The Advent Calendar of Literature: Day 11

Yesterday we considered that gastronomic phenomenon that is the Christmas dinner, and revealed Dickens’s early piece of journalism about Christmas time, written some eight years before A Christmas Carol. Today, on to pudding – yes, today’s literature fact might be considered the dessert course in our feast of festive literary morsels.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest known use of the phrase ‘Christmas pudding’ is in Anthony Trollope’s 1858 Barsetshire novel Doctor Thorne. Trollope wrote six novels set in the fictional English county of Barsetshire, and Doctor Thorne, the third in the series, is slightly less famous than the previous book in the saga, Barchester Towers. Perhaps this pudding-themed nugget is the most famous thing about it…

Christmas puddings predate the Victorians – like many Christmas traditions – with the earliest recipes for plum pudding dating from the seventeenth century. But the Christmas pudding as we know it appears to have taken shape in the Victorian era, hence Trollope’s claim to the inaugural use of the term.

It was not an auspicious beginning for the phrase: the sentence containing the OED‘s first recorded instance of ‘Christmas pudding’ reads, ‘But what did Mr Oriel think when doomed to eat his Christmas pudding alone…’

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