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,—Though my profession disna juist lead me into the market-place sae aften as the like o’ Jeames Witherspoon, wha maun therein seek customers for his stots an’ staigs, pigs an’ petawtis, girse an’ grain, an’ grath o’ that kind, yet I dinna deny the pleasure that it gi’es me to tak’ a daunder doon the toon on a Fair day, juist to see a’ the sweetie booths an’ toy-stalls, wi’ their queer drolleries, surroundt wi’ scores o’ admirin’ totums, haudin’ oot their bits o’ bawbees for staks o’ rock, Noah’s arks, an’ jumpin’ jacks. There wad be nae use moraleezin’ on the subject, but I canna help remarkin’ that, if I were a disciple o’ Lavater—as I’m no—I wadna wish for a better field for study an’ observation than juist in “merchants maist do congregate.” There ye’ll see a’ kinds o’ cattle—rich men an’ puir men, tall men an’ small men, lean men an’ fat men, men wi’ ae e’e an men wi’ nae e’e, honest men an’ unhangit blackguards, forbye women o’ a’ descriptions, ower numerous to mention—some o’ them, indeed, the less said aboot them the better. Guid guide us a’!—what a warld o’ faces flittin’ hither an’ thither, an’ no twa o’ them exactly alike. There goes a chield wi’ an enormous nose on the face o’m, bent doon at the end, after the cut o’ an eagle’s neb. Here is something unco kenspeckle about that bill; ye wad recognise it again amang a thoosand noses. There comes ane wi’ his proboscis curled up at the pont in a manner quite different frae the eagle-nebbit gentleman. He taks snuff, I can see, an’ that accounts for the peculiar cut o’ his beak, for the incessant snifterin’ an’ sneerin’ up o’ the Irish blackguard has evidently had the effect o’ gien’ the extremity o’ his “nut” an ill-faured set in a sky-ward direction. Yonder is a chap wi’ a mooth that reminds me o’ the shakers in Jeames Witherspoon’s thrashin’ mill, only instead o’ castin’ oot the strae it has evidently been intended for takin’ in an’ grindin’ doon the corn, an’ no that little o’t it does grind. Even noo it is busy masticatin’ a sixpenny cake o’ gingerbread, an’, my certie, I’m richt wae for the bread, for it is comin’ to grief, an’ nae mistak’. I wad rather haud that tatie-trap gaen for a week than a fortnicht. Everything is beautifully ordered, however, for had this gentleman been less wide o’ the wa-gang, he wad never hae been able to deliver the quantity o’ vittles necessary to stuff that expansive paunch o’ his. In this case, there is complete harmony between the capacity o’ the “trap” an’ the capacity o’ the “crap,” the twa things bein’ clearly intended to work to one anither’s hands. But here am I haverin awa’ at this rate withoot comin’ to the real point. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Visits the Shows’ (31 August, 1861)”