Prophet Peden’s Gil-Martin: James Hogg and the Covenanters


In James Hogg’s novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), Robert Wringhim, the central protagonist, is either followed by, haunted by, imagines or encounters Gil-Martin, a demonic presence.

Hogg scholars have noted that Calvinist models of the self may lie behind Hogg’s ‘decentred pictures of identity’ in his novels. As a classic example of the Calvinist self they quote, on one occasion, none other than Patrick Walker:

‘An at the Time I think (but I may think otherwise To-morrow, for I have gotten many proofs of my self, and yet my self is a Mystery to my self)’.

The quotation is part of a longer passage in which Walker reflects on the nature of himself while hoping that he would maintain himself like Alexander Peden against the backsliddings of his age. (Hogg, Three Perils of Woman (eds. Hasler & Mack) ,xli-xlii; Walker, BP, I, 317-8.)

Hogg’s fascination with the Society people is evident in a number of his novels, poems and songs, and especially in his novel The Brownie of Bodsbeck (1817). Whether he had read Walker’s lives, or not, is not known for sure, but given the depth of knowledge he had about the Society people and their preachers it is almost inconceivable that he had not read one of the most popular and widely read works on them, Walker’s life of Peden. Hogg did directly mention Peden in at least one work, ‘Dusty, or, Watie an’ Geordie’s Review of Politics; an Eclogue’ and paraphrases the Life of Peden’s account of the killing of John Brown of Priesthill in the ‘A Lay of the Martyrs’ in The Amulet. (Hogg, Contributions to Annuals and Giftbooks, 394n.)

Walker’s life of Alexander Peden also contains stories similar to Wringhim’s Gil-Martin, such as Peden’s encounters with the Devil in 1685, either in a cave in Galloway, or as follows in the third edition of the life:

‘It escaped me in the former Passages [first published in 1724], what John Muirhead, whom I have often mentioned, told me [prior to that], That when he [i.e, Peden] came from Ireland to Galloway [in March, 1685], he was at Family-Worship, and giving some Notes upon the Scripture read, there was a very ill looking Man came in, and sat down within the Door, at the Back of the Halend; immediately he halted, and said, There is some unhappy Body just now come in to this Head, I charge him to go out, and not stop my Mouth; the Body went off, and he insisted, and saw him neither come in nor go out.’ (Walker, BP, I, 116.)

John Muirhead, who hailed from Cambusnethan or Shotts parish in Lanarkshire and was a follower of Peden, was responsible for transmitting a number of strange stories about Peden to Walker.

For other posts on James Hogg, see here.

For other posts on strange wonders of late seventeenth-century Scotland, see here.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine


~ by drmarkjardine on June 30, 2014.

2 Responses to “Prophet Peden’s Gil-Martin: James Hogg and the Covenanters”

  1. […] of New Luce. Several stories about Peden record his encounter with the Devil, either in a cave, or entering a room, and his confrontation with a witch in […]

  2. I am a blood descendent of the Gil-Martins & Kil-Martins of both Scotland and Ireland; I want to thank you for the mention of this event.

    It gives me information I lacked and provides spatial data for the research of our ancestors.

    It’s the first time I’ve seen our name referenced in association with the dark side of our faith.

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