Little Old Driver
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Chapter 5: Knowing What Henry Livingston Knew

I'm fascinated by the way people think. Well, actually, I'm fascinated by everything, but thinking about thinking is definitely one of my areas of interest. When I can sneak up on my own mind and catch it unawares, it seems to be scanning something that I've recently learned against older information. I make it a point to spread as wide a net as possible to gather in what might seem to be unrelated facts, and then search for the correlations, or patterns, which make sense of the information. The scanning process seems to work in the background of my mind, letting me awaken in the morning with patterns fully formed from the evening's chaos of facts. It's a shame I can't do this on the clock. I'd be able to charge doubletime!

Mother thought by chains of association. She just neglected to mention the steps she took to get from one thought to another. I challenged her once when she pointed out a lady and told me that the woman was the good fairy. This led to one of the only times she took me through her chain of connections. We were on the north side of Chicago, an admittedly strange place to a south sider, the lady was dressed in purple, and she had a wonderful smile. This had reminded mother of Glinda, the Good Fairy of the North, in the Oz books. Glenda had, like the lady on our bus, dressed in purple. I didn't worry about mother's leaps of logic after that.

Mother could jump so far because she was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. She had an almost perfect recall of every class she had taken when she, too, had been a student at the University of Chicago. But other than being able to give a policeman the license number of a passing car used in a robbery, or being able to challenge a grocery clerk who said she'd given him a ten instead of a twenty by reciting the serial number of the twenty, she did nothing with that knowledge, though she never gave up learning. When she died at the age of 73, mother was still working full time as a social worker while, as a concession to her age, taking only a single MBA course. But something mother said in those last weeks before she died scratched its way across my soul. She asked me how everything that she knew could just disappear. And I had no answer.

So here I was filling my mind with information about Henry. Except that I was bound and determined that my information was not going to disappear.

To keep track of what Don and I learned, I built a website of color-coded database pages that I kept away from search engines so that Don and I could work in privacy. This site eventually grew to over 1300 pages. Because pieces of the site were developed only until we had satisfactorily answered some question we were studying, many parts of the site were inconsistent and would, therefore, have been too confusing if I had turned the private site into a public site. But what has made sense to extract from the research site has been made available on the Internet and, over time, more will be transferred.

To help me examine how each piece of data fit into larger contexts, the research website included multiple timelines so that I could follow politics, religion, or just the daily details of Henry's life.

May 25, 1772 - At noon Welles, an over the River, or Five Nation Man, began Ditching at 4sh a day & 3 gills grain).(1)

For Don, we needed a different way of accessing information.

TV detectives solve their crimes by a combination of wearing out shoe-leather checking out facts, and coming up with theories to investigate. Don used those same techniques. The shoe-leather part involved, for example, checking out poetry or prose signed H or Henry from the local papers (neither of whom turned out to be our Henry). But it was Don's armchair theories, like investigating whether Moore "borrowed" his version of the Christmas poem from the work of other editors, that made him the equal of any Perry Mason or Columbo. Investigating a theory is pretty easy. Coming up with the idea of what to investigate, now that's hard. Because Don approaches problems by asking questions, our site included searchable databases of Henry's writing, his relatives, sources we were using, facts we had learned, etc.

But these databases weren't the most important way Don worked. What Don did was to slog through the details of how words and phrases were used, relying on everything he had learned from being in the field of literature. Taking separately the Christmas poem, the body of work guaranteed to be by Henry, and the body guaranteed to be by Moore, Don would look for usages that were, to his experience, unusual. For example, Don discovered that the use of the word "all" as an adverb (all snug in their beds), rather than a pronoun (all of us) was a common usage in Henry's writing, as well as in that of the Christmas poet's, but was rarely used by Moore.

Comparing three people - the Christmas poet, Henry Livingston and Clement Moore - with the works of earlier authors gave Don an indication of what each writer read. This doesn't mean that the earlier writers were plagerized, just that all writers show the influence of their reading in their writing. In his book(2) Don lays out, in detail, the influences on Moore's writing of Robert Southey, Bernard Barton, and Timothy Dwight(3). In the works of Henry Livingston, on the other hand, Don found echoes of the bawdy anapestic poems of mid 18th century William King and Christopher Anstey(4). The very type of rhyme Don found Moore railing against because of its influence on young minds, and the very poets who had a major influence on the Christmas poet! Don also found influences on both Henry and the Christmas poet, but not on Clement Moore, of the writings of Allan Ramsay, Michael Drayton, John O'Keeffe, and Matthew Lewis(5).

Although Henry enjoyed humor and bone-chilling stories of suspense, his interests were wide and his knowledge diverse - from religious theology to astronomy, natural history, Greek mythology, agriculture, philosophy and the arts. Henry's daughter Jane described her father as "a perfect Encyclopedia" "at home on any & every subject, and no question was too hard for him to answer".(6)  He learned not just by reading, but by asking questions, as in a letter to his grandson Sidney Breese, then living on the frontier of Illinois with Henry's son Charles.

What houses do the middling class of settlers erect & of what materials? Do small fountain brooks abound as in Dutchess & Putnam counties? When wells are dug at what depth is water found? When procured is it cold & pure, brackish or otherwise. Are field enclosures of wood, hedge, stone, or earth. Is winter wheat & rye grown-- if so, how many bushels to the acre. The month & day of the month when Indian corn ought to be planted. The number of bushels (shelled) to the acre? Can the stock swine get their livings in Winter without being fed from the grainery? Are cows & horses cheaply wintered? ... You are fatigued with the endless string of interrogations & so am I -- I fear you or Charles will not reply to half of them.(7)

But as much as he enjoyed learning, Henry enjoyed teaching. To son Charles, a doctor, Henry sent word of a new treatment for rabies involving scull-cap.

If this plant is to be found in your vicinity, lay up a store of it next summer, gather it when in bloom & dry it in the shade."(8)

Henry's 22 year old daughter Jane shows her own good mind in her letter to Sidney, her 21 year old nephew.

Our young Lawyers have opened a public [debate] which is very [well] attended, they discuss miscellaneous as well as Law questions. I was present at the last one, and was never more gratified in my life. The Orators were James Brooks, young Van Rensselaer, John Davis and Theodore Allen, all excepting Davis, students. The subject was, "Whether Climate has an effect on genius? It was decided in the affirmative, by the President, but in the negative by the society. The speakers acquitted themselves admirably. J Brooks was in the affirmative; his speech showed a great deal of learning as well as original sentiment."(9)

Henry's friend, Rev. Dr. Timothy Dwight, shared Henry's belief in the value of women's education, putting that theory into practice at his school in Greenfield Hill, when he opened the school for women to be educated in "belle letters, Geography, Philosophy and Astronomy."(10)

Henry came from a family that valued learning. His great great grandfather, Rev. John Livingston, was sent to a Latin school at the age of ten and, after that, John attended his father's Alma Mater, the University of Glasgow, where John, in his turn, received a master of arts degree.(11) When John was forced by religious differences to flee Scotland for Holland, his son Robert came along. The boy was raised in an environment as famous for its belief in education as for its religious tolerance. The straitened circumstances and early demise of John caused Robert to take employment in the Dutch counting houses, an education in its own right.

Soon after coming to America, Robert Livingston married a wealthy widow, Alida Schuyler Van Rensselaer. With the financial wherewithall to give his sons a formal education, Robert's son Philip read law for the bar. Son Robert Jr. was sent to Scotland. The youngest of the surviving boys of the family, Henry's grandfather Gilbert, stayed closer to home, studying with Rev. Solomon Stoddard, a well-known Congregational minister in Northampton MA.(12) Gilbert, however, wasn't as careful with his own children's education.

Hanrered Father an Mother this is to let you no that we are al in good healt as I hope it will find you in the same I am perswaded by my unkel an aunt to stay till the next yege and hope you will not teck it a mis the snuf I am to have at cozen byerds ples to send the paper which you lick best and the tae by unkeel Livingston 14 lb wich I have seant up ples to let mr. La meetre have the tae for they wont giuef shick small quantyte my duty to you and my granmother and love to my sister and brothers and let me no if you ples if my cousins have the small pox no more at pressent I remane your Dutefull daughter Alida Livingston(13)

Alida's snuff taking and spelling seems not to have hurt her marital prospects, since she married first Colonel Jacob Rutsen and, secondly, Henry Van Rensselaer. Samuel, Alida's brother, had only slightly more education, but he didn't mind telling his brother Henry, our Henry's father, that he was finding the life of a sailor to be a bit too educational.

Launciston June ye 1st 1745

LOVING BROTHER this is to let you know that I am in good health and I hope this will find you in the Same dear brother I am very Sorry that I did not stay at home with you for I do repent very much my coming in a man of war for here is nothing Else but Cursing and Swaring Every day. Now we ar Cruising of Capertuny 18th of may last we took a french man of war of 64 Guns Brother I wish I was with you at home out of this miserable place I hope you and Sister and Cousen Gilbert are in good health, no more at present but am your loving brother Samuel Livingston(14)

But Samuel's wish to come home was in vain. He died at sea.

The scholar of Gilbert's family was Henry Sr. In his memoirs, Rev. John Henry Livingston remembered his father with love and affection as a man of dignity and pleasant disposition, who was liberally educated, elegant in manners and irreproachable in the morals by which he lived his life.(15) Henry Sr. wanted his sons to be well educated, and chose Yale-educated, Rev. Chauncey Graham to teach his sons "Reading, Writing and Speaking correctly, the Learned Languages, with every branch of the Mathematicks, and polite Literature," with the reverend's promise that a special regard would be paid to morals, as well.(16)

But for his son John Henry, Henry Sr. realized that more personal attention was needed. At ten years old, John Henry was brought home and put with a private tutor. At eleven, he was sent to the New Milford CT grammar school. And, at the age of twelve, John Henry was accepted at Yale College. Despite the handicaps of his age relative to the other students, the young man graduated with honors in 1762. He was sixteen years old!

John Henry went on to get his master's degree, and then a Doctor of Divinity in religion from the University of Utrecht in Holland. A pastor and a scholar, John Henry spent the last years of his life as president of Rutgers College.

Henry Jr., Henry and Susannah Conklin's third son, was seven years old and ready for school when John Henry came home to study. It's possible that Henry Jr. attended Graham's Dutchess Academy, though it's also possible that Henry shared his brother's tutor. But wherever Henry Jr. might have gone to school, he took from his education a lifelong love of learning. And when it came time to choose a wife, Henry chose Sarah Welles, whose father had been seriously considered for the presidency of Yale in 1766.(17) But where Rev. Welles enjoyed publishing papers such as The Divine right of Presbyterian ordination asserted, and the ministerial authority, claimed and exercised in the established churches of New-England, vindicated and proved(18), Henry was more apt to turn his hand to a rebus, a poem composed of questions, the answers to which would spell out a name.

Though used as a game, solving a rebus required a wide knowledge of mythology and classical history, at least they did the way Henry wrote them. The following rebus spells out the name of Nancy Crooke, a Poughkeepsie belle whose brother was married to Henry's first cousin.

A rebus on the name of Nancy Crooke

Take the name of the swain, a forlorn witless elfN arcissus
Who was chang'd to a flow'r for admiring himself.
A part deem'd essential in each lady's dressA pron
With what maidens cry when they wish to say yes.   N o
A lullabye carriage, soft, cozy and lightC radle
With the name of the Poet who sang on the night.

Y oung
The queen of Cairo, all lovely and winningC leopatra
Whose blandishments ever kept Antony grinning.
The flow'r whose odors unremittingly please:R ose
With the glory of forests, the king of the trees.O ak
To the prince of the fairies, a jealous old knave,O beron
Put the name of the tree that undid Mother Eve.K nowledge
To finish the whole, add that period of dayE ve
When the linnet and thrush to repose hie away.

The initials of these, if adjusted with care.
Will show you the fairest where thousands are fair.
The sweet, pretty graces still hover about her
And Cupid would die with vexation without her.

When she swims in the dance or wherever she goes
She's crowded by witlings, plain-fellows, and beaux
Who throng at her elbow and tread on her toes.

If a pin or a hankerchief happen to fall
To seize on the prise fills with uproar the ball;
Such pulling and hawling & shoving & pushing
As rivals the racket of 'key and the cushion;'
And happy- thrice happy! too happy! the swain
Who can replace the pin or bandana again.

Tho the fellows surround & so humbly adore her
The girls on the contrary cannot endure her;
Her beauty their beauty forever disgraces
And her sweeter face still eclipses their faces-
For no lov'ly girl can a lov'ly girl bear
And fair ones are ever at war with the fair.(19)

A full one quarter of the poems in Henry's poetry manuscript book are rebuses, which must have provided the entertainment for many a gathering of the young and the old. And they weren't only written for the young women, "The Fair," as Henry would call them. The following rebus was written for an aspiring lawyer. There's no solution, so you'll have to come up with your own!

That hero whose great and magnanimous mind

Explored and gave a new world to mankind.
A shell fish by gentle and simple desired
And the word you most hated from her you admired.
The end of my plowing & aim of your speaking;
And the creatures that Saul and his servants were seeking.
What Pope could not bear tho it's seen ev'ry day
When you my good friend & myself's on the way:

The initials of these will present you a swain
As clever as any that trips o'er the plain;
Of aspect engaging, of manners refined,
And of Laws mighty carcase a member designed.
His friends have asserted (if fame with his trumpet
Don't lie like a harden'd old impudent strumpet)
That Ovid's gay volume and Horace's wit,
His fancy hath ever more forcibly hit.
I have Blackstone sententious and Sol held verbose,
Or Coke upon Littleton's afternoon dose;
And I must declare from my own observation
He shines at a teatable's mixt conversation.
To gay little things he can little things utter
Whether Hyson's the subject or biscuit & butter.
Talk of gowns from the tight closely puckered chammeze
To the light airy frisk & the loose poloneze.
In the mystery of Tuckers all yield to his learning>
And each one allows in a hoop he's discerning.
In short, from the shoe & the soft shammy glove
To the ostrich's feather that trembles above
He's deeply conversant -- He too has the art
To engage the affection and bind the soft heart;
To whisper the language of passion & truth
In the ear of sweet innocence, beauty and youth.

On my word, pretty females, his faults are but few
And such as will yield to be cured by you.
His virtues are many -- then hasten around him
And home to the heart with your lovely eyes wound him;
Transfix and transfix him, nor give up the day
Till you bear off the prize to the altar away.(20)

Chapter 6: Dunder and Blixem! It's a Dutchman!

Chapter 5 Notes:

1. Henry Livingston, Jr., Day Book, ibid.

2. Don Foster, Author Unknown On the Trail of Anonymous (New York: Henry Holt, 2000).

3. Robert Southey (1774-1843) was an English poet associated with Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth, the leaders of the early Romantic movement. Bernard Barton (1784-1849) was an Englishman known as the "Quaker Poet." Many of the poems in his ten books of poetry were turned into religious hymns. Rev. Dr. Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) was a Yale-educated minister and poet who went on to become the president of Yale.

4. William King (1663-1712) was an English poet known for his humorous and satirical works. "The Toast: An Heroick Poem" 1747. Christopher Anstey (1724-1805) was an English poet writing with his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek. The New Bath Guide, 1766.

5. Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) was a Scottish poet, wigmaker and bookseller. Michael Drayton (1563-1631) was an English poet whose writing was supported by patrons, and who was buried in Westminister Abbey. John O'Keeffe (1747-1833) was an Irish writer who came to London and produced a huge output of comic dramas. Matthew Lewis (1775-1818) was an English contemporary of Henry's who specialized in works of horror and the supernatural.

6. Gertrude Thomas letter to William Sturges Thomas, Jul 8, 1920, Thomas Collection.

7. Henry Livingston, Jr. letter to Sidney Breese, Nov 22, 1819, Illinois State Historical Library, Sidney Breese Papers.

8. Henry Livingston, Jr. letter to Sidney Breese and Charles Livingston, January 27, 1820, Illinois State Historical Library, Sidney Breese Papers.

9. Jane Paterson Livingston letter to Sidney Breese, January 13, 1822, Sidney Breese Papers, Illinois State Historical Library.

10. Paul Engle, Women in the Revolution, Follett.

11. John Livingstone, Memoirs of Rev. John Livingstone (Glasgow: xx, xx)

12. Ruth Lawrence, Genealogical Histories of Livingston and Allied Families (New York: National Americana Society, 1932).

13. Alida Livingston letter to her father, Gilbert Livingston, 1732, "A Packet of Old Letters" (Year Book Dutchess County Historical Society, Vol. 6, 1921) p.41.

Honored Father and Mother, This is to let you know that we are all in good health as I hope it will find you in the same. I am persuaded by my uncle and aunt to stay till the next year and hope you will not take amiss the snuff I am to have at cousin Byard's. Please to send the paper which you like best and the tea by uncle Livingston, 14 lb of which I have sent up. Please to let Mr. La Meetre have the tea for they won't give me such a small quantity. My duty to you and my grandmother, and love to my sister and brothers, and let me know, if you please, if my cousins still have the small pox. I remain your Dutiful daughter Alida Livingston

14. Samuel Livingston letter to Henry Livingston, Sr., June 1, 1735, "A Packet of Old Letters" (Year Book Dutchess County Historical Society, Vol. 6, 1921) p.49.

15. Alexander Gunn, Memoirs of the Rev. John H. Livingston (New York: Rutgers Press, William A. Mercein, Printer, 1829).

16. Rev. Chauncy Graham ad for Dutchess Academy, New-York Packet and the American Advertiser, June 1, 1780.

17. Estelle S. Feinstein, Stamford from Puritan to Patriot, Stamford, 1976, Stamford Bicentennial Corporation, p.164.

18. Noah Welles, discourse delivered at Stamford, Lord's-Day, April 10, 1763, Yale microfilm, call number B1130 9535.

19. Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, Dutchess County Doorways and other Examples of Period Work in Wood 1730-1830 (New York: William Farquhar Payson,1931).

20. Henry Livingston Jr., "That hero whose great and magnanimous mind," Livingston MSS Poetry Book, Thomas Collection, p.34.


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