John Sutherland: Castaway

25 January 2006

John Sutherland, UCL Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature, was Sue Lawley’s castaway on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’, which will be repeated at 9am on 27 January 2006.

Professor John Sutherland

Sue Lawley described him as: “a past Chairman of the Booker Prize panel and the author of one of the standard texts on Victorian fiction. But his route into academia was a curious one – and his life inside the ivory towers far from smooth. 

“His father was killed in the war and he was brought up by his extended family in a peripatetic childhood. He joined the army but, with no war to fight, left his commission and went to university instead. He worked in Scotland and America but as his reputation grew, so did his dependence on alcohol. He finally hit rock bottom while in America and stopped drinking 23 years ago.

“Today he is a pre-eminent literary figure – combining erudition and historical research with a taste for the modern and the new.”

Professor Sutherland’s discs of choice were:

  • ‘Flamingo’ by Earl Bostic
  • ‘The Foggy, Foggy Dew’ by Burl Ives
  • ‘Speed the Plough’ by the Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards
  • ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ by Dave Brubeck
  • ‘The Piano has been Drinking (Not Me)’ by Tom Waits
  • ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles
  • ‘Tenderly’ by Oscar Peterson
  • ‘Take Me Out’ by Franz Ferdinand.

His choice of book was ‘Vanity Fair’ by William Makepeace Thackeray and his luxury an iPod.