Famous Last Words

Discussion of other topics not necessarily Keats or poetry-related, i.e. other authors, literature, film, music, the arts etc.

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Famous Last Words

Postby Malia » Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:45 pm

I thought it might be interesting to read a few "famous last words" from notable folks. Most of these came from a website called "Last Words"
http://www.geocities.com/athens/acropol ... /index.htm

I always thought it was interesting to think about what might have been on people's minds right before the end (OK, call me morbid. . .remember, I was an English Major at school--I've been trained to be morbid! :lol: )

Here are a few I found. Some are pretty funny, but some are just plain random--goes to show, I guess, that death and last words can be as "everyday" as living.

Do you know of any good "last words" from someone (famous or otherwise) worth sharing?

O'Neill, Eugene (1888-1953)
"Born in a hotel room--and God damn it--died in a hotel room."

Eugene O'Neill, thought by many critics to have been the most important American dramatist, earned one Nobel and four Pulitzer Prizes during his lifetime. He was born in a New York City Broadway hotel room, the son of an Irish-American actor. For much of his life he suffered from a debilitating Parkinson's-like disease. When he died in 1953, it was--much to his chagrin--also in a hotel room.

Saroyan, William (1908-1981)
"Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?"

William Saroyan was a Pulitzer Prize winning writer of plays, short stories, and novels whose works were noted for their sentimental optimism. Before his death in 1981, Saroyan telephoned his final words to the Associated Press.

Marx, Karl (1818-1883)
"Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!"

Karl Marx was the German economist, philosopher, and revolutionary who, with the aid of Friederich Engles, produced most of the theory of modern socialism and communism. As he lay in bed shortly before his death, his housekeeper foolishly asked if he had any last words.

Piccolo, Brian (1943-1970)
"Can you believe it, Joy? Can you believe this shit!"

Brian Piccolo was an American football player in the 1960's. His story was made famous in the movie 'Brian's Song' which detailed his friendship with fellow Chicago Bears player, Gale Sayers. As he was dying of cancer, he sat straight up in his bed and screamed these words to his wife, Joy.

Kelly, George (1887-1974)
"My dear, before you kiss me good-bye, fix you hair. It's a mess."

George Kelly was an American playwright and the uncle of Grace Kelly. On his death bed he was visited by a different niece, who leaned forward to kiss him farewell.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:54 pm

My favorite amusing last words come from Luther Burbank (1849-1926), who speaks quite honestly and to-the-point:

"I don't feel good."


Another comes from Oscar Wilde. Although I guess the veracity of these words is suspect (I suppose we have to consider them all to be so, to some degree), it just seems such a Wilde-esque thing to say that the idea of it is just too great to not be true:

"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."

(methinks the wallpaper did not go)
"Holy Kleenex, Batman! It was right under our nose and we blew it!"
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Postby Malia » Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:12 pm

Those are great, Credo! I remember reading the Wilde quote some time ago and thinking the same thing. . .it has to be true because it sounds so much like *him* :)

I read through a book of "famous last words" once and came across Charlotte Bronte's last words--so heartrending! Well, the context of her words is, at any rate. Here she was, newly married and going to have a baby and she's struck down by, guess what? TB--the disease that killed a thousand authors. She's lying in her bed and she asks her tearful husband, "Am I dying? But we've been so happy!"
I'm paraphrasing her words, but it's close to that. I about died just reading them.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:27 pm

Yes, Charlotte Bronte's last words are painfully sad.

I've just finished reading a book called Mozart's Last Year in which a very heart-wrenching account of his last day from his sister-in-law Sophie is included. Though these aren't quite his last words, the fact that it was said so soon to when he fell into a coma and then died is extremely poignant. Literally up until the day of his death he and his family and friends were frantically helping him to finish his Requiem (which, of course, he never did), so he had parts of the score laid out on his bed all around him. At one point, he picked up one of the sheets of paper, tears in his eyes, and said, "Did I not say I was writing the Requiem for myself?"

According to Sophie, Mozart's last conscious act before dying was imitating a timpani part to be filled into the score. Though modern medical science suggests that she was actually misinterpreting an unconscious physical reaction caused by a cerebral haemorrhage, I prefer her account.
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Postby Malia » Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:44 pm

Oh Credo, heart-rending indeed! Man, great story about Mozart. I am always haunted by his Requiem and how it just sort of *ends* right in the middle of things--and someone slapped on an "Amen" just to wrap it all up. The "end" of his Requiem reminds me of the end of his life--cut off right in the middle of a great genius.

Your story reminds me of the movie Amadeus. That is one of my favorite movies of all time. I don't know how accurate it was to life, but it was excellent all the same :)
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Postby Saturn » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:49 pm

Malia wrote:Oh Credo, heart-rending indeed! Man, great story about Mozart. I am always haunted by his Requiem and how it just sort of *ends* right in the middle of things--and someone slapped on an "Amen" just to wrap it all up. The "end" of his Requiem reminds me of the end of his life--cut off right in the middle of a great genius.

Your story reminds me of the movie Amadeus. That is one of my favorite movies of all time. I don't know how accurate it was to life, but it was excellent all the same :)


I'll agree with you there without a doubt - a few yeas ago I used to watch that film religiously. I must have seen it dozens of times :shock:
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Postby Credo Buffa » Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:15 am

Amadeus is my favorite film of all time. Everything about it is nearly perfect. A lot of avid Mozart fans complain about its historical inaccuracy, but I really don't think it was Peter Shaffer's goal to set out and write a true history of Mozart and Salieri. He basically took an old myth (that Salieri not only killed Mozart, but confessed to it in his old age) and worked with it to create a character dynamic that pretty much everyone can relate to: feeling inadequate in the shadow of someone you know is much better and more accomplished than yourself.

If you listen to the writer/director commentary on the director's cut DVD, they will tell you that everything in the film is based on kernels of truth. In a lot of instances, they're right: Emperor Joseph did tell Mozart that his opera had "too many notes", Leopold was very overprotective of his son and greatly disapproved of his marriage to Constanze, Mozart was very fond of billiards and owned a table, Salieri was rather jealous of Mozart's talent (who wouldn't be in his position?), and a mysterious and unidentified man did communicate with Mozart over the commissioning of the Requiem, and did intend to pass it off as his own. These, among other things are based very much on the truth.

However, most of the other things are extreme exaggerations of the true characters, or are based on single and often unreliable accounts. For instance, Mozart's wild laugh is supposed to be based on a line in a letter written by a noblewoman who said something like that she couldn't believe the awful sound that came out of this man who wrote such divine music. Much of Constanza's character is based on an unfortunate musicological trend which portrayed her as coquettish, unaccomplished, unable to understand her husband's work, and essentially a bad match for him (sound like anyone we know in the Keats world?). In reality, she was actually an intelligent woman who understood music very well (she came from a very musical family--two of her sisters created the roles of some of the great female characters in Mozart's operas--and even sang some of the soprano parts of his works in public performances) and was savvy enough to settle all of her husband's debts and secure a comfortable future for herself and her two sons after his death. There are hints in the film (more than hints if you watch the director's cut) that they may have been unfaithful in their marriage, but all the concrete evidence seems to show that they were incredibly happy together--throughout their marriage, Mozart wrote very affectionately to Constanze and seems to have felt very desolate without her whenever he had to travel, and Constanze was so distraught at his death that she climbed into the bed next to him in hopes that she might catch his illness and die with him.

Like Constanze, Mozart's character is modeled on unfortunate rumors and musicological interpretations that he was very immature. It is true that he did exhibit some odd behavior in social settings and he did have a bit of a pottymouth, but I personally think that he was merely more fun-loving and extroverted than most of the great musicians and composers that people are used to studying (like Keats, Mozart left behind a great volume of letters which survive today and offer great insight into his personality, some of which are absolutely hilarious).

Most importantly, though, Salieri did not kill Mozart; though they certainly had cross feelings about one another at times, there is nothing to suggest that their working relationship was anything less than cordial. Mozart even wrote that he took Salieri and his mistress (who actually was the soprano singer Caterina Cavalieri, the singer that Salieri's character in the movie insists he never laid a finger upon :wink: ) to a performance of The Magic Flute, which Salieri praised most highly. Equally important is that Mozart did not cause his own death through excessive drinking or womanizing. Essentially, he was always in rather "delicate" health, probably caused in large part by a series of illnesses in his youth while touring Europe. In adulthood, his intense working schedule (often he would work late into the night and rise early in the morning) certainly conspired with his already poor health to contribute to his early demise. Though there are still multiple theories in circulation as to exactly what it was that killed him, there is little doubt that he died of natural causes.

That's probably more than you wanted to know, but hopefully it at least sheds a little light on what's true and false in Amadeus. Not that it really matters (beyond natural curiosity and a desire to do justice to the historical figures involved), though; it is and will always be a great film.

Back to your regularly-scheduled famous last words. :wink:
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Postby Saturn » Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:53 am

Hey you Credo I know all about Amadeus, I've got the DVD and have heard the commentary and seen the documentaries and also read lots about and own a lot of Mozart's works 8)

Is the book about Mozart's last year this one?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/1791-Mozarts-La ... 559&sr=1-3

Very interesting, I have it too :D

What are your favourite pieces/concertos/symphonies/operas/religious works etc?
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Postby AsphodelElysium » Sun Apr 29, 2007 3:38 am

I always liked Edward Teach's, alias Blackbeard, last words:

"I will neither give nor take quarter!"

I guess if you have to go out, go out with a bang.

I was also fond of Lord Nelson's parting words, well, close enough to his parting words. They were just so simple and so human.

"Kiss me, Hardy."
"Let me not wander in a barren dream,
But, when I am consumed in the fire,
Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire."
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Postby Heaven/Hell » Thu May 10, 2007 12:53 pm

"I am perplexed..."
- the last words of occultist Aleister Crowley. Perhaps he saw in death what he failed to find in life (spiritual meaning)?
"Language has not the power that Love indites: The Soul lies buried in the ink that writes" ~ John Clare
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Postby Saturn » Thu May 10, 2007 1:03 pm

Crowley was a very perplexing, strange man.
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Postby Heaven/Hell » Thu May 24, 2007 2:23 pm

That was my biased Romantic assumption of his death-bed line, but one can only imagine that due to Crowley's arrogance he thought he had discovered the secrets to immortality.
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Postby Saturn » Thu May 24, 2007 2:28 pm

Yes, probably he was a great egotist.
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Postby Saturn » Fri May 25, 2007 10:15 pm

Nothing beats Spike Milligan's last words:

"I told you I was ill..." :lol:
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Postby Malia » Fri May 25, 2007 11:23 pm

Saturn wrote:Nothing beats Spike Milligan's last words:

"I told you I was ill..." :lol:


I read somewhere that someone read those words on a gravestone once (or, as it was I believe an American gravestone, the words were "I told you I was sick" ;) ).
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