WS Thomas
Witness Letters



Mrs. Helen T. Blackell,
4 Risdesel Avenue
Cambridge Mass.

Dear Helen:

I have received your letter containing Howard's opinion that it would be unwise to present to the public the claim of Henry Livingston to the authorship of the "Visit from St. Nicholas" and have referred it to Mr. Tryon who has offered to publish the story in his newspaper. I enclose a copy of his reply. He does not wish to proceed unless the family is unanimous in the belief that our great-grandfather wrote the poem.

I am still of opinion that the present opportunity to lay the matter before the public should be embraced. Mr. Tryon thinks that the family tradition amounts to nothing if not unanimous. But so far as I know, it is unanimous, Howard not being a descendant of Henry Livingston. Apparently Howard's reason for withholding publication is not because he doubts the fact that Henry Livingston wrote the poem but because the fact has not been proven and because of what some folks might say. After having carefully studied the subject I am forced to the beleif that Henry Livingston wrote the poem. That which I imbibed when a child as a family tradition, I have now come to believe with my reasoning mind as the result of cumulative evidence, both external and internal.

The following named persons, all of whom are unbiased and whose opinions command respect, after considering the evidence, have voluntarily said, "The matter should be made public".

Rev. John P. Peters, biblical critic and Assyriologist.
Carl Van Doren, professor of American literature, Columbia University; late headmaster Brearly School and present literary editor of "The Nation."
Miss Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, historian and antiquarian, Poughkeepsie N.Y.
W.H. Kelby, Librarian, New York Historical Society.
Winthrop P. Tryon, musical and dramtic critic and New York representative of the "Christian Science Monitor".

Mr. Tryon assures me that if he presents the story in a newspaper he would confine himself to a presentationof the facts in evidence and carefully avoid writing anything disrespectful to the late Clement C. Moore. He is naturally unwilling to publish the story unless Henry Livingston's descendants will stand by it.

Remarks on Henry Livingston's claim to authorship have been printed in newspapers from time to time but prematurely, as it seems to me. I have unearted many data concerning Henry Livingston and have been thinking about them for many years and now stand between those of our family who have long urged me to publish the story, and you and Howard who now think it unwise to do so. It now seems to me that, as Prof. Van Doren suggested, publication of the already acquired evidence may cause discussion and the unearthing of positive evidence that would settle the matter beyond doubt in anybody's mind. As Mr. Tryon says, there are some questions which are never settled adn this may be one of them, but it will certainly never be settled while locked up in our family. It should be made public so that the truth may prevail. There is no poem in the English or any other language as widely read than the "Night Before Christmas". It is the precious heritage of all children, young and old. Our great-grandfather wrote it and the fact should be known to all the world, and I propose to do my duty toward making it know. Let me bear alone whatever calumny may result; you know that I don't fear a good fight. Only I ask those of our family who shrink from controversy to give me a fair field.

Your affectionate cousin,

SOURCE: New York Historical Society, WS Thomas Papers


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