History of the Suicide Notes Part 3

About the history of the suicide note, examples of the different varieties, the use of the notes as insights into the psychology of the suicide.

Good-bye, Cruel World, or: Notes on the Suicide Note. . .

Suicide notes have been a mainstay of the theater, the novel, the film. In his diaries Dostoevski speaks of being obsessed by the note of a 17-year-old girl:

I am undertaking a long journey. If I should not succeed, let people gather to celebrate my resurrection with a bottle of Cliquot. If I should succeed, I ask that I be interred only after I am altogether dead, since it is particularly disagreeable to awake in a coffin in the earth. It is not chic!

And suicide itself has had a long association with poets and artists and writers, as well as movie stars and actors. The Russian poet Sergei Esenin wrote a final poem in his own blood before hanging himself.

Three surrealists had notes prepared months or even years before their deaths. Jacques Rigaut had already written "Suicide is a vacation" before he shot himself. Jacques Vache, who took his own life (and that of a friend) with an overdose of opium, had penned:

I shall die when I want to die, and then I shall die with someone else. To die alone is boring; I should prefer to die with one of my best friends.

And Rene Crevel, called the most beautiful of surrealists, before gassing himself, had written:

Is it true . . . that one commits suicide for love, for fear, for syphilis? It is not true. . . . Suicide is a means of selection. Those men commit suicide who reject the quasi-universal cowardice of struggling against a certain spiritual sensation so intense that it must be taken, until further notice, as a sensation of truth. Only this sensation permits the acceptance of the most obviously just and definitive of solutions: suicide.

Eighteenth-century poet Eustach Budgell threw himself into the river, leaving behind the note:

What Cato did and Addison approved Cannot be wrong

Sylvia Plath left a simple line asking that her doctor be notified, and actress Carol Landis left a letter to her mother. Van Gogh left a message in the media he knew best, when he painted the frightening canvas Cornfield with Crows. And before drowning herself, Virginia Woolf wrote to her husband:

I have a feeling I shall go mad. I cannot go on any longer in these terrible times.

I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it but can not fight any longer. I owe all my happiness to you but cannot go on and spoil your life.

The wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote simply:

My life is so miserable I wish for no more of it.

Some suicides phrase their notes in the form of newspaper obituaries, referring to themselves in the 3rd person. Many of these are printed verbatim in the obituary columns. Others leave behind notes reading only "I'm sorry" or "No comment."

"Th-th-th-that's all, folks!" wrote a San Francisco dishwasher, using the tag line from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. And then he hung himself.

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