Why are we so fascinated by a person’s last words? Perhaps we believe that these final words somehow recount in just a few words the meaning of his or her entire life. Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt, from Richard II, observes that these few final words are profoundly meaningful: “O! but they say the tongues of dying men / Enforce attention like deep harmony: / When words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain, / For they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain.” Yet another reason is that a person’s last words reveal something about his or her character, particularly in the shadow of death. And finally, last words can sometimes provide some insight of what it is like to die. Without further ado, here are famous last words of famous people:
Oliver Cromwell: ” My own faith is all in God.”
Emily Dickinson: “It’s already growing damp. I must go in, for the fog is rising.”
Theodore Dresier (speaking to his wife): “You are beautiful.”
Epicurus: “Now farewell. Remember all my words.”
Benjamin Franklin (when asked to roll on his back to breathe more easily): “A dying man can do nothing easily.”
Alfred Hitchcock: “One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”
Thomas Hobbes: “Now I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.”
Henry James, Sr. (the philosopher): “There’s my Mary” [referring to his deceased wife]
Napoleon: “France… army… head of the army… Josephine…”
Sir Isaac Newton: “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the area ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
Ivan Turgenev (to his family): “Come nearer… near. Let me feel you all near me. The moment of parting has come. Goodbye, my darlings.”
Read related posts: How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?
Writers’ Deaths that are Stranger than Fiction
How Long Does it Take to Read a Million Words?
How Many Words in the English Language?
How Many Books Does the Average American Read?
For further reading: The Bedside Book of Final Words by Eric Grounds (2014)
Last Words by C. Bernard Ruffin