I NOTE that the Boswell Book Festival (June 10-16) is upon us once again, albeit in online form. In the festival programme we learn that James Boswell is considered by many to be "the father of modern biography". However, he is also considered by many to be no such thing – merely the purveyor of massively tedious sycophantic hagiographies; a man certainly worthy of study because his life and work tell us a lot about 18th century Scotland, but a figure of great literary merit? Hardly.

In the festival programme, one of the more famous of the great and good who are involved refers to Boswell’s "charm, sensitivity, grossness, contrariness, courage and enthusiasm", as though Boswell were some kind of endearingly raffish character. It is hard to see what charm and sensitivity are displayed in Boswell’s enthusiastic support for the slave trade, for example, and in his rabidly racist 20-page "poem" published in 1791 entitled "No Abolition of Slavery or the Universal Empire of Love". Boswell rants against the "noodles who rave for abolition of the African’s improv’d condition" and complains about Wilberforce’s "narrow scull, little wittling sneer, his pert and self-sufficient leer". He accuses Pitt of "stooping to nonsense" in his support for abolition. There are reams of this charming stuff. One key extract sums up Boswell’s view:

Lo, then in yonder fragrant isle

Where Natutre ever seems to smile,

The cheerful gang! – the negroes see

Perform the task of industry:

Ev’n at their labour hear them sing

While time flies quick on a downy wing;

Finish’d the bus’ness of the day,

No human beings are more gay:

Of food, clothes, cleanly lodging sure,

Each has his property secure;

Their wives and children are protected,

In sickness they are not neglected;

And when old age brings a release,

Their grateful days they end in peace.

Even by 18th century standards, this is strong stuff. Given that many of the political activists mentioned had been his friends at one time, Boswell knew very well what he was doing (when he was capable of knowing anything through his alcoholic fog and his recurring syphilis).

Is this really the kind of literary output which the invited guests want to celebrate and support? Interestingly, Boswell’s support for slavery is in direct contrast to the approach taken by his father, Alexander, the 8th Lord Auchinleck, the famous Scottish law lord who, as early as 1778, had declared that slavery was inconsistent with humanity and Christianity and who had played a prominent part in the Scottish legal establishment’s opposition to slavery. He seems more worthy of our respect than his errant son, whose literary output was singularly lacking in quality.

Dr David J McLaren, Giffnock.


HUMZA Yousaf trumpets additional financial support to the dental sector, including the continued provision of free PPE, indeed increasing the supply by up to 50 per cent next month ("Dentists to get £5m in support for services", The Herald, June 11).

Well I am aware of one dental practice where this will not be particularly welcome as they already have a room full of unopened boxes of PPE as the staff find it so unsuitable that they provide their own. Despite advising the supplier not to deliver any more, the unwanted supplies keep coming.

I am sure that this will not be an isolated incident and is likely yet another example of the frontline not being listened to.

Stewart Daniels, Cairneyhill.


FRASER Grant (Letters, June 11) states that the Glasgow Euro 2020 fanzone is taking place in an area capable of holding 80,000 people". It would seem he has been sadly ill informed (perhaps by Humza Yousaf or Glasgow Life, who have both quoted this figure).

The fanzone is taking place at the east end of Glasgow Green in an area, to quote Glasgow Life, "only 1/10th of the Green's total area". The largest event that takes place on the Green is TRNSMT with an agreed daily capacity of 50,000. TRNSMT occupies more than half of the total area of the Green, therefore the 3,000 people in an area capable of holding 80,000 claim is arrant nonsense and politicians and council officials should not be repeating obviously misleading information.

Billy Gold, Glasgow.


THE decision of the Scottish and English football teams at the Euros to take the knee ("Sturgeon hails Scotland team’s ‘good decision’ to take the knee in solidarity ahead of Euro 2020 England game", The Herald, June 12) is a piece of virtue signalling and is very divisive at a time when both teams expect the support of their fans.

Twenty-two highly-paid footballers on the knee will not make the slightest difference to race relations in this country. It might make the players feel good but there is a possibility it will alienate some of their support.

This gesture, imported from America where race relations are toxic, has no place on the football field.

Richard McLellan, Lochgilphead.


BRIAN Taylor ends his article on holidays, football and the virus ("Holidays and football matter but beating this vicious virus matters much more", The Herald, June 12) with the words "Come away, Scotland!". I would suggest that anyone shouting these words at a football match would be looked at askance.

I do recall hearing such words at rugger matches attended in my youth, usually uttered by blazered gentlemen with anglicised accents.

I confess to having attended a rugby-playing school.

Derek Miller, Milngavie.