Christmas Poet Cover

Source Materials
The Night Before Christmas
Russell Kirk
The Daily Republican
15 Dec 1948, p5.

The Night Before Christmas
By Clark Kinnaird

Clement C. Moore (above) and his autograph. Although the poem of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was published first in 1823, it was not attributed to Moore until 1844. He never claimed authorship (Corr: Moore did claim authorship), and the authorship remains in doubt.

It was a German immigrant, Thomas Nast, who is responsible for the present popular concept of Santa Claus, as told in this space yesterday. The character he gave to Santa Claus in his drawings in the 1860's and 1870's were admittedly influenced by "A Visit from St. Nicholas," also called "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," most famous of Christmas poems, which begins:

"'Twas the night before Christmas
    And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
    Not even a mouse."

The oft-published story and generally-held belief is that the poem, which first appeared in the Troy, N. Y., Sentinel, December 23, 1823, was written by Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of Greek and Hebrew at the General Theological Seminary, in New York City. There is evidence suggesting that Moore wasn't the author. As a matter of fact, he never claimed to be the writer. [Corr: Moore did claim to be the author] This has been explained as being due to the unwillingness of a staid professor in a ministerial school, to be known to his students and neighbors as author of Christmas jingles. Christmas festivities were still looked upon in those days as more pagan than Christian (as told in earlier stories in this series).

However, the reason that he didn't claim authorship may have been the simple one that there was no basis for it. Descendants of one Henry Livingston of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., have been endeavoring for years to prove that their ancestor, not Moore, was the author of the beloved verses. They have built up a case that does make doubt of Moore's authorship of the jingle as substantial as the question of the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.

The Daily Republican - 15 Dec 1948 - Clark Kinnaird


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