Sunday 18th February 2018

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

The Night Before Christmas . . . An Ongoing Christmas Controversy

December 17, 2016 Frontpage No Comments

Image result for st nicholas

By RAY CAVANAUGH

With lyrics that evoke wholesome images of holiday glee and anticipation, what could be more innocent and straightforward than The Night Before Christmas?
Well, it turns out, not even that item is free of controversy. For more than 100 years now, debate has persisted over who actually penned this beloved American poem, which appeared anonymously on December 23, 1823, in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel newspaper.
The two leading candidates for authorship are: Clement Clarke Moore, a New York City literature professor long credited with writing the poem; and Henry Livingston Jr., a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native whom multiple literature professors have since proclaimed as the author.
In the 19th century, poetry was a major part of popular culture, and newspapers of the day routinely published poem after poem. The overwhelming lot of these compositions met with oblivion soon after seeing print.
But there was something different about The Night Before Christmas (or A Visit From St. Nicholas as it was then titled). About one week after appearing in the Troy Sentinel, the piece appeared in the New York Spectator, and soon was seen in almanacs and literary magazines. In ensuing years, the unattributed poem only gained in popularity.
There’s nothing inherently peculiar about the poem having appeared without a name attached. As New York Times journalist David D. Kirkpatrick points out, “genteel men of letters often published anonymously because newspapers were considered beneath them,” at least back in 1823.
Clement Clarke Moore, who reportedly graduated first in his class at Columbia, was one such “genteel” man. Stephen Nissenbaum’s book The Battle for Christmas, which credits Moore with authorship, describes him as an “old-style country gentleman” (even though he lived in Manhattan) and a “patrician man of leisure who inherited so much land” that he never needed to work. After turning 40, he began to receive a “token salary” as a professor of ancient literature at New York’s General Theological (Episcopalian) Seminary. He also authored and translated scholarly books.
Moore — at least at first — wished to be known more for his scholarly contributions, as opposed to some intellectually frivolous holiday verse. But eventually he relented, and included the poem in his 1844 anthology of verses. The trifling Christmas ditty commanded exponentially more notoriety than his sober books ever could, and to a large extent its imagery shaped the Christmas holiday as we know, at least in America.
But not everyone was convinced that Moore was the true author of America’s most-beloved Christmas poem. Though articles had been written that questioned Moore’s authorship and advocated for Livingston, a real sea change in Livingston’s case for authorship occurred in 2000 with the publication of Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous, written by Don Foster.
Foster, a professor at Vassar College, is a pioneer of literary forensics and has worked on such cases as the one involving Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (he compared the Unabomber’s “Manifesto” to known samples of Kaczynski’s writing). In Foster’s view, each writer has a “literary DNA” as unique as one’s physical DNA.
Having analyzed the complete known poetic output of both men, Foster concludes that Livingston is the author. He points out how Moore, whom he refers to as a “curmudgeon,” tended to emulate more solemn and devotional bards, as where Livingston was both the more playful man and poet — and the more likely candidate to write something like The Night Before Christmas.
There’s also another intriguing item: Before officially coming out as the poem’s author in 1844, Moore wrote a letter (currently in the possession of the New York Historical Society) to one Norman Tuttle — the former owner of the defunct Troy Sentinel newspaper — asking if he knew exactly who had been involved with the Christmas poem’s 1823 publication.
Tuttle replied that anyone who’d been involved with publishing the poem in 1823 was now deceased. Livingston had died in 1828, so in the event that he’d written it, there wasn’t much he personally could do. As Foster writes, “the coast was clear” now for Moore to come forward with confidence in his claim of authorship.
According to the Livingston family, by the time they noticed that the Christmas poem had become famous, Moore had already taken credit. And credit he would get. Even today, the attribution often goes to him. Meanwhile, there’s a great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Livingston who advocates for her ancestor’s authorship. In recent years, scholars have tended to agree with her.
The Poetry Foundation (poetryfoundation.org) now credits Livingston as the author, though it states that he “made no written mention” of the poem while he was alive, and his friends were unaware of his authorship. It has been suggested that the poem appeared in a Poughkeepsie newspaper before its 1823 appearance in the Troy Sentinel. However, any such pre-1823 copy has yet to surface.
Livingston, a farmer and surveyor descended from a prominent colonial family, attained the rank of major fighting on behalf of the Americans in the Revolutionary War. His poetical endeavors typically consisted of “light verse” that was “published anonymously or under the pseudonym R,” according to the Poetry Foundation.
If Livingston was the poem’s true author, had he even bothered to use the “R” pseudonym, it would’ve spared much later controversy — which continues to linger. As recently as April 2016, MacDonald P. Jackson’s book Who Wrote “The Night Before Christmas”? was released. Jackson’s verdict as to the poem’s writer: Livingston.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Pope Francis says Paul VI will be canonized this year

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 08:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his annual Lenten meeting with the priests of Rome last week, Pope Francis confirmed that Blessed Pope Paul VI will be made a saint sometime this year. “Paul VI…Continue Reading

Pope reappoints O’Malley to head further work of safeguarding commission

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 05:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has reconfirmed Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also reconfirming seven members…Continue Reading

The Latest: Trump to visit Florida after school shooting

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s response to the Florida school shooting (all times local): 11:36 a.m. President Donald Trump says he’ll visit Parkland, Florida, the site of Wednesday’s shooting that killed 17 people. Trump said from…Continue Reading

U.S. bishops: federal budget should not be balanced ‘on backs of the poor’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the Trump administration’s 2019 federal budget proposal on Monday, the U.S. Catholic bishops are urging for a budget that shows greater concern for “‘the least of these” and warning that the U.S. “must never seek…Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood sticker stirs controversy at Connecticut Catholic high school

A Connecticut high school student may have to decide whether to remove a Planned Parenthood sticker on her laptop or leave her Catholic school after administrators told her to remove it, her parents said. Sophomore Kate Murray’s parents told the Greenwich Time that…Continue Reading

Fr. James Martin: ‘People take the Bible…out of context’ on homosexuality

February 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual acts should be taken in “context” with Biblical times, Jesuit Father James Martin toldGeorgetown University students recently. Martin said as well that Catholics who support gay “marriage” should have no problem…Continue Reading

Mississippi state house votes to ban abortion after 15 weeks

JACKSON, Mississippi, February 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A bill banning abortion on babies more than 15 weeks old passed the Mississippi state House today 79-31. House Bill 1510 would make Mississippi the state with the most pro-life laws if it…Continue Reading

All But Three Democrats Voted to Allow Unlimited Abortions Up to Birth

Just three Democrats in the U.S. Senate supported a bill on Monday that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks when unborn babies are capable of feeling pain. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which has strong public support from Republicans…Continue Reading

Athanasius Schneider invites world’s bishops to sign Profession of Immutable Truths

ROME, January 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In an exclusive interview two weeks after issuing a profession of immutable truths about sacramental marriage, Bishop Athanasius Schneider is inviting his brother bishops around the world to join in raising a common voice…Continue Reading

Cardinal Eijk Asks Pope to Clarify Questions About “Remarried” Divorcees

As Katholisch.de, the official website of the German bishops, reports today, Cardinal Willem Eijk, the Dutch cardinal and Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht, requested that Pope Francis bring light into the confusion concerning the question as to how to deal with…Continue Reading

Where are all the Catholics at the nation’s largest Catholic school

When Selena Miller, a practicing Catholic, applied to DePaul, she had no idea it was a Catholic university. Damita Meneves, another practicing Catholic, said she has met only one other Catholic student in her first year at DePaul. DePaul is…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: It is a “source of anguish” to hear suggestions “that I would lead a schism”

His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, spoke recently with Thinking with the Church, hosted by Chris Altieri, who is also a regular contributor to Catholic World Report. Cardinal Burke responds to questions regarding the interpretation and reception of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Planned Parenthood Sues President Trump After He Defunded Its Programs Pushing Sex on Kids

There’s nothing, it seems, that the abortion chain Planned Parenthood won’t sue over. On Thursday, affiliates of the abortion chain in seven states sued the Trump administration for cutting funding for their questionable teen pregnancy prevention programs. The Daily Nonpareil reports the lawsuits argue that the Trump administration wrongly cut their funding prematurely and without cause. Nine groups, including Planned Parenthood affiliates in Washington, Iowa, North Carolina, South C

Scholar stumps Cardinal Cupich, asks if Pope’s ‘paradigm shift’ means ‘radical’ doctrinal change

CAMBRIDGE, England, February 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A respected Catholic historian and philosopher challenged Cardinal Blase Cupich during a lecture last week about Pope’ Francis so-called “revolution of mercy” that has caused what many are defending as a “paradigm shift” in Catholic practice. Professor John Rist, after listening to a February 9 lecture at Cambridge Universityin which Cardinal Cupich praised Pope Francis’ “paradigm shift” in Catholic practice, asked the Cardinal at the end of the lect

Cardinal Schönborn outraged at bishop’s critique of blessings for homosexual unions

VIENNA, Austria, February 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Austria’s bishops, led by Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, are indignant over a retired bishop’s passionate defense of Catholic teaching in opposing Church “blessings” for homosexual unions. After Bishop Andreas Laun, the retired Auxiliary Bishop of Salzburg, Austria, published Monday his strong rebuke of the German bishops for proposing to bless homosexual couples, there has been an inten

The Clarity of Cardinal Cupich

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago is all for clarity. It has been a consistent theme, as when in September of 2017 he issued a decree banning guns in all parishes, schools and other facilities across the archdiocese “so there would be absolute clarity on our position.” His official statement put “clarity” in italics. When he was bishop of Rapid City, he called for “civility and clarity” in discussing legislation that would limit abortion, but he…Continue Reading

Catholics warn of church schism if Vatican makes a deal with China

BEIJING — A group of influential Catholics published an open letter Monday express their shock and disappointment at report that the Vatican could soon reach a deal with the Chinese government, warning that it could create a schism in the church in China. The Holy See has been in negotiations for several years with the Chinese Communist Party and is now belie

Advertisement(2)

President Trump Bans U.S. Aid for International Abortions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Within a week of taking office on January 23, 2017, President Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy, now called the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance, which bans U.S. funding for abortions overseas. The expanded policy prohibits $9 billion in U.S. taxpayer money from funding foreign organizations that perform or…Continue Reading

Approval Of Miracle Opens Door To Paul VI’s Canonization

By HANNAH BROCKHAUS VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) — The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has approved the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Pope Paul VI, allowing his canonization to take place, possibly later this year. According to Vatican Insider, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the miracle by a…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… A Catholic Reaction To Trump And The Media

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly] in Crisis. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also cofounder and president of…Continue Reading

Priest Says… Excommunicate 14 Catholic Senators Who Voted Against Late-Term Abortion Ban

By LISA BOURNE (Editor’s Note: LifeSiteNews ran this story on February 5.) + + + A Catholic priest is calling on bishops to excommunicate the 14 Catholic-identifying U.S. senators who voted two weeks ago against banning late-term abortions. He is also calling on priests to deny the Catholic pro-abortion senators Holy Communion. “Today is the…Continue Reading

Limbo And Eastern Orthodoxy

By JAMES LIKOUDIS The centuries-old theological debate concerning the existence of Limbo for unbaptized babies (the limbo puerorum as a state of natural happiness) led to the 2007 publication of the document The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized by the International Theological Commission (ITC). The commission concluded there are “serious…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Effects Of The Sacrament Of Matrimony

By DON FIER For a variety of reasons (a defect of consent, a diriment impediment, or a defect of the required form), many supposed modern-day marriages entered into by Catholic persons are invalid from their origin in the eyes of God and the Church. However, as we saw last week, depending on the circumstances, the Church has procedures by which…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Concerning what our Blessed Mother said in Fatima about the rosary, I am confused as to whether or not she meant us to meditate on the mysteries while we are praying the Hail Marys or whether she meant us to meditate on the mysteries right before we say the Hail Marys. The consensus seems to be that we are…Continue Reading

Abraham Had To Be Tested

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday Of Lent Readings: Gen. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 Romans 8:31b-34 Mark 9:2-10 In the first reading today we hear about Abraham’s nearly incomprehensible act of faith and love for God shown in his willingness to sacrifice his own son. We have to be careful not to read this in a vacuum. This test, which…Continue Reading

Questioning Humanae Vitae?… The Vatican Has Already Had Its Say

By ANDREA GAGLIARDUCCI (Wanderer Editor’s Note: Catholic News Agency on February 3 published a commentary concerning a 1989 Vatican response to dissent against Humanae Vitae. Below is an excerpted version of that commentary. Following that, we reprint the full text of the 1989 Vatican response, which, as the CNA commentary explains, is now available on the Vatican’s website. Please also…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Bishops Promote Sin “In Some Cases”

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK A joke sometimes recounted among clergy goes along these lines: Someone greets a wise old priest by asking, “What’s new?”, and he responds, sagely, “Christ is risen!” The humor here is less about what’s new than about the fact that everything, other than the only true revolution of Christ’s Incarnation and triumph over death, is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Margaret Of Cortona

By CAROLE BRESLIN Great sinners make great saints. It takes a strong-willed child to become a saint. These are statements which would easily fit saints such as Mary Magdalene and St. Augustine. In the thirteenth century, a young lady free in spirit and strong in will led such a life that she was essentially driven from her home village, but…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Joseph Allamano

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the lives of the saints one thing is very common: They have such a strong desire to do God’s will that nothing will hinder their work. Many saints, despite illness, weak health, or many other obstacles achieved their goals. Frequently the amount of work accomplished by such individuals seems humanly impossible — and, of course, it…Continue Reading