The following epistle is an early appearance in ‘The People’s Journal’ 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,—It’s an auld sayin’, an’ a true ane, that man is born to trouble as the sparks flee upwards. This truth, at ony rate, appears to haud guid in my case, for I’m sure I’m like the doo that Noah sent oot frae the wark afore the waters were abaitit, I canna find rest for the sole o’ my fit. On ilka side I’m environed wi’ deep waters, whereof the billows threaten to devoor me wi’ their angry jaws. Sin’ I inditit my last epistle, I’ve been in the warst pickle that ever mortal man was in, frae the eatin’ o’ the forbidden fruit doon to this present day an’ generation. As I’ve aye thocht it a relief to hae a sensible body to mak’ my molygrant till, even when my grief was unaswageable by human sympathy, I’ve juist sittin’ doon to tell ye a’ the oots an’ the ins o’ my present tribulation.
Weel, ye see, to begin at the beginnin’, by superhuman efforts, Tibbie had made a’thing trig an’ braw aboot oor new hoose by the approach o’ Saturday nicht, an’, sair worn oot though she was wi’ the hard wark, she was yet “as canty as a kittlin’,” an’ couldna eneuch admire the effecks o’ her handiwark in a’ the holes an’ corners o’ the bit biggin’, especially the parlour—Tibbie couldna get her sairin’ o’ lookin’ at it. A’ the bits o’ nick-nacks were tried in a thoosan’ different positions, wi’ the view o’ garrin’ them produce the grandest possible effeck at the sma’est possible expense; an’ sae, after everything had been arranged to her entire, an’, I may say, intense, satisfaction, Mrs Davidson was sent for. Alang she cam’ on Saturday nicht, an’ Tibbie taen care to hae on her net-mutch, an’ a braw new sawton apron that she got to the boot o’ the bargain when she was buyin’ her window curtains (so she said to me, an’ I’ve nae richt to misdoot her word), an’ a’ to mak’ her appear brawer an’ younger lookin’ than Mrs Davidson. I juist stood an’ beheld the twa o’ them, for I faund it to be physically impossible for me to edge in my word into the conversation. Tibbie waxed exceedingly eloquent, an’ enlairged on the guid properties o’ the hoose, an’ the splendaciousness o’ the parlour, in a manner that was truly edifeein’ an’ marvellous in a woman o’ her edication. Mrs Davidson did aboot a tenth pairt o’ the conversation, Tibbie she gaed through nine-tenths thereof, an’ I did the rest. So Tibbie bade Mrs Davidson sit doon on a new sofy, an’ then cam’ a interteenment o’ wine an’ cake, whereof we a’ partook, an’ drank succes to the new hoose. I thocht i’ my ain mind that less micht hae saired than waistin’ my means and substance on wine at half-a-croon or three shillins the bottle for the sake o’ Mrs Davidson; but I said naething, the mair sae as it was a’ done oot o’ a guid intention on Tibbie’s pairt, in order to tak the shine oot o’ Mrs Davidson—an achievement that wad refleck fully as muckle honour on me as on Tibbie. So after sittin’ a half-oor or sae—rather ooneasily as I thocht—Mrs Davidson raise an’ tane her departure. “I needna bid ye come alang some nicht an’ see me,” quoth she, wi’ a toss o’ her head, an’ in a voice falterin’ wi’ vexation an’ rage combined, “for ye’ll be thinkin’ yersels ower high noo for kennin’ ony o’ yer auld acquaintances.” An’ awa her ladyship gaed unco skeigh lookin’, an’ I’m thinkin’ John Davidson heard aboot oor new sofy an’ carpet, an’ window-pole, an’ moreen curtains, i’ the deafest side o’ his head afore he got sleep to his eyes or slumber to his eyelids that nicht. No ae wink o’ rest will he get, puir man, till Mrs Davidson be upsides wi’ Mrs Bodkin.
Tibbie’s triumph was complete. She was as prood as ever was a general after gainin’ a great victory. She had eclipsed Mrs Davidson! Tibbie laid doon her head that nicht on her pillow wi’ the consciousness that she had done her duty, an’ she was as happy as the Queen o’ Sheba, or rather, as Solomon was after showin’ that lady a’ his riches an’ the glory was after showin’ that lady a’ his riches an’ the glory o’ his excellence. For me, I lay doon thinkin’ o’ the poor o’ siller that Tibbie’s plenishin’ fever had cost, an’ yet I did’na grudge her aither, for Tibbie has been a guid wife to me. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Terribly Hum-Bugged’ (8 June, 1861)”