Christmas Poet Cover

Source Materials
Out on Long Island
Simon W. Cooper
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun
19 Dec 1920, p51.

Historical Articles Chronological Articles
Historical Arguments
for Henry Livingston, Jr. as the Author of
"Night Before Christmas"
Out on Long Island
By Simon W. Cooper (S.W.C.)

THE following appeared in the editorial column of the New York Evening Post a few nights ago, under the heading, "Kleptomania on Parnassus":

"For 80 years people have believed that the author of ' 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' was Clement C. Moore, LL.D. He was the son of an Episcopal bishop, a graduate of Columbia, a founder of the General Theological Seminary, and led a life of unquestioned probity. The poem was printed anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in 1823. In 1844 Dr. Moore republished it as his, and in 1856 related to members of the New York Historical Society the circumstances of its composition. But the editor of the Bookman now shows that the family of Henry Livingston, who died near Poughkeepsie in 1828, have cherished the tradition that he wrote the poem, and that there is evidence to support the tradition. Livingston was in the habit of anonymously publishing light verse with such rhymes as clatter and matter, belly and jelly. An old letter is called in testimony. Here is a mystery deeper than the authorship of the once-famous 'Beautiful Snow,' which was claimed by any number of people, but which Bryant finally assigned in his anthology to J. W. Watson. Here is room for a debate fiercer than the pamphlet war which raged over 'Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,' the real author of which died nine years ago in one of our suburbs. The son of a bishop, the founder of a theological school, to abstract another man's honors! We shall expect Columbians and clergmen to rally to the defense."

The late Henry Livingston, well remembered as the founder-editor of the South Side Signal of Babylon, who was a member of the famous Livingston family - a direct descendant of "Philip the Signer" {Corr: 1st cousin, one generation removed) - long ago told this writer that his grandfather was the author of the poem always accredited to Clement C. Moore. He was positive in his asserveration, but never mentioned any documentary proof, and we were inclined to regard it as a family belief, not susceptible of actual proof. Now comes the recrudescence of the claim, and the suggestion of counter claims and disputations without number. It is all very interesting, but the decision as to who was the author of "The Night Before Christmas" has yet to be made. It may be that the Babylon scion of the Livingston tree left some private papers tending to throw light on this interesting question. He has a son and a daughter still living, and they may be able to find some documentary evidence to back up the Livingston claim to the authorship of a piece of verse that has delighted youthful minds for a great many years. If they have it, we hope they will produce it.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun - 19 Dec 1920 - Simon W. Cooper


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