief that God has irrevocably preordained the eternal salvation of some and the condemnation of the rest of mankind. For the elected few whose salvation has already been guaranteed, no past or future transgression could wobble its validity, nor any situation could alter its mandate. This seemingly amorphous doctrine in Christian theology is from the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin and James Hogg elucidates this THE PHARISAICAL VIEW Predestination is an infallible and rigid belief that God has irrevocably preordained the eternal salvation of some and the condemnation of the rest of mankind. For the elected few whose salvation has already been guaranteed, no past or future transgression could wobble its validity, nor any situation could alter its mandate. This seemingly amorphous doctrine in Christian theology is from the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin and James Hogg elucidates this doctrine in its most distorted form, in which its vicious pedantic interpretation leads to the segregation of people thereby creating a division, an anathema that separates one from the harmony of all. This twisted pharisaical view becomes the key for the spiritual degeneration and subsequent fall to destruction of the young fanatic that is Robert Wringhim Colwan. In The Private Memoirs and Confessions of Justified Sinner, Hogg presents through young Wringhim the danger involve in possessing too much self righteousness in relation to exercise an excessive religious belief to the point of fanaticism, that verges on madness. It shows that the devil can take the shape of an angel and that evil can hide from the light of goodness, to deceit people from the truth. 佛月球 Будда Луны

  25. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This was a bit of a slog for a book that’s only 180 pages long, mostly because chunks of it are written in Auld Scots vernacular and, even as a native, I had to read it out loud in order to hear what it said because it was tricky to follow with the eye alone. Moreover, the plain prose sections are written in the ponderous style typical of the 19th century which just goes to show how much our everyday speech idiom has changed in 150 years. So, a bit slow-going all round. That said, it’s a cracking This was a bit of a slog for a book that’s only 180 pages long, mostly because chunks of it are written in Auld Scots vernacular and, even as a native, I had to read it out loud in order to hear what it said because it was tricky to follow with the eye alone. Moreover, the plain prose sections are written in the ponderous style typical of the 19th century which just goes to show how much our everyday speech idiom has changed in 150 years. So, a bit slow-going all round. That said, it’s a cracking good story. Hogg satirises religious fundamentalism – in this case Calvinist Presbyterianism – by exposing its vulnerability to evil acts committed ‘in the name of God’. He kicks down the wholly illogical tenet of predestination (the pre-determined guarantee of entry into Heaven regardless of earthly acts, no matter how atrocious) by making it the plaything of the Devil. In this, readers will find many parallels in the modern world. Perhaps some things never change. Although the story is set in 1712, when Calvinist fervour was at its height in Scotland, Hogg wrote this in the relative safety of 1824. He was not actually that well-known in his own lifetime. ‘Discovered’ some 100 years later, this is his acknowledged masterpiece.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nan

    One of the most bizarre and compelling books I've ever read. I can't wait to write about it--academically, rather than for fun. That said, I won't waste too much of my time reviewing it here. This much you should know: three times, you hear the story of Robert Wringhim and his parents, and each telling is different. No teller is impartial, and each version of the events varies greatly. Few things are certain by the end of the novel. Only one thing, I would think, remains certain--absolute faith i One of the most bizarre and compelling books I've ever read. I can't wait to write about it--academically, rather than for fun. That said, I won't waste too much of my time reviewing it here. This much you should know: three times, you hear the story of Robert Wringhim and his parents, and each telling is different. No teller is impartial, and each version of the events varies greatly. Few things are certain by the end of the novel. Only one thing, I would think, remains certain--absolute faith in one's own ideas is the scariest thing imaginable.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This is a great Calvinist, horror, thriller, detective story, melodrama. It will be a great delight to anyone interested in the history of either detective or horror fiction. Unfortunately, I do not fall into either category and so somewhat churlishly only give it three. Add one or two stars to my rating if you think the genre itselfis interesting. Ian Rankin loved this book and I think he is a source that any crime fiction fan could trust.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    God's chosen few... When George Colwan, Laird of Dalcastle, takes a much younger bride, the marriage is doomed from the beginning. The Laird is a fun-loving, hard-drinking, party animal – the bride, Rabina, holds extreme religious views of the Calvinist variety. She despises him; he is disappointed in her. Remarkably, despite this, they manage to produce two sons. The first, George, will grow up to be the apple of his father's eye. The younger, Robert, bears an uncanny resemblance to Rabina's clo God's chosen few... When George Colwan, Laird of Dalcastle, takes a much younger bride, the marriage is doomed from the beginning. The Laird is a fun-loving, hard-drinking, party animal – the bride, Rabina, holds extreme religious views of the Calvinist variety. She despises him; he is disappointed in her. Remarkably, despite this, they manage to produce two sons. The first, George, will grow up to be the apple of his father's eye. The younger, Robert, bears an uncanny resemblance to Rabina's close friend and spiritual adviser, Reverend Wringhim. The Laird rejects him and Robert is brought up as a ward of Reverend Wringhim, who indoctrinates him in the antinomian sect which believes that some people – the elect, or justified – are predestined to be saved by God, while everyone else will burn in hell. This is a satire on the idea of predestination, an examination of the origins of the sectarianism which still disfigures Scotland today, a tale of sibling rivalry, a story of madness, murder and the devil. And surprisingly, it's also full of humour... It's a historical novel: first published in 1824, it's set more than a century earlier, between 1687 and 1715, roughly – or from the Glorious Revolution that saw the final downfall of the Stuarts, through the parliamentary Union between Scotland and England, and on towards the Jacobite rebellions. I'm reasonably familiar with this period of history on a fairly superficial level, but I was nevertheless glad to be reading a book with explanatory notes, and would suggest that's essential for anyone who doesn't know the background to the religious and political situation in Scotland at that time. Not that the book gets at all bogged down in any of these subjects, but the author assumes the reader's familiarity with them, so doesn't explain them as he goes along. My Oxford World's Classics edition provides concise background information – enough to allow the reader to understand the references without feeling that s/he's reading a history book – and a glossary and notes which explain any unfamiliar terms or allusions. The informative introduction, by Ian Duncan, Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, sets the book in its historical and literary context, and provides some biographical information on the author. The story is told in two main parts, plus a short epilogue. The second part is the memoir and confession referred to in the title. The first is written by “the Editor” who, before presenting the reader with the memoir, tells what he has managed to learn of the actual events. This means we see the same story twice, allowing us to judge for ourself how much we can rely on the sinner's account. The third part wraps the story up in the author's present day and is unfortunately full of references to real people who were doubtless recognisable at the time but who have faded into obscurity since, so that some of the humour of this section is rather lost now. The justified sinner of the title is the younger brother, Robert. Abandoned by the man the law says is his father, and subjected to the religious fanaticism of his guardian and his mother, it's perhaps not surprising that the boy grows up to be somewhat twisted and jealous of his elder brother, who seems to have a golden life. But Robert's problems really begin when Reverend Wringhim informs him that God has decided Robert should be one of the elect, predestined for salvation. The question the book satirises is – if one is predestined for salvation, does that mean one can sin free of consequences? In fact, is it possible for the elect to sin at all or, by virtue of their exalted status, do things that would be sinful if done by one of the damned cease to be sins when done by one of the elect? The book is not an attack on religious faith in general, but Hogg has a lot of fun with all the gradations of extremity within this particularly elitist little piece of dogma. On a wider level, he quietly mocks the way all religious sects tend to cherry-pick the bits of dogma that suit their world view best, while ignoring or “interpreting” the inconvenient bits of Scripture they don't like. From that moment, I conceived it decreed, not that I should be a minister of the gospel, but a champion of it, to cut off the enemies of the Lord from the face of the earth; and I rejoiced in the commission, finding it more congenial to my nature to be cutting sinners off with the sword, than to be haranguing them from the pulpit, striving to produce an effect, which God, by his act of absolute predestination, had forever rendered impracticable. The more I pondered on these things, the more I saw of the folly and inconsistency of ministers, in spending their lives, striving and remonstrating with sinners, in order to do that which they had it not in their power to do. Seeing that God had from all eternity decided the fate of every individual that was to be born of woman, how vain was it in man to endeavour to save those whom their Maker had, by an unchangeable decree, doomed to destruction. On the day that Robert is told he is one of the elect, he meets a mysterious young man under whose spell he gradually falls. This man convinces Robert that he cannot sin whatever he does, and gradually leads him down a path that will lead to murder – more than one! The structure makes this particularly intriguing. Robert's own memoir can be seen as the confession of a madman and his tempter could easily be seen as a delusion. But the Editor's account suggests that the tempter is a real being, seen and witnessed by many others in physical form. To modern eyes, the temptation to see him as a product of mental illness is almost irresistible, but I suspect readers at the time would have been in no doubt about his Satanic origins. It all sounds terribly dark and serious, I know, but the satirical element keeps it entertaining. There's a lot of humour in it, particularly in the comparison of the Editor's portrayal of Robert as a snivelling coward and Robert's own vastly more heroic portrayal of himself. There's also some great horror as Robert gets sucked further and further into his tempter's schemes. And a whole lot of fairly wry insight into Scottish society. The vast majority is written in standard English, but there's some brilliantly executed dialect in the dialogue, where Hogg manages to differentiate between the various regions of Scotland, and rather shows that the “common” man has considerably more common sense than his social “betters.” I read this one reluctantly because I felt I ought to given its status as a Scottish classic, and ended up much to my own surprise enjoying it thoroughly. Hogg takes all these theological and societal aspects, and turns them into an entertaining mix of humour and horror, with some excellently satirical characterisation. Like so many others, it has suffered from the cultural domination exerted by England over the last few centuries, but it's time these Scottish classics took their rightful place in the sun as equal partners in the great British literary tradition – highly recommended. 4½ stars for me, so rounded up. NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Oxford World's Classics. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  29. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    I first read this at university, but decided that it was long past time to reread it. In the first few pages, I couldn't see why it had made such a strong impression on me. But by the end of the "Editor's Notes", I'd remembered. And there's so much about it that I'd forgotten - especially the latter part of it. So a rare star upgrade from my original rating. It tells the story of a 'justified' sinner, who believes he's already one of God's elect on Earth, and therefore his place in Heaven is alre I first read this at university, but decided that it was long past time to reread it. In the first few pages, I couldn't see why it had made such a strong impression on me. But by the end of the "Editor's Notes", I'd remembered. And there's so much about it that I'd forgotten - especially the latter part of it. So a rare star upgrade from my original rating. It tells the story of a 'justified' sinner, who believes he's already one of God's elect on Earth, and therefore his place in Heaven is already assured, and then throws a supernatural twist into it. Neatly told from from two different perspectives, it's a fascinating study of how the Devil can twist the beliefs of someone who things he's one of the Elect, and twist them on their head to make him destroy those who try to do good, and ultimately himself. In my view, the bit that's really clever about it, is that the first version of events you see is the more objective "Editor's Notes"; and then it revisits the same events - and many more - from the point of view of the 'justified sinner', who manages to rationalise murder as doing God's work, when in fact he's doing the complete opposite.

  30. 4 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    A religious man, assured of his salvation by a hypocrite, partakes of evil. But is the evil straight from the devil, or a product of his own deranged mind? This was sophisticated and compelling, a frame story surrounding the diary of a Calvinist spoiled brat, completely convinced that he can do no wrong. What is real is difficult to suss out, but as his life collapses around him, he refuses humility and friendship. What need has he of those things? He is already saved. The ending is a wink and a n A religious man, assured of his salvation by a hypocrite, partakes of evil. But is the evil straight from the devil, or a product of his own deranged mind? This was sophisticated and compelling, a frame story surrounding the diary of a Calvinist spoiled brat, completely convinced that he can do no wrong. What is real is difficult to suss out, but as his life collapses around him, he refuses humility and friendship. What need has he of those things? He is already saved. The ending is a wink and a nudge to the reader. Fun stuff.

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