‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 1861)

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,—It’s wi’ nae sma’ amoont o’ trepidashun an’ wi’ great fear and tremblin’ that I venture to ask you the favour o’ insertin’ this letter; but I think it’s only fair that baith sides sid be heard, an’ yer Journal weekly testifies that ye’re o’ the same opeenion.

Alloo me, then, to tell ye, Sir, that I didna juist exackly like to cheek up tae the maister i’ the coorse o’ his learned prelection on matrimony last week, of whilk I was the oonfortunate victim; but believe me, though I said naething, I thocht plenty. Wi’ a’ due deference to the maister’s sooperior pooers o’ judgment, experience, an’ ability—no only in cuttin’ oot in the first style o’ fashion a pair o’ peg-top slacks, but also in bein’ the author o’ sae muckle leeterary maiter—I maun say that I think he juist took raither muckle on him when, withoot ony warnicement, as he ca’s it, he gae me sic a discoorse on matrimony. It took my breath clean awa’, an’ I didna get ae wink o’ sleep a’ nicht thinkin’ on’t. It wad hae been a’ very guid if he had been addressin’ a bridegroom, but the idea o’ me marryin’ is something that I canna for the life o’ me get ower—marryin’, an’ my time no oot—marryin’, an’ me hisna aboon—but I sanna say hoo muckle, or raither hoo little i’ the Savin’s Bank, for fear yer readers wid lauch at’s—marryin’, an’ my—my—my—whisker hardly begun to sprout again aifter its Hallowe’en untimely end—marryin’, an’, most important consideration o’ a’, only the words “Thomas Bodkin” on the sign-brod. Na, na. Ye mauna tell the maister, Mr Editor, when I lat ye into the secret that sin he cam’ sae muckle into notice, I’ve ha’en an e’e on the sign bein’ altered some day—tho’ it’ll maybe be a lang time yet—but wadna it soond fine. “Bodkin & Clippins, Tailors and Clothiers?”—far better than “Bobbins, Bodkin, & Co.,” so wisely rejected by “Tammas” (I houp he’ll excuse this fameeliarity). An’ here lat me say I dinna like thae Co.’s ava—they’re awfu’ oonstable like, an’ onything can be dune oonder that ugly wird at the end o’ some firms—“Co.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin on Matters Matrimonial’ (23 November, 1861)

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,—The ither nicht i’ the gloamin’, Tibbie bein’ oot for some errands, an’ the hoose bein’ quiet, baith but an’ ben, Willie an’ me fell to oor cracks aboot ae thing an’ anither, an’ so, after settlin’ the American war to oor ain entire satisfaction, an’ regulatin’ the price o’ the meal, an’ petawtis, an’ red herrin’, so as to gar them harmonise wi’ the current rates o’ wages, the conversation at last tane the direction o’ matrimony, whereon we had some unco edifyin’ discoorse. Willie fought rather shy o’ the subject, hooever, as was but natural in him, puir fallow, seein’ he has had nae experience in the ways o’ womankind farther than occasionally gallantin’ wi’ the charmin’ Mary Ann. Hoosomdever, I consider it to be a pairt o’ my duty not only to instruct him in the mystery o’ my proper profession, but also to put some smeddum in him in regaird to matrimony, an’ things in general, an’ therefore I embraced the opportunity o’ readin’ him a lecture on that branch o’ Social Science that I wad venture to ca’ Matrimonial Economy. He is maybe rather young to oonderstand sic a discoorse yet, but, as the proverb says, “Learn young learn fair.”

“Noo, Willie,” quoth I, “as we’re on the subject at ony rate, I maun hae a word, or twa wi’ ye aboot that sweetheart o’ yours, an’ hoo ye maun behave yersel baith before an’ after ye mak’ her yer wife. I think muckle o’ yer taste, Willie—very muckle indeed—for if I were allooed to criticise the looks o’ young leddies I wad say that Mary Ann is juist yer very marrow, sae far as I can judge frae the ootside o’ her, an’ I hope, for you sake as weel as her ain, that her moral qualities are but a faithfu’ reflex o’ her bonny, bloomin’, laughin’ coontenance, that maks her presence a perpetual sunshine.”

I saw that Wilie was in an unco steeriefyke when I entered upon this delicate subject, for his face grew as red as the fire, an’ he bit his lip, an’ he made sundry attempts to clear his throat o’ something that obstinately refused to budge in spite o’ a’ his hoastin’ an’ hawghin’, an’ he held the needle fleein’ wi’ a vigour an’ a velocity nae ordinary, an’ he hung doon his head like a bulrush—an’, takin’ a’thing into acoont, it was as plain as a pike-staff, to my apprehension, that Willie was thinkin’ black-burnin’ shame either o’ himsel’ or o’ me; but, hoosomdever, he was as mim as a moose, an’ said naething, an’ so I proceedit wi’ my discoorse:—

“But, Willie,” quoth I, “ye are but a young man yet, an’ winna be oot wi’ yer apprenticeship for anither twelvemonth, an’ I wad hae ye to exerceese due caution in comin’ oonder obligations either to Mary Ann or to ony o’ her sex. Ye maun remember, Willie, that marriage is a solemn oondertakin’, for when ye get a wife ye’ll be nae langer yer ain maister, but will be, to a certain extent, oonder petticoat government. I am, Willie—everybody is—an’ it wad be needless to deny it. Noo, ye wad need to consider aforehand, Willie, whether ye wad be willin’ to let Mary Ann wear the breeks, as the sayin’ is, for it’s ower late to consider that after the marriage-knot has been tied. Mind ye, there’s nae gettin’ oot o’ that scrape ance ye are fairly in; sae ye wad better look afore ye loup. Continue reading “‘Bodkin on Matters Matrimonial’ (23 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Holds his Halowe’en (16 November, 1861)

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 aye like to gie young folk a little encouragement, provided they behave themsels, an’ do what they are bidden. Noo, I’ve never haen ony cause to complain o’ the behaviour o’ Willie Clippins. Shortcomins he may hae—as, indeed, there’s few folk free o’ them, no forgettin’ mysel amang the lave—but this thing I will say to the credit o’ Willie, he has never been obstinately nor wilfully mureungeous in his disposition, an’ aye when I have shown him the error o’ his ways, he has listened to my coonsels an’ reproofs wi’ becomin’ reverence. In doin’ that, of coorse, he is doin’ naething but his duty, an’ strictly speakin’, folk shouldna be bribit to do their duty; but still an’ on they are nane the waur at times o’ being allooed a little indulgence to keep them souple, an’ to shew that they are no juist viewed in the licht o’ workin’ machines, that maun gang on an’ on, frae day to day an’ frae year to year, withoot rest or recreation. Mony is the saxpence, an’ untold the quantities o’ sweeties I hae gien to Willie frae first to last, y way o’ encouragin’ him in weel-doin’, an’ never have I had cause to regret the bounties bestowed on him, for I’m sure he wad gang through fire an’ water to sair either Tibbie or me, an’ that withoot either the shadow o’ a glumsh or a grumble on his mirkie bit coontenance.

In my hoosehold Hallowe’en an’ Hogmanay, no to mention the various Fair days an’ ither great occasions, ha’e aye been held sacred to the spirit o’ fun an’ gude fellowship, an’ a’ kinds o’ harmless gilravage proper to the season. I’m that muckle o’ a Conservative in a social point o’ view—though I’m an oot an’ oot Radical in political matters—that I grieve to see a spirit o’ utilitarianism abroad, breakin’ up bit by bit a’ oor time-honoured customes an’ observances, an’ leavin’ us naething in their stead but hard wark an’ short commons to cheer oor pilgrimage through this vale o’ tears. I’m nae advocate for the carnivals an’ numberless saint days an’ holidays that ha’e the sign o’ the beast on their foreheads, but I’m dead against lettin’ go oor haud o’ the few seasons o’ mirth an’ harmless jollification we reserved when we voluntarily abandoned the mummeries o’ the great whore o’ Babylon, wha even to this oor ain day yet sits enthroned in the seven-hilled city, makin’ hersel’ drunk wi’ the blude o’ the saints. I like fun mysel’, an’ I like to see a’ mankind enjoyin’ themsel’s, if sae be they keep their mirth within the boonds o’ propriety, an’ dinna let their amusements degenerate into licentiousness.

Weel, ye see, Tuesday nicht bein’ Auld Hallowe’en, I, accordin’ to custom, gae Willie the forenicht to himsel’, an’ told him mair an’ farther that he micht bring in a half-dizzen or sae o’ his acquaintances, an’ I wad provide for their entertainment an’ amusement at my ain charges. This, I think, is a far better plan than simply turnin’ young folk adrift to rin-the-rout an’ seek amusement for themsel’s, when they maybe fa’ into evil company, an’ bring grief an’ shame upon themsel’s an’ upon a’ conneckit wi’ them. I’m no gien to offer advice unless it be especially sought for; but I wad for ance depairt frae that rule, an’ admonish my fellow-tradesmen, an’ maisters an’ mistresses o’ a’ kinds, no to think the twa or three shillin’s ill-waired that are spent on makin’ their servants happy, an’ keepin’ them oot o’ mischief. I can speak frae my ain experience on this subject, an’ I can safely say I never but got the bawbees spent in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, instead o’ bein’ a loser by my liberality, I have gained nae that little thereby, besides haein’ the sweet, the oonspeakable satisfaction o’ makin’ my fellow-creatures happy.

It wad ha’e done yer heart gude had ye seen hoo Willie garred the needle dance oot an’ in through the seam o’ the pair o’ slacks whereon he was engaged, when I made the important announcement that he was to be his ain maister after the chap o’ sax o’clock. I despatched Tibbie in the afternoon wi’ her radicle on her airm, an’ a twa shillin’ piece in her pouch, to buy an assortment o’ apples, nuts, an’ ither nick-nacks; an’ Willie, after takin’ his drappie o’ tea, washed his face, arrayed himsel’ in his est apparel, an’ set oot to invite his companions to the ploy. In coorse o’ time he returned, bringin’ twa o’ his male companions, and three o’ his female ditto. Od it’s wonderfu’ to behold hoo soon the youthhood o’ the present generation begin to pair. I’m certain sure, when Tibbie an’ me were like them, we wad hae thocht black burnin’ shame to hae been seen cheekin’ up to ane aniher; but ye see this is an age o’ progress, wherein it is baith lawfu’ an’ proper for folk to think aboot gettin’ married lang, lang afore they set abot cuttin’ their wisdom teeth. There was Billy Button, a geyan spruce lookin’ bit chappie, wha will be oot wi’ his apprenticeship on the term day, an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; there was Jeames Stitch, the auldest son o’ my freend an’ former servant Maister Stitch, wha is sairin’ his time in some haberdashery establishment wast the Nethergate—an unco gabby rascal he is for his years, but by nae means an ill-disposed bit loonie for a’ that—an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; an’ there was Willie himsel’, lookin’ as brisk as a bee on a midsummer mornin’—an’ he had his sweetheart under his wing, though he winna let me say she was his sweetheart, but it’s a gude point to deny weel, an’ I canna blame him for doin’ what I wad ha’e done mysel’ when I was like him, an’ what I did oftener than ance, as Tibbie can testify, if she likes to tell the truth on that subject. My certie, Willie has nae reason to be ashamed o’ his choice, for Mary-Ann—that was a’ the name she had, sae far as I could mak’ oot frae their conversation—was as blithe an’ bonnie a bit lassockie as ye could clap an e’e upon. Wi’ her lang black glossy locks gathered up in a poke in her back-neck, lookin’ for a’ the warld like a fisherman’s sou’-wester—though, of coorse, a far mair interestin’ object—wi’ a sweet little Garibaldi perkt on the croon o’ her bit head, whereon there flaunted a “dear little duck” o’ a “feather”—no meanin’ thereby that it was a deuk’s feather—na, na, it had dootless been pluckit frae the wing o’ some far-awa’ fowl, proverbial for its splendid plumage—wi’ a braw silk cloak that Tibbie thinks wad cost nae less than five-an’-twenty shillin’s, and maybe aughteen pence mair, coontin’ the border an’ the braidin’ on the breast o’t, wi’ a skirt made o’ a material the name whereof I forget at this precise moment—but Tibbie kens a’ aboot it—an’ for the crinoline, I didna get a sicht o’ that, but judgin’ frae appearances, I wad say it couldna hae been less than four or five yards in circumference; an’, to croon a’, wi’ “her rosy cheeks an’ cherry mou’, her sparklin’ een o’ bonnie lue, her dimpled chin, her forehead fair, her neck that scarce the very swan in spotless whiteness can compare—wi’ a’ thae charms, an’ ten times mair, bedeck a fairy form, an’ there thou wilt behold sweet Mary Ann.” Its really ill dune in me to let oot secrets, but the latter pairt o’ the foregoin’ description I discovered this mornin’ under the guse, carefully drawn up in Willie’s handwreatin’ on the braid side o’ a white paper poke that has a strong smell o’ tea blades. So, after that, Willie needna deny bein’ in love wi’ Mary Ann; an’, to tell the truth, had I been in Willie’s shoon, I wad hae been in love wi’ her, or wi’ some ane unco like her, mysel’, an’ that’s no sayin’ ae thing an’ thinkin’ anither. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Holds his Halowe’en (16 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Has a Fearful Night of it’ (9 November, 1861)

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’m no gi’en to quarrel wi’ the weather, nor wi’ ony o’ the ither arrangements o’ Providence, but I canna help remarkin’ that the cauld in the end o’ last week has gi’en me something like the influenza, or, as Tibbie calls it, the “Fleen’ Nancy.” Were I as weel proteckit frae the bitin’ breath o’ auld John Frost by a hap-warm o’ creesh as s my friend Saunders Mucklepaunch the butcher, for instance, I could afford to set what philosophers ca’ the climatic influences at defiance; but, like the maist o’ my professional britherhood, I’m furnished wi’ a tabernacle that is but spairly fortified against the cranreuch an’ the nirlin’ winds o’ the winter solstice. Had it no been for the care bestowed on me by my adorable Tibbie, lang, lang ere noo wad I ha’e been ower that bourne whence nae traveller ever returns; but thanks to her thrift, an’ providence, an’ incomparable housewifery, here am I to this oor an’ day yet, aye able to stap aboot, an’ crack a joke—aye able to wield my needle—aye able to tak’ my bite an’ soup—an’, to mak’ a lang story short, aye i’ the land o’ the livin’, instead o’ bein’—as I micht ha’e been, but for Tibbie’s carefu’ nursin’—i’ the land o’ the leal. That’s the view that Tibbie taks o’ the subject at ony rate; an’ as she doesna like to be contradickit, an’ as I’ve nae objections to her believin’ that I hold my life frae her as my feudal superior an’ lord-paramount, I mak’ her quite welcome to nurse the idea in her bosom, the mar sae as it presents a powerfu’ incentive to her to exert hersel’ to the utmost for my comfort. An’, to gi’e Tibbie her due, she is a burnin’ an’ a shinin’ licht in my hoosehold. The provision she maks for my corporeal delectation is something quite marvellous. Within the last week or twa she has made nae fewer than half-a-dizzen o’ double-milled flannel sarks, four worsted slips, wrocht by her ain twa hands, an’ seven or aucht pairs o’ stockin’s o’ the very best lambs’ wool that she could get in a’ Reform Street—forbye twa pairs o’ pin mittens—ane o’ them for every day, an’ the ither for Sunday’s wear—an’ a’ to enable me

“To thole the winter’s sleety dribble

An’ cranreuch cauld.”

But, as Burns observes in the very neist verse—

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,”

An’ sae it faired wi’ Tibbie’s schemes for the comfort o’ my corpus. The sudden cheenge o’ the temperature i’ the end o’ last week completely nirled my neb, an’ sent the cauld shivers shootin’ like arrows through my very banes an’ marrow. A’ Saturday an’ Sabbath I was juist at deid’s door, scarcely able to wingle a’e leg bye the ither. My head-piece was completely stappit up, an’ as douf an’ fushionless-like as an auld foggie turnip; an’ an attempt to blaw my nose garred a’ the internal organization thereof crack an’ fizz like a ginger-beer bottle castin’ the cork. My throat was like an open sepulchre in a literal sense, as it was a’ red flesh, an’ was as dry as a whistle. I couldna lat ower my spittle withoot doin’ violence to my feelin’s. My respiratory machinery, too, was as stiff as a rusty lock, an’ the words cam’ up frae the bottom o’ my chest wi’ a hoarse an’ raspin-like soond, as if they had been generated n the interior o’ a bass fiddle, or the drone o’ a bagpipe. Tibbie declared it was ugesome to hear me, an’ frichtsome to see me. Tibbie is a great physician in her ain hame-ower way—she kens a’ aboot the virtues o’ marshmallows, horehund, and docken blades, an’, as I tell her sometimes, if she wad juist set up business as a quack doctor, an’ advertise like Holloway, she wad be able by-and-bye to retire on a fortune. She has great faith in Colosynth’s pills, as an antidote to a disordered stamack; an’ for a cauld, she kens o’ naething better than to bathe the feet in het water, sup a pint o’ boilin’ brochan, sweetened wi’ treacle, an’ swallow a Dover’s poother to induce a copious perspiration. An auld wife’s cure that maybe, but auld wives’ cures are no aye the warst.

Weel, ye see, on Saturday nicht, Tibbie gets a’ her prescriptions prepared, an’ I placed mysel’ entirely oonder her jurisdiction. I believe I wad hae swallowed a dose o’ arsenic at her biddin’, wi’ the same feelin’ o’ resignation that I swallowed the pills an’ the Dover’s poother. Twa pills was to be the dose, an’ so she put them into a jug wi’ a narrow mooth, wherein there was a wee sup water to synd them doon wi’. I coupit up the jug, an’ swallowed the contents wi’ a sair struggle—my stamack, meanwhile, giein’ sundry intimations that the pills were very unwelcome visitors. In ither words, I was like to send them up again ootricht. Hoosomdever, by desperate effort, I succeedit in forcin’ Messrs Colosynth to preserve the status quo. Tibbie, havin’ put me through a’ my ither facin’s, concluded her doctorin’ by rowin’ up my head in a wab o’ flannel, an’ clappin’ on it my identical white night-cap as a sort o’ cope-stane to keep the ither theekin’ frae hirslin’ aff in my sleep. Whereupon I creepit awa’ to my roost, an’ happit mysel’ ower head an’ ears amang the gude warm blankets. In ten minutes I was asleep an’ on waukenin’ aboot eleven o’clock, when Tibbie cam’ to her bed, I was as weet, though scarcely as dirty, as if I had been hauled through the “fulzie” in Camperdown Dock. But O thae vile pills! They lay at the root o’ my tongue like twa mill-stanes. Every time I waukened through that lang and wearisome nicht, an’ I’m sure I did sae a score o’ times, there they lay like twa imps o’ darknes [sic] playin’ their “fantastic tricks” in my puir inside. If Tibbie hadna assured me to the contrary, I wad hae oondoubtedly believed as gospel the idea that mair than ance taen possession o’ my brain that she had by mistak’ gi’en me a couple o’ buck shot instead o’ the orthodox Colosynth’s.

It was somewhere aboot three o’clock i’ the mornin’, as Tibbie discovered afterwards on risin’ an’ feelin’ the hands o’ the clock, that I fell into an awfu’ quandary in my sleep, something sae horrible an’ awfu’ that I’ll think o’t wi’ fear an’ tremblin’ even until my deein’ day. I felt as if there was a mountain restin’ on the region o’ my stamack, weighin’ me doon—doon—doon—to the very centre o’ the earth. Desperately did I struggle to fling aff the fearfu’ incubus, but alas! a’ my struggles were in vain. I was powerless as Prometheus when he lay bound hand an’ fit on the tap o’ Mount Caucasus, wi’ the eagle preyin’ upon his vitals. I thocht I was in the ither warld, but in what department thereof I couldna exactly determine. Fearfu’ sichts did I behold, that made my very hair stand on end—or at least attempt to stand on end—for Tibbie had taen due precautions against a contingency o’ that kind by rowin’ up my head in a panoply o’ flannel. On my breast-bane sat a fiend o’ monstrous shape an’ hue, whase peepers were like the bull’s eyes on the paunches o’ a couple o’ policemen; whase mooth, half-a-yard wife, displayed twa raws o’ teeth that blinkit fire when they snashed forgainst ane anither; an’ whase body was covered wi’ spines, like the quills o’ the fretfu’ porcupine. In the ae hand it wielded a pick, an’ in the ither a shovel, wherewith it commenced to drive a shaft doon into my very heart.

“Avast there, will ye,” quoth I, “D’ye mean to murder me?”

“Ye blethern’ scamp,” quoth he, “Ye’ve been fillin’ the Journal, for months an’ months on end, wi’ stuff that canna be ony langer tholed, an’ dearly sall ye pay for yer folly, for I’ve been commissioned by the avengin’ sprites to punish ye for yer iniquity. This very nicht I thocht to possess my soul in patience, but behold when I opened the paper, there was that everlastin’ nonsense o’ yours. Noo, what hae ye got to say for yersel, why sentence o’ death sidna gang furth against ye?” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Has a Fearful Night of it’ (9 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Rejects Another Tempting Offer’ (2 November, 1861)

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,—The ither afternoon I happened to be oot on business that behooved to be done by a wiser head an’ a mair experienced hand than Willie’s, though, to gie the loonie his due, he can be trustit noo wi’ maist jobs i’ the tailorin’ line, an’ at rinnin’ a bit errand, especially, he has few marrows an’ nae superiors o’ his ain eild within the four corners o’ Dundee. Hoosomdever, I mak’ a point o’ doin’ a’ the very particular jobs wi’ my ain twa hands, an’ gaen a’ the mair important messages wi’ my ain twa feet, in order that, if onything sid gang wrang wi’ them—a circumstance no that likely to happen, hooever, when I hae the orderin’ thereof mysel’—the blame may be mine, an’ mine only.

Weel, ye see, I was abroad on the day in question on an errand that I wadna hae trustit Tibbie wi’, far less Willie Clippins; an’, to be short, an’ at the same time, explicit, I may juist say that my object was to kity gentleman—a customer o’ mine—wha had come to the praiseworthy resolution o’ takin’ to himsel’ a wife. A marriage coat I always exercise my utmost skill on, baith for my ain credit an’ for that o’ the bridegroom. A marriage coat maun please at least twa pairties. It maun please the gudeman himsel’, an’ it maun suit the fancy o’ the gudewife. Noo, a young wife, wi’ nae encumbrance on her hand, has little else to do but juist to sit an’ criticise the abuliement o’ her husband, an’ spy oot ferlies in the handiwark o’ his tailor, an’, if sae be she find faut wi’ ought that can be fairly laid to his door, ten to ane but the gudeman will be ordered to employ anither craftsman the next time he needs a coat—an order, of course, that maun be implicitly obeyed. Havin’ surmountit the perils o’ the bridal coat, hooever, I’ve less misgivin’s aboot the next ane that is required, because, besides havin’ already secured the confidence an’ favour o’ the gudewife, she will by that time hae got a wee cherub in her lap, whase “guips, an’ cranks, an’ wanton wiles” will engross nae that little o’ the critical observation that erstwhile was bestowage coat. The short an’ the lang o’t is, I never but gang hame wi’ a marriage coat mysel’, in order that I may see wi’ my ain een whether or no the fit be perfection, an’ never do I leave it until perfection has been attained.

In takin’ hame the particular coat specified, I behooved to gang through the Coogate. So, as I was stoitin’ alang, wi’ the broon paper parcel in my oxter, an’ croonin’ twa verses o’ a sang laigh in to mysel’, to shorten the gaid a bit, on passin’ the mooth o’ an entry, whereat stood a rather weel-dressed young gentleman, tovin’ awa at a cigar, an’ wha had evidently been makin’ desperate though unsuccessful efforts to raise a luxuriant crap o’ hair aboot his mou’, I feels something gie a smart pouk at my coat-tail. Gien’ a gline ower my richt shoother, my e’e lichtit on the dandified object aforesaid, wha tipped me a mysterious wink, an’ made sundry signs for me to follow him doon the entry. I aye like to be accommodatin’ to everybody, an’ so I turns on my heel, an’ abandons mysel’ to his leadin’ strings. On the cheek o’ the entry I observed the name “B. Bobbins,” paintit in moderate-sized Roman capitals, so I cam’ to the immediate conclusion that I was aboot to hae an interview wi’ Mr B. B., on what business it fairly dang me to imagine. At the ben end o’ the passage there was a door leadin’ into a sma’ apartment, that served Mr B. B. as a sort o’ coontin’-room, though my private opinion is that the said B. B. has unco little to coont in it, except it be his ain ten fingers. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Rejects Another Tempting Offer’ (2 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Takes a Second Thought’ (26 October, 1861)

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,—After I had time to reflect on the temptin’ offer I received through the medium o’ Butterbaps, M’Swiggan, an’ Sporrible, I began to think that I micht peradventure pay ower dear for my whistle, by acceptin’ o’ the civic honours whereof I made mention in my last epistle. Yea, verily, my joy endured but for a nicht, an’, when next mornin’ cam’ roond, lo! an’ behold a’ was vanity an’ vexation o’ spirit. Ye see every question has twa sides—a bricht side an’ a dark ane. At first I could see naething but the fair side o’ the subject broached by Maister Butterbaps. My visions consisted wholly o’ gowd chains, purple an’ fine linen, cockit hats, an’ a twa-horse coach, wi’ Tibbie an’ me inside, an’ Willie on the dickie thereof. Thinks I what a grand thing it will be to see a’ the nobbery liftin’ their hats to my spouse an’ me whenever we micht tak’ it into oor heads, as we wad do every lawfu’ afternoon, to air oorsels, arm in arm, in Reform Street, or in the Nethergate, an’ to hae a’ the linen lords i’ the Coogate, wha generally carry their heads sae heigh, bobbin’ aboot at my heels, an’ proodto let it be kent that they had been at a pairty at the Provost’s the ither nicht, where there was some jolly sport gaen, an’ lots o’ liquor. Then I pictured mysel’ presidin’ ower a public meetin’ o’ my fellow-citizens in the Corn Exchange Hall, where I wad be lookit up to as a sort o’ deity, an’ where every word that I might utter, hooever stupid, wad call forth a perfect thunder-bolt o’ applause, an’ be duly recordit i’ the newspapers next morning. Aye, an’ I wad get my photograph stuck up i’ the picture-shops amang the distinguished men, such as Lord Brougham, Sir David Brewster, an’ Louis Napoleon, an’ strangers o’ an inquiring turn o’ mind wad be speerin’ at ane anither, What respectable-looking old gentleman is that, beside the Prince Consort, dressed in the black surtout, white vest, and priest-gray trousers? Where to some wide-awake chap wad reply, That is the portrait of a very eminent man—no less than that of Thomas Bodkin, Esq., Provost of Dundee. Then wad follow sundry exclamatory observations on my noble physique, which I refrain frae settin’ doon in black an’ white, oot o’ a tender regard for the points o’ admiration that it wad be necessary for the printer to employ. Then, too, what glorious public dinners I wad hae the felicity o’ presidin’ ower! An earl wad sit at my richt hand, an’ a lord on my left, while alang the sides o’ the table wad be ranged twa or three honourables, half-a-dizzen o’ country squires, an’ nae end o’ Bailies, Cooncillors, an’ Police Commissioners. I wad hae to propose the loyal an’ patriotic toasts, too, an’ peers o’ the realm wad tak’ up the “hip-hip-hooray!” frae my honoured lips. An’ them, what a command I wad be able to exercise ower Tibbie! Though she sets but little value on the words o’ plain Tammas Bodkin, yet she wad never venture to gainsay the Provost. Thus wad I be honoured baith at hame an’ abroad. Such were some o’ the vain imaginations that passed through my mind when contemplatin’ the fair side o’ the municipal honours wherewith my fellow-citizens proposed to invest me.

But, as I’ve already observed, the subject has a dark side as weel as a bricht side, it behooved me to tak’ a peep o’ the dark ane. Weel, ye see, first an’ foremost, there were thae litigations wherewith the Cooncil is threatened. Law has been to me an abomination a’ the days o’ my life; I canna thole to think aboot it. I’ve aye been a man o’ peace, an’ I hope ever will be. I hate the very name o’ law. The only discomfortin’ thocht I had in marryin’ Tibbie was that I wad be her faither’s son-in-law. The very name o’ the law-brod soonds uncoothily in my ears. The most serious objection I had against comin’ to Dundee was that I wad be under the needcessity o’ glowerin’ at the Law every time I gaed to the door. Ance I had the offer o’ an apprentice—an’ a sharp-lookin’ callant he was—but when I speered his name, behold it Jamie Law! His name, puir fallow, was fatal to his pretensions. It’s maybe a prejudice o’ mine, but that little word law is far frae bein’ a favourite wi’ me. Noo, hoo could I be the Provost o’ Dundee withoot rubbin’ shoothers wi’ the law? The Hosptial Fund an’ Monorgan’s Croft wad be the death o’ me. They wad destroy my peace o ‘mind, an’ render a’ my honours barren an’ unfruitfu’. An’ then, what if the COoncil should hae the piper to pay for? Lawyers winna work for naething, an’ if the case sid gang against the Cooncil, wha kens but the Cooncil will hae to fork the bawbees oot o’ their ain pouches? Cockit hats, gowd chains, an’ a’ the lave o’t, wad be very fine, dootless, but to see a’ my warldly effects, frae oor spleet new sofy doon to the sheers an’ the guse, exposed for sale at the Cross by warrant o’ the Shirra—that wad scarcely be a consummation to be wished for, yet it is a thing that micht happen. I’ve haen mony a warsle wi’ the warld i’ my time noo; I’ve feastit on dry brose to my breakfast, an’ petawtis an’ saut to my dinner, but I’ve aye managed to pay a’body twenty shillin’s i’ the pound to this day an’ date, an’ happen what may, I’se try to do that same even until the end o’ the chapter. Noo, I’m jealousin’ if I were to accept o’ the Provostship o’ Dundee, what wi’ drivin’ aboot in a coach, an’ sportin’ gowd chains, an’ giein’ grand feasts, an’ livin’ in a splendid sixty or auchty pound hoose at the wast end, an’ keepin’ up a retinue o’ man servants an’ maid servants, no to speak o’ giein’ employment to half the lawyers in Edinbro’,—I wad very soon be gazetted, alang wi’ company that wa reflect very little credit either on me or on the toon o’ Dundee. Nae doot the same thing has happened ower an’ ower again afore this time o’ day, but it can never happen withoot provin’ a public scandal to a’ concerned, an’ I’m determined never to purchase a temporary honour at the expense o’ bringin’ a lastin’ disgrace on my ain honest name, forby inflictin’ a serious befylement on a most honourable office. A’ thae things I thocht ower in my ain mind, but said never a word to Tibbie aboot them. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Takes a Second Thought’ (26 October, 1861)”

‘Bodkin For Provost’ (19 October, 1861)

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’ve something to tell ye worth speaking aboot. If Providence hadna endowed me wi’ a considerable share o’ self-controul, my case micht hae been rather serious; an’ even as it is, I’m like to hae grave doots at times whether my head or my heels be umost. As for Tibbie, she’s as heigh as the hills, an’ Mrs Davidson may henceforth hide her diminished head. Ay, ay, I’ve aye been o’ opinion that true worth winna gang oonrewarded, even in this warld; but its only noo that I can speak on the subject frae personal experience. Od, after a’, wha wad hae thocht it? I’m sure last week at this time I had as little anticipation o’ bein’ offered the Provostship o’ Dundee as I had o’ bein’ made Cham o’ Tartary, or the Pope o’ Room; but wonders will never cease. That I, Tammas Bodkin, a plain, blunt man, whase sober wishes never learned to stray eyond the humble situation o’ a puir, hard-wrought, yet upright-honest teelyour, should nevertheless an’ notwithstanding have been made sic a chosen vessel o’ by my fellow-citizens, is mair than I can comprehend; but to my story.

Weel, ye see, t was juist on Monday nicht, shortly after lichtin’ time, that I’m sittin’ pullin’ away at the needle, Willie Clippins bein’ busy scourin’ the guse at the back o’ the inner door, when I hears an unco scraughlin’ an’ fitierin’ on the stair. There was naethin’ wonderfu’ in that, an’ I juist concluded in my ain mind that it wad be some customer seekin’ his way up to get his inches taen. Presently, hooever, I hears Mr Phelim O’Grady’s tongue, an’ quoth he, “Och, shure, an’ is it Misther Bodkin ye’ll be after? Thin this way wid yes, gin’l’m; its meself that can show yes the way.” So Phelim lifts the sneck, puts in his curly pow, an’, quoth he, “Misther Bodkin, a word wid ye, sir; here is three gin’l’m as would desire to spake wid ye, sir.” So I banged doon frae the boord, taen three staps to the stair head, an’ there sure eneuch were three honest lookin’ gentlemen. Phelim touched his hat, an’ quoth he, “Och, shure, an’ doesn’t the blessed book say that the labourer is worthy ov his hire?” Whereupon one o’ the gentlemen taen the delicate hint, an’ slippit a saxpence into the hand o’ their cicerone, wha forthwith taen his departure, showerin’ a profusion o’ thanks an’ blessin’s on all an’ sundry no exceptin’ Tibbie an’ me—the twa most exemplary Christians, in Phelim’s present opinion, to be found in a’ Dundee, an’ the liberties thereof.

As TIbbie was ower the lugs in some hoose-cleanin’ operations, it behooved me to show the gentlemen into my ain apartment, so I directit them to seat themsels on the boord, while I taen my ain proper station thereon by way o’ example. Havin’ had time to take a visie o’ the strangers, I began to mak sundry observations on the state o’ the weather, the craps, and the stagnation o’ trade, but they said little, lookit unco fidgetty, an’ seemed to hae something on their stammacks o’ mair importance than ordinary. At last an’ lang, ane o’ them, wha seemed to be maister bummer, taen oot his sneeshin-milll, primed his nose therewithal, handit the box to me, pulled a paper frae his oxter pouch, hoastit twice or thrice, and then proceeded to state the object o’ their visit. “Mr Bodkin,” quoth he, “we have been appointed a deputation, by a large and important meeting of your fellow-townsmen, to wait upon you in regard to the filling up of the chief magistrate’s chair in this great, wealthy—and—and—and, I may say, most extraordinary community. You are aware, Sir, that in a few weeks the town will be without a Provost, and in our perplexity we have turned to you, Sir, believing, as we most firmly do believe, that with you, Mr Bodkin, at the head of the civic affairs,—we—we—would not—I say we should at least have the right man in the right place.” (“Hear,” “Hear,” “Hear,” from the other two gentlemen.) The orator had evidently got beyond his depth, for he hummed, an’ he ha’d, an’ he cuist up the whites o’ his e’en, but the words were like to be dour to draw, an’ at last to mak’ the best o’ a bad job, he unfaulds the paperie he held in his hand, an’, quoth he, “In fact, Mr Bodkin, the document I hold in my hand will explain the—the—the—oor object better than I can do;” so he proceeded to read as follows:— Continue reading “‘Bodkin For Provost’ (19 October, 1861)”