This week, the final instalment of Quentin Crisp’s autobiography, called The Last Word, was released (exactly 18 years since his death).
The first two parts of his life story -- The Naked Civil Servant (released in 1968) and How To Become A Virgin (1981) -- offered the world the unique perspective of an openly gay, and unapologetically effeminate, man.
The Last Word helps wrap things up from Crisp's own perspective. He considered it a chance to say goodbye.
In the first chapter, he opened with the following note:
This will be the last book that I write. What little I can say and do is almost done because, at the end of the day, I am nobody and I am nothing.
Most of my life is contained within the pages of The Naked Civil Servant and How To Become A Virgin. The former deals with my so-called life in England and the latter with my rebirth here in America. I only have a few more stories left to share before my well runs dry. I know and hope that the end is near. This book will be my swan song. A chance for me to have the last word.
The book explores everything from his time as a hobo, to coming to terms with his transgender identity, to dealing with ill-health and a prostate cancer diagnosis.
As a gay icon, he occupied a small but notable place in queer culture. In 1976, The Naked Civil Servant was adapted for television and helped create a name for him and the actor who portrayed him (John Hurt). He wrote 15 books in total, and appeared in movies and TV shows like Orlando, To Wong Foo and The Equalizer.
Sting's single "An Englishman in New York" was about Crisp; Sting later explained that he considered Crisp a personal hero.
Crisp was best known for his wit. Some of his most famous quotes include:
Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne.
Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level.
The trouble with children is that they're not returnable.
However, he was also guilty of saying too much at times, like when he called AIDS a fad, and referred to homosexuality as a terrible disease.
“I am delighted to finally be able to share The Last Word with all of Quentin’s fans throughout the world.” said Phillip Ward, who transcribed Crisp's words from 1997-1999. “Quentin was one of a kind. He was a philosopher, an observer of life, a survivor and a beacon of hope for many. In life, his primary mission was the immediate happiness of those around him. He leaves behind a legacy of great importance to the world’s gay and straight communities of which The Last Word is his swansong.”