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)”