Beloved TV host Clive James dies aged 80
Beloved critic and broadcaster Clive James has died at the age of 80, just one month after laying his pen down for the last time.
The Australia-born raconteur had been ill for some time and had written at length about his battle with leukaemia in the last decade, before recovering enough to continue working.
A statement released on behalf of his family said: “Clive died almost 10 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 until the last moment 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 nurses of 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.”
The statement said he died at home on Sunday and a private funeral attended by family and friends took place in the chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge, on Wednesday.
James achieved his greatest level of fame with his seminal show Clive James On Television, which drew a primetime audience of millions on Sunday nights on ITV in the early 1980s.
He was admired for his wit and ability with words, both as a writer and broadcaster, and appeared frequently on radio as well as on TV from the 1970s to the 2010s.
After more than 30 books and over a dozen collections of poetry produced in his lifetime, he was awarded a CBE in 2012 for services to literature and the media.
He left Australia in 1962, making England his home. James went on to study at Cambridge, where he appeared on University Challenge and met fellow Aussie Germaine Greer, Simon Schama and Eric Idle.
James went on to become television critic for The Observer and also contributed literary criticism to many other international publications before writing his first autobiography, Unreliable Memoirs, in 1980.
Following the success of the book – it ended up being extended to more than 100 reprints – he went on to write four other volumes of autobiography and four novels.
Clive James On Television introduced the UK to shows from around the world of varying quality, which James gently mocked using his easy charm and humour.
Among the programmes that became notorious was the Japanese show Endurance, which appeared to feature contestants undergoing ritual humiliation at the hands of a TV audience.
Clive James and Jonathan Miller – two heroes of mine growing up. Each so wildly and profusely gifted in so many directions. Very sorry to think they’re not in this world any more. And I just heard that Gary Rhodes has been snatched from us too. How very sad.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) November 27, 2019
Deeply sorry to hear the news of Clive James’s death. A magnificent, witty, hugely talented man, whose company was always a pleasure. Thank God he fought off his disease so long.
— John Simpson (@JohnSimpsonNews) November 27, 2019
RIP Clive James – poet, broadcaster, translator, diarist, an Aussie kid from Kogarah who done good. “Fiction is life with the dull bits left out.” “Common sense & a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing.” pic.twitter.com/3GskS1n2Tg
— Kathy Lette (@KathyLette) November 27, 2019
James later defected to the BBC where he hosted a similar format programme, Saturday Night Clive, in 1989, which became Saturday Night Clive On Sunday the following season and finally Sunday Night Clive.
In the mid-1980s, he began a long-running series of travel programmes taking a sideways and often ironic look at glamorous destinations around the world.
His 1993 documentary series Fame In The 20th Century was a serious examination of how fame had exploded during the decades up to the 1990s, and was also turned into a book.
Fame caught up with him when, first in 2009 and later in 2012, women claimed to have been having an affair with the writer.
It left his long marriage to the scholar Prue Shaw in difficulty.
His illness was first revealed in May 2011, at which point he had been ill for 15 months.
James’ writing in the following years, especially for The Guardian, documented his struggle with his cancer, among them a light-hearted column called Reports Of My Death.
He told how medical developments were “holding back the lurgy”, “leaving me stuck with the embarrassment of still being alive”.
Fellow broadcaster the Rev Richard Coles said: “Woe, Clive James has also died, the best telly critic that ever there was, who once described Barbara Cartland’s face as looking like two crows that had crashed into the white cliffs of Dover.”
Fellow Australian writer Kathy Lette wrote on Twitter: “RIP Clive James – poet, broadcaster, translator, diarist, an Aussie kid from Kogarah who done good. ‘Fiction is life with the dull bits left out.’ ‘Common sense & a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing.'”