Quentin Crewe (1922 - 1998)
Traveller and writer
The Independent, 16 November 1998
Adapted from an article by Jocelyn de Moubray
Quentin Crewe was a traveller, writer and journalist but above all a man of extraordinary charm and resilience.
Despite being relatively immobile for much of his life - he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of six - he never ceased to look for novelty and to delight in people, places, ideas and humour, retaining throughout his life the optimism and curiosity of a young man.
It was because of all that he achieved that in 2001, on the 75th anniversary of his birth, Mark Reynolds set-up The Q Trust in his honour. The aim of The Q Trust was to raise vital funds for and awareness of muscle disease.
When he was a young boy one of Quentin's relatives suggested he should see a doctor to find out why he walked in such an odd manner and fell over so frequently. His mother took him to see a neurologist in Harley Street. She was told that he had muscular dystrophy and would die when he was about 16.
However, when he was 16 he was told that he would be fine. As they left his mother announced: "Well, that's done. Now let's go and have tea with Cousin Nellie." The subject of his illness was never raised again and although Quentin was disappointed that nothing changed when he turned 16, he did not see another doctor until he was 18.
A literary family friend inspired him and Quentin decided that he wanted to be a writer. He began work at The Times Literary Supplement before moving to the Evening Standard. His transformation from journalist into restaurant critic was quite by chance. Someone had forgotten to make the usual listings and an empty half-page was filled with Crewe's account of lunching at Wilton's, a restaurant in St James's, where he described how the aristocracy were served nursery food by waitresses dressed as nannies. He ended by saying that the prices, as befitted the clientele, were like death duties, aimed at capital rather than income. He thus started a new and lasting trend whereby restaurant reviews were as much about style and entertainment as about food.
In 1961 he married his second wife, Angela Huth. The couple lived in Wilton Crescent and entertained a set who included George Melly, Dudley Moore, Sandie Shaw, Bill Wyman, Peter Sellers, Arthur Koestler, Jocelyn Stevens, Bernard Levin, Kenneth Tynan, Princess Margaret and Tony Armstrong-Jones. Crewe's career as a journalist prospered. He was film critic and gossip columnist for the Daily Mail and in 1964 started to write a regular column for the Sunday Mirror. His columns included a series illustrating the effects of apartheid in South Africa; these views were explained away by the South African authorities on the basis that "crippled in body means crippled in mind."
Crewe continued to work as a journalist, to write about food, good living and travel. He also stood up for underdogs and argued that disabled people are not very different from anyone else. He wrote about India (The Last Maharaja, 1985) and the West Indies (Touch the Happy Isles, 1987) and lived in Kenya and France as well as in England.
He retained his enjoyment of life, his interest in other people and the young, his sense of humour and his love of fine food and drink.