Skip to comments.Bryant Gumbel - Who Wrote "Night Before Christmas" - Henry Livingston or Clement Moore
Posted on 12/01/2017 3:12:01 PM PST by mairdie
The first interview related to the quest of Vassar Professor Don Foster and myself to prove "Night Before Christmas" was written by Henry Livingston, not Clement Moore. This followed our two page interviews in People Magazine and The New York Times.
In 2014, a mock trial in Troy NY came back with a jury verdict that Henry Livingston was, indeed, the author and December 7, 2014 was named Henry Livingston Day in Troy NY, where the poem was first published.
In 2016, following years of statistical research, Auckland University Emeritus Professor Mac Jackson came out with his book "Who Wrote the Night Before Christmas?" demonstrating his proofs that Henry Livingston was the actual author.
I've put some of our original data onto the website so that others can examine our research. There's also an attempt to translate Mac's statistical analysis, written for his academic peers, into language understandable by the layperson. This is more extensively discussed in my book, "Henry Livingston, The Poet You Always Loved."
The statistical work continues to this day as we attempt to create a “black box” that will let us put in a poem and get back some probability of the poem being by Livingston or not. In the course of that research, I went over the original newspapers again and discovered additional poems that our black box identifies as by Henry Livingston. One very exciting piece is a Carrier Address of 1812 that also uses the motif of a nighttime visitor, though this one is a French spright in a nightmare. Note the use of the terms elves, clamour and vision from NBC. This is not yet on the web.
Northern Whig, 1 Jan 1812
GOOD Morning dear patrons — I’ve come do you see,
With bowing and singing to levy a fee,
I’ll give you good verse — and believe me sincere,
When I wish you long life — and a happy New-Year.
News-Boys just like Lawyers, will promise you fair,
They’ll give for your money, their Lingo so rare —
And I, (lawyer like) though the best of the throng,
“Full costs” mean to “charge” for my excellent song.
Three days had I labour’d — and in verbage sublime,
I’d scribbed nine sheets — but the Devil a rhyme
Would appear in the whole — so all in a huff,
I sent to the flames a whole volume of stuff,
As smooth, at the least, as that lullaby trash,
Which Osander has publish’d — “to compass the cash.”
Having burnt myself out — last night much oppress’d,
I went to my garret and soon was at rest;
Not thinking, at all, that Hobgoblins or Elves
‘Bout poor little News-Boys would trouble themselves;
Or dreaming that fate had a vision design’d
To enliven my muse and enlighten my mind.
The clock sounded twelve — And awaked by the chime,
I raised up my head — and beheld FATHER TIME
Approaching my bed through the dusk of the night;
In one hand his scythe — in the other a SPRIGHT!!!
Whom leading right to me — He spoke with a leer:
“My Lads be you friends — this is little NEW-YEAR!
“And this is YOUNG WHIG!! Now walk hand in hand
“Stick close to each other — in unity stand —
“And then, though from Clermont again shall appear,
“A Juror like Capron, you’ve nothing to fear:
“For when he beholds this young Spright at your side,
“Like Peter the honest from court you shall glide —
“Your pocket unpick’d — nor two hundred expose,
“To purchase some salve for an editor’s nose —
“And then, though brave Matty his bristles should rear,
“And the honest old Sheriff in rage should appear —
“Though all the fell tribe who compose the wise club
“Where Dayton presides and holds forth to his mob,
“Should like savages yell - yet feel no alarm,
“This honest young spright will protect you from harm.
“These Gentry all worship little NEW-YEAR’S gold wand
“And its sight will unnerve every Democrats hand;
“And thus LITTLE WHIG it shall no more be said
“That you print sacred truth at the risk of your head.”
He ended — And spreading his pinions for flight,
Left little NEW-YEAR and MYSELF for the night.
And now raking open the embers, the light
A Goblin most horrible shew’d to my sight,
In stature a Dwarf — but in visage so fell
He seem’d a dark spirit — just issued from Hell.
He glittered in diamonds — of gold was his wand,
And a purse of “Napoleons” was held in each hand.
He ey’d me askant — and threw open his robe,
Displaying embroider’d a Map of the Globe.
I saw there old Germany struck from her seat,
And Russia bow’d down at an Usurper’s feet,
And places where states in old Europe had stood,
We’re buried, deep buried, in oceans of blood:
And o’er them I read on a label enrolled,
“The CONQUESTS of France and her Tyrant behold.” —
I look’d to the south — a new scene struck my eye —
A kingdom “in armour” — And “freedom” the cry —
From her snow cover’d Mountains, her brave sons again,
As, erst with Pelagius, rush down to the plain;
And there fixed as fate — with dread purpose they stand,
To die, or deliver, their dear native land.
And there I beheld from the Isles of the west,
A band all heroic — at Freedom’s behest
Rush forth to the battle — with banners unfurl’d,
And snatch from the Tyrant a tottering world —
“And O” I exclaimed “if the councils above,
“Are guided by Justice, sweet Mercy and Love,
“Sure, sure, here the Tyrants proud arm shall be stay’d,
“His armies shall fly, and his laurels shall fade;
“The blood of such Patriots shall not flow in vain,
“And the world be preserved by the Heroes of Spain!!”
As I spoke, the fell Spright, with a grin further drew
His mantle aside — and the West met my view —
There drawn at full length, young Columbia I spied,
But ah! how disordered, how humbled her pride —
She seemed like a young man, in vigour and bloom,
By the nostrums of quackery swept to the tomb —
She seem’d a young Giant, unnerved by strong wine,
At her length all extended, inactive, supine —
Her Ports and her Cities how desolate all,
MEMENTOS alike of her rise and her fall.
Indignant I turn’d from this view, to my guest
And “THE LEGION OF HONOR,” appear’d on his breast.
Hah! a Frenchman! I cried — and not the New-Year!
And I shrunk from the wretch with disgust and with fear —
His eyes flashing vengeance — with shrugs and with sneers
He shrieked forth his “foutres” his “pests” and “Monsieurs.”
Of Orders and Edicts his gibberish ran
Of Rambouillet, and Berlin and also Milan —
He pointed to Canada — chattered of Blood!
And shew’d on the map where free Switzerland stood!
He talk’d of embargos and other such stuff,
And “foutred” them all to the shades with a puff.
Our “restrictions” and threat’nings, he sent to “Diable,”
And Damn’d all our Gun-Boats — as tubs for the rabble.
Of the “love of Napoleon” he gabbled an hour,
Of his kindness, and justice, his friendship and power —
Of La Franchise, La Vengeance and other such trash —
And closed by an offer to lend me some cash.
I shrunk from his offer — I spit in his face —
And told him, indignant, his conduct was base —
That though a poor NEWS-BOY, I scorned to do evil,
And him and his master consign’d to the Devil.
Enrag’d, the foul dwarf, wildly flourish’d his wand —
And nine empty purses appear’d in each hand —
Then full in my view, with triumph he rear’d,
On each, at full length, an inscription appear’d.
On the first, “Baptiste Irvine,” was written alone;
The second, “To Dunn,” shew’d its Contents had gone —
On the rest, lofty names, in plain characters glare,
Of statesmen, who rule, and who clamour for war:
The fire flash’d new light — and as nearer I drew;
A purse of small size — was develop’d to view —
It seem’d that some Cents had once lodged therein,
And shillings and sixpences there had been seen,
And on it was written, in characters meet,
“For Captain Stargazer — the tool of De Witt.”
WIth a scowl he, exclaimed — “You see my young friend,
“We ne’er want borrowers, while we’ve money to lend,
“And mark me, YOUNG WHIG — ere long you shall rue,
“This saucy refusal to join the French crew.”
Indignant I view’d him and swore to his head,
I’d publish this day ev’ry word he had said:
Nor would I one word from his gib’rish retrench;
But the shy little Devil spoke wholly in French.
At which growing angry — I bade him Adieu,
And wrote just at day light, this VISION for you.
Went all through this a couple months ago.
I don’t know but it sure ruined Christmas.
Absolutely Moore claimed it. But only after he received an answer to his letter from the editor of the Troy Sentinel asking if he had known the author when he published the poem. Tuttle said no. Moore published. Up until that time, he’d told his children not to let the poem out of the house.
And what Moore published was not the original poem, though he told people it was. He published the version extensively edited by the Troy editor which the editor had mailed him. Moore couldn’t tell the difference. What author takes over 50 edits and still says the poem is unchanged?
As to Livingston not claiming it, Livingston claimed none of his poetry. But his family claimed it for him, and in fact many of them knew the original manuscript with crossouts. Moore explained the lack of such a manuscript by saying that he composed it in his head and wrote it down perfectly. Which didn’t explain why it was the edited version of the Troy editor.
As to timing, there seemed to be some concern that Christmas was coming too early, so this is now in the Christmas timeframe.
That’s an extremely strange statement. It’s usually accounted as one of the great poems as being perfectly set at the point of view and concerns of a child.
Look at Moore’s poetry:
What! My sweet little Sis, in bed all alone;
No light in your room! And your nursy too gone!
And you, like a good child, are quietly lying,
While some naughty ones would be fretting or crying?
Well, for this you must have something pretty, my dear;
And, I hope, will deserve a reward too next year.
But, speaking of crying, I’m sorry to say
Your screeches and screams, so loud ev’ry day,
Were near driving me and my goodies away.
Good children I always give good things in plenty;
How sad to have left your stocking quite empty:
But you are beginning so nicely to spell,
And, in going to bed, behave always so well,
That, although I too oft see the tear in your eye,
I cannot resolve to pass you quite by.
I hope, when I come here again the next year,
I shall not see even the sign of a tear.
And then, if you get back your sweet pleasant looks,
And do as you’re bid, I will leave you some books,
Some toys, or perhaps what you still may like better,
And then too may write you a prettier letter.
At present, my dear, I must bid you good bye;
Now, do as you’re bid; and, remember, don’t cry.
Then look at Henry’s:
Letter sent to master Timmy Dwight, the son of Rev. Dr. Timothy Dwight, president of Yale
7 ys old Dec. 7. 1785
Master Timmy brisk and airy
Blythe as Oberon the fairy
On thy head thy cousin wishes
Thousand and ten thousand blisses.
Never may thy wicket ball
In a well or puddle fall;
Or thy wild ambitious kite
O’er the Elm’s thick foliage light.
When on bended knee thou sittest
And the mark in fancy hittest
May thy marble truly trace
Where thy wishes mark’d the place.
If at hide and seek you play,
All involved in the hay
Titt’ring hear the joyful sound
“Timmy never can be found.”
If you hop or if you run
Or whatever is the fun,
Vic’try with her sounding pinion
Hover o’er her little minion.
But when hunger calls the boys
From their helter skelter joys:
Bread and cheese in order standing
For their most rapacious handling
Timmy may thy luncheon be
More than Ben’s as five to three.
But if hasty pudding’s dish
Meet thy vast capacious wish -
Or lob-lollys charming jelly
Court thy cormorantal belly
Mortal foe to megre fast
Be thy spoonful first & last.
When I was about 70-years younger and single, the most interesting tests for my favorite girl friend were those examining where the tongue moves in the mouth while reciting aloud - an unconscious characteristic the hottest girls could not control. This involved transcribing their entire bodies into phonemes - the sounds of words - and looking at those phenomenal pairs - how the tongue moved from one to another.
You are SO funny!
Wasn’t growing up and learning about the opposite sex wonderful?
Talking about Night before Christmas. When not even a mouse was stirring in the Stable because the Messiah, the Son of God, had been born. You know, the Savior?
Wasn’t he related to Santa Claus. Maybe third cousins?
Search for: The New York Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin Volumes 1-5
When you pull up the title, you can just search for Moore and go to pages 111-115 in Vol II dated Jan 1919.
Henry Livingston’s family first discovered that Moore was claiming Henry’s poem around 1859, 30 years after Henry died. By then a number of the family were involved with the ministry of the church and worried about challenging someone rich and connected. It wasn’t until the women of the family got together and decided it was time to do something that they gathered up their data - around 1880. But by then the original mss had burned and their proof was gone in smoke. But they began to go public in 19001. It was around 1920 that the family got the first articles published, and that’s when Moore’s descendants screwed up and came out with the testimonial that proved to be untrue - that Moore had written the poem intact with almost no changes.
The president of Vassar and a number of other academics came out in Livingston’s side, but the arguments were all literary and therefore still unproven. You could get details that made sense - like Henry’s letters talk about mama while Moore’s letters always say mother. But those aren’t proof. And what Don Foster came up with wasn’t proof either. Just more details that showed what a bad poet Moore was and what a good poet Livingston was.
It wasn’t until Mac Jackson did his statistical analysis over a broad range of tests that the proof was able to be pulled together. And proof is the right word. By statistical analysis, Moore couldn’t have written the poem and Livingston was right in the numbers.
No question that after Tuttle wrote to Moore, Moore claimed the poem and signed copies, usually in passive tense. “The poem was written...” Not “I wrote the poem.” My personal theory is that when he first read the poem to his children, that he let them think he wrote it. He did write Christmas poems. Just horrible ones. And he told them not to let the poem out. But the kids did and they were excited when the poem spread. To have told them he didn’t write the poem would have been too embarrassing. And so for years he kept it within the household and didn’t admit to the authorship.
Another Christmas poem attributed to Moore and published in his friend’s magazine. Note the consistency between the use of MOTHER in the poem, as in all of Moore’s letters.
Old SANTECLAUS with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night,
O’er chimney-tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.
The steady friend of virtuous youth,
The friend of duty, and of truth,
Each Christmas eve he joys to come
Where love and peace have made their home.
Through many houses he has been,
And various beds and stockings seen;
Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,
Others, that seemed for pigs intended.
Where e’er I found good girls or boys,
That hated quarrels, strife and noise,
I left an apple, or a tart,
Or wooden gun, or painted cart.
To some I gave a pretty doll,
To some a peg-top, or a ball;
No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets,
To blow their eyes up, or their pockets.
No drums to stun their Mother’s ear,
Nor swords to make their sisters fear;
But pretty books to store their mind
With knowledge of each various kind.
But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,
I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent’s hand to use
When virtue’s path his sons refuse.
I thought it was Yogi Jorgensen.
It was director Tim Burton.
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