"Genug" (that's German for "enough"), is said to be the last word spoken by Emmanuel Kant

"Genug" (that's German for "enough"), is said to be the last word spoken by Emmanuel Kant. And Genug is the heading to what Norman Davies in A History of Europe calls a capsule: a ruled off section in his narrative rather like what a newspaper calls a panel or box. This particular capsule is de voted to the last words of famous people. "God will forgive me. It's his profession" is often given in its French version and you may have seen it attributed to some French king or giant of literature. Here it is allocated (in English, of course), to Heinrich Heine, the German poet, who died in 1856.

According to this list Martin Luther went out with "Yes", and Henry VIII with "Monks, monks, monks!" Only one woman given, Julie de Lespinasse (don't know her). Anyway, she asked in 1776, "Am I still alive?" Mozart had as his last line: "I was writing this for myself." What was it? We don't know. Beethoven announced "The Comedy is over". Voltaire was testy; "For God's sake, let me die in peace", and Napoleon was touchine with just "Josephine." Charles 1st of England is: "Remember". So then was it Charles 2nd who said "Let not poor Nellie starve". Nell Gwynn, that is.

Goethe, of course, said "Mehr Licht" or "more light". And Georges Clemenceau was vigilant to the end: "I wish to be buried upright - facing Germany." That was in 1929. He hadn't long to wait. They were back in 1940. Many more. Davies refers to G. Brandreth's Famous Last Words and Tombstone Hum our (New York 1989).

Davies has an interesting perspective on Europe. At least two of his maps show the Continent standing on an Eastern European base, with the Iberian Peninsula and the offshore is lands of ourselves and Britain running, at the top, into the Atlantic. No wonder a friend, when in Poland in recent years, was several times told to read Davies's History of Poland; the only historian writing in English to understand that country.


Davies gets in an amazing range of topics; his technique, he writes, "may be likened to that of a pointilliste painter". Poets are quoted, with a bent towards the German Romantics; news paper headlines too. And, writing of Sir Edward Grey, Britain Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the 1914 war (later Lord Gray of Falloden), does not fail to mention the tidbit that Earl Grey tea was named in the second Earl's honour.