Angus Ross obituary

Other lives: Professor of English at Sussex University

My father, Angus Ross, who has died aged 88, was a distinguished scholar of 18th-century English literature and a founding member, along with David Daiches, of the English department at Sussex University in the early 1960s.

He also played a key role in the establishment of the university’s graduate school of arts and social studies (now part of the doctoral school), of which he was dean for several years in the 70s.

Much of his scholarship focused on the work of Jonathan Swift (he edited his Major Works for Oxford World’s Classics, first published in 1984), but he also edited Penguin Classics of Daniel Defoe, Tobias Smollett, Samuel Richardson, Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, as well as the correspondence of the satirist and polymath Dr John Arbuthnot.

Angus’s 1985 edition of Richardson’s Clarissa was the first single-volume edition of this hefty epistolary novel and he was proud to see it sold at a price that most readers could afford. It is a commentary on the manners and morals of the early 18th century that is both beautiful and informative.

Born in Dundee, the son of John Ross, who worked in the jute mills, and his wife, Agnes (nee Simpson), a dressmaker, Angus grew up in a two-room tenement. After attending Blackness primary school and Harris Academy in the city, he won a scholarship to St Andrews University and graduated with an MA in English in 1949. He went on to complete his doctorate at Trinity College, Cambridge, then studied at Yale on a Commonwealth scholarship.

At Yale he met the pianist Diana Okkalides, whom he married in 1956. Angus later lectured at the University of the West Indies (1956-59), in summer schools in the US at Columbia University, Rochester (1960-61) and Berkeley in the mid-60s, but spent most of his career at Sussex, teaching a wide range of courses in English and related disciplines from 1961 to 1993.

Angus was generous with his knowledge and former colleagues and students often talk of owing Angus a great deal. He was also much in demand as an external examiner for various institutions including the Council for National Academic Awards.

Friends and family remember energetic outings with him accompanied by brilliant commentary. These might include a visit to Petworth House, West Sussex, a drive to see a Roman road, an evening or lunchtime concert, or a pint at the Griffin in the village of Fletching after one of many visits to the tomb of the historian Edward Gibbon.

Following Diana’s death in 2008, Angus endured several years of ill health.

He is survived by his three daughters and four grandchildren.

Vicky Ross

The GuardianTramp

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