James Hogg, better known as the Ettrick Shepherd, a Scottish author, born in the parish of Ettrick, on the river of that name, in Selkirkshire, Jan. 25, 1772 (according to his own statement, although the parish register records his baptism under date of Dec. 9, 1770), died at Altrive, Nov. 21, 1835. He was descended from a family of shepherds, and his youth and early manhood were devoted to the same occupation. He probably never received a year's schooling, but when he was 24 years old he began to compose verses, and his earliest efforts were seriously impeded by his imperfect penmanship. He soon became known to the shepherds and farmers of the neighborhood as "Jamie the poeter," and in 1800 a patriotic song of his entitled "Donald MacDonald" obtained great popularity, although the name of the author was not known. From Whitsunday, 1790, to Whitsunday, 1799, he was in the employ of James Laidlaw of Blackhouse, in Yarrow, who gave him free access to his library; and by the age of 30 Hogg had repaired the defects of his early education by a tolerably full course of reading.
In 1801, while on a visit to Edinburgh to sell sheep, he was even tempted to publish a small collection of his songs, under the title of " Scottish Pastorals, Poems, and Songs." Shortly after Sir Walter Scott, while exploring the border counties for materials for his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," met with Hogg, who furnished him with a number of old ballads; and it was at Scott's instigation that in 1803, to repair his losses in an attempt to start a sheep farm in the Hebrides, he published a second collection of poems entitled " The Mountain Bard." With the proceeds he again attempted farming, was again unsuccessful, and in February, 1810, went to Edinburgh to follow the career of an author. For a year he barely supported himself by editing a weekly paper called " The Spy," and in 1813 published "The Queen's Wake," which at once obtained a great popularity. The duke of Buccleuch presented him with the rent-free life occupancy of the farm of Altrive Lake in the braes of Yarrow, but he rented a much larger farm adjoining, and in a few years was reduced to bankruptcy. He was all this time a frequent contributor to " Blackwood's Magazine," and the broadly drawn character of the "Ettrick Shepherd," which figures so prominently in the Noetes Ambrosianoe, made his name familiar.
In 1831 he went to London to superintend the publication of some of his works, and received extraordinary attentions. He died of dropsy, after a short illness. Among his principal works, in addition to those mentioned, are the poems of "Madoc of the Moor," "The Pilgrims of the Sun," "Queen Hynde," "Jacobite Relics," etc.; in prose, "The Brownie of Bodsbeck," "Winter Evening Tales," "The Three Perils of Woman," " The Three Perils of Man," " The Altrive Tales," etc. His "Anecdotes of Sir Walter Scott" was first published in New York (1834). His collected works, first issued in 11 vols., were published in 1869 in 2 vols. 8vo. A monument has been erected in his memory near St. Mary's Loch. His widow survives (1874), receiving from the literary fund a pension of £100.