‘Bodkin Dealing in Idols’ (16 March, 1861)

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,—I dinna like to be victimeesed especially by a wheen blockheads, an’ that I’ve allooed mysel’ for ance to be sairly bamboozled by some gentry o’ that description maks me as mad as a March hare whenever I think o’t. But if I didna pay them back in their ain coin—aye, baith principal an’ interest tae—I’ll leave ye to judge when ye have heard my story.

Weel, ae day last week there was a lang, snekin’, seedy lookin’ chap cam into my shop, wi’ a sinister-lookin’ e’e i’ the head o’m, inquirin’ if I could mak’ a pair o’ cutikins for him. “Cutikins, min,” quoth I, “cutikins are no fashionable noo-a-days; hoosomever, if ye will hae cutikens, it’s cutikens ye will hae, for a better hand at cuttin’ cutikens than Mr Waugh, my ‘prentice-maister, didna wield shears atween Maidenkirk an’ John o’ Groats, that I’m certain o,’ for he made them for the auld Duke o’ Bucklew—an’ I wad hae been less o’ a philosopher than folk gie me credit for had I no made mysel’ as perfite at the business as my maister.” A’ the time I was speakin’ till’m he keepit glowerin’ roon’ the shop, an’ I thocht he tane particular notice o’ a glass case, containin’ a quantity o’ dolls an’ trockery o’ that kind, whilk my gude wife advised me to add to my stock o’ wearin’ appairll [sic], as she had been told by some body, that it was an unco profitable business to sell thae play-fair things.

Amang the ither things, there was a great big strappin’ hizzie o’ a doll, ‘od as like life as ever ye saw, an’ nearly as large; so, after glowerin’ a while at it through the glass, the chield says—”A very fine figure that.”

“Aye, she’s a sonsie-lookin’ dame,” quoth I, “it’s only a pity that she’s no flesh an’ blude, or she micht mak’ a fine wife for somebody.” “Very heavenly-lookin’ ideal beauty, pure, spiritual, immaculate,” quoth the chap, wi’ mony mair phrases to the same effeck, an’ I really began to think him a wee thocht romantic. He seemed to be muckle tane up wi’ the wax figure, an’ began to mutter something till himsel’ aboot “Ave Maria,” or some sic nonsense, an’ I actually made him oot, in my ain mind, to be a fool. At last an’ lang, he spiered the price o’ the article. “Weel,” quoth I, “I dinna deal in thae things, but if ye’ve a mind to buy, I’se ca’ in the gudewife, for they belang to a speakilation o’ hers.” So the wife was sent for, an’ a bargain was concludit, the chield payin’ some five or sax shillin’s for the doll, an’ whan he laid doon the siller, thinks I, “My man, a fule an’ his money’s soon pairtit.” Hooever, that was his business, an’ no mine. He got it rowed up in a lump o’ paper, an’ set aff wi’t in his oxter, still chatterin’ till himsel’ something aboot “aves” an’ “Marias.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Dealing in Idols’ (16 March, 1861)”