‘Bodkin in the Bowels of the Earth’ (28 October, 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’ve nae love for railway tunnels; I ay like to travel aboon boord, an’ no within the bowels o’ the earth like a mowdiewart. Catch me venturin’ my carkitch aneth the yird but only when I canna help it! It’s maybe a prejudice o’ mine, but I doot it’s ane I’ll carry to my grave wi’ me. I like to hae the sun or the moon, or the starns at least, to keep watch an’ ward ower me; an’ afore I wad be a collier, to creep on hands an’ feet far ben into dark, dreepin’ cauverns, whaur the air smells o’ fire an’ brimstane, I wad as soon be “a kitten and cry mew,” like my freend the venturolocust.

An’ this reminds me that I’ve still some ill-faured revelations to mak’ anent the conduck o’ this worthy individooal. As I stated last week, we had nae trouble wi’ my gentleman a’ the gait atween Bridge of Allan an’ the Moncrieffe Tunnel, konsequently we had leisure to mak’ observations by the way. I let Tibbie see Shirramuir, whaur the battle was focht, a hunder an’ fifty years syne, atween the Duke o’ Argyle and the Earl o’ Mar, and edified her wi’ a quotation frae the sang that was written thereanent, wherein the dubious issue o’ the combat is described in the manner followin’:—

“There’s some say that they wan,

An’ some say that we wan,

An’ some say that nane wan at a’, man;

But o’ ae thing I’m sure, that at Shirramuir,

A battle there was, which I saw, man;

An’ we ran, an’ they ran,

An’ they ran, an’ we ran,

An’ we ran, an’ they ran awa’, man.”

I direekit her attention to Ardoch to the nor’ard o’ Greenloanin’ Station, whaur the ancient Romans had an immense camp, whereof “the very ruins are tremendous.” I mentioned that it was in the neeborhood o’ Ardoch, accordin’ to some historians, that the celebrated Heelanman named Galgacus focht a great battle wi’ the Romans, an’ was defeated, but Tibbie seemed naewise gratefu’ for the information, for a’ the encooragement I got was conveyed in the followin’ languidge, “Hoots, nonsense, Tammas, dinna deave a body aboot the Roman gawkies an’ what they did, when we’ve plenty o’ gawkies i’ the present day to crack aboot; but I wad cun ye mony thanks if ye could tell me hoo I’m to get hame to Dundee withoot a cup o’ warm tea, for I’m perfectly like to drap doon wi’ faintness, an’ I wonder hoo Mary Ann an’ the bits o’ twinnies, puir lammies, are comin’ on. I’m wae to think what a handfu’ she’ll hae, an’ them her first, too! This warld’s ill dividit, Tammas, for ye’ll see some folk that ye wad think had ower mony weans—although it would be cruel and sinfu’ in their pawrents to say, or even to think sae—an’ ithers again that hae nane ava. But we maun just tak’ what is sent, Tammas, an’ say naething; for we’ve nae richt to find faut wi’ the doin’ s o’ Providence.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin in the Bowels of the Earth’ (28 October, 1865)”

‘Bodkin and the Ventriloquist’ (21 October, 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’ve a craw to pluck wi’ ye afore I gang a fitstap farther wi’ my story. Whaurfore did ye pit “Bodkin Rediveevus” at the tap o’ my last epistle? Are ye no conversant wi’ the fact that my name is “Tammas” an’ my surname “Bodkin?” Hoo daur ye go to ca’ me “Rediveevus,” or ony ither name that does not belang to me? The very childer in the Crescent hae pickit up the name already, an’ I daurna set my neb ootower the door-stap but what they’ll be haudin’ oot their fingers at me an’ cryin’—“There’s Bodkin Rediveevus.” An’ not only so, but nae farther gane than this very mornin’ Tibbie was oot at the flesher’s for a pund o’ minch to oor dinner, an’ ye’ll no hinder them—ill-bred brats, that I sid sae—to salute her wi’ the title o’ “Tibbie Rediveevus.” Noo, while I canna help thinkin’ that their pawrents are greatly to blame for allooin’ them to rin thereoot like as mony wild colts, yet I maun needs say that ye are to a certain extant a partaker in their wickedness, for if the auld cock hadna crawed the young anes wadna hae learned. Of coorse Tibbie cam’ in very ill-pleased indeed at the disrespectfu’ salutation they had gi’en her, nor could I wonder at her for being angry, for I ken hoo I feel mysel’ when I happen to be addressed by ony ither name than that whilk was bestowed upo’ me mair than sixty years syne by the Rev. Mr Gowlanthump. I hate bye-names, an’ sae does Tibbie, an’ ye maun thole the word o’ reproof wi’ meekness when I tell ye very plainly that ye micht hae been far mair profitably, no to sae Christianly, employed than in stickin’ “Rediveevus,” or ony sic ootlandish eppytaph, to my honoured surname, I aye like to say what I think an’ feel, an’ I’ve said it in this particular instance, but I wadna hae ye to imagine that I enterteen ony permanent sentiment o’ hostility towards ye on accoont o’ that nickname—far frae that—on the contrary, I’m ready to shak’ hands wi’ ye at this present moment, an’ to say frae the very boddom o’ my heart, “Let byeganes be byeganes—yea, let us love ane anither as heretofore!” But “an ye love me, Hal,” nae mair o’ yer “Rediveevuses”—mind that!*

Havin’ dischairged this very disagreeable duty—for naething can be mair distressin’ to me than to hae words wi’ onybody, especially wi’ onybody I’m freendly wi’ an’ enterteen a sincere respeck for—I proceed noo to the business in hand, viz., to narrate the uncos I saw, an’ said, an’ did durin’ the remainder o’ my journey to Dundee. Continue reading “‘Bodkin and the Ventriloquist’ (21 October, 1865)”

‘Bodkin Redivivus’ (14 October, 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. Below the letter will be a verse submitted by a reader about his four month absence.

Maister Editor,—Durin’ the four months that I’ve been haudin’ my tongue I’ve noticed sundry individuals makin’ a bauchle o’ my name an’ fair fame—twa o’ them even gaun the length o’ wreatin’ sangs aboot my silence, an’ insiniwatin’ that I behooved to be on the spree or engaged in some ither equally unwarrantable operation—an’ ane o’ them, in plain prose, blamin’ me for a want o’ consideration for the comfort an’ requirements o’ his “inner bein’.” Noo, as to the twa sangsters, I sall only say that I enterteen a geniwine contempt baith for them an’ for their sangs; an’ as for the proser, I can only advise him if his “inner bein’” is oot o’ order, to tak’ a dose o’ soothin’ medicine, an’ lie in his bed for a curn days, till sic time as he gets relief. Never havin’ studied physic, of coorse I dinna pretend to prescribe for the “inner bein’” in an authoritative manner, an’ therefore he may either tak’ my advice or lat it alane, as he may feed inclined, but if he choose the latter alternative, an’ ony evil consequences follow, he will hae himsel’ to blame, As regards my ancestry, I beg to refer the reader to the volume I published a year or twa syne, [‘Tammas Bodkin, or the Humours of a Scottish Tailor’] wherein my lineage was traced to a very ancient, if not to a very honourable origin, but I am obliged to own that I canna coont St Columba amang my forbears. The only Saint that ever flourished on my family tree was a certain St Snip, wha lived—I sanna say hoo mony centuries back, for if I were to condescend on dates, folk wad be apt to say I was leein’.

I dinna doot but some o’ thae chields wha hae been sclawryin’ my name an’ reputation were very curious to ken hoo my wreatin’s had ceased in a manner sae sudden an’ unaccoontable to appear in your columns, an’ if they had speered the reason why—wi’ a due regaird to the rules o’ good breedin’, eckcettery—I micht hae been prevailed upon to mak’ them as wise as I am mysel’, but seein’ that they hae chairged me wi’ drunkenness, wi’ a disregaird to their “inner bein’,” an’ wi’ a descent frae St Columba, foul fa’ me if I mak’ them a bit wiser on that head. That I was at Peterhead seein’ the launch o’ the “Lifeboat No. 1” I winna seek to deny, but that I got mysel’ fou on that occasion as has been insiniwated or that I misconduckit mysel’ in ony shape, manner, or respect whatsomever, is what I will daur ony man or woman wha has the slichtest regard to truth an’ verity to affirm. Yes I was at Peterhead seein the lifeboat launched, an’ a grand sicht it was; an’ I may state, mair an’ further, that I intend to gang to Arbraoth an’ see the ither ane launched likewise, provided I live lang eneugh; but if the sons o’ St Tammas gang on dilly-dallyin’ as they’ve been doin’ a’ the simmer, an’ dinna get on wi’ the biggin’ o’ the boat-house some faster, I muckle dreed the launchin’ will hae to be put aff till a future generation, an’ then I’ll no see’t. But I maun yoke to the real business on hand, or else a rebellion in your “inner bein’” will be the dreadfu’ consequence, an’ therefore, withoot farther preface or explanation, I sall proceed to gather up the threed o’ the narrative at the spot where it parted sae suddently when I was payin’ it out in the month of June last. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Redivivus’ (14 October, 1865)”