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D'Annunzo to Frohman
D'Annunzo, Gabriele (1863-1938)

"I'm bored.  I'm bored."

Gabrielle D'Annunzo was an Italian poet, novelist, playwright, playboy, war hero, and fascist adventurer.  For forty years he dominated cultural circles in Italy and often used his romantic liaisons as subject matter for his literary works.  He fled to Paris in 1910 to escape indebtedness created by his extravagant lifestyle, and once World War One began he aggressively lobbied for Italy's entry on the Allied side.  During the war, he achieved fame as a naval commander and ace pilot.  Following the armistice, D'Annunzo and a band of one thousand occupied the Adriatic city of Fiume where he served as dictator until 1921 when he relinquished control.  His political philosophy, a combination of libertarian, radical, and rightist ideals, formed the foundation for Italian fascism.

Danton, Georges Jacques (1759-1794)

"Show my head to the people.  It is worth seeing."

Danton was a French radical who became the acknowledged leader of the revolution following the storming of the Bastille in 1789.  Eventually out-radicaled by Robespierre, Danton retired to his home in Arcis, but returned to Paris in 1793.  He should have stayed at his home, for he was branded as "indulgent" of the monarchy and sentenced to death.  When Danton was asked to formally reply to the revolutionary tribunal that sentenced him, he defiantly began, "My address will soon be annihilation.  As for my name, you will find it in the pantheon of history."   Later as he placed his neck in the guillotine, he gave his final instructions to the executioner.

Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)

"I am not the least afraid to die."

Charles Darwin's study of the diversity of animal species led him to conclude that living things evolve from a process of natural selection.  In 1859, following the publication of his book, On the Origin of Species, he and his work were attacked by religious fundamentalists who realized the British naturalist's theory dealt a fatal blow to the Christian belief in literal biblical creation.  Twelve years later, when he published The Descent of Man and applied his theory to humans, the assault intensified. In 1882,  Darwin died peacefully in bed after speaking with his son.

In 1985, Jimmy Swaggart, an American televangelist, told his enthralled listeners that Darwin had a change of heart on his deathbed, renounced his scientific works, and asked for a Bible so that he could learn to love Jesus.  Apparently this tale stems from a lie told by the wife of Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Hope to seminary students in 1882.  She claimed that she was with Darwin at the end and that he professed "How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done!"  Further, she added that he begged her to gather an audience so he could "speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation. . . ."  Darwin's daughter soon debunked this fabrication, reporting that "Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness.  I believe he never even saw her, but in any case she had no influence over him in any department of thought or belief.  He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier. . . .  The whole story has no foundation whatever."

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Dean, James (1931-1955)

"That guy's got to stop. . . .  He'll see us."

When James Dean died only one of his movies, East of Eden, had been released.  The other two, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, had not.  In fact Dean had just finished filming on Giant when he and a stuntman jumped into his new Porsche, named "The Little Bastard," and sped off to a weekend racing event in Salinas, California.  They were stopped by a patrol car near Bakersfield, and Dean received a ticket for speeding.  Two hours later, while on a two-lane highway, Dean saw a car begin to turn onto the road ahead.  When Dean's Porsche slammed into the vehicle, it's driver's side was crushed.  Dean was killed instantly, and his passenger was seriously injured when thrown out of the car.  The driver of the other vehicle, a 23 year old college student, suffered only minor injuries.

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Decatur, Stephen ( 1779-1820)

"I am mortally wounded . . . I think"

Stephen Decatur was an American naval hero who distinguished himself during the War of 1812 and in the expeditions against the Barbary States.  A skilled duelist, Decatur accepted a challenge from a disgraced Navy Captain on whose court-martial he had sat.  Decatur lost.

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DeMolay, Jacques (1244?-1313)

"Let evil swiftly befall those who have wrongly condemned us - God will avenge us." 

Jacques DeMolay was elected Master of the Knights Templar shortly after the order had been defeated by the Muslims and expelled from the Holy Land.  The Templars' headquarters was temporarily established in Cyprus, and many Templars returned to the continent while DeMolay sought support throughout Europe for a new Crusade.   In 1306, he was summoned to France by Pope Clement V (who had been installed in French "captivity" by Phillip IV, "the Fair") to discuss combining the Templars with another order, the Knights Hospitaller.  Clement informed DeMolay that Phillip, who coveted the extensive lands and treasure owned by the order, had made horrendous charges of Templar homosexuality, heresy, blasphemy, and thievery.  Infuriated, DeMolay challenged the king to make the charges public, and after many weeks of secret plotting Phillip surprised all of Europe by arresting almost 5,000 Templars including DeMolay.  Clement initially chose not to intervene, but eventually sided with the king. The next seven years of Templar imprisonment included a series of tortures, confessions, recantations, and executions until Phillip felt he had sufficient power to eliminate the Master himself.  DeMolay was was executed along with Geoffrey de Charney, the Temple Preceptor of Normandy.  Phillip had both men taken to the Isle of Javiaux, a small island in the River Seine where they were slowly roasted to death over a hot, smokeless fire.  Throughout the ordeal, DeMolay shouted out curses to Phillip and Clement. 

Thirty-three days later, Pope Clement V died painfully from cancer, abandoned by his friends.  Seven months later, Philip the Fair died violently in a hunting accident. 

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Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales (1961-1997)

"My God.  What's happened?"

Diana and Prince Charles divorced in 1996, shortly after their mutual public confessions of adultery and infidelity.  Within the year, Diana had hooked up with the controversial international playboy and millionaire deadbeat, Dodi Al Fayed.  After an evening of partying, Diana and Dodi hopped into their automobile along with their bodyguard and ordered their drunk chauffeur to race through the streets of Paris in an attempt to outrun the following paparazzi.  Thankfully, when the big Mercedes crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel no innocent bystanders were killed or injured.  Princess Diana's last words were recorded in official police files.

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Dickinson, Emily (1830-1886)

". . . the fog is rising"

Emily Dickinson was one of the greatest and most prolific American poets, yet she published only seven poems, all anonymously, during her lifetime.  She was born and died in the same house in Amherst, Massachusetts.  In between, she left her hometown only a handful of times, and after 1872, she seldom ventured out her house or yard.  A rather outgoing young girl, she retreated in to a tighter circle of family and friends as she grew older and communicated primarily through cryptic letters and fragments of poetry.  Even during her terminal illness, Bright's Disease (a old term that included a variety of kidney problems), she only permitted her physician to perform examinations by watching through a partially closed door.  She died on May 15, 1886, after lapsing in and out of consciousness for several days.  It is possible that her last words alluded to a poem she wrote nearly twenty-five years earlier, I've seen a dying eye.

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Dreiser, Theodore (1871-1945)

"Shakespeare, I come."

Theodore Dreiser was an American novelist whose best known works are Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy.  He was a friend of H. L. Menken and asked him to serve as his literary executor during World War One.  At the time, he confided to Menken that he had already decided upon his last words, "Shakespeare, I  come."  Menken later joked that he did not know what Dreiser last words really were, but that he had heard he called  for a "Seidel Helles." 

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Dubroff, Jessica (1989-1996)

"Mom, do you hear the rain?  Do you hear the rain?  Mom, I just want to take off in the plane.

Jessica Dubroff was a four foot two inch, 42 lb, seven year old child who had been encouraged by her parents to set a record as the youngest person to fly across the United States.  After four months of flight training, Jessica, her father, and a flight instructor set off on their highly publicized journey.  Her plane plummeted to earth shortly after take-off following a stop at Cheyenne, Wyoming.  All three were killed.  As she prepared for take-off, Jessica spoke her last known words during a phone call to her mother, Lisa Blair Hathaway.

Duncan, Angela "Isadora" (1878-1927)

"Farewell, my friends.  I go to glory."

Isadora Duncan was an American dancer who, although never very popular in the United States, entertained throughout Europe, performing shows featuring a new style of dance she invented that was based on the figures found on Greek vases.  She flaunted traditional mores and morality, and her private life was subject to considerable scandal, especially following the tragic drowning of her children in the Seine River.  One evening after a party in Nice, Duncan hopped into a Buggati with a new male friend and shouted farewell to her friends standing nearby, "Adieu, mes amis.  Je vais la glorie.".  She did not notice that her trade-mark long scarf had fallen under one of the vehicle's rear wheels, and the cloth simultaneously tightened around her neck and wrapped around the axle.  Duncan was yanked violently from the car and drug for several yards before the driver noticed what had happened.  She died almost instantly of a broken neck.

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Earhart, Amelia (1897-1937)

"KHAQQ calling Itasca.  We must be on you, but cannot see you.  Gas is running low."

Amelia Earhart was the first women to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and holds many other aviation "firsts" as well.  In 1937, she attempted an around-the-world flight along the equator with her co pilot, Frederick J. Noonan.  Her plane mysteriously disappeared after taking off from New Guinea.  Despite a large scale naval search, the plane was never found.

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Eastman, George (1854-1932)

"My work is done, why wait?"

George Eastman, the American inventor, first became interested in amateur photography while working at a bank in Rochester, New York.  He developed a process that not only simplified the method of making photographic plates, but also allowed them to be mass produced with relative ease.  Realizing that there was a large market for his plates among other photographers, he went into business for himself, eventually introducing flexible film in 1884 and the first mass produced camera for amateurs, the Kodak box camera, in 1888.  As his company thrived, Eastman made a fortune and donated vast sums to universities, dental clinics, and musical institutions.  At the age of 77 and plagued by a painfully debilitating spinal disease, Eastman put his affairs in order, wrote a note, and committed suicide.

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Edison, Thomas A.  (1847-1931)

"It's very beautiful over there."

In the Spring of 1929, Thomas Edison traveled from his home and laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey, to Dearborn, Michigan, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his invention of the electric light as well as the opening of both the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.  After being introduced by President Hoover, Edison delivered a brief banquet speech and then collapsed.  The president's physician quickly rushed to Edison's aid and determined that he was suffering from severe pneumonia.  Edison returned to Menlo Park but never fully recovered.  He collapsed again in August, 1931, and was bedridden for the last two months of his life.  He sank into semi-consciousness, and his second wife, Mina, remained by his side.  On Edison's last day, she leaned close and asked, "Are you suffering?" to which he replied, "No, just waiting."  Edison then looked out of his bedroom window and softly spoke his last words.

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Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1841-1910)

"Yes, I have heard of it.  I am very glad."

Edward VII did not become king until his mother, Queen Victoria, died in 1901.  She had previously denied him any role in ruling the country, so before assuming the crown, Edward devoted his energy to women, drink, food, tobacco, and gambling.  He surprised many when he devoted himself to government after his coronation.  Obese and addicted to huge cigars, Edward suffered a series of heart attacks and his doctors could to nothing except provide morphine to kill the pain.  He continued to work until finally collapsing on the floor after walking to a cage of pet canaries.  Later that evening, his son visited to report that one of the king's horses, Witch of the Air, had won the 4:15 race at Kempton Park.  After telling the Duke of Windsor that he had already been informed by telegraph, Edward fainted and lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered.

Edward's last words have also been recorded as "No, I shall go on.  I shall work to the end."  While the king did say this, it was much earlier in the day.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1890-1969)

"I've always loved my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, and I've always loved my country.  I want to go.  God, take me"

Dwight Eisenhower was the thirty-fourth President of the United States, but he is perhaps even more famous as a military officer.  During World War Two, Eisenhower led  the Allied invasions of North Africa, Italy, and France as the Supreme Allied Commander.  Afterward, he served a tour as the Army Chief of Staff and finished his career as the first military commander of NATO.  Following his presidency, Eisenhower retired to his farm in Gettysburg.  He died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1969.

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Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533-1603)

"All my possessions for a moment of time."

Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was the Queen of England from 1558 until her death in 1603.  Her reign is famous for the glamour of her court as well as the success of her policies.  By the end of her life she had outlived all of her friends, suitors, and enemies.  She spent most of her last days in partial consciousness in a pile of pillows on her chamber floor but finally consented to be placed in her bed just before she died.

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Euler, Leonhard (1707-1783)

"I die."

Leonhard Euler was the most prolific mathematician in history producing over 850 books and articles.  Although Swiss, he spent most of his adult life in Berlin and St. Petersburg. On the afternoon of his death while amusing himself with mathematical puzzles and calculating the orbit of the newly discovered planet, Uranus, he asked that his young grandson be brought in.  Euler stopped his work, finished his tea, and began to play with the child.  Suddenly, his pipe dropped from his mouth, he announced his death, and fell to the floor.  The backlog of articles that Euler had written was so large that the St. Petersburg Academy continued to publish them for the next fifty years.

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Fairbanks, Douglas, Sr. (1883-1939)

"Never felt better."

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., was the premier swashbuckling star of early Hollywood whose feature films included Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, The Three Musketeers, and The Mark of Zorro.  In December, 1939, after returning from a USC-UCLA football game, Fairbanks became ill.  He skipped work the following morning with chest and arm pain.  A doctor prescribed total bed rest, a restricted diet, and professional nursing care.  Fairbanks slept on and off through the morning and awakened in the afternoon asking his attendant to open the window.  "How are you?" the attendant asked.  Fairbanks answered with a grin, rolled over, and went back to sleep.  He died later that night with his dog, a 150 lb. mastiff, named Marco Polo, curled up at the foot of his bed.

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Favras, Thomas de Mahay, Marquis de (1744-1790)

"I see that you have made three spelling mistakes." 

The Marquis de Favras was caught by the radicals of the French Revolution as he plotted to help Louis XVI escape.  Convicted of treason after a two month trial, he was handed his official death sentence by the court clerk as he was led to the scaffold.

Fetterman, William J.  (1833-1866)

"Give me 80 men and I'll ride through the whole Sioux nation."

In November, 1866, Captain William J. Fetterman reported in to the 18th U.S. Infantry at Fort Phil Kearney.  At the time, the regiment was tasked with containing Red Cloud and his band of Sioux.  Its commander, Colonel Carrington, found Fetterman to be a troublesome officer despite an exemplary Civil War combat record.  Several times during December, the Sioux launched forays against settlers and grazing herds in hopes of baiting the soldiers into a hot pursuit and subsequent ambush.  Each time, officers commanding patrols sent out in response by Colonel Carrington recognized the traps before they could be sprung.  The Sioux set the stage once more on December 21 when they pinned down a supply train not far from the fort.  Carrington identified an officer to lead the 80 man relief column, but Fetterman, although inexperienced in Indian warfare, demanded the assignment based upon seniority.  Carrington acquiesced but gave Fetterman emphatically explicit instructions not to pursue any Indians.  A second patrol sent out later in the day found the bodies of Fetterman and all 80 of his men stripped of their clothing and horribly mutilated.

Field, John (1782-1837)

"I am a pianist."

John Fields was a British pianist and composer whose works were said to have a major influence on Chopin.  As he lay dying, his friends thought a minister should be summoned.  However, no one had ever heard Field mention his religion.  "Are you a Papist or a Calvinist?" one whispered.  "I am a pianist," Field answered.

Fields, W.C.  (1880-1946)

"God damn the whole fuckin' world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta."

W. C. Fields was a vaudeville comedian who became a big star in movies like Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.  Fields, who drank heavier in real life than in his movies--allegedly up to 2 quarts of martinis each day, developed cirrhosis as well as severe kidney and stomach problems.  Even after entering a Pasadena sanitarium to dry out, he continued to drink two bottles of gin--smuggled to him by friends--each day.  He woke on Christmas morning in excruciating pain caused by a massive and untreatable stomach hemorrhage.  Just before he died, he spoke his last words to his long-time mistress, Carlotta Marti. 

Other far less probable deathbed phrases have been suggested as well, including, "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia," "So, I have enough money to buy every child in New York a bicycle? Well, fuck'em," and "I'm looking for loopholes" (when asked why he was reading a Bible).

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Fischer, Adolf (1859-1887)

"This is the happiest moment of my life."

Adolf Fischer, a German anarchist, was a principal leader in the Chicago branch of the International Working People's Association, better known as the Black International.  After organizing a walkout at the McCormick Harvester Works, gunfire broke out between anarchist supporters and police.  Immediately, the Black International distributed a circular urging workers to "arm" themselves, assemble at Haymarket Square, and take "revenge."  At the rally, Fischer and seven other anarchist leaders addressed the three thousand workers who showed up.   After several hours of rather boring political oratory, the crowd became restless and most began to go home.  Shortly thereafter, a  police detachment arrived and ordered those who remained to disperse.  The anarchist speakers objected, and someone tossed a bomb into the middle of the police ranks, killing one man and injuring about sixty others.  The surviving police opened fire as did a number of  anarchists and workers; another sixty men were injured or killed.  The person who threw the bomb was never captured, but the anarchists who spoke at the rally were arrested and charged as accessories to murder.  All were convicted.  One was sentenced to fifteen years, the others to death.  Fischer was hanged in November 1887. The Haymarket rioters have long-since become martyrs and heroes of international communism and anarchy, and leftist interpretations of the event abound.

A similar scaffold pronouncement was made by George Eugel, another of the Haymarket anarchists, "Hurray for Anarchy!  This is the happiest moment of my life."

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Flegensheimer, Arthur "Dutch Schultz" (?-1935)

"Mother is the best bet."

Dutch Schultz was born in the Bronx around the turn of the century and quit school in the fourth grade to take up burglary.  A murderous sociopath, Schultz became New York's "king of beer" in during the Prohibition and ran the Harlem numbers racket as well.  Intensely disliked by other gangsters, Schultz went too far when he threatened the life of a federal prosecutor, Thomas Dewey.  Lucky Luciano feared Schultz 's instability would bring too much heat upon all of organized crime, so he contracted with Murder, Inc. to have Schultz eliminated.  On 23 October 1935, Schultz, along with three of his henchmen, were massacred at a Newark, New Jersey, restaurant.  Schultz took three machine gun rounds in the stomach as he left the toilet and died two days later.

Schultz babbled incoherently to the police as he lay dying.  His last words have also been recorded as "Hey, Jimmie! The Chimney Sweeps. Talk to the Sword. Shut up, you got a big mouth! Please come help me up, Henny. Max come over here... French Canadian bean soup...I want to pay, let them leave me alone."

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James Forrestal (1892-1949)

"Frenzy hath seized thy dearest son,
Who from thy shores in glory came
The first in valor and in fame;
Thy deeds that he hath done
Seem hostile all to hostile eyes. . . .
Better to die, and sleep
The never waking sleep, than linger on,
And dare to live, when the soul's life is gone."

James Forrestal was the Secretary of the Navy during World War II.  After the war, President Truman appointed him as the first Secretary of Defense.  He became extremely frustrated when the other branches of Service, especially the Air Force, resisted his proposals.  He became ineffective and depressed by their--and the press's--continuous criticism of his every decision.  After Truman relieved him of his duties, he became paranoid as well.  He told anyone who would listen that he was victim of a vast conspiracy, and he searched closets everywhere, thoroughly convinced that enemies were hiding within.  Forrestal was eventualy admitted to the distinguished visitor suite on the 16th floor of Bethesda Naval Hospital for observation on 2 April.  He appeared to be recovering, but on 22 May, after tying one end of this bathrobe belt around his neck and the other to a radiator pipe, he jumped out the window.  The belt snapped, and Forrestal fell, crashing onto a passageway roof thirteen floors below.  The noise immediately alerted the nursing staff, who found him dead when they arrived at the scene.  Earlier that evening, when an attendant checked during his rounds, he found Forrestal copying verse from a book.  It turned out to be the suicide note, a poem from the Chorus from Ajax by Sophocles.

Fox, Charles James (1749-1806)

"I die happy."

Charles James Fox spent the majority of his political career in the opposition.  He was detested by King George III and consistently challenged the policies of William Pitt the Younger.  Fox was a champion of individual liberties and was instrumental in abolishing the slave trade.  Often reviled for his political opportunism and allegedly scandalous private life, he none the less gave the Whig party a spirit of reform that it would bear throughout the 19th century.

Franz Ferdinand, Archduke (1863-1914)

"It is nothing.  It is nothing."

Franz Ferdinand was a nephew of Emperor Francis Joseph and became the heir to the Austro-Hungarian thrones following the suicide of Archduke Rudolf.  He favored the reorganization of Austria-Hungary to create a third kingdom in Bosnia.  This antagonized Serbian nationals who wished to annex the area themselves.  When the Archduke and his wife, Sophie, visited the Bosnian city of Sarajevo, a Serbian revolutionary, Gavrilo Princip, shot them both as they were driven through the city streets.  It was soon discovered that Princip was a member of a Pan-Slavic radical group and that the Serbian government had officially condoned and possibly funded the assassination.  Austria responded by issuing an ultimatum to Serbia that demanded the suppression of all revolutionary activities as well as direct Austrian participation in internal Serbian affairs.  Both nations mobilized their armies, and Russia quickly did the same, declaring she would fight along side of Serbia.  Germany mobilized her army in response to the Russian buildup and demanded that France, a Russian ally, not mobilize her forces.  When France refused to respond to the German demand, the German army began its march through Belgium, and the Great War began.  Clearly, Franz Ferdinand could not have been more wrong about his mortal wound.

It has also been recorded that as the car sped to the hospital, he murmured to his wife, "Sophie, Sophie, do not die.  Live for our children."

Frederick William I (1688-1740)

"No, not quite naked.  I shall have my uniform on."

Frederick William I, King of Prussia and father of Frederick the Great, is best remembered for for turning Prussia in a powerful state with a large, modern standing army.  On his deathbed, the priest who came to console the king was reading to him from the Book of Job.  "Naked came I out of my mother's womb and naked shall I return thither," read the priest.  "No, not quite naked.  I shall have my uniform on," replied the king with his last breath.

Some have stated that the king's response was to a gathering of friends and family after they sang this verse in a bedside hymn.

Friedell (Friedmann), Egon (1878-1938)

"Watch out, please."

Egon Friedell was a renowned Viennese author, critic, and theater director who opposed the Nazi annexation of Austria.  He died while fleeing Gestapo agents when he jumped out of an office window to avoid capture. 

Freud, Sigmund (1856-1939)

"My dear Schur, you remember our first talk.  You promised to help me when I could no longer carry on.  It is only torture now, and it has no longer any sense."

The founder of psychoanalysis was an inveterate smoker, often consuming 20 cigars each day.  He underwent over thirty operations to remove tumors and fit protheses after being diagnosed with cancer of the jaw in 1923.  After specialists finally reported that it was useless to operate again, Freud remarked that "It is tragic when a man outlives his body."  He was bedridden and in intense pain when he pressured his personal physician for relief and received several large doses of morphine.  He slipped into a coma and died the next day. 

It has also been recorded that Freud mumbled, "It's absurd." as he lost conciousness.

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Frohman, Charles (1860-1915)

"Why fear death?  Death is only a beautiful adventure."

Charles Frohman was the preeminent American theatrical manager between 1890 and 1915.  He happened to be aboard the British passenger ship, Lusitania, when it was sunk by a German submarine in 1915.  Nearly 1200 of the ship's 1900 passengers were drowned.  Frohman was last seen trying to encourage a group of passengers, shouting, "Why fear death?  Death is only a beautiful adventure."  If the phrase sounds familiar, it may be that you recognize it from J. M. Barrie's children's play, Peter Pan:  "To die will be an awfully big adventure."

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