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The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

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3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  4,086 ratings  ·  257 reviews
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a startling tale of murder and madness set in a time of troubles like our own. Robert Wringhim is a religious fanatic: one of God's chosen who believes himself free to disregard the strictures of morality—a view in which he is much encouraged by the elusive, peculiarly striking foreigner who becomes his dearest f ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published November 30th 2002 by NYRB Classics (first published 1824)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shovelmonkey1
Jul 27, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: justified sinners everywhere
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
The 1001 books list says that this is "at once gothic comedy, religious horror story, mystery thriller and psychological study." Way to go James Hogg! Either this book is so deep and complex that no one can actually fathom enough of it to pigeon-hole it in a convincing manner, or it is in fact, everything it says on the tin.

Personally I saw this book as a good example of what might happen when you tell a lot of people that they have an unlimited get-out-of-hell-free card. The deal is this: you
...more
Bill  Kerwin

A "post-modernist" early 19th century Scottish novel featuring multiple narratives and at least one--possibly three--unreliable narrators, "Sinner" is a curious congeries of doppleganger tale, abnormal psychology, moral fable, anti-Calvinist satire, and historical fiction with a little comic relief thrown in. Part of its attraction may come from its very strangeness, which in turn may be a result of the fact that Hogg is not completely in control of his material, but that in no way diminishes th
...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
So, what is the best Gothic novel ever written? For me there can only be one candidate: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, a nineteenth century Scottish poet and author. Hogg wrote it with a straight-forward intention: as a good macabre tale and as a satire on the Calvinist theology of his native Presbyterian church.

But with the passage of time more complex readings can be made; as an examination of a mind on the brink of collapse or, perhaps more import, es
...more
J.G. Keely
I came across Hogg through his interactions with de Quincey, and so I grabbed his most notable work from Project Gutenberg, expecting another 'Opium Eater' about some clever reprobate's adventures through the Victorian. If you know anything about this book, then you can imagine my shock and wonder at discovering the story it actually contains.

It begins simply enough, as a witty picaresque set in Scotland and making some mockery of self-righteousness and Calvinist pre-destination in particular. B
...more
Marie
I found this totally addictive and read it in two sittings. He's not the writer Scott was, nevertheless I found the style and tone to be highly readable. In fact, I thought his coarser style was more appealing in many ways.
By turns sinister, terrifying, amusing, fanatical, complex, simple,realistic, supernatural, ludicrous, coarse, lyrical,poetic...All combining to make a wonderful read.
Although not always my cup of tea in novels, I found the multiple narratives to be hugely interesting and enli
...more
Issicratea
I felt as one round whose body a deadly snake is twisted, which continues to hold him in its fangs, without injuring him, farther than in moving its scaly infernal folds with exulting delight, to let its victim feel to whose power he has subjected himself ….

Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner is one of those works that was experimental at the time it was published, and still reads as pretty experimental almost two hundered years on (it was published in 1824). This is late-Gothic at its most
...more
☽ Moon Rose ☯
THE PHARISAICAL VIEW

Predestination is an infallible and rigid belief that God has irrevocably preordained the eternal salvation of some and the condemnation of the rest of mankind. For the elected few whose salvation has already been guaranteed, no past or future transgression could wobble its validity, nor any situation could alter its mandate.

This seemingly amorphous doctrine in Christian theology is from the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin and James Hogg elucidates this do
...more
Thing Two
Don't wring him, Wringhim.

Someone is saying prayers for me,
The grace I earn I never see,
In all things he do, I interferes,
All I know is trouble as soon as he appears.

Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim. I'm gonna wring him.

When I say my prayers my character changes,
My whole mind and body rearranges,
This strange transformation takes place in me,
Instead of myself everybody can see...

Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim, Mister Wringhim. I'm gonna wring him.

When you see my brother, make s
...more
Lauren Smith
Oct 08, 2009 Lauren Smith rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lauren by: Luxx (LibraryThing)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nan
One of the most bizarre and compelling books I've ever read. I can't wait to write about it--academically, rather than for fun. That said, I won't waste too much of my time reviewing it here.

This much you should know: three times, you hear the story of Robert Wringhim and his parents, and each telling is different. No teller is impartial, and each version of the events varies greatly. Few things are certain by the end of the novel. Only one thing, I would think, remains certain--absolute faith i
...more
David Sarkies
Dec 18, 2014 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like Gothic Horror
Recommended to David by: Jasmine
Shelves: dark
The dark side of Predestination

I first discovered this book when I was perusing the shelf of a friend of mine from university and the title literally jumped out at me. The first thought that went through my mind was 'wow, this seems to be a good, whole hearted, Christian book' and asked her if I could borrow it. She kindly lent it to me, but I never go to finish it because after a week she asked for it back (having assumed that I have finished reading it, which I hadn't). Anyway, that was the l
...more
Old-Barbarossa
Ranting Scottish religious fundamentalist goes a bit bonkers and it all ends in tears. An early book with different viewpoints presented as "found" papers. A few in-jokes, a bit of murder, and some self righteous godbothering. Or is it a study of the descent into mental illness? A bit of work for the modern reader at times but well worth the effort.
Trish
I first read this at university, but decided that it was long past time to reread it. In the first few pages, I couldn't see why it had made such a strong impression on me. But by the end of the "Editor's Notes", I'd remembered. And there's so much about it that I'd forgotten - especially the latter part of it. So a rare star upgrade from my original rating.

It tells the story of a 'justified' sinner, who believes he's already one of God's elect on Earth, and therefore his place in Heaven is alre
...more
Sesana
Of the gothic novels that I've read, this one could most easily be adapted into a modern retelling. It would be perfectly seamless. This is, of course, assuming it hasn't been done already.

The book is divided into two sections. The first is an extended not from the "editor", explaining the circumstances of the case and introducing the second part, the private notes of Robert Wringhim, and the villain of the piece. Robert has been taught from a young age that he is one of the elect, and that wha
...more
Andrea
Sep 05, 2008 Andrea rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thinkers
Shelves: recommended
A 19th century piece about religious mania.

The book is split into three parts - the first is an account by The Editor (whoever that may be), the second is the actual memoir (and confession), and the final part is a wrap-up, so to speak, by The Editor once again.

I didn't enjoy the first part as much as the second, but I wouldn't have enjoyed the second part as much if I hadn't read the first, if you get what I mean.

I think this book, even though it was first published in 1824, is a timely reminde
...more
Jan-Maat
Set out within the framing mechanism of a forgotten manuscript found and presented to the reader this Calvinist inspired horror story is set around the year 1700 in Scotland and features the involvement of a mysterious diabolical figure in a sibling rivalry.
Nick
A very confusing novel, "Private Memoirs..." explores, over and over again, the concept of the "double" as a demonic force. A demon (is it Satan? -- probably not, though several characters speculate) entices a religious young man into a "double life" of debauchery and murder. The demon has the ability to resemble whoever's energies he is thinking of at the moment; thereby, several characters have "doubles" in the course of the story. The narrative, further is in two separate parts, the first an ...more
Boris
First of all, this edition is optically scanned with numerous errors. So get a different one.

Like a lot I've read recently, it deals with the religious conflicts of 18th century England and Scotland. This book deals specifically with Calvinism and the notion of the elect brethren -- a small group of people whom God has selected from the beginning of time to be let into heaven to the exclusion of everyone else, actions for good or ill on their part or on the part of the damned notwithstanding. A
...more
Angela
Best title ever, eh? There was no way i wasn't going to read it after seeing that. And the book delivers everything the title promises. Hogg shows just how far people are prepared to go; even act against their own conscience, when they blindly believe in something.



Hogg's narrative not only manages to attack extreme Calvinism, but also undermines the criminal justice system in Scotland at the time. Like James' 'Turn of the Screw', we are also never sure whether Robert's memoirs really tell of th
...more
Morgan
Despite the fact that this still holds up pretty well today, context is everything. If you consider that this was written in 1824 the book is astoundingly shocking. It thumbs its nose at Calvinism, it sympathizes with a murderer, it toys with satanism, it explores insanity vs reality, and the tone of the book writes like a piece of post-modern metafiction. It doesn't surprise me to know that when this came out no one knew what to do with it and it didn't resurface until 100 years later.
Marieke
UNRELIABLE NARRATOR!! META-FICTION!! demons, possession, murders, grave disturbers! what more can you ask for? oh yeah, wonderfully stilted old-fashioned language plus some scottish brogue for good measure. i dare you...READ THIS BOOK!

disclaimer: i know nothing about Calivinism or how to read that layer of the story. but for those of you who do, this book may hold even more (or perhaps less, depending on your view of religion in literature) than it did for me.
Jo
The tale of a young religious man in Scotland who believes he has righteousness on his side and this enables him to treat others as beneath him and to commit murder and other 'sins'. The main function of this novel is to highlight the dangers of religious fanatacism and, although it's written a couple of centuries ago, it does seem rather relevant to today's issues.
Sean Wilson
One of the few books I've read where I've been utterly enthralled by every sentence. It's a haunting and well executed Scottish novel of religious fanaticism, murder and metaphysical delusion.
blake
For being written in 1824 (and one of the oldest pieces of fiction I've ever read), this was not only surprisingly readable but also damn entertaining. It has a self-limiting scope, being primarily fashioned as a critique of Calvinist predestination -- a religious doctrine that you don't see much of anymore, therefore relegating the novel's premise to something of a quaint curio. If anything it had me thinking back to a wise quote from the close of the introduction, which also happened to remind ...more
Chris
This is a thoroughly creepy novel that would have fit in perfectly with the weird fiction that would become prominent at the end of the 19th century through the early 20th century that I like to read. It's safe to say this book was well ahead of its time. It is a short novel, with doubling as a central theme in its plot and structure. The conceit of this work is that a manuscript recently found under mysterious circumstances is being published for the first time, and it deals with a series of mu ...more
Asa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emilie
I would give this book 4.5 if it were possible because I loved it, but more so once I had finished and thought about it all. I read Crime and Punishment just a few weeks ago and whilst the themes are slightly different (existentialism vs Christian doctrine), they are similar in terms of frightful crimes committed and the subsequent psychological and spiritual torment the perpetrator finds himself in. Confessions in my opinion is far superior to C&P, both in the writing style (whilst I do con ...more
Lisa
A strange, deeply interesting, challenging and, at times, maddening book that looks at the dangers of self-righteousness and a belief in your own religious and moral superiority.

The second child of an extremely unhappy marraige (though his paternity could be in doubt), Robert's father refuses to recognise him and so he goes to live with his fanatically pious mother and the Reverend Robert Wringhim, who fill his head with their own fanatical and strict religious views along with a deep hatred of
...more
Adam
Satan leads a man to blasphemy and murder by preaching an extreme version of the Calvinist doctrine of salvation by grace. That being the following: good people, regardless of what they do, are guaranteed salvation.

Things of note:

* It was ignored for a century until Gide wrote of it, “It is long since I can remember being so taken hold of, so voluptuously tormented by any book.”
* It focuses on the consequences of perverting Christian theology.
* It’s primarily satirical, and quite humorous as
...more
Chris
I've long known James Hogg as a collector of Scottish songs, particularly Jacobite ones. I'd never known he wrote a novel until very recently. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is pretty cool, but after reading it I'm not too surprised it isn't better known. It's about a serial killer, Robert Wringham, in early eighteenth century Scotland whose predestinarian views have drifted into antinomianism. Sure that he is God's instrument to chasten evil-doers, he acts accordingly ...more
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50314
James Hogg was a Scottish poet, novelist and essayist who wrote in both Scots and English. As a young man he worked as a shepherd and farmhand, and was largely self-educated through reading. He was a friend of many of the great writers of his day, including Sir Walter Scott, of whom he later wrote an unauthorized biography. He became widely known as the "Ettrick Shepherd", a nickname under which s ...more
More about James Hogg...
The Three Perils of Man Four Tales The Brownie of the Black Haggs The Shepherd's Calendar Winter Evening Tales

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“With regard to the work itself, I dare not venture a judgment, for I do not understand it.” 16 likes
“…he knew no other pleasure but what consisted in opposition.” 6 likes
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