Author Biographies

James Hogg (1770–1835), the ‘Ettrick Shepherd’, was born to a farming family in the Scottish Borders. He earned the nickname through his work for a time as a shepherd. He taught himself to read from newspapers passed to him by the wife of his employer. Hogg began writing songs and plays and moved to Edinburgh in 1810 to pursue a full-time writing career. A friend of many writers of his day including Sir Walter Scott, he was a prolific writer throughout his life, producing novels, poetry and songs up until his death. Hogg was greatly admired during his lifetime not least for overcoming the disadvantages of his peasant birth and lack of formal education. A James Hogg Society was founded in 1981 to encourage the study of his life and writings.
James Thomson (1834–1882) was born in Port Glasgow but sent to an orphanage for Scottish children in London after his father suffered a stroke. He joined the army but was dishonourably discharged, possibly due to his drinking. He began his career in journalism as well as writing essays and poems which he submitted to various publications, the most well-known of these being The City of Dreadful Night. He wrote under the pseudonym Bysshe Vanolis, which comes from the names of the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Novalis. He is often distinguished from the earlier Scottish poet James Thomson by the letters B.V. after his forename. The City of Dreadful Night was strongly influenced by his struggle with alcoholism, insomnia and severe depression which plagued his latter years. He died in London at the age of 47.
Margaret Oliphant (née Wilson) (1828–1897) was a Scottish historical writer and novelist, who usually wrote as ‘Mrs. Oliphant’. She spent her childhood in Lasswade, Glasgow and Liverpool, and began writing from a young age. She became a regular contributor to Blackwood’s Magazine and moved from London to Florence when her husband became ill with tuberculosis. When he died in 1859 she supported her three young children through her writing. Between 1865 and her death in 1897, Oliphant produced around 90 works – novels, biographies, historical and geographical books. Her later works feature strong female characters, and she is considered by many to have been an early feminist. She died in London in 1897 and there is a commemorative plaque bearing her name in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.
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