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)”