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 aye like to gie young folk a little encouragement, provided they behave themsels, an’ do what they are bidden. Noo, I’ve never haen ony cause to complain o’ the behaviour o’ Willie Clippins. Shortcomins he may hae—as, indeed, there’s few folk free o’ them, no forgettin’ mysel amang the lave—but this thing I will say to the credit o’ Willie, he has never been obstinately nor wilfully mureungeous in his disposition, an’ aye when I have shown him the error o’ his ways, he has listened to my coonsels an’ reproofs wi’ becomin’ reverence. In doin’ that, of coorse, he is doin’ naething but his duty, an’ strictly speakin’, folk shouldna be bribit to do their duty; but still an’ on they are nane the waur at times o’ being allooed a little indulgence to keep them souple, an’ to shew that they are no juist viewed in the licht o’ workin’ machines, that maun gang on an’ on, frae day to day an’ frae year to year, withoot rest or recreation. Mony is the saxpence, an’ untold the quantities o’ sweeties I hae gien to Willie frae first to last, y way o’ encouragin’ him in weel-doin’, an’ never have I had cause to regret the bounties bestowed on him, for I’m sure he wad gang through fire an’ water to sair either Tibbie or me, an’ that withoot either the shadow o’ a glumsh or a grumble on his mirkie bit coontenance.
In my hoosehold Hallowe’en an’ Hogmanay, no to mention the various Fair days an’ ither great occasions, ha’e aye been held sacred to the spirit o’ fun an’ gude fellowship, an’ a’ kinds o’ harmless gilravage proper to the season. I’m that muckle o’ a Conservative in a social point o’ view—though I’m an oot an’ oot Radical in political matters—that I grieve to see a spirit o’ utilitarianism abroad, breakin’ up bit by bit a’ oor time-honoured customes an’ observances, an’ leavin’ us naething in their stead but hard wark an’ short commons to cheer oor pilgrimage through this vale o’ tears. I’m nae advocate for the carnivals an’ numberless saint days an’ holidays that ha’e the sign o’ the beast on their foreheads, but I’m dead against lettin’ go oor haud o’ the few seasons o’ mirth an’ harmless jollification we reserved when we voluntarily abandoned the mummeries o’ the great whore o’ Babylon, wha even to this oor ain day yet sits enthroned in the seven-hilled city, makin’ hersel’ drunk wi’ the blude o’ the saints. I like fun mysel’, an’ I like to see a’ mankind enjoyin’ themsel’s, if sae be they keep their mirth within the boonds o’ propriety, an’ dinna let their amusements degenerate into licentiousness.
Weel, ye see, Tuesday nicht bein’ Auld Hallowe’en, I, accordin’ to custom, gae Willie the forenicht to himsel’, an’ told him mair an’ farther that he micht bring in a half-dizzen or sae o’ his acquaintances, an’ I wad provide for their entertainment an’ amusement at my ain charges. This, I think, is a far better plan than simply turnin’ young folk adrift to rin-the-rout an’ seek amusement for themsel’s, when they maybe fa’ into evil company, an’ bring grief an’ shame upon themsel’s an’ upon a’ conneckit wi’ them. I’m no gien to offer advice unless it be especially sought for; but I wad for ance depairt frae that rule, an’ admonish my fellow-tradesmen, an’ maisters an’ mistresses o’ a’ kinds, no to think the twa or three shillin’s ill-waired that are spent on makin’ their servants happy, an’ keepin’ them oot o’ mischief. I can speak frae my ain experience on this subject, an’ I can safely say I never but got the bawbees spent in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, instead o’ bein’ a loser by my liberality, I have gained nae that little thereby, besides haein’ the sweet, the oonspeakable satisfaction o’ makin’ my fellow-creatures happy.
It wad ha’e done yer heart gude had ye seen hoo Willie garred the needle dance oot an’ in through the seam o’ the pair o’ slacks whereon he was engaged, when I made the important announcement that he was to be his ain maister after the chap o’ sax o’clock. I despatched Tibbie in the afternoon wi’ her radicle on her airm, an’ a twa shillin’ piece in her pouch, to buy an assortment o’ apples, nuts, an’ ither nick-nacks; an’ Willie, after takin’ his drappie o’ tea, washed his face, arrayed himsel’ in his est apparel, an’ set oot to invite his companions to the ploy. In coorse o’ time he returned, bringin’ twa o’ his male companions, and three o’ his female ditto. Od it’s wonderfu’ to behold hoo soon the youthhood o’ the present generation begin to pair. I’m certain sure, when Tibbie an’ me were like them, we wad hae thocht black burnin’ shame to hae been seen cheekin’ up to ane aniher; but ye see this is an age o’ progress, wherein it is baith lawfu’ an’ proper for folk to think aboot gettin’ married lang, lang afore they set abot cuttin’ their wisdom teeth. There was Billy Button, a geyan spruce lookin’ bit chappie, wha will be oot wi’ his apprenticeship on the term day, an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; there was Jeames Stitch, the auldest son o’ my freend an’ former servant Maister Stitch, wha is sairin’ his time in some haberdashery establishment wast the Nethergate—an unco gabby rascal he is for his years, but by nae means an ill-disposed bit loonie for a’ that—an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; an’ there was Willie himsel’, lookin’ as brisk as a bee on a midsummer mornin’—an’ he had his sweetheart under his wing, though he winna let me say she was his sweetheart, but it’s a gude point to deny weel, an’ I canna blame him for doin’ what I wad ha’e done mysel’ when I was like him, an’ what I did oftener than ance, as Tibbie can testify, if she likes to tell the truth on that subject. My certie, Willie has nae reason to be ashamed o’ his choice, for Mary-Ann—that was a’ the name she had, sae far as I could mak’ oot frae their conversation—was as blithe an’ bonnie a bit lassockie as ye could clap an e’e upon. Wi’ her lang black glossy locks gathered up in a poke in her back-neck, lookin’ for a’ the warld like a fisherman’s sou’-wester—though, of coorse, a far mair interestin’ object—wi’ a sweet little Garibaldi perkt on the croon o’ her bit head, whereon there flaunted a “dear little duck” o’ a “feather”—no meanin’ thereby that it was a deuk’s feather—na, na, it had dootless been pluckit frae the wing o’ some far-awa’ fowl, proverbial for its splendid plumage—wi’ a braw silk cloak that Tibbie thinks wad cost nae less than five-an’-twenty shillin’s, and maybe aughteen pence mair, coontin’ the border an’ the braidin’ on the breast o’t, wi’ a skirt made o’ a material the name whereof I forget at this precise moment—but Tibbie kens a’ aboot it—an’ for the crinoline, I didna get a sicht o’ that, but judgin’ frae appearances, I wad say it couldna hae been less than four or five yards in circumference; an’, to croon a’, wi’ “her rosy cheeks an’ cherry mou’, her sparklin’ een o’ bonnie lue, her dimpled chin, her forehead fair, her neck that scarce the very swan in spotless whiteness can compare—wi’ a’ thae charms, an’ ten times mair, bedeck a fairy form, an’ there thou wilt behold sweet Mary Ann.” Its really ill dune in me to let oot secrets, but the latter pairt o’ the foregoin’ description I discovered this mornin’ under the guse, carefully drawn up in Willie’s handwreatin’ on the braid side o’ a white paper poke that has a strong smell o’ tea blades. So, after that, Willie needna deny bein’ in love wi’ Mary Ann; an’, to tell the truth, had I been in Willie’s shoon, I wad hae been in love wi’ her, or wi’ some ane unco like her, mysel’, an’ that’s no sayin’ ae thing an’ thinkin’ anither. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Holds his Halowe’en (16 November, 1861)”