Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Best Will Ever?

I was looking for information on one of my 9th great-grandfathers - Thomas Fish who died in 1687 in Portsmouth RI - and ran across this work, which was apparently written by a descendant of Thomas Fish - a man named Williston Fish, who wrote it in 1898 for Harper's Monthly magazine. The work is online at http://jrm.phys.ksu.edu/Genealogy/Fish/GenealogyOfThomasFish.txt.



I, Charles Lounsbury, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do here-by make and publish this my last will and testament, in order, as justly as may be, to distribute my interest 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 of no account, I make no disposition of in this my last 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 for 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 needs of their children shall require.

Item; I leave to children exclusively, 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 customs of children, warning them at the same time against thistles and thorns. And I devise to 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, in a thousand ways, and the nights 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 useful, 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 hold the same for the period of their boyhood. And all meadows with the clover blossoms and butterflies thereof; and echoes and strange noises, and all distant places which may be visited, together with the adventures there 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 let or 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 hawthorne, the sweet strains of music, and aught else by which they may desire to figure to each other the lastingness and beauty of their love.

Item; To young men jointly, I Bequeath and devise all boisterous, inspiring sports and rivalry and I give to them the disdain of weakness, and undaunted confidence in their own strength. Though they are rude, I leave to them 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 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 others, to the end that they may live the old days over again, freely and fully without tithe or diminution.

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


Isn't that beautiful? Although written in the fashion of the time, the words still convey their meanings.

1 comment:

Miriam Robbins said...

Randy, this is lovely! What a sweet individual this person must have been, and how expressive! Thank you for sharing it...it made my day.