Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Be nice and die


French writer Marie de Sevigne died on this day in 1696. She was famous for her witty letters to her daughter.

She wrote:

"It seldom happens, I think, that a man has the civility to die when all the world wishes it."

This is also the date of death of Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin died peacefully in his sleep on April 17, 1790, at age 84. His funeral at Christ Church in Philadelphia attracted the largest crowd of mourners ever known, an estimated 20,000. He was buried beside his wife, Deborah, who had died 16 years before him.

The tombstone on their grave said "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin: 1790."

This inscription had been spelled out in Franklin's last will and testament. As a young man, he had written this epitaph for himself:

The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

Of the thousands of maxims and pithy sayings that Franklin wrote down, here are a few on death:

"Many men die at twenty-five and aren't buried until they are seventy-five."

"Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead."

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing."

And, of course:

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."