[Ads-l] I am dying, as I have lived, beyond my means

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 24 14:57:58 UTC 2021

According to legend, when Oscar Wilde heard about the enormous payment
required for a life-prolonging surgery he said: "I suppose that I
shall have to die beyond my means."

A variant tale depicted Wilde ordering expensive celebratory champagne
and delivering the quip in the subject line. The Quote Investigator
website now has an article on this topic.


The earliest published evidence I have found appeared in a Gloucester,
England newspaper on December 15, 1900:

[ref] 1900 December 15, Gloucestershire Echo, News Siftings, Quote
Page 4, Column 5, Gloucestershire, England. (British Newspaper
Archive) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
The man of brilliant wit who died the other day in Paris was not
forsaken by this ruling readiness, still strong in death. He was told
that he must have an operation. He could not afford the fee, he said
at first. The point was pressed by the surgeon. “Very well,” said the
patient, with a flash from the ashes of his old spirit, “I must die
beyond my means.” And he did.
[End excerpt]

The QI article also includes a pertinent excerpt from a private letter
that was written December 14, 1900 and published many years later in
1916. This letter was known to previous researchers.

[Begin acknowledgement]
Many thanks to previous researchers including Richard Ellmann, Fred R.
Shapiro, Ralph Keyes, and Nigel Rees.
[End acknowledgement]

Feedback welcome
Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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