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,—Last week has been anither busy ane wi’ Tibbie an’ me. O’ a’ the ills that ever cam’ ower me this flittin’ business has been the warst by far an’ awa’. Of we could only foresee what is to happen, hoo mony things we do an’ say wad be left undone and unsaid! But, alake! we are short-sichtit mortals, an’ canna forecast the results o’ the very next stap we tak’—whether it may land us in happiness or misery. If Tibbie an’ me had kent what we ken noo, we never wad hae thocht o’ flittin’ frae oor auld hoose, where we had spent sae mony lichtsome happy days, an’ gane to that bug-infested abomination to be made the victims o’ thae hatefu’ blude-sookers. I’ve learnt frae dear-bocht experience that it’s no the brawest hoose that’s the best hoose, even as it’s no a gowd that glitters. Tibbie has gotten her stammagust o’ fine hooses an’ parlous, an’ a’ that kind o’ trumpery; an’ costly as this spring has been to me, I’ll hae time to mak’ up my leeway again afore Tibbie seek to play anither ane on the same key; sae it winna be a’ lost i’ the’ end o’ the day maybe. But withoot farther preface, I maun gie ye a scrift o’ hoo we pairtit company wi’ oor freends—the bugs.
Weel, ye see, on Monday nicht was a week, Tibbie made her bed i’ th’ sofy, as she had done on the previous nicht , drawin’ a cordon sanitaire round her roose wi’ the floor o’ brimstane as afore, but somehoo or ither, by slicht or by micht, her enemies brak through the blockade an’ bore doon on her at full sail, pitchin’ their poisoned darts intil her carcase in a manner that dings me to describe. Tibbie groaned, an’ grat, an’ faucht, an’ flayt the haill nicht through. Sometimes she wad fa’ on a doverin’ o’ sleep—for she was sair dung for want o’ rest. Puir body—but nae sooner was she quiet for five or ten minutes. Than her adversaries began wi’ their auld pranks. A’ that nicht I didna sleep an’ oor though a’ the bits o’ gloffs I got were eekit thegither; but when mornin’ cam’, I says to Tibbie, “This will never do,” quoth I; “we maun see to the end o’ this wark, an’ that without mair parley aboot it, juist. We’ll leave thae bugs to their ain meditations, an’ tak’ oor creep.” Tibbie had been o’ the same opeenion, though she said naething, an’ sae she tried to manifest her acquiescence in my remark wi’ a smile, but, wad ye believe it? her physog was sae swelled an’ thrawn, that it was physically impossible for her to cruik her chafts into the similitude o’ a laugh, though her soul’s salvation had dependit on the issue. Aucht o’clock strak, an’ quoth I to Willie Clippins, “ye’ll gang your wa’s doon, my man, an’ gie my compliments to Maister John Clinkscales, the grocery man at the fit o’ the Shuttle Raw, an’ tell him to haste ‘im up immediately, that I want to speak till ‘im.” “Ay, ay,” quoth Willie, ever ready to execute my orders, like the obedient loonie that he is; “it’s yon man wi’ the muckle wame that stands atween the door cheeks wi’ a white apron on, an’ a pair o’ spartickles on his nose?” “Juist the very man,” quoth I; “noo scoor awa like a twa-year-auld, an’, gin ye fa’, dinna tak’ time to rise again, an’ be sure ye deliver the message as ye’ve received it.” Willie gaed aff as like lichtnin’ as his muckle tae, that is scarcely a’thegither haill yet, wad permit; an’ here I maun tell ye that had brocht us sae muckle vexation. In the coorse o’ a quarter o’ an oor, Mr Clinkscales made his appearance, puffin’ an’ blawin’ like a pair o’ smiddy bellis, for John is ane o’ thae chields that seem to hae mair gut an’ ga’ i’ their composition than onything o’ a mair etherial essence. I bade the body sit doon till he recovered his breath, an’ Willie Clippins I dismissed to the ither end, shuttin’ baith the doors on us, for it disna do to let fools an’ bairns hear a’ ye have to say. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Escapes from his Foes.’ (15 June, 1861)”