The following is one of the many epistles 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,—A’ last week Tibbie gaed aboot an’ gloomed even on. Though I employed a’ my airts an’ blandishments wi’ her, though I gaed to the well, an’ brocht up the coals, tane oot the ase, an’ washed up the dinner dishes, lai on the fire i’ the mornin’, an’ made her cuppie o’ tea till her afore she rose, an’ her bed after, yet a’ wadna do—naething wad mollify if it got ae kick in the coorse o’ the four-and-twenty oors, it got a score o’ them, an’ the very tortoise couldna lift a fit to please her. For me, I couldna sup my kail to her satisfaction, an’, as for Willie Clippins, he gied great offence by his manner o’ scoorin’ the guse—he made ower muckle noise, she said, for ae thing, an’ he bleckt a’ the floor wi’t for anither; an’ so, atween Willie an’ me ben the hoose, an’ the creepie an’ the tortoise i’ the kitchen, Tibbie’s life was rendered quite miserable. Truly, she was a woman o’ a sorrowfu’ spirit.
Bein’ certain that neither Willie nor mysel’, nor the creepie, nor the tortoise, had been guilty o’ any greater misdemeanours than ordinary, I began to jealouse that something was wrang wi’ Tibbie hersel’. I was confirmed in this opinion by seein’ her takin’ a couple o’ Colosynth’s pills ae nicht to her supper, an’ my belief was still farther strengthened when, next mornin’, I observed the auld black teapat sotterin’ at the cheek o’ the fire, wherefrom there cam’ a strong ill-favoured combination o’ stinks that I was morally certain proceedit frae a decoction o’ salts an’ senna an’ horehund, an’ sic like graith. I made sundry kind inquiries as to the state o’ her health, but she wasna disposed to be communicative, an’ so I didna press my questions. By-an’-bye, hooever, i observed that her chouks began to swall oot to abnormal proportions, an’so I cam’ to the conclusion that Tibbie was labourin’ oonder that “hell o’ a diseases”—toothache. That quite explained to me the twist in Tibbie’s temperpin, for, o’ a’ the deseases Tibbie has ever been afflicket wi’ since she cam’ oonder my jurisdiction, toothache is the only ane that she could never thole wi’ ony degree o’ patience.
But the reason why she made nae remarks aboot her complaint was this:—Aboot a twalmonth syne I happened to hae a pretty dour attack o’ the same complaint, when, of coorse, I made an unco ootery, as it wad behoove ony mortal man to do oonder the circumstances, an’ Tibbie she wad hae a mustard-poultice applied to the braid-side o’ my head. This was a’ very weel, an’ I agreed to try the efficacy thereof; but ye’ll no hinder Tibbie to clap the mustard on my bare cheek, whereupon it a’ got claggit aboot the roots o’ my whiskers, an’ awa’ it wadna come. Aweel, in the coorse o’ natur’ it burned, an’ it burned, an’ it burned, oontil I was like to gang oot o’ my judgment wi’ the pain thereof; an’ the lang an’ the short o’t was that the skin cam’ harlin’ aff my cheek in blypes, leavin’ the hair standin’ in a wilderness o’ prood flesh. Dog on it! I was nae that weel pleased aboot it, an’ was plain eneuch to say sae; but Tibbie got up in an unco tirrivee, an’ quoth she, “Hech, I ‘sure ye, when ony little thing is the matter wi’ you, Tammas, ye sune let a’ the hoose hear o’t—makin’ sic a sang aboot a mere flech-bite, min. I wonder ye dinna think back burnin’ shame o’ yersel’! I’m sure I’ve had the toothache a thoosan’ times ower, an’ a thoosan’ times waur than you, Tammas, an’ did ye ever hear me grainin’ an’ makin’ a hullieballoo at that rate? But it’s aye the way wi’ you men folk—ye canna thole a stoond i’ the nail o’ yer muckle tae, but ye maun be cryin’ oot murder, an’ thrawin’ yer chafts as if ye had swallowed a hedge-hog, or a wasp’s bink wi’ a’ its inhabitants.” An’ so on she gaed, blawin’ her ain horn, an’ garrin’ me look unco sma’ indeed. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Draws Tibbie’s Tooth’ (7 December, 1861)”