1840 The Madisonian




Variations
Brought to you by the website of Henry Livingston, the author of A Visit From St. Nicholas

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This is the first publication of "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas". The poem came to the Troy Sentinel out of the Moore household. The question raised in the authorship conflict is not whether the poem came from Clement Moore's household or not but, rather, how it got to that household in the FIRST place.

Stories passed down the line of Henry Livingston's children tell of the children hearing the poem read to them by Henry almost twenty years before the poem's publication. Those children, in turn, read the poem to their children as the work of their grandfather.

As to a possible path between the Livingston and Moore households, 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.

Lydia and William's daughter, Frances Livingston Hart, married Rev. Clement Moore Butler of Troy New York, the brother of the Harriet Butler who, according to Moore himself, took the poem to the Troy Sentinel.




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.





Troy Sentinel 1823

When analyzing the Christmas poem for authorship attribution, this is the version of the poem to which the poetry of Moore and the poetry of Livingston are compared.

Various scholars over the years have produced qualitative arguments which have brought them down on the side of Livingston.

"...it is still my conviction that Livingston wrote the Night Before Christmas...and there are so many items, flairs and twinkles in the poem which one does not find in Moore and which so greatly characterize Livingston...I shall always be inclined to believe your ancestor wrote the poem...
      James G. Thurber, The New Yorker

*************

"There runs through all Professor Moore's verse a kind of frustration. He feels he should be a greater man than he is, a greater poet...He was a self-torturing Midas; all around him was a rich harvest of poetry, which he turned to lead."
      Henry N. MacCracken, President of Vassar College

*************

"Henry Livingston and the "Christmas" poet not only adopted the same words and phrasing; their respective poems were indebted, directly or indirectly, to the identical poets (including, I think, Allan Ramsay, Michael Drayton, Christopher Anstey, William King, John O'Keeffe, and Matthew Lewis, none of them poets who influenced Clement Moore)..."
      Don Foster, Vassar College

Mac Jackson's analysis, however, relies on quantatative methods.

"Moore and Livingston are significantly different in their rates of usage, and clearly Livingston uses fewer adjective-plus-noun combinations than Moore. In ‘The Night Before Christmas’ they occur at a rate even lower than one might expect from Livingston. But of the two candidates, Livingston’s authorship of the poem is, in terms of these data, more than fifty times more probable than Moore’s."





01  'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,      
02Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
03The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
04In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
05The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
06While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
07And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
08Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap-
09When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
10I sprung from the bed to see what was the matter.
11Away to the window I flew like a flash,
12Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
13The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
14Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
15When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
16But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
17With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
18I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
19More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
20And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
21"Now!   Dasher, now!   Dancer, now!   Prancer, and Vixen,
22"On!   Comet, on!   Cupid, on!   Dunder and Blixem;
23"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
24"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
25As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
26When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
27So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
28With the sleigh full of Toys - and St. Nicholas too:
29And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
30The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
31As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
32Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
33He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
34And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
35A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
36And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:
37His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
38His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
39His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
40And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
41The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
42And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
43He had a broad face, and a little round belly
44That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:
45He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
46And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;
47A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
48Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
49He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
50And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jirk,
51And laying his finger aside of his nose
52And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
53He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
54And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
55But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight-
56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.





There are some interesting "quirks" in this first publication - awkwardnesses that one would not expect to find in the always correct, but always dull, work of Moore.

'Sprung' in place of 'sprang.' 'Jirk' instead of the more common 'jerk.'

Rather than the normal anapestic rhythm,
     'dah dah DUM dah dah DUM dah dah DUM,'
the unbalanced rhythm of
     'As dry LEAVES be-fore the wild HUR-i-cane FLY.'

The weak rhyme of Vixen-Blixem. The awkward rhythm of
     "Now!    Dasher, now!    Dancer, now!    Prancer, and Vixen,
     "On!    Comet, on!    Cupid, on!    Dunder and Blixem;

Unlike Moore, Livingston's poems exhibit the spontaneous composition that occasionally sacrifices correctness for vitality.

The Crane be sure with her long beak
Could not a single morsel pick:

Ten MIN-utes past EIGHT & a VER-y cold NIGHT.

A vine from noblest lineage sprung

The ribband, the gause, & the ostrich's feather;







The presence of so many "quirks" gave subsequent editors countless opportunities to "fix" the poem. The most important of these fixes was the extensively edited broadsheet version from about 1830, published by the very same Norman Tuttle who had first published the poem. Only with this version, Tuttle really let his blue editing pencil loose.

Counting each line of the reindeer names as only 1 difference, there are FIFTY-FIVE editing differences between the poem as originally published by Tuttle in 1823, and the poem extensively edited by Tuttle around 1830.





Troy Broad MCNYTroy 1823


1


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house       


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house,

2Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
3The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
4In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
5The children were nestled all snug in their beds,The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
6While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
7And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
8Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap-
9When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
10  I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.I sprung from the bed to see what was the matter.
11Away to the window I flew like a flash,Away to the window I flew like a flash,
12Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash,Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
13The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
14Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
15When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
16But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
17With a little old driver, so lively and quick,With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
18I knew in a moment it must be ST. NICK.I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
19More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
20And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;              And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:       
21"Now, Dasher!   now, Dancer!
    now, Prancer and Vixen!
"Now!   Dasher, now!   Dancer, now!
    Prancer, and Vixen,
22On, Comet!   on, Cupid!
    on, Dunder and Blixem!
"On!   Comet, on!   Cupid, on!
    Dunder and Blixem;
23To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
24Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!""Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
25As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
26When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
27So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
28With the SLEIGH full of TOYS - and ST. NICHOLAS too.With the sleigh full of Toys - and St. Nicholas too:
29And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
30The prancing and pawing of each little hoof-The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
31As I drew in my head, and was turning around,As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
32Down the chimney ST. NICHOLAS came with a bound.Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
33He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
34And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
35A bundle of Toys was flung on his back,A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
36And he look'd liked a pedlar just opening his pack;And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:
37His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,
38His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
39His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
40And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
41The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
42And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
43He had a broad face and a little round belly,He had a broad face, and a little round belly
44That shook when he laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly.That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:
45He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
46And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.And I laugh'd when I saw him, in spite of myself;
47A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
48Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
49He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
50And fill'd all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jirk,
51And laying his finger aside of his nose,And laying his finger aside of his nose
52And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
53He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
54And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle;And away they all flew like the down of a thistle:
55But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight -
56"Happy Christmas to all,
    and to all a good night.
"
Happy Christmas to all,
    and to all a good night.
.
Troy Broad MCNYTroy 1823






And just why is this variant of the poem so important? Because it was an enclosure in a letter Tuttle wrote to Moore, responding to Moore's question whether Tuttle had known in 1823 who the author of the poem really was. Soon after receiving Tuttle's letter, Moore included the now famous 'Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas' in his book, 'Poems.'

Seventy years later, Dr. William S. Thomas inspired a Christian Science Monitor article of August 4, 1920, bringing out the Livingston family claims again, Clement's grandson, Casimir Moore, had his second cousin, Maria Jephson Post O'Conor, write out two depositions to counter the Livingston claims. Maria, then sixty-five, explained that her father had gotten the story of the Christmas poem directly from Moore himself. She explained,

"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."

Interesting. Also untrue.

You see the version of the poem which Moore used as the base of his 1844 poem was NOT "the lines originally written by him," but the 1830 version of the poem which Tuttle had so extensively edited.






Troy Broad MCNYMoore 1844 'Poems'


1


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house        


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

2Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
3The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
4In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;
5The children were nestled all snug in their beds,The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
6While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
7And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
8Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;
9When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
10  I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
11Away to the window I flew like a flash,Away to the window I flew like a flash,
12Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash,Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
13The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
14Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
15When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
16But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
17With a little old driver, so lively and quick,With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
18I knew in a moment it must be ST. NICK.I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
19More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
20And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
21"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
22On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem!On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
23To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
24Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
25As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
26When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
27So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
28With the SLEIGH full of TOYS - and ST. NICHOLAS too.With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
29And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
30The prancing and pawing of each little hoof-The prancing and pawing of each little hoof-
31As I drew in my head, and was turning around,As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
32Down the chimney ST. NICHOLAS came with a bound.Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
33He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
34And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
35A bundle of Toys was flung on his back,A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
36And he look'd liked a pedlar just opening his pack;And he look'd like a pedlar just opening his pack.
37His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
38His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
39His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
40And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
41The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
42And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
43He had a broad face and a little round belly,He had a broad face and a little round belly,
44That shook when he laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly.That shook when he laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly.
45He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
46And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
47A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
48Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
49He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
50And fill'd all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,And fill'd all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
51And laying his finger aside of his nose,And laying his finger aside of his nose,
52And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
53He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
54And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
55But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
56"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.""Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
.
Troy Broad MCNYMoore 1844 'Poems'






Wonder what would have happened if Tuttle had enclosed an original 1823 copy of the poem in his letter, rather than the 1830 edited one.

You'd think a poet would keep a copy of his own writing. Or at least wouldn't slavishly copy someone else's edits.










        
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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