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Robert Burns Lives!
Another Reply to Paddy Hogg

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

The following is another response to the Paddy Scott Hogg article published a couple of weeks ago. Robert Burns Lives! has not experienced a controversy of this nature before, and I have found it quite interesting to read the pros and cons presented by Hogg and Mark Wilson. How do you know who is telling the truth? I encourage you to read all the articles associated with this discussion and make up your own mind.

Years ago, in the early 1980s, the hamburger chain Wendy’s produced a commercial about their competitors wherein a customer received a massive bun with a small meat patty. An irate customer asked very vocally, “Where’s the beef?” and a legend was born in the person of Clara Peeler.

Paddy Hogg has to prove at least two points in his book on Robert Burns. First, was Burns a Member of the Friends of the People and secondly, was there a Friends of the People branch in Dumfries? After reading all the articles, including the current one, and conducting my own research on the internet, I’ll have to side with Wilson on these two points. Simply put, when you strip away the “massive bun” around the claims of Hogg on these two questions, I’m left asking the Clara Peeler question, “Where’s the beef?” or in this case, “Where’s the proof?” other than questionable inference and conjecture. (FRS: 4.8.10)

Another Reply to Paddy Hogg

Patrick Scott Hogg’s essay does not in fact address the central concerns raised in Mark Wilson’s piece. Most crucially, Hogg has no answer to the fact that he has unhelpfully conflated "visitor" and "delegate" status to the Friends of the People convention in Edinburgh.  If Hogg cannot clarify this point in self-vindication, then effectively he has nothing to say in response to Wilson. Hogg claims that his supposed discovery of Burns’s membership of the Friends of the People is not the most crucial new departure in his biography. However, as Mark Wilson rightly suggests, this is actually the case. Hogg relies on a great deal of contextual generality to suggest that he has been unfairly treated by the Wilson piece. In fact, much of what Hogg discusses a propos Burns and the Edinburgh Gazetteer, "Sons of Sedition", and other detail, has nothing to do with his leap of logic re Drummond, a supposed Dumfries branch of the Friends of the People, and Burns’s supposed membership of this.  Hogg’s attempt to put these things together has been at best incompetent, and at worst represents a deliberate attempt to deceive those reading The Patriot Bard. Quite simply, if Hogg cannot clarify how he came to confuse visitor and delegate, and cannot provide any real reason for suggesting that visitor Drummond is the John Drummond that Burns knew in Dumfries, then his essay represents no answer at all to Wilson’s case.

On other points the Hogg piece is historically shaky. The Patriot Bard’s claim that the spy J.B. is Claud I. Boswell is not convincingly made, and Hogg’s documentation for his claim is badly garbled. It is also the case that prose essays signed A. Britain, claimed by Hogg to be by Burns in the 1790s, are almost certainly not by the poet. Hogg’s work on the lost poems is also essentially irrelevant, though in any case, as Robert Crawford has recently commented, is "discredited". These are specific historical solecisms in Hogg’s essay submitted to you; however, Hogg’s most important inability to answer Wilson’s core argument about The Patriot Bard and its mishandling of the Friends of the People information renders this new Hogg essay an irrelevant piece of writing.

- A Scottish Historian

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