I'm pleased to find the solid detective work of Joe Nickell cited by Emily A. Kingery in her 2013 PhD Dissertation (Northern Illinois University) titled "A Christmas Canon: Literary Influence and the Anthological Motive." Early in her chapter on “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and the New American Christmas, Dr. Kingery accurately reported the scholarly consensus for Clement C. Moore's authorship, as follows:
14 Some scholars have questioned whether Moore is the author of the poem, usually making a case for its proper attribution to Henry Livingston. Overwhelmingly, though, Moore is accepted as the poem’s author. For a recent discussion of this question of authorship, see Joe Nickell, “The Case of the Christmas Poem,” Manuscripts 54.4 (Fall 2002): 293-308, and his “Part 2” follow-up, Manuscripts 55.1 (Winter 2003): 5-15.As noted, Nickell's two-part study appeared in the Fall 2002 and Winter 2003 issues of Manuscripts, the quarterly journal of The Manuscript Society.
James Hughes observes in his 2010 article "Those Who Passed Through: Unusual Visits to Unlikely Places" that
"history has long credited the work to Moore, a view that is not likely to change."Literary scholars, when they bother to notice it, will continue to attribute "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to its rightful author Clement C. Moore, despite the revival of claims for Henry Livingston, Jr. in Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas?" by MacDonald P. Jackson. However, scholars in other fields evidently need the kind of helpful direction from specialists that Dr. Kingery has offered by citing Joe Nickell on Clement C. Moore's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Leeman L. Perkins, for example, fulsomely cites Don Foster and the unique "analytical skills" that supposedly enabled him
--New York History via JSTOR
to restore a correct attribution to the well known celebration of the Yuletide, The Night Before Christmas, removing credit for its authorship from Clement Clarke Moore—who seems to have dishonestly allowed a mistaken attribution to himself to be perpetuated—and restoring it to its rightful creator, the amiable descendent of New York Dutch progenitors, Major Henry Livingston. --Josquin's Qui habitat and the Psalm Motets via JSTORPublishing in 2009, the distinguished Columbia musicologist seems unaware of scholarship after Author Unknown that corrected the Vassar professor's errors and exposed serious flaws in his methodology. In 2008, Patrick Juola called Foster's attribution of the Elegy to Shakespeare a "noted failure" (Authorship Attribution, page 12). Before that, Foster's "Funeral Elegy Fiasco" received devastating critiques by Ron Rosenbaum, G. D. Monsarrat, and Brian Vickers.
The traditional attribution of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (aka "'The Night Before Christmas") to Clement C. Moore is further strengthened by the recent discovery of Moore's February 1844 letter to his friend Charles King, published in King's New York American on March 1, 1844.
|New York American - March 1, 1844|
Moore included "A Visit from St. Nicholas" with other poems in his 1844 collection, simply titled Poems. As Columbia and Princeton librarian Milton Halsey Thomas pointed out in a letter to the editor of the Chatham Courier (January 23, 1947):
"Moore was simply not the kind of man to claim authorship of something he had not written."--Milton Halsey ThomasIn the estimation of his friend and seminary colleague Samuel H. Turner, Clement Clarke Moore's "thorough honesty of character has gained for him the well earned and enviable reputation of an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile." Future Livingston promoters will have to contradict Turner and call Moore a liar and thief, for a start. After that, they would need to explain why "one of the best of men," as Evert Duyckinck remembered him, famous in his lifetime for exemplary personal integrity, would embarrass his friends, hurt his family, and risk his reputation in the effort to own something so ephemeral and (in Moore's typically humble view) of so little "intrinsic value."
LINES TO ST. NICHOLAS.--The following note from our friend C. C. Moore, the author of those lines which every child among us delights to hear, about Christmas, and which parents with not less delight recite, brings to our notice, one of the boldest acts of plagiarism of which we have any recollection. We ask the National Intelligencer to have the goodness to insert Mr. Moore's note--and if possible to elucidate the mistake, if such it be, or fraud attempted in respect of such well known lines.
New York, Feb. 27, 1844
Dear Sir--My attention was, a few days ago, directed to the following communication, which appears in the National Intelligencer of the 25th of December last.
"Washington, Dec. 22d, 1843.
The enclosed lines were written by Joseph Wood, artist, for the National Intelligencer, and published in that paper in 1827 or 1828, as you may perceive from your files. By republishing them, as the composition of Mr. Wood you will gratify one who has now few sources of pleasure left. Perhaps you may comply with this request, if it be only for 'auld lang syne.'"
The above is printed immediately over 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. They, however, found their way, to my great surprise, in the Troy Sentinel: nor did I know, until lately, how they got there. When "The New York Book" was about to be published, I was applied to for some contribution to the work. Accordingly, I gave the publisher several pieces, among which was the "Visit from St. Nicholas." It was printed under my name, and has frequently since been republished, in your paper among others, with my name attached to it.
Under these circumstances, I feel it incumbent on me not to remain silent, while so bold a claim, as the above quoted, is laid to my literary property, however small the intrinsic value of that property may be.
The New York Book was published in 1827 .
Yours, truly and respectfully,
CLEMENT C. MOORE
Chas. King, Esq.On microfilm the date of publication that Moore gives for the New-York Book of Poetry reads "1827," apparently a typographical error for 1837.
- Clement C. Moore's published letter
- National Intelligencer requested to correct mistaken attribution
- More testimony from Orville L. Holley
- 1824 reprinting in the Geneva Palladium
- Moore's snow poem in the Troy Sentinel