Quentin Crisp


I didn’t know till tonight that Sting’s Englishman in New York was a celebration of Quentin Crisp. Englishman in New York was the title of tonight’s moving ITV sequel to The Naked Civil Servant about Quentin Crisp’s life in New York. Crisp, played again by John Hurt, comes across as a man of great integrity. As a homosexual “who wore make up in London in the 30’s” he was always an outsider – and despised. His commitment to “being himself”, together with his wit, made him a celebrity figure in New York where he was in great demand as a public speaker.

In a question and answer session at his swansong at a gay club in Tampa, Florida, he comes up with a real pearl of wisdom:

Neither look forward where there is doubt, nor backward where there is regret. Look inward and ask yourself not if there is anything out in the world that you want and had better grab quickly before nightfall, but whether there is anything inside you that you have not yet unpacked.

The quote was prefaced with remarks about the privilege of being the scorned outsider – not as something to be avoided but as something to be embraced. As a privileged insider I wonder how wise his advice is:

In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis.

I am sure that the wisdom of wise outsiders like Quentin Crisp have helped many people on the outside to “be themselves” instead of selling themselves short.

As Sting writes:

It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile,
Be yourself no matter what they say.

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