The following is one of the many epistles of Tammas Bodkin, the character used by editor William D. Latto to speak frankly (and amusingly) on current affairs. Latto became editor of the people’s journal in December 1860 and used the platform to launch Tammas, bringing himself a fair amount of fame in Victorian Scotland.
Maister Editor,—It’s wi’ nae sma’ amoont o’ trepidashun an’ wi’ great fear and tremblin’ that I venture to ask you the favour o’ insertin’ this letter; but I think it’s only fair that baith sides sid be heard, an’ yer Journal weekly testifies that ye’re o’ the same opeenion.
Alloo me, then, to tell ye, Sir, that I didna juist exackly like to cheek up tae the maister i’ the coorse o’ his learned prelection on matrimony last week, of whilk I was the oonfortunate victim; but believe me, though I said naething, I thocht plenty. Wi’ a’ due deference to the maister’s sooperior pooers o’ judgment, experience, an’ ability—no only in cuttin’ oot in the first style o’ fashion a pair o’ peg-top slacks, but also in bein’ the author o’ sae muckle leeterary maiter—I maun say that I think he juist took raither muckle on him when, withoot ony warnicement, as he ca’s it, he gae me sic a discoorse on matrimony. It took my breath clean awa’, an’ I didna get ae wink o’ sleep a’ nicht thinkin’ on’t. It wad hae been a’ very guid if he had been addressin’ a bridegroom, but the idea o’ me marryin’ is something that I canna for the life o’ me get ower—marryin’, an’ my time no oot—marryin’, an’ me hisna aboon—but I sanna say hoo muckle, or raither hoo little i’ the Savin’s Bank, for fear yer readers wid lauch at’s—marryin’, an’ my—my—my—whisker hardly begun to sprout again aifter its Hallowe’en untimely end—marryin’, an’, most important consideration o’ a’, only the words “Thomas Bodkin” on the sign-brod. Na, na. Ye mauna tell the maister, Mr Editor, when I lat ye into the secret that sin he cam’ sae muckle into notice, I’ve ha’en an e’e on the sign bein’ altered some day—tho’ it’ll maybe be a lang time yet—but wadna it soond fine. “Bodkin & Clippins, Tailors and Clothiers?”—far better than “Bobbins, Bodkin, & Co.,” so wisely rejected by “Tammas” (I houp he’ll excuse this fameeliarity). An’ here lat me say I dinna like thae Co.’s ava—they’re awfu’ oonstable like, an’ onything can be dune oonder that ugly wird at the end o’ some firms—“Co.”
But I’m digressin’, as the minister sometimes says, an’ I maun come again to the text o’ my marryin’. If I ance had a hunder or twa i’ the bank, and a respeckit ceetizen—wi’ a chance o’ the Provostship—I micht think o’ marryin, but no itherwise. Na, na! An’, considerin’ my youth an’ my want o’ chaft coverin’, I’m no ashamed to tell ye that a’ the length Mary Ann an’ me’s gane i’ the concert or twa, forbye gaen wi’ her to the kirk ilka Sabbath nicht, an’ then haen a turn wi’ her oot the Perth Road aifter; an’ I aye get a nod an’ a sly lauch fae her roond, the Marine Parade on a Sunday, whaur she, of coorse, gangs wi’ a’ the lave to show aff a new creenoline, or onything else she may chance to hae bocht. But, admittin’ a’ that, I couldna venture to speak to her aboot marriage. Really, sir, I’m no sure but that if Tammas was an auld bachelor—which, gude be thanked, he’s no—an’ was proposin’ to my Mary Ann, as heca’s her, I wadna say but what she wad tak him, though I earnestly houp she was mair regaird for me, forbye—sall I say it?—haen mair gude taste, for ye ken what Burns’ sang says aboot a young lassie an’ an auld man. I wad pit it to your readers, though, if I hinna some cause for jealousy, the wye Tammas speaks aboot Mary Ann. Forbye bein’ half in love wi’ her himsel’, he’s been the means o’ garrin’ I dinna ken hoo mony o’ your readers fa’ in love wi’ her too, aifter the eloquent description he gae o’ he appearance an’ chairms on Halowe’en nicht. He really sud say less aboot her i’ the papers. I winder hoo he wad liket to been shown up when he was coortin’ Tibbie. Weel, weel, now; supposin’ I was marryin’, there’s twa or three o’ the maister’s advices I wad be strongly inclined to rin coonter till a’thegither, at least, till I saw if they wad work or no. As to Mary Ann wearin’ the breeks, that’s a thing I wad never submit till—no, never. Wear the breeks—na, na, by my fegs that wad be it! What wad be the use o’ me wearin’ them if she was to dae’t tae? There’s naething I mair scorn than a hen-peckit husband—an’ I aye set him doon in my mind as a puir, disjaskit, whaizlin, doited, fushionless, silly body, wha lat’s his wife hae the management o’ im. I wad gie her a deal o’ string—as the laddies say wi’ their draigons—in her ain proper sphere, but that I sid dae what she bids me, and only what she bids me—na, na. I’m nane o’ yer women’s richt’s advocates ava, an’ its something gruesome to me the sicht o’ a blue stockin’! I ken I’m speakin’ geyan strong, an’ I wad juist warn Mary Ann—for I ken she reads the Journal regular—that if ever it sud come to pass that her an’ me gang to the altar thegither, she’ll ken aforehand that she maun bide in her ain place when she has William Clippins for her lord and maister! Anither little thing the maister mentions is yer to allow yer wife to tie yer neckerchief. Noo, if there’s ae thing mair than anither that I dinna like it’s a lassie workin’ aboot my neck. It gars me quiver a’ ower even when the auld wife’s tacklin’ on a misleared sark button that’s happened juist to come aff as I’m settn’ oot for the kirk on a Sabbath mornin’; an’ if there’s ae thing mair than anither that I pride mysel’ on, its the arrangin’ o’ my tie—whilk the maister afore this has noticed an’ remarkit on—an’ if she did happen to tied, I wa juist slip back, tak’ it a doon, an’ do’t up in a style to suit mysel’.
There’s twa or three things mair I wad liket to hae remarket on, but losh keep me! Sir, I’m frichtened to look at sae muckle’s I’ve written already; an’, forye, I’ve to gae wa an’ study my lessons, for ye’ll maybe no ken ‘at ‘ve joined the Workin’ Men’s College. An’ didna some o’ the wags ‘at kent me insult me by sayin’ that I wad hae to gang an’ get ither aucht tae attend afore they could be justifeed in takin’ a quarter’s payment frae me. Did ever ye hear sic impidence? But I’ll be upsides wi’ them yet afore the quarter’s dune.
An’ noo, Sir, if ever the maister sud happen to tramp on my taes again, I houp ye’ll hae the gudeness to promise that ye’ll gae a corner to the defence o’
999 Rag-Tag and Bobtail Square,
27th Nov. 1861.
[We have a communication from Mr Bodkin in type, but we have thought it only fair to let Mr William Clippins have his “say” this week.—Ed. P.J.]