K S Lane is a student of science and is deeply passionate about educating others on her favorite topics.
Famous Last Words
Humans have been obsessed with the idea of 'last words' since the beginning of recorded history, and if you think about it it’s not difficult to understand why. We speak millions of words over our lifespan; it makes sense that our last sentences would be something significant to others to reflect on.
There’s also a lot of wisdom to be found in the last words of certain people, and sometimes dark humour to be found in others'. Listed below are the last words of 20 famous politicians, artists and celebrities, along with explanations of their significance.
1. CEO Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs’ last words, according to his sister, were, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." It’s nice that he was so excited about something, although what it was we can only guess.
2. Artist Leonardo Da Vinci:
It seems that being the painter of the Mona Lisa wasn’t enough for Da Vinci. His last words were "I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have." If he wasn’t good enough, then I don’t think anyone is.
3. Author Vladimir Nabokov:
Nabokov penned such works as Lolita and Pale Fire, but aside from his writing one of his passions in life was etymology. His last words? "A certain butterfly is already on the wing.” While this phrase is pretty much meaningless, it can’t be denied that there’s a certain poetic beauty to it. At least Nabokov died thinking about something that he loved.
4. Artist Raphael:
The famed painter had just one last word; "Happy." Was he reflecting on his life? Did he, in his final moments, glimpse something of what might lie after death? We’ll never know for sure, but we can take comfort in the fact that, even in the face of death, happiness is still possible.
5. Poet Emily Dickinson:
The celebrated poet’s last words were as beautiful as could be expected; "I must go in, for the fog is rising." The fog of life giving way to the clarity of death? Or the fog of death rising to cloud life? I’ll leave this one for the literary critics to figure out.
6. Marie Antoinette:
Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, was executed by guillotine in 1792 during the French Revolution. As she was lead to the guillotine she stepped on her executioners foot and said "Pardonnez-moi, monsieur," apologising for the accident. Those were her last words. I suppose there’s something to be said for being polite until the very end?
7. Physicist Richard Feynman:
As he lay dying, Feynman was rather unimpressed. His last words were "This dying is boring.” I suppose to one of the developers of the science of quantum mechanics, something as mundane as death would be boring.
8. Playwright Eugene O’Neill:
This pulitzer prize winning playwright died in a Boston hotel room at age sixty five. His last words were an exclamation; "I knew it! I knew it! Born in a hotel room and, goddamn it, dying in a hotel room." At least he had the satisfaction of knowing he was right before he died.
9. Inventor Thomas Edison:
Edison was in a coma for the hours leading up to his death, but reportedly opened his eyes just before he succumbed and said "It is very beautiful out there." Some have speculated he was talking about the afterlife, and others have said that he was simply referring to the view outside his window. We’ll likely never know the truth.
10. Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill:
Churchill’s last words were "I’m bored with it all." He lived to the ripe old age of 90; I suppose after all that time living would become rather dull. Hopefully he found something to excite him after death, or at least a peaceful relief from his boredom.
11. Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
As the author of the Sherlock Holmes series lay dying from a heart attack in his back garden his last words were to his wife; "You are wonderful." I suppose it’s a nice reminder that while people die, love never does.
12. Louise-Marie-Thérèse de Saint Maurice, Comtesse de Vercellis:
While she lay dying, the Comtesse de Vercellis lost control of her bodily functions and, well, farted. Instead of being embarrassed about the little slip she seemed relieved, saying "Good. A woman who can fart is not dead."
13. Physicist Sir Isaac Newton:
On his deathbed Newton proved to be surprisingly eloquent, considering his circumstances. He said, “I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Modest and humble to the extreme, considering that this was the man who discovered gravity. If he were alive today, perhaps he’d take comfort in knowing that we’ve delved a little deeper into that "great ocean of truth."
14. Scientist Charles Darwin:
The founder of the theory of evolution’s last words were somewhat uplifting; "I am not in the least afraid to die." I suppose after studying life for so long, Darwin was looking forward to some well-earned rest.
15. Director Alfred Hitchcock:
The famed director’s last words were a philosophical musing. He said, "One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”
16. Author Jane Austen:
As the author of Pride and Prejudice lay dying, she said, "I want nothing but death." Her final wish, it seems, was granted, though it’s sad that she’d given up on life.
17. Former U.S President John Adams:
This founding father’s last words proved to be incorrect. He said, "Thomas Jefferson still lives." Jefferson had, in fact, died just hours earlier, also on July the 4th.
18. Author Herman Melville:
Melville is another man who died with his passions on his mind, saying; "God bless Captain Vere." Captain Vere was a character in his newest unpublished novel, the manuscript of which was found on his desk after his death.
19. Philosopher Karl Marx:
The author of The Communist Manifesto, Marx’s last words were somewhat ironic. "Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough." I suppose he wasn’t counting the phrase as real last words?
20. Musician Kurt Cobain:
The singer of Nirvana left a note before he committed suicide in his house in 1994. The last words in it were "It's better to burn out than to fade away." It’s not known what the last words he actually spoke were, but personally the written ones are plenty profound enough for me. Was he right?
And there we have it; 20 of the famous last words of authors, poets, musicians, politicians, businessmen and scientists. Some are funny, some nonsensical and some deeply profound and thought provoking. Do you know what your last words would be? If so, feel free to share them in the comments section below!
© 2018 K S Lane
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on August 20, 2018:
Hi Dina-- thanks for your lovely comment! Funnily enough, I got the idea for this hub from An Abundance of Katherines! John Green is himself a little obsessed with last words (he's done some youtube videos on it), so I suppose that passion bled out into his writing.
My favourite on this list would have to be Darwin's "I am not in the least afraid to die." I'd like to think that when the time comes for me I'll be happy enough with my life's achievements to not fear moving on. Dickinson definitely comes in at a close second, though, and I like your view of fog being mysterious but not completely impenetrable, just as death is. Thanks for the follow!
Dina AH from United States on August 20, 2018:
There is something eerie about posts like this. I had never given it a thought, this last-words-before-dying thing until perhaps when I read one of John Green's novels (I think it's An Abundance of Katherines). The protagonist of that novel is fond of last words.
So, I may be biased because Emily Dickinson always spoke to me on an emotional level, but her statement feels near to how transitions sometimes work for me. I find fog mysterious yet not entirely withholding what comes next. Definitely not as scary as a solid wall or curtain.
Which quote spoke to you the most? And, do you have any favorites on the list in terms of figures in history in general?
Off to follow you on here. My goodness, you came up with brilliant topics.
Fareedbakhsh on August 19, 2018:
Interesting specially Karl Marx oh what a man he was. We never know what our last words would be?
Sherry Haynes on August 19, 2018:
Its fascinating to know last words of these people. Some are really weird and some keeps me thinking. Thanks for another cool article!
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on August 18, 2018:
Pamela- thanks for your kind comment. I didn't know Churchill was bipolar; it's definitely possible that was a factor!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 18, 2018:
I have never considered what my last words would be, but this group of people your wrote about is interesting. Churchill was bipolar, so maybe that explains his last words. Some seemed kind of odd, and others more sensible. Very interesting article.