Famous Last Wills and Testaments of Writers and Poets Part 1

Some famous and bizarre last wills and testaments of writers including Shakespeare, Dickens, and Orwell.

Petrarch Italian poet Died: 1374

Last Will: Remembering the chill of an Italian winter, the poet left 200 gold florins to Boccaccio, to buy a robe that would stave off the cold.

Francois Rabelais French author Died: 1553

Last Will: Opened in Paris, the entire will read: "I have nothing. I owe much. The rest I leave to the poor."

William Shakespeare British playwright Died: 1616

Last Will: Shakespeare left considerable real estate holdings in and near Stratford to his 2 daughters, Susanna and Judith, making certain exceptions. Lesser bequests were made to friends, and to the family. The will was that of a typical country squire, but its content puzzles historians. Shakespeare mentioned his wife only with the curious bequest, "I give unto my Wiffe my 2nd-best bed with the furniture." This was written into the will as a scribbled interlineation. And he omitted all mention whatsoever of his literary works. The omission contributed to the controversy that "William Shackspeare"--as he signed the will--did not author the Elizabethan dramas.

John Donne British poet Died: 1631

Last Will: The greatest of the metaphysical poets, Donne left pound 500 to maintain his mother, and a 54-line poem entitled "The Will." "Any man's death diminishes me," he wrote earlier in his Devotions, "because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."

Samuel Johnson British author Died: 1784

Last Will: To God, Johnson bequeathed ". . . a Soul polluted with many sins but I hope purified by Repentance." After making certain small gifts to others, he gave the bulk of his estate, totaling pound 2,300 in the form of an annual annuity for "Francis Barber, my Man Servant, a Negro." Dr. Johnson's library was sold for pound 250, and his Litchfield house was given to relatives.

Robert Louis Stevenson British novelist Died: 1850

Last Will: Requested that he be buried at the top of Mount Vaea, Samoa, "under the wide and starry sky" he had described in his "Requiem."

Heinrich Heine

German poet

Died: 1856

Last Will: Leaving his entire estate to his wife, provided she would marry again, Heine explained his reason for the condition with Teutonic bluntness. "Because," his will read, "then there will be at least one man to regret my death."

Charles Dickens

British novelist

Died: 1870

Last Will: Leaving just less than pound 80,000, Charles John Huffham Dickens--as his will named him--noted that he had paid to his wife, from whom he was separated, pound600 annually while assuming all expenses for the family. Later, he asked that those who came to his funeral "wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hatband, or other such revolting absurdity."

George Orwell

British novelist

Died: 1950

Last Will: Requested that his grave be marked with his real name, Eric Arthur Blair. Left pound 9,909.

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