Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner Summary and Analysis of Pages 50-71

The Editor's Narrative, Continued

Miss Logan decides not to give her name in court but hears that she is ordered to be there. She hears a man being questioned about how he knows Mrs. Calvert but his answers are ambiguous. She concludes that he and Bell were in league with Mrs. Colwan.

Miss Logan and her maid are called to witness in the trial against Bell. The maid is smart and savvy and cannot provide evidence to indict Bell. Miss Logan is called up and to her own astonishment realizes she cannot utter anything against Bell’s life, and says she does not think the woman robbed her. Bell is released and reprimanded.

Not long after Bell comes to visit Miss Logan, who is surprised and pleased to see her. Bell tells her own sad story and what she knows about the person who slew the young master. She begins by saying she has always been tied up with the wrong sort of men and deprived of all fortune and happiness. She had been abandoned and had to turn to prostitution in Edinburgh. One night she saw a group of young men and decided to pursue them. A mistress of a tavern let her use a room there.

Thomas Drummond took her bait and went to her room with her, commenting on how she seemed like a classy English lady. When Bell started talking about her sad life, though, he became restless and decided to leave. Right after he left another man rushed by him and entered her room. He saw her and decided to stay. Bell watched as Drummond ran one way and at the exact same time two other men came from a different way. She was shocked when one looked exactly like Drummond, but she knew it could not actually be him. She was scared and tried to explain to the man in her room, but he did not care. She asked who he was but he would not tell her. She almost got him to leave, but his money prevailed.

She kept listening to the two men. One angrily told the other he must do God’s work, and the one in black promised he would. Bell watched and was startled when the one in tartans who looked like Drummond winked at her. Both carried rapiers, and the one in black hid in a narrow entryway and the one named Drummond went to the tavern and asked for George.

George came out and was clearly drunk. The one who looked like Drummond cursed him and engaged him in swordplay. George appeared to be besting him when the man in black sprung out and gave him two deadly sword thrusts in the back. Bell’s companion, who also saw, yelled out that it was unfair. The Drummond lookalike laughed and took the man in black away.

Miss Logan hears this story and realizes that Robert was George’s murderer. She asks why Bell’s companion did not raise the alarm but Bell said he was being pursued for his life. She did it, though, but could not defend the real Drummond because she was under the spell of a wretch. She says she would recognize him now, especially for his walk, and her companion would as well.

The women decide to visit Dalcastle, and dress themselves as country goodwives. They are journeying when they actually see Robert Wringhim Colwan arm-in-arm with another young man walking from the other side of the village. Bell is startled when the other young man winks at her just like the Drummond doppelganger did that night. Miss Logan almost faints.

The two women do not know who the other young man is, but realize that they are so disconcerted because he looks exactly like George Colwan. Bell swears she saw him stabbed and Miss Logan swears she saw him buried, so neither is sure what is going on, and they tell themselves it is their imaginations. They only have their senses to depend on, and decide they must investigate further.

They are walking along the road when they see the two young men again, and jump into the thicket to hide. They hear Robert talking about how he wondered whether certain acts could hurt his predestination, and the other man says that they cannot. It seems like the other young man knows the women are there, and parades Robert in front of them, confessing his actions. He begins to say it would be nice to find vagrant women and punish them, and Robert fervently agrees. He says he would like to hurt the old strumpet who lived with his father. The young man says he will show her to him soon.

Miss Logan almost faints but holds herself together. Robert walks over and discovers her. He seizes her, but Bell, whom he did not notice, jumps on him. They accuse him of murdering George, and foaming and angry, he vehemently denies it. He calls for his friend, whom he names Gil-Martin, but there is no one there. The women bind him up and take him back to Edinburgh. They discuss how repulsive he is, but wonder more at the identity of the other man.

Back in Edinburgh the women take the evidence to the Lord Justice Clerk, who also hears from the real Drummond about his alibi (i.e. that he was with Bell, an alibi that he had not wanted to admit to before). He directs the women to the proper authorities, and Laird of Dalcastle (i.e. Robert) is to be apprehended.

Both the Laird and his mother are missing, and word is never heard of them.

The Editor concludes his narrative by saying he has an original document to present now, and will offer no remarks on or additions to it.


The Editor’s Narrative comes to a close, and he announces that he will present the actual memoirs of the “Justified Sinner” next; he does not wish to offer any comments, but will allow the reader to make his own conclusions after comparing the two documents. Hogg does indeed make demands on his reader, and subverts their expectations (more on this in later analyses); we end this Narrative by hoping that we will find answers in the Memoirs, but this hopewill not come to fruition.

Writer Margot Livesy claims that “Hogg, in his scrupulous analysis of Calvinist extremism, offers a model for how an individual might, by virtue of both nature and nurture, leave the paths of normal tolerance and travel into the country of excess.” Ian Duncan, one of the foremost Hogg scholars, agrees with her assessment in terms of the novel’s theme of fanaticism, and delves into its larger context. He notes how the novel is set in the time of the birth of the modern Scottish political order, and that fanaticism always tends to spring up alongside civil society. As civil society in its modern form comes into being in the 18th century, fanaticism emerges as “the specter of an authentic politics, of political reason moved by ideology in its pure, absolute, metaphysical form.” He claims that Hogg wants his readers to see antinomianism as modern in the way that the philosopher David Hume considers it: a party based purely on abstract speculative principle.

What is so terrifying about an “ideologically united brotherhood” is that it is excessively socialized and deviates from the conception of civil society as a collection of individuals existing in a system with rules and regulations. Gil-Martin symbolizes the problematic nature of this in that he is a chameleon that “enacts a systematic obliteration of other people’s difference–beginning with difference of countenance.” Duncan succinctly notes that Gil-Martin’s chameleon nature “conflates sympathy with physiognomy, the art of interpreting the forms and expressions of people’s countenances. This physiognomy is flagrantly invasive–a colonization of the other that erases the properties of his interiority, his supposedly inalienable private self.”

A couple other things worth pointing out in this section: Humean philosophy also pops up in the comments made by Arabella and Bell in regards to their senses being the only thing they can rely on. In this text Hogg undermines the reliability of our senses in that our senses can sometimes be misleading, faulty, or ill equipped to comprehend the reality of what is happening in the external world.

Drummond is a real person, as are others mentioned in the text. Drummond was the second son by a second marriage to the famous nobleman and exiled Jacobite peer John Drummond. A Craigie was an uncle and advocate for Drummond, but Hogg mixes two of them up. Drummond did join the service of Charles VI.

Another example of the main theme of disguises/doubling/duplicity is the dressing up of Arabella and Bell as they pursue Robert and his inscrutable friend.