Monday, October 31, 2016

National Intelligencer requested to correct mistaken attribution and confirm Clement C. Moore's authorship of "the admired lines of his, describing the visit of St. Nicholas"

So far I only have one side of this apparently friendly exchange between two leading Whig newspapers regarding authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "The Night Before Christmas." Both papers seem glad to acknowledge Clement C. Moore as the author.

It started with a mistaken attribution in the Washington [D. C.] Daily National Intelligencer, which prompted the New York American eventually to ask for a published correction. On December 25, 1843 the National Intelligencer published "A Visit from St. Nicholas" with the following letter, dated December 22, 1843:
GENTLEMEN: 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 now has few sources of pleasure left. Perhaps you may comply with this request, if it be only for "auld lange syne."
Three days later the Daily National Intelligencer published this correction:

National Intelligencer - December 28, 1843
Messrs. EDITORS: I perceive in your paper of the 25th instant that an extract from the beautiful little poem entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas" is given to the pen of Jos. Wood. This is a mistake. It is well known to be the production of CLEMENT C. MOORE, of the city of New York, and is published as his in the volume of American Poems edited by John Keese. Very respectfully, &c.
Subsequently the editor of the New York American must have urged the National Intelligencer editor to reprint "a note of Mr. CLEMENT C. MOORE concerning the authorship of the admired lines of his." The Washington, D. C. editor replied in essence that his paper had already made the desired correction, alluding to the letter from "C." that had appeared in the National Intelligencer on December 28, 1843.

Transcribed below, the 1844 response in the Daily National Intelligencer seems to mean that sometime before March 6, 1844, the New York American published a note from Clement C. Moore acknowledging his authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas." I have not found that highly desirable item yet, but it sure sounds recoverable. [Update: Found! 01/23/2017 at NYPL, Moore's emphatic and unambiguous published claim to "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."]

(Not online? but maybe on microfilm at the Library of Congress, NYPL or Center for Research Libraries).

Washington Daily National Intelligencer - March 6, 1844
We have observed the request addressed to us by the New York American to copy a note of Mr. CLEMENT C. MOORE concerning the authorship of the admired lines of his, describing the visit of St. Nicholas. We should have pleasure in complying with the request, had not the purpose of it been anticipated by a publication made in this paper of the 28th December last. As to the "mistake, if such it be, or fraud attempted in respect of such well-known lines," which the American asks us to elucidate, we can only say, that we have no idea that any fraud was intended by the unknown correspondent who attributed them to the late JOSEPH WOOD. Our conjecture in the matter is, that some friend of the late Mr. WOOD (who had many friends) finding among his papers, after his death, a copy of these lines in his hand-writing, took it for granted, in the absence of other information, that the authorship was also his, and liked the lines all the better for it.
--Washington Daily National Intelligencer, March 6, 1844; found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
The editor of the New York American then (1823-1845) was Charles King, who in 1849 would succeed Clement C. Moore's cousin Nathaniel Fish Moore as president of Columbia University.

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