I showed my utter, shocking ignorance of British history and classical music yesterday by saying “Henry Purcell? Who’s he then?” - I heard gasps.
Apparently, from my frantic search of Wikepedia, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Purcell">Mr Purcell</a> <blockquote> a Baroque composer, is generally considered to be one of England's greatest composers—indeed, he has often been called England's finest native composer. </blockquote> But <strong>far</strong> more interesting (to me at least) is this bit: <blockquote> The cause of Purcell's death is unclear: one theory is that he caught a chill after returning late from the theatre one night to find that his wife had locked him out; another is that he succumbed to chocolate poisoning; perhaps the most likely is that he died of tuberculosis. </blockquote> <i>Chocolate poisoning?</i> Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, but not people. Chocolate had only been available in England for slightly longer than Purcell had been alive. Was it was feared as a strange and dangerous habit with terrible consequences, much as hash was in 1950s America (Was there an equivalent to <a href="http://www.archive.org/details/reefer_madness1938">Reefer Madness</a>?) Or was something done to the chocolate, or done while eating or drinking it, that made it dangerous? Searching for more information on Purcell's dangerous consumption of chocolate returns dozens of copies of the same Wikipedia text. I did learn (on Nestle's site, I'm ashamed to say) that at one stage almost all the chocolate in England was stolen property, taken from Spanish ships, and that the first time the English encountered raw chocolate they thought it was sheep manure and burned it all.