The bells upon the church were rung
with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how
(of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity
was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's
was the house where I was born.
O well I saw the pleasant room,
the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles,
my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight,
like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates
that stand upon the shelves.
——Robert Louis Stevenson, Christmas At Sea, from Christmas Observed, edited by Owen Dudley Edwards & Graham Richardson
"The most beautiful crime I ever committed," Flambeau would say in his highly moral old age, "was also, by a singular coincidence, my last. It was committed at Christmas. As an artist I had always attempted to provide crimes suitable to the special season or landscape…"
——G.K. Chesterton, The Flying Stars, from Christmas Observed, edited by Owen Dudley Edwards & Graham Richardson
Christmas Day, 1661. In the morning to church; where at the door of our pew I was fain to stay, because that the sexton had not opened the door. A good sermon of Mr.Mills. Dined at home all alone, And taking occasion, from some fault in the meat, to complain of my maid's Sluttery, my wife and I fell out, and I up to my Chamber in a discontent. After dinner my wife comes up to me and all friends again; and she and I to walk upon the Leads; there Sir W. Pen called us and we went to his house and supped with him.
——Samuel Pepys, From The Diaries, from Christmas Observed, edited by Owen Dudley Edwards & Graham Richardson
I've collected Christmas books for years, and must have at least a couple hundred. Their contents range from anthologies of seasonal poetry, short stories, and novels, to histories of the holiday and its customs and traditions, sketches and narratives of remembered Christmases by various writers, cookbooks, even a craft book or two, though Myladylove collects the latter two categories and probably has upwards of a hundred Christmas volumes of her own.
This year, starting on the first day of December, I thought it might be fun to dip into a few of these works and share a quote or two from their pages—a few lines of poetry, a bit of prose, maybe even a recipe—on a daily basis, a sort of "Christmas Quotedown," which I'll put up in addition to my regular posts. I'll also include a photo of the book's cover, from which the day's quotes are taken—though a few, lacking a dust jacket or any sort of fancy cover design, might be decidedly non-photogenic. On the other hand, several of my favorite Christmas works are quotably rich troves, indeed, and thus might end up furnishing more than a day's worth of quotes—though I'm starting out with the notion of a different book each day.
Along the way, I hope I select some things you enjoy.