Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Sinner Manuscript, Continued
Robert comes to the part in his narrative where he met his brother, and describes how he saw him wallowing in sin with his friends. He kicked him and followed him to the bar, and was thrown in prison. There he tried to save the soul of the prison guard and told him he had to slay him if he was an unregenerate. The man laughed, but Robert felt a sense of triumph when religious notables secured his release.
Gil-Martin encouraged him to plague his brother, so Robert continued to sow terror and frustration in him and his friends. He gloried in how George’s reputation suffered and how he had to withdraw to his private rooms.
Robert became afflicted by a strange malady, though, and was confined to his own room. He saw himself as two people, his companion one and his brother the other. He did not understand but felt this illness was a chastisement for his pride. He was not sure, though, how it was the case that, while he was confined for a month, there were still reports of his haunting his brother.
He met with Gil-Martin, who told him his brother was going up a mountain and he now had the opportunity to execute divine justice. He agreed, but once he was alone and climbing he started to feel beset by doubts. He could not decide whether the elect were really infallible. He sat down, surrounded by misty vapor, and looked heavenward to figure out if he was supposed to do this deed. A lady in white came by and rebuked him for looking to heaven with those thoughts in his heart, telling him to go home and save his soul.
Robert was about to obey her when he saw Gil-Martin coming toward him, who said he had seen the same woman and endeavored to banish of Robert’s doubts and despair. Robert felt better but still worried about being judged as he headed up the mountain. He wondered if he might fall off the rock himself.
He finally came upon his brother, but to his shock realized he could not kill him. He was upset he could not carry out his purpose and steeled himself to do it. However, George attacked him. They spoke and George let him go, but Robert was ashamed.
The case went to court and Robert lost. Disgusted, he received some comfort when the Lord Justice Clerk died the same week, but thought it was a coincidence. He told Gil-Martin that nothing could be done about his brother because now if he was murdered, everyone would know Robert was the murderer. Gil-Martin assured him that no human could hurt him and that he had a plan. Robert worried about his falling from his upright state; exasperated, his friend told him that would not happen.
The plan to take care of George was that night, and Gil-Martin procured two weapons. He mocked Robert’s doubt. Robert was incredulous when he changed his entire appearance into one of Highlands garb and visage.
He recounts the fight that took place outside the tavern between George and Gil-Martin, and how he was shocked to see George seemingly winning, and how he had to step in to save Gil-Martin. Later, he said his impressions of the affair differed from this statement, but his friend described it to him. He was disturbed by the fact that there were witnesses for some time, but Gil-Martin was jubilant and unconcerned. Robert doubted how the church was changed by this event, and was thankful he did not have to murder his father.
Robert inherited the houses and lands of Dalcastle. He moved there and Gil-Martin joined him most of the time. One day a woman came to see him, haranguing him for corrupting the innocence of one of her daughters. Robert vehemently denied it and said he was not even around during the time that the woman said he was. His confusion deepened when Gil-Martin agreed with the woman that he had seemed to be in a state of inebriation recently, and that he probably did seduce the young girl. Robert admitted that sometimes he did feel that recently he had a second self.
Another man entered the room–lean, bald, and powdered. He spoke a lot but did not pause. All of a sudden, the woman and Robert were disturbed because Gil-Martin looked just like George Colwan. The man, who called himself Lawyer Linkum, claimed Robert signed several documents that took the lands from the woman’s family and made them his, but Robert exclaimed he did not do any of that.
Robert talked privately with his Gil-Martin, distressed that he was told he had seduced the young woman and acquired her lands falsely. For a moment he was pleased to have the beautiful young woman at his disposal, but did nothing with her.
The days began to be terrible for Robert. He burned and yearned to be free, and felt incomprehensible to himself. He believed himself conscious and unconscious at the same time, his body possessed, fearful of ruin. Gil-Martin even became irksome to him, and he felt as if he could never shake him off. He began to desire utter oblivion, a sleep so deep he could not wake. His mother irritated him as well.
Reverend Wringhim came to visit, and he finally felt his spirits buoyed; even Gil-Martin was not as obnoxious to him. They all drank fine wine and discussed theology, and Robert marveled at the discourse between his father and friend.
When Robert woke from a deep sleep, though, he was startled to see a servant attending him who was not Andrew Handyside, his normal servant. He queried the man, who said his name was Samuel Scrape and that Andrew had been dead for six months; Robert had hired Samuel. This was astonishing news to Robert. He also learned his mother and Gil-Martin were gone, and while he was a bit distressed about his mother, he felt a profound sense of relief and elation.
One day while walking near the edge of the wood he saw someone coming toward him, and to his shock and horror, the person resembled his late brother and looked utterly ravaged, miserable, and forbidding. When he spoke, Robert realized it was Gil-Martin. The man asked why Robert shuddered and hated him, and Robert begged him to go away. Gil-Martin said their “beings [were] amalgamated” (142) and he would never leave. This left Robert in despair, and he asked where Gil-Martin had been.
Gil-Martin responded that he was gone but came back because he was drawn to the crimes Robert had committed. Robert did not know what he meant, and Gil-Martin said he had been accused of murdering his mother and the young lady. Robert was still confused but Gil-Martin was able to placate him and win him over by saying he would elevate him to his own level of fulfillment and power.
Robert’s days dragged on wearily. He found himself sinning a lot, and shunning the world. News kept trickling in of the deeds he had supposedly done, but he did not remembering doing any of them. He started asking Samuel about what people said about him. Samuel said that people saw the devil by his side, and told a story of how local witches believed he was connected to the devil.
By this point in the novel it is understandable that readers feel at least the slightest amount of pity for Robert: his life is utterly miserable, bereft of meaning, his steps plagued by someone he abhors, and his very concept of time and his own sanity in question. While he certainly deserves condemnation for the actions we know he committed, and for allowing the blackest, cruelest thoughts to hold sway over his mind, the way he was raised ought to be taken into account, as well as the insidious influence of Gil-Martin. If Gil-Martin is indeed a malevolent force, his ability to direct Robert’s thoughts and actions alleviate some of Robert’s blameworthiness for his actions. If he is a manifestation of Robert’s addled mind, then Robert is mentally ill and also warrants some nuance in our opinion of him.
This section contains a few direct allusions to the work of Goethe and Marlowe, whose Faust and Dr. Faustus, respectively, are prominent influences on Hogg’s novel. The scholar Ian Duncan notes the similarity of lines from Dr. Faustus with those of Private Memoirs: Marlow writes, “O, soule, be chang’d into small water drops, / And fall into the ocean, ne’er to be found!” while Hogg has Robert utter, “my soul longed rather to be inclosed in the depths of the sea” (144). As for Goethe, Duncan sees similarities in an utterance in Faust with another comment of Robert’s: “In my breast / Alas two souls have taken their abode, / And each is struggling there for mastery” in the former is contrasted with “If this is that you tell me to be true…then it is as true that I have two souls, which take possession of my bodily frame by turns, the one being all unconscious of what the other performs” (143-44).
This section of the narrative has a lot of unanswered questions, which is interesting because the unanswered questions from the Editor’s Narrative are still not answered. If Robert is sick, who plagues George in town? What is the answer to the spectral face in the haze? Who is the white lady? Is she God or an angel? What happened to the Lord Justice Clerk–was his death caused by Gil-Martin? What does Robert mean by saying that the events of George’s death were told to him differently than he recalled? And, finally, why has Robert lost track of time? How did he carry out the deeds he was accused of? Hogg never answers these questions, leaving the reader to try to put together the missing pieces (which is, obviously, more or less impossible).
Turning now to the question of the narrative structure of the novel again, critic Daniel Stout looks at the two main strains of the criticism of the novel–as a satire of Calvinist faith, and as a commentary on the conditions of authorship in Edinburgh–and argues that to an extent they are at cross-purposes. The novel is actually a part of the development of a romantic nationalism that emphasized local cultural identity; it is important in that it is an intersection of native tradition and modern forms of cultural distribution. It uses older forms of the epistolary novel and the “collection of documents” novel, but differs in that Hogg never creates a single story. The stories do not collaborate. The Editor seems to mostly want to authenticate or denounce the validity of the main work of the memoir. Hogg shows tradition as being about taking itself for a subject: it is not the repetition of stories over and over again, but rather stories about stories.
When Hogg looks at tradition, he suggests it cannot be simply “reduced even to an expansive canon of particular stories…tradition’s status as a body which includes second as well as first-order information means that it is unimportant to differentiate between the story of a text (tradition in the comparatively rigid, antiquarian sense) and stories about a text (the story of a document’s discovery).” Oral sources are as important as written, the vernacular language as important as proper literary English. Secondary and tertiary sources are almost as important as the firsthand sources. Stout notes, “one of the characteristics of tradition as Hogg presents it that it is always in the position of having been received without ever exactly seeming to have been authored. More particularly, because tradition exists as a popular form, the question of authorship has been rendered unimportant and, in a strong sense, nonsensical.”