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The Original Text, 1898

Williston Fish. “A Last Will.” Harper’s Weekly, New York, September 3, 1898.

I, Charles Lounsbury, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do now make and publish this, my last will and testament in order, as justly as may be, to distribute my interests in the world among succeeding men. And first, that part of my interest, which is known in law and recognized in the sheep-bound volumes of the law as my property, being inconsiderable and none account, I make no disposition in this, my will. My right to live, being but a life estate, is not at my disposal, but these things excepted, all else in the world I now proceed to devise and bequeath.

ITEM: I give to good fathers and mothers, but in trust to their children, nevertheless, all good little words of praise and all quaint pet names, and I charge said parents to use them justly, but generously, as the deeds of their children shall require.

ITEM: I leave to children exclusively, but only for the life of their childhood, all and every the dandelions of the fields and the daisies thereof, with the right to play among them freely, according to the custom of children, warning them at the same time against the thistles. And I devise to children the yellow shores of creeks and the golden sands beneath the water thereof, with the dragon flies that skim the surface of said waters, and and the odors of the willows that dip into said waters, and the white clouds that float on high above the giant trees. And I leave the children the long, long days to be merry in in a thousand ways, and the Night, and the trail of the Milky Way to wonder at; but subject, nevertheless, to the rights hereinafter given to lovers; and I give to each child the right to choose a star to be his, and I direct the father shall tell him the name of it, in order that the child shall always remember the name of that star after he has learned and forgotten astronomy.

ITEM: I devise to boys jointly all the idle fields and commons where ball may be played, all snow-clad hills where one may coast, and all streams and ponds where one may skate, to have and to hold the same for the period of their boyhood. And all meadows, with the clover-blooms and butterflies thereof; and all woods, with their appurtenances of squirrels and whirring birds and echoes and strange noises, and all distant places, which may be visited, together with the adventures there to be found. And I give to said boys, each his own place at the fireside at night, with all pictures that may be seen in the burning wood or coal, to enjoy without hindrance and without any incumbrance of cares.

ITEM: To lovers, I devise their imaginary world, with whatever they may need, as the stars of the sky, the red, red roses by the wall, the snow of the hawthorn, the sweet strains of music, and aught else they may desire to figure to each other the lastingness and beauty of their love.

ITEM: To young men jointly, being joined in a brave, mad crowd, I devise and bequeath all boisterous inspiring sports of rivalry, and I give to them the disdain of weakness and undaunted confidence in their own strength. Though they are rude, and rough, I leave them alone the power to make lasting friendships and of possessing companions, and to them exclusively I give all merry songs and brave choruses to sing, with smooth voices to troll them forth.

ITEM: And to those who are no longer children, or youths, or lovers, I leave Memory, and I leave to them the volumes of the poems of Burns and Shakespeare, and of other poets, if there are others, to the end that they may live the old days over again, freely and fully without tithe or diminution; and to those who are no longer children, or youths, or lovers, I leave, too, the knowledge of what a rare, rare world it is.

The "Improved" Text

A variation of the "improved text" first appearing in 1907.

For more on this topic see

I, Charles Lounsbury, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do hereby make and publish this, my last will and testament in order, as justly as may be, to distribute my interests in the world among succeeding men. That part of my interest, which is known in law and recognized in the sheep-bound volumes as my property, being inconsiderable and none account, I make no disposition in this, my will. My right to live, being but a life estate, is not at my disposal, but these things excepted, all else in the world I now proceed to devise and bequeath.

ITEM: I give to good fathers and mothers, in trust to their children, all good little words of praise and encouragement, and all quaint pet names and endearments; and I charge said parents to use them justly, but generously, as the deeds of their children shall require.

ITEM: I leave to children inclusively, but only for the term of their childhood, all, and every, the flowers of the field, and the blossoms of the woods, with the right to play among them freely according to the custom of children, warning them at the same time against the thistles and the thorns. And I devise to the children the banks of the brooks and the golden sands beneath the waters thereof, and the odors of the willows that dip therein, and the white clouds that float high over the giant trees. And I leave the children the long, long days to be merry in a thousand ways, and the night and the moon and the train of the Milky Way to wonder at, but subject, nevertheless, to the rights hereinafter given to lovers.

ITEM: I devise to boys jointly all the idle fields and commons where ball may be played, all pleasant waters where one may swim, all snow-clad hills where one may coast, and all streams and ponds where one may fish, or where, when grim winter comes, one may skate, to have and to hold the same for the period of their boyhood. And all meadows, with the clover-blossoms and butterflies thereof; the woods with their appurtenances; the squirrels and birds and echoes and strange noises, and all distant places, which may be visited, together with the adventures there to be found. And I give to said boys, each his own place at the fireside at night, with all pictures that may be seen in the burning wood, to enjoy without hindrance and without any incumbrance of care.

ITEM: To lovers, I devise their imaginary world, with whatever they may need, as the stars of the sky, the red roses by the wall, the bloom of the hawthorn, the sweet strains of music, and aught else they may desire to figure to each other the lastingness and beauty of their love.

ITEM: To young men jointly, I devise and bequeath all boisterous inspiring sports of rivalry, and I give to them the disdain of weakness and undaunted confidence in their own strength. Though they are rude, I leave them to the powers to make lasting friendships, and of possessing companions, and to them exclusively I give all merry songs and brave choruses to sing with lusty voices.

ITEM: And to those who are no longer children, or youths, or lovers, I leave memory, and bequeath to them the volumes of the poems of Burns and Shakespeare, and of other poets, if there be any, to the end that they may live the old days over again, freely and fully without tithe or diminution.

ITEM: To the loved ones with snowy crowns, I bequeath the happiness of old age, the love and gratitude of their children until they fall asleep.

Items in the Exhibit

These items appeared in the 2008 holiday exhibit. The entries are in chronological order of printing. 

Williston Fish. “A Last Will.” Harper’s Weekly, New York, September 3, 1898.
[Williston Fish.] The Will of Charles Lounsbury. Boston: The Merrymount Press, 1907.
Williston Fish. A Last Will. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1908.
Charles Loundsberry (attributed) [Williston Fish.] The Happy Testament. London: Chatto &
                Windus, 1913.
Irving Berlin. “When I Leave the World Behind.” New York: Waterson, Berlin & Snyder, Music
               Publishers, 1915.
[Williston Fish.] His Will. [N. p.: Privately printed for Theodore Weicker, 1924.]
[Williston Fish.] I Charles Lounsbury. Montreal: Ronalds Press, 1923 and 1926.
[Williston Fish.] The Last Will and Testament of Charles Lounsbury. New York: Harbor Press,
               1928.
Christmas, 1929. The Last Will and Testament of Charles Lounsbury. Printed for
               William Andrews Clark, Jr. San Francisco: John Henry Nash, 1929. Folio.
Williston Fish. The Will of Charles Lounsbury. New York: Loring & Mussey, 1936.
[Williston Fish.] The Last Will and Testament of Charles Lounsbury. San Mateo:
               Quercus Press, 1937.
Williston Fish. “The Last Will of Charles Lounsbury.” Case and Comment:
               Law School Edition
, 42 (1946): 9-10.
[Williston Fish.] An Endowment. [S.l.]: Norman Feintech, Samuel Firks, Irving Feintech, c. 1950.
[Williston Fish.] I, Charles Lounsbury: My Will. Cincinatti, OH: Fleuron Press, 1981.
Williston Fish. The Will of Charles Lounsbury. New Port Richey, FL: The Clearview Press, 2001.
                Miniature.

Credits

Special thanks are owed to Chauncy D. Leake (UT Class 1955) for his long support of this collection in honor of poet Mildred A. O'Donohoe (1942-2000). The collection now numbers almost one hundred items in diverse formats. Gratitude is also extended to Mike Widener for his dedication to building this collection and his own generosity.