Sunday, February 25, 2018

1826 letter from Gansevoort Melvill to his mother

Months before treating his high school assembly to Marco Bozzaris, young Gansevoort Melville (born December 6, 1815 so not yet 11) declaimed another romance of Greek resistance in the more domestic but hardly less formal setting of a fashionable children's party. Now forgotten, the Byronic verse tale of Duke Phranza, the Regicide had recently appeared, unattributed, in the March 1826 issue of Blackwood's Magazine. Gansevoort's mother, who would host her own lavish children's party in February 1827, wanted to know all about it. Hence this letter of October 6, 1826 from Gansevoort Melvill (later Melville) to his mother, transcribed herein from the original in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.

Gansevoort's turn to perform came after various embarrassments: a tray of muffins overturned in his lap, and "Mrs. Palmer" superintended a kissing game, "Pillows and Keys," in which the kids were unwilling to participate.

When called on, as Herman's older brother reports to their mother Maria Gansevoort Melvill on October 6, 1826, Gansevoort "spoke Duke Phranza" (spelled Phransa?) and perhaps three other pieces:
"A Lady on the field of Battle and Lawrence's Elegy, and O sacred truth."
Gansevoort does not say what other children recited, if anything. William Gilman in Melville's Early Life and Redburn (page 32) assumes they must have spoken as well, and reads Gansevoort's 1826 list of titles as a kind of program describing what others performed. "O sacred truth" probably refers to Thomas Campbell's lines on the Fall of Warsaw or Battle of Warsaw. This poem appears under the heading Pleasures of Hope in the first edition of An Essay on Elocution: With Elucidatory Passages from Various Authors, edited by John Hanbury Dwyer (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1824).

Many years later Gansevoort made numerous notes from a later edition of Dwyer in his 1837 Index Rerum, as Hershel Parker details in Melville: The Making of the Poet (Northwestern University Press, 2008), pages 47-49. In the 1828 edition of Dwyer's Elocution cited by Parker, Campbell's poem beginning "Oh! sacred Truth!" is titled The Sacking of Prague.

Lawrence's Elegy may have commemorated naval hero James Lawrence, famous for his undaunted command, "Don't give up the ship." More specifically, the piece in question might have been the Elegy in Remembrance of James Lawrence, Esquire, printed in 1813 and circulated as a broadside.

via Library of Congress





    SPIRIT of Sympathy! from Heaven descend!
A Nation weeps! Columbia mourns a friend.
Hush'd be the sound of Pleasure's thrilling lyre—
Quench'd be the flame of Passion's glowing fire;
Let shouts of victory for laurels won,
Give place to grief, for LAWRENCE, Valour's son.
To Warrior who was e'er his country's pride,
Has for that country, bravely, nobly died.
O! ne'er to man did bounteous Heaven impart
A purer spirit, a more generous heart:
And in THAT HEART did Nature sweetly blend,
The fearless Hero, and the faithful Friend.

   Low in the dust now lies that godlike form;
Cold is that hand, which in the battle-storm,
With dauntless courage held the faithful blade,
And deeds of Spartan valour there display'd.
As some fond mother who bewails her child,
And vents her grief in mournful accents wild;
So look'd Columbia's Genius when stern Death,
Relentless Tyrant, snatch'd her fav'rite's breath.

“Ah! me,” she cried, “would Heaven no longer save
“My much-lov'd Hero from the silent grave?
“Could not my prayers one little respite gain?
“Were all my tears and supplications vain?
“Must men like HIM be cropp'd in manhood's bloom,
“To fill the dreary ‘forest of the tomb?’
“Scarce had his glorious, bright career begun,
“Ere from its stellar height declin'd his sun.
“Yet long his virtues shall maintain their sway,
“And fire the Heroes of the future day.”  
   Now from the regions of Eternal Light,
To where thy soul has wing'd its joyful flight,
Witness the tears that for thy loss do flow,
Behold a nation whelm'd in silent woe:
The pearly drops which tremble in each eye,
Shall sooth thy spirit 'thron'd above the sky.

Blest Shade! Farewell! thy memory, ever dear,
Oft shall receive fair Freedom's holy tear;
In each fond heart shall live thy peerless name,
And THERE shall rise thy MONUMENTS OF FAME.
This tribute would have been deeply appreciated if young "Master Perry" were any relation to the Hero of Lake Erie, whose son and namesake Oliver Hazard Perry, Jr. was born in 1815, like Gansevoort Melville. As noted by Laurie Robertson Laurent in A Traveling Life (Chapter 1 in A Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Wyn Kelley, Wiley Blackwell, 2006), Gansevoort's parents Maria Gansevoort and Allan Melvill first met in 1813 at a ball for Oliver Hazard Perry.

The piece that Gansevoort calls "A Lady on the field of Battle" sounds very like the title of a poem by Felicia Hemans. But "Woman on the Field of Battle" first appeared over the signature "F. H." in the November 1827 issue of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. Therefore nobody at Mrs. Palmer's tea party could have recited this poem in October 1826. Here's another candidate: A Lady shot on the Field of Battle by American poet Samuel Woodworth. In February 1821 a Mr. Picket recited "A Lady shot..." as part of a benefit concert for Woodworth, held at Washington Hall in New York City.

The manuscript letter transcribed below is held by The New York Public Library in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection, Manuscripts & Archives Division, Call # MssCol 1109. Melville Family Papers, Box 308: Melvill, Gansevoort 1826-1845.
New York. Oct 6th 1826

Dear Mother

I hope you are all well as we are. You wished me to tell you about my visit to Mrs. Palmer's. James Palmer told me to be there at 5 O-Clock in the afternoon, but Papa said that was too early, but at half past four James called for me and I went. The weather was very bad, I was there first. James called for all of them and they came in the following order, Livingston Rutgers, and Edward. William Rutherford, and Betsey, Thomas, also not forgetting Robin. Miss Slidell and Miss Perry and James walked in arm in arm, when we all got seated the Girls took the Sofa. Mrs. Palmer came in with a dignified mien all dressed in black as her light form bounded oer the floor. She seated herself beside the Girls, then introduced the Girls to the boys, there sits Master Gansevoort Melvill of Bleecker Street, and so on to the whole company. Then began the entertainment. Margaret showed us some drawing books when they were done with Some Muffins were handed round to us. as soon as the plate came to me The Muffins were emptied into my lap in wild disorder. I was frightened, and the company screamed. after they were fairly on the plate again I took one.

Then we played Pillows and Keys. You must kneel before the one You want to kiss you, and you must ring the Keys 3 times and if it is a boy he must kiss the one you kneel to, and if a Girl the one she kneels to must kiss her. no one would take it, Mrs Palmer took the Pillow and Keys and rung ten times, and cried come kiss me, no one would kiss her, and she said Old Maids may ring 100 times but they never get kissed. after that they handed the tea and Cake round, Master Ed Rutgers is very fond of Margaret Palmer, and the Cakes being in the shape of a heart took one, went up to her and putting his hand upon the Cake and the Cake upon his heart, cried out My Heart, after that we played Pawns danced and and sung. Mrs Palmer called on me to speak, and I spoke Duke Phranza, A Lady on the field of Battle and Lawrence's Elegy, and O sacred truth, at 9 o'clock Ann called for me the rain pouring down in torrents. I spent  a very pleasant evening there. Ann told me to tell you to come home as soon as possible. We all join in love to you Grandmama Aunt Mary and Uncle Peter and Cousins

Your Affectionate Son
Gansevoort Melvill

PS  Tell Cris that I do not forget her
--Gansevoort Melvill to Maria Melvill, October 6, 1826. Gansevoort-Lansing collection, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Melville mention in 1878 letter from China by Francis Morgan Barber

From the "Letter from China" signed Frank M. Barber, written on July 29, 1878 from Amoy [Xiamen] aboard the U. S. Steamer Alert, and published in the Sandusky Daily Register on September 16, 1878:
In our mess for instance, we have three standing conundrums which we always ask any European who has lived in the country and appears to know anything. These are--
What is Fung-shue? What are Pagodas for? and what is the signification of the Tree Dragon and the White Tiger that one always sees in Joss houses, and frequently in other places? Fung-shue is to me something like what Herman Melville calls "Taboo" or in Typee and Emor, but that is all we have been able to find out.  The others are equally unanswerable.
As printed in the Ohio newspaper, "Emor" looks like a typo for Omoo. Then Lieutenant Commander Francis Morgan Barber was born in Ohio, which would explain why the letter home, addressed "Dear Father," found its way into the Sandusky Register.

In 1875 Barber delivered a pioneering lecture on submarines that included the first published illustration of the American Turtle. In 1889 he commanded the Monocacy on another cruise to China.

via NavSource Online
In 1900 Commander Barber published The Mechanical Triumphs of the Ancient Egyptians. As naval attache in Europe, Barber later tangled with Marconi over control of wireless radio technology, as discussed by Susan J. Douglas in The Navy Adopts the Radio, 1899-1919, chapter 3 in Military Enterprise and Technological Change, ed. Merritt Roe Smith (M. I. T. Press, 1985).
Retired Rear Admiral William Wirt Kimball surveyed Commander Barber's professional accomplishments  and character in the Army-Navy-Air Force Register and Defense Times:
"Barber's wide reading and deep learning did not, as is often the case, prevent him from obtaining wisdom and knowledge or from retaining well-balanced judgment and common sense. He was always alive to the application of the principles of the algebraic sum to men and affairs, and he was blessed by the possession of a keen sense of humor. He was a gentleman in the highest sense of the term, a most delightful companion, the most sympathetic, helpful and faithful of friends and the truest of shipmates."
According to the New York Times (January 30, 1922), Barber committed suicide after learning of the death of a close friend in the tragic collapse of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D. C.
Later reports (New York Evening World, January 30, 1922) identified the friend as Baron Roman Rosen, the former Russian ambassador. Baron Rosen had in fact died recently--on New Year's Eve, in New York City, following a traffic accident there. In his memoir of Barber, Admiral Kimball implicitly tempered the more sensational newspaper reports by attributing a serious change in Barber's physical and emotional health to the effects of an accidental fall at the University Club in New York, months before.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Proof I can still find things at the library

We independent types have to be resourceful. Sometimes that means driving 50 miles to the nearest research library, and then figuring out where they keep the good stuff. Here's something fine from the Winter 1964 issue of Studies in Short Fiction, a note on "The Lightning-Rod Man" as generic salesman's story by a promising young assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Once we establish the genre of "The Lightning-Rod Man," neither its imagery nor its style needs apology. It is time that we frankly commend and enjoy this "devastating little parable" (Leyda, p. xxvi) whose allegorized folklore proved both metaphysical and magazinish and must have encouraged Melville to make extended allegorical use of demonology and folklore in The Confidence-Man.  --Hershel Parker
Truth be told I was making a virtue of necessity, being more or less forced back into the stacks after my allotted computer time ran out. Of course there were empty stations everywhere. Smart students with smart phones don't need them or the library. But the University of Minnesota shows independent scholars no love.

Friday, February 16, 2018

199th edition of The Night Before Christmas, in 1842

The surname of Clement C. Moore is misspelled "More," but clearly "W." of Annapolis knows who wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "The Night Before Christmas." The verses and their author are common knowledge by 1842, many months before Moore again acknowledged writing the Christmas poem ("not for publication, but to amuse my children") in his letter to Charles King, published in the New York American on March 1, 1844. Indeed, Moore's holiday poem is so famous by 1842 that yet another reprinting can be called "the 199th edition."


For the Maryland Republican.

MESSRS. EDITORS:--Every child has heard of St. Nicholas, and has kept awake many an hour to get a peep at him; but strange to tell, the little Dutchman persists in travelling only in the night, and always manages to fill the stockings of his good little children after their eyes are fast closed in sleep; thus it happens that very few can boast of having made his acquaintance. It seems, however, that one gentleman once had this good fortune. Children and parents are much indebted to that distinguished gentleman, (Prof. CLEMENT MORE, L. L. D. of New York,) for having given to the world such a beautiful and (as we may well suppose,) faithful description of a personage so universally clever, and of such eccentric modesty. We need not remind any one, old or young that this is the season when we may expect his annual visit. We wish him a prosperous voyage hither, and should be right glad if he would land first in our ancient and beautiful city. We have many large chimnies here, very convenient for him, with many a long stocking, the filling of which will materially lighten his pack. And in the mean time Messrs. Editors, let the children have, by way of antepast, the 199th edition of Prof. More's description of a visit from St. Nicholas, and oblige W....
--Maryland Republican (Annapolis, Maryland), December 17, 1842.
In New York City years before, The Knickerbocker politely rejected a good try at representing the magic of Christmas in verse, citing Moore's prior effort as "much better" done, and already widely known:

'Stanzas for Christmas' are certainly clever lines, but they are marred by a little cacophany, toward the close. Moreover, 'H. D. C.' will find the scenes he has chosen for illustration much better described in the 'Visit of St. Nicholas,' written several years since, by CLEMENT C. MOORE, of this city, and still circulated every season, about Christmas-time, in all the newspapers, far and near." --New York Knickerbocker, January 1838

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Nonsense, trash, nursery rhymes: Laughton Osborn on The Night Before Christmas

Over the years, fans of "The Night Before Christmas" have been puzzled or amused by Clement Moore's legendary reluctance to admit that he wrote it. Misguided attribution sleuths take Moore's supposed failure to acknowledge the Christmas poem formally until 1844 (before January 1837, actually, but still a good thirteen years after its first anonymous publication in December 1823) as circumstantial evidence for authorship by Henry Livingston, Jr. Moore's poem has been so spectacularly famous for so long, readers today naturally wonder who wouldn't wish to be immortalized as its author. Only a hopelessly stuffy academic could be embarrassed by association with such universally delightful verses.

Maybe so, but the ridicule that the distinguished seminary professor might have expected, and feared, was remarkably quick in arriving. Soon after Moore revealed his authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in The New-York Book of Poetry, Laughton Osborn gave "Prof. Moore's nursery rhymes" thumbs down in The Vision of Rubeta (Boston, 1838), a brilliant if demented exercise in verse and prose that one contemporary review judged "remarkable for its wholesale satire and unlimited abuse of every thing and every body" (Washington, D. C. Madisonian, November 25, 1841). Moore was in pretty good company, since the chief objects of Osborn's satire were newspaper editors William Leete Stone Sr of the New York Commercial Advertiser and Charles King of the New York American.

Stone and King had published stinging criticism of Osborn's earlier effort, Sixty Years of the Life of Jeremy Levis. Negative reviews evidently motivated Osborn's relentless satire of the prominent New York editors and their respective newspapers in the text and extensive footnotes of Rubeta. Stone appears thinly disguised as "Rubeta," King as "Petronius."

New York American for the Country - December 31, 1836
In context then, the attack on Moore's Christmas poem reflects Osborn's larger obsession with Charles King and the New York American. On the last day of 1836, King had published a favorable review of The New-York Book of Poetry that generously quoted from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and specifically called attention to Moore's authorship.   

To make sure readers get the point of the satire in verse, Osborn in prose glosses the apostrophe to the "loveliest book that ever cumber'd stall / Where all Manhattan's costive infants squall" as a reference to The New-York Book of Poetry (figured in the verse as equally fit for book-stall and bathroom-stall). In the footnotes ("libelous notes," according to his 1878 obit in the New York Express), Osborn launches a sustained attack on Moore's best-known contribution, as King had quoted it in the New York American:
"We regret to see this nonsense from so very respectable a man.... Such trash is not to be given to the public as pretty poetry, though it were the product of the whole faculty."
Below, the entire screed from The Vision of Rubeta:

... The other selection is "A Visit from St. Nicholas. — By C. C. Moore." (— puerique patresque severi carmina dictant. [quoting from Epistles of Horace, 2.1]) En voici le style:
"A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he look'd like a pedlar just opening his pack." etc etc.

"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly." etc etc.
Vos o patricius sanguis, quos vivere fas est
Occipiti coeco, posticae occurrite sannae. [quoting the Satires of Persius, 1.61-2]
We regret to see this nonsense from so very respectable a man: but
When grave professors stoop to folly
And find too late the Muse betray,
we have nothing left us but to do our duty. Such trash is not to be given to the public as pretty poetry, though it were the product of the whole faculty §:
Hos pueris monitus patres infundere lippos
Cum videas, quaerisne unde haec sartago loquendi
Venerit in linguas? [again quoting from Satires of Persius, 1.79-81]
Parodying famous lines by Goldsmith from Stanzas on Woman, Osborn turns Goldsmith's "lovely woman" into "grave professors," and deceitful "men" into a treacherous "Muse." The attack on Clement C. Moore in The Vision of Rubeta is also interspersed with quotations from Osborn's classical models for satire, here Horace and Persius. Osborn identifies all three sources in footnotes to the footnotes. With his quotation from the Epistles of Horace Osborn ridicules the homely theme and content of Moore's verses for children:
... sons and their stern fathers,
Hair bound up with leaves, dine, and declaim their verse.  --Poetry in Translation
Moore's rhyme of "belly" with "jelly" triggers the first of two quotations from Persius. For emphasis apparently, Osborn italicizes the Roman satirist's picture of a patrician geezer cursed with "a blind occiput" (lacking eyes in the back of his head). In other words:
"You blue bloods, who have to live backwards-blind, turn around and face the gibing behind you." --as translated by Daniel M. Hooley in The Knotted Thong
With his second quotation from the Satires of Persius, Osborn effectively likens Moore both as teacher and poet to leaky old men who lecture in a jambalaya of popular jargon, sartago denoting literally a frying pan.
When these are the lessons which you see purblind papas pouring into their children’s ears, can you ask how men come to get this hubblebubble of language into their mouths?  --Satires of A. Persius Flaccus, translated by John Conington
But Persius does not quite finish off Moore in The Vision of Rubeta. Having slammed one flattering review of The New-York Book of Poetry in the New York American, Osborn goes on to criticize another in the New York Review:
Having done this act of justice, let us ask, how it happens that the N. York Review, (No. ii.,) in noticing the Book of Poetry, selects for commendation the nursery rhymes of Prof. Moore, and the romantic stuff of Mr. Hoffman, while it passes entirely the verses of Mr. Seymour, and the other few pieces which show something like good sense, strong thought, and felicitous expression? Was it that Mr. H. is the editor of a Magazine, and Prof. Moore an influential member of society, and of connexions influential in society, and that both were possibly personal friends of the Reviewers? A want of independence, in a Review which professes to be impartial, is a want of honesty. --The Vision of Rubeta
Osborn's rhetorical question implies the answer, "Yes." His charge of favoritism is undoubtedly true: the impolite observation of an outsider looking in.

Melville readers and students may be more interested in The Montanini; The School for Critics (New York, 1868) where Osborn blasts Herman Melville's friend Evert A. Duyckinck among others.

For their part, the Duyckinck brothers did not fail to give Laughton Osborn space in the Cyclopaedia of American Literature. Another biographical entry for Laughton Osborn may be found in Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Literature.

Obituary notices described Osborn as "an eccentric genius" and compared his lonely lifestyle to that of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

· Thu, Dec 26, 1878 – Page 4 · The Saline County Journal (Salina, Kansas) ·

Monday, February 12, 2018

Brother John

Review of Clement C. Moore's 1844 Poems in the Churchman

Signed "L.*" and published in the The Churchman on August 31, 1844, this seriously formal and favorable review of Clement C. Moore's Poems appeared under the heading, "Communications." One mistake by "L.*" worth noting: the name of the widowed father in A Trip to Saratoga is Henry Mildmay, not "Mayville."

For the Churchman.

Poems by C. C. Moore, LL. D.,
In One Volume. 12mo.

———"O quae fontibus integris
Gaudes, apricos necte flores,
Necte meo Lamiae coronam,
Pimplea dulcis."
Hor. Carm., Lib. I., xxvi. [Horace, Ode 26]

Truly this is an age prolific of doggerel. Witness the puerile efforts and "tender effusions," with which, under the caption of poetry, the periodical press generally teems! Witness also the splendidly bound trash, called "Poetical Miscellanies," which exist, perchance, a brief hour, and then sink quietly into merited oblivion! Every one, now-a-days, that can count his ten digits, or can cause a few syllables to gingle together agreeably, deems himself, of a truth, impregnated with the "gift divine." Here and there a pure gem glistens solitarily amid the surrounding rubbish; but
"Qui nescit versus, tamen audet fingere." Hor. Art. Poet., 382.
[Horace: Ars Poetica]
It is really refreshing, therefore, to chance, in our barren pilgrimage, upon some beautiful exotics from Parnassus; or to listen to tones so heart-thrilling as to remind one of sorrowing Orpheus. Indeed, the "Poems" before us are founded evidently on the best models of antiquity; and prove, moreover, that their author has not drunk sparingly of the "Pierian Spring." It is no light charge against the ancient—(shall we not say also, in too many instances, against the modern?)—Muse, that she exposes, as if purposely, through her glittering trappings, much of shameless obscenity! Now, in this volume we find not a single sentence subversive of modesty; not one vicious thought, nor any terms of vulgarity; all is classical in diction, and in sentiment pure. What a shining and rare example for our rising poets! Space will, at present, allow to notice only cursorily a few of the poems.

"A Trip to Saratoga" is the title of the first, as well as the longest, poem in the collection. Exhibiting vivid powers of description, and much fertility of imagination, tempered with good taste and judgment; it is written in a happy humor, and evinces a shrewd insight of human nature. Its style recalls the chaste and natural manner of our favorite Goldsmith. The poem embraces six parts, and alternates from gay to grave just as the subject or the occasion suggests. Among many others, we notice one beautiful and poetical effort, where "Henry Mayville" (who escorts his children to the Springs) is watching anxiously over his slumbering and guileless daughter. The inimitable "Visit of St. Nicholas" is universally known; and, though originally written for the author's own children many years since, is still taught to our little ones, and served up annually as a merry dessert at our Christmas feasts. The "Wine Drinker" and the "Water Drinker," would not shame even Horace. His Euriosus felicitas [Curiosa felicitas] sparkles in every line. But they ingeniously inculcate the golden and true mean—(so necessary in this ultra-era)—between intemperance and austerity. The lines of the author to his daughter "on her marriage," possess much poetical merit, combined with solid and excellent advice, applicable to all the gentler sex under the same happy but solemn circumstances. But the stanzas composed "On his childrens' requesting the author to have his portrait taken," are, in our opinion, a chef d'œuvre of the pathetic—indicating alike a parent's disinterested and deep affection, and the holiest feelings of humanity. We would, however, refer to the concluding poem, addressed to the late poet-laureate Robert Southey, as a striking specimen of what the author is capable of effecting in the higher ranges of poesy. Here we directly perceive that ϑυμός ζωτικος or vivid ardor, which glows only in the bosom of the genuine poet. If any one can look with insensibility upon the sad but real scene, here so nervously and naturally depicted, he must be any thing but human! Nor can such an one ever duly appreciate the productions of an intellect and sensibilities so highly cultivated and refined. Our author will not, we predict, be ranked low amongst American Poets.

We pass over the minor points, not because they are indifferent, (some of them indeed are rare flowers,) but because our allotted space is filled. But it is the healthful CHRISTIAN tone, pervading this work, that challenges our warmest and most lasting admiration. We rise from it with a stronger conviction, that virtue is not a mere name, nor our holy religion a cunning contrivance; but that there is a place (so to speak) where no "night" is; where we shall embrace again our loved lost ones; and "where sorrow and sighing shall flee away."

The author, in a well written preface, modestly states, that these poems were composed at various periods, in his leisure moments; have cost him some pains, and are dedicated (admirable precedent!) to his children. In concluding, then, this necessarily imperfect notice, we would cordially recommend this collection of poems, as well to the classical as general reader, promising in their perusal—the end of all good poetry—no stinted measure both of profit and delight.


New York, Aug. 26, 1844.
On July 31, 1847 the Churchman reprinted the review of Moore's 1844 Poems by William Alfred Jones in the Literary World.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Willy and Billy, braggarts and claggarts

Scotish Songs: in two volumes  (London, 1794) - Volume 1

Like Willy the wanton Scot, Billy Budd might be described at the start of Melville's uncompleted tale as a "man without a clag," taking clag in the moral or ethical sense that Ritson gives it in the glossary to Scotish Songs: "fault, failing, imperfection." Though Billy stutters and fights when he has to, such actions are categorized early on by the narrator as natural and spontaneous, "frank manifestations" of uncorrupted nature.
"Billy in many respects was little more than a sort of upright barbarian, much such perhaps as Adam presumably might have been ere the urbane Serpent wriggled himself into his company."  --Billy Budd, Sailor - Chapter 2
A Scottish twist to Billy Budd's innocence could be whispered in Melville's reference to "Dundee" as home to the owner of Billy Budd's former ship, The Rights, short for the Rights-of-Man--a merchant ship whose "hard-headed Dundee owner was a staunch admirer of Thomas Paine." Though "God knows" where the handsome sailor came from before that, Melville at the outset emphasizes his radical innocence.

He was a man without a clag,
    His heart was frank without a flaw;
And ay whatever Willy said,
    It was still hadden as a law.
His boots they were made of the jag;
    When he went to the weaponshaw,
Upon the green nane durst him brag,
    The feind a ane amang them a’.
"Clag" may also refer to the imputation of fault. Sometimes it's spelled clagg with two g's:
"CLAG, CLAGG... 2. Charge, impeachment of character; fault, or imputation of one."  --John Jamieson, An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (Edinburgh, 1808)

Sir Walter Scott spelled it "clagg" when he quoted the two pertinent lines from "Willy was a Wanton Wag" (without naming their source, or needing to) in a letter to Allan Cunningham:
When there is any chance of Mr Chantrey coming this way, I hope you will let me know; and if you come with him, so much the better. I like him as much for his manners as for his genius. 
He is a man without a clagg;
His heart is frank without a flaw.''' --Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott
The quoted lines were printed along with Scott's letter to Cunningham in volume 3 of J. G. Lockhart's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott which Melville presumably read after or along with his brother Gansevoort:
"Gansevoort Melville's Index Rerum shows a fascination both with Scott's writings and with John Gibson Lockhart's biography of him.  --Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography, volume 2, 1851-1891 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) page 54.
Melville personally thought Lockhart a "cold fish" after meeting and dining with him in London, as Parker neatly compacts the relevant 1849 journal entry in Melville: The Making of the Poet (Northwestern University Press, 2008); reprised in the Historical Note for the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of Published Poems (page 380). Still, Lockhart's biography seems a likely place for Melville to have encountered the lines via Scott's casual quotation. Complete lyrics were frequently reprinted in the 18th and 19th centuries, appearing for example in Allan Ramsay's The Tea-table Miscellany and various editions of Joseph Ritson's Scottish Songs.

The second volume of The Scotish Musical Museum gives the words and music to Willy was a wanton wag, accessible online courtesy of Burns' Scotland. The description there helpfully traces the words to "a later volume or edition of William Thomson's 'Orpheus Caledonius', in 1733" while noting that "the tune itself is generally believed to be much older than that date."

On the warship Bellipotent (or Indomitable, as Melville first called it in manuscript), impeachment of Billy Budd's character begins with false charges insinuated by Claggart. The name of Melville's envious master-at-arms thus matches his dramatic role as Billy's devilish accuser, embodying and evoking various lexical senses of clag or clagg, in particular stain, failing, and "charge, impeachment of character; fault, or imputation of one." As Melville presents him, Billy like Willy "was a man without a clag" until he switches ships and runs into Claggart.

Claggart is a claggart, one who claggs. In a gem of a note on Melville's nomenclature, Avery F. Gaskins explicates the Symbolic Nature of Claggart's Name and what's more, the grammar of Claggart's name as "a noun of agency," like braggart:
What Melville seems to have done is to add the -art suffix to the word clag and to create, thus, a noun of agency. As a braggart is one who brags, so Claggart is one who figuratively "sticks like glue" to Billy in his constant spying upon him and in his relentless persecution of the foretopman, both personally and through his henchmen. Claggart is also one who attempts figuratively to bedaub the character of Billy with false accusations and to stain it in the process.
-- American Notes and Queries 6.4 (December 1967): 56.
"Claggart" of course does not appear in Melville's writings outside of Billy Budd. To illustrate what Gaskins means by "noun of agency," below are two instances of the parallel form braggart used as a singular noun. The word braggart occurs twice in Mardi (1849); and once in Israel Potter (1854-5). Applied adjectivally to Ethan Allen, the example from Israel Potter seems more complicated than the relatively straightforward usages of braggart in Mardi. Ethan Allen's brag is in part a "part," a role that he assumes for self-preservation when doing battle with bullies.
Ethan Allen
  • "his experience must have taught him, that by assuming the part of a jocular, reckless, and even braggart barbarian, he would better sustain himself against bullying turnkeys than by submissive quietude."  --Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile

Friday, February 9, 2018

Thomas W. C. Moore in 1822

Thomas W. C. Moore in 1822
Detail from Interior of Park Theatre by John Searle
Here's the 1822 portrait of New York merchant and antiquarian T. W. C. Moore (1794-1872), as featured with other "representative New Yorkers" in the well-known watercolor painting by John Searle, Interior of the Park Theatre. Eventually donated to The New-York Historical Society Searle's painting illustrated, as described in the caption of one 20th century reproduction, "New York Notables at the Play." I cropped Searle's portrait of T. W. C. Moore from a digital image in the public domain, available online courtesy of The New York Public Library Digital Collections.
One of our illustrations shows the kind of audience which turned out to witness his triumph at the Park in Moncrieffe's farce of "Monsieur Tonson." This painting of John Searle's represents a scene on the opening night of November 7, when cold weather had permitted New York to return to its business, homes and amusements; Mathews is on the stage as "Monsieur Morbleau," and Miss Johnston as "Madame Bellgarde." Through an inspiration of Thomas W. C. Moore, forty-five years later (who prepared a key to the painting then owned by Mrs. William Bayard), we know the names of some eighty odd of the representative New Yorkers whom the artist portrayed as witnessing this important appearance. They are all here. Bayards, and Coldens and de Peysters and Livingstons, Crugers. Van Wycks, Clintons, Beekmans, Lenoxes, Brevoorts and the rest; not to mention the prodigious Doctor Mitchell, Doctor Hosack, Doctor Francis, James K. Paulding, Mrs. Daniel Webster and many another of the outstanding figures in the financial and social life of the period. --A Century of Banking in New York

We know who's who because in 1868, T. W. C. Moore himself took the trouble to identify the persons depicted in a helpful "key" to Searle's painting. Historian Martha Joanna Lamb gives the fascinating details of Moore's contribution as a "genuine antiquarian":
The history of the water-color painting, now in possession of the New York Historical Society, is scarcely less interesting than the picture itself. The original drawing was made for William Bayard by John Searle, a clever amateur artist, and the picture when completed was hung upon the wall of Mr. Bayard's country residence. Some years since Thomas W. Channing Moore became much interested in it while visiting Mr. Bayard, and with the instinct of a genuine antiquarian resolved that such a treasure should not be entirely lost to New York. He accordingly obtained permission to bring it to the city for the purpose of showing it to Mr. Elias Dexter. Six of the gentlemen whose portraits appear in the painting were then living — Francis Barretto, Robert G. L. De Peyster, Gouverneur S. Bibby, William Bayard, Jr., William Maxwell, and James W. Gerard — and were invited to an interview for its examination. Mr. Barretto and Mr. Bibby remembered and were able to recognize nearly every person represented upon the canvas. All the gentlemen pronounced the portraits striking; and many reminiscences were related in connection with those supposed to be present on that memorable evening when Matthews first appeared in the farce of Monsieur Tonson. A key was made to the painting, and it was photographed by Dexter; it was then returned to its owner. Upon the death of Mr. Bayard it descended to his daughter, Mrs. Harriet Bayard Van Rensselaer, and was subsequently presented by her heirs to the New York Historical Society. The key furnishes the names, in addition to those already mentioned, of Herman Le Roy, William Le Roy, Alexander Hosack, Stephen Price, Edward Price, Captain J. Richardson, Mrs. Eliza Talbot, Robert Dyson, Herman Le Roy, Jr., D. P. Campbell, Mrs. Clinton, Maltby Geltson, and Mr. Charaud, in the first and second tier of boxes; and in the pit, Nicholas C. Rutgers, Dr. John W. Francis, Walter Livingston, Henry W. Cruger, Dr. John Watts, Pierre C. Van Wyck, Edmund Wilkes, Hamilton Wilkes, John Searle, the artist, Thomas F. Livingston, Dr. John Neilson, Thomas Bibby, the ancestor of the Bibby family in New York, whose descendants now represent the Van Cortlandts of Yonkers, Gouverneur S. Bibby, Robert G. L. De Peyster, Hugh Maxwell, William Maxwell, James Seaton, Andrew Drew, William Wilkes, Charles Farquhar, John Berry, Robert Gillespie, Mordecai M. Noah, William Bell, John Lang, editor of the New York Gazette, James McKay, James Alport, James Farquhar, Thomas W. Moore, Francis Barretto, Joseph Fowler, John J. Boyd, William H. Robinson, and Robert Watts. The last named, sitting in the immediate foreground, close by the orchestra, may be recognized by his light coat. He was the one mentioned on page 650 as the handsomest man in New York. Many of the gentlemen wore their hats for protection against the draughts of cold wind sweeping through the house.  --History of the City of New York Volume 2 (New York, 1880) pages 685-6.
Another try at cropping to show the portrait of Thomas William Channing Moore--this version is slightly taller:
Thomas W. C. Moore in 1822
Detail from Interior of Park Theatre by John Searle
Related posts:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Key witness letter by Livingston cousin and "genuine antiquarian" TWC Moore

New York Park Theatre 1822
New York, the interior of the Park Theatre, 1822
John Searle via Wikimedia Commons
In the "Witnesses" section of the main page for the Henry Livingston, Jr. website, Mary S. Van Deusen points out that
"Henry's 1st cousin Judith Livingston, who lived next door to him, was married to John Moore, a relative of Clement Moore's father's family."  --Mary S. Van Deusen
1st cousin is absolutely right since Judith's father James Livingston (1728-1790) and Henry Livingston, Jr.'s father Henry Livingston Sr (1714-1799 ) were brothers. For the relationship between Henry and one of cousin Judith's children in the next generation I need some help. Looking it up on the Cousins Chart, I see "your parent's first cousin is your first cousin, once removed." Once removed means a difference of one generation. In the next generation Van Deusen here only names Lydia, the daughter of Judith Livingston (1753-1813) and John Moore (1746-1828), important because "Lydia's daughter Frances married Rev. Clement Moore Butler, the brother of Harriet Butler." Harriet Butler reportedly gave a copy of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to newspaper editor Orville Holley who published it for the first time, anonymously, on December 23, 1823 in the Troy Sentinel. In floating this particular family connection, Van Deusen and advocates for Henry Livingston Jr.'s authorship of "Visit" aka The Night Before Christmas want to suggest the plausibility of an imaginary sequence of transmission from Poughkeepsie to Troy by way of New York City and perhaps another, unspecified household somewhere "in the south."

Henry Noble MacCracken in Blithe Dutchess (pages 388-390) introduced Judith Moore, formerly "Judith Livingston," for the same purpose, first emphasizing her kinship with Major Livingston and the proximity of their residences in Poughkeepsie:
Judith Livingston, was a first cousin and next-door neighbor of Major Henry Livingston, Jr. --Blithe Dutchess by Henry Noble MacCracken
In less than three pages MacCracken's narrative goes from mostly conjecture to "some degree of probability," and it all starts with Major Livingston's first cousin and her children (in other words his first cousins, once removed):
"From Locust Grove to Judith Livingston Moore's children is the first step."
MacDonald P. Jackson rightly characterizes MacCracken's scenario as "pure speculation," but only after carefully and almost too closely paraphrasing the whole thing:
"The first step is from Livingston's homestead, Locust Grove, to Judith Livingston Moore's children."  --Who Wrote The Night Before Christmas, page 119
Hypothetically then, according to MacCracken and Van Deusen and Jackson, these children of Judith Livingston Moore might have mediated transmission of the now world-renowned Christmas poem to Troy via Clement C. Moore's home in New York City. They or nobody, it would seem, could testify to the facts of its original authorship and transmission.

Well if that's the case, authorship investigators should be looking hard for witness statements by one of Judith Livingston Moore's children. Too bad none of Judith Livingston Moore's children bothered to leave a letter for the historical record, telling the world who really wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Wait a minute...
MacCracken and Jackson after him only seem to know and talk about daughters. Lydia and Maria. Lydia Hubbard Moore Hart (1790-1831); and her sister Maria Seabury Moore Moore (1788-1812). But John Moore and his wife Judith Livingston Moore had more than two children. Van Deusen names eight of them on another page of her great website, quoting genealogist J. Wilson Poucher on "James Livingston, and Some of His Descendants":
They had eight children: Elizabeth Channing Moore, who died in infancy; Eliza Elliot Moore who married Alfred Livingston, Esq.; Townsend Moore who died unmarried; John; Maria Seabury Moore who died in infancy; a second Maria Seabury Moore who married the Rev. David Moore, D.D.; Lydia Hubbard Moore who married the Rev. William Henry Hart; and Thomas William Channing Moore who died unmarried.
--Dutchess County Historical Society Yearbook, Vol. 28 (1943) page 72 via Mary S. Van Deusen
Townsend Moore and Thomas William Channing Moore? Ah, forgotten brothers. How soon the most industrious family historian will drop a brother "who died unmarried." Not to mention a younger brother who emigrates west, although in Illinois, just about "everybody from Calhoun County to Rock Island used to know" ex-New Yorker Francis Childs Moore (1796-1874), Frank C. Moore to his friends. Before lighting out for Hillsboro and Quincy, Francis named his first child with his first wife John Moore III, aka John Livingston Moore III. Townsend Moore died in April 1833 "at the house of his brother-in-law" Rev. Hart in Walden, Orange County. Evidently one brother at least remained close to the family of his sister Lydia after her death in 1831, and presumably before. Then there's Thomas William Channing Moore (1794-1872), born four years after Lydia Hubbard Moore so her younger brother (if 1790 at WikiTree is closer to right than 1796 at Find A Grave for Lydia's date of birth). Call him T. W. C. Moore. Better yet, call him Cuz: first cousin once removed of Henry Livingston, Jr.

T. W. C. traveled often in South America and Europe but like his brother and fellow bachelor Townsend, T. W. C. Moore managed to stay connected with his sisters and their families. Under oath, niece Frances Livingston Hart Butler (Mrs. Clement Moore Butler) mentioned having conversed with him on a highly personal and delicate matter, something she would not fully disclose even to her own father. As Mrs. Butler testified in December 1844, the visit took place "early last spring" (so 1843), just before uncle T.W.C. sailed for Buenos Aires.

Frances told the court that she also made a confidante of her "sister-in-law, Miss Harriet Butler, of Troy." Obviously nobody involved in the sensational trial of Bishop Onderdonk for sexual misconduct cared too deeply about the authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Nevertheless, as a matter of documented history this one page of sworn testimony by Frances Livingston Hart Butler brings T. W. C. Moore, the brother of her deceased mother Lydia, into a small family circle that included Harriet Butler and few others, only her closest and most trusted friends and family members. Along with her husband Clement and her best friend Catherine, and maybe her father, T. W. C. Moore and Harriet Butler were practically the only people alive that Frances Livingston Butler could speak with about her experience of being molested by the Bishop, Benjamin T. Onderdonk.

Another sister of T. W. C., Maria Seabury Moore, died in 1812, and T. W. C. owned a profile portrait painting of her in tintype that in 1866 he inscribed to a relative.

And here is the back of the tintype, where the inscription by T. W.C. Moore shows his abiding interest in preserving historical artifacts, along with his characteristic and very antiquarian attention to relevant circumstantial details and facts. (Acquired from James Cummins Bookseller in February 2018, this item is now in the collection of Scott Norsworthy.)

Considering the ties he maintained over many years with family of his deceased sisters including his Livingston niece Frances and her husband, this Livingston cousin T. W. C. Moore must have known a good deal about his niece's confidante Harriet Butler, the unmarried sister of her husband. Next to Harriet of Troy herself, few persons could have been better equipped to hear the story of how those marvelous lines about St. Nicholas got copied and re-copied and eventually transmitted to editor Orville Holley for publication in the Troy Sentinel. With Townsend's death in 1833, and Francis's move west in 1834, two children of Judith Livingston and John Moore were left in New York State, T. W. C. and his older sister Eliza Elliot Moore Livingston of Poughkeepsie (1776-1847). Or possibly three children, if John Moore II survived and stayed in New York. At any rate, nobody then was in a better position than T. W. C. Moore, the living son of Major Henry Livingston's first cousin Judith, to know all about it if the Major himself had anything to do with "A Visit from St. Nicholas." If Henry Livingston, Jr. had written The Night Before Christmas as alleged by some Livingston descendants, T. W. C. Moore would have known it, and for the honor of his dear mother Judith Livingston Moore and her native town of Poughkeepsie and her worthy cousin Henry Livingston, Jr. he would happily have told the world. Not even the most persistent advocates for Livingston's authorship of The Night Before Christmas allege any conspiracy of silence. Their assumption has always been that printed attributions to Clement C. Moore astonished Livingston family members who only belatedly learned of the "mistake" made in giving credit to the wealthy New York seminary professor.  Before now, however, it has not been recognized that the person who forwarded the holograph manuscript to the librarian of the New-York Historical Society in 1862 was (in spite of the forwarder's surname) no "nephew" or any blood relation of Clement C. Moore's, but rather a Livingston cousin--blood kin, and perfectly situated to know the history of its authorship and earliest transmission.

So in the spring of 1843 T. W. C. Moore conversed with his niece Frances, whose most intimate friends included her sister-in-law Harriet Butler. Uncle T. W. C. and Frances talked more or less confidentially at the home of Frances and her husband (when they lived in New York City?). Writing from New York City on February 27th of the following year, Clement C. Moore tells editor Charles King of the New York American a surprising thing, that he only recently discovered how his verses about the Christmas Eve visit of St. Nicholas wound up in a Troy newspaper. Avowing that he originally wrote the Christmas poem "not for publication, but to amuse my children," Clement C. Moore revealed not only his "great surprise" upon learning of its publication in the Troy Sentinel, but something else, a little mystery that remained unsolved "until lately." About his "lines, describing a visit from St. Nicholas," Moore states for the record that he wrote them "many years ago" but only "lately" learned the method of their transmission or "how they got there":
... 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.--Clement C. Moore, published letter to Charles King
Moore's innocent, frankly admitted uncertainty about the exact date he composed "A Visit from St Nicholas" ("I think somewhere between 1823 [the last number in the printed date appears smudged and hard to decipher on microfilm; possibly it reads "1822" instead] and 1824") shows that he has not yet received the extant letter from Norman Tuttle in which the former proprietor of the Troy Sentinel writes in reply to a query from Moore with additional details of the poem's transmission (to the extent that Tuttle can remember what Orville Holley told him). I don't offer this reading as a complicated hypothesis, but rather as the simplest and most logical inference from the details that Moore gives in this important published letter. If Moore had already received and read Tuttle's reply, he would have known exactly when his poem appeared on December 23, 1823 and would have adjusted the time frame of its composition accordingly, knowing for a fact that he could not possibly have written the lines in 1824, one year after they were first printed.

This point bears repeating: with Tuttle's letter in front of him, Moore would have known exactly when his poem was published in the Troy Sentinel. Hypothetically, the imputed motive of verifying that "the coast was clear" should have made him especially careful to date his composition of the poem before the date of its first publication. But Moore was not so guilty, or careful. He did not need to be so careful and without help, could not be more careful and precise than memory allowed. In the first place, Moore simply and most understandably could not remember the exact year he wrote it (more than 20 years before!). In the second place, he could not give the exact date of its first publication because he had not yet learned it. Evidently Norman Tuttle's response to his inquiry had not yet arrived from Troy. On this point the date of Moore's letter is crucial. Moore's letter to Charles King appeared in the New York American of March 1, 1844 but he wrote it three days before, on February 27, 1844 as the un-smudged heading of his printed letter clearly indicates. Three not two days before, since February in the leap year 1844 had 29 days.

The first Response by MacDonald P. Jackson to my blog-review of his Christmas book acknowledged the significance of Moore's published 1844 letter and generously credited the find as the product of "admirable scholarly diligence." More recently, in print, Jackson has again referenced Moore's published letter in the New York American in the last paragraph of his essay on Style and Authorship in a Classic of Popular Culture: Henry Livingston and The Night Before Christmas [Style 51.4 (2017): 482-505 at 491], showing exemplary scholarly generosity by crediting Melvilliana. Unfortunately, however, the case for Livingston's authorship demands a sinister reading of Moore's motives that, besides being grossly unfair and even slanderous, here turns on Jackson's error in mistaking the published date of Moore's letter (March 1, 1844) for the date he actually wrote it (February 27, 1844, three days earlier than Jackson supposes). In his online Response and more recent article in Style, Jackson takes an obvious typo ("1827" for 1837) as ground for "suspicion" of Moore's integrity, while failing to recognize the importance of Moore's plain statement that he "gave" the publishers of The New-York Book of Poetry four poems for their 1837 anthology, including "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Since Moore himself contributed all four poems that appeared under his name, The New-York Book of Poetry provides rock-solid bibliographic evidence that Moore had already claimed the Christmas poem with three other pieces in 1837, seven years before the false attribution to James Wood spurred him to write Norman Tuttle and Charles King.

From Troy in upstate New York Norman Tuttle dated his reply to Moore February 26, 1844. And Tuttle wants Professor Moore to know he has wasted no time in responding:
Yours of 23d inst. making inquiry concerning the publication of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" is just received. --Letter from Norman Tuttle to C. C. Moore, February 26, 1844
On Monday, February 26th Tuttle states plainly that he "just received" Moore's inquiry dated February 23, 1844, which was Friday. Literally interpreted, Tuttle's expression "just received" probably means "today" if not "five minutes ago." Tuttle just today, Monday, got Moore's inquiry written from New York City on Friday. Possibly it arrived over the weekend; it's hard to be certain. Obviously though, it takes some time to travel 152 miles from Troy to Chelsea, even today. The known facts are, Tuttle replies to Moore from Troy on Monday the 26th of February; and Moore writes Charles King from Manhattan on Tuesday, the 27th. Another fact that Tuttle communicates right away, and in wonderfully clear, legible script, is the all-significant date of December 23, 1823 when "Visit" "was first published in the Troy Sentinel." The contents of Moore's published letter in the New York American do not reflect knowledge of the particulars in Tuttle's letter of the day before. And the one-day window between Tuttle's letter to Moore and Moore's letter to Charles King makes it all the more likely that Moore had not yet received Tuttle's reply when he wrote the published letter to Charles King--a letter that is most immediately and directly motivated, as Moore clearly states at the outset, by new knowledge of the published claim for James Wood in a very respectable newspaper, the Washington, D. C. National Intelligencer.

Moore could not have written Norman Tuttle in the first place without already knowing something about the publication of his verses on St. Nicholas in the Troy Sentinel. While Moore reveals that he never knew "until lately, how they got there," he does not identify the source of his information. That unnamed source may well have been Livingston cousin T. W. C. Moore, who in fact did know essential details about the earliest transmission of Moore's verses on the visit of St. Nicholas. In his key 1862 witness letter, ironically overlooked or unreasonably discounted by advocates for authorship of the Christmas poem by Major Henry Livingston, Jr., Major Livingston's cousin T. W. C. Moore relates exactly what he knows about how Moore's verses got to Troy.

Turns out, Livingston cousin T. W. C. Moore wrote the earliest and best witness letter of all, fortunately still extant in the collection of the New-York Historical Society. As he states in the 1862 letter, T. W. C. Moore was responding a request from Society librarian George H. Moore (no relation to Clement C. but a friend of Melville's friend Evert A. Duyckinck and eminently worth further attention, another day). On behalf of the Historical Society, T. W. C. Moore got Clement C. Moore, in spite of his "advanced age" and "much impaired eye sight" to write out those famous lines one more time for posterity. T. W. C. Moore forwarded the requested manuscript copy of "A Visit from St Nicholas" along with his letter to George H. Moore.

Dated March 15, 1862, this crucial witness letter from Livingston cousin T. W. C. Moore begins with the good news of Moore's compliance. After declaring victory and complementing "the distinctness and beauty" of Professor Moore's handwriting at age 82, T. W. C. Moore continues with details of the poem's composition and transmission, presented--significantly, I think--in successive but separate paragraphs. First T. W. C. Moore relates what he knows about the date and original circumstances of composition:
These lines were composed for his two daughters, as a Christmas present, about 40 years ago.—They were copied by a relative of Dr. Moores in her Album, from which a copy was made by a friend of hers, from Troy, and, much to the surprise of the Author, were published (for the first time) in a Newspaper of that city.—
Here I wish to highlight the statement by T. W. C. Moore that Moore's lines on St. Nicholas "were copied by a relative of Dr. Moores in her Album, from which a copy was made by a friend of hers, from Troy." As a veteran collector of art and historical artifacts, T. W. C. Moore knows the value of careful and accurate written descriptions. In just the same spirit, T. W. C. Moore donated valuable papers of his father John Moore (his account of the Social Club, for example) to the New-York Historical Society. With gifts of historical artifacts and art, T. W. C. Moore habitually supplied annotations of his own, giving dates and pertinent facts, as shown in the 1873 Catalogue of the Museum and Gallery of Art of the New York Historical Society.

When William I. Street, grandson of Major Andrew Billings of Poughkeepsie, gave T. W. C. Moore souvenir locks of George Washington's hair (and Martha's, too!), T. W. C. meticulously recorded the provenance in a letter from New York City dated March 24, 1857.

One more example will suffice for now to illustrate T. W. C. Moore's characteristic interest in supplying accurate descriptions for valuable works of art.

Interior of the Park Theatre, New York
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
In 1868, six years after writing the 1862 cover letter that accompanied Clement C. Moore's holograph manuscript of "A Visit from St Nicholas," T. W. C. Moore took the trouble to assemble a helpful "key" for identifying the subjects of a treasured water-color by John Searle titled "Interior of the Park Theatre, New York City, November 1822."
The painting is accompanied by a key added to a photograph from the original published by Mr. Elias Dexter in 1868. This key was prepared by the late Thomas W. C. Moore, a well known and highly esteemed member of this Society, and a liberal contributor to its Collection of Paintings. Mr. Moore had himself obtained the loan of the picture, at that time in the possession of Mrs. William Bayard, for the purpose of its reproduction, and took great pains to identify the persons represented....--The Iconography of Manhattan Island
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
As Martha Joanna Lamb explains to the same effect, in his enlistment of knowledgeable persons to get the figures in Searle's Park Theater painting identified correctly, T. W. C. Moore displayed
"the instinct of a genuine antiquarian." --History of the City of New York
A reproduction of the painting by Searle appears in the New-York Historical Society Quarterly 54.2 (April 1970), right alongside the "Key" to persons shown. In the Quarterly these reproductions of the Park Theatre painting and Key nicely illustrate the article by Edward Pessen titled "The Wealthiest New Yorkers of the Jacksonian Era: A New List." Thomas W. C. Moore appears in the foreground--age 28 in 1822, identified by the Key he helped produce over forty years later as number 14.

Thomas W. C. Moore (1794-1872)
Detail from Interior of Park Theatre by John Searle
via The New York Public Library Digital Collections
This painting of John Searle's represents a scene on the opening night of November 7, when cold weather had permitted New York to return to its business, homes and amusements; Mathews is on the stage as "Monsieur Morbleau," and Miss Johnston as "Madame Bellgarde." Through an inspiration of Thomas W. C. Moore, forty-five years later (who prepared a key to the painting then owned by Mrs. William Bayard), we know the names of some eighty odd of the representative New Yorkers whom the artist portrayed as witnessing this important appearance. They are all here, Bayards, and Coldens and de Peysters and Livingstons, Crugers, Van Wycks, Clintons, Beekmans, Lenoxes, Brevoorts and the rest; not to mention the prodigious Doctor Mitchell, Doctor Hosack, Doctor Francis, James K. Paulding, Mrs. Daniel Webster and many another of the outstanding figures in the financial and social life of the period. --Henry Wysham Lanier, A Century of Banking in New York, 1822-1922 (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1922) page 62.
Not that T. W. C. always prevailed with popular icons of art and literature. Washington Irving in 1859 was less obliging than Clement C. Moore proved to be in 1862, as Wayne R. Kime details in Pierre M. Irving and Washington Irving (Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1977), page 159. Irving rebuffed aggressive attempts by T. W. C. to obtain Irving's photograph for a promotion to finance the restoration of Mount Vernon.

But Clement C. Moore obliged with his holograph manuscript, and  T. W. C. Moore with the habitual "instinct of a genuine antiquarian" was more than glad to add an appropriate cover letter. Since manuscript and letter are both for the historical record, T. W. C. means exactly what he says. In this part of his March 1862 letter to the Librarian of the New-York Historical Society, T. W. C. Moore calls attention to two stages of copying in manuscript, not counting authorial drafts. In the first stage "a relative of Dr Moores" copied his poem "in her Album." In another stage, "a friend of hers, from Troy" copied the copy. T. W. C. Moore does not name either person. However, the writer's discretion here does not necessarily signify that he is unable to identify one or both individuals, both women. Rather, he chooses not to identify them in this particular document. Later sources name Harriet Butler as one of the copyists--often without specifying clearly whether Harriet was the visiting "relative" or the Troy "friend." Nevertheless, given T. W. C.'s close ties to the family of his niece Frances, including her husband and sister-in-law Harriet, it seems plausible that T. W. C. Moore was the authority behind later identifications of Harriet Butler.

The copying is what T. W. C. Moore attests to from personal knowledge, perhaps derived from his documented conversation in 1843 with Frances Livingston Butler, or maybe long before that. In the next paragraph, T. W. C. relates what he learned during a personal "interview" with Clement C. Moore the day before, on March 14, 1862:
he told me that a portly, rubicund, Dutchman, living in the neighbourhood of his fathers country seat, Chelsea, suggested to him the idea of making St. Nicholas the hero of this "Christmas piece" for his children.
The identity of that Chelsea "Dutchman" remains a mystery. I can't do everything around here.

Transcribed in full below, the earliest known Livingston witness letter, fully and decisively affirming Clement C. Moore's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" aka "The Night Before Christmas." Addressed to the Librarian of the Historical Society, the letter from T. W. C. Moore was first published in The New York Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin 2.4 (January 1919) pages 111-115.

73 East 12th St.
New York, March 15th 1862.
Geo. H. Moore Esqr
Librarian of The New-York Historical Society:
Dear Sir:
I have the pleasure to inform you that Doctor Clement C. Moore has been so kind as to comply with my request (made at your suggestion) to furnish, for the Archives of our Society, an Autograph Copy of his justly celebrated "Visit from St. Nicholas." I now enclose it to you.—

I hardly need call your attention to the distinctness and beauty of his hand writing:—very remarkable, considering his advanced age, (he completed his 82d year in July last) and his much impaired eye sight.

These lines were composed for his two daughters, as a Christmas present, about 40 years ago.—They were copied by a relative of Dr. Moores in her Album, from which a copy was made by a friend of hers, from Troy, and, much to the surprise of the Author, were published (for the first time) in a Newspaper of that city.—

In an interview that I had yesterday with Dr. Moore, he told me that a portly, rubicund, Dutchman, living in the neighbourhood of his fathers country seat, Chelsea, suggested to him the idea of making St. Nicholas the hero of this "Christmas piece" for his children.
I remain, very respy. Your obt. st.

T. W. C. Moore

Listed in WorldCat from the library catalog of the New-York Historical Society as A Visit from St. Nicholas: Holograph; currently held in Mss Collection, BV Moore, Clement, Non-circulating.
Holograph manuscript, dated March 13, 1862, of Clement C. Moore's "A visit from St. Nicholas," originally composed ca. 1822 and written out by the author on this occasion at the suggestion of librarian George H. Moore of the New-York Historical who wished to add a holograph copy of the poem to the Society's library collection. The three page manuscript is accompanied by a cover letter addressed to George Moore by Thomas W.C. Moore presenting the enclosed manuscript and briefly discussing the circumstances of the poem's original composition forty years earlier.  --New-York Historical Society, catalog summary via BobCat

More about TWC MOORE

The will of Thomas W. C. Moore confirms that he remembered many nieces including Frances Livingston Butler, and his Illinois connections, too. In his 1858 will (accessible via, as I found with expert help from The Frick Collection, Center for the History of Collecting), T. W. C. names his brother Francis Childs Moore as one of the executors along with his friend Stephen Cambreling and nephew-in-law Joseph D. Evans. A codicil revokes the nomination of Cambreling due to his "impaired health of late." To his niece "Mrs. Frances L. Butler" Moore bequeathed "all my Italian books & pamphlets - all my loose engravings & prints - also a Landscape (No. 8.) by Dan Huntington"; these gifts were in addition to the legacy of two thousand dollars each that T. W. C. Moore bestowed on all four "daughters of my late sister Lydia."

T. W. C. Moore and Clement. C. Moore were both Original Members of the Union Club of the City of New York, founded in June 1836. Both belonged to the New York Society Library (whose 1764 copy of Seneca's Morals and 1754 edition of the Dictionnaire des monogrammes were both donated by TWC Moore).

The chapter on "Commercial History" in volume 4 of The Memorial History of the City of New York features a portrait of T. W. C.'s father John Moore. The footnote by editor James Grant Wilson relates that T. W. C. Moore "shared his father's love for literature, wrote society verses, and was an intimate friend of Fitz-Greene Halleck."
John Moore was deputy collector and receiver- general of his majesty's customs in New-York while occupied by the British forces during the Revolution, and for ten years previous. He was a favorite in society, a writer of pleasant satires on the men and women of the city, gay and convivial. Some of his writings yet survive in manuscript. and throw light on the manners of the time. His son, Thomas W. C. Moore, shared his father's love for literature, wrote society verses, and was an intimate friend of Fitz-Greene Halleck, as their fathers had been before them. The son's portrait appears in the picture of the interior of the Park Theater, in Volume III. Editor.  --James Grant Wilson, The Memorial History of the City of New York, Volume4 - page 517.

T. W. C. was fondly remembered in Virginia, too. After his death in 1872, a niece inherited two letters concerning portraits of George Washington, as documented in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 18.1 (1894) on page 81. This niece was (like her sister Frances Livingston Hart, Mrs. Butler) another daughter of T. W. C.'s sister Lydia Hubbard Hart: Mrs. Elizabeth E. Coleman, widow of the Rev. Reuben Lindsay Coleman, of Albemarle County, Virginia. In Richmond T. W. C. may have visited Moore cousins as well, family of his father's brother Richard Channing Moore. Here's a vivid reminiscence from "old Virginia":
"Old Cousin Tom," we were wont to call him. What a stream of memories, sweet childish memories, his name evokes! Can we forget him who never forgot his juvenile kindred, but made glad their hearts, not once but always, when his travels brought him to old Virginia. His portrait appears in the picture of the interior of the Park Theatre in the History of New York City, in the library of the Penn. Hist. Society. He spent much time in genealogical research and was a steadfast friend of Fitz-Greene HALLECK. Peace to his ashes!  --Six centuries of the Moores of Fawley, Berkshire, England and their descendants amid the titled and untitled aristocracy of Great Britain and America (Richmond, VA, 1904) via RootsWeb
From Buenos Aires in 1824, T. W. C. wrote a letter to his father John Moore that is reproduced and transcribed on Spared & Shared 4, with this bit of biography:
Thomas W. C. Moore transcribed his father’s memoirs in 1851, was one of the promoters of the Academy of Fine Arts, and travelled through the art galleries of Europe with Washington Irving and Sir David Wilkie. He died unmarried. --Spared & Shared 4
MacDonald P. Jackson discusses the letter from T. W. C. Moore without recognizing Moore's kinship with Henry Livingston, Jr. as the son of Livingston's first cousin and Poughkeepsie neighbor Judith Livingston Moore. As Jackson does explain (Who Wrote, page 102), "T. W. C. Moore and Clement, though not related by blood, were both nephews of the same aunt and uncle." Edifying particulars may be found on the Stephen Moore of Mount Tirzah Family blog of David Jeffreys:
TWC Moore's uncle, Rev. Thomas Lambert Moore was married to Judith Moore, the aunt of Clement Clarke Moore, the author of the poem. The two Moore families are not otherwise related.  --Teri Bradshaw O'Neill
So T. W. C. Moore was related to Clement by marriage. But as discussed herein, the closer blood relation was to his mother's first cousin: Henry Livingston, Jr.


  • Livingston cousin Thomas William Channing Moore (1794-1872), New York merchant and banker, art collector, antiquarian, and active member of the New-York Historical Society most definitely is not the Canadian diplomat T. W. C.( Thomas William CHARLES?) Moore (1794-1873).

  • And let's not confuse our T. W. C. Moore with his younger relative of the same name, Thomas William Channing Moore (1834-1881). The grandfather of that TWC Moore, the Rev Richard Channing Moore, was a brother of John Moore, our antiquarian TWC Moore's father. Young TWC Moore served in the U. S. Civil War with the Wisconsin volunteers; most famously an aide-de-camp of Philip Sheridan. Enlisted in Company B, Wisconsin 24th Infantry Regiment on 13 Aug 1862; mustered out 1866 and promoted to Brevet Lt Col in 1867. Staten Island TWCM is honorably remembered in Morris's Memorial History of Staten Island, New York as "Colonel Thomas W. C. Moore, Military Secretary on the staff of General Sheridan, during the Civil War, was born at Richmond; he was a son of Rev. Dr. David Moore, rector of St. Andrew's Church, and a brother of Richard Channing Moore."
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