Vale: Clive James

Expat Australian broadcaster, writer, critic and poet, Clive James, has died aged 80.

He had been diagnosed with leukaemia and emphysema in 2010 and since then, had been telling the world of his impending death.

A statement on his website confirmed he died at home in Cambridge on Sunday and a funeral was held on Wednesday.

The ‘Kid from Kogarah’, a prolific wordsmith with an acerbic intellect, colossal vocabulary and passion for poetry, always retained a fondness for his Australian heritage, despite five decades of British residency.

James’s sharp wit infiltrated households throughout the world as he entertained thousands with his newspaper columns and multiple radio and television programs.

In a career spanning 50 years, James also published poems and essays, memoirs, literature and song lyrics.

After leaving Sydney Technical High School, James studied psychology at Sydney University, where he edited the university’s student newspaper. He soon became associated with the Sydney Push, a group of liberal-thinking intellectuals and, aged 22 he fled to London.

James lived a bohemian existence alongside fellow Australian émigrés Robert Hughes and Germaine Greer.

While studying at Cambridge University, he began contributing to various undergraduate periodicals and his writing soon came to the attention of London’s literary editors. He also found himself president of Footlights, the university’s amateur theatrical club.

In 1972, The Observer newspaper hired James to write a weekly column of humorous and scathing television reviews, which ran for 10 years.

It was during this time that James first appeared before the cameras, gradually becoming a renowned television presenter while also writing and hosting numerous TV series and specials.

These included Clive James on Television, Fame in the 20th Century and the pioneering travel program series, Postcards From … .

James retired from television in 2001 to focus on his writing, and began presenting a weekly BBC Radio 4 broadcast, A Point of View.

It gave him the opportunity to deliver pithy reflections on issues ranging from politics to pop culture in a series of vocal “essays”.

“The secret of criticism is to know what your real feelings are before you try to express them,” he once said.

Despite his declining health, James did not abandon his career — just redefined it on his terms, from the comfort of his home.

Most recently, he had focused his creative abilities on his personal website, a platform for his cultural critique of art, music, poetry and literature.

Until mid 2017, he was penning a weekly column for The Guardian called Reports of My Death in which he wrote about “life, death and everything in between” in an amusing deadpan style.

Writing almost to the end, an autobiographical anthology called The Fire of Joy was finished a month ago and will be published in 2020, according to his website.

But he was also subjected to tabloid television, most notably when confronted by A Current Affair. He also addressed his failings in a poem titled Lecons des Tenebres (Lessons of Darkness) that was included in his 2015 book of poetry, Sentenced To Life.

“Far too casually I broke faith when it suited me, and here I am alone and now the end is near,” he wrote.

After the publication, he admitted to the BBC he “was a bad husband” and apologised for his mistakes.

James was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1992, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010 and an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in 2013.

Source: ABC


  1. A man who led a full life and possessed such a versatile intellect. I remember him well from time spent in Britain when he was at his height. Such a pity that we didn’t see more of him here. A great Australian.

  2. Sad news. Being very ill for a long time, Clive knew he was on borrowed time but really made the best of his time left, continuing to write his wonderful books, poems and essays to the very end.
    Was only wondering just last week if he was still with us, as hadn’t heard anything about him for a while.
    A fiercely intelligent and thoughtful man, with a sharply perceptive and cynically humorous outlook on the world.
    Loved his Postcards series, as well as his regular, retrospective ‘look back on the year that was’ specials during the 90s.

  3. As a kid in the UK, I grew up fascinated by Clive James On Television. He was my introduction to thinking ‘outside the box’ and lead to a love of satire. I have missed seeing him on TV over the years but never forgotten him.

  4. Clive James is very much remembered for Clive James’ Postcard from…. Postcards was one of the best travel shows and Clive James had a great sense of humour throughout his travels. It was must see TV to the point where people would stay up late to watch it, even though it was necessary to wake up early the next day. Notably, singer Margarita Pracatan was also made famous after being presented by Clive James on The Clive James Show.

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