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“I am Death, not taxes. I turn up only once”



Here’s another extract from Some Humours of the Composing Room:

It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of a well-known Dublin physician in the (eighteen) ‘Fifties on reading the following ominous announcement in SAUNDERS’ NEWSLETTER: “Dr. F. has been appointed resident Medical Officer to the Mater Misericordia Hospital. Orders have been issued by the Cemetery Committee for the immediate extension of Glasnevin Cemetery. The works are being executed with the utmost dispatch.”

It was in a Dublin paper also that the following astounding piece of news appeared: “Last Saturday a poor woman was taken ill suddenly in Camden Street and was safely delivered of one sergeant and thirteen constables of the Royal Irish Constabulary.”

Today’s headline is taken from Feet of Clay, by Sir Terry Pratchett. Since Death is speaking it should be all upper-case, of course, but it looked a bit ‘shouty’ when I tried it.

By the way, Daniel Defoe coined the death/taxes link long before Benjamin Franklin, who usually gets the credit. In The Political History of the Devil (1726) Defoe wrote, “Not the Man in the Moon, not the Inspiration of Mother Shipton, or the Miracles of Dr. Faustus, Things as certain as Death and Taxes, can be more firmly believed”. Franklin first used it in a letter to his friend, Jean-Baptiste Leroy, in 1789. Even then, he wrote it in French: “… mais, dans ce monde, il n’y a rien d’assure que la mort et les impôts.”


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