Utterly perfect: the dying era of tender departures and messy ...

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Utterly perfect: the dying era of tender departures and messy goodbyes

FREE TO READ | Some last words had the clearest ring of authenticity, while some were a little too polished

When I was very young some especially lugubrious relative gave me a book containing the last words of famous people, and I pondered those very solemnly and appreciatively.

Some last words were very smart. “I have lived as a philosopher,” said Casanova, putting what you might describe as a somewhat flattering spin on how he had lived, “and I die as a Christian.” This struck me as a prudent declaration to make, similar in a way but opposite to Voltaire’s deathbed response to being asked to renounce Satan. “I hardly think,” said Voltaire, “this is the time to be making new enemies.”

I read this out to my dad, who explained the joke to me, and who Voltaire was. I asked him what his last words would be, and he pondered that for a while. It’ll be a surprise, he said. I tried to wheedle it out of him, but he just said I’d find out one day, and it’s nice to have something to look forward to, so I had to go back to my book...

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