Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Pre-1844 attributions of "A Visit from St Nicholas" to Clement C. Moore

Washington Daily National Intelligencer - December 28, 1843
via GenealogyBank
Clement C. Moore contributed four poems to The New-York Book of Poetry (New York: George Dearborn, 1837), one of which was A Visit from St Nicholas.

Moore's authorship of the beloved Christmas poem (aka "The Night Before Christmas") was already established when he affirmed his prior claim in a letter to the editor of the New York American, published March 1, 1844.

Moore-New York American-1March1844
Clement C. Moore, letter dated February 27, 1844 to Charles King, editor of the New York American
New York American (March 1, 1844) via Wikimedia Commons
LINES TO ST. NICHOLAS.— The following note from our friend C. C. Moore, the author of those lines which every child among us delights to hear, about Christmas, and which parents with not less delight recite, brings to our notice, one of the boldest acts of plagiarism of which we have any recollection. We ask the National Intelligencer to have the goodness to insert Mr. Moore's noteand if possible to elucidate the mistake, if such it be, or fraud attempted in respect of such well known lines.
New York, Feb. 27, 1844 
Dear Sir—My attention was, a few days ago, directed to the following communication, which appears in the National Intelligencer of the 25th of December last.
"Washington, Dec. 22d, 1843.
Gentlemen—The enclosed lines were written by Joseph Wood, artist, for the National Intelligencer, and published in that paper in 1827 or 1828, as you may perceive from your files. By republishing them, as the composition of Mr. Wood you will gratify one who has now few sources of pleasure left. Perhaps you may comply with this request, if it be only for 'auld lang syne.'" 
The above is printed immediately over some lines, describing a visit from St. Nicholas, which I wrote many years ago, I think somewhere between 1823 and 1824, not for publication, but to amuse my children. They, however, found their way, to my great surprise, in the Troy Sentinel: nor did I know, until lately, how they got there. When "The New York Book" was about to be published, I was applied to for some contribution to the work. Accordingly, I gave the publisher several pieces, among which was the "Visit from St. Nicholas." It was printed under my name, and has frequently since been republished, in your paper among others, with my name attached to it.  
Under these circumstances, I feel it incumbent on me not to remain silent, while so bold a claim, as the above quoted, is laid to my literary property, however small the intrinsic value of that property may be. 
The New York Book was published in 1827 [1837]. 
Yours, truly and respectfully,   
Chas. King, Esq.
As stated in this 1844 letter, transcribed above, Moore was prompted to reassert his claim by a false attribution in the Washington National Intelligencer. When he wrote Charles King of the American on February 27, 1844, Moore did not know that the National Intelligencer had already corrected the error, as pointed out by the Washington editor on March 6, 1844. Moore subsequently included "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in his 1844 volume, Poems.

Below are listed some of the earliest known attributions of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to Clement C. Moore, all made before Moore published his 1844 book of Poems with "A Visit from St. Nicholas" on pages 124-7.

"A few days since the editors of the New York Courier, at the request of a lady, inserted some lines descriptive of one of the Christmas visits of that good old Dutch saint, St. Nicholas, and at the same time applied to our Albany neighbors for information as to the author. That information, we apprehend, the Albany editors cannot give. The lines were first published in this paper. They came to us from a manuscript in possession of a lady in this city. We have been given to understand that the author of them belongs by birth and residence to the city of New York, and that he is a gentleman of more merit as a scholar and a writer than many of more noisy pretensions. We republish the lines in a preceding column just as they originally appeared, because we still think of them as at first, and for the satisfaction of our brethren of the Courier, one of whom, at least, is an Arcadian."  --Troy Sentinel, January 20, 1829; as quoted by Arthur James Weise in Troy's One Hundred Years (Troy, NY, 1891).
Deaths and Bereavement 1828-1830
Clement C. Moore's daughter Emily died in 1828, just six years old. In the year 1830 Moore lost his wife Eliza (d. 4 April 1830) and daughter Charity Elizabeth (d. 14 December 1830). Moore gave heartfelt poetic expression to his grief in a poem titled, To Southey. Any later recollection of Christmas joys experienced in 1822 when "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was originally composed would have been tempered by remembrance of lost loved ones.

New York American for the Country - April 9, 1830
On Sunday evening, after a long illness, which she endured with Christian resignation and fortitude, Catherine Eliza, wife of Clement C. Moore.

The friends and relations of the deceased, and of her husband, are respectfully invited to attend the funeral to-morrow afternoon, at 5 o'clock, from No. 1 Charlton-street. --New York American, Monday, April 5, 1830; reprinted in New York American for the Country on Friday, April 9, 1830.
New York Evening Post - December 15, 1830
On Tuesday, the 14th instant, Charity Elizabeth, second daughter of Clement C. Moore. The friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend her funeral on Thursday, at 1 o'clock, P. M., from No. 1 Charlton street.

1833-4 (New Year's Eve)
In a diary entry for December 31, 1833 Francis Prioleau Lee, a student at General Theological Seminary in New York City, describes a holiday fair in Morristown, New Jersey featuring
"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 following lines appeared in print for the first time—though very often copied since—in the Troy Sentinel of Dec. 23d, 1823, which paper we then conducted. They were introduced, on that occasion, with the following remarks; which, as they continue to be a true expression of our opinion of the charming simplicity and cordiality of the lines, as well as of our unchanged feelings toward the little people to whom they are addressed, we repeat them, only observing that although when we first published them, we did not know who wrote them, yet, not many months afterwards we learnt that they came from the pen of a most accomplished scholar and and estimable man, a professor in one of our colleges....--Ontario Repository and Freeman - December 28, 1836; reprinted the following week in the Auburn Journal and Advertiser on Wednesday, January 4, 1837.
New York American - Saturday, December 31, 1836
"As appropriate to the season, and because it has long circulated without a name, we also copy A Visit from St. Nicholas.--By Clement C. Moore." --New York American, December 31, 1836.
The lines which follow have been much admired, and have appeared in a variety of publications, but never, we believe, before under the name of the real author--CLEMENT C. MOORE. --The American Monthly Magazine for January 1837.
Vermont Mercury - December 22, 1837
 Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), December 25, 1837:

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA) Monday, December 25, 1837
"Our Juvenile readers will thank us for furnishing them, at this season, with the following clever lines.

Washington National Intelligencer, December 25, 1837:
Found on

We present each of you, therefore, with a copy of the following beautiful little poem, every word of which is as true as anything you can find in Philip Quarle, the Arabian Knights, or those most authentick of all historical narratives, the Fairy Tales of John Smith. It is written by Professor Clement C. Moore, who, in stealing leisure from the gravest and most important studies, for so light and graceful a production, has set an example which austere wisdom should oftener imitate among its solemn disciples:

A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS  --The New-York Mirror, December 23, 1837

Fri, Jan 5, 1838 – Page 2 · The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) ·
"CHRISTMAS. / A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS. / [BY CLEMENT MOORE.]" --Nashville, Tennessee Republican Banner, January 5, 1838.
Columbia Democrat (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania) -  January 6, 1838
via GenealogyBank

"Poetry / A Visit from St Nicholas / By Professor Moore." --Columbia Democrat (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania), January 6, 1838.

Boston Weekly Messenger - September 26, 1838


MR. EDITOR:--Having noticed strictures on this excellent picture in some of the public prints, which convince me that the authors were not acquainted with the particular attributes and offices of the Dutch Saint, I have obtained a copy of the lines written by Clement Moore, of New York, which may have suggested, and certainly served in some sort as a guide to the painter in his performance. Nothing can be more mirth-exciting than the look of the venerable dona-ferens;--all the incidents of the scene are introduced with accuracy and effect, and the story is told in language not to be misunderstood. I send you Mr. Moore's verses for publication.
P.  --Boston Weekly Messenger, September 26, 1838.
From the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer on Christmas Day, December 25, 1838:


This being Christmas day, and Santa Claus (St. Nicholas,) the patron Saint of our Knickerbockers having filled the stockings of all the good little girls and boys of our city with appropriate Christmas presents; we cannot do them a more acceptable service, than by re-publishing for their especial benefit the following beautiful lines by Professor MOORE, descriptive of the little gentleman who is so deservedly a favorite with our youthful readers:--
Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer - December 25, 1838
The Vision of Rubeta by Laughton Osborn criticizes "the nursery rhymes of Prof. Moore" as "nonsense" and "trash."
Natchez Weekly Courier (Natchez, Mississippi), December 28, 1838:
Fri, Dec 28, 1838 – Page 4 · The Natchez Weekly Courier (Natchez, Mississippi) ·


New York Commercial Advertiser - December 19, 1839
"THE POETS OF AMERICA, Illustrated by one of her Painters, designed as an Annual for 1840. The selections are entire pieces from the best authors.--...The Culprit Fay, by Drake; Song, from Fanny, by Halleck...A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement C. Moore...."  --New York Commercial Advertiser, December 19, 1839. 
Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D. C.)
December 25, 1839




Alexandria Gazette - December 31, 1839




New York Weekly Whig - January 2, 1840
Kentucky Gazette (Lexington, KY), January 16, 1840:

Kentucky Gazette (Lexington, KY) - January 16, 1840
via Fulton History
Two 1840 anthologies correctly attribute "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to Clement C. Moore.
The Poets of America, edited by John Keese, credits "C. C. Moore" with authorship of "A Visit form St. Nicholas."

Another 1840 anthology, Selections from the American Poets (edited by William Cullen Bryant) reprinted "A Visit from St Nicholas" under the name of "Clement C. Moore."

From the Daily Cleveland Herald of December 24, 1840; reprinted in the Cleveland Herald and Gazette, December 30, 1840:

"This number contains two engravings. About the first, "St. Nicholas," designed by Mr. Ingham and beautifully engraved on wood by Mr. Roberts, so much has already been said by our worthy associate, Mr. Fanshaw, that nothing remains for us to add more than is contained in the following lines, written by C. C. Moore:
'Twas the night before New-Year, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...."
--The New-York Mirror, January 2, 1841

Newark Daily Advertiser - January 2, 1841
 "The Brother Jonathan of this week is embellished, truly embellished with a capital engraving from Ingham's picture of Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, in the act of descending a chimney from his sleigh, loaded with presents for the children's stockings--as graphically described in Professor Moore's Christmas poem. The mammoth sheet is well stored with a great variety of choice things. The picture alone is worth double the price of the paper."  --Newark Daily Advertiser, January 2, 1841


Martinsburg VA Gazette - January 7, 1841

The following sprightly and popular effusion is the production of an American poet: 


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house....    

--Martinsburg Gazette (Martinsburg, Virginia) January 7, 1841.

* * * 

"A Visit from St. Nicolas" reprinted with credit to "Clement C. Moore" in The Constitutionalist [Bath, New York], December 22, 1841.
The Pennsylvanian (Philadelphia, PA) - December 21, 1841
"KRISS KRINGLE'S BOOK.-- ... This is precisely the book for the young folks, stories, pictures and all, not forgetting the spirited lines by C. C. Moore, entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas," which have been appropriately incorporated in this pretty and seasonable production."  --Philadelphia Pennsylvanian, December 21, 1841.

We add below the following sprightly and popular effusion of an American poet: A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS. / By C. C. MOORE. -- Leesburg Genius of Liberty (Leesburg, Virginia), December 25, 1841 via NewspaperArchive.



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

Tarboro [North Carolina] Press, January 7, 1843
The Rover: A Weekly Magazine of Tales, Poetry, and Engravings vol. 2 - October 15, 1843



 -- Saturday Courier [Philadelphia, PA] December 23, 1843. 

Philadelphia Courier - Saturday, December 23, 1843

Published in the Washington Daily National Intelligencer on December 28, 1843 (three days after the mistaken attribution of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to Joseph Wood):

Washington Daily National Intelligencer - December 28, 1843
via GenealogyBank
Messrs. EDITORS: I perceive in your paper of the 25th instant that an extract from the beautiful little poem entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas" is given to the pen of Jos. Wood. This is a mistake. It is well known to be the production of CLEMENT C. MOORE, of the city of New York, and is published as his in the volume of American Poems edited by John Keese.
Very respectfully, &c.

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