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,—I mentioned i’ my last epistle hoo Tibbie an’ me made a rin ower by to Dundee frae Cockmylane on the Saturday’s afternoon to see wi’ oor ain een whether or no Willie Clippins was keepin’ a’ thing square an’ trim aboot the hoose, an’ especially to see if the tortoise hadna made a voyage doonstairs to Maister Phelim O’Grady, an’, as I observed i’ the said epistle, we faund Willie faithfu’ in everything. He had boiled the petawtis accordin’ to Tibbie’s instructions an’ he wrocht up the drawers an’ slacks accordin’ to mine, so baith Tibbie an’ me were mair than satisfied wi’ the mainer wherein the bit loonie had acquitted himsel’. Havin’ finished a’ the bits o’ jobs I had set him to the road wi’ afore I left, he had had recourse to the professional services o’ Maister Stitch, an’ I faun that the twa o’ them had been layin’ their heads thegither on the previous nicht, an’ had actually shapen a pair o’ corduroy slacks, whereat Willie was eydently employed when I burst in oonexpectedly upon his meditations. The slacks were nae that ill cut out, a’thing considered, just a wee thocht ower wide across the hams if onything, but that was soon rectified by takin’ oot the beasin’ steeks an’ pairin’ the maiter o’ a half inch or sae aff the skirpin’, whereby they were rendered in every respect exactly to my mind.
Tibbie made an inspection o’ the kitchen, an’ discovered that the tortoise had fyled the floor in twa places, ane o’ them bein’ oonder the bed, an’ the ither atween the airm-chair an’ the wa’, but as Willie’s instructions didna extend farther than to see that the beastie got its bite o’ meat in due season, an’ keepit oot o’ Phelim O’Grady’s clutches, he couldna be held responsible for the defilement o’ the floor, an’ sae Tibbie juist dichtit it up wi’ an oowen clout, an’ said naething. Hoosomdever, on gaen’ into the pantry, Tibbie discovers that her claes raip is in twa halves, an’ so, when Willie was interrogated aboot it, he confessed that he had been tryin’ Blondin’s exploits ae day w’t, an’ that he was just half-way alang, balancin’ himsel’ wi’ the law-brod, an’ carryin’ the guse in his teeth, when the raip brak, an’ doon cam’ Clippins, guse, an’ law-brod, wi’ an awfu’ ruddie on the floor, whereby Mistress O’Grady was nearly frichtened oot o’ her seven senses. Mair an’ ootower a’ that, the dinle o’ the dooncome had taen effect on the partition wa’ separatin’ the shop frae the kitchen, whereon Tibbie’s delf wares were arranged in raws, an’ sae, on coontin’ her crockerie, Tibbie missed a jug that she had got frae Phelim O’Grady four months syne, in excheenge for a pund o’ harren cloots an’ a lapfu’ o’ banes, the jug havin’ fa’en’ i’ the floor an’ flown to flinders aboot twa seconds after Willie an’ the guse had pairted company wi’ the claes line. Tibbie was aboot to raise a ruction i’ the hoose anent the mismagglement o’ her raip an’ the loss o’ her jug, but I taen speech in hand wi’ her, an’ stood up bauldly in Willie’s defence, showin’ that he micht peradventure become as great a funambulist as Blondin himsel’, when he wad, nae doot, mak’ ample mends for the mischanter he had fa’en into, besides refleckin’ nae that little credit on me as havin’ set him i’ the way o’ weel-doin’. An’ even settin’ aside considerations o’ that kind, laddies will be laddies, an’ maun be allooed some length o’ tether, an’ it wad be as daft like in us to attempt to put an auld head upon young shoothers as it was in Willie, puir chield, to essay walkin’ wi’ the guse in his teeth alang a string that was scarcely fit to bear the wecht o’ half-a-dizzen o’ sarks newly oot o’ the washin’-tub. By this means I manage to skoog Willie frae the dirdum o’ Tibbie’s sealdin’ tongue.
As Tibbie an’ me couldna think o’ beginnin’ to do onything, seein’ oor visit was but a transitory ane, I made the suggestion that we sid gang doon to the Corn Excheenge Hall an’ hear Fooler an’ Wells, an’ get oor heads read. “Oor heads redd,” quoth Tibbie, “I can redd my head at hame, Tammas, an’ if need be I’se redd yours too.” Tibbie was actually for refusing to visit the phrenologists, until I told her that John Davidson an’ Mrs Davidson had baith been ther gettin’ their heads read, an’ that it wad gar us look unco baugh aside them if we didna gang through the same ordeal. Tibbie couldna thole the idea o’ Mr an’ Mrs Davidson bein’ before us in ony respect, no even as to the reddin’ o’ her head, an’ therefore, if Fooler an’ Wells had read Mr an’ Mrs Davidson’s heads, oondoubtedly they sid read Tibbie’s an’ mine. A’ the time we were argie-bargiein’ aboot it, Tibbie was oonder the impression that Fooler an’ Wells were naething but fashionable hairdressers, an’ that they wad simply kaim oor hair, an’ maybe apply a slaik o’ bear’s grease or Macassar oil to it. So when she saw me at the lookin’-glass sheddin’ my hair—as I always do afore gaen oot to mingle in polite society—she observes, “Tammas, there’s nae earthly use o’ ye wastin’ yer time, an’ wearin’ the kaim, reddin’ yer hair here, when ye’re juist gaen to pay Fooler an’ Wells for performin’ that duty; my certie, if they get the payment, I sid let them work the wark.” So I was oonder the needcessity o’ explainin’ to her that by getting oor heads read was meant gettin’ oor bumps examined, but Tibbie protestit that she kent that brawley, withoot needin’ me to tell her. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Studies Craniology’ (12 October, 1861)”