On a Fat Man

Tum-Tum was one of the wealthiest, happiest, and dumbest people in all of Britain in the late 1800s. Of course, Tum-Tum wasn’t his name, but it’s what all his friends called him because, as you can imagine, this man had a rather corpulent bent to his frame. And his given, Christian name didn’t seem to fit him because, well, he was so jolly and fat. In fact, he was so fat that he couldn’t button the front of his suit vests.

And it should be no surprise that Tum-Tum’s money was from the aristocracy. He had large houses in and around London in which he threw amazing parties across several decades. He and his fellow revelers became known as the Smart Set because all their party exploits were splashed across the tabloids daily. All what this group of upper-crust snobs did was gobbled up by a public eager for news of what the rich were up to. If the wealthy people did it, then the common man wanted to do it, too. The Smart Set often set the pace in fashion, habits, and even things like what alcoholic drinks were to become popular. For example, because Tum-Tum couldn’t button his vests, the popular thing around the nation for a time was for gentlemen to also not button their vests.

And none of this accounts for the inordinate amount of adultery that went on at Tum-Tum’s parties. And the fact that he was married and had several kids didn’t slow him down. For such a fat man, Tum-Tum got around. He preferred his women newly married, it was rumored, because they were usually more “careful” about any possible “accidents” that might result from a rendezvous with him. There are photographs (this being the late 1800s after all) documenting Tum-Tum sitting at parties with his mistress du jour by his side. Looking at these women, they indeed look young but are always dressed properly and conservatively as a married woman should. Once, he had to testify in court at a divorce proceeding but, because of his wealth, his lies about his involvement with the woman in question were believed. The husband’s suit for divorce was dismissed.

Tum-Tum’s idea of a joke was to pour champagne on the head of someone else. He found this immensely humorous, and it caused him to hold his tum-tum and belly laugh uncontrollably. Again, he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack. Even his parents despaired of him. Mummy realized her son was a wastrel. His father said, of Tum-Tum’s intellect, that it was like “being robbed on a trip but finding that your weapon is buried somewhere at the bottom of a trunk.”


Eventually, Tum-Tum’s extravagant lifestyle finally caught up with him. A Jeroboam of champagne, twelve of the finest cigars and five meals a day will do that. He died in 1910. His last words were, fittingly, about a successful bet he had placed on a horserace. He was mourned, certainly, but some people didn’t really seem to miss him despite the fact that he was so popular for most of his life. A fitting epitaph was supposedly said by one of his friends that, “It was happy to have known him, but it is happier still that he is gone.”

At his funeral, it was remarked that while he was of the nobility, he was, “too human.” Of course, we’re speaking of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, Emperor of India, and son of Queen Victoria.


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