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May 20, 2008

Not just an Irish thing: "Let no man write my epitaph".

It was a 1960 movie with Shelley Winters, Ricardo Montalban, Jean Seberg and Burl Ives (playing a nice boozy Irish Chicago judge) I first saw as a re-run on TV growing up in Cincinnati. It was based on a 1958 novel by Willard Motley. But the words came from a real guy, Irish nationalist Robert Emmet, during the "speech from the dock" before he was hanged by the British in 1803 for leading a march on Dublin Castle. History doesn't think Emmet was the most effective Irish rebel who ever lived--but his final words endured:

I have but one request to ask at my departure from this world – it is the charity of its silence. Let no man write my epitaph. No man can write my epitaph, for as no man who knows my motives and character dares now to vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them rest in obscurity and peace until other times and other men can do justice to them. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then shall my character be vindicated, then may my epitaph be written.

Posted by JD Hull at May 20, 2008 12:52 AM

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