Deathbed quotes are a tricky thing; since death is inevitable, one might as well go out with a verbal bang. However, if the famous want to depart with a memorable deathbed quote, they have to judge their choice – and their timing - carefully. Some deathbed quotes are witty, some are to the point, and some get it horribly wrong …
1 Lord Palmerston
When Victorian statesman Lord Palmerston remarked ´Die, my dear Doctor? That´s the last thing I shall do!´, he was either employing a level of wit not normally associated with politicians, or mistakenly expecting an imminent recovery. I suspect the former.
2 General John Sedgewick
´They couldn´t hit an elephant at this dist …´ was the Civil War general´s deathbed quote. Although strictly speaking, he didn´t actually die in his bed. Still, as famous last words go, these were about as wrong as could be.
3 William Somerset Maugham
´Dying is a very dull and dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it´. Maugham had a point, but it´s not as if we have a choice, so how he expected anyone to follow his advice is not really clear.
4 James, Duke of Monmouth
Just before his execution for treason, the Duke told his executioner ´There are six guineas for you, and do not hack me as you did my lord Russell´. Like Sedgewick, he really should have kept quiet. Unfortunately, the executioner made a mess of it …
5 James Rodges
Perhaps Monmouth would have done better to use sarcasm for his deathbed quote, as did Rodges, convicted for murder. When asked if he had any last requests as he faced the firing squad, he quipped ´Why yes! A bulletproof vest.´
6 Henry David Thoreau
As death approaches, some people discover a belated faith, while others are not troubled by matters of religion. ´Why, I did not know we had quarrelled,´ answered Thoreau, when his aunt asked if he had made his peace with God.
´This is no time to make new enemies´ said Voltaire, when the priest asked him to forswear Satan. Clearly, he was hedging his bets, although in trying to cover all possibilities, he did miss out the chance that there is no afterlife at all …
8 King George V
As George V lay dying, he was asked if he wanted to travel to the seaside resort of Bognor Regis for a rest cure. The regal answer was short and to the point. ´Bugger Bognor´!´ exclaimed the King, obviously correctly suspecting that it would be a wasted effort.
9 Henrik Ibsen
George V wasn´t the only one who knew better than the doctors. ´On the contrary!´ exclaimed the Norwegian playwright Ibsen, when told that he was recovering. As deathbed quotes go, this was pretty accurate.
10 General Ramón Maria Narváez
´I do not need to forgive my enemies; I have had them all shot´, said the Spanish general, to the priest asking if he forgave his enemies. One wonders, if he and his enemies ended up in the same place, whether they forgave him …
There are some pretty funny deathbed quotes among these; perhaps some of them were prepared in advance (and the users were glad that their efforts didn´t go to waste). You even have to laugh at the unintentionally amusing ones. What would you like your deathbed quote to be?
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