‘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)”

‘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)”

‘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)”

‘Bodkin Draws Tibbie’s Tooth’ (7 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,—A’ last week Tibbie gaed aboot an’ gloomed even on. Though I employed a’ my airts an’ blandishments wi’ her, though I gaed to the well, an’ brocht up the coals, tane oot the ase, an’ washed up the dinner dishes, lai on the fire i’ the mornin’, an’ made her cuppie o’ tea till her afore she rose, an’ her bed after, yet a’ wadna do—naething wad mollify if it got ae kick in the coorse o’ the four-and-twenty oors, it got a score o’ them, an’ the very tortoise couldna lift a fit to please her. For me, I couldna sup my kail to her satisfaction, an’, as for Willie Clippins, he gied great offence by his manner o’ scoorin’ the guse—he made ower muckle noise, she said, for ae thing, an’ he bleckt a’ the floor wi’t for anither; an’ so, atween Willie an’ me ben the hoose, an’ the creepie an’ the tortoise i’ the kitchen, Tibbie’s life was rendered quite miserable. Truly, she was a woman o’ a sorrowfu’ spirit.

Bein’ certain that neither Willie nor mysel’, nor the creepie, nor the tortoise, had been guilty o’ any greater misdemeanours than ordinary, I began to jealouse that something was wrang wi’ Tibbie hersel’. I was confirmed in this opinion by seein’ her takin’ a couple o’ Colosynth’s pills ae nicht to her supper, an’ my belief was still farther strengthened when, next mornin’, I observed the auld black teapat sotterin’ at the cheek o’ the fire, wherefrom there cam’ a strong ill-favoured combination o’ stinks that I was morally certain proceedit frae a decoction o’ salts an’ senna an’ horehund, an’ sic like graith. I made sundry kind inquiries as to the state o’ her health, but she wasna disposed to be communicative, an’ so I didna press my questions. By-an’-bye, hooever, i observed that her chouks began to swall oot to abnormal proportions, an’so I cam’ to the conclusion that Tibbie was labourin’ oonder that “hell o’ a diseases”—toothache. That quite explained to me the twist in Tibbie’s temperpin, for, o’ a’ the deseases Tibbie has ever been afflicket wi’ since she cam’ oonder my jurisdiction, toothache is the only ane that she could never thole wi’ ony degree o’ patience.

But the reason why she made nae remarks aboot her complaint was this:—Aboot a twalmonth syne I happened to hae a pretty dour attack o’ the same complaint, when, of coorse, I made an unco ootery, as it wad behoove ony mortal man to do oonder the circumstances, an’ Tibbie she wad hae a mustard-poultice applied to the braid-side o’ my head. This was a’ very weel, an’ I agreed to try the efficacy thereof; but ye’ll no hinder Tibbie to clap the mustard on my bare cheek, whereupon it a’ got claggit aboot the roots o’ my whiskers, an’ awa’ it wadna come. Aweel, in the coorse o’ natur’ it burned, an’ it burned, an’ it burned, oontil I was like to gang oot o’ my judgment wi’ the pain thereof; an’ the lang an’ the short o’t was that the skin cam’ harlin’ aff my cheek in blypes, leavin’ the hair standin’ in a wilderness o’ prood flesh. Dog on it! I was nae that weel pleased aboot it, an’ was plain eneuch to say sae; but Tibbie got up in an unco tirrivee, an’ quoth she, “Hech, I ‘sure ye, when ony little thing is the matter wi’ you, Tammas, ye sune let a’ the hoose hear o’t—makin’ sic a sang aboot a mere flech-bite, min. I wonder ye dinna think back burnin’ shame o’ yersel’! I’m sure I’ve had the toothache a thoosan’ times ower, an’ a thoosan’ times waur than you, Tammas, an’ did ye ever hear me grainin’ an’ makin’ a hullieballoo at that rate? But it’s aye the way wi’ you men folk—ye canna thole a stoond i’ the nail o’ yer muckle tae, but ye maun be cryin’ oot murder, an’ thrawin’ yer chafts as if ye had swallowed a hedge-hog, or a wasp’s bink wi’ a’ its inhabitants.” An’ so on she gaed, blawin’ her ain horn, an’ garrin’ me look unco sma’ indeed. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Draws Tibbie’s Tooth’ (7 December, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 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,—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.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin on Matters Matrimonial’ (23 November, 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,—The ither nicht i’ the gloamin’, Tibbie bein’ oot for some errands, an’ the hoose bein’ quiet, baith but an’ ben, Willie an’ me fell to oor cracks aboot ae thing an’ anither, an’ so, after settlin’ the American war to oor ain entire satisfaction, an’ regulatin’ the price o’ the meal, an’ petawtis, an’ red herrin’, so as to gar them harmonise wi’ the current rates o’ wages, the conversation at last tane the direction o’ matrimony, whereon we had some unco edifyin’ discoorse. Willie fought rather shy o’ the subject, hooever, as was but natural in him, puir fallow, seein’ he has had nae experience in the ways o’ womankind farther than occasionally gallantin’ wi’ the charmin’ Mary Ann. Hoosomdever, I consider it to be a pairt o’ my duty not only to instruct him in the mystery o’ my proper profession, but also to put some smeddum in him in regaird to matrimony, an’ things in general, an’ therefore I embraced the opportunity o’ readin’ him a lecture on that branch o’ Social Science that I wad venture to ca’ Matrimonial Economy. He is maybe rather young to oonderstand sic a discoorse yet, but, as the proverb says, “Learn young learn fair.”

“Noo, Willie,” quoth I, “as we’re on the subject at ony rate, I maun hae a word, or twa wi’ ye aboot that sweetheart o’ yours, an’ hoo ye maun behave yersel baith before an’ after ye mak’ her yer wife. I think muckle o’ yer taste, Willie—very muckle indeed—for if I were allooed to criticise the looks o’ young leddies I wad say that Mary Ann is juist yer very marrow, sae far as I can judge frae the ootside o’ her, an’ I hope, for you sake as weel as her ain, that her moral qualities are but a faithfu’ reflex o’ her bonny, bloomin’, laughin’ coontenance, that maks her presence a perpetual sunshine.”

I saw that Wilie was in an unco steeriefyke when I entered upon this delicate subject, for his face grew as red as the fire, an’ he bit his lip, an’ he made sundry attempts to clear his throat o’ something that obstinately refused to budge in spite o’ a’ his hoastin’ an’ hawghin’, an’ he held the needle fleein’ wi’ a vigour an’ a velocity nae ordinary, an’ he hung doon his head like a bulrush—an’, takin’ a’thing into acoont, it was as plain as a pike-staff, to my apprehension, that Willie was thinkin’ black-burnin’ shame either o’ himsel’ or o’ me; but, hoosomdever, he was as mim as a moose, an’ said naething, an’ so I proceedit wi’ my discoorse:—

“But, Willie,” quoth I, “ye are but a young man yet, an’ winna be oot wi’ yer apprenticeship for anither twelvemonth, an’ I wad hae ye to exerceese due caution in comin’ oonder obligations either to Mary Ann or to ony o’ her sex. Ye maun remember, Willie, that marriage is a solemn oondertakin’, for when ye get a wife ye’ll be nae langer yer ain maister, but will be, to a certain extent, oonder petticoat government. I am, Willie—everybody is—an’ it wad be needless to deny it. Noo, ye wad need to consider aforehand, Willie, whether ye wad be willin’ to let Mary Ann wear the breeks, as the sayin’ is, for it’s ower late to consider that after the marriage-knot has been tied. Mind ye, there’s nae gettin’ oot o’ that scrape ance ye are fairly in; sae ye wad better look afore ye loup. Continue reading “‘Bodkin on Matters Matrimonial’ (23 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Holds his Halowe’en (16 November, 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,—I aye like to gie young folk a little encouragement, provided they behave themsels, an’ do what they are bidden. Noo, I’ve never haen ony cause to complain o’ the behaviour o’ Willie Clippins. Shortcomins he may hae—as, indeed, there’s few folk free o’ them, no forgettin’ mysel amang the lave—but this thing I will say to the credit o’ Willie, he has never been obstinately nor wilfully mureungeous in his disposition, an’ aye when I have shown him the error o’ his ways, he has listened to my coonsels an’ reproofs wi’ becomin’ reverence. In doin’ that, of coorse, he is doin’ naething but his duty, an’ strictly speakin’, folk shouldna be bribit to do their duty; but still an’ on they are nane the waur at times o’ being allooed a little indulgence to keep them souple, an’ to shew that they are no juist viewed in the licht o’ workin’ machines, that maun gang on an’ on, frae day to day an’ frae year to year, withoot rest or recreation. Mony is the saxpence, an’ untold the quantities o’ sweeties I hae gien to Willie frae first to last, y way o’ encouragin’ him in weel-doin’, an’ never have I had cause to regret the bounties bestowed on him, for I’m sure he wad gang through fire an’ water to sair either Tibbie or me, an’ that withoot either the shadow o’ a glumsh or a grumble on his mirkie bit coontenance.

In my hoosehold Hallowe’en an’ Hogmanay, no to mention the various Fair days an’ ither great occasions, ha’e aye been held sacred to the spirit o’ fun an’ gude fellowship, an’ a’ kinds o’ harmless gilravage proper to the season. I’m that muckle o’ a Conservative in a social point o’ view—though I’m an oot an’ oot Radical in political matters—that I grieve to see a spirit o’ utilitarianism abroad, breakin’ up bit by bit a’ oor time-honoured customes an’ observances, an’ leavin’ us naething in their stead but hard wark an’ short commons to cheer oor pilgrimage through this vale o’ tears. I’m nae advocate for the carnivals an’ numberless saint days an’ holidays that ha’e the sign o’ the beast on their foreheads, but I’m dead against lettin’ go oor haud o’ the few seasons o’ mirth an’ harmless jollification we reserved when we voluntarily abandoned the mummeries o’ the great whore o’ Babylon, wha even to this oor ain day yet sits enthroned in the seven-hilled city, makin’ hersel’ drunk wi’ the blude o’ the saints. I like fun mysel’, an’ I like to see a’ mankind enjoyin’ themsel’s, if sae be they keep their mirth within the boonds o’ propriety, an’ dinna let their amusements degenerate into licentiousness.

Weel, ye see, Tuesday nicht bein’ Auld Hallowe’en, I, accordin’ to custom, gae Willie the forenicht to himsel’, an’ told him mair an’ farther that he micht bring in a half-dizzen or sae o’ his acquaintances, an’ I wad provide for their entertainment an’ amusement at my ain charges. This, I think, is a far better plan than simply turnin’ young folk adrift to rin-the-rout an’ seek amusement for themsel’s, when they maybe fa’ into evil company, an’ bring grief an’ shame upon themsel’s an’ upon a’ conneckit wi’ them. I’m no gien to offer advice unless it be especially sought for; but I wad for ance depairt frae that rule, an’ admonish my fellow-tradesmen, an’ maisters an’ mistresses o’ a’ kinds, no to think the twa or three shillin’s ill-waired that are spent on makin’ their servants happy, an’ keepin’ them oot o’ mischief. I can speak frae my ain experience on this subject, an’ I can safely say I never but got the bawbees spent in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, instead o’ bein’ a loser by my liberality, I have gained nae that little thereby, besides haein’ the sweet, the oonspeakable satisfaction o’ makin’ my fellow-creatures happy.

It wad ha’e done yer heart gude had ye seen hoo Willie garred the needle dance oot an’ in through the seam o’ the pair o’ slacks whereon he was engaged, when I made the important announcement that he was to be his ain maister after the chap o’ sax o’clock. I despatched Tibbie in the afternoon wi’ her radicle on her airm, an’ a twa shillin’ piece in her pouch, to buy an assortment o’ apples, nuts, an’ ither nick-nacks; an’ Willie, after takin’ his drappie o’ tea, washed his face, arrayed himsel’ in his est apparel, an’ set oot to invite his companions to the ploy. In coorse o’ time he returned, bringin’ twa o’ his male companions, and three o’ his female ditto. Od it’s wonderfu’ to behold hoo soon the youthhood o’ the present generation begin to pair. I’m certain sure, when Tibbie an’ me were like them, we wad hae thocht black burnin’ shame to hae been seen cheekin’ up to ane aniher; but ye see this is an age o’ progress, wherein it is baith lawfu’ an’ proper for folk to think aboot gettin’ married lang, lang afore they set abot cuttin’ their wisdom teeth. There was Billy Button, a geyan spruce lookin’ bit chappie, wha will be oot wi’ his apprenticeship on the term day, an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; there was Jeames Stitch, the auldest son o’ my freend an’ former servant Maister Stitch, wha is sairin’ his time in some haberdashery establishment wast the Nethergate—an unco gabby rascal he is for his years, but by nae means an ill-disposed bit loonie for a’ that—an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; an’ there was Willie himsel’, lookin’ as brisk as a bee on a midsummer mornin’—an’ he had his sweetheart under his wing, though he winna let me say she was his sweetheart, but it’s a gude point to deny weel, an’ I canna blame him for doin’ what I wad ha’e done mysel’ when I was like him, an’ what I did oftener than ance, as Tibbie can testify, if she likes to tell the truth on that subject. My certie, Willie has nae reason to be ashamed o’ his choice, for Mary-Ann—that was a’ the name she had, sae far as I could mak’ oot frae their conversation—was as blithe an’ bonnie a bit lassockie as ye could clap an e’e upon. Wi’ her lang black glossy locks gathered up in a poke in her back-neck, lookin’ for a’ the warld like a fisherman’s sou’-wester—though, of coorse, a far mair interestin’ object—wi’ a sweet little Garibaldi perkt on the croon o’ her bit head, whereon there flaunted a “dear little duck” o’ a “feather”—no meanin’ thereby that it was a deuk’s feather—na, na, it had dootless been pluckit frae the wing o’ some far-awa’ fowl, proverbial for its splendid plumage—wi’ a braw silk cloak that Tibbie thinks wad cost nae less than five-an’-twenty shillin’s, and maybe aughteen pence mair, coontin’ the border an’ the braidin’ on the breast o’t, wi’ a skirt made o’ a material the name whereof I forget at this precise moment—but Tibbie kens a’ aboot it—an’ for the crinoline, I didna get a sicht o’ that, but judgin’ frae appearances, I wad say it couldna hae been less than four or five yards in circumference; an’, to croon a’, wi’ “her rosy cheeks an’ cherry mou’, her sparklin’ een o’ bonnie lue, her dimpled chin, her forehead fair, her neck that scarce the very swan in spotless whiteness can compare—wi’ a’ thae charms, an’ ten times mair, bedeck a fairy form, an’ there thou wilt behold sweet Mary Ann.” Its really ill dune in me to let oot secrets, but the latter pairt o’ the foregoin’ description I discovered this mornin’ under the guse, carefully drawn up in Willie’s handwreatin’ on the braid side o’ a white paper poke that has a strong smell o’ tea blades. So, after that, Willie needna deny bein’ in love wi’ Mary Ann; an’, to tell the truth, had I been in Willie’s shoon, I wad hae been in love wi’ her, or wi’ some ane unco like her, mysel’, an’ that’s no sayin’ ae thing an’ thinkin’ anither. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Holds his Halowe’en (16 November, 1861)”