Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The "handsome, portly gentleman" Was . . . Millard!

You guys and gals have really fallen down on the job. In a recent post I challenged you to identify the "handsome, portly gentleman" who Julia Gardiner (later Julia Gardiner Tyler) saw on a train while heading from New York to Washington in about December 1841.

Well, the gentleman in question was none other than the future thirteenth president, Millard Fillmore. The passage is from the Reminiscences of Mrs. Julia G. Tyler found in Volume 3 of The Letters and Times of the Tylers, by Lyon Gardiner Tyler:
My father was of an old family of New York, and possessing means and leisure, placed his time at his daughters' disposal, and there was no wish personal to ourselves which he did not attempt by every available means to gratify. Having become acquainted in former days, while a member of the New York State Senate, with nearly all the prominent politicians of the State, he conceived the idea of a visit to Washington during the session of Congress, thinking that our education would be singularly imperfect if, after seeing the capitals of nearly all the governments of the old world, we should neglect lo see our own. Impressions of our public men began with our trip from New York to Washington. A handsome, portly gentleman came several times into the car in which we were seated and excited the interest of myself and sister by the self-conscious manner in which he looked into the mirror at the head of the car and adjusted his cravat, while he cast several furtive glances in our direction. These glances were, doubtless, accidental, though, soon after our arrival in Washington the gentleman alluded to called upon our parents, in company with an old friend of my father, the Hon. Silas Wright of New York, Then we found that the handsome stranger was no less a personage than Millard Fillmore, the then chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, and alas! also married. By this latter discovery mine and my sister's little romance was dissolved, for, though perhaps a little vain, we always thought him an accomplished gentleman. He afterwards followed in the footsteps of General Taylor as President of the United States.

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