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Letter from the Editor
In every issue of Books & Culture there are connections between and among articles, some of them intentional, many occurring by what we call chance. The contiguity, for instance, of Alan Jacobs on Adam Roberts' edition of Coleridge's Biographia Literaria and Philip Jenkins on James Hogg's curious masterpiece The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner may nudge us to think about Hogg and Coleridge at the same time—maybe for the first time, even though they were contemporaries. (Hogg was born two years before Coleridge and died two years after him.) And while we are still mulling over that odd couple, our eye may be caught by Martyn Wendell Jones on Shirley Jackson, she of The Haunting of Hill House (who dabbled in witchcraft, it seems, in rebellion against the complacent materialism fashionable in mid-20th-century intellectual circles), and Vincent LaValle on a collection of classic horror tales. These make good company for thinking about Hogg's dizzying novel, which—as Jenkins observes—sheds a disturbing light on "a deep and toxic fascination with evil and the Satanic" in Scottish religious life.
You may be inspired by Jenkins' piece to pick up a copy of the Confessions. There's also a splendidly idiosyncratic biography, Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg, by Karl Miller, published by Faber & Faber in 2003. Miller (who founded The London Review and edited that magazine for many years) departs from the conventional biographical narrative, though he gives us a vivid sense of the man and the arc of his life:
Hogg was a poet and a peasant, a poor man who was also a personality, a star. A devotee of both war and peace, of animals and of their destruction, of truth and lies, openness and disguise, of reason and imagination, simplicity and sophistication, chastity and license. Both a Tory and a Whig, a Cavalier and a Covenanter, a Jacobite and a Hanoverian.
If you are particularly ...