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Endings/Epitaphs/Last words

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162645.  Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:56 am Reply with quote

Oscar Wilde's last words ("One of us will have to go" - addressed to tattered wall paper in his hotel room) are fairly well known. Chekhov's, however, are less so. He said: "I haven't had champagne for ages..." And then: Ich Sterbe" ( I am dying - German, for no obvious reason). A brilliant Soviet satirical writer Ilya Ilf, co-author of "The Twelve Chairs" and "Little Golden Calf", had managed to unite these two in his last (and rather sad) joke. Dying of TB at the age of 39, he asked for champagne (he was totally teetotal, by the way) - like Chekhov and then said with a smile: "Champagne of Ich Sterbe brand..." - his last words.
Pushkin's were: "Goodbye, my friends!" - addressed to his books on the shelves above his bed.

The best epitaph, to my mind, was Spike Milligan's: "I told you I was ill", but this must be well known, too...

The most courageously poignant last deed belongs to Gawin Maxwell, Scottish writer, the author of "Ring of Bright Water". Dying of lung cancer (he was a lifetime smoker) at 52 and going through undescribable suffering, he asked for a piece of paper (he could not speak by then) and wrote:
have two habits:
breeding and feeding.
The point of the second
is just to keep them fecund..."

His last (written) words...

What a spirit!

Last edited by Vitali on Wed Apr 04, 2007 10:41 am; edited 2 times in total

162647.  Tue Apr 03, 2007 8:01 am Reply with quote

Vitali wrote:
The best epitaph, to my mind, was Spike Milligan's: "I told you I was ill", but this must be well known, too...

Also, it's not original - SM nicked the joke from Woody Allen.

162797.  Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:26 pm Reply with quote

I think the Champagne thing is meant to be a reference to a professional courtesy amongst doctors at the time, whereby they would give Champagne to one of their own number who they were attending at his deathbed.

162870.  Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:19 am Reply with quote

Speaking of epitaphs, did we ever use WC Fields’ non-existent tombstone? See
post 56017

162930.  Wed Apr 04, 2007 8:05 am Reply with quote

It seems that Milligan’s tomb did eventually have the “Told you” line inscribed on it - after a few years of intra-family arguments - but in Gaelic:

Nigel Rees, in ‘The Quote...Unquote Newsletter’ (Jan 05) reports on what (for the moment) seems to be its earliest actual (as opposed to pre-mortem) use:

One large white crypt in the Key West cemetery has a facing tablet that says: “I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK./B.P. Roberts/ May 17, 1929/ June 18, 1979.” The interred joker is believed to have been a woman: “According to local legend, B. Pearl Roberts was a waitress who people viewed as a laughable hypochondriac. But apparently she had the last laugh.”

So - a possible Gen Ig: “Whose tomb carries the epitaph ‘I told you I was sick’?” with a forfeit for Spike.

Picture researchers: there is a photo of the Roberts inscription in the Quote...Unquote newsletter.

Playwright John Osborne’s tombstone says “Let me know where you're working tomorrow night - and I’ll come and see YOU.”

162977.  Wed Apr 04, 2007 11:24 am Reply with quote

Wilde had an ear operation on October 10th 1900, and recuperated over the next few weeks. He had a lot of visits from friends, and many of the words attributed to him as his 'last words' were spoken then, including "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go," "I am dying beyond my means," and, "I can’t even afford to die."

The report on his death here doesn't suggest that he was in a state for making witticisms at the last, poor bloke.

The wallpaper is supposed to have been recreated at L’Hotel, and there is now a plaque to Oscar, just above the front door.

163355.  Thu Apr 05, 2007 11:05 am Reply with quote


163668.  Fri Apr 06, 2007 11:24 am Reply with quote

I like this story:
Robert Henryson was one of the greatest of the Scottish Makars ( or poets) in the 15th century. His last words are recounted in a merry tale from the 17th Century.

Henryson, dying of diarrhoea or fluxe as it was then called, had been consigned to death by all the physicians he could muster. As he lay drawing his last breath an old woman, whom many held to be a witch, came to him and asked whether he would like to be cured. Henryson willingly agreed, whereupon the old crone said: ‘There is a whikey tree in the lower end of your orchard, if you go and walk but thrice about it, and thrice repeat these words "whikey tree, whikey tree, take away this fluxe from me", you shall presently be cured.’

He told her that he was extremely faint and weak and that, besides, there was extreme frost and snow outside, making it impossible for him to go. The old woman replied that unless he did so it would be impossible for him to recover. Henryson, then lifting himself up and pointing to an Oken (oak) table that was in the room, said : ‘Gude dame, I pray ye tell me, if it would not do as well if I repeated thrice these words: "oken burd oken burd garre me shit a hard turde"’. Seeing herself derided the woman ran out of the house in a great passion. Henryson’s wit could not save him. A few minutes later he departed life.

Source: BBC History


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