A TLS International Book of the Year
(TLS, Dec 7, 2001)
This now-famous book was given a hostile reception when it first appeared in 1824. It was not reprinted until the late 1830s, when a heavily bowdlerised version was included in a posthumous edition of Hogg's collected Tales and Sketches published by Blackie & Son of Glasgow. Thereafter Confessions of a Justified Sinner attracted little interest until the 1890s, when the unbowdlerised text was printed for the first time since the 1820s. However, the current high reputation of Hogg's novel did not fully begin to establish itself until 1947, when a warmly enthusiastic Introduction by André Gide appeared in a new edition of the unbowdlerised text. He went on to record how he had read 'this astounding book […] with a stupefaction and admiration that increased at every page'. Many readers have subsequently shared Gide's enthusiasm, and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is now widely recognised as one of the outstanding British novels of the Romantic era. It has also been acclaimed as one of the defining texts of Scotland, with Iain Crichton Smith recently applauding 'a towering Scottish novel, one of the very greatest of all Scottish books'.
Peter Garside's eagerly-awaited new Stirling / South Carolina edition (available in both hardback and paperback) excitingly opens out our understanding of Hogg's masterpiece. Its annotation adds very substantially to the contributions of previous editors, for example by showing various layers of hitherto undetected references. Through an impressive piece of scholarly detective-work, Garside has also uncovered the remarkable story of the first printing of the Justified Sinner and Hogg's battle with his London publishers, Longman, for his subversive and challenging novel to make its first appearance in a form he found satisfactory.
This edition provides an illuminating and compelling new account of the genesis of Hogg's masterpiece, and of the cultural, theological, geographical, and historical contexts of this remarkable novel.
About the Author
... a work so moving, so funny, so impassioned, so exact and so mysterious that its emergence from a long history of neglect came as a surprise which has yet to lose its resonance ... The sinner says that his adventures will 'puzzle the world' and this is what they have done...but the heart of the matter is the energy, pathos and delusion of the human struggle, together with the ability to feel that those who are not with us, or like us, are against us... The Confessions is a postmodern work which is also a pre-modern work ... Hogg's novel is as complex as it is lucid and direct.
This new edition of the Ettrick Shepherd's great work is an attempt to restore the original 1824 text to as close to its original format and content as possible. This has been admirably achieved and the prodigious text is accompanied by well researched and incisive notes which help to flesh it out...This Stirling/South Carolina Research Edition of Confessions is edited by Peter Garside, who provides a superb in-depth introduction to the text which includes a detailed historical background to the novel and the author himself...this edition goes a long way to peeling away the narrative layers to illuminate Hogg's genius for subversion and innovation. Garside and Campbell, together with the notes on the text, aid the resurrection of Confessions as a landmark in Scottish and world literature, a process which this series hopes to achieve for all Hogg's work. Hogg is finally assuming his rightful place alongside Burns and Scott as one of Scotland's greatest literary sons.
This new paperback edition provides everything that is in the hardback for just over a quarter of its price. Indeed, the non-specialist may regard the paperback edition as having the edge on more than price grounds, since in addition to reproducing the original text, notes, and introductions, it also includes Gillian Hughes's Chronology of James Hogg, which crams a lot of fact into its few pages, and a short but well-judged Select Bibliography. It is unquestionably the edition to have, in whatever format.
This is the most reliable text we have, and until the manuscript is found it is the best text we shall ever have… Peter Garside's annotation is magnificent: it is full, it helps the reader, and it illuminates the text…This truly is a great novel, and at last we have an edition worthy of it.
These attractive editions of Hogg's work are set directly from the original texts, and in the case of the Perils of Woman and The Shepherd's Calendar, actually represent the first ever republications of the originals … Peter Garside's necessarily extensive and user-friendly introduction locates the novel firmly in its historical and geographical (Edinburgh and Ettrick) milieu, and relates the evolution of its reception and criticism from Enlightenment Scotland onwards… He discusses the Justified Sinner alongside much of Hogg's other work, simultaneously helping to recontextualise the novel and reinvigorate perspectives on the less critically conspicuous texts.