CLIVE JAMES carried on writing and cracking jokes to the end — finishing his own obituary just a month before he died at the age of 80 on Sunday.
The television presenter, interviewer, critic, writer and poet said it would ‘serve as cheaper than anything most newspapers are likely to have in the freezer’ and added that he would be ‘updating it until they carry me to the slab’.
James — once described by The New Yorker magazine as ‘a great bunch of guys’ — died at his Cambridge home after a long struggle with leukaemia, kidney failure and lung disease. A private funeral attended by family and close friends was held at the city’s Pembroke College chapel yesterday.
His agents said: ‘Clive died almost ten years after his first terminal diagnosis, and one month after he laid down his pen for the last time. He endured his ever-multiplying illnesses with patience and good humour, knowing that he had experienced more than his fair share of this “great, good world”.
‘He was grateful to the staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for their care and kindness, which unexpectedly allowed him so much extra time. His family would like to thank the Arthur Rank Hospice at Home team for their help in his last days, which allowed him to die peacefully and at home, surrounded by his family and his books.’
Among the tributes, actor and theatre director Samuel West said: ‘We were lucky to have him for so long after his diagnosis. We were lucky to have him at all.’
Sydney-born James moved from Australia to England in 1961 and made his name as The Observer’s TV critic between 1972 and 1982. He enjoyed mainstream TV success in the 1980s and 1990s fronting shows such as Clive James On Television, where he interviewed stars such as Liza Minnelli, Saturday Night Clive and The Clive James Show.
As well as publishing memoirs, essay collections, his own poetry and a translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, he was happy to celebrate ‘trash’ TV.
James fronted the BBC’s Reviews Of The Year in the late-1980s. In 1993, he made a major documentary series Fame In The 20th Century.
He revealed he was terminally ill in May 2011, 15 months after being diagnosed. He was honoured with a Bafta lifetime achievement award in 2015. That year, he began a Guardian column titled Reports Of My Death.
An operation to remove a cancer on his cheek in February this year left him almost blind. Yet he spent the spring and summer writing and editing an autobiographical anthology called The Fire Of Joy.
In 2015, he joked about how long he kept on living despite premature obituaries, saying: ‘I’ve got a lot done since my death.’