I DO not write to add to the views about removing the name David Hume from the Edinburgh University tower named after him (I would sooner do away with the ugly tower). However, I feel that to rename the tower simply 40 George Square is boring and unenterprising and takes no account of the literary connections of the tenement building the university had razed in June 1963 to provide the tower’s site.

Here, in a double upper flat on the corner of Chapel Street and Windmill Street, for some years lived the blind poet the Reverend Thomas Blacklock, DD, whose early encouragement of Robert Burns played a significant part in the bard’s abandonment of his emigration plans in order to try his fortune in Edinburgh.

“I had taken the last farewell of my few friends; my chest was on the road to Greenock; I had composed the last song I should ever measure in Scotland – The Gloomy Night is Gathering Fast – when a letter from Dr Blacklock to a friend of mine overthrew all my schemes, by opening new prospects to my poetic ambition. The doctor belonged to a set of critics for whose applause I had not dared to hope.”

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The Blacklocks played host to Burns in this property (not, as has long been supposed, in Pear Tree House opposite) and to many famous names of the day. It’s said Mrs Blacklock entertained Dr Johnson to tea here in 1773 in their newly purchased property. The illustrious lexicogropher had arrived in Edinburgh on August 14, departing on his famous tour a few days later, breakfasting with the Blacklocks on his on his return from the Western Isles.

While not a great poet, Blacklock’s achievements in science and literature, despite his having been smitten by blindness as an infant, were remarkable. It was said that there was no science nor learned language nor modern tongue “of any acknowledged use to a man of general literature” with which he had not made himself acquainted.

He played the violin and flute well and composed pieces of his own (see the Edinburgh Magazine and Review for 1774: Absence, a Pastoral, set to music by Dr Blacklock).

However his life was a struggle against melancholy, which his giving encouragement to young people of promise helped him deal with.

As a means of supplementing their income the Blacklocks took in boarders, students at the university whose studies Blacklock supervised. By all of them he was much loved; he, in turn, enjoying “all the sprightly narrative, the sportful fancy, the humorous jest, that rose around him.”

In old age Thomas Blacklock also introduced young Scott to the work of MacPherson and Spenser.

Thomas Blacklock died in July 1791. Husband and wife are buried in the graveyard overlooked by the flats that had long been their home. The last portion of that dwelling was sold by Sarah Blacklock in 1804.

The University’s “No 40” should at the very least have a plaque noting the site’s literary significance.

CS Lincoln

WITH the name change from David Hume Tower, the greatest of the modern philosophers will thankfully no longer be associated with the appalling cultural, civic and historic vandalism wrought by Edinburgh University in the 1960s when they destroyed 18th-century George Square.

The philosophy of David Hume will continue to inspire humanity, long after the names of his “unco guid” detractors have been forgotten.

Jim Stewart