Much lamenting across Britain with the news that Cadbury (who has been making and selling chocolate since 1824) is to be taken over by the American Kraft Foods, the second largest food and drinks company on the planet.
All very sad, of course, and one must worry whether the takeover will lead to job losses or make a profit for the shareholders but it is worth considering whether Britain might just not be better off without chocolate. Obesity concerns aside, it is a dangerous commodity. Take, for instance, Horace Walpole's account of the death of King George II in 1760.
He went to bed well last night, rose at six this morning as usual, looked, I suppose, if all his money was in his purse, and called for his chocolate. A little after seven, he went into the water-closet; the German valet de chamber heard a noise, listened, heard something like a groan, ran in, and found the hero of Oudenarde and Dettingen on the floor, with a gash on his right temple, by falling against the corner of a bureau. He tried to speak, could not, and expired.
(Horace Walpole - Letter to George Montagu 25th October 1760)
When I first read this passage , I assumed the cause of this untimely death was the water-closet. I now suspect that the chocolate at least played a part.
It is also worth remembering that the Cadburys were Quakers. Their dread of hard liquor is part of the reason why they went into the tea, coffee and cocoa business in the first place. I have since learned that these hot beverages have a pernicious, windy effect and, in extreme cases, can lead people to become Quakers themselves - as Jonathan Swift reveals in The Benefit of Farting Explained.
As in sipping of these liquors hot, there is commonly as much wind as water sucked in, which through modesty being debarred a passage downwards when nature offers, recoils up into the bowels, stomach and head, and there occasions all those dreadful symptoms usually ascribed to the vapours – all which one seasonable fart might have prevented. It has likewise been assigned as the first cause of Quakerism and enthusiasm, as Hudibras observes.
As wind in hypochondria pent
Is but a fart, if downward sent;
But, if suppressed, it upward flies
And vents itself in Prophecies.
(Jonathan Swift - The Benefit of Farting Explained 1722)
So three cheers for Kraft Foods. They are, unwittingly but at a stroke, ridding the United Kingdom from a substance that has caused the death of kings and led to social humiliation for many a commoner.