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Image of Original Poem
Text of Original Poem
The History of the Poem
'And ' versus 'And,'
Favored Phonemes
Common Words
Less Common Words



Intro
       Christmas poem




We know not to whom we are indebted for the following description of that unwearied patron of children -- that homely, but delightful personification of parental kindness: -- Sante Claus, his costume and his equipage, as he goes about visiting the fire-sides of this happy land, laden with Christmas bounties; but, from whomsoever it may have come, we give thanks for it. There is, to our apprehension, a spirit of cordial goodness in it, a playfulness of fancy, and a benevolent alacrity to enter into the feelings and promote the simple pleasures of children, which are altogether charming. We hope our little patrons, both lads and lasses, will accept it as proof of our unfeigned good will toward them -- as a token of our warmest wish that they may have many a merry Christmas; that they may long retain their beautiful relish for those unbought, homebred joys, which derive their flavor from filial piety and fraternal love, and which they may be assured are the least alloyed that time can furnish them; and that they may never part with that simplicity of character, which is their own fairest ornament, and for the sake of which they have been pronounced, by authority which none can gainsay, the types of such as shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

For the Sentinel.
ACCOUNT OF A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS.

'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 sprung 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 jirk,
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.



The Most Recent Research

In 2016, Auckland University Emeritus Professor MacDonald P. Jackson published his multi-year research into the authorship of the famous Christmas poem, "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," or as we know it, "The Night Before Christmas."

Jackson is best known for his work on Shakespeare, with his latest work done as part of the editorial team that recently published the "The New Oxford Shakespeare."

Jackson's book, "Who Wrote 'The Night Before Christmas'," uses statistical analysis to identify the unconscious traits in linguistic elements of poetry to create tests which can statistically discriminate the poetry of Clement Moore from the poetry of Henry Livingston. Once Jackson had these tests, he applied them to the Christmas poem. The result of all of the tests was to definitively identify the characteristics of "The Night Before Christmas" with the poetry of Henry Livingston, not the poetry of Clement Moore.

These tests included the commonly used author attribution tests like frequency of small words, but Jackson also broke important new ground by analyzing phoneme pairs - the sound of words - which track how the tongue and lips move while reciting the words aloud.

You can actually look at the original data for Initial Ands!

Two hundred years of misattribution have now been corrected. The true author of "The Night Before Christmas" was Henry Livingston, Jr. of Poughkeepsie, not Clement Clarke Moore.



The Poem was Written Around 1807

The date is approximate because it relies upon the memories of the four children who were old enough to remember Henry Livingston reciting it, ink still wet - his sons Charles, Sidney and Edwin, and the neighbor girl who would marry Charles, Eliza Clement Brewer.

After Henry's death in 1828, the original manuscript, with corrections, was inherited by Sidney, who found it among his father's papers. Sidney passed it on to his brother Edwin, who moved to Wisconsin and initially lived with his sister Susan and her husband. During one of house fires suffered by Susan's family, the manuscript burned.



The Poem's First Known Publication

Although he had published extensively after the death of his first wife, Sally Welles, Henry's publications mostly stopped with his second marriage in 1793. Surviving manuscript pieces, such as Dialogue, that he wrote for his growing second family, were never published. His major publications of the period were his Carrier Addresses, the New Year poem that was given by the news carrier as a gift to subscribers with the expectation of getting a tip in return. Henry wrote Carrier Addresses from 1787 to 1823.

But now comes blithe Christmas, while just in his rear,
Advances our saint, jolly, laughing, NEW-YEAR,
Which, time immemorial, to us has been made
The source of our wealth and support of our trade,
     [1803 Poughkeepsie Journal Carrier's Address, Adriance Library]

But hark what a clatter! the Jolly bells ringing,
The lads and the lasses so jovially singing,
Tis New-Years they shout and then haul me along
In the midst of their merry-make Juvenile throng;
But I burst from their grasp: unforgetful of duty
To first pay obeisence to wisdom and Beauty,
My conscience and int'rest unite to command it,
And you, my kind PATRONS, deserve & demand it.
On your patience to trespass no longer I dare,
So bowing, I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR.
     [1819 Poughkeepsie Journal Carrier's Address, Adriance Library]

After Henry's death, son Charles took back to Ohio a Poughkeepsie Journal printing that he delighted in reading to his children and grandchildren as the work of his father. It was probably this clipping that gave rise to the family stories about an early publication of the poem. Since a version with red-deer instead of reindeer appeared in January of 1828, three weeks after Christmas, as Henry lay dying, it's possible that this publication was done as a gift to him and was the source of the family stories.

The first known publication of the poem was the one in the Troy Sentinel of 23 Dec 1823.

There is no question that the poem originally came out of the Clement Moore home. For the Livingstons, the question has always been, "How did it get there?"



The Poem Moves from the Livingston Household to the Moore's

Livingson family stories talk of a governess visiting with the Livingstons before stopping off at the Clement Moore household on her way down south to work. There are no specific names attached to this story, but it is interesting to look at Henry's next door neighbors, John Moore and his wife, Judith Newcomb Livingston Moore.

Judith was Henry's first cousin, while John's brother was married to Clement Moore's aunt. Keep in mind that Henry is of Clement Moore's FATHER'S generation, not Clement Moore's.

John and Judith's daughter, Lydia Hubbard Moore, married Episcopalian minister Rev. William Henry Hart, and lived in Virginia. Her children were old enough to require a governess in 1823, and her household could have been the destination for the governess who had a copy of the poem.



The Poem Moves from the Moore Household to the Troy Sentinel

There is no question that Clement Moore recited "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" to his children as his own work. He also told them not to let it out of the house. But one of the children allowed Harriet Butler, of Troy NY, to take a copy of the poem. In 1844, Moore received a letter from Norman Tuttle, the proprietor of the Troy Sentinel identifying the wife of Daniel Sackett as the woman who gave the poem to the paper's editor, Orville Holley. The likely assumption is that Harriet Butler gave the copy to Mrs. Sackett.

By the way, Harriet Butler's brother, Rev. Clement Moore Butler of Troy New York, married Frances Livingston Hart, the granddaughter of Henry's next door neighbor and cousin, Judith Moore and her husband John Moore!



Why Did Moore Do It?

Moore was known to write Christmas poems. An anonymous poem was identified by attribution researcher and Vassar Professor Don Foster as being by Moore.

"Another possibility, and a better one, is that Mr. Moore wrote Old Santeclaus. If fact, if Old Santeclaus was not written by the original Grinch, Professor Clement Clarke Moore himself, then call me "Rudolph" and never let me play in reindeer games. ... That 1821 Santeclaus poem has the Professor's stylistic fingerprints all over it. Giving credit where credit is due, I think Moore may be credited with having written one of America's first Santa Claus poems -- not A Visit from St. Nicholas, but Old Santeclaus."

Old Santeclaus

Old SANTECLAUS with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night,
O'er chimney-tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

The steady friend of virtuous youth,
The friend of duty, and of truth,
Each Christmas eve he joys to come
Where love and peace have made their home.

Through many houses he has been,
And various beds and stockings seen;
Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,
Others, that seemed for pigs intended.

Where e'er I found good girls or boys,
That hated quarrels, strife and noise,
I left an apple, or a tart,
Or wooden gun, or painted cart.

To some I gave a pretty doll,
To some a peg-top, or a ball;
No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets,
To blow their eyes up, or their pockets.
No drums to stun their Mother's ear,
Nor swords to make their sisters fear;
But pretty books to store their mind
With knowledge of each various kind.

But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,

I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent's hand to use
When virtue's path his sons refuse.
     [From New-Year's Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve. 1821.]

A handwritten manuscript of Moore's gives another Christmas poem from the same period.

From St. Nicholas

What! My sweet little Sis, in bed all alone;
No light in your room! And your nursy too gone!
And you, like a good child, are quietly lying,
While some naughty ones would be fretting or crying?
Well, for this you must have something pretty, my dear;
And, I hope, will deserve a reward too next year.
But, speaking of crying, I'm sorry to say
Your screeches and screams, so loud ev'ry day,
Were near driving me and my goodies away.
Good children I always give good things in plenty;
How sad to have left your stocking quite empty:
But you are beginning so nicely to spell,
And, in going to bed, behave always so well,
That, although I too oft see the tear in your eye,
I cannot resolve to pass you quite by.
I hope, when I come here again the next year,
I shall not see even the sign of a tear.
And then, if you get back your sweet pleasant looks,
And do as you're bid, I will leave you some books,
Some toys, or perhaps what you still may like better,
And then too may write you a prettier letter.
At present, my dear, I must bid you good bye;
Now, do as you're bid; and, remember, don't cry.
     [Museum of the City of New York, Doc #54.331.4.
        "Little Sis" was daughter Charity Elizabeth Moore, born 1816.]

It's possible that Moore had no Christmas poem written and took advantage of the copy left by the governess. Since he had, according to William Smith Pelletreau's 1897 biography, told the children not to let the poem out of the house, he might have felt it was safe to read the wonderful verses to the children he dearly loved. After all, who would ever know.



Moore Waited 21 Years To Take Credit

Once the poem acquired its fame, Moore was stuck. His children believed the poem to be his. He'd said it was. And any day the real poet might step up and claim it. Moore was the only child of the Episcopal bishop of New York City. How did you tell your children, "Sorry, Father was just kidding."

You don't.

But the family knew and, through them, Moore's friends knew. In 1837, one of those friends, Charles Fenno Hoffman, published the poem under Moore's name in his book, The New-York Book of Poetry. Still no whisper from the real poet. Henry, by then, had been dead for nine years.

In 1844, encouraged by his children, Moore wanted to publish his poetry. His children wanted him to include the Christmas poem. Though Moore considered it trivial, even if famous, he was still nervous about putting it under his own name. So he wrote to the owner of the Troy Sentinel, who responded in a letter that he wrote on the back of an 1830 Troy Sentinel broadsheet of the poem.

Yours of 23rd inst making enquiries concerning the publication of "A Visit from St Nicholas" is just received. The piece was first published in the Troy Sentinel December 23rd 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 of 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.
     [N. Tuttle to Clement Moore, 26 Feb 1844, Museum of the City of New York]

Moore then published the poem in his own book, Poems.



But There Was a Problem

The problem didn't show up until seventy-six years later, when a great grandson of Henry's, William Sturgis Thomas, made the Livingston claim to the poem public. Moore's grandson panicked and obtained a deposition from a cousin who had heard her father's retelling of what Moore had told him. In that desposition, Maria Jephson O'Conor explained:

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 1920
Casimir de R. Moore
     [Deposition of Maria O'Conor to Casimir de Rham Moore, 23 Dec 1920,
        Museum of the City of New York]

The problem was that there were indeed a few small changes noted on the poem printed on the back of Tuttle's letter. And these corresponded with the differences between that printing and Moore's published version. So Moore obviously thought what he held in his hands was the original version of the poem.

It wasn't.

It was the 1830 version of the poem which Orville Holley had extensively edited.

Moore didn't know the difference between that version and the original version of "his" poem.

For more details, read about the possible Smoking Gun.

Mac's Data:
"And " versus "And,"

Moore starts a line with "And" 307 times out of 2873 lines. In 40 of those instances, the word is followed with a comma:

    "And,"

Livingston starts 212 out of 1892 lines with "And" and the word is never followed by a comma.

"And" starts 12 out of 56 lines in "Night Before Christmas" and is never followed by a comma.

Let's look at the data.

    Initial Ands for Visit and Moore
    Initial Ands for Visit and Henry
    Ands for All, including Plus Henry

The data linked above includes the text of all poems examined. Plus Henry is not included in the details. The set was a rough idea of poems that might be Henry's and was tested to see how they individually fit within the body of Henry's work. We are currently working on a methodology to test whether a particular poem can be identified as being by Henry or by a sample of poets writing in the same timeframe and publications as Henry.

Mac's Data:
Henry-Favored and Moore-Favored Phoneme Pairs

Mac's Chapter on "Individual Phoneme Pairs More Favored by Moore or Livingston
All phoneme pairs falling within either Moore's or Livingston's top hundred, in terms of frequency of use, were tested by chi-square to determine whether they were used significantly more often within the overall corpus of one or other poet. This significance testing uncovered, neatly though coincidentally, ten phoneme pairs more favored by Moore and ten more favored by Livingston.

Moore's were:

T/DH   T/F   T/S   Z/W   S/W   Z/T   IY/T   D/P   S/S   Z/CH

Livingston's were:

AH/N   AH/F   AH/S   AH/B   AH/K   AH/L   AH/P   N/AH   Z/AO   ZIH

Mac's phoneme pair lists would mean more if you could listen to their sounds. Taking all the phoneme pairs from a single poem for each poet, the phoneme pairs are the sound at the end of the first word and the sound at the beginning of the next word.

Moore Favored Phoneme Pairs in "Saratoga"
Phoneme Pair    Word Pair
T/DHat the
T/Fnot for
T/SThat spoke
Z/Wcomes we'll
S/Wchance were
Z/Twaters to
IY/Twe take
D/Pand plenteous
S/Sfierce soe'er
Z/CHhis children

Henry Favored Phoneme Pairs in "Invitation to the Country"
Phoneme Pair    Word Pair
AH/NThe nightingale
AH/FThe flimsy
AH/Sthe side
AH/Ba bush
AH/KThe copses
AH/Lthe lawn
AH/the plains
N/AHseason of
Z/AOflits o'er
Z/IHgambols in

Let's look at the data.

    Favored Phoneme Pairs for Individual Poems - Moore
    Favored Phoneme Pairs Summary - Moore
    Favored Phoneme Pairs for Individual Poems - Henry
    Favored Phoneme Pairs Summary - Henry
    Favored Phoneme Pairs - "Night Before Christmas"
    Favored Phoneme Pairs Summary - "Night Before Christmas"

In the table below, Mac was able to discriminate between Henry's poetry and Moore's by dividing Henry-favored pairs by the sum of Henry-favored and Moore-favored pairs.

Because poems with too few favored phonemes would yield random results, poems with less than 12 total phoneme pairs were eliminated from each poet's set. Since Henry wrote shorter poems, on the average, this meant 25 poems were removed from his set, while Moore only lost 6 poems. But for the ones remaining, tests could be trusted to be statistically significant. What is being analyzed is 1483 lines by Henry and 2750 lines by Moore.

Poet    Means of Percentage
for Individual Poems
H-fav/(H-fav + M-fav)
Henry66.654
Moore        42.912
  
Visit64.912

So, for phoneme pairs, a completely unconscious writing characteristic, Mac's calculations showed that "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" sat firmly in Henry's camp at 64.912.

Mac's Data:
Frequency of Common Words

Common Words That Discriminate
Despite the context-sensitive character of many pronouns and verbs, they have been used effectively in dozens of authorship studies, along with other high-frequency words. Very common words that, unlike "that," are ineffective as stand-alone discriminators may have value as members of a substantial group of words, each with some discriminatory power. So, as an initial trial, from word lists, ordered by frequency, for Moore and for Livingston, there were extracted each poet's top fifty words.


    All Words in All Poems
    Word Frequencies in All
    Word Frequencies in Moore
    Word Frequencies in Henry
    Word Frequencies in Visit

Mac pulled from the frequency listing twenty-six words that were in both Moore and Henry's poetry, and which appeared twice in "The Night Before Christmas." These he placed in rank order. Mac then applied Spearman's rank-order correlation, a simple statistical test, to determine whether the rank order for Visit of these twenty-six words more closely matches the rank order for Henry or the rank order for Moore.

From this data, Mac found the correlation between Visit and Henry to be .7638. The correlation between Visit and Moore was .6633. Which meant that the way the words are used in Visit is closer to the way they're used in Henry's poetry rather than the way they're used in Moore's.

Next Mac identified words favored by Henry more than Moore (Henry Favored Words), and by Moore more than Henry (Moore Favored Words). After dropping words that had been evaluated in other tests, so as to keep the tests independent, Mac was left with

Henry Favored Words:
I   his   my   her   on   as   is   was   at    thy   will    day   When   me   Where   While

Moore Favored Words:
to   from   your   for   they   be   With   this   our   not   which   so   would   For   it    heart   Of   are   we

    Henry and Moore Favored Words in Poems

Using a t-test, Mac found it unlikely that Henry's poems and Moore's poems fit within a single population. So he had a differentiator. Looking at "The Night Before Christmas," Mac found that it fit neatly within Henry's percentages, but was an outlier for Moore, that it, it was at the extreme end of Moore's percentages.

Mac's Data:
Frequency of Less Common Words

Words of Medium-High Frequency
The success of high-frequency (top 50) words in discriminating between poems by Moore and poems by Livingston is an encouragement to experiment with words of medium-high frequency - the sixty next most highly ranked in either poet's body of verse. From lists of these were extracted the words that were used at rates at least 1.2 times higher by Moore than by Livingston, and vice versa. It turns out that only two were between 1.2 and 1.3 times as frequent, and both of these were very close to a more demanding 1.3 cut-off point. Sixty words were checked, rather than the fifty of the previous test, because, being of lower frequency, items in this category naturally provided fewer data, in terms of total occurrences.


    Henry and Moore Favored Words in Poems

After examining the sixty words, Mac found thirty-four Henry Favored Words and thirty-seven Moore Favored Words. He chose to analyze only those poems that contained at least ten of the favored words.

This time there was no subtlety to the separation of the two bodies of poetry. Mac explained that "Livingston's mean of 60.814 for individual poems with at least ten test words is more than twice Moore's of 29.489. The percentage of 53.704 for 'The Night Before Christmas' lies just outside Moore's actual range of 14.583-53.333 for such poems but well within Livingston's of 30.000-89.474."









Fun Activities for Christmas
  65 TV Xmas Music Videos
  Antique Illustrations to musical NBC Recitation
  CBS Good Morning America, 2000
  Comic Book Poetry with antique postcards
  The Poem's Story in Anapest
  Antique Illustrated Editions
   Antique Santa Postcards
And after the fun, fall asleep to Clement Moore's Poetry
        
NAVIGATION


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


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