December 30, 2009 > Legal Eyes
By Stephen F. Von Till
Q: What is the Lawyer's Last Will?
A: A heartwarming legacy from a penniless lawyer, confined as insane in the Almshouse of Chicago, Illinois, in 1907. This Will was found after his death on a scrap of paper in his torn and tattered coat.
Last Will of Charles Lounsberry
I, Charles Lounsberry, being of sound & disposing mind and memory, do hereby make & publish this, my last will & testament, in order as justly may be, to distribute my interest in the world among those succeeding me. That part of my interest which is known in law & recognized in sheep bound volumes as my property, being inconsiderable and of no account, I make no distribution of this in 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 for their children, all good little words of praise & encouragement & all quaint pet names & endearments and I will charge said parents to use them justly, but generously, as needs of their children shall require.
ITEM: I leave to children inclusively, but only for the term of their childhood, all & every flower of the field & blossoms of the woods, with the right to play among them freely, according to 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 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 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, all pleasant waters where one may swim, all snowclad hills where one may coast, all streams & 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 clover blossoms & butterflies thereof; the woods with their appurtenances, the squirrels & the birds, the echoes & strange noises & all distant places which may be visitant, together with the advantages 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 encumbrance or 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 that they may desire to figure to each other the lastingness and beauty of their love.
ITEM: To young men jointly, I devise & bequeath all boisterous & inspiring sports and rivalry & I give them the disdain of weakness & undaunted confidence in their own strength. Though they are rude, I leave them power to make lasting friendships & possessing companions, & to them, exclusively, I give all merry songs & grave choruses to sing with lusty voices.
ITEM: And to those who are no longer children, youths or lovers, I leave memory, & bequeath to them the volumes of the poems of Burns, & Shakespeare, & of other poets, if there be others, to the end that may live the old days over again, freely & fully, without tithe or diminution.
ITEM: To our loved ones with snowy crowns, I bequeath the happiness of old age, and the love & gratitude of their children, until they fall asleep.
Note: On resolution of the Chicago Bar Association, lawyer Lounsberry's Will was sent to probate in the records of Cook County.
The Lesson: A mentally ill lawyer can write a better Will than some who are sane.