10 FEBRUARY 2001, Page 28

Intentional last words

From Mr Armand Laferrere Sir: An interesting addition to Paul Johnson's list of famous last words (And another thing, 27 January) is the (apparently genuine) last sentence of the dying Charles Maurras, the French philosopher and politician who inspired and led the small but active French monarchist party in the first half of the 20th century. Maurras, who had been deaf since childhood, exclaimed on his death-bed, 'For the first time, I can hear someone walking.' •

The beauty of the remark lies principally in the fact that Maurras had probably thought of it decades earlier, and made sure that these would really be his last words by refusing to say anything else in the next few hours before his death.

Even as he was facing death, he thought it more important to phrase a memorable goodbye than to let himself be distracted by the anxiety and nostalgia that will beset most of us on a similar occasion. Foolish ness carried that far becomes barely distinguishable from the highest form of courage.

Armand Laferrere