It’s a morbid post, I know, but sometimes it’s therapeutic to spend time deciphering the last words of the dead if only to understand our own mortality.
Today, we are going to look at the final words of satirist Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clements).
Twain’s last words or scribble
Conflicting stories exist for most things in history; after all, history is told by the winners, or, in this case, those who were there to witness the end times of popular authors.
One story goes that Twain’s last words weren’t actually spoken; rather, they were written. Twain, who had been bedridden with sickness and was hardly conscious in his last weeks of life (perhaps due to a 20-cigar-a-day habit), woke in the morning on the day of his death and briefly spoke to his daughter, Clare, before requesting his glasses by writing a note (Manchester Guardian). The scribbles of his note were the last words he wrote before falling back asleep and dying sometime later.
Another story, and one of the more popular stories of his death it seems, says that Twain held Clara’s hand and uttered, “If we meet…” before falling to sleep and dying “several hours later” (Italie). What it was he wanted to say is a mystery.
Whether true or not, I think there is something peaceful about his death in the second story. After the loss of his wife and two daughters (one to spinal meningitis and another to accidental drowning) I can only imagine the heartache he must have felt at the end of his life. To pass away quietly while holding his only remaining daughter’s hand sounds kind to someone who had lived through so much pain and loss.
Italie, Hillel. “Mark Twain’s Final Years.” The San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Apr. 2010, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-mark-twains-final-years-2010apr14-story.html
Mark Twain’s Last Words. 22 1910, https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2010/jul/23/archive-mark-twains-last-words-1910.