Monday, April 13, 2020

Verplanck toasts Moore, 1859

Hon. Gulian Crommelin Verplanck of N.Y.
Brady-Handy photograph collection,
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
From the account of the 1859 St Nicholas Society banquet, titled "The Children's Carol" and published over the signature of "SENTINEL" (William Henry Bogart) in the Morning Courier and New York Enquirer on Saturday, December 17, 1859:

Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer - December 17, 1859
... All this is introduction to the mention of the very pleasantest page in the history of the evening of the last sixth of December. No one who heard him will forget the pleasant but enriched manner in which GULIAN C. VERPLANCK delineated the character and pledged to the health and happiness of CLEMENT C. MOORE, the Author of that delightful Poem, sung for and by so many darling little hearts, whose golden pivot of the wheel of the Year, is  
"The Night before Christmas"--
 Mr. VERPLANCK declared it the Children's Carol, and as such it has blended itself among those associations which brighten even amidst the deepest dust of care, those hours which even a stern man keeps hid from all the tumult of his own breast and struggles with others. Men remember to their latest day how often little hands have in their innocence led them into the path, they would then give worlds to tread again. The very inner light of a Christian civilization is kindness to the home hearts.
We have almost in the heavier movement of lesser men forgotten that the graceful scholar whose felicitous embodiment of the most popular of all traditions that have found rest in America, is yet [one] of our citizens. Mr. VERPLANCK's delineation of the life of this gentleman was heard with appreciation of the value of this offering by one scholar to another. Surrounded by all that the possession of great wealth can give, Mr. MOORE finds in the library of rare books, the society of cherished friends, the observation of an old age preserved in vigor of reflection, as pleasant lot as is cast among men.
And as the days in the sure drift of Time are bringing us to the Christmas, to turn a genial thought towards this theme, is most appropriate.
It was a right theme for the utterances of that brilliant evening, for brilliant it was, though all the gloom of the accumulated clouds wore the drapery that the city wore. The Old Festival had all the honors. The Presidency had one of New York's favorite sons in its place [Verplanck, succeeded by Hamilton Fish]. The best scholar left among us rose to the pledge, and the Sons of St. Nicholas with joyous heart remembered the Author of the Children's Christmas Carol.
"Sentinel" was the usual pseudonym of William Henry Bogart, as verified in Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography Volume 1, ed. James Grant Wilson and John Fiske (New York, 1888) page 302.

It's good to have Bogart's account of the 1859 holiday toast by Gulian C. Verplanck "to the health and happiness" of his old friend and former seminary colleague. Clement C. Moore did not belong to the St. Nicholas Society and would not have been present at the festivities that Bogart describes. Verplanck himself was the "best scholar left among us" who rose to make the "pledge" or drinking toast. The report in the New York Tribune on December 7, 1859 did not mention Gulian C. Verplanck or his formal tribute to the author of the "Children's Christmas Carol":
ST. NICHOLAS SOCIETY.-- This Association, composed of the descendants of the Dutch settlers of New York, celebrated its anniversary last night by a dinner at the St Nicholas Hotel. The attendance was good, and the representatives of the old Knickerbockers had a good time generally, eating doughnuts and drinking schnapps, and cracking jokes and smoking long pipes. 
Earlier in the same year, this bit of "Newport Gossip" dated August 3, 1859 appeared in correspondence of the Boston Journal; reprinted in the New York Evening Post on August 5, 1859:
Another literary notable here is Clement C. Moore, who is justly styled "a fine old Christian gentleman, scholar and poet," by one who knows him well. Although upwards of eighty years of age, Mr. Moore retains his love for classical literature, and his conversation is marked by that genial good humor displayed in his well-known poetical chronicle of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," commencing
" 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."  

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