James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy during World War II, committed suicide on this day in 1949. He left this note, a copy of Sophocles' poem, Chorus from Ajax:
"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."
Also on this day, in 1885, novelist Victor Hugo died. This is from nis novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame:
"Quasimodo then lifted his eye to look upon the gypsy girl, whose body, suspended from the gibbet, he beheld quivering afar, under its white robes, in the last struggles of death; then again he dropped it upon the archdeacon, stretched a shapeless mass at the foot of the tower, and he said with a sob that heaved his deep breast to the bottom, 'Oh-all that I've ever loved!'"
Hugo's last words were, according to legend:
"I see black light."