Samuel Butler (1835-1902), The Note-Books
(New York: E.P. Dutton Co., 1917), p. 212:
Lord, let me know mine end, and the number of my days: that I may
be certified how long I have to live (Ps. xxxix. 5).
Of all prayers this is the insanest....The prayer is a silly piece of petulance and it would have
served the maker of it right to have had it granted. "A
painful and lingering disease followed by death" or "Ninety,
a burden to yourself and every one else" — there is not so
much to pick and choose between them. Surely, "I thank
thee, O Lord, that thou hast hidden mine end from me"
would be better. The sting of death is in foreknowledge of
the when and the how.