HOGG, JAMES, poet and journalist; b. 14 Sept. 1800 in Leitrim (Republic of Ireland); d. 12 June 1866 at Fredericton, N.B.
James Hogg arrived in Saint John, N.B., in 1819 after receiving some education in Ireland. By the mid 1820s he was employed by Henry Chubb* on the New Brunswick Courier, a newspaper that served as an incubator for a number of prominent New Brunswick journalists. There Hogg learned his trade and in the pages of the Courier had his first poems printed. In 1825 Chubb issued Hogg’s Poems: religious, moral and sentimental, a 228-page book containing 67 poems, which was probably, as has been claimed, the first volume of poetry published in New Brunswick.
Some time later Hogg moved to Fredericton and may have tried farming and business for a while. By 1844 he had launched his own newspaper, the New Brunswick Reporter and Fredericton Advertiser, to which he devoted the rest of his life. In its pages he emerged as a prominent New Brunswick journalist as well as a respected poet.
Hogg’s poetry has mainly curiosity value today, though it was considered to be well above the ordinary in the 19th century. He was invariably linked to James Hogg, the “Ettrick Shepherd,” a distant relative and contemporary, and some of their works have possibly been confused by observers. Hogg’s poetry was mostly lyrical, though he did write some narrative verse. “The Hermit of Woodford” in his Poems, a typical long tale about the “Lord of Leitrim,” is a medieval romance in the style of Sir Walter Scott. His lyrical poems about dreams and women are again imitative, yet they are often attractive in imagery and sentiment. Hogg also wrote odes and elegies, but as W. G. MacFarlane said in 1895: “Every verse of Gray’s elegy is a polished gem. Hogg’s are gems, but in the rough.” Even in his later poems, in the Reporter or as pamphlets, Hogg never quite wrote memorable verse, nor did he experiment with themes or forms. Journalism and publishing had become more important to him.
Unlike other newspapers started in the 1840s and 1850s, the Reporter survived and became the most successful weekly in the province. Hogg’s commitment to responsible government, it was later claimed, was one of his reasons for starting the paper. Throughout the 1840s he backed Charles Fisher* and Lemuel Allan Wilmot* in their fight with the “compact,” and when Fisher formed the first Reform government in 1854, Hogg saw the advent of “liberty, progress and true reform.” He concurred with the new government’s various reforms, especially the financial changes of Samuel Leonard Tilley*, the provincial secretary, which included giving the power to initiate money grants to the executive. Though certainly not a democrat, Hogg approved the limited franchise offered by the Reform Bill of 1855. He championed the move towards a public, non-sectarian school system, but he also showed the anti-Catholicism typical of the day. In 1859, for example, he initiated a prolonged controversy by printing a rumour about the flogging by a Roman Catholic priest of a Northumberland County boy who had read a Protestant Bible. Hogg, recognized as a strong Protestant, had published the British North American Wesleyan Magazine from June 1846 to May 1847, and John Medley*, Anglican bishop of Fredericton, had turned to him from 1850 to 1852 to print the New Brunswick Churchman. It was probably Hogg’s Protestantism that led him to the prohibition movement, for he was a stout defender of Tilley’s Prohibition Act of 1855.
Hogg’s press served a multiplicity of uses, and that was part of his success. In 1846, for example, he published the Young Aspirant, a journal designed exclusively for children, and during the 1850s he printed the Journal of the New Brunswick Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Home Manufactures, and Commerce.
Newspaper reporting and politics had a rough and ready character about them at the time, and it was the customary partisanship that created the war between Hogg and the Reporter on one side and Thomas Hill* and the Fredericton Head Quarters on the other. Hill could be both brilliant and vitriolic and he turned both qualities on the Fisher government and Hogg. Hogg was outclassed in the verbal warfare which surrounded the publication of a letter in the Reporter on 11 July 1856 questioning Hill’s loyalty, but he won in the end: a suit for libel initiated by Hill was decided in Hogg’s favour by Judge L. A. Wilmot. On 3 March 1858 Hill resigned from the Head Quarters, which declined rapidly, while the influence of Hogg and the Reporter grew.
Confederation was to be Hogg’s last battle. He had pressed for a British North American union intermittently since the 1840s. Throughout 1864 and 1865, when the union scheme was badly mauled in New Brunswick, the Reporter stood firmly with Tilley, its advocate. Not the least of the reasons for the newspaper’s support was the Intercolonial Railway, a line Hogg expected to pass through Fredericton. The defeat of confederation in the 1865 election was compared to the coming of spring which “may be delayed for a time by contending elements, but [whose] advent is nevertheless sure and certain.” On 12 June 1866, in the midst of the second and ultimately successful confederation election, Hogg unexpectedly died. For some months he had been unwell, and his son Thomas had gradually taken over the management of the Reporter. Thomas Hogg continued his father’s work until he was tragically killed in a hunting accident on 25 Oct. 1875.
Producing a weekly newspaper had provided Hogg with the luxury of time to clarify his thoughts and freshen his prose. The New Brunswick Reporter consequently gave the province moderately responsible journalism during a period of extremes. In a small way he also contributed to the “flowering tradition” in poetry that grew in Fredericton. At his death a fellow newspaperman called Hogg “one of the most able and intelligent editors in the province.”
N.B. Museum, Robert Wilson scrapbook. Hill v Hogg (1858), 9 New Brunswick Reports 108. James Hogg, Poems: religious, moral and sentimental (Saint John, N.B., 1825). Morning News (Saint John, N.B.), 15 June 1866. Morning Telegraph (Saint John, N.B.), 16 June 1866. New Brunswick Courier, 1820–30. New Brunswick Reporter and Fredericton Advertiser (Fredericton), 1844–75, especially 22 June 1866, 3 Nov. 1875. Harper, Hist. directory. C. C. James, A bibliography of Canadian poetry (English) (Toronto, 1899). W. G. MacFarlane, New Brunswick bibliography: the books and writers of the province (Saint John, N.B., 1895). Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis. Wallace, Macmillan dictionary. A. G. Bailey, Culture and nationality . . . (Toronto and Montreal, 1972), 44–57. D. R. Jack, “Acadian magazines,” RSC Trans., 2nd ser., IX (1903), sect.ii, 173–203. W. G. MacFarlane, “New Brunswick authorship, introduction,” Dominion Illustrated (Montreal), VII (1891), 401–2.