The idea of the Confessions being found in a grave and then sent for reading and publication to a publisher in Edinburgh is a device that has been used again and again by those looking to use a literary device that distances the voice from the present.
Hogg uses it with masterly skill to allow Robert to speak beyond the grave to paint a picture of a young man manipulated because of his ignorance and religious arrogance. The idea that God could condone killing sinners is one that takes its time to work through Robert’s mind, but with the shape-shifting friend Gil-Martin, who he becomes to rely on more and more, it is an idea that finally takes hold.
Once it takes hold those that get in the way of the plans of the pair to enact some sort of revenge on George and his family are destroyed or die through heart break and despair. There are times when Robert seems to be aware he has made some sort of pact with a dangerous individual but by convincing himself his friend is the Tsar of Russia he allows himself to get in deeper.
By the time the scales have fallen from his eyes and he is aware of the reality it is too late and his attempts to escape the devil lead him ultimately into despair and death.
The postscript about the attempts of the narrator and friends to verify the events of the confession has a creepy realism to it that would influence other Gothic style writers.
A book that for its time was a masterpiece and one that in 2009 still has the ability to shock, disturb and entertain.
A review will follow soon…