Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Confessions of a Justified Sinner


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Written in 1824, James Hogg’s masterpiece is a brilliant portrayal of the power of evil. Set in early eighteenth-century Scotland, the novel recounts the corruption of a boy of strict Calvinist upbringing by a mysterious stranger under whose influence he commits a series of murders. The reader, while recognising the stranger as the Devil, 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 imagination. This is the only complete edition of Hogg’sConfessions, since it was first published. All subsequent editions, until now, have altered the text or omitted both the engraved Frontispiece and the (fictional) Dedication. In his notes to the Canongate edition, David Groves discusses the significance of both, in terms of the novels structures and ironies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780862413408
Publisher: Birlinn, Limited
Publication date: 01/28/2001
Series: Classics Series
Pages: 218
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

James Hogg(1770-1835) was born in the Ettrick Forest near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. He left school for farm work at the age of seven and became a shepherd in his teens. Steeped in the oral tradition and encouraged by his employers, he determined to be a poet like Burns, and in 1810 he went to Edinburgh to seek a literary career. Success finally came withThe Queen’s Wake(1813). Hogg’s first three novels drew on the folk tradition, yet had elements that were never fully understood or appreciated by his audience in Edinburgh, andConfessionsmade little impact when it first appeared. He continued, however, to publish poetry, and even more prolifically, prose.

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Confessions of a Justified Sinner 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
veilofisis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Something that has affected one as profoundly as this novel has affected me is difficult to do justice to in a brief review; but it is harder to do it justice in a longer format, so this will have to serve as a short, scattered, and unworthy paean to a novel of such sinister and cosmic power, that my fingers literally tremble when it comes up for discussion. (I will avoid even hinting at the plot itself, however, as the less you know going into this, the better.)The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a dreamy, poisonous, utterly enthralling portrait of the latent (and perhaps extant, perhaps non-extant) evils of a world seeking the favors of God. But it is also a testament to the power of faith, for good or ill, and its pages do not drip solely with venom, but also with ambivalence: such heady themes leave a great deal open to interpretation, and like all of the best polemics, Justified Sinner leaves a great deal of its 'conclusions' open-ended.Words, brief and fickle, fail to summarize Hogg's novel. It is a convoluted and absolutely fascinating study of doubles: double-thoughts, double-motives, double-narrators, double-faiths. That at its heart is a black and troubling mysticism more brooding and pernicious than even its titular Sinner is testament to its powerful mastery of the clean and the unclean, here tempered in a very personal alchemy to produce a narrative of unwavering enigma. Above all, it is a novel of religion: a firm rejection of Calvinistic dogma and the caustic tenets of Predestination, and a peerless embodiment of the private faith at the roots of some of the darkest shadows of the Romantic's muse. Hogg is an eerie prophet, and this complex, eddying tale his opus, revealed through the syrupy fog of confession, violence, madness, and reprobation. The suspicion that we cannot trust multiple, and even third-party, points of view (despite the relative merits of each) is genius; the suggestion that an entity as singular and terrifying as Gil-Martin may both exist and yet also not exist, the mark of an author of exceptional gifts and striking power. In short: perdition is spilled upon these pages, and yet also the unmistakable ghost of an uncanny and all-knowing grace.Highly, highly recommended.
kant1066 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Confessions of a Justified Sinner" is exciting because it wears so many hats - it's a gothic novel, a murder mystery, and perhaps most of all a trenchant critique of Calvinist thought. It consists of three parts: an objective summary of events in the novel, the events as told through the eyes of Robert Wringham, and the retelling of how the author (who also uses the name James Hogg) came across Wringham's account of the story. True to the early eighteenth century's Romantic fascination with all things fragmentary, broken, and incomplete, this novel uses the conceit of being a "found document," in this case the handwritten history of Robert's experiences.The beginning of the novel tells of the marriage of a young, conservative termagant named Rabina to George Colwan, an outgoing, fun-loving man who is put off by Rabina's extreme Calvinism. Their marriage effectively ends in their separation, but not before he impregnates her (probably in an act of rape), after which she gives birth to George. His father raises him well, and he grows up to be an academically gifted, well-adjusted young man. Shortly after the separation, Rabina's ultra-conservative religious advisor Reverend Wringham moves in with her, and she soon has another child (this time probably by the Reverend) named Robert, who takes Wringham's name. Robert turns out to be the anti-George: maladjusted, antisocial, vindictive, and hateful. The Reverend convinces Robert that he is justified in the eyes of God - that is, guaranteed to go to Heaven and be forgiven of whatever sins he might happen to commit on Earth. As one of God's elect, he can do no wrong.Even though they were raised separately and never allowed to see one another, sometime during early adulthood, Robert starts to stalk George through the city of Edinburgh, generally causing trouble wherever he goes. George also begins to notice that wherever he is, Robert is also very close by, as if he is being shadowed by a doppelganger. Robert's malevolent antics do everything from strike terror into the heart of George to causing a town-wide fracas. When George is finally murdered in a drunken brawl, his step-mother encounters a prostitute who claims to have seen the incident. She says that Robert did it. Later, Robert admits to the crime in one of the most revealing confessions in all of literature, putting on full display his strange, perverse motives, obsessions and compulsions about the purity of his soul.The second part of the novel shifts into Robert's telling of the story, and we learn of the presence of one Gil-Martin, who has goaded and encouraged Robert's deviance, even doing so in the name of Calvinistic sanctity and justice. Gil-Martin is also a protean shape-shifter who can assume Robert's form at will, and commits murder while doing so. At first, Robert understands the necessity of these acts because they are in the name of the greatness of God. But eventually Robert's doubts start to grow as to how holy Gil-Martin's murders really are. Even the prototypical Calvinist fanatic ends up having a conscience. At the end of the novel, the reader is still left hanging as to Gil-Martin's identity. Is he real, or merely a figment of Robert's imagination?Some of what I read, I read out of a sense of obligation, because I think I need to. I thought this would be one of those books, too. I was surprised to find that it moved at the clip of a modern psychological thriller, while always maintaining its literariness. If you found anything to admire in Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto" or Lewis' "The Monk," I highly recommend this.
neurodrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The novel is from 1824, set in Scotland, and is in two parts, the first the bare outlines of the narrative, the second, longer, told by the evildoer, Robert Colwan. The first scenes are hilarious, of a Scot¿s lord marrying a Calvinist beauty, to be put out of his wedding bed by her piety. She bears two sons, the first in the mold of the Scots lord, gentlemanly, the second, possibly a product of illicit liaison with her minister, the evil Robert. Robert starts as a divinity student, but is dissembling and jealous in school, and is completely convinced of his righteousness when his father declares him an elect. He meets the devil, in the form of an alter ego or companion, immediately afterwards, and is tempted to every sin, killing his brother after ruining his brother¿s life, possibly killing his mother, ravishing a young lady and finally committing suicide. All the while he justifies himself that as an elect, he will be in heaven, because nothing he does can alter the eternal will of God. Fast paced despite difficult language.
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