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"? page 73.
If dearest hopes that fill the youthful mind,
And joys of fairest promise, end in gloom,
Yet still, successive hopes we ever find,
And other joys, upspringing in their room.
No, let not frigid age regard with scorn
The youthful spirit's warm outbreakings wild:
How many a hero to the world is born
Whose deeds are but the reckless darings of a child!
--Clement C. Moore, A Trip to Saratoga
In chapter 15 of Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"?, MacDonald P. Jackson identifies and tabulates 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Leaving aside most of Moore's unpublished manuscript poems, Jackson accurately counts 160 instances of six "favorite expressions" in poems by Moore, and only 9 in poems attributed to Livingston.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Jackson allows might lead people to think Clement C. Moore wrote the beloved rhymes--like the good man said he did, "not for publication, but to amuse my children."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 piece, 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 18, 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 Moore's larger set of 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 employs like most often to construct similes using "like," which Livingston does rarely, as the numbers demonstrate like ringing a bell. Jackson would excuse his neglect of would and should and like in chapter 15 by pointing out that would is treated with high frequency words in chapter 16, should and like with medium-high frequency words in chapter 17. But would and 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, these three words 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, but 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 Moore's unpublished cosmic allegory 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 (why not?) 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" (and a few others) 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 55-18 / (137-18)
like 65-15 / (132-15; not counting "alike" and "unlike")
hope 29-3 / (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 parentheses 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. 42. 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 300 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. Result: all five short poems that Jackson's list could not identify as Moore's contain at least one of the eight great Moore-markers herein commended. 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 only slightly 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 by Clement C. Moore, 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, Natural Philosophy shows only one hit of 4-5 expected in 590 words. Counts for our great eight: should-2; would-5; like-2; dread-1; a total of 10 when we expected about 8, on average.

How about Moore's misunderstood manuscript poem From Saint Nicholas? Five Moore-markers there (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; with a frequency rate of 1 in 36 words. A Livingston poem of 542 words (an ambitious, uncomfortable length for Livingston that he almost never attempted) on average would be expected to have not even two (542/300 = 1.81) of these eight words. Less than two, if Livingston's, and "The Night Before Christmas" has--how many? Fifteen!
  • 1 would
  • 1 should (Ho ho ho, Poetry Foundation can't handle Moore's distinctively conditional style and replaces Moore's one "should" with "did." Poetry Foundation also revises Moore's "Donder" to "Donner." Don't blame Random House for "did" and "Donner"; neither revision appears in the cited Random House Book of Poetry for Children.)
  • 1 hopes (plural and children's, naturally)
  • 1 dread (the mature speaker's, overcome by Santa's comical appearance)
  • 1 ere
  • 1 visions (plural)
  • 1 brains (plural)
If Mr. 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.

  • Red Holloway (immortal now, formerly of Morro Bay) blows the blazing tenor sax on Hey Santa Claus. Turn it up! For more information in that line, Jazz critic and Clemson professor Robert Campbell has a great page of painstaking discography, all about The Chance label.
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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."

Tue, Dec 25, 1827 – Page 4 · The Arkansas Gazette (Arkansas Post, Arkansas, Arkansas) ·

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.

Related post:

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, translated by Elisabeth Abbott and edited by Arthur Livingston, with preface by Charles Rosen (The New York Review Books, 2000), page 348.
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.

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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:

Related post:

Commonplace rhymes in A Burlesque Translation of Homer by Thomas Bridges, and elsewhere

It's hard to find hoofs on roofs outside of Clement C. Moore and the Coen brothers.

Except for a magical few involving reindeer and old St. Nick, the rhymes in Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "The Night Before Christmas" are commonplace; a dozen of them occur in the first volume of A Burlesque Translation of Homer by Thomas Bridges. Possibly the bawdy verse influenced Moore, if he ever read it. Otherwise rhymes so ordinary as belly/jelly; clatter/matter; and elf/myself are merely coincidental, with no bearing on authorship. Bridges died in 1775, forty-eight years before "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was first published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823.

Examples below are from A Burlesque Translation of Homer - Volume 1 by Thomas Bridges, with links to the digitized Princeton volume in the Hathi Trust Digital Library.


And threw a stick, which bruis'd the belly
Of Farmer Amphius to a jelly
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 225 
And treading on my back and belly,
Work all my ribs and guts to jelly.
--Fifth Book - Vol 1. page 244
And running through the sea full clatter
Popp'd up and cried, Zoons, what's the matter?
--First Book - Vo1. 1. page 38
Now therefore, without further clatter
Pray go and tell him all the matter.
--Third Book - Vol. 1 page 107
Nor shall the red nos'd surly elf
Drub me with arms I made myself:
--Third Book - Vol. 1 page 107
Because he found the prating elf
Could chatter faster than himself
--Second Book - Argument - page 56
Anchises, like a cunning elf,
Brought mares to cover for himself
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 202
That did you hear each prating elf
I'm pretty sure you'd hang yourself
--Sixth Book - Vol. 1 page 293
Whilst she was naked he fell to work
And got these younkers at a jerk
--Sixth Book Vol. 1 page 250
 For usage of "with a jerk":
Have ply'd their broomsticks with a jerk,
And knocked folks down, just like Macquirk
--Sixth Book Vol. 1 page 293
When born, tho' smaller than a mouse
She'll quickly touch the top o' th' house
--Fourth Book - Vol. 1 page 175
What way he came they little care,
But jump'd for joy to find him there
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 219
For every god had bed and bedding,
And a good house to put his head in.
--First Book - Vol. 1 page 55
But whilst I don my coat and cap,
Do you sit still, or take a nap
Sixth Book-Vol. 1 -page 279
Thus Phoebus from the Trojan wall
Reviv'd their courage one and all
--Fourth Book Vol. 1 page 180
She with the lad, and nurse, and all
Was got upon a pigstye wall
--Sixth Book Vol. 1 page 282
They mount; the nimble horses fly,
And in a twinkling reach the sky
--Fifth Book - Vol. 1 page 209
That came incumber'd with a pack,
To rest his load, and rub his back
--Fifth Book Vol. 1 page 220
But like a pedlar with his pack,
Lugg'd his great potlid on his back
--Sixth Book - Vol. 1 page 257
To strike the foe with still more dread,
She hung a lawyer's chuckle head
--Second Book - Vol. 1 page 94

The 1820 Tour of Doctor Syntax through London has bed/head and jelly/belly

 and matter/clatter

and house/mouse; and came/name; and around/bound; and fly/sky; and pack/back; and rose/nose; and sight/night.

William Combe's The Tour of Doctor Syntax: In Search of the Picturesque, a Poem repeatedly rhymes "elf" with "himself" and "yourself," for example:

But I must say, you silly elf,
You merit to be flogged yourself...
 Once Combe rhymes "elf" and "myself," as in Moore's "Visit":

When I read Falstaff to myself,
I laugh like any merry elf....
Also in Combe's 1812 Tour of Doctor Syntax: care/there; beds/heads; came/name; fly/sky; bound/around; and cap/nap.

Another, shorter poem that shares a cluster of commonplace rhymes with "The Night Before Christmas" is "The Force of Imagination / A Pindaric Tale." "Force of Imagination" was published in the Philadelphia Tickler for August 25, 1812, over the signature of "Pegasus."
And but this very morning while at work
He gave my liver a tremendous jerk...
Now all was ready as before was said;
Snug under lock and key the cobbler laid,
Still as a mouse
While solemn show of deep mysterious knowledge
Was made by every fellow of the college,
And all the house
Was nothing but a din and clatter
Waiting the upshot of the matter.  --Philadelphia Tickler, August 25, 1812
The Tickler - August 25, 1812
Found in the Historical Newspapers at Genealogy Bank

Friday, April 7, 2017

Gansevoort Melville at seventeen, almost

Herman's older brother Gansevoort Melville was born on December 6, 1815. Their father Allan Melvill had died in January.

Albany Argus, October 19, 1832 / found at Fulton History
A LARGE and general assortment of Fur and Hair Caps, Fur Collars and Buffalo Robes, for sale, wholesale and retail, on liberal terms, by
364 S. Market st. near foot of State st.

London correspondent "H." of the Boston Atlas on Mardi: "affected, inflated and pompous"

Boston Semi-Weekly Atlas - May 2, 1849
Found in the online archives of Historical Newspapers at Genealogy Bank:
Herman Melville, author of Typee and Omoo, has published a new work called "Mardi, and a voyage thither." It is a poor affair. In style it is very affected, inflated and pompous. It has all the defects, to exaggeration, of its predecessors, and hardly any of their merits. Many may be tempted into a perusal of it by a remembrance of the interest and merits of Typee. Of these, however, I venture to say but few will read on until the end; and should any be so persevering, the termination of their labors will be hailed by them as a happy release.  --Boston Semi-Weekly Atlas, May 2, 1849

Dunter and Blixen, 1826

"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunter and Blixen"
-- from the "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas or Santa Claus," as reprinted under the heading "Christmas Times" in The Casket Vol. 1 No. 2, February 1826.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The wisdom and courage of Cornelia Griswold Goodrich

 "Let the dead past bury its dead" as Longfellow says, or as we lesser lights would say "let the old Cat die." --Cornelia Griswold Goodrich
New York City physician William S. Thomas impressed Clement C. Moore's biographer Samuel W. Patterson as "sincere, earnest, indefatigable" in his long "quest" to prove that his great grandfather Henry Livingston, Jr. wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "'The Night Before Christmas." Patterson honored the memory of Dr. Thomas by reviewing the Livingston claim in an appendix to his 1956 biography, The Poet of Christmas Eve. In so doing, Moore's biographer was being extraordinarily nice. So, too, was Henry Litchfield West when he characterized Dr. Thomas's three decades of devotion to his idée fixe as "intelligent and unremitting industry."

Livingston descendant Mary S. Van Deusen has mistaken Patterson's kindness for weakness, in the brief critique of Patterson's work on her magnificent Henry Livingston website. In this post I want to offer a different perspective on the obsessive "industry" of Dr. Thomas after WWI, in particular as exemplified in his bullying of Cornelia Griswold Goodrich in May 1920, and her most courageous stand of defiance.

Cornelia Griswold Goodrich (1842-1927) was a great-great granddaughter of Henry Livingston, Jr. and his first wife Sarah Welles. CGG had two younger sisters: Anne Livingston Goodrich (1851-1902); and Mary Willis Goodrich (1859-1918), later Mrs. M. W. Montgomery after her marriage to Edward Livingston Montgomery (1855-1913). Mary S. Van Deusen credits CGG as one of the first persons to delve seriously into the family legend that Henry Livingston, Jr. wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas." CGG corresponded with distinguished historian Benson J. Lossing. Misreading curiosity and courtesy as shared passion, CGG convinced herself that Lossing had been as enthusiastic for the Livingston cause as she was. In her early excitement, CGG apparently missed the wry humor and cautionary import of Lossing's 1886 reply:
"The circumstantial evidence that your G. G. Grandfather wrote "The Visit of St. Nicholas" seems as conclusive as that which has taken innocent men to the gallows."
--Benson J. Lossing to Cornelia Griswold Goodrich, November 25, 1886
Lossing the methodical historian never got the documentation he asked for in reply to CGG, most crucially the date of the Poughkeepsie newspaper in which "Visit" supposedly first appeared, and written affidavits from kin who allegedly heard Livingston's readings firsthand. The absence of basic, verifiable facts such as those requested by Lossing is the chief reason that so-called witness letters assembled by Van Deusen do not count as evidence that Henry Livingston, Jr. wrote "The Night Before Christmas." To be at all believable, key claims eventually must be backed up with facts. The earliest testimonies are mostly hearsay ("the report of another person's words by a witness") rather than direct, eyewitness reports. Supported by indirect and unreliable evidence, the Livingston claims were destined to be rejected, as indeed they have been. In print, the most thorough and convincing rejection of the Livingston claim appears in the two-part article in Manuscripts (Fall 2002 and Winter 2003) by Joe Nickell, titled "The Case of the Christmas Poem." Online, strong refutations are readily accessible via Seth Kaller's page on The Authorship of The Night Before Christmas; and in the Common-Place article by Stephen Nissenbaum titled There Arose Such a Clatter.

By 1920, Cornelia Griswold Goodrich had almost made herself crazy in the effort to prove her great great grandfather's authorship of the beloved Christmas poem. Her increasingly manic state is reflected in the disjointed letter she wrote on May 21, 1920 to William S. Thomas. Her "Cousin Will" was just then making arrangements with Winthrop P. Tryon for a fresh statement of the Livingston case in The Christian Science Monitor
"Mr. Tryon ought to show the similarity of the metre in the 4th stanza of Nancy Crooke acrostick, & some of grandfather's other poems - * ask the public if there is anything similar in any of Clement Moore's trashy poems - I don't see why we should handle him with kid gloves - there need be no "disrespect" shown him, or said of him, but facts are facts, & justice is justice...."  --Cornelia Griswold Goodrich, May 21, 1920
Although CGG began by cheering her cousin on ("I approve & applaud"), she seems headed for a crash as the letter progresses. This letter breaks off before the end ("last page missing"), but you can guess where she's going in what's left of her last sentence:
"However I say push on - even Home[r] & Shakespeare have..."
It looks to me like CGG was going to say that even Homer and Shakespeare have doubters, or have been exposed as myths by higher criticism. Her example of Shakespeare alludes to well-publicized claims for the authorship of Shakespeare's works by somebody other than William Shakespeare. Francis Bacon was probably the best known alternative candidate. However, J. Thomas Looney had just published Shakespeare Identified (London, 1920). Did Cornelia Griswold Goodrich go on to reference Looney's argument for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the true Shakespeare? We'll never know, unless that missing page turns up.

Near the end of May CGG did visit with Dr. William S. Thomas and Winthrop P. Tryon. She was surprised and extremely upset by their "inquisitional questioning" on family history. In her letter of  May 31, 1920 to Dr. Thomas, CGG recalls that Tryon "hardly opened his mouth." Tryon's silence as reported by CGG suggests that the grilling she received and here complains of was mainly conducted by her "dear" but domineering cousin:
Newburgh, N.Y. stationery

please excuse pencil May 31 1920

My dear Cousin Will,

I am writing from my bed- I could not sleep last night in thinking over our conversation with Mr. Tryon I got drawn into this cross-examination which was quite inquisitorial in its nature, Quite unwittingly for I did not realize there was to be such a delving & talking over our past history & genealogy. even to bringing in my parents, sisters, brothers, aunts & Uncles, & eventually having them in the limelight of public criticism, for the problematical authorship of that poem- In thinking it over I got frightened & the issue being very uncertain, the obloquay that would fall upon us by people & press, is more than I could stand-

My health is not good & I have been under the Doctor's orders to lead a very quiet life & that is why I am out of the city & up here. I don't sleep well & am easily distressed & worried over the least thing, and I have many things to worry me

Being very sensitive & tender hearted I really could not stand any publicity, or disagreeable controvery- "Let the dead past bury its dead" as Longfellow says, or as we lesser lights would say "let the old Cat die"

I don't approve of having the ashes of the past relative to two old Colonial gentlemen raked up stainless tho they be one as to a very problematical authorship (as we have no proof positive) & the other to a long reputed claim! It is a very delicate question to handle & I am not at all in favor of a writer for a christian science paper handling it- It ought to be touched on very delicately & by some man of eminent literary attainments- A very charming article can be made on the character of Henry L- by itself, but don't drag in the question of authorship now, wait till you find the fit man to do it- We relatives would only have dirt thrown at us by press & people for C. Moore is a demi-god almost in their eyes! almost a century has this "fetish" been adored & I will not have myself or my family mixed up in it. What inquisitional questioning has frightened me & to tell the truth & I was not prepared for it, & I was not very much impressed by Mr. T- He never gave any plan of operation & hardly opened his mouth! He has a fine subject & theme & probably would enjoy the notoriety it would bring him but it is too delicate a subject to be dragged & raked about except with great tact & reverence- As far as I am concerned & all my family to the 4th and 5th generation concerned, I do not wish them in the limelight of an antagonistic criticism before the public eye Cousin. Wait till you get some one of high literary merit to write about the authorship, we would only be scoffed at & held to derision, & fall back humiliated into our former place- Do not make this of any but a first class writer & let alone a Xian Science one.

Remember you are the grandson of an Episcopal cleryman & it appears to me like a smirch on his fair name to be connected with the other avenue of publication. I advise you to wait awhile & let us talk it over together - this summer quietly- I am not in favor of the scheme as it stands, please remember, dear Cousin Will & if we disapprove Mr. T has no right to xx for I disapprove of myself or any of my family so categorically given away (inadvertently thro enthusiasm for the subject) & talked about up in a Xian Science periodical, by a writer who has no well known name.

Wait, please wait a little longer- I am feeling too unwell & run down to discuss it now, & as others of the family do not quite approve of this publicity either, I say, wait & let the old Cat die, for the present. You as a doctor, & dear relative, do not want to make me feel distressed & make me sleepless- besides I think some of the family feel as I do about publishing this as a controvery-

My head aches badly today & I'm glad to be back in my quiet home- Didn't sleep well in N. York, or last night either. I felt after Mr. Tryon's short hand examination as tho I had been on trial before a jury! so forgive me for now changing my mind for the present- couldn't stand it- & don't let him begin this xx back & I would like to have my article back as it belongs to one of my family- We will confer this summer & don't be angry please.

Your affte Cousin Nellie

SOURCE: New York Historical Society, Thomas Papers
--transcribed by Mary S. Van Deusen
In addition to protesting the surprise "cross-examination" by Thomas and Tryon, CGG twice refers to the "problematical authorship" of the Christmas poem. She emphatically acknowledges the absence of documentary "proof positive" for the Livingston side, alongside the weight of tradition on Moore's. She well appreciates the extent to which undue focus on authorship might detract, unnecessarily, from a just tribute to the life and legacy of Henry Livingston, Jr. She fears being exposed and vulnerable to criticism as a result of airing family legends. More specifically, she expects and fears that any appearance of disrespect towards Clement C. Moore might generate negative press and recriminations.  And she strongly doubts that the Christian Science Monitor is the right venue for a balanced, sympathetic treatment of Henry Livingston, Jr. and the disputed authorship of "The Night Before Christmas." CGG keenly perceives, too, the desirability of obtaining the impartial views of a qualified expert in literary studies, "some one of high literary merit" and "a first class writer."

In short, Cornelia Griswold Goodrich came to her senses. This is no regression or lamentable failure of nerve on her part. Rather, as her letter of May 31, 1920 reveals, Cornelia Griswold Goodrich has wrestled with the dark side of prolonged self-delusion, and won. The most compelling evidence of her moral and psychological victory is the wise advice she gave to her obsessive cousin, Dr. Thomas: "let the old cat die."

Mary S. Van Deusen presents a different take on the 1920 interview and fall-out, focusing on Cornelia's "hysterical" reaction, rather than the merits of her argument, or her eloquent protest of Dr. Thomas's conduct, or her wise advice to "let the old cat die":
Thomas's papers in the New York Historical Society show that he and Mr. Tryon, a gentleman who planned to publish the information in the Christian Science newspaper, came to visit Cornelia in 1920 and try to get a brain dump of her information so that they could look for potentially missed clues. But the interview didn't go as planned. Enthusiastic before the interview and anxious to see Henry identified as the author (The right & truth does not always come out in this life but it surely will in the next, and then woe to Clement Moore!), Cornelia came out of the interview absolutely hysterical with the thought that contradicting an American icon, Clement Clarke Moore, would end up in some material hitting the proverbial fan that would not increase the fragrance of the immediate environment. She begged him not to continue, or to only publicize Henry Livingston for his other writing.  --Chapter 1, The Mouse in the House
As Van Deusen points out elsewhere, CGG was not the only female relative to push back against Dr. Thomas. Helen Thomas Blackwell (emboldened by the neutral and very sensible opinion of her husband, Howard Lane Blackwell) also complained to WST about the projected article by Tryon in the Christian Science Monitor. WST was not about to budge, however. His reply to HTB on May 18, 1920 indicates the intensity and inflexibility of his commitment:
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.  --William Sturges Thomas
In a mostly conciliatory reply on May 20. 1920, Helen Thomas Blackwell still felt the need to reassert the importance of showing respect for Clement C. Moore and his reputation for honesty:
"... the article might well be impaired by what would seem to such a reader a gratuitous aspersion cast upon the truthfulness of Mr. Moore."  --Helen Thomas Blackwell
To the urgent message from Cornelia Griswold Goodrich, WST replied immediately. In his letter of May 31, 1920, WST makes it clear that although he is sorry CGG is upset, he has no intention of putting the brakes on Tryon's Christian Science Monitor article, as CGG begged him to do. CGG is mixed up, WST condescendingly tells her, confused by "mistaken impressions." She herself practically started the whole authorship quest, anyhow, and must not now hinder the investigation.
"Your interest and urgings have, up to now, been one of my chief inspirations. We have our convictions; for the Truth's sake let us stick to them, I beg of you. Have not the fatigue of your journey and its excitement, something to do with your fears? Remember the toil I have put into this thing and your former encouragement, and lend a helping hand, wont you, dear Cousin?   --William Sturges Thomas to Cornelia Griswold Goodrich, May 31, 1920
In his reply of May 31, 1920 William Sturges Thomas never acknowledges the bullying that CGG complained of in her letter of the same date. But CGG could not forget the fierceness of her cousin's interrogation. In her letter of June 9, 1920, CGG reminds WST of his "strenuous cross questioning that day, which frightened me really." Reluctantly, CGG accepts the decision by WST to go ahead with the article. Before the end, she even expresses gratitude to WST for not delivering the "scolding" that she she had expected, and feared.
But I beg you never to send me at any time any more Xian Science papers or tell me about the poem as it progresses. Just now I cannot stand it- I shall hope to write you this summer, for I am going to be in Fishkill for a few weeks to board, & then we can talk it over. --Cornelia Griswold Goodrich to William S. Thomas, June 9, 1920
Mary S. Van Deusen notes on her Henry Livingston site that "Cornelia Griswold Goodrich worked for 40 years to prove Henry's case." The letter of June 9, 1920 is the last one associated with CGG in the index of Witness Letters there. Distraught still, she implores Dr. Thomas to stop bothering her about the poem, begging him "never to send me at any time" news of the crusade. Presumably Dr. Thomas respected her wishes. Cornelia Griswold Goodrich died in 1927. Whether she was able to enjoy some measure of restored physical and emotional health, the witness letters do not say. I would be glad to learn more about Cornelia Griswold Goodrich and her experiences during any year, especially 1920-1927. In any event, her courage in 1920 remains exemplary. Likewise her hard-won wisdom, which is applicable here and now, and not only to deluded heirs of Henry Livingston, Jr.

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