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Chapter 1
Among the many fatalities attending the bloom of young desire, that of blindly
taking to the confectionery line has not, perhaps, been sufficiently considered.
How is the son of a British yeoman, who has been fed principally on salt pork and
yeast dumplings, to know that there is satiety for the human stomach even in a
paradise of glass jars full of sugared almonds and pink lozenges, and that the
tedium of life can reach a pitch where plum-buns at discretion cease to offer the
slightest excitement? Or how, at the tender age when a confectioner seems to
him a very prince whom all the world must envy--who breakfasts on macaroons,
dines on meringues, sups on twelfth-cake, and fills up the intermediate hours
with sugar-candy or peppermint--how is he to foresee the day of sad wisdom,
when he will discern that the confectioner's calling is not socially influential, or
favourable to a soaring ambition? I have known a man who turned out to have a
metaphysical genius, incautiously, in the period of youthful buoyancy, commence
his career as a dancing- master; and you may imagine the use that was made of
this initial mistake by opponents who felt themselves bound to warn the public
against his doctrine of the Inconceivable. He could not give up his dancing-
lessons, because he made his bread by them, and metaphysics would not have
found him in so much as salt to his bread. It was really the same with Mr. David
Faux and the confectionery business. His uncle, the butler at the great house
close by Brigford, had made a pet of him in his early boyhood, and it was on a
visit to this uncle that the confectioners' shops in that brilliant town had, on a
single day, fired his tender imagination. He carried home the pleasing illusion that
a confectioner must be at once the happiest and the foremost of men, since the
things he made were not only the most beautiful to behold, but the very best
eating, and such as the Lord Mayor must always order largely for his private
recreation; so that when his father declared he must be put to a trade, David
chose his line without a moment's hesitation; and, with a rashness inspired by a
sweet tooth, wedded himself irrevocably to confectionery. Soon, however, the
tooth lost its relish and fell into blank indifference; and all the while, his mind
expanded, his ambition took new shapes, which could hardly be satisfied within
the sphere his youthful ardour had chosen. But what was he to do? He was a
young man of much mental activity, and, above all, gifted with a spirit of
contrivance; but then, his faculties would not tell with great effect in any other
medium than that of candied sugars, conserves, and pastry. Say what you will
about the identity of the reasoning process in all branches of thought, or about
the advantage of coming to subjects with a fresh mind, the adjustment of butter
to flour, and of heat to pastry, is NOT the best preparation for the office of prime
minister; besides, in the present imperfectly- organized state of society, there are
social barriers. David could invent delightful things in the way of drop-cakes, and
he had the widest views of the sugar department; but in other directions he
certainly felt hampered by the want of knowledge and practical skill; and the
world is so inconveniently constituted, that the vague consciousness of being a
fine fellow is no guarantee of success in any line of business.