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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Have Any Last Words?


Following in the footsteps of our post on tombstone epigrams, my eyes have recently happened upon the book Famous Last Words by Barnaby Conrad.  Out of my own morbid curiosity I immediately began to thumb through the book interested in what was uttered in the last moments of breath by little-to-well-known historical figures.  There were a lot of solemn quotes, as you would imagine, but here are some of the more amusing ones:

v  Barnett Barnato (1852-1897): “The English financier and diamond king of great success and notable failures, he jumped from a ship into the sea after saying: ‘What is the time?’” (Conrad 37).
v  Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922): “Cautioned not to hurry his dictation, he said: ‘But I have to.  So little done.  So much to do!’” (Conrad 42).
v  Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): “The German composer died of cancer.  He had just finished a glass of wine.  ‘Ah, that tastes nice, thank you!’” (Conrad 49).
v  Hart Crane (1899-1932): “His poetry was frequently obscure, but in the end his language was clear as he jumped overboard into the sea, ‘Good-bye, everybody!’” (Conrad 74).
v  Anthony J. Drexel III (1826-1893): “He was exhibiting a pistol to a friend.  The demonstration was complete.  “Here’s one you’ve never seen before…’” (Conrad 87).
v  William Palmer (1824-1856): “Hanged for poisoning a friend, he asked as he stepped on the gallows trap:  ‘Are you sure it’s safe?’” (Conrad 159).
v  James W. Rodgers (1911-1960): “A murderer, he was executed in Utah by a rifle squad.  When asked if he had a last request, he smilingly said:  ‘Why, yes—a bullet proof vest.’” (Conrad 172).
v  Stanislas I, King of Poland (1677-1766): “The former king died as a result of burns received when his bathrobe caught fire.  ‘You gave it to me to warm me, but it has kept me too hot.’” (Conrad 186)
Do you have a favorite “last words” quote?  If you have a morbid curiosity, like me, of the last utterings of a different historical figure not listed then let us know!


 Conrad, Barnaby. Famous Last Words. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961. Print.

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