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
From the Inside Flap
William B. Brahms began accumulating information on "lasts" in 1992 as a graduate library student at Rutgers University. While reviewing core reference sources in a reference class, the topic of notable "firsts" was discussed and an excellent encyclopedic resource was demonstrated. This prompted him to ask: Where would one go to look up famous or notable "lasts?" When his question yielded nothing definitive, the idea (or rather the need) for an extensive basic reference work on "lasts" was born. Widely reviewed and highly recommended, Notable Last Facts, published in 2005 has become a core reference work in thousands of libraries and research centers. While researching "last facts," Brahms began to come across many "last words" of people. When he saw the variety of versions reported and few sourced quotations, he began to collect these too. Many Internet lists and books have endeavored to collect "last words," however these works almost exclusively do not cite historic or vetted sources for the majority of the quotations and many of the "reputed" last words are doubtful, misquoted, or clearly contrived. Almost all of the "last words" collections are non-scholarly, limited in scope, and are generally novelties marketed in the humor or miscellaneous sections in bookstores. A few attempts have been made to study and list last words more seriously, but as resources they too are limited (number of entries, breadth of coverage, age). Last Words of Notable People is the largest, most scholarly and comprehensive compilation of recorded "last words" published. Brief biographies for 3500-plus entries identify claims to fame and each quotation is sourced (many additionally annotated). The quotations, drawn from tens of thousands of references, span the globe and millennia. "Different Last Words," as well as similar "Variations" of "last words" for entries are presented when known. Quotations that appear to be bogus are identified and a sourced explanation is given.
--This text refers to the