Shannen Findlay


Tue, 26 Nov, 2019

Australian writer Clive James dies aged 80

Australian writer Clive James dies aged 80

Poet, critic and star of The Clive James Show has passed away, aged 80, after a lengthy battle with cancer on Sunday in his Cambridge home.

The Australian export was diagnosed with leukemia, kidney failure and lung disease nearly 10 years ago and endured his “ever-multiplying illnesses with patience and good humour,” a statement from his agent read.

“A private funeral attended by family and close friends took place in the chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge on Wednesday 27th November.”

“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’.”

The beloved star first revealed to viewers his illness in May 2011, 11 months after he had first been diagnosed with the deadly disease. 

His career reached new heights for the better part of 50 years, not only making way as a successful TV star but as a writer who went on to publish poetry, essays, memoirs, literature and song lyrics.

His dead-course, illuminating writing style peaked in popularity during the 1980’s and he became an influential powerhouse in media circles.

On his show, he lampooned clips of absurd international television shows, including a Japanese contest called Endurance

As a prolific master with words, James firmly retained his fond memory of his British heritage, and often reflected on his time as the “Kid From Kogarah,” despite five decades of residency in Britain. 

His daughter Claerwen noted his father as "a showman and a recluse at the same time."

In his latest years, James did not stray away from writing about his illness and in 2010 penned a newspaper column called Reports on My Death in The Guardian.

He later said in 2016, his longevity after announcing his diagnosis was “embarrassing.

His last poetry collection, Sentenced to Life, published in April 2015 was described by The Independent as "essentially, a love letter to Australia”.

James made his last stage appearance at London's inaugural Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & Arts in June 2014.

It was there he shared his charming wit and humour and the true poet within to his audience. 

''The poetry I write now, I think, is quite a lot more penetrating and sensitive than my earlier work — because it needs to be,'' he explained.

''Inevitably you start saying goodbye. I like to think that I hit a sort of plangent tone of threnody, a sort of Last Post, a recessional tone."

Vivian Leopold James was born in Sydney in 1939, changing his name to Clive as a child.

James moved to England in 1962 and, after graduating from Cambridge University, remained there for the rest of his life.

He is survived by his wife Prue Shaw and two daughters, Claerwen and Lucinda.

Scroll through the gallery to see Clive James throughout his career.