Sebastian Horsley – a dear dandy


Insanely, absurdly. Sebastian Horsley has been found dead, having apparently taken an overdose of heroin. Although he lived life on the edge – over the edge sometimes – he always seemed to be a survivor. Because he was never ever a cliché, I wish he had not died this way.

His public persona, one that was lovingly honed over time, was as a waspish and controversial decadent. Anything that would get him into trouble appealed to Sebastian. Invited on to the Jeremy Vine Show because of what he had written about sex, he caused a row by saying he had spent £100,000 on prostitutes.

Asked to be the sex correspondent for the Observer, he was fired for being too rude, allegedly after a small riot form the Guardian staff. In an age when people use a whiff of danger to advance their careers, he always delivered rather more of the stuff than people expected.

He was a show-off – brittle and self-conscious – but I will remember as a kind, gentle and generous man. When I was writing my biography of Willie Donaldson, with whom he shared a taste for narcotics, sexual excess and self-destructiveness, his view of Willie’s life was a moral, even conventional, one. He felt sorry for Willie’s women, for his family; no behaviour however bad, no jokes however funny, were worth the pain they caused.

Sometimes I wished he didn’t feel the need to try so hard to be brilliant and noticed, but that was the way he was.

His loss is a terrible waste of a sweet and original man.

Poor Sebastian.