Here are 21 famous authors’ purported last words. They are presented in chronological order.
Voltaire (1694–1778) – On his deathbed when asked by the priest to renounce Satan, Voltaire allegedly said, ‘Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.’
Jane Austen (1775–1817) – When her sister, Cassandra, asked the dying author if she wanted anything, Jane Austen replied, ‘Nothing, but death.’
George Gordon Byron (1788–1824) – ‘Now I shall go to sleep. Goodnight.’
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861) – The Victorian poet was close to death when her husband enquired as to how she felt. Browning replied, ‘Beautiful.’ She then passed away.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) – ‘Moose. Indian.’ Perhaps not the most rational last words ever uttered, but apt, considering the subject matter of Thoreau’s writing.
Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) – ‘So, this is death. Well!’
Victor Hugo (1802–1885) – ‘This is the fight of day and night. I see black light.’
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) – ‘Let us go in; the fog is rising.’
Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) – Immediately after Chekhov told his wife that he was about to die, he purportedly picked up a glass of champagne and said, ‘It’s a long time since I drank champagne.’ After drinking the glass, he died.
Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) – The Norwegian playwright and poet allegedly uttered his last words to a nurse, who commented that he seemed to be improving. Ibsen said, ‘Tvertimod!’ (‘On the contrary!’) He then died.
O. Henry (1862–1910) – ‘Turn up the lights, I don’t want to go home in the dark.’
Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) – ‘But the peasants…how do the peasants die?’
Saki (1870 –1916) – Immediately prior to being killed by a sniper’s bullet in a First World War trench, the author allegedly said, ‘Put that bloody cigarette out.’
Franz Kafka (1883–1924) – Suffering from tuberculosis, Kafka demanded his doctor give him an overdose of morphine. He shouted, ‘Kill me, or else you are a murderer!’ These were his last words.
J. M. Barrie (1860–1937) – Prior to dying of pneumonia the Peter Pan author said, ‘I can’t sleep.’
James Joyce (1882 –1941) – ‘Does nobody understand?’
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) – ‘Dying is easy, comedy is hard.’
Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953) – ‘I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room, and God damn it, died in a hotel room.’
Walter De La Mare (1873–1956) – ‘Too late for fruit, too soon for flowers.’
Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) – ‘A certain butterfly is already on the wing.’ Fitting last words for a lepidopterist.
Truman Capote (1924–1984) – ‘It’s me, it’s Buddy… I’m cold.’
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My 3 novels include the satirical black comedy Necropolis. It is about a sociopath who works for the burials and cemeteries department in his local council.