‘Tammas Bodkin on Heterodoxy and Orthodoxy’ (23 February, 1861)

The following epistle is the second appearance in ‘The People’s Journal’ 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. In this column Tammas takes aim at the controversialist Joseph Barker who made a public appearance in Dundee, performing a lecture at the Bell Street Church and Hall. This article received some not entirely complimentary feedback from the readers which will appear below.

“Foulk wi’ a thirst after notoriety sid hae nae notice ta’en o’ them, an’ they wad soon cease to play their ootlandish antics. That’s my real opinion on this subject.”

Maister Editor,—Muckle against the wull o’ my gudewife, I paid a visit to Bell Street Hall on Monday nicht to hear what an unbeliever wad hae to say for himsel’. On gettin’ inside, I faund Mr Barker at his nicht’s wark, an’ a very extraordinary kind of wark it was, for it seemed to be his main object to turn everything that we’ve been accustomed to hold sacred into ridicule for the purpose o’ exciting laughter amo’ the audience, wha were to a’ appearance composed for the maist part o’ tailors (like mysel’), shoemakers, engineers, wabsters, wi’ here an’ there a thochtless laddie o’ a clerk, an’ atour an’ aboom a’ some sax or aucht women. Nae doot a gude hantle o’ them were there joost for fun—to see an’ be seen—an’ to hear what the oonbelievein’ man wad say. That was the object at ony rate; but losh, I didna like to look up for fear o’ bein’ kent, for it micht hae circulated through a’ the toon that I, Tammas Bodkin, was an infidel, and what wad hae been the upshot o’ that? Never anither pair o’ slacks wad I hae got to mak’ for Andrew Trotter, for Andrew is an elder o’ the Kirk, and wadna hae ony fellowship wi’ the warks o’ darkness. My business wad hae sufered for it, but I am glad to say I saw naebody there that I kenned except Mr John Davidson, an’ I took care to keep oot o’ his sicht. Ye see, I dinna care noo wha kens I was ane o’ Mr Barker’s hearers, for I can prevent a’ mischief by at once showin’ that I gaed there for the purpose o’ confutin’ the onsoond doctrines, an’ no for swallowin’ them. I saw a great many snuffers an’ dirty faces among the audience, an’ I’m of opinion that snuff, dirt, and infedility gang thegither. Aboot the lecture itsel’ I’ve unco little to tell. There was nae argument in it frae beginnin’ to end. Some very smart jokes were uttered aboot persons and things that it would be wrang to name in this place, but I could see nae attempt at onything like logical reasonin’ in the hail discourse. He boasted o’ his science an’ his earnest pursuit o’ knowledge, but for the pairt I think there is as muckle science and knowledge in my guse as in a’ I heard uttered durin’ the oor an’ a quarter that the lecture lasted. Mr Barker winna believe in the Holy Trinity because he canna oonderstand fu’ there can be three persons in the Godhead, an’ yet only ae Supreme Bein’, but wi’ a’ his science can he tell me by what chemical process the snail maks for itsel’ a buckie? Does Mr Barker oonderstand a’ the mysteries o’ creation, in the heeven aboon an’ in the earth below, an’ in the waters oonder the earth? Surely he winna say sae; an’ if he disna oonderstand the warks o’ the Almichty, fu’ does he think to oonderstand a’ aboot the Almichty himsel’? Mr Barker was ooncertain whether or no there is anither warld; but he says if we do weel for ourselves an’ for ithers in this warld, we are makin’ the best preparation for the next ane, if there is sic a thing; an’ if no, we’ll at least get the benefit o’ oor gude behavior in this present warld. But what if there sid be anither warld joost as the Bible describes? In that case I wadna like to stand in Mr Barker’s boots. Na, na, I’ll stick by the Bible, for if it is true (an’ o’ that I am thoroughly convinced), I am in the safe road to the next warld; an’ if it’s no true (an’ nane but the shameless an’ reprobate deny its truthfulness), to do what it bids us will do us at the least nae harm. The morality o’ the New Testament is as soond as ony morality that we are likely to get frae Mr Barker. I dinna wonder at Mr John Davidson makin’ an onslaught on the irreverent lecturer. If I had been as gude o’ speakin’ as o’ wieldin’ the pen. I wad hae dune something similar mysel’.

I oonderstand this champion o’ infidelity has been lecturin’ on love an’ marriage, an’ so forth, showin’ fu’ foulk sid coort, an’ fu’ they sid manage their households, but it wad set him better to bide at hame, an’ attend to his ain connubial affairs, an’ let the foulk o’ Dundee kiss their sweethearts an’ controul their domestic concerns, as it best pleases themsels’, an’ as they were able to do lang afore Mr Barker was born. Continue reading “‘Tammas Bodkin on Heterodoxy and Orthodoxy’ (23 February, 1861)”

‘Mr Tammas Bodkin Makes his Bow and Sundry Observations’ (16 February, 1861)

The following epistle marks the first appearance in ‘The People’s Journal’ 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. In this first column Tammas introduces himself and begins to put the world (or at least Dundee) to rights, revealing how he would deal with the poor conditions of the roads, and his views on a recent case of partridge poaching (more below).

Maister Editor,—I’ve opinions o’ my ain on maist subjects, as I behove to hae, seein’ I was brocht up at the foot o’ nae less a man than the warld-renowned Maister Mansie Waugh, late tailor in Dalkeith. Ye’ll find his history recordit in the amous book that gangs by his name, an’ which was penned by Dr Moir o’ Musselburro, the wreater o’ that fine poem ca’d “Cass Wappy.” In that same history, too, ye’ll find some mention made o’ me, an’ tho’ I say it mysel’, it tells naething to my discredit. But that’s neither here nor there, an’ I only speak aboot it to let ye understand that tho’ I’m a tailor I’m something mair than the nineteenth pairt o’ a man—that, in fact, there is mair gumption in my crawnium than is in my goose. Ye’ll maybe find oot that afore lang.

I’ve said that I’ve opinions o’ my ain on maist subjects, and I micht also add that I’m favourably sitiwate for hearin’ the opinions o’ ithers, for there’s no a day passes withoot half a score o’ folk bein’ in my shop, an’ ilka ane, of coorse, has his ain observe on what’s gaen’ on baith at hame an’ abroad. Noo, it has occurred to me that I micht do waur than let ye ken what conclusions we arrive at on several knotty points, for it’s maist a pity to let a’ our deep speakilations “waist their sweetness on the desert air” when they micht be published for general edification. Weel, it was joost yesterday that a customer o’ mine, Maister Andrew Trotter, cam’ into my shop to get himsel measured for a pair o’ slacks, an’ sae after some promiscuous conversation, I proceeded to tak the grist o’ his waist an’ the length o’ his legs. On liftin’ up his coat tails for that purpose I made the important discovery that his seat was completely plaistered ower wi’ glaur o’ a highly disagreeable odour. “i’ the warld, Andrew,” quoth I, “whare hae ye been wi’ the bottom o’ yer trousers!” “Ye may weel speir that,” quoth he, “Comin’ alang the Seagate my fit got into an illfaurd hole i’ the pavement, an’ doon I tumbled amo’ the gutters. An honest woman taen pity on me, an’ dichted the dirt frae my coat tails, but it seems, either no observin’ that there was nastiness below them, or maybe no likin’ to lift them, she had left the job only half accomplished. I did feel something cauld and clammy like aboot that region, Tammas, but losh man, never did I suspect that I was in sic a waesome plicht.” So, after gettin’ Andrew dichted, an’ made cosh an’ clean, we sat doon and had a crack aboot the pavement o’ the streets, an’ what was said aboot it at the meetin’ o’ the Police Commission. As Andrew and me agreed to hair on the subject, I’ll joost gie ye oor views in the first person plural. Continue reading “‘Mr Tammas Bodkin Makes his Bow and Sundry Observations’ (16 February, 1861)”