Monday, December 4, 2017

Francis P. Lee in 1833 on Clement C. Moore's authorship of The Night Before Christmas

Another reason to love footnotes--not that we need one here at Melvilliana. As documented in a footnote to chapter 4 of Stephen Nissenbaum's The Battle for Christmas, Sandra D. Hayslette found an early reference to Clement C. Moore's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," aka "The Night Before Christmas," in the manuscript diary of Francis Prioleau Lee. While a student at General Theological Seminary in New York, Francis P. Lee on New Year's Eve, 1833 described a holiday fair in Morristown, New Jersey that
"was held...under the auspices of a figure called St. Nicholas who was robed in fur, and dressed according to the description of Prof. Moore in his poem."  --quoted by Stephen Nissenbaum in The Battle For Christmas, fn 85, page 345.
The footnote by Nissenbaum locates the diary of Francis P. Lee "in the archives of the General Theological Seminary."
However, the online finding aid for the Francis P. Lee Papers, 1727-1930 (Mss. 65 L51 and Acc. 2011.285) at the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary. indicates that the William & Mary library now holds both the private journal and a transcription. Specifically, these items are held with Series 2: Acc. 2011.285 Addition, 1827-1933 in Box 11, Folders 2 and 3.

Preferred Citation
Francis P. Lee Papers, Manuscripts and Rare Books Department, Swem Library, College of William and Mary. 
Unless there are two diaries, this looks like the one referenced in The Battle for Christmas:
Folder 2: Francis P. Lee Diary, 1833-1835
Folder 3: Transcription of Francis P. Lee Diary, 1833-1835
Rev. Lee died young in Mobile, Alabama during the epidemic of yellow fever there in 1847. Below, the obituary of Francis Prioleau Lee in the Protestant Churchman, November 27, 1847:

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