Fa­mous last words

The best of part­ing shots can be funny, poignant or plain de­spair­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - By eMINe sANeR and HOLLy BeNT­Ley

A TIRE­LESS and re­doubtable cam­paigner to the end, Claire Rayner made sure her last words were go­ing to have some im­pact. “Tell David Cameron [the prime min­is­ter],” she re­port­edly told relatives be­fore she died on Mon­day (Oct 11), “that if he screws up my beloved NHS [health ser­vice] I’ll come back and bloody haunt him.”

Go­ing at a good­ish age and af­ter a pro­longed ill­ness – as Rayner did at the age of 79 – does give one the chance to think of those punchy fi­nal words.

The writer Miles King­ton had the best idea. In a se­ries of letters – col­lected in his fi­nal book – writ­ten to his agent Gill Co­leridge as his ill­ness took hold, he said: “I pro­pose that we should all be able to reg­is­ter our fi­nal words in ad­vance of our death ... we should get over the dif­fi­cul­ties of ac­tu­ally mak­ing it the last thing we phys­i­cally say by set­ting up a sim­ple, bind­ing le­gal pro­ce­dure to safe­guard our fi­nal words, by ring-fenc­ing them well in ad­vance.”

That way, per­haps we could all come up with some fi­nal words as good as these: Voltaire (1694-1778) “This is no time for mak­ing new en­e­mies.” On be­ing asked to re­nounce the devil, on his deathbed. (At­trib­uted)

Isadora Dun­can (1878-1927)

“Farewell, my friends. I go to glory.”

Gertrude Steiner (1874-1946)

Just be­fore she died she asked, “What is the an­swer?” On get­ting no re­ply she laughed and asked, “In that case, what is the ques­tion?” Ge­orge V (1865-1936) “Bug­ger Bog­nor.” On be­ing told by a courtier that he would soon be in the sea­side town. Ho­ra­tio Nel­son (1758-1805) “Thank God, I have done my duty. Kiss me, Hardy.”

Henry James

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