Famous Last Words

I’ve always been fascinated by the deathbed declarations of famous people. Among my favorites are:

Goethe- “More light. More light.”

Stonewall Jackson- “Let us pass over the river and rest in the shade of the trees.”

What are your favorites? Real quotes only, please. You don’t have to cite where you got them from.

Oscar Wilde (who died in considerable debt): “Alas, I am dying beyond my means.” (and then: “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”)

Millard Fillmore (who asked for and received soup): “The nourishment is palatable.”

Dylan Thomas: “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies: I think that’s a record…”

Grand Moff Tarkin (commander of the Death Star): “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!”

Personally, if the opportunity presents itself, I plan to go with the tried and true “Noooo! I am invincible! INVINCIBLE!!”

Some books you’d like:

Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words - different book

O. Henry-: “Turn on the lights. I’m afraid to go home in the dark.”

(probably) explorer Richard Halliburton: “Southernly gales, squalls, lee rail under water, wet bunks, hard tack, bully beef, wish you were here- instead of me!”

Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all”

Even as a fairly devout Catholic, I have to admire the spirit of Revolutionary War general Ethan Allen.

Supposedly, as he lay on his deathbed, an attending clergyman told him that the angels were waiting for him. The exasperated Allen is supposed to have snapped back, “Waiting, are they? Well, let them wait!”

Thomas Jefferson–still survives…

  • John Adams (July 4, 1826)

Is it the Fourth?

  • Thomas Jefferson

For some reason I’ve always liked :

I have a terrific headache.

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
    And of course :

Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.
-Pancho Villa

Which Civil war general (I think it was Selfridge) said “Don’t worry men, they can’t hit a thing at this dis—”?

My all-time favorite was former Vice President Alben W. Barkley. During a speech he said “I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the seats of the mighty.” Whereupon he promptly collapsed and died.

Colonel John Sedgewick, in 1864 -


Could do better:

Nelson : ** “Drink, drink. Fan, fan. Rub, rub.”. **

“Moose. Indian.”

-Henry David Thoreau

I guess I’ve always been a fan of the more mudane last words. Nothing poetic and thought out, just an exact description of what is going to happen.

James Dean
“That guy’s got to stop. . . . He’ll see us.”

Saint Joan of Arc
“Hold the cross high so I may see it through the flames!”

Or this odd one supposedly by an inmate about to be electrocuted.

French, James - 1966
“How about this for a headline? French fries.”

I think it was the actor George Sanders (Addison DeWitt in “All About Eve”) who committed suicide and left a note stating: “I am departing this world because I am bored with it.” (or something to that effect.)
There was a bit of a controversy (that was quickly swept under the rug) when Mother Theresa died. One of the sisters attending to her grandly proclaimed to reporters that her last words were “I love the lord Jesus!” When same reporters asked the attending physician to verify that, he disputed it. According to him, Mother Theresa’s last words were “I can’t breathe!”

Dammit, Shodan, you took mine.
Here’s Dominique Bouhours, grammarian: “I am about to, or, I am going to die. Either expression is used.”

Oops, I meant to add:
Gen. Sedgwick’s last words may not have actually been cut short short by a sniper’s bullet. I remember reading an officer’s account of that a few years ago. He was deriding his men for trying to dodge sharpshooters’ bullets coming from about 1,000 or so yards away. It was about a minute later he was actually hit. I’m trying to remember where that was without Googling it…not Pennsylvania, but it was Something-vania.
Either way, it’s funnier to quote it as an unfinished sentence.

Henrik Ibsen: “Oh, on the contrary.”
He overheard a nurse telling some visitors that he was feeling better, said this, and died on the spot.

Now that’s how you contradict someone.

If she couldn’t breathe, how could she say that she couldn’t breathe?

Apparently, either Abbott or Costello’s (I forget which) last words were “That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted.” Hey, there are worse ways to go.

P.T. Barnum: “How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?”

Also there is this one More emphasis on the particulars of death, but usually include the last words as well.



George Appel, died in the electric chair 1928

“Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”

I’m always suspicious of stories like this. while they may be accurate quotes, I suspect that the words were said some hours or days before actual demise, and that several other remarks passed between times. I suspect that Ibsen did not die immediately after uttering those words.

Let’s just say that these are the last notable words they spoke.