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


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...

This article is free to read if you register or sign in.

Sunday Times Daily

If you have already registered or subscribed, please sign in to continue.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.