Famous Suicide Notes from History

These 4 well-known figures chose to end their own lives. Here are the notes they left behind.
Famous Suicide Notes from History

Trigger warning: The following blog discusses suicide. For help or 24-7 support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If there is an immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please call 000.

Here at Willed, we often write about sensitive topics (you know, deathcare is kind of our thing). But before we get stuck into these 4 famous suicide notes from throughout history, we would like to start off by saying that the causes of suicide are complex. Often, the act is the result of a whole host of factors, including manageable mental ill health that sadly goes untreated. Suicide has a devastating impact on the loved ones left behind, but it’s important to know that 24-7 help is always available.

Okay, here are those famous suicide notes:

Vincent van Gogh

Dutch Post-Impressionist Painter

“La tristesse durera toujours.”

English Translation: "The sadness will last forever."

Vincent van Gogh lived with mental ill health throughout his life and died by suicide in 1890. Van Gogh likely lived with what we know today as manic depression or bipolar disorder. Sadly, Van Gogh was not commercially successful while he was alive, and his suicide at 37 came after years of living with mental illness, as well as poverty.

Today, Van Gogh's works are among the world's most expensive and famous paintings, with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam holding the world's most impressive collection of his work.

George Eastman

American Entrepreneur & Founder of the Eastman Kodak Company

“To my friends: My work is done. Why wait? G. E.”

George Eastman invented the Kodak camera – the first camera that made photography possible and accessible for the general public. Up until then, photography had been expensive and kinda complicated. Eastman’s cameras were small, affordable and simple to use. As we know today, Kodak was a widely successful business and actually, it still is. Nearing the end of the 1920s, Eastman was diagnosed with a progressive and incurable spinal disease. He ended his life in March 1932. 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

American Novelist

“When all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one. I have preferred chloroform over cancer.”

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a writer and an advocate for euthanasia for the terminally ill. A utopian feminist and a role model for future feminists, she is well-known for her semi-autobiographical short story The Yellow Wallpaper, which she penned after an acute bout of postpartum psychosis.

In early 1932, Gilman was diagnosed with an incurable form of breast cancer. She died in August 1935 – choosing to die from a chloroform overdose.

Virginia Woolf

English Writer


I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.”

Virginia Woolf is one of many famous writers who battled chronic mental ill health. At the time of her death, she was 59 years of age and was dealing with a relapse of her clinical depression – an illness she had lived with for most of her life. In addition to this, the beginning of the Second World War and the burning down of her house during the Blitz also contributed to her declining mental health. Her suicide note above was penned for her husband, Leonard, and has been described by many as a painful and poignant farewell to her love.

Woolf drowned in the River Ouse on March 28, 1941, leaving behind a legacy of poetic literature that many readers and academics still enjoy, admire and study today.

Wrap up

So there you have it – the heartbreaking, poetic and chilling last words from 4 historical figures who died by suicide.

Write Your Will Online and Support Beyond Blue

Did you know you can include a gift in your Will to Beyond Blue? Improve the lives of people affected by depression, anxiety and suicide and help them achieve their best possible mental health today.

And, a reminder that if you are worried for yourself or someone you know please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24-7 support. If there is an immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please call 000.

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