Thursday, June 1, 2023

Jeremy Clarke will be missed

I was saddened to read this week of the death on May 21 of Jeremy Clarke, who wrote the Low Life column in the British magazine the Spectator.

Readers knew his death was coming because he chronicled his decline week by week, sometimes in unsparingly explicit terms. But in a way, that made the end all the more poignant. Each week I would scan the Spectator’s contents page to see whether he was still there. Eventually, he wasn’t. But I marvelled at his ability to keep churning out wryly humorous and usually self-deprecating columns, even in acute pain on his deathbed.

Jeremy Clarke (left) with the Spectator's High Life columnist, Taki Theodoracopulos (better known simply as Taki).

Clarke, who was 66, stood apart from the clique of Eton- and Oxbridge-educated toffs who make up the core of the Spectator stable of writers. In fact he rejoiced in his proletarian enthusiasms – hence the title of his column. Unlike some of his better known fellow columnists (Charles Moore, Toby Young, Matthew Parris, Douglas Murray), he never lapsed into pomposity or preciousness. Neither did he show any propensity for name-dropping.

When I began reading him, more years ago than I care to think about, his columns were mostly devoted to his misadventures with an assortment of ne’er-do-well friends. Pubs and parties were the most common settings for his stories, which typically involved the consumption of copious quantities of alcohol and other drugs. The escapades and characters he described were sometimes so outlandish that I wondered whether he made them up, or at least embellished them. But he didn’t seek to glamorise his wayward lifestyle; in fact the tone was usually more remorseful than boastful.

In more recent years he moved to a new home in a cave in the south of France and seemed to mellow – a change that coincided with the onset of prostate cancer and the development of a serious relationship with the woman who cared for him in his last months, and whom he proudly married only a short time before his death.

One of the first thoughts that occurred to me on learning of Clarke’s death was that he’s likely to be desperately missed by his two grandsons, who frequently featured in his columns. He was devoted to them and they, obviously, to him.  They will be joined in their mourning by legions of Spectator readers around the world.



Doug Longmire said...

Yes, I will miss him too.

EP said...

Oh I'm a little tearful. I too have been turning to the back pages each time I take the Speccie from the letter-box to see if Jeremy is 'still with us' and when there wasn't a mention anywhere last issue, knew he had to be gone. Brave way to go Jeremy, telling us so clearly that there will come a time when sentimentality is superfluous.

John T said...

Yes - he will be missed. His later columns put things into perspective so very well. And Taki's eulogy in last week's Speccie was a delight.

gazzadelsud said...

A wonderful writer. I only properly embraced the Spectator during COVID, and my subscription has been joy, it fills the gap that the Economist used to (before it rolled left and died) only more fun (can you imagine Zannie getting drunk and doing drugs in pubs, and writing about it??) Jeremy was a superb columnist, and I read everything from him avidly. While his demise was inevitable, it still came as a shock to see his column missing.