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)”