James Hogg: John Gray o’ Middleholm


“The coincidence was however too striking to be passed over without scrutiny. Even the wisest of men would have been struck with it, and have tried to find out some solution; and curious would I be to know what a wise man, in such a case, would have thought of the matter.”

…being the same within the oubliettes of postured literature itself, finding a ‘pose’ or ‘purse’ of value in the conjunction of leitmotifs to reveal the yearned-for and glistening gestalt. The often hilarious absurdity of John Gray’s quest, too, where the ‘column of air’ that the science of physics lays upon this needy man and makes treasure-hunting even more tempting, i.e. those caches that Abbots et al buried under stones, stones that John’s scrying of dreams could reveal. So, those columns of air then becoming pits that he dug with his bonnet of bonnets upon his head. His wife Tibby Stott and a half a dozen half-naked daughters, one of whom he is caught deshabille with.
And Tibby he spikes with a loom needle as part of a scrying dream or, later, he thinks she is a hare. Some stones he needs to turn up are spouted over in blood. One stone is shown to be three-cornered but it turns out to be a cobbler’s hat, so he digs the column of a pit beneath the cobbler’s feet! Till he realises that the cobbler was part of a dream that sent him there and that the cobbler’s dream sent him back home to 13 apple trees that he plumbs, and finds “**** ****”, the story’s own hidden spoiler. But of the ‘twa black craws’ — that is my own **** ****.
“Queer dreams” and a sum of £213.12.6 — I scry the detailed and the broad sweep alike, the daft and the potentially sensible. John’s gossiped-of madness is as wise as you take it to be. I feel I am wiser myself having read this relatively ancient work, despite its sporadic tranches of unscryable Scottish dialect that Borders on something not far from madness.

“…all clouted about the elbows and armpits,… […] He always wore a bonnet, and always the same bonnet, for ought that any one could distinguish. It was neither a broad nor a round bonnet, a Highland bonnet nor a Lowland bonnet, a large bonnet nor a small bonnet; nevertheless, it was a bonnet, and a very singular one too, for it was a long bonnet,…”


Above image; a bonnet tree?

Full anthology context of above review: https://weirdtongue.wordpress.com/the-penguin-books-of-the-british-short-story/

3 thoughts on “James Hogg: John Gray o’ Middleholm

  1. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

  2. Pingback: JAMES HOGG: George Dobson’s Expedition to Hell | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

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