Clive James was a multi-talented cultural critic who informed, challenged and entertained for two generations.
He was learned, yet a master of television froth. Above all, he could write - clear, witty prose on any subject, ephemeral or profound.
James taught the British that popular culture was worth serious analysis and mastered a fusion of journalism and the formal essay. He wrote that rare thing, the best-selling memoir.
Yet he may be best remembered for his poetry, which he wrote for most of his life but which wasn't widely read or taken seriously for many years.
James died aged 80 on November 24 at his home in Cambridge, UK. A private funeral attended by family and close friends took place in the chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge, on Wednesday.
He had been battling a range of serious illnesses including leukemia, kidney failure and lung disease since 2010.
Jame was born in Kogarah, a southern Sydney suburb, on October 7 1939.
He was called Vivian, a name he dropped as a child because "after Vivien Leigh played Scarlett O'Hara the name became irrevocably a girl's name". The "Kid from Kogarah" picked Clive from a Tyrone Power film.
He never knew his father, who enlisted when World War 2 started, was captured in Singapore and survived PoW and labour camps only to be killed when the plane bringing him home crashed.
Many years later James visited his grave in Hong Kong and wept. His poem My Father Before Me ends: "Back at the gate, I turn to face the hill,/Your headstone lost among the rest./I have no time to waste, much less to kill./My life is yours; my curse to be so blessed."
James studied psychology erratically at Sydney University, edited the student newspaper Honi Soit, directed the Union Revue and joined the boozy, libertarian Push. For a year after graduation, he worked on the features pages of the Sydney Morning Herald.
In 1961 James joined the exodus of bright young Australians to England.
The next three years, if his memoirs are to be believed, mainly involved drinking, lusting and borrowing money, interspersed with brief and disastrous jobs.
But he also wrote: "Nothing I have said is factual except the bits that sound like fiction."
He then went to Cambridge to read English literature and, after graduating, started a PhD on Shelley.
It was never completed. James spent too much time on extra-curricular activities, particularly the Cambridge Footlights and the Cambridge Review, for which he wrote film reviews and upset the pseuds by taking Hollywood as seriously as arty continental films. He also taught himself languages.
At the end of his Cambridge period, James married Prue Shaw, an Australian scholar of Italian literature and language. They had two daughters, Claerwen and Lucinda.
In his 2005 poem Anniversary Serenade, he wrote of his wife: "My share of Heaven and my sheer delight,/My soda fountain and my water-sprite,/My curving ribbon of a climbing kite,/ You are my Starlight Roof, my summer night."
In 1972 James began a 10-year stint as The Observer's television critic. This brought elegantly written pieces about popular entertainment to a highbrow readership. Many were later published in book form.
At the same time, he began making a name as a literary critic, starting with a 10,000 word valedictory appreciation of the critic Edmund Wilson for the Times Literary Supplement.
His first of many collections of literary criticism, The Metropolitan Critic, was published in 1974.
A year later came the first of four mock-heroic poems, the best known being Peregrine Prykke's Pilgrimage Through the London Literary World, which were performed as plays.
James' versatility extended to music. In the 1970s he wrote the lyrics for six Pete Atkin albums which retain a cult following. The partnership was resumed years later with three more albums and a two-man song show which was a hit at the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe and toured Britain and Australia.
He had a minor film career, playing a horizontal drunk in The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and a slightly bigger part in the sequel.
Meanwhile, he moved seamlessly from television critic to performer, starting as a guest commentator.
Soon he had his own program, which continued, under various titles which always included his name, for about 20 years.
He presented travel shows, Formula One shows (motorsport and tango dancing were two of his enthusiasms), a Paris fashion show and an eight-episode documentary, Fame in the 20th Century (1993), which was broadcast by the BBC in Britain and the ABC in Australia.
Unreliable Memoirs, the first of his multi-volume memoirs, came in 1979. The volume, covering his growing up in Sydney, sold more than a million copies.
In the 1980s, James turned to the novel. His first, Brilliant Creatures, was a best-seller that's been compared with Wodehouse and Waugh; and his fourth, The Silver Castle, is claimed to be the first novel about Bollywood.
Collections of essays kept coming.
Perhaps the most important was the 2007 Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts.
It's a collection of short essays on many of the heroes and villains of the 20th century, with the unifying theme that if liberal democracy is to survive and tyrants and genocidists are to be stopped, the lessons of the past must be remembered. Put another way, the penalty for prosperity and stability is that the young will forget.
One lesson was that genocide would end only when someone - in practice, the United States - stopped it, or there was no-one left to kill.
For this reason James, while politically left in an old-fashioned, workers' rights way, supported the invasion of Iraq, although he was scathing about how the Americans handled the aftermath.
His exemplar as an essayist was George Orwell, both for his limpid style and because "he was a great truth-teller at a time of great lying".
James' subjects ranged widely. His elegy to Princess Diana: "She was like the sun coming up; coming up giggling." On the 2007 Australian election: "Kevin Rudd was clever enough to spot that no other issue really mattered except the incumbent's hubristic estimation of his own indispensability."
He wrote conversationally. He took ideas and issues that were usually the preserve of academics and discussed them simply and directly. His enemy, he said, was elevated language.
His poetry is also direct and accessible.
His reputation as a poet took off with the publication of two collections, The Book of My Enemy (2003) and Opal Sunset (2009).
The former takes its title from one of his most famous poems, which begins "The book of my enemy has been remaindered/And I am pleased." It's been described as the best and most amusing piece of writing ever devoted to schadenfreude.
His subjects included political commentary, satire, Antony and Cleopatra frolicking, Australian nostalgia, even a celebration of the sweat of tennis star Gabriela Sabatini.
They're studded with wit, imagination, social observation and dazzling language.
Newsweek, reviewing Opal Sunset, said James "is the ultimate poet for people who hate modern poetry".
James' health, after a lifetime of drinking and smoking, collapsed in 2010. This was followed by the collapse, later partially rehabilitated, of his marriage after it was revealed he'd had a long affair with Leanne Nesbitt, the former wife of flamboyant medical entrepreneur Geoffrey Edelsten.
Despite his multiple ailments, James still brought out a new volume of poetry - Nefertiti in the Flak Tower - in 2012.
It includes a poem celebrating his wife. It ends by imagining Dante addressing him: "You are the weakling and you always were./ If you would sing of glory, sing of her."
And who better to imagine Dante, for in 2013 came what may have been his crowning achievement, a hugely praised translation of The Divine Comedy.
He said: "The Divine Comedy is a work of art so incandescently great that if you think you can convey some of its force and coloured fire, you should.
"For 40 years, since my brilliant wife showed me what the lovers sounded like when they spoke Italian to each other in the fifth canto of hell, I knew (translating) it was my duty."
In another interview, James said: "Dante is in a spiritual crisis and I think you have to have been in one of your own to understand what he's talking about.
"He's seeking absolution, redemption and certainty. He's seeking a knowledge that his life has been worthwhile. Which I still am."
By now a frail, "technically dead" James was living in a Cambridge terrace a couple of blocks from Prue, who visited regularly, and still writing compulsively.
In 2015 came Sentenced to Life, a 37-poem collection on love and loss, regret and acceptance. It was followed a year later by the odd Gate of Lilacs, a verse commentary on Marcel Proust and an attempt to blend criticism with poetry.
Then in 2017 came what he saw as the end of his long goodbye, a final volume called Injury Time. Critic Peter Craven said in his review that they weren't the greatest poems to come out of Australia, that place being reserved for Peter Porter or Les Murray.
"But this is a book by a true artist. It will ring in the ears and tug at the heart...," Craven wrote.
Nor was it his last. In 2018 came The River in the Sky, a novella-length verse memoir.
Irish novelist Julian Gough, who ranked him, as a poet and essayist, with Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, said: "James was the barbarian who had travelled to the capital of the old empire and, casually mastering its every art, become more civilised than its natives."
However, the word "casually" was misleading. James worked hard to make his writing seem effortless. Right up until he couldn't any more.
"If you don't know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do."
Australian Associated Press