Open main menu

Sutherland, Alexander (DNB12)

SUTHERLAND, ALEXANDER (1852–1902), Australian journalist, born at Wellcroft Place, Glasgow, on 26 March 1852, was eldest son of George Sutherland, artist, by his wife Jane, daughter of William Smith, of Galston, Ayrshire. Two brothers, George and William, distinguished themselves, the former as a journalist and inventor and the latter as a mathematician and an original scientific inquirer. Alexander was educated in Glasgow until 1864, when the state of his father's health led to the whole family emigrating to Sydney, Australia. At the age of fourteen he became a pupil teacher in the education department of New South Wales and studied for the arts course at Sydney University. In 1870 the family removed to Melbourne, where he taught at the Hawthorn grammar school during the day and worked at night for the arts course at Melbourne University. He entered that university in the first term of 1871 and graduated B.A. with distinction in 1874, proceeding M.A. in 1876.

On leaving the university he was mathematical master in the Scotch College, Melbourne (1875-7) and principal of Carlton College, Melbourne (1877-92). In 1892 he retired, chiefly with a view to devoting himself to a work on the 'Origin and Growth of the Moral Instinct' (published in London in 1898). The financial crisis of 1893, however, compelled him to take up journalism, and he contributed largely to the 'Melbourne Review,' 'Argus,' 'Australasian,' and other papers and periodicals. He made two vain attempts to enter politics. In 1897 he contested Williamstown in the Victorian legislature, and in 1901 stood for South Melbourne in the federal parliament. At the close of 1898 he came to London as representative of the 'South Australian Register,' and reported the sittings of the Peace Conference at the Hague. On his return to Australia he was appointed in 1901 registrar of Melbourne University, and after the death of Professor Morris continued his lectures on English literature. The double duty overtaxed him, and he died suddenly on 9 Aug. 1902, and was buried in Kew cemetery, Melbourne. A tablet was placed to his memory in Carlton College by his old pupils.

Sutherland married Elizabeth Jane, the second daughter of Robert Dundas Ballantyne (who was controller-general of the convict settlement at Port Arthur, Van Diemen's Land), and had two sons (the elder of whom predeceased him) and three daughters.

Sutherland was in the front rank of Australian men of letters. A stimulating teacher, he was equally successful in the preparation of school books. His 'History of Australia from 1606 to 1876' (Melbourne, 1897) (in which his brother George collaborated) had a very large circulation. He was a poet of taste and a scientific investigator, acting for some years as secretary of the Royal Society of Victoria. His published books include, besides the works noticed:

  1. 'A New Geography,' Melbourne, 1885.
  2. 'Victoria and its Metropolis,' 2 vols. Melbourne, 1888.
  3. 'Thirty Short Poems,' Melbourne, 1890.
  4. 'Geography of British Colonies,' London, 1892.
  5. 'A Class Book of Geography,' London, 1894.
  6. 'History of Australia and New Zealand, 1606-1890,' London, 1894.
  7. Lives of Kendall and Gordon in the 'Development of Australian Literature,' Melbourne, 1898.
  8. 'Origin and Growth of the Moral Instinct,' London, 1898.
  9. 'The Praise of Poetry in English Literature,' Melbourne, 1901.

An India-ink sketch of Sutherland at the age of twenty-two, drawn by his father, is in the possession of his sister. Miss Sutherland, of 4 Highfield Grove, Kew, Melbourne. A photographic copy is in the library of the colonial office, London.

[Alexander Sutherland, M.A.: his Life and Work, by Henry Gyles Turner, 1908; Johns's Notable Australians, 1908; Melbourne Argus, 11 Aug. 1902; The Times, 16 Sept. 1902; Athenæum, 11 Oct. 1902; Nature, 23 Nov. 1911; Mennell's Dictionary of Australasian Biography, 1892; information from Mr. Henry Gyles Turner.]

C. A.