by George J. Dance

Williston fish

Williston Fish (1858-1939). Courtesy Gombessa Tripod.

Williston Fish (January 15, 1858 - December 19, 1939) was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer.[1]


Fish was born in Berlin Heights, Ohio. He attended Oberlin College and the United States Military Academy at West Point, following which he spent 6 years of service in the United States Army. He then went into law in Illinois.[1]

He became a successful attorney who practiced in Chicago, and wrote on the side. He published 2 novels, and hundreds of poems and stories.[2]

He was married to Mary Gertrude (Cameron). They had 5 children, 2 of whom died as infants.[1]

Williston Fish in Western Springs, Illinois.[1]


His most famous piece of writing is "A Last Will" (a will by a fictitious Charles Lounsberry, bequeathing "the dandelions in the fields and the right to play freely among them" to the children of the world, and so forth), published in Harper's Weekly in 1898. The piece has been reprinted at least 100 times since (not always with credit to Fish). "It has been printed as a Christmas keepsake, as a children’s book (Pictures in the Fire, 1993), and in fine-press editions by some of the leading book designers of the 20th century. It has appeared in periodicals as diverse as the New York Times, American Forests, the Georgia Bar Journal, and church bulletins. It was included in a 1908 Harvard Ph.D. dissertation, a Canadian school reader, and Irving Wallace’s 1977 bestseller, The Seven Minutes. It has been translated into Spanish, French, and Portuguese, and it inspired a song by Irving Berlin (“When I Leave the World Behind,” 1915). Today it’s on the Internet in blogs, the Ethical Wills Web site, and the online fan club of TV actor Gene Barry, to name only a few."[2]



  • Won at West Point: A Romance on the Hudson. Chicago: Rand, McNally, 1883.
  • Short Rations. New York: Harper, 1899.

Short fictionEdit

A Last Will
  • A Last Will. New York: Doran, 1900; Boston: Alfred Bartlett, 1908.
  • The Will of Charles Lounsbury. Boston: Alfred Bartlett, 1907.
  • A Legacy to Mankind. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1907.
  • His Will. Mt. Vernon, NY: William Edwin Rudge, 1916.
  • I, Charles Lounsbury. Montreal: privately published, 1923.
  • The Will of Charles Lounsbury. Wellesley, MA: Merrythought Press, 1925.
  • The Last Will and Testament of Charles Lounsbury. New York: Harbor Press, 1926.
  • The Last Will and Testament of Charles Lounsbury. San Francisco: Printed for William Andrews Clark, Jr. by John Henry Nash, 1929.
  • The Last Will and Testament. San Francisco: Nash, 1935.
  • I, Charles Lounsbury. Providence, RI: privately published, printed by The Akerman-Standard Co., 1935.
  • The Will of Charles Lounsbury. New York: Loring & Mussey, 1936.
  • I, Charles Lounsbury. New York: privately published, printed by Herbert B. Covert, 1940.
  • A Last Will. Utica, New York: Howard Coggeshall on Private Types by Frederic W. Goudy, 1942.
  • "My Will — I, Charles Lounsbury": The expression of a man's generous understanding and his unquenchable spirit. New York: Frederick W. Schmidt, 1959.
  • The Most Beautiful Will Ever Written. Larchmont, NY, & Bronxville, NY: 1959.
  • The Lounsbury Will. Marble Hill Press, 1962.
  • I, Charles Lounsbury: My will. Cincinnati, OH: privately printed [Fleuron Press], 1960)(Cincinnati: Privately printed [Fleuron Press], 1981)
  • A Last Will. Locust Valley, NY: Four Winds Press, 1975.


  • Memories of West Point, 1877-1881 (edited by (Gertrude Fish Rumsey & Josephine Fish Peabody). (3 volumes), Batavia, NY: J.F. Peabody, 1957.
  • Pictures in the Fire ((compiled by Harold Darling). Seattle, WA: Blue Lantern Books, 1994, 1998.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 A Last Will, Gombessa Tripod. Web, June 16, 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Michael Widemer, "Williston Fish’s 'A Last Will'," Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas School of Law. Web, June 16, 2015.
  3. James R. Elkins, Williston Fish, Strangers to Us All: Lawyers and poetry, College of Law, West Virginia University. Web, June 16, 2015.

External linksEdit

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