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The last words of Isadora Duncan

The last words of Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan was an American who, like Jimi Hendrix in later years, initially found fame in England. She was one of the founders of free expressionist dance, often employing long flowing costume, based on that of Ancient Greece. Her private life was notoriously Bohemian and scandalous.

Her final words were:

Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire. (Farewell, my friends. I go to glory).

Source: The Untold Story: The Life of Isadora Duncan 1921-1927, Mary Desti, 1929.

Background to Isadora Duncan's last words

Duncan's life was unconventional, especially for a woman born in the Victorian era. She ignored traditional codes of morality and had many lovers of both sexes. Her idiosyncratic behaviour wasn't appreciated in her native land and she did little to gain favour by becoming a Russian citizen and, showing her breast on stage in Boston, declaring "This is red! So am I!".

More than most people, she had bad luck with motor cars. Her driver neglected to set the handbrake while repairing her car in Paris. The car rolled downhill into the River Seine and Duncan's two children and their nanny were drowned.

She was herself killed in a car accident. She got into the car of a handsome mechanic, calling out what her friend Mary Desti reported as "Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire". (Farewell, my friends. I go to glory). Her long silk scarf caught in the rear wheel of the car and, as it drew off, she was partially decapitated and instantly killed.

The "I go to glory" quote is almost certainly false. For one thing, Duncan wasn't aware she was about to die and so, for someone about to take a short car journey, it makes little sense. What does make sense is what she actually said. Desti later admitted that she had embroidered the truth and that Duncan's actual last words were "Je vais à l'amour" (I go to love). The suggestion that she was intent on a sexual liaison with the young mechanic, whilst probably true, was thought too improper as a parting shot, even for the nonconformist Duncan.