Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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James Hogg (1770-1835)



Scottish poet and novelist, born on a farm near Ettrick Forest in Selkirk. Hogg had little education, and became a shepherd living in poverty, hence his later nickname, the 'Ettrick Shepherd'. Hogg helped Sir Walter Scott with the publication of The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-3). In his autobiography Hogg says that 'The enthusiasm with which [Scott] recited, and spoke of our ancient ballads, during that first tour of his through the forest, inspired me with a determination immediately to begin and imitate them, which I did, and soon grew tolerably good at it. I dedicated "The Mountain Bard" to him.' ["Autobiography", The Works of the Ettrick Shepherd (Centenary Edition) with a Memoir of the Author by the Rev. Thomas Thomson (London, 1876) 463] The Mountain Bard was published in 1807, and became a best-seller, containing "Sir David Graeme" and other well-known literary ballads.

Thomas Thomson, in his memoir, emphasizes the mother's influence upon the poet:

[T]he education of his boyhood had been chiefly oral; it was from a mother's voice rather than from books and schoolmasters, that he had derived what he knew, and laid the foundation of his subsequent progress and acquirements. She had stored his early memory with the rude, but vitally poetic and inspiring ballads of the Border, which were still fresh in his heart, and with the indelible character of those first impressions out of which the future man is moulded; so that, when his attempts in poetry commenced, they not only communicated the impulse, but served as guides and exemplars. (Works of Ettrick Shepherd xiv-xv)

Hogg was a happy poet with mother-to-child transmission of the ballad heritage, and was loved by many literary figures, including William Wordsworth, who wrote a poem, "Extempore Effusion upon the Death of James Hogg" (1835). (M. Y.)

1. The Death of Douglas
2. Earl Walter
3. The Fray of Elibank
4. Gilmanscleuch
5. The Gude Greye Katt
6. Jock Johnstone the Tinkler
7. The Laird of Lairistan
8. The Liddel Bower
9. Lord Derwent
10. Lyttil Pynkie
11. The Mermaid
12. Mess John
13. The Pedlar
14. Sir David Graeme
15.The Witch of Fife