1840 The Madisonian




A Smoking Gun?

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Reindeer Perambulations


When "A Visit From St. Nicholas" first appeared in print, it was in the Troy Sentinel of 1823, a New York newspaper published by Norman Tuttle. In this first publication, it would be very difficult to recognize those so-familiar reindeer friends.
Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

Try to say their names while closely following the punctuation. It's hard, isn't it? We know those lines so well that it's very difficult to muck up their reading. And the last words of the lines don't even rhyme!

Editors felt the same way about it, and right away pulled out their blue editor's pencil.

  • In 1825, Grigg's Almanack tried to fix the rhythm by changing the end of the first line to "now Prancer and Vixen."

  • That same year, McClure added his fix to the rhyme by changing the name of Blixem to Blixen.

  • A few weeks after Christmas, and just before Henry's death in early 1828, the Poughkeepsie Journal reprinted the poem. Henry's hometown paper used the identical two lines for the names of what they called red deer. Guess there weren't too many reindeer running through the forests of old Po'keepsie.

  • But the biggest change to the poem occurred under the editorial direction of that first publisher, Norman Tuttle. In 1830, Tuttle published the poem as a single page broadsheet. And this time the lines read with the rhythm that we are so familiar with today.

    Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer! now Vixen!
    On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem!

    As long as he was at it, Tuttle included TWENTY-ONE! other changes, as well.

  • In 1837 Charles Fenno Hoffman, a friend of Moore's, published the poem and, for the first time, put Moore's name on it. But Hoffman, too, couldn't resist making some changes. His approach was more a mix and match. For the first line, he took the 1830 Troy version, but kept McClure's change to the rhyming Blixen. For the second line, Hoffman went back to the original rhythm of the 1823 version. But his most important change was in that line with the renaming of Dunder, now christened Donder.

    Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer! now Vixen!
    On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blixen!

  • And then it was Moore's turn with the publication of his book Poems. But before we look at what Moore wrote, let's fast forward to the future. 1920, to be exact.





Henry Livingston rises from the grave

It wasn't until 1859 and 1862 that Henry's descendants discovered that Moore was claiming credit for their ancestor's poem. The issue incensed them, but they couldn't do more than sputter at the perceived injustice of someone claiming a poem they had known their entire lives as belonging to Henry. The presence of several Episcopalian ministers in the family at the time is thought to have occasioned that early silence -- Moore holding a prominent position within the church seminary.

It wasn't until 1899 that one of the family was pushed into the public light regarding their belief in their ancestor's authorship. In a December 1899 issue of the Sun, a Long Island, New York newspaper published by another Henry Livingston, this Henry argued the the rightful author of A Visit from St. Nicholas was, in fact, his grandsire. And though the article did bring together other descendants to share their stories with Long Island Henry, it didn't result in much impact on the public's attribution of the poem to Moore.

It wasn't until 1920 that another descendant, William Sturges Thomas, decided to try his hand at the authorship issue again. This time, Thomas was successful in bringing the conflicting claims to the public's attention in articles in more major New York City publications. But after the buzz from the stories faded, Moore's claim to the poem's authorship was left undisturbed.

Or so it seemed.

But unbeknownst to Thomas, his articles had had an impact. Casmir de R. Moore, a descendant of Clement Moore, was disturbed enough to get a signed deposition from a second cousin, Maria Jephson O'Conor, telling a story that she had been told by her father -- a story that had been told him by Moore, himself. What Moore said to Maria's father was that when Moore had returned from his turkey errand on that 1822 Christmas eve, he had gone into his study and written down (with no changes!) the poem he had invented and memorized while driving along those snowy city streets. (This, of course, explained why no manuscript existed for Moore with the expected changes engendered by composition. The style was obviously so natural to Moore that it never cried to be repeated, except in a particularly nasty piece about a rooster and a pig.)

But the important part of the deposition was Moore's statement that the original manuscript needed only two slight changes when he came to publish it with some of his other poems!


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December 20-1920
109 East 38th Street
New York

My grandfather, Elliot. Taylor was a brother-in-law of Clement C. Moore; his daughter Maria Farquahar Taylor married my late father Colonel Henry C. Post. Under these circumstances my father became well acquainted with the above Clement C. Moore. He related to me the manner in which Dr Moore told him the little poem entitled "A visit from St Nicholas" came to be written. On Christmas Eve Mrs clement C. Moore was preparing baskets to be sent to the poor of the neighbourhood. She found one turkey was lacking and so told her husband. He said he would immediately get one from the market.

On his return with the turkey he was struck with the beauty of the moonlight on the snow and the brightness of the starlit sky. This, with the holiday season, suggested to him the idea of writing a few lines appropriate to St. Nicholas. He also told my father when the same was published, without his knowledge, that there were only two errors in the printed copy.

Maria Jephson O'Conor (nee Post)

Original in The Museum of the City of New York


109 East 38th Street
New York
Clement C. Moore married Catherine Eliza Taylor, sister of my grandfather Elliot Taylor. My late father, Colonel Henry V.A. Post, married Maria Farquahar Taylor, daughter of my said grandfather.

Under these circumstances my father became very well acquainted with Mr Moore. My father told me Mr Moore himself related to him the following circumstances under which he came to write the poem entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

It was Christmas Eve and Mrs. Moore was packing baskets of provisions to be sent to various people in the neighborhood, as was her custom. She found one turkey was lacking and so told her husband. Though late, he said he would try to get one from the market.

On his return from the market he was struck by the beauty of the moonlight on the snow and the brightness of the star lit sky. This, together with the thoughts of the holiday season, suggested to him the idea of writing a few lines in honor of St Nicholas. He told my father he immediately went to his study and wrote the poem.

Mr Moore also told my father when he came to publish the same, with some of his other poems, he only made two slight changes in the lines as originally written by him.

Maria Jephson O'Conor

The above Mrs. John C. O'Conor (nee Post) read and signed the above statement in my presence the 23rd day of December 19020 [sic]

Casimir de R. Moore

[Original in The Museum of the City of New York]


1844: Clement Clarke Moore Claims the Poem


Now let's hurry back to 1844.

Before Moore published the Christmas poem as his own, he wrote to Tuttle, the original publisher of the piece. His question must have been whether Tuttle had known the author of the poem, because Tuttle writes back that he didn't then, but has since learned it was Moore. This letter appeared in Don Foster's book with Don's observation that it looked much like something Moore read as meaning that the coast was clear to publish the poem under his own name.


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Troy. Feb 26. 1844.

Prof C C Moore,

Sir - Yours of 23d inst. making inquiry concerning the publication of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," is just received. The piece was first published in the Troy Sentinel December 23, 1823, with an introductory notice by the Editor, Orville L. Holley, Esq., and again two or three years after that. At the time of its first publication I did not know who the Author was - but have since been informed that you were the Author. I understand from Mr. Holley that he received it from Mrs. Sackett, the wife of Mr. Daniel Sackett who was then a merchant in this city. It was twice published in the Troy Sentinel; and being much admired and sought after by the younger class, I procured the Engraving which you will find on the other side of this sheet, and have published several editions of it. The Sentinel has for several years been numbered with the things that were - and Mr. Holley, I understand, is now in Albany, editing the Albany Daily Advertiser. I was myself the proprietor of the Sentinel.

Very Respectfully
Yours, &c
N Tuttle

Original in The Museum of the City of New York


BUT....


But as I discovered when my packet of Moore papers arrived from the Museum of the City of New York, the letter also included an enclosure -- a copy of Tuttle's 1830 broadsheet. And on that sheet are marked a few handwritten changes. Who made the changes we don't know. But the marks certainly fit with the story told by Maria's father of those few small changes.


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THERE'S JUST ONE PROBLEM.


There's just one problem. There were TWENTY-ONE! changes from the 1823 version of the poem to the 1830 version. If the deposition tells a true story, then Moore didn't recognize the difference between the poem that came out of his house in 1823, and the version of 1830 which is, in fact, very little changed in Moore's book. The only major change we can attribute to Moore and not to Tuttle, in fact, is the name change for yet another reindeer -- Blixem, who McClure was the first to turn to Blixen in his 1825 Almanack, has now become Blitzen!

Fascinating, isn't it?

A smoking gun?

You decide.


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TWENTY-ONE CHANGES!

Differences between each two versions in red

1823 Troy Sentinel

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap-
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
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 minature 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.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,
"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;
"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys - and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:
His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight-
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

1830 Troy Sentinel Broadsheet

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar- plums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash,
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 minature 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.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher!, now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
"On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem;
"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the Sleigh full of Toys - and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof--
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a pedler just opening his pack
His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face, and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

1830 Troy Sentinel Broadsheet

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar- plums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash,
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 minature 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.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher!, now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
"On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem;
"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the Sleigh full of Toys - and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof--
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a pedler just opening his pack
His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face, and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

1844 Poems by Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar- plums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash,
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 minature 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.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher!, now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
"On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys - and St. Nicholas too:
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof--
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he look'd like a pedlar just opening his pack.
His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face, and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."






        
NAVIGATION


Timeline Summary
Arguments,   Smoking Gun?,   Reindeer Names,   First Publication,   Quest to Prove Authorship,   Scholars,  
Witness Letters,   Early Variants,   Sources,   Publicity,   Clement Moore's Poetry,   Fiction,   Letters from You


Xmas,   Games,   The Man,   Writing,   History,   The Work,   Illos,   Music,   Genealogy,   Bios,   Slideshow


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