I’m sure you all saw the news about Terry Pratchett last week. One of his last requests was that his unpublished works be destroyed unread and that’s just what his estate manager, Rob Wilkins, did at the Great Dorset Steam Fair (whilst live tweeting the whole thing, naturally). Wilkins took Pratchett’s hard drive from his computer and ran over it, thus entirely destroying it, with a vintage steamroller named Lord Jericho*. As sad as I am that I will never see any of the gems that I’m sure he had hidden on that hard drive, I’ve got to admit that it’s a wonderfully fitting end to his career and one that I am certain he would have been proud of. But the news got me thinking… What other ways have authors ended their lives? That, naturally, got me on a hunt for authors’ last words, and let me tell you: they range from the profound to the mundane to the downright daft. Here are some of my favourites.
Jane Austen (1817)
I want nothing but death.
After being asked by her sister if she wanted anything.
JM Barrie (1937)
I can’t sleep.
Except, soon he couldn’t wake up. Or the alternative…
Lord Byron (1824)
Now I shall go to sleep. Goodnight.
Samuel Johnson (1784)
I am moriturus
Literally ‘I am about to die’. A realist to the end.
HG Wells (1946)
Go away! I’m all right!
That’s a good example of just how wrong a person can be.
Thomas Hobbes (1679)
I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap into the dark.
Benjamin Franklin (1790)
Dying men can do nothing easy.
Now now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.
After being asked by a priest to renounce Satan.
Dylan Thomas (1952)
I’ve had 18 straight whiskies…I think that’s the record.
That’s quite impressive, fair play.
Edgar Allan Poe (1849)
Lord, help my poor soul
Mark Twain (1910)
Goodbye. If we meet…
Said to his daughter Clara, who spent the rest of her life wracking her brain for what he could possibly have wanted to say.
Karl Marx (1883)
Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!
Said to his housekeeper who was enquiring about his last words
Henry David Thoreau (1862)
I hope my last words are as baffling and bonkers are Thoreau’s.
* You can see the crushed hard drive at Salisbury Museum in a special Terry Pratchett exhibition.
For more last words and a bit of extra detail, check out the Facebook Live I did on this very topic for Bookshop Bistro yesterday…
Why not join us and see what everyone else is up to? You’re sure to have fun there!