‘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)”

‘Bodkin Loses the Train’ (4 November, 1865)

“if there is law to be gotten on this side o’ Lunnon, either for love or siller, I’ll put it in operation!”

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,—That tea an’ cauld roast I had in Perth did me unco little gude. No that the vittles were unwholesome by ony means, either inherently or by reason o’ indifferent cookery, for it wad be doin’ a grievous wrang to ‘”mine host” to say a thrawn word in regaird to his provender; but nevertheless an’ notwithstandin’, they did not sort wi’ my stammack, an’ the reason was that I did not partake o’ them wi’ that serenity o’ mind an’ cheeriness o’ spirit whilk are, in my case at onyrate, indispensible to sound digestion. The fack is, when my soul is troubled, my stammack gaes a’ wrang, quarrels wi’ what is put into it, an’ keeps me literally in het water. I’m nae philosopher, but I wad nevertheless advise all such as desire to get a’ the gude o’ their food they possibly can, to eat their bread an’ drink their tea, or their yill, or their water, or whatever else o’ a liquid natur’ they may employ to synd ower their piece, wi’ a merry heart, whilk reason an’ revelation assure us doeth good like a medicine. I’m aware—painfully aware—that a merry heart is sometimes a luxury a poor man canna afford at his humble board. He sees his bairns ill clad an’ ill fed—his wife doon-spirited, duddy, an’ trauchlie—his bits o’ hoosehold furniture wearin’ done, or gaun bit by bit to the pawn-shop—he looks forrit an’ he sees naething afore him but a life o’ hard wark, an’ a pauper’s grave at the end o’t—he looks backwart, an’ the only green spot he discerns on memory’s waste is the brief period o’ coortship an’ the honeymune—an’ he sighs to think that a’ his hopes o’ happiness hae been rudely dashed to the grund, an’ wi’ thae thochts an’ feelin’s seethin’ and wamblin’ in his mind, it’s no to be expeckit that he can sit doon an’ mingle his dry brose wi’ the mirth that is necessary to their digestion. I’m thankfu’ I’m no in this sad plicht. My guidwife is a perfect jewel o’ a woman—clean, trig, an’ sprichtly as a kittlin’—my pouch an’ my pantry are neither o’ them destitute o’ material mercies—an’ whether I look to past, the present, or the future I see naething to mak’ a moligrant aboot. Yet I canna say but what I forgaither wi’ fykes to fash me at times. There is that Englishman, for instance! I’m sure I’ve suffered mair vexation o’ spirit on his vile account than tongue can tell, forbye what Tibbie has had to bear—an’ when I say this I’m makin’ nae allusion to the siller he has garred me spend ae way an’ anither, in bringin’ him to justice. But I maun resume the threed o’ my narrative.

The waiter havin’ left the room Tibbie began to pour oot the tea, while I applied mysel’ wi’ vigour to the cauld roast. Tibbie was for some time unable to speak for sobbin’, an’ I was equally speechless wi’ anger, but after we had time to come to oorsels awee, we proceedit to compare oor thochts an’ feelin’s anent the ootrage in the tunnel, an’ the result was that we baith cam’ to the self-same conclusion, namely, that the venturolocust, if he could be laid hands on, sid be brocht afore his betters, an’ made answerable for his unwarrantable conduct.

“Deed ye wad be a great simpleton to pass him,” quoth Tibbie.

“Pass him!” cried I, bringing my steekit neive doon upo’ the table wi’ sic a thud that the concussion garred the mustard-pat stot aff into Tibbie’s lap, whereby the corner o’ her shawl an’ also the front o’ her silk goon were a’ belaggered wi’ the mustard, “Pass him! No. If it sid cost me a’ I am worth in this world I’ll never rest till I hae the villain hauled up for his misty-manners.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Loses the Train’ (4 November, 1865)”