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Reading a story by A. Blackwood:

“Singular,yes, these last words of dying men,” the tall man was saying, “very singular. You remember Newman’s: ‘More light,’ wasn’t it?” The bookseller nodded. “Fine,” he said, “fine, that!” There was a pause. Mr, Jenkyn stooped lower over the pens. “This, too, was fine in its way,” the gentleman added, straightening up to go; “the old promise, you see, unfulfilled but not forgotten.

They are talking about the last words of their friend. I do not understand what "fine" means in this context. Also this reference to the Newman's: More Light. What does it mean? I assume they refer to words of another dying man, whose last words were "More light", probably?

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    It's actually Goethe whose last words were supposedly "Mehr licht" (more light). phrases.org.uk/famous-last-words/goethe.html Does this refer to Cardinal Newman or to a character in the story? Mar 18, 2021 at 16:18
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    Fine, that = Those are fine words (to be remembered as one's final dying words, but ironically the speaker here seems to have misremembered who actually said "More light!" on their deathbed). Mar 18, 2021 at 17:18
  • @KateBunting Thanks, I was not aware of the possible reference to Goethe. As for your question, there is no Newman in the story, so I guess it refers to the cardinal?
    – John V
    Mar 19, 2021 at 7:10
  • Presumably, as @FumbleFingers implies, the 'tall man' attributed Goethe's words to Cardinal Newman. (I had to look up who said it - I only knew it was a German.) Mar 19, 2021 at 9:20

1 Answer 1

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You could rewrite it like this:

"Do you remember Newman's last words? They were 'More light.'"
"Yes, that was a very fine thing to say."

The meaning of fine is its normal one,

superior in kind, quality, or appearance : EXCELLENT

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  • "Fine, that!" is an expression used in British English but not so much American.
    – randomhead
    Mar 18, 2021 at 14:56

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