‘Bodkin Taken for a Robber’ (16 December, 1865)

The following letter is part of a long series by 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,—Behold me at ane o’clock i’ the mornin’ postin’ oot the Perth Road in search o’ my wife. A certain wreater tells us that he wha gets a wife—I forget if he says a gude ane—gets a gude thing; an’ takin’ my ain experience as my guide I maun needs say that the remark is perfectly true; but I wad add this additional observation, that he wha gets a wife, let her be as gude as ever a woman was—an’ I’ve nae faut to find wi’ Tibbie—gets a very great deal o’ trouble, trauchle, an’ vexation alang wi’ her. He maun tramp oot mony a dub-e’e that he wad never hae required to set a fit in had it no been woin’ to the fack that he has anither to provide an’ care for besides himsel’. Noo, dinna let it be supposed—no, not for a single moment—that I’m grumblin’ because I behooved to mak’ that untimeous journey oot the Perth Road. Far frae that. On the contrary, I gaed wi’ the utmost cheerfulness an’ alacrity, for stark love an’ kindness, no to mention a strong sense o’ duty, drove me till’t, an’ whaur love an’ duty are the impulse it is truly wonderfu’ hoo fast an’ far an individooal will trot withoot feelin’ weary either in mind or body. I mention the trouble an’ trauchle belangin’ to the married estate because they are facks, an’ I canna discover the use o’ hidin’ facks simply for the purpose o’ skinnin’ up a bonnie sentimental story. It wad be tellin’ mony ane if they wad refleck on thae facks afore approachin’ the altar o’ Hymen, for if they did sae they wad hae their minds prepared to thole them withoot girnin’ and grundin’ their teeth at them, an’ consequently there wad be muckle less wark—the less the better—for these Divorce Coort billies wha fatten on the fruits o’ matrimonial misery.

As I paced alang the Perth road the only individooals I cam’ across were the policeman on the beat an’ twa billies dressed in the similitude o’ mechanics—wha had, as I had reason to jalouse, been seein’ their sweethearts. In sundry windocks there were lichts visible, an’ I inferred that the inmates—or some o’ them at least—micht peradventure be in the same plicht as Mrs Clippins. I stoppit noo an’ again, an’ derned for the approach o’ wheels, but a’ was still—naething but the wind soughin’ an’ sighin’ doon the closes an’ roond the lum-heads, together wi’ the eerie caterwaulin’ o’ a pair o’ belligerent cats, wha were doin’ their best to mak’ nicht hideous wi’ their diabolical vells. When I was aboot fornenst St Peter’s Kirk I thocht I heard something like the soond o’ a veehikle—it micht be Tibbie’s chariot or it micht not. I houpit it was, an’ held on my way wi’ renewed vigour. Gradually the soond becam’ nearer an’ nearer, an’ at last I perceived twa figures loomin’ through the darkness, an’ they were seated in a gig! “Here is Tibbie noo,” says I to myself, an’ I stood up i’ the middle i’ the road, and cried, “Halt!” The veehikle halted instanter.

“What in a’ the earth has keepit ye sae lang?” quoth I. “Ye micht hae come frae Stirlin’ let abe Perth sin’ ye set oot. I doot ye’ve been puttin’ aff your time by the way—drinkin’ for ought that I ken.”

“I doubt, sir, you’ve made a mistake,” quoth the fallow wha was drivin’ the veehikle.

“Maybe I have,” quoth I. “Is that you, Tibbie?”

“No, sir—my name isn’t Tibbie,” quoth the female, nor did I consider it necessary to question the correctitude o’ her disclaimer, for her speech bewrayed her. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Taken for a Robber’ (16 December, 1865)”

‘Bodkin Introduced to the Twins’ (9 December, 1865)

The following letter is part of a long series by 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.—On presentin’ mysel’ at the Crescent ye may judge what a consternation there was when it was observed that I hadna’ brocht Tibbie wi’ me. Though it was close on the “wee short hour ayont the twal,” William was not in bed—a devotit creatur—wad sit up a’ the oors o’ the nicht to do me a good turn! In fact, the only individooals in bed were Mrs Clippins an’ the twinnies, an’ it was not to be expeckit that they wad sit up waitin’ oor hame comin’ considerin’ the pecooliar circumstances o’ the case. William had heard the cab hurl up to the mooth o’ the entry, an’ wi’ the view o’ satisfyin’ himsel’ as to the reason thereof, he threw up the parlour windock whilk overlooks the said entry, an’ thrust oot his head by way o’ makin’ a reconnaissance.

“Is that you, Tammas?” quoth he.

“A’ that’s for me, William,” quoth I. “Hoo’s Mary Ann?”

“Fairish,” quoth he. “But bide awee till I come doon an’ help ye up wi’ Mrs Bodkin’s luggage.” Doon he comes, takin’ three staps o’ the stair at ilka stride.

“Hae ye seen my nicht-cap?” quoth he.

“At Glasgow, d’ye mean? Quoth I.

“At Glasgow? Na. Here!” quoth he. “The wind blew it aff just as I was steekin’ the windock. Did ye no see’t?”

“Me! No. I saw nae nicht-cap,” quoth I. “But lat the Kilmarnock gang, lad—we’ll get anither ane for little siller—a mere auchteen penny matter—no worth makin’ a lamentation aboot. But in the midst o’ the meantime, hoo are the twinnies?”

“Brawly,” quoth he.

“An’ hae ye seen ought o’ Tibbie?” quoth I.

“What d’ye mean?” quoth he, an’ he proceedit to examine the inside o’ the cab. “Whaur is Mrs Bodkin?” was his next inquiry. Ye haena run away an’ left her, I houp!”

“Na,” quoth I “but she ran awa an’ left me.”

“Ye dinna mean to say sae?” quoth he, wi’ a look that showed he was in a state o’ very great alarm an’ bewilderment. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Introduced to the Twins’ (9 December, 1865)”

‘Bodkin and the Sharpers’ (2 December, 1865)

The following letter is part of a long series by 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 sit doon this week to gie ye a bit skrift o’ hoo I cam’ on wi’ my four funny freends after we had parrtit company wi’ the respectable pairty in the manner described in my last epistle.

After they had smokit an’ jokit till they were tired, they blew oot their pipes, an’ proceedit to “hae a yokin at sang aboot.” To this I had nae objection. I like a sang, providit it is a gude ane an’ well sung, an’ I canna say that their voices were unmelodious, though I will say that they were somewhat inharmonious, especially when they rose to the ledger lines aboon the stave, an’ that happened aftener than was quite agreeable to my lugs. Their sangs were not those wherewith I am weel acquent or greatly enamoured. I like sic melodies as “John Anderson,” “The Diel Amang the Tailors,” “The Flowers o’ the Forest,” an’ the twa Grays, “Duncan” an’ “Robin,” but they didna seem to ken or care ought aboot oor auld Scotch sangs. They had a great deal to say aboot ane “Robert Ridley,” extolled the professional abilities o’ some quack doctor wha had effected a “Perfeet Cure,” expressed a very decided preference for a “Glass o’ Good Beer,” an’ went on “Slap Bang” frae ae subect to anither, until I was nearly deaved wi’ their din. Hoosomdever they were in the greatest o’ gude humour, an’ as they were evidently doin’ their utmost to please me, it wad hae been baith ungratefu’ an ungentleman-like in me to have said onything in disparagement o’ their weel-meant endeavours. Therefore I listened wi’ apparent interest an’ pleasure, gave them an occasional word or nod o’ encouragement, but did not, in ony case, treat them to an encore.

Havin’ finished their musical enterteenment, they fell on anither kind o’ a ploy, not so harmless, I am sorry to say, as singin’ vulgar sangs. Ane o’ them pu’d a pack o’ cards frae his oxter pouch, whilk he begoud to shuffle an’ manipulate in a manner that made it perfectly apparent to me that he had a greater intimacy wi’ the Deil’s picture books than wi’ literature o’ a mair pious an’ profitable description. They proceedit to gam’le for siller amang themsels, an’ sundry croon pieces, half-sovereigns, an’ pound notes were in this way lost an’ won. The man that the cards belanged to seemed to be the ringleader amang them, an’ I noticed that he was losing his siller very fast, whereat he appeared to be greatly distressed, while the ither three billies, wha were winnin’, were apparently in high spirits by reason o’ their gude fortune.

“Very provoking, sir,” quoth the owner o’ the cards, addressin’ himsel’ to me. “I don’t mind the money so much, but hang it, I can’t stomach being beat! I’ve plenty of money, sir—plenty of money!” an’ he put his hands into his pouches, an’ brocht furth a gowpen-fu’ o’ gowd, whilk he jingled atweesh his loofs like a’ that. Continue reading “‘Bodkin and the Sharpers’ (2 December, 1865)”

‘Bodkin and the Funny Fellows’ (25 November, 1865)

The following letter is part of a long series by 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, A’ the way frae Perth unto Dundee my thochts were dividit atween Tibbie an’ the Venturolocust. I thocht what a surprise Tibbie wad get when she arrived at the Crescent an’ faund me there afore her, for at the rate the train was fleein’ at I could perceive that Tibbie’s conveyance wad never play plew till’t. We wad be in Dundee, withoot fail, an oor or twa afore the gig, let Jehu drive as furiously as he pleased, an’ I had nae idea that he wad stress himsel’ or wind his beast for the sake either o’ an auld wife or a young ane. I thocht, on the ither hand, what a fluther the Venturolocust wad be in when, neist mornin’, the “blues” wad haul him oot o’s bed by the lugs, an’ clap the shangies on his shackle-banes, an’ hoo he wad look quite as blue as his captors when they wad tell him that he was wantit for the heinous misdemeanour involved in the kissin’ o’ a married woman—viddict Mrs Bodkin—in the railway tunnel.

Contrary to my use an’ wont, I travelled second-class, though the ticket I had coft in Glasgow only entitled me to travel third-class, but the billie at the station wha had been the means o’ causin’ Tibbie an’ me to tyne the train, bein’ anxious to mollify my richteous indignation, very politely airthed me into a second-class carriage. I was pleased wi’ this sma’ attention on his pairt, because it showed that the man was truly contrite, an’ wished to mak’ amends for a faut, yet I could not gie him credit for doin’ mair in this respect than was demandit by the strict requirements o’ fairplay an’ even doon honestly, for, as I mentioned till him when he was puttin’ me into the second class coach, the difference atweesh the fares wad hardly atone for the loss o’ Tibbie’s ticket, let abe the hire o’ the gig an’ the ither extra expenses I had been put till through his dereliction o’ duty. He very readily owned that this was the truth, but houped that I wadna mak’ a sang aboot it, as the mischief arose frae an error o’ judgment on his pairt, an’ no frae malice perpense, an’ as he was apprehensive that the effeck o’ my wreatin’ to the head billie wad be that he micht get his dismissal. I saw frae the earnest way wherein he expressed himsel’ that he had a wife an’ a wheen bairus dependent on ‘im for their maintenance, an’ in a case o’ that kind a mercifu’ man sidna press things ower far against an erring brither, but rather thole the shortcomings o’ the guilty for the sake o’ the innocent—

“These movin’ things ca’d wives an’ weans

Wad move the very hearts o’ stanes.”

For travellin’ companions I had four rollickin’ chaps wha seemed to hae been indulgin’ to some extent in the liquid that had been employed in impartin’ the rubicund hue to the gnomen on Mr Nosey’s physog, although, at the same time, I will not affirm that they were incapable o’ discernin’ atween their richt hands an’ their left—the truth bein’ that their condition was similar to that wherein Coila’s bard faund himsel’ on that eventfu’ nicht when he forgaithered wi’ something that put him in “an eerie swither;” that is to say, they “werena fou, but juist had plenty.” To the extent that wine was in, of coorse wit was oot, an’ I saw that they were bent on madness an’ gilravage. There is nae use o’ thrawin’ wi’ wags o’ that description, for, let ye glower as fierce as ye like, ye winna put them oot o’ coontenance. Nay, if ye throw yer pearls afore sic swine they’ll be sure to turn again an’ rend ye, an’ therefore if ye wish to lead a quiet life in their society ye maun e’en grumph an’ squeak in unison wi’ them. This was the coorse I resolved to adopt wi’ the funny blades that fortune had gien me for fallow-travellers. I wad laugh, an’ joke, an’ sing alang wi’ them—be ane o’ themsels, in fact—though it maunna be supposed that I coontenanced them in the multitudinous breaches o’ the Fifth Commandment that tane place, for in spite o’ a’ that grave and beuk-learned divines hae lately said against it, I’ve still a lithe side to the Decalogue. I wadna be sae foolhardy as to sit in Rome an’ fecht wi’ the Pope, but I wad certainly gie his Holiness a glower when he misbehaved that wad apprise him o ‘the fack that I was not a partaker in his iniquity. Continue reading “‘Bodkin and the Funny Fellows’ (25 November, 1865)”

‘Bodkin Escapes from Perth’ (18 November, 1865)

The following letter is part of a long series by 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,—Aye in Perth yet! When a body sets oot on a journey, it’s hard to say when he’ll get hame again. I haena been in the habit heretofore o’ makin’ my will afore proceedin’ to distant pairts; but, considerin’ the numerous perils I’ve encoontered, not only aboove the earth, but under its surface, yea, in the very booels thereof, durin’ this ill-starred voyage to Glasgow, I really think that it wad be prudent hencefurth to set my hoose in order previous to lockin’ the door an’ turnin’ my back upo’ my domestic concernments. Indeed, I’m no sure but prudence wad advise me to gang a stap farther, an’ effect an insurance on my life to the extent o’ a thoosan’ or twa, because, although I’ve nae family o’ my ain to care for, yet Tibbie micht survive me, an’ I wadna like to be shootin’ oot my fit wi’ the bitter thocht on my mind that she wad behoove to prosecute her pilgrimage withoot the means o’ liquidatin’ the chairges by the way. I’ve a wheen pounds i’ my kist-neuk—that I winna deny, but if ye’re aye takin’ oot o’ the meal pock an’ puttin’ naething intil’t, ye’ll soon come to the boddom. An’ besides a’ that, there’s William wearin’ into a sma’ family wi’ fearfu’ rapidity, an’ although he can claim nae kindred to me, yet he has been an eydent sarvent, a true freend, an’ a faithfu’ collaborateur, in the establishment o’ the Crescent business, an’ I wad really like to leave him nane the waur but a’ the better o’ the dispensation that may constitute him the only livin’ representative o’ the firm. I maun hae a crack wi’ Tibbie aboot the aboove subjects, for bein’ a model wife, her opinion is aye worth listenin’ till, even if ater hearin’ her advice I sid end by takin’ my ain.

“State yer case to the first policeman ye forgaither wi’,” quoth Captain So-an’-So, as he politely showed me the way to the ootside o’ the Barracks. Very good, my beloved freend! But first catch yer policeman—that’s the business! an’ it’s a business that it requires a very clever chield to accomplish sometimes. Policemen are like corncraiks—aftener heard tell o’ than seen—unless when there is a savour odour as of roast beef or fried ham proceeding frae the sunk area, an’ in that case they are like the ill penny, that is everly castin’ up when it’s presence is least wantit. There was a kind o’ claith ca’d invisible blue in my young days, an’ the policemen’s coats in the present day wad seem to be made o’ that fabrick. Speak o’ catchin’ the Venturolocust! If it was a wark o’ greater magnitude to catch him than to catch a policeman he was a soupler scoondrel than I’ve seen reason to gi’e him credit for, an’ I dinna think I’ve oonder-estimated his abilities in that respeck.

Leavin’ the Barracks, I set oot on my voyage o’ discovery. The first person I forgaithered wi’ was an elderly gentleman dressed in blacks, wi’ a white neckclaith roond his craig—a retired grocer, as I subsequently concludit, an’ a man very fou o’ that detestable thing ca’d puir pride. I stappit inbye till him, an’ touched my hat, as guid breedin’ required. The licht o’ a street lamp shone full in his face, revealin’ the fact that he had a very big an’ a very red nose—red as a parsnip—an’ that he wore a pair o’ gowd sparticles thereon, although he was not a flee better than I was for a’ that.

“Reverend sir,” quoth I, for, judgin’ from his apparel, I had imagined him to be a minister o’ the Word. “Reverend sir, wad ye be kind”—

“Go away! Go away!” quoth his reverence, withoot tarryin’ to listen to my supplication. “I—I don’t give nothing to beggars!” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Escapes from Perth’ (18 November, 1865)”

‘Bodkin Among the Soldiers’ (11 November, 1865)

The following letter is part of a long series by 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’m in Perth, ye’ll recolleck, an’ I’ve just seen Tibbie mountit on a gig, an’ awa’ post-haste to Dundee. Less micht hae saired her, I thocht, but what will women no drive a body till when they tak’ a notion into their obstinate heads? Mary-Ann was needin’ nane o’r, an’ the bairs were doin’ brawlie. Twa three oors sooner or later was neither here nor there, but curiosity is an awfu’ thing! For its gratification some folk wad do the daftest exploits imaginable, an’ never think o’ the expense. Ou na, siller is naething to them if sae be they get their rax carried oot. I was a saft snotter to gie in till her, but I’m like owre mony mair in the married status o’ life—I’m aye wise ahent the hand!

Hoosomdever, she’s awa’ to Dundee, an’ here am I in Perth, left entirely on my ain resoorces, wi’ naebody to advise wi’ or to listen to my griefs. I’ve business on my hand—important business, that behooves to be done—if done ava—wi’ energy, promptitude, an’ intelligence. There is a monster in human shape to be tracked oot an’ laid hands on—a clever vagabond too, an’ as souple as he is clever, I dinna doot. What am I to do? Hoo am I to proceed? where will I mak’ inquiries as to his whereabouts? an’ wha will assist me? I wandered backwards an’ forewards, through this street an’ that street, an’ ower the Brig an’ roond the North Inch, an’ I turned ower the Brig an’ roond the North Inch, an’ I turned ower the aboove questions in my mind, an’ viewed them in every possible licht, but withoot comin’ to ony practical conclusion. I was an utter alien in the place. Wi’ the exeption o’ Murphy, the petawtie merchant, I knew not a livin’ sowl in that strange city, and the Murphies are nane o’ my favourites, for although they are relations—(very far removed, hooever,)—I dinna coont them amang my best freends. I want to hae nae mair communication wi’ them than what canna be weel-fauredly avoided, an’ as they regaird me wi’ a kindred feeling there is really an’ truly nae love tint atween the twa branches o’ the family.

To add to my dreariness an’ weariness, the shades o’ e’enin’ were beginnin’ to creep ower the taps o’ the distant hills. The sun had “gane doon ower the lofty Ben-lomond,” an’ the red cluds had ceased “to preside ower the scene.” The street lamps were beginnin’ to blink up here an’ there, an’ the shop laddies were beginnin’ to put on their shutters. I was wanderin’ aboot like a ne’er-do-weel on the North Inch recallin’ the incidents o’ the combat atweesh the Clan Chattan an’ the Clan Quhele, as recordit in the “Fair Maid o’ Perth,” an’ I had juist fixed on the exact spot where Eachin the last o’ the Quheles behooved to hae crossed the Tay in his flicht, when I forgaithers wi’ twa sodger-lookin’ chields, wi’ nochty bits o’ bannets stuck “on three hairs,” as the sayin’ is, wi’ garments o’ very secondary material an’ very nippit-like, an’ ilk ane o’ them carryin’ a bit cane stickie in his hand, juist as if they had been gentlemen born. Set them up, indeed! It’ll be lang ere thirteen an’ a bawbee a day mak’ a man a gentleman, in the sense that they evidently attached to the word. I’m no in favours o’ the nine-tailed cat either in the army, the navy, or the ceevil service—far from it; but if ever ony man was worthy o’ a hidin’ on the bare back in this warld, thae twa ill-deedie vaigs richly deserved a roond or twa o’ the whups, an’ that too on their very seat of honour—though there is dooms little o’ that commodity in their haill bouk, whether ye look fo’t in their head, or their heart, or elsewhere. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Among the Soldiers’ (11 November, 1865)”

‘Fairliegh Fansides: “An ‘Orrible Tail!”‘ by James Ferguson (23 September, 1865)

Chapter First.

Fairliegh Fansides sought the wilds, but he found them not. He therefore returned by the waters. Swollen and brown were they with many rains. The bubbling foam flew from their heaving sides, aud whitened the grassy bank on which he stood. “Ah,” he exclaimed, with a sudden jerk, “what do I behold?” And what did he behold? He beheld a mantle-muffled figure approach the river’s brink with crouching cat-like steps. It suddenly raised its arms with a mighty jerk in the air, and flung a something forward, which fell with a heavy splash in the tide. Moodily the muffled figure gazed upon the waters closing o’er it, and watched them until the last bubble melted away. Horror froze the soul and the tongue of our hero through all the eventful incidents of that mysterious scene. As that dull-like splash thrilled upon his ears, his heart gave one mighty thump, the muscles of his tongue relaxed, and his pent up feelings found vent in a bellow that would have done credit to the vocal powers of a seahorse.

“Fiend!” he shrieked, “what hast thou done!” The moaning rush of the waters and the echoes of his own voice returning in a triumphant and demoniac shriek was the only reply. The very marrow in his bones grew cold with terror at the babel of sounds his own voice had created. He closed his eyes to shut out the hubbub from his ears. And when he opened them again, lo, the river disturber had vanished away.

Chapter Second.

Fairleigh Fansides from that hour henceforth and for ever was and altered man. A mysterious secret hung heavy on his soul. His face grew pale and thin and the tip of his nose grew blue. His once dull eyes grew bright with the fever of care, and seemed anxious to slink away into the recesses of his head afar from the sight of man. They peeped from under his overhanging eyebrows like a couple of stars from out of a broken cloud. Asleep or awake, that scene enacted on the river’s bank loomed eternally before his mind. Life became a burden grievous to be borne, and the companionship of his friends a bore. The question of “to be or not to be” had been debated pro and con within his mind often and over again, until the spirit of philosophy (oh, ‘tis a grand thing to be a philosopher!) came to his aid, lifting the load of despair from his shoulders. “What!” he cried, “Shall I perish for another mortal’s sins? No. The world shall know the secret yon river contains.” And the world—at least the villagers of Stepstone, in lieu of the world—heard the tale, and wondered thereat exceedingly.

The village drummer had been amongst them beating out the news and a notice together, “inviting all the inhabitants to meet on the village green” at 3 P.M. on the 11th instant, to Fairleigh Fansides to that direful spot where the murderous deed was done. Continue reading “‘Fairliegh Fansides: “An ‘Orrible Tail!”‘ by James Ferguson (23 September, 1865)”