‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 13.’ by a Correspondent in New York (15 July, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the discussion focuses on churches and observance of the Sabbath.

Churches and Sabbath Observance.

Taking up a Yankee newspaper, I read a paragraph commenting on Dundee having a population of 142,000 souls, and on a given Sunday only 30,000 church attenders. After reading this I thought I could not do worse than give you a short resume of Sabbath observance in America. In the first place, I think that if we had the Saturday half-holiday here it would tend in some measure towards the better observance of the Sabbath, for we find that human nature is human nature all over, and if a man works hard, as is generally the ease here, for sixty hours a week, and comes home on Saturday night after six o’clock, tired and weary, with no time for recreation or social enjoyment, are there not some extenuating excuse for him if he, instead of going to church, seeks some of the sociality which he is denied at any other time through the week? Can you blame him for going to our free hills and valleys and sniffing the [illegible] air, or in looking through nature up to nature’s God? But there are plenty of God-fearing, church-going people in America, as you have among yourselves, and, I suppose, many hypocrites as well. They sometimes, like some orthodox Scotchmen, profess more than they practice. According to the following advertisement, which appeared in one of our newspapers lately, there are some very pious people here. Said advertisement read thus:—“Wanted, a young man to take charge of a pair of horses of a religious turn of mind.” So that not only the people themselves, but even their horses are “unco guid.” It would be superfluous to tell your readers that there is no Church and State patronage in this country; but I can assure them that if disestablishment will cause the churches to be as attractive as they are here the sooner they join the disestablishment crusade the better. The churches of all denominations in this country are very elaborately and comfortably fitted up. The pulpits, or rather platforms, are elegantly set out with easy chairs and desks. They are seldom above two or three feet from the ground, and are ascended by two or three steps at each side. All the passages, aisles, and floors are laid with carpets. The bottoms and backs of the seats are soft lined; footstools covered with thick cloth and small [illegible] or drawers for holding books are in every pew. In winter stoves are placed in different parts of the buildings, which keep it nice and warm. In summer all the ladies and a few of the gentlemen use fans with great vigour, which keeps a soft breeze (having a perfume of confectionery) buzzing all over the church. I went into a church in Pittsburgh once on a hot summer’s evening, which happened to be the Sunday for the dispensation of the Sacrament. A clergyman [illegible] distance preached the sermon, and the minister of the congregation had a large fan, which he used with a power equal to steam in fanning the preacher. But this fanning system is of great benefit to churchgoers, for while the clergyman is administering balm to your spirit, the ladies look after your bodily comforts. There is a great deal more freedom used here between pastors and their flocks than there is at home—there not being nearly so much straitlacedness or stiff-neckedness among clergymen here. For instance, during the time the congregation are assembling for worship the pastor goes up and down the aisles shaking hands and asking after his flock’s social as well as spiritual welfare. If there are any pic-nics, concerts, social meetings, or any pleasure parties held in any way connected with the members of the churches, the pastors almost invariably give them their countenance and presence. I think this commingling of social matters between preachers and hearers is of great mutual benefit, and tends to foment a brotherliness between parties, instead of blind idol worship, as I have seen at home, where some people are more in awe of their earthly pastor than they are of their heavenly Master. As a rule, there are only two diets of worship in Presbyterian Churches on Sabbaths—one in the forenoon, the other in the evening, with Sunday schools and Bible classes between. The evening services do not begin until half-past seven, which is, I think, a mistake, as it is often nine before one can get home, which to us Scotch people is rather late for a Sunday evening. I have before me a Rochester newspaper in which is a large advertisement headed thus:—“Grand Sacred Concert, Sunday, February 5th, at Genesse Falls Park,” then follows the programme, with selections from “Billee Taylor,” followed by songs, solos, polka, quadrille, and other sacred music.  One Sunday evening we went to the Free Methodist Church, and the first objects which met our gaze on entering the edifice were large placards hung round the walls on which was painted in letters of enormous size the following:—“The congregation is expected to remain until the close of the service.” Another ran thus:—“Do not spit on the floor.” The first and principal part of the evening’s proceedings was the taking up of the collection. I may say that I have never seen any plates at the church doors here, but they have the barefaced, old-fashioned plan of thrusting the wooden ladle under your nose. All denominations are kind to strangers. Two ushers generally stand at the end of the aisles to lead you to a seat and find a book for you. In fact, they are as kind as a Reform Street draper after you have made a heavy purchase, for when you are retiring they bow and scrape and smirk and smile, and say—“Good evening, sir. Call again, sir. Be happy to see you, sir.” Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 13.’ by a Correspondent in New York (15 July, 1882)”

‘Bodkin Draws His “Huggar”’ (28 December, 1861)

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,—My prophecy has come true, nor did I need to wait lang for the fulfilment thereof. Tibbie has unbosomed a’ her griefs anent Mrs Davidson’s new apparel; an’, what is mair an’ waur, Tibbie’s pawkie tongue has gotten her the victory! Noo she is as happy as the nicht is lang, for she is upsides wi’ Mrs Davidson; yea, she is actually a gude wheen shillin’s superior to that individual, muckle as she did think o’ her bannet that cost three-an’-thirty “bob.” As sure as ought, after hearin’ a’ Tibbie’s wechty ratiocination, an’ balancin’ the yeas an’ the nays forgainst ane anither, I was driven to the inevitable conclusion that her will behooved to be law, an’ that I micht juist as weel haud my tongue as speak, unless I agreed to let it wag in unison wi’ her’s. Hoo she managed to convince me that she was “half-nakit,” an’ stood greatly in need o’ a backburthen o’ silk mercery an’ haberdashery goods, will be fully, truly, an’ particularly set forth in the sequel o’ my discoorse.

Weel, ye see, for twa or three days after Mrs Davidson’s visit, unco few words passed between Tibie an’ me on ony subject, an’ absolutely nane ava anent the contents o’ that worthy lady’s bandbox an’ broon paper parcels. I foresaw what was maskin’ up, an’ the prospect was onything but pleasant to behold. Weel kenned I that a sacrifice o’ sax or aucht pounds sterlin’ wad be necessary in order to restore Tibbie to her wonted serenity o’ soul an’ smoothness o’ temper; aboot that I had nae doots whatsomever. The contemplation o’ that disagreeable contingency, I ha’e as little doot, not only subtracted frae the habitual radiancy o’ my coontenance, but addit nae that little acerbity to the usual equanimity o’ my temper. It is sometimes necessary, in the way o’ business, to put on a face scarcely consistent wi’ the condition o’ the internal machinery o’ the body, but at ane’s ain fireside, if onywhere, it is surely quite allooable to let the physog shadow forth the feelins o’ the heart. Consequently, when I am angry either wi’ Tibbie or wi’ Willie Clippins, I tak’ gude care to adverteese them o’ the circumstance, by makin’ my physiognomy, as well as my haill walk an’ conversation, serve as the ootward tokens an’ visibilities thereof. There is nae use for a man toilin’ hard to keep a hoose aboon his head, if he is to be sae little the maister thereof as to be under the necessity o’ playin’ the hypocrite at his ain fireside, an’ deceivin’ even the very wife o’ his bosom.

Tibbie is auld-farrand eneugh at discernin’ the signs o’ the times to ken when to speak, an’ when to haud her tongue. T is the sign o’ a gude general to be able to see an’ to seize upon the precise moment when the enemy is in a swither whether to fecht or flee, an’ by leadin’ up his reserves in the nick o’ time, to mak’ a bauld stroke for victory. This faculty my Tibbie possesses to an ooncommon degree. She begins by cajolin’ me wi’ her saft blandishments against whilk my sternest resolutions are no proof o’ shot, an’ ends by leadin’ me captive, like a fule to the correction o’ stocks. In this I canna claim ony singularity for mysel’, for it has been the way o’ the warld ever sn’ t was a warld, an’ will likely remain sae as lang as men an’ women are drawn thegither by the silken cords o’ love, an’ that’ll be, accordin’ to my interpretation o’ the language o’ prophecy, till the crack o’ doom.

Tibbie’s first move towards oilin’ my temper pin was to throw on her bannet ae nicht an’ gang her wa’s doon i’ the gloamin’ to the Fish Market an’ fetch up a skate, as a peace-offerin’. So when she returned, she cries me to the kitchen. “Tammas,” quoth she, “wad ye hae time to look ben for a wee?”

Ben I goes, an’ there in a bucket lies the skate—an object that awakened in my stammack most pleasin’ visions o’ a feast o’ fat things. I’ve haen a lithe side to skate ever sin’ I could discern between my richt hand an’ my left, an’ its a feelin’ that will abide wi’ me as lang as I can tell what is gude for me, an’ after that, I’m thinking, I winna be worth muckle, either to Tibbie or to the warld at lairge. I stood an’ beheld it for a few seconds, then I seized it by the tail, an’ held it up atween me an’ the licht to see if it was a thorny-black, an’ lastly, I restored it to the bucket, but meanwhile I said naething, though I dinna doot my face gave unmistakable tokens o’ the inward satisfaction that I really felt an’ cherished. Tibbie watched the tide in her affairs, took it at the flood, an’ found that it led her on to fortune.

“What think ye o’ my purchase, Tammas?” quoth she, wi’ ane o’ her most winning smiles stealin’ ower her pawkie face; “Isna that a worthy beast! Hoo the fishwives were jokin’ me aboot it, Tammas! but fegs I gied them in their cheenge, an’ never mindit what they said. I think ye’ll get petawtis an’ skate to yer dinner the morn, Tammas.”

Tibbie said a great deal mair to the same purpose, an’ of coorse I gied my assent to the feck o’ her discoorse, for she taen care to mak’ it, even to the most minute particular, an echo o’ my weel-known sentiments on that subject. So, after discussin’ the merits o’ her purchase to oor hearts’ content, I gaed my wa’s ben to the needle, an’ Tibbie she kiltit her sleeves to her shoother heads, an’, knife in hand, set to wark to embowel the skate—an operation at which, n my humble opinion, she hasna her marrow amang a’ the women o’ my acquaintance. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Draws His “Huggar”’ (28 December, 1861)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 12.’ by a Correspondent in New York (1 July, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the corespondent responds to a critical letter which appeared in the 29 April 1882 edition of the paper.

Reply to D. Kinlay, of Louisiana.

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—I suppose most of the readers of your Journal know that we have people in this country called “cranks.” Guiteau was a “crank” when he murdered Garfield for the purposes of getting another to fill his victim’s office. We have a “crank” in this city who goes about bookstalls seizing and tearing up periodicals that he considers not up to his standard of morality, and last week he finished up by going into an art gallery, taking out a knife and cutting a picture to pieces because he thought it immoral. There are other “cranks” who send vilifying and threatening letters to those who do not think and write as they do. I see by your Journal of April 29th that there is such a one in Louisiana, who has been trying to vilify an abuse me because some of my letters did not come up to his standard of thinking. When I left Dundee some years ago, I promised to write a few letters on America and Americans as I found them—not as others think they have found them. Therefore I never took it in my head, nor ever will, to give my letters to others for perusal, alteration, or amendment before sending them to you. This wiseacre tells you that my letters are literary hash—disgusting and untrue. They may be literary hash and disgusting—that verdict I will only take from you and your readers—but when he says they are untrue I am almost tempted to say to him—You are another. However, I will be more charitable, and say that I believe he wrote his letter more in a spirit of egotism than anything else for what advancement can I gain by writing to friends and acquaintances that which is not true. If he has got a pair of spectacles to spare that suits his sight, and will send them to me, I might then write differently. All through his letter he sneeringly holds on to the opinion that all my information has been got from the very dregs of society, while he has learned his opinions in such places as the proud City of Blue [?], made classic by the shades of Yale University; and on rolling prairies, where every spot is a garden of flowers. Although my lot has been cast in a different mould from his, yet, thank God, I have never required to go to the lowest of the low for any information. All the fifty years of my life have been spent amongst as respectable people as ever he found in gardens of flowers, rolling prairies, or Universities—I mean the working classes. Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 12.’ by a Correspondent in New York (1 July, 1882)”

‘Bodkin’s Goose Falls into a Serious Transgression’ (21 December, 1861)

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,—Havin’ finished the waddin’ suit I spoke aboot last week, I’m noo at leisure to tell ye the result o’ my interview wi’ Tibbie an’ Mrs Davidson.

Weel ye see, as I was sayin’, when I gaed but to the kitchen at Tibbie’s command, I found her standin’ afore the lookin’ glass arrayed in Mrs Davidson’s new regimentals, an’ presentin’, I maun say, to my e’e at least, a very comely sicht. First an’ foremost, an’ to begin wi’ her upper story, there was a most lovely, an’, accordin’ to Mrs Davidson, a very costly bannet on the head o’ her, wi’ some queer fleegaries stuch atween the snoot an’ her forehead, that bore a strikin’ resemblance to a wren’s nest; but as this is no the season o’ nidification amang the feathered sangsters o’ the grove, a bird’s nest it couldna weel hae been, though what it really was clean surpasses my vocabulary to name. Most fearfully an’ wonderfully was that precious head-piece bedeckt wi’ ribands o’ a’ the hues o’ the rainbow. Tibbie remindit me o’ a ship buskit up in flamin’-coloured clouts, and juist ready to tak’ the grand plunge into her “future element.” A shawl, that I sanna attempt to describe, enveloped her person frae neck to heel, an’ aroond her neck there was twined an article that Mrs Davidson ca’d a sable boa, but that seemed to my inexperienced e’e to have been fashioned on the model o’ a hairy-worm. Add to a’ thae variorums, a muff o’ the same colour an’ quality as the boa, an’ ye’ll behold my Tibbie. I cuist my e’e ower her haill corporation frae head to fit, an’ quoth she, “Tammas, what d’ye think o’ yer gudewife the nicht?” Of coorse I wasna gaen to say afore Mrs Davidson a’ that I thocht, an’ a’ that I wad hae said, an’ a’ that I did say, ahint her back; but weel I wat, I thocht nae that little in my ain mind, an’ no the least distressin’ reflection was this, that I was in for a suit o’ the like raiment for Tibbie, as sure as I was a livin’ man an’ a dutiful husband.

“Think o’ ye, Tibbie?” quoth I. “Ou ye’re weel eneuch,” quoth I.

“Weel eneuch?” quoth Tibbie. “Is that a’ your skill, Tammas? D’ye no think Mrs Davidson’s bravity becomes me richt weel, Tammas?”

“Ou aye, I suppose they do,” quoth I, drily, an’ at the same time spittin’ on the guse to see if she was ready for liftin’.

“But that’s no what I meant, Tammas,” quoth Tibbie. “Ha’e ye naething to say aboot this lovely bannet, for instance, but juist ‘weel eneuch,’ an ‘on aye?’ D’ye no think it gars me look a dizzen o’ years younger like, Tammas?”

“Maybe it does, Tibbie,” quoth I, “but likes an ill mark, my woman; an’, besides, ye canna deceive me as to yer age noo, TIbbie, after I had the fillin’ up o’ the census paperie. D’ye mind hoo auld I set ye doon therein, Tibbie? If it werna for Mrs Davidson there I wad tell ye.”

“Hoots, toots, Tammas, min,” quoth she, “ye’re awa’ frae the subject noo a’thegither, but tel me what ye think o’ this muff, Tammas; would’nt it fit me to a very shavin’?”

“Ou aye, Tibbie,” quoth I, “an’ if I can lay me hands on a dead cat ony way, ye’se get a muff, Tibbie.”

“What d’ye think was the price o’ that bannet?” enquired Mrs Davidson.

“Canna say, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I. “Bannets are no exactly in my line o’ business, an I dinna like to venture a guess on the subject, for I’m far frae bein’ a witch at guessin’.”

“Weel, what will ye gi’e me if I tell ye?” quoth Mrs Davidson.

“My thirst for knowledge o’ that kind is no sae very intense as to induce me to pay a high fee for it,” quoth I.

“Juist three-an’-therty shillings, Mr Bodkin,” quoth she, “an’ no ae farthin’ less. It’s a real bargain, ye see, for the man said it was ‘very chaste,’ an’ newly arrived frae Parish.”

“Ye remind me o’ the auld proverb, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I.

“Yea, Mr Bodkin, an’ what proverb is that?”

“That a fule an’ his siller are sure partit,” quoth I.

“Aha! Mr Bodkin,” quoth she; “ye may say what ye like, but I’ve saved twa an’ saxpence on that bannet, for the man wad hae haen five-an’-therty an’ saxpence for’t, but I wadna agree to his terms. So ye see I’ve saved half a day’s wage to John Davidson by that stroke o’ business.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin’s Goose Falls into a Serious Transgression’ (21 December, 1861)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 11.’ by a Correspondent in New York (20 May, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the discussion focuses on drinking culture and alcoholism in the United States.

Drinking Habits Among the Yankees.

Mr William Pearce, the builder of the Arizona, Elbe, and Alaska steamships, has been in this country on a visit, and on being interviewed and questioned on the facilities for shipbuilding in this country as compared with Great Britain he says:—“We are, to be sure, hampered somewhat by the despotic system of Trades Unions among our working men. And, again, where our men work fifty-four hours in a week, yours work sixty. The working men in this country, too, are not so intemperate as ours are, which is another advantage American employers have.” “Angels and ministers of grace defend us,” where has this English shipbuilder got his information? It has long been my opinion that those who come here on a short pleasure trip, or just comes to see what o’clock it is in America, or only stops as long as digest the last meal they got on board the steamer that brought them out, know more about the history of America, geographically, geologically, commercially, socially, morally, and every other way than those who have been born and bred here for a long lifetimes. So it is with this Englishman. Does he mean to tell us that there is no despotic system of Trades Unions (as he loves to term it) in America? What he in his erroneous egotism calls despotism is far more rampant here than where he builds his ships. It is true that our working hours are properly six more per week than in the old country; but do Americans as a rule work more hours in a year than Scotchmen or Englishmen do? No, they do not. The Yankee thinks no more of taking a day to himself than a Scotchman does of taking a morning, and he does take it. Yankees don’t work nearly so steadily or continuously as this gentleman’s shipbuilders do. And, don’t you forget it, I don’t say that Uncle Sam is lazy. Oh no; I guess he only gets tired pretty often, and it takes a very small excuse to make him lay off work for a time. I thoroughly believe that if we had the Saturday half-holiday established here it would tend to lessen the taking of days during the week, for Americans, like other people, think that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. As to the charge of the British workman being more intemperate than American workmen, I will be as charitable as to think that he spoke more in ignorance than in trying to hurt his fellow-countrymen are more intemperate in every sense of the word than the Americans are, and I think it would be far better to remain silent than speak at random of things we know not of. The Excise Commissioners of New York City report they have licensed 8561 places to sell liquor, and there are at least 1500 unlicensed places in the city, making above 2000 reports for making drundarks [sic? drunkards?] in the city of New York alone. A correspondent of a newspaper says that the Astor House of that city has the largest bar business in the world, and adds—“It is a bad day’s business when they do not sell over 700 dollars worth of liquor.

In the city of Denver during the year 1880 the total income for the sale of boots and shoes, coal, and the products of the bakeries amounted to 1,875,000 dollars. The income for the sale of liquors for the same period was 2,000,000 dollars, or 25,000 dollars more for liquor than for the above necessaries of life. An authority on the subject says:—“A sum equal to the earnings of all the railways is drunk up every year in this country. Instead of men saving their money in case of hard times, they place their dollars in the liquor saloons, and draw an interest of bloodshot eyes and staggering gait. In time as they become better customers they get a substantial dividend of delerium tremens, and soon their brain succumbs.” Two million persons are employed in different branches of the liquor traffic. Four hundred murders and five hundred suicides annually are due to the drinking of alcohol in this country. And this is the land where sobriety is represented to be one of the characteristics of its people, and who are held up to you Scotch and English working men as worthy of imitation! Bah, the next time this English shipbuilder comes here to open his mouth and let his tongue say anything that has a mind to, let him take some other topic which he knows something about, and not come here in his ignorance and ridicule his fellow-countrymen, more especially the very men who build his ships and helped to build his fortune.

“O, ye wha are sae guid yersel’,

Sae pious and sae holy,

Ye’ve nought to do but mark an’ tell

Your neibours’ fauts an’ folly.”

Correspondent.

‘Bodkin Very Nearly Angry’ (14 December, 1861)

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,—On Wednesday afternoon Tibbie had a visit frae Mrs Davidson. Naething wrang in that; folk maun be freendly wi’ ane anither, if they dinna mean to live like a wheen cannibals withoot natural affection, an’ never passin’ a thocht aboot their neebors, except it be to contrive hoo to mak’ a meal o’ them. I like to be social mysel’, an’ I like to see everybody aroond me the same; but, losh, there’s a limit to everything under the sun, save an’ except to the click-clack o’ a woman’s tongue, especially when egged on by the click-clack o’ anither tongue o’ the same gender. The faster a body rins, the sooner he gets to the end o’ his journey—a rule that doesna haud gude wi’ speakin’, hooever—at least it doesna haud gude wi’ my Tibbie’s speakin’, for the faster her tongue wags, the langer lasts the motion thereof. It’s aye the mair haste the less speed wi’ Tibbie. Juist gi’e her a congenial subject, an’ get her fairly started wi’t, an’ ye may consider yersel’ fortunate if ye hear the end o’t within the limits o’ twa oors at the very least. Indeed, my Tibbie’s tongue comes aboot as near the perpetual motion as may be; an’ if they wad only agree to let me ha’e the reward offered for the discovery o’ that lang sought-for piece o’ mechanism, I wad thole its dinsome clatter wi’ a greater degree o’ patience an’ resignation than I can at times command.

Weel ye see Mrs Davidson made her appearance juist at the precise nick o’ time when Tibbie was to begin washin’ up her dinner dishes. I had newly finished my after-dinner pipe, and had barely mountit the board, when the ruddie comes to the door. I aye like to be civil wi’ everybody, and though Mrs Davidson acted a rather twa-faced pairt in the matter o’ the Municipal Elections an’ the Provostship, yet I made nae difference till her on that account, for if folk conduct themselves like gude Christians a’ the rest o’ their lives, we canna help though they sid resort to cheatin’, and leein’, an’ evil-speakin’, at an election time. That’s an every-day occurrence, ay, even among folk wi’ greater pretensions to honour and sanetity than Mrs Davidson ever had, an’ if we were to fling awa oor private freendships for ilka little thing in them that displeases us, we wad very soon find oorsels without a freend in the wide wide warld. Na, na, we mauna aye cast awa the cog when the coo flings. For that reason I abstained frae ony demonstration o’ ill-feelin’ towards Mrs Davidson, an’ so when I observed the snoot o’ her bannet peepin’ in atween the door cheeks, or rather the neb o’ her nose, for ladies bannets noo-a-days hae nae snoots worth speakin’ o’—I sprang doon frae the board an’ taen three staps to the stair-head for the purpose o’ shakin’ hauds wi’ her, an’ showin’ her ony ither points o’ gude breedin that micht peradventure be necessary under the circumstances.

I observed in the twinklin’ o’ an e’e that Mrs Davidson had been patronisin’ the haberdashery line o’ business, for she had a big broon paper parcel in ilka oxter, forbye a bandbox that she carried in her hand, the contents whereof, judgin’ frae the care wherewith the boxie was piloted past a’ the angularities in my lobby, seemed to be the objects o’ her especial affection and veneration. Seem’ that she was rather over-encumbered wi’ her properties, I caught hauds o’ the band-box wi’ the view o’ renderin’ ony little assistance I could gi’e, but got unco sma’ thanks for my pains. “Eh! Mr Bodkin! Mr Bodkin!” quoth she, “haud aff yer haunds,” quoth she, “or ye’ll mischieve a’ my new bannet,” quoth she, “an’ I wadna for the best thirty shillings my gudeman ever wrocht for that onything sid come ower that bannet.”

Sorra tak’ you an’ yer bannat baith, thinks I to mysel’, for ye’ll be showin’ aff a’ yer puchases to my Tibbie, an’ if I dinna hear word aboot them i’ the deafest side o’ my head afore mony oors are at an end, it will be something oot o’ the common ordinar’. So thocht I laigh in to mysel’, but here’s what I said heigh oot to Mrs Davidson, “Sorry wad I be to hurt a hair o’ yer head, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I, “let abee spoilin’ yer new bannet in ony shape or degree whatsomever, Mrs Davidson, but if ye winna let me touch yer boxie, ye surely winna object to let me relieve ye o’ yer broon paper parcels.” So the business was compromised by Tibbie takin’ ane o’ the bundles into custody, while I was entrusted wi’ the ither, an’ that’s hoo we got Mrs Davidson introduced to my kitchen. Dog on it; afore twa oors were at an end my sentiments regardn’ Mrs Davidson, her new bannet, an’ her broon paper parcels, had undergane a great an’ radicle cheenge, an’, in fact, to speak plainly, an’ withoot wishin’ ony ill to befa’ her, I could hae seen her dive head foremost doon the stair, an’ a’ her haberdashery, hair-skins, an’ rabbit-skins, an’ bandboxes at her heels. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Very Nearly Angry’ (14 December, 1861)”

‘A “Dundee Working Man” Criticised’, Letter to the Editor (29 April, 1882)

The following letter is a response to a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). This riposte from a correspondent in Louisiana criticises the 5th entry in the series which appeared in the March 4th 1882 edition of the paper.

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—The People’s Journal of March 4th is now before me, having reached me from my home in Massachusetts last night. On page 5 I find the following:—“A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 5.” “American Ladies and Divorces.” It is to correct the erroneous statements therein contained, and to prevent, if possible, the mischief which may be caused by their dissemination if uncontradicted that I now address to you this letter. By allowing it a place in your paper you will prevent the formation of opinions prejudicial to a true knowledge of the social status of the country. I am myself a Scotchman (a native of Dundee), and from a ten years’ residence in America, in several States, I think I have had a good opportunity to estimate the character of the average American—man or woman. I will not indulge in personalities, nor will I criticise the literary hash of “Dundee Working Man’s” letter. I write simply to correct statements which are untrue and likely to produce erroneous impressions. The ignorance of Americans and Englishmen respecting each other’s country is to be regretted, and every statement likely to increase or confirm this ignorance should be corrected. The first statement of the “Dundee Working Man” that American girls are “pert.” &c., is to a certain extent correct, but it is almost entirely among the lower class of people. “Dundee Working Man” evidently forgets that although politically all men here are “equal,” they are not so socially. There are classes here, as everywhere else, and it is evident that “Dundee Working Man’s” observations have been confined to a class of people not very high in the social scale and not a representative class. He has gathered a few incidents about some American women, and by a sweeping generalisation has extended the conclusions drawn therefrom to all American women, for “woman” is a name I never knew an American lady to be ashamed of, although I have seen American servant girls bristle at the word. But the young American lady is no more pert than young ladies of other countries, as far as my observations lead me to believe, and I have had extensive opportunities to observe, being acquainted with women of five or six countries. The third remark in “Dundee Working Man’s” letter I can but pass over, with a blush that any countryman of mine should speak of a woman in that way. The statement that “in their homes they (American women) are, generally speaking, slovenly-looking,” &c., is simply untrue. That condition is not general, but exceptional. In the rough towns on the rugged coast of Maine, in the farming districts and cultured cities of Massachusetts, in the proud “City of Elms” (Newhaven), in Connecticut, made classic by the shades of Yale University, and here on the rolling prairie where every spot is a “garden of flowers,” it has been my lot to meet American women of the highest social standing, and sometimes those of the lowest order in society, and I have found them as neat, and cleanly, and womanly as ever I found women anywhere else. Of course, as I have said, there are exceptions, but they are few in proportion to the whole. Among American girls the wearing of cheap jewellery is a too prevalent custom; but if any countryman had observed closely, he would have found that the habit is by no means confined to Americans; other girls—Irish, Scotch, English, German, all do the same. As to women’s speaking in meetings, although I have attended meetings of Methodists in three different States, I have never seen one—not even the most ignorant—get up and rattle on “until the sheer want of breath” she sank “exhausted into her seat.” Nor have I ever seen such a thing happen in the meetings of any other denomination. The anecdote which illustrates their “’cuteness” is disgusting, and reveals the nature of the sources whence your correspondent obtained his information. Need I be more explicit, and say that only a woman of a very low order would ever do what a “Dundee Working Man” attributes to this one? Moreover, the fact that a husband or wife would tell such a thing to outsiders shows their character and class too well to necessitate further comment. I will not criticise farther. If your correspondent, as he says, has, to his own mind, “neither extolled their virtues nor exaggerated their follies,” all I have to say in, either his judgment [sic] is at fault or he judges all from a very few examples of a very low class. This is the first of “Dundee Working Man’s” letters that I have seen. I may not get another People’s Journal soon, as this section is so overflowed with water as to prevent the running of trains. If I do, however, and find such absurd statements I shall feel bound, with your permission, Mr Editor, to correct them, I hope “Dundee Working Man” will be more careful hereafter to be sure that a fact which be represents as generally true is really so, and not exceptional.

Hoping you will publish this, I am, Mr Editor, yours, &c.,

D. Kinlay, jun.

New Iberia, Louisiana, United States,

April 2, 1882.