‘Bodkin Among His Country Cousins’ (29 June, 1861)

The following epistle is an early 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.

Maister Editor,—As Tibbie had been unco sair forfoughten wi’ flittin’ an’ bug slayin’, no to speak o’ her bein’ doon i’ the mooth aboot oor misfortunate selection o’ a hoose wherein nae respectable body wad ever think o’ sokourinin’, the thocht struck me that it micht tend baith to the health o’ her body an’ the serenity o’ her soul to gie her a jaunt for a day or twa i’ the country. That was ane o’ my reasons, an’, atour an’ aboon a’ that, I had passed my word o’ honour, when Kirsty Monypenny was ower frae Edinbro’ on her jaunt, that Tibbie sidna be hindrid, time an’ circumstances convenient, frae payin’ a visit to a cousin o’ hers—a canny, weel-to-do farmer body, i’ the Howe o’ the Mearns—wha had made us promise ower an’ ower again, when he cam’ to Stobb’s Fair, that we wad be sure to gang an’ see them, an’ stay a night or twa wi’ them, in the course o’ the followin’ summer. Bein’ a man o’ my word, I was, of coorse, anxious to redeem my promise. So Tibbie an’ me made it up thegither that we wad set oot wi’ the first train to Laurencekirk on Saturday’s mornin, comin’ back wi’ the last train on Munnanday’s nicht. In view o’ the jaunt, Tibbie keepit her hands busy makin’ an’ mendin’ her bits o’ duds, an’ she had to gang doon to the milliner’s an’ get her bonnet repaired that had been sae sair misgoogled wi’ the squibs on the Queen’s birthday nicht. I coft a hat, splinder new, at a ransom o’ seven an’ saxpence, an’ set to wark to mak’ for mysel’ a braw new coat, o’ a pepper-an’-saut pattern, in lieu o’ the dirt-flee coloured ane that was mischeeved in the Birth-nicht ploy aforesaid. By virtue o’ thae purchases an’ sundry repairs, Tibbie an’ me were providit wi’ wardrobes that wadna do dishonour to the freends we we gaen to visit, an’, gin the truth may be tell’t withoot offence, Tibbie, wi’ her bannet an’ what not, completely taen the shine oot o’ a’ the wives we met in wi’ in the coorse o’ oor journey into the northern pairts o’ the kingdom. This, ye may suppose, was marrow to Tibbie’s banes. In fack she achieved sic a triumph that the remembrance o’ a’ her toils, an’ pains, an’ mortifications, wi’ regaird to the bug mischanter, was completely swallowed up in the gush o’ pleasure that filled her heart at the thochts o’ her millinery victory ower the farmers’ wives i’ the Howe o’ the Mearns. But as I’m anticipatin’ the seam o’ the discoorse, I maun tak’ back a stitch or twa.

The next thing to be considered was, hoo the business was to be carried on durin’ my absence. Willie Clippins was as gleg as a needle at doin’ ony bit plain job, but he was scarcely qualified to sustain the mair important duties o’ measurin’ an’ cuttin’ oot, whilk are baith closely allied to the fine airts an’ mathematics. I say this withoot refleckin’, the the remotest degree, on his penetration; for it’s no in the poor o’ natur’ that a bit hafflin’ laddie can hae the sense an’ gumption, an’ scientific attainments, that properly belang to a maister in Israel, if I may use the expression. Hoosomedever I set to wark, an’ wrought up a’ the particular jobs mysel’, and cut oot twa pair o’ moleskin slacks, three waistcoats, an’ four pair o’ drawers, whilk I beased thegither, an’ markit wi’ chalk, insomuch that Willie wad hae naething else to do but haud the needle gaen gurin’ my absence. If ony body called wantin’ his inches taen, I direckit Willie to rin oot for Andrew Stitch, an auld apprentice o’ mine, noo dooin’ on his ain accoont, wha had offered to tak’ measurements for me if necessity required.

A’ thae preliminaries bein’ settled to my heart’s content, Saturday mornin’ cam’ roond, but I sanna tell ye hoo active Tibbie was in packin’ up ony little thing we micht, or micht not, require on the journey. Every body wha has a Tibbie worth her vittles will ken that withoot bein’ informed; an’ whaever disna hae a Tibbie to pack up his portmanky, sid get ane forthwith, an’ that’s no gien them ony ill advice. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Among His Country Cousins’ (29 June, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Escapes from his Foes.’ (15 June, 1861)

The following epistle is an early 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.

Maister Editor,—Last week has been anither busy ane wi’ Tibbie an’ me. O’ a’ the ills that ever cam’ ower me this flittin’ business has been the warst by far an’ awa’. Of we could only foresee what is to happen, hoo mony things we do an’ say wad be left undone and unsaid! But, alake! we are short-sichtit mortals, an’ canna forecast the results o’ the very next stap we tak’—whether it may land us in happiness or misery. If Tibbie an’ me had kent what we ken noo, we never wad hae thocht o’ flittin’ frae oor auld hoose, where we had spent sae mony lichtsome happy days, an’ gane to that bug-infested abomination to be made the victims o’ thae hatefu’ blude-sookers. I’ve learnt frae dear-bocht experience that it’s no the brawest hoose that’s the best hoose, even as it’s no a gowd that glitters. Tibbie has gotten her stammagust o’ fine hooses an’ parlous, an’ a’ that kind o’ trumpery; an’ costly as this spring has been to me, I’ll hae time to mak’ up my leeway again afore Tibbie seek to play anither ane on the same key; sae it winna be a’ lost i’ the’ end o’ the day maybe. But withoot farther preface, I maun gie ye a scrift o’ hoo we pairtit company wi’ oor freends—the bugs.

Weel, ye see, on Monday nicht was a week, Tibbie made her bed i’ th’ sofy, as she had done on the previous nicht , drawin’ a cordon sanitaire round her roose wi’ the floor o’ brimstane as afore, but somehoo or ither, by slicht or by micht, her enemies brak through the blockade an’ bore doon on her at full sail, pitchin’ their poisoned darts intil her carcase in a manner that dings me to describe. Tibbie groaned, an’ grat, an’ faucht, an’ flayt the haill nicht through. Sometimes she wad fa’ on a doverin’ o’ sleep—for she was sair dung for want o’ rest. Puir body—but nae sooner was she quiet for five or ten minutes. Than her adversaries began wi’ their auld pranks. A’ that nicht I didna sleep an’ oor though a’ the bits o’ gloffs I got were eekit thegither; but when mornin’ cam’, I says to Tibbie, “This will never do,” quoth I; “we maun see to the end o’ this wark, an’ that without mair parley aboot it, juist. We’ll leave thae bugs to their ain meditations, an’ tak’ oor creep.” Tibbie had been o’ the same opeenion, though she said naething, an’ sae she tried to manifest her acquiescence in my remark wi’ a smile, but, wad ye believe it? her physog was sae swelled an’ thrawn, that it was physically impossible for her to cruik her chafts into the similitude o’ a laugh, though her soul’s salvation had dependit on the issue. Aucht o’clock strak, an’ quoth I to Willie Clippins, “ye’ll gang your wa’s doon, my man, an’ gie my compliments to Maister John Clinkscales, the grocery man at the fit o’ the Shuttle Raw, an’ tell him to haste ‘im up immediately, that I want to speak till ‘im.” “Ay, ay,” quoth Willie, ever ready to execute my orders, like the obedient loonie that he is; “it’s yon man wi’ the muckle wame that stands atween the door cheeks wi’ a white apron on, an’ a pair o’ spartickles on his nose?” “Juist the very man,” quoth I; “noo scoor awa like a twa-year-auld, an’, gin ye fa’, dinna tak’ time to rise again, an’ be sure ye deliver the message as ye’ve received it.” Willie gaed aff as like lichtnin’ as his muckle tae, that is scarcely a’thegither haill yet, wad permit; an’ here I maun tell ye that had brocht us sae muckle vexation. In the coorse o’ a quarter o’ an oor, Mr Clinkscales made his appearance, puffin’ an’ blawin’ like a pair o’ smiddy bellis, for John is ane o’ thae chields that seem to hae mair gut an’ ga’ i’ their composition than onything o’ a mair etherial essence. I bade the body sit doon till he recovered his breath, an’ Willie Clippins I dismissed to the ither end, shuttin’ baith the doors on us, for it disna do to let fools an’ bairns hear a’ ye have to say. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Escapes from his Foes.’ (15 June, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Terribly Hum-Bugged’ (8 June, 1861)

The following epistle is an early 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.

Maister Editor,—It’s an auld sayin’, an’ a true ane, that man is born to trouble as the sparks flee upwards. This truth, at ony rate, appears to haud guid in my case, for I’m sure I’m like the doo that Noah sent oot frae the wark afore the waters were abaitit, I canna find rest for the sole o’ my fit. On ilka side I’m environed wi’ deep waters, whereof the billows threaten to devoor me wi’ their angry jaws. Sin’ I inditit my last epistle, I’ve been in the warst pickle that ever mortal man was in, frae the eatin’ o’ the forbidden fruit doon to this present day an’ generation. As I’ve aye thocht it a relief to hae a sensible body to mak’ my molygrant till, even when my grief was unaswageable by human sympathy, I’ve juist sittin’ doon to tell ye a’ the oots an’ the ins o’ my present tribulation.

Weel, ye see, to begin at the beginnin’, by superhuman efforts, Tibbie had made a’thing trig an’ braw aboot oor new hoose by the approach o’ Saturday nicht, an’, sair worn oot though she was wi’ the hard wark, she was yet “as canty as a kittlin’,” an’ couldna eneuch admire the effecks o’ her handiwark in a’ the holes an’ corners o’ the bit biggin’, especially the parlour—Tibbie couldna get her sairin’ o’ lookin’ at it. A’ the bits o’ nick-nacks were tried in a thoosan’ different positions, wi’ the view o’ garrin’ them produce the grandest possible effeck at the sma’est possible expense; an’ sae, after everything had been arranged to her entire, an’, I may say, intense, satisfaction, Mrs Davidson was sent for. Alang she cam’ on Saturday nicht, an’ Tibbie taen care to hae on her net-mutch, an’ a braw new sawton apron that she got to the boot o’ the bargain when she was buyin’ her window curtains (so she said to me, an’ I’ve nae richt to misdoot her word), an’ a’ to mak’ her appear brawer an’ younger lookin’ than Mrs Davidson. I juist stood an’ beheld the twa o’ them, for I faund it to be physically impossible for me to edge in my word into the conversation. Tibbie waxed exceedingly eloquent, an’ enlairged on the guid properties o’ the hoose, an’ the splendaciousness o’ the parlour, in a manner that was truly edifeein’ an’ marvellous in a woman o’ her edication. Mrs Davidson did aboot a tenth pairt o’ the conversation, Tibbie she gaed through nine-tenths thereof, an’ I did the rest. So Tibbie bade Mrs Davidson sit doon on a new sofy, an’ then cam’ a interteenment o’ wine an’ cake, whereof we a’ partook, an’ drank succes to the new hoose. I thocht i’ my ain mind that less micht hae saired than waistin’ my means and substance on wine at half-a-croon or three shillins the bottle for the sake o’ Mrs Davidson; but I said naething, the mair sae as it was a’ done oot o’ a guid intention on Tibbie’s pairt, in order to tak the shine oot o’ Mrs Davidson—an achievement that wad refleck fully as muckle honour on me as on Tibbie. So after sittin’ a half-oor or sae—rather ooneasily as I thocht—Mrs Davidson raise an’ tane her departure. “I needna bid ye come alang some nicht an’ see me,” quoth she, wi’ a toss o’ her head, an’ in a voice falterin’ wi’ vexation an’ rage combined, “for ye’ll be thinkin’ yersels ower high noo for kennin’ ony o’ yer auld acquaintances.” An’ awa her ladyship gaed unco skeigh lookin’, an’ I’m thinkin’ John Davidson heard aboot oor new sofy an’ carpet, an’ window-pole, an’ moreen curtains, i’ the deafest side o’ his head afore he got sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids that nicht. No ae wink o’ rest will he get, puir man, till Mrs Davidson be upsides wi’ Mrs Bodkin.

Tibbie’s triumph was complete. She was as prood as ever was a general after gainin’ a great victory. She had eclipsed Mrs Davidson! Tibbie laid doon her head that nicht on her pillow wi’ the consciousness that she had done her duty, an’ she was as happy as the Queen o’ Sheba, or rather, as Solomon was after showin’ that lady a’ his riches an’ the glory was after showin’ that lady a’ his riches an’ the glory o’ his excellence. For me, I lay doon thinkin’ o’ the poor o’ siller that Tibbie’s plenishin’ fever had cost, an’ yet I did’na grudge her aither, for Tibbie has been a guid wife to me. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Terribly Hum-Bugged’ (8 June, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Flits His Camp’ (1 June, 1861)

The following epistle is an early 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.

Maister Editor,—Frae a promiscuous hint that I threw oot i’ my last epistle, ye wad oonderstand that I had made up my mind to flit my camp to a mair fashionable pairt o’ the toon. There were twa reasons to indooce me to tak’ that stap—ane o’ them was Tibbie’s, an’ the ither was my ain. Tibbie’s discontent wi’ the auld hoose was based on the fack that she had been doon the toon at a cheap sale, an’ had bocht a great big carpet an’ a splendid mahogney sofy—second-hand they were, an’ disposed o’ at an immense sacrifeece—an’ after she had them she had naewhere to bestow them. Oor auld hoose, ye ken, had juist a but an’ a ben, an’ Tibbie she ockipied the ae end an’ I ockipied the ither. Weel, after gettin’ the carpet an’ the sofy, naething wad sair Tibbie but she maun ha’e a hoose wi’ three apartments in’t, so that she micht be able to show them aff to the best advantage to Mrs Davidson, an’ ithers o’ her cronies. It’s a prevailin’ weakness o’ the women folk that they maun ha’e show rooms wi’ a wheen pretty things in them that are little better than useless lumber, hooever unable they may be to afford the expense, an’ hooever gruppy they may be aboot things that are really mair usefu’. There was this ither circumstance that influenced Tibbie in wishin’ to hae a bigger hoose—Mrs Davidson had enlarged her’s by getting a door slappit through a peteeshon wa’, an’ annexin’ Mrs Macrae’s back pantry that she had nae use for, an’ a very snug bit roomie it did mak’, after it had been decently dune up wi’ a paper at sevenpence the piece. Weel, ye see, Tibbie, sooner than let Mrs Davidson eat faster than her, she wad rather rive her chafts, an’ so whan Mrs Davidson set up a parlour wi’ a carpet an’ sofy, Tibbie maun do the same, an’, if possible something better. So that’s the way Tibbie was convertit to the necessity o’ flittin’. I suggested that we micht do waur than redd up the coal neuk, an’ turn it into a parlour by knockin’ oot a sma’ window towards the back coort, but that proposal wadna gang doon wi’ Tibbie ave, as it wadna be large eneuch to haud the sofy, nor braw eneuch to compete wi’ Mrs Davidson.

An’ noo for my ain reason for no bein’ obstinately opposed to removin’ my tabernacle. Sin’ I began to wreat thae letters t’ye, I find mysel’ really something aboon the common. I’ve been publickly introduced amang the aristocracy by gettin’ the title “Esquire” attached to my name, an’ maist o’ the distinguished literary men that come to Dundee are sure to gie me a ca’ i’ the bye-gaen. There was juist last week I had to interteen a great genius frae Alyth, forbye ane o’ the Northern Lichts frae the Granite City. In fack, there’s scarcely a day passes that disna bring alang wi’t some devout admirer to worship at-my shrine. Noo, I wad like to hae a decent room to put them in. The boord is far frae bein’ a respectable seat to offer to a stranger, an’ rather dangerous too, for, only the ither day, a chield cam in an’ sat doon ower near the guse, an’ got a muckle hole burnt i’ the bottom o’ his breeks. Sae that’s what’s set me in tifts o’ a parlour.

Weel, about twa months syne, Tibbie an’ me set oot in pursuit o’ a hoose wi’ three apartments. At a cooncil o’ war haudden twa or three days afore, it was unanimously agreed that we wad venture on twa pound ten o’ mair rent, if sae be we could get a hoose to please us. I could tell ye a lang story aboot oor experiences in that expedition, hoo Tibbie lost her balance when gaen up an ootside stair, for instance, an’ wad hae fa’en an broken some o’ her banes, had I no caught her in my airms at the precise nick o’ time, but that wad be ower far a stretch baith o’ my time and o’ your patience. We got a hoose weel up the hill, so that we can look doon on the maist folk i’ the toon, in a respectable neighbourhood, so that we needna be ashamed o’ the society we keep, an’ at a rent that didna gang aboon twa pount beyond my calculations. I had my doots aboot it, but Tibbie was weel pleased, an’ quite sanguine that she wad hain the additional rent in the savin’ o’ washin’ cloots in the coorse o’ the twalmonths, but we’ll see when the time comes. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Flits His Camp’ (1 June, 1861)”