16
THE "TERRIBLE SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS" -- AT HOME

Celebrities usually treasure their privacy and show themselves to friends and family in a way the world never sees. Francis Grund could write about "the terrible Senator from Massachusetts," but Priscilla Tyler, the president's coquettish daughter-in-law, remembered the "enchanting nonsense" of Webster's dinner conversation and how, after she fainted at her first White House banquet, Webster tried to carry her away from the table while the president poured ice water over them both. Departing from that table in soggy disarray, he continued to be one of the most sought-after dinner guests in Washington, as celebrated for his gossip and his knowledge of good food and wine as for his solemn pronouncements about statecraft.

Despite his reputation for being cold and haughty to strangers, Webster was naturally gregarious and always enjoyed himself in good society. John Kenyon, the intimate of almost every major literary figure in England and a masterful host, remembered Webster "because the man was so genial, so social, so affectionate, so much disposed to talk about prose or verse or fishing or shooting or fine greensward, or great trees, or to enter into common chat about daily things."

Although at ease with the powerful and wealthy on either side of the ocean, he did not forget old friends whose lives had turned out less successfully than his own. A Mrs. Fuller, who had known Webster in her youth, wrote that her family had fallen on hard times after her husband was caught embezzling funds in a Boston bank. The senator gave Mr. Fuller a stern lec

-210-

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