Health and death
For much of his early life, James was a heavy drinker and smoker. He recorded in May Week Was in June his habit of filling a hubcap ashtray daily. At various times he wrote of attempts – intermittently successful – to give up drinking and smoking. He smoked 80 cigarettes a day for a number of years before giving up in 2005. He had also given up, for 13 years, from his early 30s.
In April 2011, after media speculation that he had suffered kidney failure, James confirmed in June 2012 that B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia "had beaten him" and that he was "near the end". He said that he was also diagnosed with emphysema and kidney failure in early 2010.
On 3 September 2013, an interview with journalist Kerry O'Brien, Clive James: The Kid from Kogarah, was broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The interview was filmed in the library of his old college at Cambridge University. In the extended interview, James discussed his illness and confronting mortality. James wrote the poem "Japanese Maple" which was published in The New Yorker in 2014 and described as his "farewell poem". The New York Times called it "a poignant meditation on his impending death".
In a BBC interview with Charlie Stayt, broadcast on 31 March 2015, James described himself as "near to death but thankful for life". In October 2015, he admitted to feeling "embarrassment" at still being alive thanks to experimental drug treatment.
Until June 2017, he wrote a weekly column for The Guardian entitled "Reports of My Death...".
James died on 24 November 2019 at his home in Cambridge.