March 8, 2013, is the 139th anniversary of Millard Fillmore’s death. Famous lore claims Fillmore’s last words were, “The nourishment is palatable.”
What a crock!
Buffalo, N.Y., March 8 — 12 o’clock, midnight. — Ex-President Millard Fillmore died at his residence in this city at 11:10 to-night. He was conscious up to the time. At 8 o’clock, in reply to a question by his physician, he said the nourishment was palatable; these were his last words. His death was painless.
First, I wonder how the devil the writer could possibly know whether Fillmore’s death was painless?
And second, accuracy obsessed as I am, I wonder whether this is the source of the often-attributed to Fillmore quote, “The nourishment is palatable.” Several sources that one might hope would be more careful attribute the quote to Fillmore as accurate — none with any citation that I can find. Thinkexist charges ahead full speed; Brainyquote removed the quote after I complained in 2007. Wikipedia lists it. Snopes.com says the quote is “alleged,” in a discussion thread.
I’ll wager no one can offer a citation for the quote. I’ll wager Fillmore didn’t say it.
Let’s be more stolid: The quote alleged to be Fillmore’s last words, isn’t. No one says “palatable” when they’re dying, not even the man about whom it is claimed that Queen Victoria pronounced him the hansomest man she ever met (just try tracking that one down), and whose strongest legacy is a hoax about a bathtub, started 43 years after he died. No one calls soup “sustenance.”
The alleged quote, the misquote, the distortion of history, was stolen from the obituary in the New York Times. Millard Fillmore did not say, “The sustenance is palatable.”
What were Millard Fillmore’s last words? They may be buried in the notebook of one of his doctors. They may be recorded in some odd notebook held in the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, or in the Library of SUNY Buffalo, or in the New York State Library‘s dusty archives.
But the dying President Fillmore did not say, “The sustenance is palatable.”
Millard Fillmore: We’d protect his legacy, if only anyone could figure out what it is.
This is partly an encore post, based on a post from 2007.
- Millard Fillmore’s links to March 8: Hurrah! and R.I.P. (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Quote of the moment: Should we reconsider Millard Fillmore? (timpanogos.wordpress.com)