Brother Jacob by George Eliot


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Brother Jacob, by George Eliot

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: Brother Jacob

Author: George Eliot

Release Date: April 20, 2005 [eBook #2171]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1921 Oxford University Press edition by David Price,



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.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 2nd Jun 2023, 22:23