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The Last Will of Williston Fish

The Author's Response

Williston Fish. A Last Will. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1908.

In this edition, Williston Fish rather crossly recounts the unfortunate history of his short text as an introduction to the “author approved” version. Since it is difficult to do justice to the combination of annoyance and humor, a portion of the text is reproduced here:

I wrote "A Last Will" in 1897. It was published first in Harper's Weekly in 1898. Shortly afterwards it began to appear in a sporadic way in the newspapers. Whenever a newspaper did not have at hand what it really wanted, which was a piece entitled “Reunion of Brothers Separated for Fifty Years,” or Marriage Customs Among the Natives of the Fricassee islands,” it would run in this piece of mine. In return for the free use of the piece, the paper, not to be outdone in liberality, would generally correct and change it, and fix it up, often in the most beautiful manner; so that I am forced to believe that nearly every paper has on it a learned professor of literature and belles-lettres, always ready to red-ink the essays of the beginner and give them the seeming of masterpieces . . . Some writers can boast that their works have been translated into all foreign languages, but when I look pathetically about for some little boast, I can only say that this one of my pieces has been translated into all the idiot tongues of English.