Friday, April 28, 2017

Eight great favorite expressions of Clement C. Moore

Reading Moore's poems one soon becomes aware of his obsessive fondness for the word "some" ... MacDonald P. Jackson, Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"? 73
In chapter 15 of Who Wrote, MacDonald P. Jackson identifies and discusses six of Clement C. Moore's supposedly favorite expressions, noting with satisfaction that none occurs in "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "The Night Before Christmas." Hey Santa Claus! What just happened? Somehow Moore got boxed out of his own Christmas poem.

Leaving aside most of Moore's unpublished manuscript poems, Jackson accurately counts 160 instances of six "favorite expressions" in poems by Moore, and only 9 in poems attributed to Livingston. Readers have to guess Jackson's criteria, since he never gives any. Wherefore these six?
some = 75-3
oft = 30-1
many a = 17-0
in vain = 16-2
at length = 12-3
that's = 10-0
The unstated guiding principle appears to have been, find expressions that Moore uses way more than Livingston does, while silently rejecting words and phrases that occur also in "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Many Moore favorites that Jackson slights or excludes in chapter 15 of Who Wrote show up in "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Of course, counting more Moore-markers than Jackson allows might lead people to think Clement C. Moore wrote the beloved Christmas poem--like he said he did ("not for publication, but to amuse my children").

New York American - March 1, 1844
One fantastic Moore marker that Jackson absolutely should have counted among Moore's "favorite expressions" is the word should, occurring 38 or 68 times in Moore's poems, depending on your data set, to Livingston's measly three, all of which occur at the start of lines in one poem, a verse translation of Habakkuk 3.17-18. Livingston's three Should's are reflexes of the biblical source for his hymn. Other translations of the same verses feature modals in the same places, typically either shall or should.  Outside of Habakkuk, Livingston just never bothers with "should." A similar and suggestive disparity exists in their usages of  the word would. The contrast is especially evident when you count all of Moore's manuscript poems: 137 instances of "would" in Moore's poems to 16, maybe, in Livingston's.  Demonstrably, Henry Livingston, Jr. tends to avoid conditional verb forms constructed with the modals should and would. (Well then, what about "could"? Turns out the disparity persists for could, though not quite so dramatically: 76 instances in all of Moore's poems, including "Biography of the heart" and other manuscript works, vs. 18 in Livingston's.)

One of the best Moore-markers in the world is the word "like" which Moore uses 132 times, at least, to Livingston's 15. Moore likes like because he likes to construct similes using "like," which Livingston does rarely, as the numbers demonstrate like ringing a bell. Jackson would excuse his neglect of should and like in chapter 15 by pointing out that they are treated with medium-high frequency words in chapter 17. But should and like are too useful for differentiating Moore from Livingston to bury in a statistical table where numbers replace words and effectively mask their real identity, meaning, and literary value. In fact, they scream, "C.C.M. was here!"

Since Jackson selected "oft" he ought to have picked the similarly conventional and poetic word "ere," too: 17-2 for Moore, or 48-2 counting more of Moore's manuscript poems. Revealingly, the two usages of "ere" for Livingston both occur in a poem he probably did not write, the 1819 Carrier Address. It's also fair to say, mathematically speaking, that Livingston has little hope. Various forms and compounds with hope (hopes, hopeful, hopeless, and hop'd) occur 56 times in all of Moore's poems, only three in Livingston's. Another word that Livingston does not like nearly so much as Moore does is "soon" (plus "Soon"): 68 instances counting "Biography of the heart" (3x) and other manuscript poems, vs. only 8 for Livingston. Moore's 68 include one instance in a line from "Charles Elphinstone" that also contains the word "dread." As in Moore's "Visit," dread gives way to joy:
But soon their dread was for delight exchang'd.
The word dread, as Don Foster showed accidentally, meaning to discredit Moore, in fact makes a splendid Moore-marker: 11 or 24 to nothing, depending on how much of "Charles Elphinstone" you can handle. If Jackson's criteria for selection of "favorite expressions" were strictly and objectively mathematical, he should at least have included the words should, ere, dread, vision/s, and brain/s, and also forms and compounds with hope.

Here then is my personal Christmas list, way ahead of schedule, with eight great "favorite expressions" of Clement C. Moore. My data set of Moore's poems includes his manuscript poem, Biography of the heart. For now I left out "soon" to get a tighter cluster of eight words, as numerically close as I can manage to Jackson's six "favorite expressions." All eight make great Moore-markers that count, or should count, when you're trying to get at essential and distinctive, and potentially distinguishing elements in the verse style of Clement C. Moore.
should 38-3 / (68-3)
would 55-16 / (137-16)
like 65-15 / (132-15; not counting "alike" and "unlike")
hope 29-2 / (56-3)
ere 17-2[Carrier-1819!] (48-2)
dread 11-0 / (24-0)
vision/s 11-1 / (15-1)
brain/s 11-0 / (19-0)
Numbers in parenthesis give totals of favorite words in Moore's corpus when properly enlarged to include all of his manuscript poems, excepting translations. Grand Total: 499 vs. 40. On average that's 1 every 78 words for Moore's set of 38,714 words. (For the six expressions in Jackson's list, "Moore averages one of his favorite locutions to every 129 words.") For my great 8, the rate of frequency over Livingston's much smaller data set of 12,599 words is one every 315 words.

Five shorter poems by Moore yield no hits in Jackson's Table 15.1. Thus, Moore's Old Dobbin gets zero hits from Jackson's rigged list, but one "like" from mine. Another short poem, Moore's To a Young Lady on her Birth-day, yields zero hits from Jackson's six, but two instances of "like" from mine, plus one "Ere" and one "hope," making four hits to Jackson's none. Flowers? Zip for Jackson's, 3 for mine (would 1x and should 2x)

Moore's manuscript Valentine for Fanny French contains none from Jackson's list favorite expressions, but one "hope" marks it for Moore. The brief manuscript poem that Jackson refers to as "To Clem" is actually titled To Little Clem. from a little girl according to Mary S. Van Deusen's transcription. Jackson's list offers no help, but Clem yields one "like" from mine. So, all five short poems that Jackson's list could not identify as Moore's contain at least one of the eight great Moore-markers. My list beats Jackson's 5/5 times.

Jackson's average being one favorite locution every 129 words, a long poem like Moore's Yellow Fever of 1135 lines should yield nearly 9 hits, but gets only 6. Mine gets
1 should
1 hopeful
3 dread
2 visions
1 brain
"Yellow Fever" gets 12/15 or 80% of my expected average; 6/9 or 67% of Jackson's.

For The Pig and the Rooster, Jackson's 5-count is lower than his expected average of 6 for a poem of 783 words.  A nice round ten can be expected from mine, which actually yields thirteen: 7 instances of like, 2 hits each for should and would, one ere and one brain.

I've got 9 of 14 expected hits for a poem the size of The Wine Drinker (1069 words); and 14 of expected 15 in The Water Drinker (1131 words); compared with Jackson's better 10/8 for "Wine Drinker" and somewhat worse 5/9 for "Water Drinker."

Among the manuscript poems, Moore's Irish Valentine at 590 words most closely approximates the word-total of 542 in "A Visit from St. Nicholas." "Irish Valentine" should yield between four and five hits from Jackson's list but only gets one. How fares it with mine? Five likes, one brain, and one hope for a solid 7 of my expected 7.6. From Jackson's list two manuscript poems, Caroline's Album and To Eliza, in England get zilch. From mine? should-1, would-3, and like-1 for a total of 5 hits in "Caroline"; and one would for "Eliza," which I guess is better than nothing.

Among longer Moore poems with seemingly too-few hits on Jackson's Table 15.1, I see "Natural Philosophy" with only one hit of 4-5 expected in 590 words. For our great eight: should-2; would-5, like-2; dread-1, for a total of 10 when we expected about 8, on average.

How about Moore's misunderstood manuscript poem From Saint Nicholas? Five Moore-markers (hope-2; would-1; like-2), or four if you don't like "like" as a main verb, and we only needed three to match the expected average for a poem of 214 total words.

In a poem by Clement C. Moore of 542 words, seven occurrences of words from our list of eight great favorite expressions can be expected, on average. "The Night Before Christmas" has 15; frequency rate 1 in 36 words. A Livingston poem of 542 words (an ambitious length for Livingston that he almost never attempted) on average would be expected to have not even two (542/313 = 1.72) of these eight words. Less than two, if Livingston's, and "The Night Before Christmas" has--how many? Fifteen! If Grinch should ever steal our baby, or take away our matching set of eight "likes" in "The Night Before Christmas," we would still have exactly seven great Moore-markers to play with.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hudson on Weaver

Another danger is, or was, that he might become the esoteric possession of a few, a group of self-styled "Melvilleans," who would exchange cryptic passwords from their first editions and resent intrusion of the vulgar. Worst of all, Melville might become just another American author, another photogravure to put up beside Bryant and Longfellow, every hair of his beard numbered, every fault forgotten, every platitude quoted. Mr. Weaver's book insures a different future for Herman Melville. Given this biography and Melville's works, we have the man, vigorous, observant, eloquent, but torn by unending speculations, baffled by sad defeats. To him all those will turn who love the tingle and tang of life yet who do not fear to think.
--Hoyt H. Hudson, "God's Plenty About Melville" in The Nation, January 4, 1922

Jim A. Kuypers pays a marvelous tribute to Hoyt H. Hudson as "An Ignored Giant" in the Summer 2003 issue of ACJ, the American Communication Journal.
Speech was a humane study for Hudson, not scientific. He made the argument for the centrality and importance of rhetoric at the heart of a liberal arts education--rhetoric was not to devolve into a specialized type of training. As Hudson’s essays demonstrate, rhetoric, not techniques for studying oral language, was at the heart of the new profession. Although Hudson is all but ignored today, his work is crucial for understanding the development of rhetorical studies: it removed rhetoric from the realm of composition studies and literary criticism, forcefully argued for understanding rhetoric as an art, and made the case for rhetoric as an independent disciplinary study.  
--Meet Your Footnote: Hoyt Hopewell Hudson–An Ignored Giant

Friday, April 21, 2017

Another Melville reference by John W. Overall in the New Orleans Sunday Delta

Today's search on for Melville notices in newspapers added there within the past month yields another reference to Typee by Virginia-born journalist and poet John Wilford Overall. This Melville notice appears in Overall's regular "Paragraphs for the Times" column, as published in the New Orleans Sunday Delta on January 24, 1858. 

Found on
Nevertheless, the romantic reader should not yearn for Simla, like the infatuated youth who fell in love with the Marquesas Islands, and went thither to find Melville's beautiful Typee Fayaway, with her liquid eyes, streaming locks, and girdle and robe of colored tappa, standing in the tabooed boat in the lake of the "Happy Valley." Paradises of the Simla and Typee order give not heart-happiness. Somebody said—we believe it was Wordsworth—that
"Heaven lies about us in our infancy."  
True enough; only it continues as long as humanity will permit it to lie about us. Heaven is within us, around us and above us, if we will have it so. That is all. 
--John W. Overall, "Paragraphs for the Times" in The Sunday Delta, January 24, 1858
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Dunder and Blixen, 1825

"A Visit from St. Nicholas" appeared on December 31, 1825 in the Berks and Schuylkill Journal [Reading, Pennsylvania], reprinted from the Troy Sentinel but giving "Blixen" where the 1823 Sentinel version read "Blixem."
Berks and Schuylkill Journal [Reading, PA]
December 31, 1825
The reading "Blixen" also appears in David McClure's reprinting of "Visit" in the United States National Almanac (Philadelphia, 1825). In December 1825 the Charleston Mercury likewise printed "Blixen," and the Mercury version with "Blixen" was copied by numerous other newspapers including the Washington National Intelligencer (January 2, 1826). Some version of "Christmas Times" with "nested" for "nestled" supplied the copy-text for the February 1826 reprinting in the Philadelphia Casket.

Washington [D. C.] National Intelligencer
January 2, 1826
Crediting the Troy Sentinel, The Arkansas Gazette on December 25, 1827 printed "Dundor and Blixem." As Pat Pflieger observes at
"Many early reprints included the introduction written by the editor of the Troy Sentinel when it first published the poem in 1823. No reprint, however, reproduced the poem exactly as it was originally published."
Found on

Thursday, April 13, 2017

More great "toy books" for children

The Butterfly's Ball and The Peacock at Home inspired a wave of illustrated books for children. In various forms these popular English books were soon available in America, too. The shorter text of William Roscoe's "The Butterfly's Ball" was reprinted early and widely in American newspapers and magazines. For one early instance, "Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast" was reprinted on February 4, 1807 in the New York Weekly Museum. Roscoe's poem appeared frequently thereafter, for example in the Albany Balance and Columbian Repository on February 24, 1807; and the New York Weekly Inspector for August 15, 1807. In March 1808, New York printer and publisher David Longworth issued the first number of The Substitute with "The Peacock at Home" and "The Butterfly's Ball."
In Annapolis, the Maryland Gazette reprinted "The Butterfly's Ball" on April 23, 1812:

All of the popular English "toy books" shown below, courtesy of the fabulous Internet Archive, were advertised for sale in America by 1813.

The Advertiser [Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania] - October 22, 1813
Flora's Gala:

Fishes Grand Gala, Part I:

Horses Levee:

The Butterfly's Ball and The Peacock at Home received extensive attention and praise in The British Critic for November 1807. The reviewer especially liked Peacock "as a specimen of playful wit conducted by genius, judgment, and taste." Soon enough, however, the same critic would lament the glut of imitations, satirized in The Congress of Crowned Heads.

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The mean side of Henry Noble MacCracken

Henry Noble MacCracken, c. 1940
Henry Noble MacCracken via Wikimedia Commons
Academia is no place for crybabies. Nevertheless, I can't remember reading anything so overtly cruel in academic prose (however informal) as Henry Noble MacCracken's mockery of Clement C. Moore in Blithe Dutchess. In print, the retired Vassar president goes way out of his way to criticize Moore for loving his wife too much. Then he jeers at Moore's lyrical expression of grief in the poem "To Southey," written after the deaths of Moore's wife and two children. Is hostility to Moore a rule at Vassar, mandated by the Code of Conduct or something?
Professor Moore begot nine children in eleven years (1815-1826), a somewhat uxorious rate, even in those years of large families. His wife died in 1830, and the Doctor bewailed her in lines of self-pity addressed to Robert Southey, his favorite poet.
"A strange relief the mourner's bosom knows
In clinging close and closer to its woes.
In unheard plaints it consolation finds,
And weeps and murmurs to the heedless winds."
It would have been instructive to learn whether Dr. Moore wrote this after listening to an alley cat, of the famous New York breed. No other animal is known to have a weeping bosom. --Henry Noble MacCracken, Blithe Dutchess, 388-389.
In the Dedication to A Tale of Paraguay, Southey recalls the death of his infant daughter. Moore addressed Southey not merely as "his favorite poet," but as a fellow mourner, one who knew firsthand the grief of losing a child. Moore's wife Eliza died in April 1830. Before that, his and Eliza's daughter Emily died in 1828 at the age of six. Another daughter named Charity, age 14, died in December of 1830. Moore grieves for all three in his lines "To Southey" that were "never sent to him," as the headnote explains. MacCracken chose not to quote the most vivid illustration in "To Southey" of very human heartache:
I saw my wife, then, to the grave descend,
Beloved of my heart, my bosom friend.
So interwoven were our joys, our pains
That, as I weeping followed her remains,
I thought to tell her of the mournful scene—
I could not realize the gulph between. --To Southey
Equally mean, or maybe meaner in its Orwellian attempt to rewrite a man out of documented history, is the scrubbing of Clement C. Moore's name from the story of Lorenzo Da Ponte in New York City.
"Lacking a patron, he had at last sought refuge in New York, where Gulian Verplanck befriended him..."
"Da Ponte initiated Italian studies in America, for the self-appointed ambassador to the American people had added a library and a school to his grandiose plans for an endowed Italian opera in New York. Gulian Verplanck secured a post for him at Columbia."
"... the protegé of Gulian Verplanck...." --Blithe Dutchess, 113.
Everybody else credits Clement C. Moore as the earliest New York patron of Lorenzo Da Ponte. Everybody, including Da Ponte. In his memoirs, Da Ponte himself calls Clement Moore "my guardian angel."
"I went to pay my first call on Mr. Charles [sic] Clement Moore, as the person who held (and he will always hold) the first place among my pupils and benefactors...."
--Memoirs by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Much later in his autobiography, Da Ponte remembers also his former boarding student Congressman "Julian" Verplanck with gratitude for arranging the sale of some expensive Italian books to the Library of Congress. At Da Ponte's funeral his old pupils Moore and Verplanck both served as pall-bearers. But the name of Moore comes first in every version but MacCracken's.

Ex-President MacCracken alludes knowingly to Da Ponte's memoir, but fails to mention the effusive praise therein for Clement C. Moore:
Pray allow me, Mr. Clement Moore, to adorn this part of my Memoirs with your dear and respected name! Pray allow my grateful heart, mindful of the honor, the graciousness, the kindness, received of you, and your never interrupted favor, and mindful no less, of the advantages and the glory shed by that same favor upon the sublimest geniuses of Italy, upon Italy herself and upon me—pray allow me, I say, to seize this occasion to make a public testimonial of my proper gratitude, and solemnly protest that if the language of Italy, if her noblest authors, are known and loved in New York not only, but in the most cultured cities of america, if, finally, I am enabled to make the glorious boast of having, I alone, introduced them, I alone, spread their fame, their practice, their light in America, the principal merit belongs to you...." Memoirs - Lorenzo Da Ponte
In 1940, Columbia librarian Milton Halsey Thomas recalled that Da Ponte's professorship in Italian came "largely through Moore's influence." In 1958, MacCracken's revised history in Blithe Dutchess blithely erased Moore and replaced him with Verplanck. The alteration does not read like a careless mistake, or oversight--which is too bad.

Fortunately, correctives are easy to find. One good one is by the late Jack Beeson, distinguished Professor of Music at Columbia. Professor Beeson's chapter in Living Legacies at Columbia properly acknowledges the early role of Clement C. Moore in promoting Lorenzo Da Ponte:
A chance meeting in a bookstore with the recent Columbia College alumnus Clement Clarke Moore led to private teaching and to meeting Moore's father, Benjamin, who was Bishop of the Anglican Church. (Benjamin was also President of Columbia College, and his son was a Columbia Trustee.)....

At the suggestion of the younger Moore, he returned to New York City and opened a bookstore and a rooming house, both frequented by Columbia College students, who savored the sophisticated talk about the arts, the Mozart years, and the Italian cooking. It was not long before Moore, by that time the author of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," suggested a professorship in Italian, and Da Ponte was forthwith appointed.
Professor Beeson's fine biographical essay on Da Ponte, MacDowell, [Douglas] Moore, and Lang is also available online via the Columbia Magazine - Living Legacies series.

Later: Another victim of MacCracken's revisionism in Blithe Dutchess is Frances Laight Cottenet, whom Lorenzo Da Ponte affectionately honored as
"without doubt the brightest jewel in my Tuscan crown."
--Memoirs of Lorenzo Da Ponte
As Da Ponte explains, his "Tuscan crown" refers to "my New York pupils." Da Ponte means New York City pupils, not the Livingston daughters he lectured one fine summer and left behind in Staatsburg. MacCracken coolly cuts the exceptionally gifted Mrs. Cottenet out of Da Ponte's narrative and replaces her with Cornelia Livingston.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Butterfly's Ball, Peacock at Home, Lion's Masquerade

"... some lines, describing a visit from St. Nicholas, which I wrote many years ago, I think somewhere between 1823 and 1824, not for publication, but to amuse my children." --Clement C. Moore
When Clement C. Moore turned St. Nicholas into a jolly old fairy for the entertainment of his children, the best nineteenth-century models for what Hartley Coleridge called "the "true spirit of Faery poesy" were children's books by William Roscoe and Catherine Ann Turner Dorset. Drayton's Nymphidia influenced the naming of Santa's reindeer, as Ruth K. MacDonald shows, but Roscoe and Dorset were the real Dr. Seusses of Moore's day.
"Then the Grasshopper came with a Jerk and a Spring...."

A very popular and anonymous set of nursery volumes was started into being by William Roscoe in 1806. The first was The Butterfly's Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast, which he wrote for the amusement of his son, Robert. By some occult means it attracted the attention of the King and Queen, by whose order it was set to music by Sir George Smart for the Princess Mary. Its first appearance in print was in the November, 1806, number of the Gentleman's Magazine, and it was published separately in the following January, the text and pictures being engraved together on copper plates. A crowd of imitators at once buzzed into life. The first that came out was The Peacock at Home, written by a Lady, and Illustrated with Elegant Engravings, which are usually attributed to Mulready. The next of them, The Lion's Masquerade, was also "by a lady," and it again was "illustrated with elegant engravings," by the same hand. The authorship of the last two was soon assigned to Mrs. Dorset, a younger sister of the unhappy Charlotte Smith, and the Peacock at Home has often been reprinted with and without her name. The Lion's Masquerade had a companion in The Lioness's Rout, also by Mrs. Dorset, and Roscoe followed up his Butterfly's Ball with another little work, The Butterfly's Birthday, 1809.
The Butterfly's Funeral is said to have been written by Beau Brummell. Three thousand copies of it are said to have been sold. A kindred piece, The Elephant's Ball and Grand Fete Champetre, 1807, bore the initials of an unknown W. B. and was also "illustrated with elegant engravings," by Mulready. Lastly may be mentioned, The Peacock and Parrot in their Tour to Discover the Author of the "Peacock at Home," which was written in 1807, but not published until 1816. Hartley Coleridge wrote of Roscoe's original production, The Butterfly's Ball, that it possessed " the true spirit of Faery poesy and reminds one of the best things in Herrick."  --The Secrets of our National Literature
"And, with hearts beating light as the plumage that grew
On their merry-thought bosoms, away they all flew...."

"And now at the door was a terrible clatter,
The beasts all about wonder'd what was the matter."

Happily the Internet Archive also has the 1807 companion piece by "W. B.," The Elephant's Ball:

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