(1770-1835) Scottish poet and writer, known as the "Ettrick Shepherd" because of his early, illiterate life as a shepherd in Ettrick parish, south of Edinburgh. He began publishing poetry around the turn of the century, and in The Pilgrims of the Sun (1815) put into verse form a Fantastic Voyage, describing a trip to various planets by a young woman and her mysterious companion; it was dedicated to Byron. Of greater interest are the tales based on Scottish Folklore assembled in: The Brownie of Bodsbeck and Other Tales (coll 1818), which comprises three full-length novels; Winter Evening Tales Collected Among the Cottagers in the South of Scotland (coll 1820); The Shepherd's Calendar: Tales Illustrative of Pastoral Occupations, Country Life, and Superstitions (coll 1828); Altrive Tales, Collected Among the Peasantry of Scotland, and from Foreign Adventures (coll 1832); and Tales and Sketches of the Ettrick Shepherd (coll 1837 6 vols).
Though many of these tales are technically Supernatural Fictions, the abiding sense of JH's tales is of so pervasive an interaction between the mundane and the supernatural that little tension – or distinction – between the two can normally be detected. In the novel which gives its title to the first collection, for instance, the interaction between the Wainscot sprite and the young woman he protects is intricately woven into a tale about 17th-century Scotland; and "The Hunt of Eildon", from the same volume, features two sisters who, metamorphosed into white hounds (see Metamorphosis), protect the king from various dangers, both mundane and supernatural, and pass over, after their work has been done, into Faerie.
Outside Scotland JH remains best remembered for The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Written by Himself, With a Detail of Curious Traditionary Facts, and Other Evidence, by the Editor (1824; vt The Suicide's Grave, or Memoirs and Confessions of a Sinner 1828; vt The Confessions of a Justified Sinner 1898), the complexly told and ambivalently confessional narrative of a man who believes his salvation to have been predestined (hence his self-description as a "justified sinner"), and who is seduced into sin by the Devil.
Condescended to by his contemporaries, JH has only in the last half-century been recognized as a writer of significance. [JC]