From Father and Son, by Edmund Gosse
My Father’s austerity of behaviour was, I think, perpetually accentuated by his fear of doing anything to offend the consciences of those persons whom he supposed, no doubt, to be more sensitive than they really were.
He looked upon each of the feasts of the Church as nugatory and worthless, but the keeping of Christmas appeared to him by far the most hateful, and nothing less than an act of idolatry. ‘The very word is Popish’ he used to exclaim, ‘Christ’s Mass!’ pursing up his lips with the gesture of one who tastes assafoetida by accident. He would denounce the horrors of Christmas until it almost made me blush to look at a holly-berry.
My Father had given strictest charge that no difference whatever was to be made in our meals on Christmas day. But the servants, secretly rebellious, made a small plum-pudding for themselves. Early in the afternoon, the maids kindly remarked that ‘the poor dear child ought to have a bit, anyhow’, and wheedled me into the kitchen, where I ate a slice of plum-pudding. Shortly after I began to feel that pain inside which in my frail state was inevitable, and my conscience smote me violently.
At length I could bear my spiritual anguish no longer, and bursting into the study I called out: ‘Oh! Papa, Papa, I have eaten of flesh offered to idols!’ It took some time, between my sobs, to explain what had happened. Then my Father sternly said: ‘Where is the accursed thing?’… He took me by the hand, and ran with me into the midst of the startled servants, seized what remained of the pudding, and with the plate in one hand and me still tight in the other, ran till we reached the dust-heap, when he flung the idolatrous confectionery on to the middle of the ashes, and then raked it deep down into the mass.
The suddenness, the violence, the velocity of this extraordinary act made an impression on my memory which nothing will ever efface.