Author: Baldridge, Cates
Date published: December 1, 2011
In recent years a number of historically minded critics have construed portions of James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner as a loosely allegorical expression of the author's uneasy and ungentle relationship with the print culture of Romantic-era Edinburgh, and especially with Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. (See Duncan, "Fanaticism" and Scott's Shadow; Fang 66-104; Mack; Richardson lxvii). This was the periodical that for some time gave that rural, working-class outsider a public voice but that later hijacked and travestied that same voice for the sake of its own pretentions to cultural prestige. My object is not to quarrel with these readings but rather to expand them in a new direction. What has largely been absent from previous attempts to read Confessions of a Justified Sinner as a coded account of Hogg's painfully ambivalent relationship with the great literary periodicals of his era is, on the one hand, something central to his novel-the specific doctrines of Antinomianism-and something definitional about magazines of Blackwood's ilk: the savagely partisan-political nature of their review-articles concerning contemporary literature. It is my contention that by viewing the former as an implicit critique of the latter, we will discover that Hogg's assessment of Romantic-era literary criticism is both wider and sharper than it has yet been credited as being. For while it is well known that in writing Justified Sinner Hogg was "taking a swing at his Tory friends and...persecutors in the Blackwood's group" (Campbell 181), it has not yet been appreciated that his most telling jab originated in the heretical religious tenets of his deluded protagonist, and that the blow was aimed squarely at the ideological extremism of the nation's cultural gatekeepers, both those he knew personally and those farther afield. As we shall see, in Hogg's hands Antinomianism becomes a metaphorical weapon by means of which he critiques two intimately related practices of Romantic periodicals: intemperate denunciations of the literary productions of those organs' perceived ideological foes, and shameless "puffing" of the works of their political allies and personal friends. When we remember that it was an allegorical work-the "Chaldee Manuscript"-that first brought Hogg to national attention, and that he was fond of touting the impact upon readers "of [his] celebrated allegories" (Letters 363, Miller 224), it should not surprise us that his most enduring text contains allegorical elements, or that recognizing them should help untangle some of Justified Sinner's notorious obstacles to coherent interpretation. When read in this light, Hogg's novel emerges as a rebus-like rendering of the ethical temptations that chronically beset writers of literary criticism at the dawn of mass-circulation journalism.
We must commence with a brief review of some familiar facts, the first among them being James Hogg's key role in shepherding (the pun is inevitable) Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine safely through its difficult birth in 1817. Its owner and publisher, William Blackwood, had wished to found a Tory periodical that would stand as a rival to the Whig-directed Edinburgh Review, but the first issue of his new venture proved unpopular with the public, and the pair of editors Blackwood originally engaged proved not to share his zealous Toryism (Schoenfield, British Periodicals 217-18). After intensifying disputes with Blackwood, these editors jumped ship in favor of a Whig publication and Blackwood hired in their places John Wilson and John Gibson Lockhart, talented if arrogant and choleric literary figures under whose leadership the magazine would eventually enjoy immense cultural influence. Hogg wrote a satirical sketch à clef about the contentious change of editorial personnel entitled "Translation of an Ancient Chaldee Manuscript" which, though it involved the infant magazine in several lawsuits, got it off to a magnificent start in terms of circulation numbers. During the first years of Blackwood's publication, Hogg's works continued to be welcomed onto its pages or, if published elsewhere, to be hailed by its reviewers. Eventually, however, the magazine's bourgeoning national success seems to have led Wilson and Lockhart to conclude that "the Ettrick Shepherd's" (19-20) productions were now too parochial and crude to merit either admission to or admiration from an organ dedicated to refining and policing Britain's literary taste, and Hogg began to feel himself being frozen out of the magazine's charmed inner circle (see also Parker 19-20). Wilson had for several years been urging Hogg to limit his submissions to articles that squared with the former's condescending view of the latter as an unpolished rustic (Richardson, "Introduction" xxviii, xxxvii) and apparently became increasingly vexed when it became clear that Hogg did not intend to circumscribe his literary output in this fashion.1 Wilson, intent upon deflating his friend's highbrow pretentions, published in 1821 a scathingly vicious review of Hogg's revised autobiography, containing attacks that were quite personal in nature and that left Hogg shaken by the betrayal. Then, beginning with the March issue of 1822, a new feature appeared in Blackwood's entitled "Noctes Ambrosianae," which featured "Christopher North," the fictionalized editor of the magazine, ensconced for long evenings at a tavern while engaging in invented dialogue concerning literature and politics with a regular cast of thinly disguised Edinburgh personalities, one of whom was designated "The Shepherd" and clearly intended to be taken for Hogg. The "Noctes" were written by a variety of hands-Wilson's predominantly- while Hogg himself was only permitted to contribute the occasional song, even as "The Shepherd" continued to be "sentimentalized, mocked, and given bravura passages of Scots" (Hughes 183) in the "Noctes" until Hogg's death in 1835. The real-life author's attitude toward this parodying of himself, over which he could exercise no control, was painfully ambivalent (Garside "Introduction" lxvii; Richardson, "Buying" 193, "Introduction" liv, lviii, lxix). On the one hand the "Noctes" kept his name continually before the reading public and increased his national profile, while on the other hand it calcified in the public mind a version of himself that was significantly cruder and less cerebral than the breathing original. Thus, continued fame came only at the price of lasting reputational disfigurement. As he complained in a later version of his autobiography, "That magazine of [Blackwood's], which owes its rise principally to myself, has often put words and sentiments into my mouth of which I have been greatly ashamed, and which have given much pain to my family and relations, and many of those after a solemn written promise that such freedoms should not be repeated" (Hogg, Author's Life 59).
Thus, when commentators point to passages from Justified Sinner in which Robert Wringhim laments that he is plagued by a spirit who usurps his own shape and goes about the countryside committing crimes of which he himself is both innocent and ignorant, it is easy enough to accept their assertions that these episodes represent Hogg's complaint against his serial misrepresentation in the "Noctes" (see, for instance Carey xvi-xix). Hogg, in finding himself both celebrated as, and distorted by, The Shepherd of the "Noctes," must have felt like a man who had entered into a devil's bargain with no recollection of signing away his soul-a state of affairs that precisely describes Robert's situation once the unpalatable consequences of his initially exhilarating relationship with Gil-Martin begin coming to the fore.
Although such biographical interpretations of Robert and Gil-Martin's dealings are quite convincing, they tend to paint Hogg as a man primarily responding through his fiction to a personal injury-as someone whose main critique of the literary culture he inhabited was that some treacherous friends within it had done him wrong, or at the very least badly misunderstood him. Also, they tend to exclude from their biographical allegory a central concern that Robert and Gil-Martin share: the doctrines of Antinomianism. For while the grand sweep of Hogg's oeuvre makes it unnecessary to ask why he reached back over a hundred years to grasp hold of his main subject (his various works being set in a wide range of past historical eras), it is worth asking whether there was anything in his relationship with Blackwood's that made that particular bygone religious movement especially resonant for him.2 There have been claims made that he was in part reacting to a contemporary revival of Calvinist enthusiasm, but as both Crawford Gribben (9-26) and Peter Garside ("Introduction" xxvii-xxx) have forcefully shown, mainstream Calvinism was not synonymous with Antinomianism, and few people were better situated to know the difference between the two than Hogg. Rather, it seems to me that what Hogg may well be talking about when he talks about Antinomianism is the extreme and belligerently partisan nature of the new model magazines-like Blackwood's, The Edinburgh Review, The Quarterly Review, and The London Magazine-which he assiduously read and to some of which he contributed material. According to this view, Antinomianism is at the heart of Justified Sinner because that doctrine's desire to organize reality and motivate conduct entirely in terms of the unbridgeable gap between the elect and the reprobate chimed in with Hogg's dismay over Blackwood's and its rival magazines' compulsion to divide all literary works they reviewed into either Tory productions or Whig/Radical productions, and to laud or damn them accordingly.3 In what follows, I will first consider Hogg's use of Antinomianism to attack the vituperative tone of negative reviews in contemporary periodicals, and then take up his related criticism of the equally ubiquitous puffing assessments he found there.
The extent to which Hogg was frequently-though importantly, not always-the odd man out amidst the red-hot partisans who controlled the Romantic literary periodicals is easily documented. When he instituted his own magazine, The Spy, in 1810, he consciously modeled it upon the general interest reviews of the previous century, specifically The Spectator and The Rambler-which is to say, his organizing principle was not partisan puffage- and solicited contributions from all colors of the Scottish political spectrum (Hughes 98). Blackwood's and its main competitors, however, were conceived and carried on in a far different spirit. Kim Wheatley has aptly labeled the "rhetoric of moral outrage" found in these publications-where "Whig and Tory reviewers characterize their adversaries as Satanic rebels against orthodoxy" ("Paranoid Politics" 320)-as "the paranoid style" and notes that it "is not peculiar to Blackwood's; rather, it is the most characteristic feature of the major reviewing periodicals in post-Napoleonic England" (320). She goes on to affirm that these fervid screeds appear "at once persecutory and defensive, polarizing reality into self and other, good and evil" (333) and that such reviewers can rightly be termed "paranoid readers" because "for them, there is no moment when there is not something crucial at stake. They always find what they expect to find yet when they find it they react with outrage" (337). Furthermore, although "the reviewers resort to such uncompromising terms that they almost demand to be refuted," their "air of conviction is intensified rather than diminished by the instability of their rhetoric" for "the paranoid style is not undermined by its contradictions, it is sustained by them" (338). As a fair example of such superheated fare, she directs us to Lockhart's own infamous series of reviews, "The Cockney School of Poetry" in which Hogg's erstwhile companion excoriates Leigh Hunt for his poem The Story of Rimini by drawing readers' attention to "the leprous crust of self-conceit with which his whole moral being is indurated," as well as the "loathsome vulgarity which constantly clings to him like a vermined garment," and "the odious and unnatural harlotry of his polluted muse" (Z [John Gibson Lockhart] 453.) It is not an exaggeration to say that the literary judgments of reviewers such as Blackwood's Lockhart and the Quarterly's Croker-the latter famous for reputedly "killing" Keats-were wholly determined by their perception of the politics espoused by the figure they were reviewing.
There is ample evidence that Hogg, though himself a Tory, often failed to match the standard of doctrinaire adherence to, and vituperative promulgation of, conservative principles set by the editors of Blackwood's. As early as his editorship of The Spy he decried the fact that Scotland's "literary taste" was "ruled by a very few, who are formed into two parties," and that "unless you can get enlisted into one or other of these corps, you cannot so much as get a chance of appearing in public" (Hogg, Spy 121). In like spirit, though he was the original author of the "Chaldee Manuscript" that made Blackwood's launching such a succes de scandale, the version he actually submitted to William Blackwood was expanded without his consent by Wilson and Lockhart, who "interlarded" it with many sharply partisan attacks-so much "deevilry" [sic] in Hogg's opinion (Author's Life 43). Still, even after the publication of this hijacked and envenomed "Manuscript," Hogg managed to remain friends with some of the Whigs satirized in it. William Blackwood, meanwhile, marked out a different path, "tacitly encourag[ing] his contributors to continue Lockhart's ad hominem style by establishing a regular fund of payments in future libel and slander suits" (Fang 80). In the following years, one gets the distinct impression that Hogg would have liked to have steered clear of the great magazines' political warfare altogether but that this proved impossible. For instance, in 1818 one of Hogg's friends began publishing a string of articles on the "Life and Writings of James Hogg" in the Edinburgh Magazine, only to have its Whig editor cancel the series on the grounds that Hogg was a known associate of the Blackwood's cabal (Hughes 149-50). Then, two years later, when it came out that Wilson and Lockhart had signed Hogg's name to articles he had never written (or even seen), a pair of Whig organs-the Scotsman and the London Magazine-took up his cause, not out of love for Hogg but as an excuse to castigate Blackwood's: "His name is taken as a cover for malignity of which he is incapable....In the black catalogue of offenses committed by this worthless gang against decency and principle, there is perhaps nothing so atrocious as their conduct to Mr. Hogg" (Anonymous 367). That same year the author complained to William Blackwood that "it is confoundedly hard that I should be made a tennis ball between contending parties" (Hogg, "MS"). (See Gillian, "Introduction" xxxviii.) Once Hogg's lack of partisan zeal is scrutinized, the attacks by his supposed friends at the organ he helped launch become less mysterious, for Lockhart and Wilson created a periodical that "specialized in a paranoid hysteria often associated with reactionary conservatism" (Fang 70). What might seem to remain mysterious-but what will be explained in due course-is why Hogg, toward the end of his life, was allowed to explain his temperamental unfitness for the Romantic-era culture wars in the very pages of Blackwood's itself:
I'm a Tory, and have been one since ever I can mind, which is now nearly three quarters of a century, but why or wherefore I should have been one is really more than I can tell you. People's principles seem to be born with them, for God knows, I never had any interest in being a Tory. But, in these letters, I shall let you see that I am neither Whig, Tory, Radical, nor Destructionist, but merely a sincere lover of his country, and an admirer of his countrymen, with all their ridiculous extravagancies. ("Screed" 634)
As we shall eventually see, if Hogg was proud of his moderation, he was also fitfully ashamed of his lapses into partisan furor, and he apparently took note of similar patterns of indulgence and regret among his more ideologically vehement colleagues at Blackwood's and elsewhere.
In searching for Hogg's metaphorical critique of such hyper-partisanship within Justified Sinner, we should note that in his (historically accurate) portrait of Antinomianism, he asserts that the sect latches with frantic anxiety onto two pillars of orthodox Calvinism-justification by faith alone and unconditional predestination-only to then invent one heterodox tenet of its own: the belief that the elect are, by means of their justified faith, exempt from the moral law and that all their actions by definition meet with heavenly favor. In other words, once a person is in receipt of God's effective grace, the moral law can neither bind him nor instruct him, since his faith alone assures his continued righteousness in God's eyes. This means that even were a sanctified individual to steal, rape, or kill, under the Antinomian purview (the word means "against the law") that act could not count as sin, since the elect have transcended that ethical category altogether and forever. Thus, Gil-Martin goes further than insisting that Mr. Blanchard must be "cut...off" because he is one of the "upholders of pure morality and a blameless life" (98)-i.e., because he affirms that good works form part of the recipe for salvation, or are at least the inevitable accompaniment of the reception of Grace. And, he justifies the murder of the cleric by recourse to more than the "pre-ordination of all things that come to pass." Above and beyond these doctrines, what Gil-Martin "strove most to inculcate on [Robert's] mind, were the infallibility of the elect" (86-87). It is clearly this specifically Antinomian notion that is of most interest to Hogg and thus to Gil-Martin, for when Robert sheepishly admits to his companion that he "did not think the Scripture promises to the elect, taken in their utmost latitude, warranted the assurance that they could do no wrong," he is instantly rebuked. Indeed, "there was no religious scruple that irritated my enlightened friend and master so much as this. He could not endure it....He lost all patience on hearing what I advanced" (117). For our purposes, what is striking is how effectively the moral chasm that Antinomianism opens between sinner and saint, when translated into a secular key, functions as the vehicle for Hogg's diagnosis of the great magazines' tendency to see all literature through partisan lenses and to respond to perceived literary "enemies" with spite and calumny. After all, according to men like Lockhart, Wilson, and Blackwood, the literary scene was irrevocably divided into populations of the reprobate and the elect; it was ideological conviction alone that determined which of the two groups any particular individual belonged to, and, to judge from the content of the reviews they wrote or published, no act of vituperation, slander, or ad hominem extremity in the defense of one's political cause was to be accounted a sin. As Wheatley demonstrates, the reviewers exempted themselves from the rules of civilized discourse by invoking the supposedly apocalyptic nature of what was at stake. Thus according to Robert Southey (writing of William Cobbett in The Quarterly Review), his political opponents are "poisoning the minds of the people" through their writings to such a degree that "the very existence of social order itself is involved" (Wheatley, "Paranoid Politics" 326-27). No wonder, then, that enemies were, as Gil-Martin insists, to be "cut off" rather than parlayed with, though print was still to be employed as the vehicle of retributive wrath.
In taking on the paranoid genre of negative reviews, Hogg employs his Antinomian metaphor in two distinct ways, suggesting firstly how the proliferation of an Antinomian political mindset debases the culture's tradition of reasoned public discourse, and secondly how it degrades and even deranges the intellect of the partisan warrior himself. As to the former notion, we can begin by pointing out that Robert Wringhim's father, the Reverend Wringhim, is himself depicted as being a stalwart cultural Janissary in the mold of Lockhart, for we are told that he is employed by the Whig grandees in "blowing the coal of revolutionary principles with all his might," and that he does so with such conviction that "no opposition could for a moment cause him either to blush, or retract one item that he had advanced." Moreover, in such contests "he spared no acrimony, and delighted in the chagrin and anger of those with whom he contended"(16). Finally, this soldier in the partisan trenches can always distinguish a friend from a foe, since Robert reports that his father "knew the elect as it were by instinct, and could have told you of all those in his own, and some neighboring parishes, who were born within the boundaries of the covenant of promise, and who were not" (70). The elder Wringhim's intentions for the person whom we are invited to believe is his biological son are clear enough, since Robert himself tells us that his parent "directed [his] studies aright, both in the learning of the ancient fathers, and the doctrines of the reformed church, and designed [him] for his assistant and successor in the holy office" (67-68). Indeed, the promising temperamental affinity between the older and younger Wringhims is attested to by their household servant John Barnet, who, upon accusing the son of mouthing "sublime and ridiculous sophistry," goes on to assert that he "ne'er...saw a son sae like a dad" (70), an observation that quickly leads to his sacking. Rev. Wringhim's intention that his son will follow him and become an active spokesman for the cause of "purified" Christianity and its associated political faction is reiterated when-following his blasphemously victorious wrestling-match with God over the question of young Robert's election-he lays benedictory hands upon his acolyte and asks the Lord, among other sanguinary requests, that Robert become "a spear coming out of Thy mouth" (84).
However, in this novel where patrimony so often seems to make the man, here the son will spurn the father's footsteps. What short-circuits the elder Wringhim's plans for his boy is the fact that between the announcement of his election and this supposed induction into the evangelistic cause, Robert experiences his initial meeting with Gil-Martin. This mysterious stranger, whose brimstone aroma the reader (but not Robert) immediately senses, introduces himself as an ideological comrade of the young man: "I am indeed your brother, not according to the flesh, but in my belief of the same truths, and my assurance in the same mode of redemption" (80-81). This would presumably make Gil-Martin the elder Wringhim's exact co-religionist as well, and in fact the Reverend soon approves of Robert's new acquaintance after being assured by his son that Gil-Martin "adhere[s] to the religious principles"-"every one of them" (84)-that the Reverend himself has sought to inculcate. However, Robert's report to his father is not entirely accurate, for he admits to his readers that even during their first encounter Gil-Martin pushed the implications of certain doctrines further than Wringhim the elder would likely have approved:
I asked if he believed in the eternal and irrevocable decrees of God, regarding the salvation and condemnation of all mankind? He answered that he did so: aye, what would signify all things else that he believed, if he did not believe in that? We then went on to commune about all our points of belief; and in every thing that I suggested, he acquiesced, and, as I thought that day, often carried them to extremes, so that I had a secret dread he was advancing blasphemies. (81)
Robert, despite his initial fears, is "astonished at [Gil-Martin's] acuteness and knowledge about every thing" and "greatly interested by his conversation" and thus returns home with increased certitude in the doctrines of absolute, unconditional predestination and in "the impossibility of those ever falling away, who were once accepted and received into covenant with God" (81-82). Ironically, though, the effect of this increased conviction about a great gulf being always already fixed between the saints and the reprobates is to suddenly evacuate whatever incipient preaching vocation Robert ever possessed:
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 for ever 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 induce them 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. (84-85)
No wonder, then, that his parents' first reaction to Robert upon his return from the initial meeting with Gil-Martin is to declare their son "quite changed" and to fear that "Satan...has been busy" with him (83). The fact is that Robert will not be carrying on the family business-not because his belief has slackened but because his new acquaintance has succeeded in ratcheting it up a notch or two.
No wonder, then, that his parents' first reaction to Robert upon his return from the initial meeting with Gil-Martin is to declare their son "quite changed" and to fear that "Satan...has been busy" with him (83). The fact is that Robert will not be carrying on the family business-not because his belief has slackened but because his new acquaintance has succeeded in ratcheting it up a notch or two. troubling and misleading them" (92, 94). So effective is Gil-Martin's logic that although the blitheness of his initial suggestion-"Let us go and cut him off" (94)-at first gives Robert some pause, and although the Sinner's scruples against "becoming an assassin in the cause of Christ and his Church" (96) continue to intermittently trouble him, it is not long before he is employing the same casual diction in regards even to the murder of his own brother, asking his mentor if the best plan might not be to "pop him off in private" (114). It is clarifying to also consider in this regard one of the novel's most vividly memorable episodes-Robert's pair of disruptive appearances at his brother George's tennis games-for it too is part of the Sinner's refusal to expend persuasive efforts on the reprobate. What makes the scenes eerie and effective is, after all, Robert's refusal to preach anything resembling a sermon as he exposes himself to the balls, racquets, and elbows of the Jacobite sportsmen, and his choice to stand instead as a kind of mute basilisk in their midst. Despite being bloodied during the first match he interrupts, almost his sole utterance is the repeated parroting back of one of the player's own inadvertent cries, "That's a d___ fine blow, George!" (17). This sinister echoing is not an attempt to "reach" George and his friends (he is already determined to kill his brother) but rather a crowing, confirmatory curse elucidating their already irreparable spiritual abandonment, a verbal act that is illocutionary rather than hortatory.
By depicting the simultaneity of Robert's surpassing of his father in Antinomian zeal and his abandonment of the preacher's communicative vocation, the implication becomes that extreme partisanship results in a collapse of effective, purposeful rhetoric, for the extreme partisan ceases to believe he still possesses an audience worthy of his efforts-"fit audience though few" suddenly becomes no fit audience at all. Thus, whereas certitude is conventionally seen as the very ground and prompt of rhetoric, Hogg insists that under certain extreme conditions the former becomes highly corrosive of the latter. As he apparently perceived it, those conditions already prevailed within the editorial offices of the Romantic literary periodicals, and accordingly the discourse they were producing in their review-articles had ceased to function as an enterprise of persuasion-had long abandoned as its object the swaying of hearts and minds. A similar sentiment can be detected in the pronouncements of several contemporary observers who complained that reviews ostensibly concerned with literary merit had in fact come to be about other, extra-literary matters. Hazlett, for instance, addressing the editors of the Quarterly Review, complains (with notable intemperance himself) that
when you say that an author cannot write common sense of English you mean that he does not believe in the doctrine of divine rights....The dingy cover that wraps the pages of the Quarterly Review does not contain a concentrated essence of taste and knowledge, but is a receptacle for the scum and sediment of all the prejudice, bigotry, ill-will, ignorance, and rancour afloat in the kingdom. (9:14)
In a similar lament over hopelessly poisoned wells, Peacock asserts that "if periodical criticism were honestly and conscientiously conducted, it might be a question how far it has been beneficial or injurious to literature: but being, as it is, merely a fraudulent and exclusive tool of party and partiality, that it is highly detrimental to it none but a trading critic will deny" (272). Clearly there was a feeling abroad that it was simply no use turning to the reviews and quarterlies for informed and helpful opinion on the subject of contemporary literature.
But Hogg further insists that the partisan reviewers are not only despoilers of the cultural landscape, but self-mutilators as well, for Robert's sufferings at the hands of Gil-Martin can be seen not merely as a lament for Hogg's own wrongs at the hands of Wilson and Lockhart but as a diagnosis of what may befall those-such as Hogg's pair of friends-who themselves become addicted to the intoxicating fumes of hyper-partisan histrionics. According to Hogg, those who resort to rhetorical (or more accurately, post-rhetorical) violence may have been lured into doing so by a supremely tempting psychological pleasure-the illusion of power and invulnerability. At any rate this is precisely what Gil-Martin dangles before Robert if he will only quash his lingering doubts about the inerrancy of the elect: "I give you my solemn assurance, and bond of blood, that no human hand shall ever henceforth be able to injure your life, or shed one drop of your precious blood, but it is on the condition that you walk always by my directions" (114). Moreover, there is a particular phrase employed by Gil-Martin in his role as tempter that conjoins Justified Sinner with Hogg's ambivalent relationship with the literary reviews. As Garside points out in the apparatus to his edition of the novel (235-36, n. 102[a]), Hogg, employing a term from diabolism, once referred in correspondence to Wilson and Lockhart as the "master spirits" of Blackwood's, and it is just such a powerful being that Gil-Martin suggests Robert can become if he conquers his scruples about killing: "Thou art called to a high vocation; to cleanse the sanctuary of thy God in this thy native land by the shedding of blood; go thou forth then like a ruling energy, a master spirit of desolation in the dwellings of the wicked, and high shall be your reward both here and hereafter"(102). Hogg must have realized that vituperative rhetoric and one's sense of vocation could become mutually reinforcing, and Wheatley certainly draws attention to the "megalomaniac" seductions of the paranoid style ("Paranoid Politics" 321-22). But if vehemence has its pleasures, Hogg's close acquaintance with the "master sprits" also apparently led him to believe that it promoted sin and coarsened the intellect. Robert, in what is perhaps his most lucid moment, weighs his works according to "the Saviour's golden rule" only to find them sadly wanting, and it is on this same occasion that he proclaims his tempter a "great mind led astray by enthusiasm, or some overpowering passion" (140).
This mental coarsening is neither superficial nor evanescent. It is Wheatley's contention that "although a writer may self-consciously exploit paranoid rhetoric, he is forced by it into believing what he says, because this rhetoric blurs the distinction between genuine and factitious moral outrage" ("Paranoid Politics" 338). Was Hogg attempting to express something like this-a fear that employing the violent rhetoric demanded by the reviewing periodicals could overwhelm one's real opinions and extinguish one's authentic voice? If we entertain such a notion, then one of the more puzzling episodes in the novel becomes comprehensible in a new light. During Robert's stalking campaign against George, he is "seized with a strange distemper" in which he "generally conceived [him]self to be two people"-a condition that, if that was all there was to it, could simply be accounted for by Gil-Martin's proficiency as a mimic. But then comes this odd addendum: "the most perverse part of it was, that I rarely conceived myself to be any of the two persons. I thought for the most part that my companion was one of them, and my brother the other" (106). Robert's vision of being two diametrical beings-the arch-Antinomian and the Jacobite reveler-but not his true self in either case, might well spring from Hogg's working through of another consequence of engaging in prolonged partisan invective. The peril is that the exhilarating masquerade as either a strident Whig or a strident Tory comes only at the price of self-alienation, a kind of monstrous "possession" one invites in ignorance of its long-term costs. Perhaps when Hogg depicts Robert complaining that he is burdened with "a second self, who transacted business in [his] likeness" (125), he is not so much dramatizing his own plight as a fictionalized character in the "Noctes" as he is that of the grim culture warriors who wrote it.
Finally, it may be useful in this context to briefly mention the golden weaponry offered to Robert, which we can now read as a figure for the ultimately self-destructive powers that flow from resorting to a poisonous eloquence of aggression. Robert first catches sight of the armaments in an equivocal vision: "I looked again up into the cloudy veil that covered us, and thought I beheld golden weapons of every description let down in it, but all with their points towards me" (95). Despite this warning, Robert accepts a golden pistol from Gil-Martin, seduced by its purposeful economy, for he describes it as "so perfect, so complete, and so ready for executing the will of the donor" (96). However, aside from being the instrument of the innocent Blanchard's death, it offers the Sinner scant protection. Toward the end of his narrative Robert is twice beset by strange "noises and contention" (159) at his hideouts and is finally accosted by "hideous fiends, who gnashed on [him] with their teeth, and clenched their crimson paws in [his] face." When Gil- Martin snatches him away from this assault "with his gilded rapier waving and brandishing," Robert despairingly admits that he "would rather have fallen into their hands, than be thus led away captive by [his] defender" (161). Hogg, of course, was well aware that Blackwood's attacks did not go unanswered by the opposition journals and that thus every thrust given was the prelude to a wound received in return. In Justified Sinner, "golden" eloquence, when put to the service of invective, is merely the delusive gilt upon a two-edged sword that will always injure its wielder, a fact underscored by the fact that Robert is eventually persuaded to commit suicide by the same supposed ally who once egged him on to murder for the sake of a cause.
We know of at least one actual reviewer who eventually came to "despis[e] himself" after years of dealing out abuse to his fellow-writers in the pages of a supposedly high-minded literary review (Erickson 91). In 1836, a year after Hogg's death, George Darley, a regular contributor to the Athenaeum, declared: "I have to scribble every second day for means to prolong this detestable headachy life, to criticate [sic] and review, committing literary fratricide, which is an iron that enters into my soul, and doing what disgusts me, not only with the day, but the remaining one" (Abbott 150, qtd. in Erickson 91). Fratricide is, of course, the literal description of Robert Wringhim's signal crime, but Darley's confession is also evocative of the larger fear that haunts Robert even as he follows Gil-Martin's suggestions to progressively cast away his scruples against murder-that in "cutting off" fellow-Christians for their supposed heresies, he is actually doing violence against those who could and should be his spiritual brothers.
While the above should already suggest the surprising deftness of Antinomianism as a metaphorical cudgel against the paranoid style of denunciatory reviewing, its usefulness is further underscored when we turn our attention to the reviews' obverse vice of reflexively lauding the productions of their political allies and in-house writers, for this latter practice, no less than the former, serves to divide up the politico-cultural arena into disparate flocks of sheep and goats. As Nicholas Mason has pointed out in his exhaustive account of the practice of puffing and its discontents, Coleridge was inveighing against the practice as early as 1796: "So many and so varying are the writers employed by the proprietary Booksellers, that it is hardly possible for an author, whose literary acquaintance is even moderately large, to publish a work which shall not be flattered in some one of the reviews by a personal friend, or calumniated by an enemy" (15). As Mason goes on to relate, "so pervasive had insider reviewing become by the late 1820s that a number of poets, critics, and cultural commentators identified puffery as the principal cause of the collapse of the publishing industry and, more significantly, the recent demise of the literary arts in Britain" (Mason 2, 4). Certainly the public was defrauded by such practices, but that was not the only perceived victim, for those who received puffing reviews were also considered to be at risk of having their literary development perverted. (Indeed, part of what drew Blackwood's ire down on Keats was the premature and effusive praise he had already received from his "Cockney" friends.) In 1830, for instance, the Athenaeum complained that "ten thousand times more mischief is done by puffing and commendation than by all the weapons of ridicule that critic ever wielded. The slow ripening of genius-the indefatigable perseverance of learning, have no chance in this age" (qtd. in Mason 20-21, 25). Thus, to puff a young talent might well be to pervert or stifle the growth of a poet's mind.
It is just such pernicious puffery aimed at genuine but immature talent that Justified Sinner appears to concern itself with, for it is one of Hogg's grimmer jokes that Robert is brought to ruin largely through listening to glowing prognostications of his future from those who have a vested interest in his believing them. For instance, what could be a better figure for the false appearance of objectivity common to in-house puffs than the elder Wringhim's account of his arduous tussle with the Almighty:
my reverend father explained to me how he had wrestled with God, as the patriarch of old had done, not for a night, but for days and years, and that in bitterness and anguish of spirit, on my account; but that he had at last prevailed, and had now gained the long and earnestly desired assurance of my acceptance with the Almighty, in and through the merits and sufferings of his Son: That I was now a justified person, adopted among the number of God's children-my name written in the Lamb's book of life, and that no bypast transgression, nor any future act of my own, or of other men, could be instrumental in altering the decree. (79)
His other great flatterer is, of course, Gil-Martin, who, as we have seen, freely admits to his ideological affinity with the receiver of his praises, proclaiming himself Robert's "brother" due to his "belief of the same truths" (80-81). This tempter's inflation of the young man's already healthy sense of inborn genius begins forthwith: "Your state is a state to be envied indeed; but I have been advised of it, and am come to be a humble disciple of yours" (81). Of course Robert is disconcerted at Gil-Martin's bizarre ability to alter his face to mimic that of his interlocutor, but his new companion assures him it is only a technique by which to better discern the boy's remarkable intellectual parts: "By assuming your likeness yesterday, I became acquainted with your character, and was no less astonished at the profundity and range of your thoughts, than at the heroic magnanimity with which these were combined" (86). As the book progresses, however, this consanguinity and admiration turns gradually but steadily into appropriation and domination, until Gil-Martin's attestations of brotherhood ring sinister in Robert's ears: "Sooner shall you make the mother abandon the child of her bosom; nay, sooner cause the shadow to relinquish the substance, than separate me from your side. Our beings are amalgamated, as it were, and consociated in one, and never shall I depart from this country until I can carry you in triumph with me" (130). Thus does Robert's partisan puffer eventually usher him into a moral captivity that renders the Sinner feckless, irresolute, and despairing. If, as many readers have felt, there is a good measure of sympathy for young Wringhim detectible in Hogg's delineation of his tragedy, this may be because Robert is, among other things, a figure for youthful literary talent corrupted by a program of insincere flattery promulgated by those with larger agendas than paying homage to precociousness. At any rate, the fact that in these passages Robert appears to represent a poet dangerously coddled rather than, as he did above, a self-deranging reviewer, should be read as a gesture of comprehensiveness on Hogg's part rather than inconsistency. Hogg apparently perceived victims of the Blackwood's ethos wherever he turned-among Scotch reviewers, Cockney poets, and the wider audience that consumed the productions of both orders of men.
Turning now from Robert and Gil-Martin to the novel's fictional Editor, we find a character whom critics have long recognized as Hogg's vehicle for criticisms of the Blackwood's set that are wider and more weighty than any complaint about personal ill treatment in the "Noctes." Indeed, this selfconfident- or better, self-satisfied-man of letters has been seen as a figure whose various shortcomings reveal Hogg's exasperation over how little Edinburgh's Tory literary establishment-and the larger print culture that this elite represented-understood the fundamental realities of Scottish life (Kelly 272; Mack 71, 83; Richardson lxi; Schoenfield, "Butchering" 216-17). For instance, "Hogg's" own twin appearances during the course of the Editor's coda-first as the author of a letter to Blackwood's whose diction and subjectmatter convey education and a cultured detachment, and then shortly thereafter as a dialect-spouting shepherd preoccupied with bringing his "paulies" to market-has been taken to be Hogg's proud flaunting of his complete comfort within two divergent social worlds, and as intended by him to contrast with the typical magazine grandee's confinement to only one (Kelly 267). Furthermore, the Editor's class-bias against his rural guide (Groves 119), his callous pseudoscientific handling and description of Robert's corpse, and his contemptuous dismissal of the religious passions that shaped the folkways of the Scottish people (Garside, "Hogg's Confessions" 125, 129, "Introduction" liv.), have all been construed as Hogg's revenge against the majority of Edinburgh's elite for condescending to a culture they did not comprehend. Though I have no quarrel with these readings, I would like to scrutinize the Editor's sections of the text in order to reveal a continuation of Hogg's specific condemnation of the Antinomian ethos of the major reviews.
To begin with, this supposedly rationalistic Editor, who is perfectly capable of throwing out hasty moral judgments when it pleases him to do so, appears to be numbly inured to a state of incessant war between Whigs and Tories. In the course of his half-dozen pages describing the riot that breaks out as a result of Robert's arrest, his closest approach to an ethical commentary on the violence is a dry assertion that "the investigation disclosed nothing the effect of which was not ludicrous" (23). But this response is simply not adequate to a running battle in which a Whig drinking party is deluded into attacking a besieging Whig mob, whereupon a Tory drinking party comes to the aid of the liquored Whigs, who together put the Whig mob to flight, only to have it regroup and descend once again on the Whig and Tory drinkers, who now join forces without ever knowing they are fighting arm-in-arm with their enemies and that half of them are fighting a mob composed of their allies. This is anarchy, the war of each against all, and a tragicomic vision of a society crippled by partisan hatreds, which apparently strikes the Editor as pretty much de rigueur. Just as readers may not register that the Editor's jocular account of the old Laird rolling Rabina up in a blanket and carrying her to his bedroom is the depiction of a marital rape until we later hear Bell Calvert's darker take on the Laird (Carey xii, Mack 159-62), so the flat tone of the Editor in recounting the riot may lull us into missing Hogg's point that his bland acceptance of this violence is a measure of the extent to which he has ceased to register partisan warfare as something to be regretted. This acquired insensitivity is comically reiterated at the end of the Editor's main narrative when he introduces Robert's manuscript by declaring that "we have heard much of the rage of fanaticism in former days, but nothing to this" (64). The joke lies in those sanguinary aspects of the story he has just told that apparently do not strike the Editor as instances of "the rage of fanaticism."
The Editor's blithe division of historical eras into a past in which fanaticism raged and a present in which it presumably does not is again brought into question when, after so closely examining Robert's corpse, he remains oblivious to the stark message communicated by its appearance. Quoting "Hogg's" interpolated letter, the Editor informs us that upon originally being uncovered, the mummy "came up into a sitting posture, with a broad blue bonnet on its head, and its plaid around it, all as fresh as that day it was laid in." Indeed, the Sinner's "features were all so plain, that an acquaintance might easily have known him" (168). Once the Editor's own party commences digging, the corpse's shoes are discovered to be "as fresh as any of those we wore," and the cow dung inside them "firm, green, and fresh" (172). In sum, Robert Wringhim's nearly miraculous state of preservation and his ability to rise and greet his exhumers as comrades suggest that the fanatical social conflict the Editor assumes is long dead and safely buried in fact still walks the land as a phenomenon decidedly undead.
Finally, I believe that what many otherwise effective readings of the Editor's coda have overlooked is the striking resemblance of that figure's final words to the kind of review that Lockhart and his ilk were wont to pen about writers they perceived to be of the party opposite. Our Tory narrator knows he is holding the manuscript of an arch-Whig, and he believes it to be an imaginative work of literature. Thomas Love Peacock, complaining about the state of contemporary reviewing as a whole, alerts us to what kind of routinized trouncing we may now wearily anticipate:
A third [common jest] is that it is unintelligible, and that true no-meaning puzzles more than wit. A fourth, that the author is insane. It cannot be denied that this is super-excellent wit which can bear so much repetition without palling, for there is not any number of any review which does not contain them all at least once, and sometimes six or seven times. (278-90)
Our Editor fulfills Peacock's negative prediction to the letter, for after declaring that the manuscript was written by an incompetent-it "would have suited that age well had it been taken up by one fully qualified for the task, which this writer was not"-he duly claims that the narrative is incomprehensible:
With regard to the work itself, I dare not venture a judgment, for I do not understand it. I believe no person, man or woman, will ever peruse it with the same attention that I have done, and yet I confess that I do not comprehend the writer's drift....[B]ut...it will not go down, that a man should be daily tempted by the devil, in the semblance of a fellow-creature; and at length [be] lured to self destruction, in the hopes that this same fiend and tormentor was to suffer and fall along with him. (174-75)
Working himself into high dudgeon, the Editor now turns to a personal attack upon the character of the writer that is replete with damning superlatives, claiming that "we must either conceive him not only the greatest fool, but the greatest wretch, on whom was ever stamped the form of humanity." The review culminates, as Peacock foresaw, with a charge of mental derangement:
that he was a religious maniac, who wrote and wrote about a deluded creature, till he arrived at that height of madness, that he believed himself the very object whom he had been all along describing. And in order to escape from an ideal tormentor, committed that act for which, according to the tenets he embraced, there was no remission, and which consigned his memory and his name to everlasting detestation. (175)
The fact that this is one interpretation of Robert's narrative that the reader knows to be simply wrong is itself a comment on the reliability of reviews written under the baleful influence of partisan paranoia. Hogg, choosing to end his own novel with the kind of review he himself could have reasonably looked forward to receiving from one of the literary magazines, adds a bold final stroke to his critique of the political Antinomianism that pervaded the elite periodicals that so recklessly either puffed or denounced the literature produced by his fellow poets and novelists.
But if dividing up the literary-political landscape into radically dichotomous realms of the saved and the reprobate was an occupational hazard for literary critics of the Romantic-era, Hogg knew it was an ethical temptation to which he himself had more than once succumbed. Witness a letter he wrote in 1818 to the editor of The Scotsman, thanking him for an unexpectedly even-handed review of The Brownie of Bodsbeck:
I have the honour to owe the first bold and strenuous attest[a]tion in my favour to one, even to whose name I am an utter stranger and whom I have been regularly accusing every week of being a capricious and teasing devil....I have reason to be proud of [my writings] for had you not thought well of the work I mistake you much if it would have been easy to have wrung such an attestation from you. (Letters 351)
Nor was Hogg entirely above participating in the physical confrontations that occasionally sprang up from ongoing battles in print, such as when he appeared as an accessory to William Blackwood's retaliatory birching of John Douglass, editor of the Glasgow Chronicle, who had earlier horsewhipped Blackwood. But here too, the pattern is one of aggression followed by retreat, for when Hogg somehow went from second to principal in the affair and was himself challenged to combat, he retired to his home in Altrive and avoided Edinburgh for months (Miller 176-77).
Significantly, this pattern of a surrender to the pleasures of literarypolitical Antinomianism followed by declarations of reformation and then, inevitably, a backslide into invigorating wrath once more is also evident among the implacables of Blackwood's. In 1821, for instance, Hogg attempted to interest the eponymous editor in a work similar in tone to the "Chaldee Manuscript," only to be told by Blackwood that his publication had by now put away such childish things: "the Magazine is now too serious a concern to be trifled with. It has got quite above attacks and malignities, and I shall take good care never again to give them any handle for saying that they were entitled to speak of it as they once did" (Parker 110). Indeed, just two months earlier, a seemingly repentant William Maginn, another of Blackwood's ultra- Tory regulars, lamented to his employer that he had "just this moment heard of poor Keats's death. We are unlucky in our butts." And yet, if one were inclined to interpret such pronouncements as heralding a general mellowing of the magazine's editorial attitude, the April issue would make one think again, for it gleefully reports of a (fictionalized) literary gathering that "Gruff-looking Z is there, wet with the blood of the Cockneys" (Miller 181-82). Lockhart/Z himself was generally thought to have mellowed under the dual influences of a growing national reputation and the admonitions of his cautious father-inlaw, Walter Scott, and that it was this change in temperament that eventually qualified him for promotion to the editorship of the Quarterly Review. And yet once ensconced there, we find him urging that journal's most infamous literary bravo, John Wilson Croker, to keep to the warpath: "I hope you will murder some other Tennyson" (qtd. in Shattock 47, 63).
Such cycles of sin repented and sin renewed simply underscore one final and overarching way in which Hogg's Antinomian theme serves him as a tool for diagnosing the ills of Romantic-era magazine culture. I would argue that the occasional milder resolutions of Hogg and his associates concerning how their business of reviewing should be conducted stand in roughly the same relationship with their all-too-frequent practice of puffing and paranoid denunciation as does orthodox Calvinism to Antinomianism, since what separates the latter religious stance from the former is precisely the atrophy of the primary Christian virtues of charity and humility. The historical record suggests that the Antinomian mindset exists as a kind of perennial temptation confronting the sincere Protestant which has, at certain cultural moments (the Münster Kingdom, Scotland in the era of Union) lured believers to its banner by offering them an intoxicating combination of freedom, potency, surety, righteousness, and belonging. The implicit argument of Hogg's Antinomian metaphor within Justified Sinner is that at the author's own historical moment, the psychological rewards of choosing to imagine the literary-political landscape in the starkly contrasting Antinomian palate of midnight black vs. heavenly white are not only present, but-because of the new realities of mass-circulation periodicals-especially alluring. After all, few people read William Blackwood's magazine until the "Chaldee Manuscript" (amped up by Wilson and Z) appeared in its pages; vicious reviews summoned vituperative rejoinders and drew ever more numerous titillated readers; notoriety so easily metamorphosed into renown-and, most satisfyingly-cultural authority; puffing reaffirmed one's place at the table of the blessed. Not that Hogg's use of the Antinomian allegory enjoins him to declare that literary reviewing should impotently blunt its critical edge and meekly turn the other cheek. Orthodox Calvinism is, considered against other streams of Christianity active in Hogg's Edinburgh milieu, intellectually rigorous, highly skeptical of the merits of human achievement, and unapologetic about limiting the number of the saved. For Hogg, it was the best version of Christianity and could be held up as an implicit model of a proper balance between asperity and generosity that could best further the literary culture of Great Britain. If, then, Justified Sinner winds up proclaiming something so straightforward as the need for periodical reviewing to be regulated by the practice of traditional Christian virtues, it nevertheless affords us a sharp insight into the intersection of psychological, ideological, and historical pressures amidst which Romantic-era literary journalists sought to delimit the duties and permissible satisfactions of their emergent vocation. In doing so, Hogg's novel-not despite but because of its supposedly antiquarian focus-stands as one of his most suggestive portraits of Scotland's complex encounter with, and assimilation of, the advent of modernity.
1 According to Richardson (xxxviii), among Wilson's suggested titles for Hogg were "The Praise of Whisky" and "The Lament of an old Heath-Cock."
2 One can presume that Hogg chose to set his novel during the era of the Union since at that historical moment the divisions between Whig and Tory, which still defined the periodical culture in which he lived, could be legitimately overlaid upon the surviving Antinomianism he required to fuel his metaphor.
3 Wheatley ("Blackwood's Attacks") links The Confessions to the reviewing practices of John Gibson Lockhart in Blackwood's, but her argument is confined to one particular rhetorical strategy on Lockhart's part and not to the overall tone of reviewers like Lockhart. Nor does she focus on Antinomianism. Instead, she suggests that Hogg is taking Lockhart to task for importing aspects of the Gothic novel into his literary journalism.
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