‘Bodkin Visits the Shows’ (31 August, 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,—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)”

‘Bodkin Invests in Live Stock’ (24 August, 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,—Tibbie bein’ far removed frae the lichtsome society o’ Mrs Davidson, their visits to ane anither are of needcessity like angels’, “few an’ far between.” Tibbie has a wonderfu’ likin’ for society, no that she is either a gossip or a gadaboot by ony manner o’ menas, but, like a’ the daughters o’ Eve, she has an affection for some faithfu’ freend o’ her ain sex, with whom she can tak’ sweet coonsel in the midst o’ domestic tribulations, an’ to whom she can confidentially communicate ony little bits o’ odds an’ ends that she canna weel keep on her ain stammack, an’ wouldna juist like to tell to the world at large. As wad be gathered frae my last epistle, oor immediate neebors are no exactly the kind o’ cattle that either honest man or woman wad care aboot makin’ freends o’, an’ so it has come to pass that we haud nae intercommunication wi’ them except when it is necessary to prevent them frae brainin’ ane anither, or mischievin’ themsels, as was the case when I tane the conceit oot o’ Mr Phelim O’Grady, the week afore last. When we pass ane anither at the stair fit, we eschew a’ manner o’ salutation. As for me, I seldom let my een licht upon the gude-for-naething ne’er-do-weels; an’ Tibbie, I’m very sure, pursues exactly the same line o’ policy. Mony is the complaint I get frae Tibbie, puir body, that she has naebody to speak to; an’, as my mind is completely absorbed for the maist feck o’ the four-an-twenty in the mysteries o’ my profession, it’s as clear as daylicht that I hae but little time either to hear or to rehearse what micht tend to Tibbie’s amusement an’ edification. Hoosomdever, to mak’ a lang story short, an’ no to use vain repetitions, as the heathen do, bein’ alang the Nethergate last Saturday nicht, in pursuit o’ my lawfu’ business, I was attracted to a shop windock at the tap o’ Union Street, wherein there were sundry four-footed beasts an’ creepin’ things o’ the earth that were perfectly new an’ strange to my “Dictionary o’ Useful Knowledge.” So, after stannin’ for a while, an’ admirin’ their marvellous anatomy, an’ their desperate attempts at locomotion, an’ failin’ to mak’ oot to my ain entire satisfaction the preceese pairt cut oot for them to play in the mysteries o’ creation an’ Providence, I steps into the shop, an’ quoth I, “My woman, wad ye be kind eneuch to gie me what enlichtenment ye can anent thae creepin’ cattle ye hae in the windock? I’ve seen nae that few ferlies i’ my lifetime noo, baith i’ the vegetable, the animal, an’ the mineral kingdoms, i’ the heaven aboove, ‘i the earth beneath, an’ i’ the water oonder the earth, but that live stock o’ yours completely surpasses my comprehension. Do they belong to the parten tribe? or are they a species o’ ootlandish snail buckies?” “Ou na,” quoth the young hizzie, laughin’ in her sleeve at my simplicity, “they are tortoises.” Ay, ay,” quoth I, “they are tortoises, are they? an’ hoo d’ye cook them?” quoth I. “Cook them!” quoth she, laughin’ ootright, “They are no for eatin’, sir.” “Yea, yea,” quoth I, “they’re no for eatin’, are they no? An’ what is the use o’ them, then, if I may speer?” “Ou,” quoth she, “they are kept by folk fond o’ curiosities for amusement.” “Juist that,” quoth I, “they’ll be keepit by auld maids na’ lonely women, instead o’ cats, parrots, an’ lapdogs.” thinkin’, an’ thinks I, here wad be a fine ploy for keepin’ Tibbie oot o’ langer. The kittlin that she caused Jeames Witherspoon to lay violent hands on near Auchinblae, had it survived, wad hae been a sort o’ society till her; but, alas! the thread o’ its brief existence was oontimeously cut short in the deep waters o’ Powburn mill-dam. Mony a lang molygrant has Tibbie poured oot aboot the loss o’ her tortoise-shell cat; but here was a tortoise itsel’, an’ surely, thinks I, that will be muckle better than an imitation thereof. So the short an’ the lang o’ the business was, I was resolved to hae ane o’ them for Tibbie’s edification; but I was equally determined to tak’ possession o’t in a manner strictly in accordance wi’ the requirements o’ the eight command, for I could never gi’e in my adhesion to the principles whereon Tibbie an’ Jeames Witherspoon ackit when they tane the tortoise-shell kittlin captive, on oor spring-cart expedition through the Glen o’ Drumtochty. The only exuse that I could think o’ in extenuation o’ the enormity o’ their transgression on that occasion, was the undooted fact that not only Tibbie an’ Jeames Witherspoon, but even I mysel’, had dippit ower deep in the Athol brose at Knowgreens, no to mention the sups o’ mountain dew we had imibed on the tap o’ Strath Finella. Even that was but a human excuse, hooever, an’ wadna stand either the crucible o’ soond morality, or the fiery furnace o’ the Ten Commandments. Hoosomdever, seein’ the rebuke they got in the mill-dam sae speedily after the perpetration o’ the iniquity, I wad fain hope they repented o’ the error o’ their ways, an’ therefore naething father need be said on that score, the mair sae as even the very best o’ men an’ women—an’ I dinna mean to say that Jeames Witherspoon an’ my Tibbie are no to be reckoned in that category—are liable to gang astray at tmes, for, as Burns remarks—

“To turn aside is human.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Invests in Live Stock’ (24 August, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Conquers Mr Phelim O’Grady’ (17 August, 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’m onything but pleased wi’ this hoose o’ mine. In the first place, I dinna think it’s a’thegither respectable to live up three stairs in the garret department o’ a biggin’, hooever aristocratic the neeborhood may be, but especially when it happens, as it oonfortunately does in this instance, that the land is the chosen abode o’ twa itinerant rag merchants, wha carry on their business on the flat next below, an’ o’ anither twa ragamuffin-lookin’ Irishers in the grund flat, wha earn a livelihood by perambulatin’ the streets wi’ barrows, sellin’ dulse an’ tangle, partans, an’ fresh herrin’. Had I been duly adverteesed o’ thae cattle afore takin’ the hoose, it’s mair than probable that I wad either hae tane langer time to wale aboot, or I wad hae made freends wi’ the bugs, an’ stayed in ther society at least till the next term. In the next place, we are sae near the tiles that the heat is like to roast Tibie an’ me alive. It’s an oonspeakable merciment that neither o’ us is very fat, else I sanna attempt to predict what the upshot micht hae been. Probably we wad hae been rindit doon to the condition o’ kitchen-fee lang ere the dog-days were weel begun. Frae mornn’ to nicht I’m in a perfect muck o’ sweat, especially when I’m hangin’ ower the het guse. Then the moisture hails doon my nose like dew upon the tender herb. Tibbie is no ae whit better than I am—rather waur; for what atween heating the guse an’ makin’ the kale, she behooves aye to keep on a roarin’ fire i’ the kitchen that wad roast an ox.

Noo, dinna let onybody rin awa’ wi’ the notion that, because I hae named Irishers an’ rag merchants amang my neebors, I despise them either for their occupation or their nationality. Naething o’ the kind. A decent, guid-livin’ Irishman, or a douce, God-fearin’ vendor o’ worn-out dish-clouts an’ auld breeks may be as guid a neebor as a Scotsman, or as a manufacturer o’ spleet new breeks, such as I am. But what scunners me at the clamjamphrie in the flats below is the fact that their e’e-holes are nae sooner open i’ the mornin’ than they are quarrelin’ and fechtin’ like tykes an’ swine; an’ they are nae sooner hame at nicht wi’ the fruits o’ their day’s hagglin’ ower auld stockin’ feet an’ bawbees’ worths o’ dulse an’ tangle, than there is a send oot for whisky, an’ a repetition o’ the mornin’s snarlin’, cursin’, an’ maulin’ ane anither. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Conquers Mr Phelim O’Grady’ (17 August, 1861)”

‘Bodkin on the Boards’ (3 August, 1861)

“I’m weel aware that they are unco misleared vaigs, thae reporters, an’ wreat a great deal mair o’ the truth at times than it is for the comfort o’ some folks’ stammacks that the warld sid ken aboot. It was a far better warld afore the airt o’ takin’ shorthand notes was heard tell o’. Then folk that couldna speak sense could speak as muckle nonsense as they had a mind to, withoot the danger o’ ha’en their nonsense printit for the amusement o’ the present generation, an’ the astonishment o’ posterity.”

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. Here, Tammas continues his attack on the Parish board’s legislation in regards to the collection of poor rates. See 23 March 61.

Maister Editor,—We’ve twa Parochial Boards in Dundee, or at least conneckit wi’ Dundee. We’ve the Liff an’ Benvie Board, and we’ve the Dundee Board. In baith o’ thae sapient conclaves, there is what I may ca’ a clerical element. The Liff an’ Benvie Board includes the Rev. Mr M’Lean—wha is the only member that sits an’ votes therein by virtue o’ his office, an’ by the authority an’ ordination o’ an Act o’ Parliament. So he tane care to inform his fellow-Boarders the ither day. In the Dundee Board there is also a clerical blade, in whose eyes the title “reverend” is despised, an’ wha is therefore just plain Saunders Easson. Saunders disna claim to be the only member o’ Dundee Board by Act o’ Parliament but he claims to hae far mair wit an’ wisdom aboot him wi’ regaird to the interpretation o’ Parliamentary Scripture than ony o’ his Parochial brethren. I’ve been takin’ a note o’ the ongaens o’ thae twa clericals matters, an’ though I’ve said naething, I haena been withoot my ain thochts. I’ve thocht, for instance, that it’s an unco queer phenomenon that men wha stand up i’ the poopit on the Sabbath-day an’ exhort their hearers to render obedience to the pooers that be, an’ to be chartable to the puir an’ needy, an’ sae furth, sid get up i’ the Parochial Board on a week day, an’ propose to set an Act o’ Parliament at defiance, for the purpose o’ haudin’ the noses o’ the puir an’ needy at the grundinstane a little langer. For decency’s sake, folk sid aye let their conduct be as closely conformable to their profession as possible. It’s no by folk’s sayins that they should be judged, but by their doins. When the twa things agree thegither it’s a sicht most beautiful to behold, but when practice fa’s oot wi’ principle, an’ the twa come to loggerheads, t’s a sicht that does violence to a’ my ideas o’ propriety an’ decency, an’ is like to gar me tyne a’ faith in the uprichtness o’ the human species. Continue reading “‘Bodkin on the Boards’ (3 August, 1861)”