Leading article: Sentimental journey

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Has there ever been a more airy dismissal of a literary giant? According to the BBC television presenter Jeremy Paxman, Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, is merely "a king of sentimental doggerel".

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but this sounds rather unfair. We would encourage Mr Paxman to delve a little deeper into the Scotsman's oeuvre. There is a world of Burns beyond "Auld Lang Syne" and that poem about the haggis. It seems strange to dismiss a man regarded as one of the inspirations of political liberalism as a peddler of mere doggerel.

And as someone who recently wrote a letter to the head of Marks and Spencer, complaining about the durability of their underwear, Mr Paxman might particularly care to search out Tam O'Shanter, which features one of the most famous undergarments in literary history: the Cutty-sark.

If he wants to talk pants, the Newsnight presenter might find more to appreciate in the Bard of Ayrshire than he ever imagined.