Some, such as Michelangelo’s or John Bunyan’s last words, sound like family or friends wrote them postmortem; some sound glib (murderer Gary Gilmore’s “Let’s do it”); some despairing (Freud’s “Now it’s nothing but torture and makes no sense anymore”); some cryptic (Smollett’s “All is well, my dear”); some cruelly ironic (Benazir Bhutto’s “Long live Bhutto!”); some fitting (aviation pioneer Georges Chavez’s “Higher. Always higher”); and some planned, such as Archbishop Laud’s more than 100 word public prayer before he was executed. The last words attributed to St. Paul, Rasputin, Oliver Cromwell, Judas Maccabaeus, and other notable historic figures are in dispute, with competing statements recorded, each with its sources cited in this compilation organized A–Z by the speakers’ names. Author Brahms (Notable Last Facts, 2005) honors 3,500-plus of them, introducing each with birth and death dates, a thumbnail biography, and notes about the circumstances in which the last words were written or uttered. In cases where two or more last utterances are attributed to an individual, they are labeled as “Variations” if they are similar, and “Different Last Words” if they are dissimilar. Quotations that are probably bogus are labeled as “Doubtful.” This collection is more eclectically international and includes more entries than Edward Le Comte’s Dictionary of Last Words (1955), with its American and European emphases. Because variant names appear as see references in the body of the book, the index by names verges on redundancy. Brahms provides interesting and sometimes informative final biographical tidbits from the mouths and pens of biblical figures and ancient authors through Frank Sinatra and John Denver. This specialty niche resource complements numerous biographical compendiums that focus on the lives of history’s notable kings, murderers, scientists, artists, politicians, preachers, and more. --James Rettig
About the Author
William B. Brahms was born in Camden, New Jersey and was raised and still lives in Haddon Township, New Jersey. He graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Cap and Skull from Rutgers College with a B.A. and from Rutgers University Graduate School of Communication Information and Library Studies with an M.L.S. He has spent his entire career working in public libraries and publishing in New Jersey. Currently he manages and is Chief Librarian at the Camden County, New Jersey Library System. He is also President of Reference Desk Press, Inc. and has published seven books, including the major library reference works Notable Last Facts which was selected as an "Achievement in Publishing" in Booklist's 2005 Editor's Choice issue and Last Words of Notable People which was profiled in Kirkus author Q & A in Kirkus Reviews and featured in magazines including The Atlantic and Mental Floss. Last Words of Notable People reached the Amazon Bestsellers List -- Top 100 in December 2011, and was featured in the John Green (vlogbrothers - nerdfighters) video “Geeking Out Over Dying Declarations” (which received over 250,000 views). Brahms has also written several books on regional history. In particular, his books on Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey (for which he was awarded the Author of the Year Award by the Marconi Foundation in Somerset, NJ) are standard sources for historical information on Franklin Township, where he served as official Township Historian for six years. These works include: Franklin Township Somerset County, NJ: A History, and Images of America: Franklin Township Brahms is also the official historian of several organizations where he has produced historical material that are basic reference works on those groups including the Cap and Skull Society. His book on the historic Westmont Theatre in Westmont, New Jersey is a tie-in to the film The Grand Old Lady directed by Brent J. Donaway; a film in which Brahms also appears. Brahms is also co-author of another title in the national Image of America series, Images of America: Haddon Township. about Haddon Township, New Jersey. He is listed in both Marquis Who’s Who in a America, and Who’s Who in the World. For more information visit the Reference Desk Press website.
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