Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advance notice of Redburn in Lansingburgh

Picked up from the Literary World - August 4, 1849 but interesting for the reference to Melville as editor William J. Lamb's "friend and late fellow townsman." From the New York State Library via NYS Historic Newspapers:

Lansingburgh Democrat - August 9, 1849

"Our friend and late fellow townsman Herman Melville has just ready for the press a new work entitled "Redburn; his First Voyage: being the Sailor Boy's Confessions and Reminiscences of the Son of a Gentleman." It will appear simultaneously from the press of the Harpers, and Bently, in London."
 Related post:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Inscribed copies of Clement C. Moore's 1844 Poems

Photo Credit: Stewart Ogilby
On January 5, 1914 the New York Sun published a letter signed "M. W. Montgomery" that questioned the usual attribution of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to Clement C. Moore and promoted the case for Henry Livingston, based on Livingston family lore. The writer was Mary Willis Montgomery (1850-1918), a descendant of Henry Livingston and Sarah Welles. Evidently misinformed on several counts, M. W. Montgomery professed ignorance of "any direct claim" by Moore to authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Her conjecture of an original, irretrievably lost printing of "Visit" in the Poughkeepsie Eagle is impossible, since the Eagle only became the Eagle in 1834, and did not exist in any form before 1828. The early newspaper version that Livingston family members recall reading and keeping was most likely the one in the Poughkeepsie Journal on January 16, 1828.

Found on  The January 16, 1828 text of "A Visit from St Nicholas" in the Poughkeepsie Journal was reprinted from the National Gazette. It seems the Poughkeepsie editor had no knowledge of a prior appearance anywhere, let alone in his own newspaper. (And Major Livingston's published newspaper contributions typically were signed, "R.") Nevertheless, the 1914 letter from Mary Willis Montgomery, transcribed below, is an important document for Livingston genealogy and the history of authorship claims for Henry Livingston.
New York Sun - January 5, 1914
TO THE EDITOR OF THE SUN--Sir: An article in your paper of December 26 in which reference was made to the almost worldwide popularity of the poem entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas" leads me to ask whether it is true, as I have heard stated, that the Rev. Clement C. Moore never himself made any direct claim to the authorship of this poem, which has been attributed to him. 
I ask this because the testimony which points to Major Henry Livingston as being its author appears to be too strong to be ignored, and it might be interesting to sift the evidence. Major Livingston lived near Poughkeepsie, in a house built by his grandfather, Gilbert Livingston, where, it is asserted by his children, he wrote the poem on a Christmas Eve, and read it to them the following morning. I have heard both a daughter and a granddaughter of Major Livingston say that they were present on that occasion and that the success of his poem in the home circle led Major Livingston to consent to its publication in a Poughkeepsie newspaper.

Neither the name of the newspaper nor the exact date of publication was remembered by them, but they were positive that it antedated by several years the publication of the poem in the Troy Sentinel. The original manuscript and a copy of the Poughkeepsie paper containing this first publication of the poem were in the possession of Major Livingston's oldest son for a great many years, but were lost after his death.

A letter in my possession, written by a daughter of Major Livingston in 1879, says: "I well remember our astonishment when we saw it [the poem] claimed as Clement C. Moore's many years after my father's decease, which took place more than fifty years ago. We have often said, 'The style is so exactly his; how would it be possible that another could express the same originality of thought, and use the same phrases, so familiar to us as father's!'"

I have heard it stated by the two ladies I have already referred to, daughter and granddaughter respectively of Major Livingston, and by his youngest son, that there was present as a guest in the house on the Christmas morning when the poem was read a young lady who derived so much pleasure from the reading of it that she requested Major Livingston to give her a copy, which he did. This lady, on leaving Major Livingston's house, went to the house of Mr. Moore, where she had been engaged as governess to his children. The testimony I have outlined is given in perfect good faith by people of the highest character.

How is one to sift the evidence? It would seem as if the only proof would be the date of first publication. Thinking that the newspaper in question might have been the Poughkeepsie Eagle, I applied at their office some years ago for permission to look over their back files of the 1820's, but was told that all had been destroyed in a fire that had burned out the Eagle office.

Major Livingston left a number of poems, all written with a light touch, and most of them in a humorous vein. A few were published in the local papers, but always, I believe, anonymously.

New York, January 3.
Mrs. Montgomery's 1914 letter to the editor of the New York Sun elicited swift answers in the same newspaper. In replies published on January 7, 1914, two readers cited inscribed copies of Clement C. Moore's 1844 Poems, which contains "A Visit from St. Nicholas" on pages 124-127, as strong evidence of Moore's characteristically "modest" claim to authorship of the Christmas classic.

New York Sun - January 7, 1914
John H. Morrison reported that he owned a copy presented "To Dr. Stewart with the respects of the author." A. S. Phelps said he owned a copy inscribed to his father, a student of Dr. Moore's at the General Theological Seminary, "as a token of friendship from the author."

From Philadelphia a few days later, Joseph Jackson wrote to express his wonderment over the very idea of an authorship controversy:
"That there should be any doubt as to Clement C. Moore's authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" at this late day seems to be incomprehensible."
New York Sun - January 11, 1914
Mr. Jackson specifically called attention to the manuscript copy of "Visit" owned by the New York Historical Society. In view of Clement C. Moore's personality and character, Jackson reasoned that
"Dr. Moore's entire life, which was always quiet, retiring and modest, does not admit of the slightest hint that he purposely or involuntarily assumed the robe of another poet."
In 2008 Christie's handled a presentation copy of Moore's 1844 Poems inscribed to Nathaniel Paulding "from his old & sincere friend, the author."

Seth Kaller offers an association copy of the 1844 volume inscribed by Clement C. Moore to “Mrs. De Kay with the respects of the author, Mar. 1846.” "Mrs. De Kay" is Janet Drake De Kay, daughter of the celebrated poet Joseph Rodman Drake.

This day Abe Books lists five inscribed copies for sale. One copy to an unidentified recipient is available through The Fine Books Company.

Bauman Rare Books has one inscribed to "Mr. Miller, / From the author, / Dec. 1849".

Town's End Books has another copy inscribed
"To Miss Southey | with the respects | of the author. | June, 1844." On the verso side of the half title page, the author has also added a line of correction for page 58.
Glenn Books offers a presentation copy inscribed by Moore to "The Rev. Dr. Barry, with the respects of the author, Mar. 1846". The longest and perhaps most interesting inscription of all appears in the volume offered by Argosy Book Store. Moore presented this copy in Newport to a Dr. Raphall. The author's signed note reads
Newport, Sep. 2, 1850
Dear Sir,

I wish I had something to send you, better than this little book. But, such as it is, be pleased to accept it as a mark of respect from one of your much gratified auditors.

Clement C. Moore  
Rev. Dr. Raphall  --Argosy Book Store via AbeBooks
The Rev. Dr. Raphall can only be Morris Jacob Raphall who would become "the leading rabbi not only in New York—then the home of a quarter of the nation’s Jews—but in the country," as Howard B. Rock observes in his September 19, 2012 Tablet essay. As the Civil War began, Dr. Raphall also became famous for his controversial defense of slavery on biblical grounds.

Morris J. Raphall (1798-1868) via Library of Congress
In 1850, however, Dr. Raphall was embarked on "a public literary career" that first flourished in England, as Rabbi Henry Vidaver emphasizes in his 1868 memorial:
...very few English speaking Israelites knew the value and greatness of our Hebrew literature, and very few gentiles in England had a sound idea of Jew and Judaism. And at that time Dr. Raphall began to lecture and to write! A Jew lectures in English; in pure and sublime English; in the English of Addison, Hume, and Macaulay. What a marvel! And upon what subjects? Upon Hebrew poetry, upon rabbinical wisdom and literature!

My friends, I am not able to adequately describe the salutary influence his lectures and writings exercised upon Jews and Gentiles, especially in England; the immense good he effected for Israel and his religion….  
--"Memorial of Rev. Morris J. Raphall, Ph.D." in The Jewish Messenger, July 3, 1868
Arrived from Birmingham, England in 1849, Dr. Raphall lectured on Hebrew literature in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, and Richmond. "It was poetry illustrating poetry" according to the Richmond Whig notice of March 26, 1850. In August 1850 the Newport synagogue temporarily reopened for Dr. Raphall's course of six lectures on biblical poetry. Moore the seminary Professor of Hebrew attended one or more lectures, obviously, and pronounced himself one of the eloquent rabbi's many "gratified auditors."

In October 2015 Stewart Ogilby offered for sale the Ogilby family copy, neatly inscribed in October 1844 "To the Rev. Dr. Ogilby, with the best respects of the author." As described by Stewart Ogilby, this volume contains
"errata corrections made by Moore in this book in his own handwriting."
John David Ogilby (1810-1851) was a younger colleague of Clement C. Moore's at General Theological Seminary from 1841 to 1846. Former seminary student Clarence Augustus Walworth remembered Ogilby as an earnest controversialist, opposed both to "Romanism" and low-church fundamentalism. By contrast, Walworth recalled Clement C. Moore as "unconsciously" eccentric:
Santa Claus himself could not be more welcome to children than was this odd and genial man upon his appearance in the Hebrew class. He was very particular in his ways; but one great feature of his peculiarity was, that he was utterly unartificial. He was droll, but unconsciously so. He never joked in the class, but always something made the classroom seem merry when he was in it. He was a true scholar in Hebrew. His knowledge of Hebrew words did not seem to be derived from the dictionary alone. He knew each word familiarly, and remembered all the different places where it occurred in the Hebrew Bible, and so could prove its significance in one place by the meaning which necessarily attached to it elsewhere.  --The Oxford Movement in America
Additional volumes will probably emerge from time to time. For now we have identified ten copies of the 1844 Poems inscribed by Clement C. Moore, some with corrections apparently in his hand.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sarah Sackett, Clement C. Moore, and the Greek Fund

Eugène Delacroix - Le Massacre de Scio
Le Massacre de Scio - Eugène Delacroix via Wikimedia Commons
From the New York Commercial Advertiser, April 18, 1827, under the heading "Greek Fund"; reprinted in the New York Spectator, April 24, 1827:

Troy, April 11th, 1827.

Sir--You will receive per steamboat New London, Capt. Fitch, Merchandize, valued at $55, for the Greeks--twenty dollars of which, is a donation from the Female Industrious Society of the First Presbyterian Church, and the remaining thirty-five dollars, from individual ladies of this city. Though our offering be small, we hope it may contribute something to the current of benevolence which is setting to the relief of the oppressed and destitute people. Your's respectfully, in behalf of the donors.


Stephen Allen, Esq. Ch'mn. Greek Com.
This Sarah Sackett of Troy is the former Sarah H. Pardee, wife of Daniel Sackett, a crockery and glassware merchant in Troy, New York. Norman Tuttle, publisher of the Troy Sentinel, identified Sarah Sackett as the person who had given a copy of Clement C. Moore's poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" to editor Orville L. Holley, back in December 1823. Other accounts involve Harriet Butler, daughter of Episcopal clergyman David Butler. As related for example in Troy's One Hundred Years, Harriet supposedly copied out the poem while visiting the Moore family and brought it back to Troy. Any sequence of transmission involving the Butlers, Sacketts, and Holley seems plausible. The families of Clement C. Moore and the Rev. David Butler were connected through longstanding ties of friendship and religion. Rev. Butler was then rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Troy (consecrated in 1806 by Moore's father, the Bishop). Butler in turn was socially and politically connected with Daniel Sackett and Orville Holley as leading citizens of Troy, and prominent Whigs. All three were founding members of the Troy Colonization Society.

Sarah Sackett's published letter to the Greek Committee in 1827 reveals another connection to Clement C. Moore in their mutual support for the cause of Greek independence. Sarah Sackett organized for the charitable relief of "oppressed and destitute" Greeks. Moore, too, actively supported the Greek Fund. In verse, Moore honored the Greek spirit of rebellion in "To the Nymphs of Mount Harmony," allegorizing the plight of defeated Greeks as the overthrow and enforced captivity of an Arcadian sprite or fairy. Sarah Sackett and Clement C. Moore were both philhellenists, like Edward Everett, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay. And Byron:
Henceforth there could be little question of the strength of Philhellenism in the United States; in America as elsewhere Byron’s dramatic self-sacrifice rendered the cause of Greek independence services which never can be repaid. The autumn and winter of 1823-1824 were a period in which sentiment for Greek independence reached a high point, strenuous efforts were put forth to render active assistance to the revolutionary forces, and serious consideration was given to a possible recognition of Greek belligerency and independence by the government of the United States.
--Edward Mead Earle, American Interest in the Greek Cause, 1821-1827
Coincidentally, contributions to the Greek Fund were being passionately solicited and publicized during the same holiday season of 1823-4 in which Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" made is first appearance in the Troy Sentinel. December 1823 marked the start of the Greek Fund as well as "The Night Before Christmas" tradition. The first meeting of Troy citizens on behalf of the oppressed Greeks generated $710 for the Greek Fund, as reported in a published letter from Esaias Warren:

New York American - January 31, 1824
Troy, January 23, 1824.  
Dear Sir--In compliance with a resolution, passed at a meeting of the citizens of this place, I have the pleasure of transmitting you, the annexed draft for $710, the amount contributed by them towards aiding the Greeks in their struggle against Turkish oppression. 

I am, sir, respectfully.
Your obedient servant,
Wm. Bayard, Esq. Chairman of Greek Committee.
Esaias Warren was then mayor of Troy, president of the Troy Bank, and a warden of the Butlers' church, St. Paul's Episcopal. Warren's mother Phebe and father Eliakim had been instrumental in establishing St. Paul's in Troy. Indeed, at first the Warrens and Lemuel Hawley were the church. Esaias Warren became "senior warden" after his father's death in 1824, according to Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs.

In New York City on Tuesday, December 2, 1823 Moore's old friend John Duer addressed a large and distinguished gathering at the Tontine Coffee House. Speaking after John Pintard and S. R. Hurd, Duer emphasized "the degraded condition of the Greeks" in "contrast with their ancient splendor and renown." Duer
"spoke of the contest as one in which religion, knowledge and liberty, were staked against infidelity, ignorance and slavery--as one in which refinement and cultivation were opposed to brutal sensuality--as one in which all that is valuable in civilization was opposed by all that is degraded in barbarism."  --New York American, December 6, 1823
Meeting on Tuesday night, December 30, 1823 at Creigier's Tavern with his 9th ward neighbors, Clement C. Moore endorsed the resolution of support and volunteered for the fundraising committee.

New York Evening Post - January 2, 1824
New York Evening Post - January 2, 1824
 Resolved, That we cordially approve of the exertions making by our fellow citizens in this city, and in various parts of the Union to raise by subscription, a sum of money to aid the Greeks in their struggle, with their barbarous and inhuman oppressors, for religious and civil freedom.

Resolved, That the following be the committee to district the ward and wait on the inhabitants in aid of the Greek Fund....
The best known American poets contributed heroic verses in support of Greek independence:
"In imitation of Byron, poets and literary men like William Cullen Bryant and Fitz-Greene Halleck wielded their pens in stout defense of the Greeks, in whom they saw heroic descendants of classic forefathers." --Edward Mead Earle, American Interest in the Greek Cause, 1821-1827
In 1826, Herman Melville's older brother Gansevoort recited Halleck's pro-Greek "Marco Bozzaris" at the New York High School. Around 1827 or 1828 (my best guess for now), Clement C. Moore composed "To the Nymphs of Mount Harmony." Moore's allegory of Ottoman tyranny and Greek suffering unfolds as the tale of a captive elf, whispered in the "wond'ring ear" of an Arcadian shepherd. Though drenched in the conventions and mythology of pastoral poetry, Moore's manner of describing the shepherd's "wond'ring ear" nicely harmonizes with the speaker's famously "wondering eyes" in "The Night Before Christmas." Transcribed below from the only known printing in Moore's 1844 Poems.


An idle swain late chanc'd to roam
Beneath a grove's leaf-lattic'd dome,
That near a verdant mount was plac'd
Whose brow no title e'er had grac'd
Till nymphs declared the mount should claim
Sweet Harmony's inspiring name.
Here, as the swain at even strayed,
Wooed by the grove's sequester'd shade,
With thoughts unfix'd, and vacant eye,
And idly sad, he scarce knew why;
A mournful spirit of the wood,
Touch'd haply, by his kindred mood,
Soft-sighing from a hawthorn near,
Thus whisper'd in his wond'ring ear.

"A sprite I was, in happier times,
Disporting in the favor'd climes
Of early Greece; when freedom's ray
Bade mirth through all her regions play;
When wood-nymphs with their huntress-queen,
The muses and the loves were seen
To sport, like fauns, beside each rill,
And deck, like flow'rets, every hill,
'Twas then I serv'd the lighter joys
Of rural nymphs and sylvan boys;
And, sportive as the summer airs,
Exulted in my frolic cares.

" Oft, to a playful zephyr chang'd.
Along the reedy banks I rang'd;
Or, sighing o'er the oaten field,
I tried the note each stalk would yield,
In quest of dulcet tones to suit
Some favor'd fawn's or shepherd's flute.  
"Oft, in a fleecy vapor's guise,
The zephyrs bore me to the skies:
Where, 'midst the clouds with thunder fraught,
The rainbow's brightest tints I caught;
Then, melting into finest dews,
Distributed the lovely hues
To opening buds, or full-blown flowers,
Round naiad's couch, or wood-nymph's bowers.

"Oft, in a virgin lily's bell,
I caught the purest dews that fell,
With chaste suffusion to supply
Some weeping Muse's languid eye.
For, tears that from the Muses flow.
Unlike the drops of vulgar wo,
Emit the dew's inconstant gleam,
And soon are chas'd by pleasure's beam —  
"Dear airy partners in delight!
Who skimm'd, like mists, the mountain's height,
Or danc'd along the limpid stream
Illum'd by freedom's golden beam!
Ye perish'd in the floods and gales
That ruin'd all our smiling vales,
And chill'd and wither'd every bloom
In tyranny's detested gloom!

"A fiend that in the tempest flew
On wing still wet with stygian dew
Rapt me in a hurling blast
Athwart the ocean's dreary vast;
And set me, with infernal spell,
In this sequester'd grove to dwell.
Here, in my lonely prison bound,
Beset with dire enchantments round,
I've seen whole ages ling'ring go.
With scarce a solace for my wo;
Till late, beneath the neighb'ring shades,
Methought a band of Tempe's maids,
With all their wonted mirth elate,
Came, destin'd by relenting fate,
Their long, long rovings here to cease,
And charm my anguish into peace.
For, as they gambol'd o'er the green,
Once more I saw Arcadia's scene;
Again I heard each well-lov'd voice
That bade the Aonian hills rejoice.
But soon the lovely vision pass'd.
Through lonely shades now sweeps the blast,
Where, late, the fairy-footed throng
Prolong'd the dance, or pour'd the song.
If e'er thy bosom, gentle swain,
Was touch'd with sympathetic pain.
Hie thee to where the nymphs now dwell,
And all my sorrows kindly tell.
And say, if e'er this lone retreat
Their lovely band again shall greet,
I'll wake my long-neglected powers;
Refine the dews, new-tint the flowers.
I'll fringe the trees with speckled moss.
And give their leaves a finer gloss.
The painted fly shall learn to fling
Sweet odors from his gaudy wing.
I'll winnow, with my silken sails,
Each noxious breath that taints the gales;
With sweeter strains the birds inspire,
And lead, myself, the tuneful choir.  --Clement C. Moore

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dr. Francis and Clement C. Moore

via Find a Grave
Well, I don't suppose Herman Melville would have bumped into old Clement C. Moore at the New York Society Library, on Broadway at Leonard from 1840 to 1856. Moore served as Trustee in 1811-1815 and 1817-1823, so his tenure officially ended twenty five years before Melville first joined in 1848. Melville belonged off and on in 1848 and 1850, before he moved to Pittsfield. Unless maybe they crossed paths while Moore was working on his translation of the Life of George Castriot (published in 1850). 1850 is the year Dr. Moore retired from teaching at General Theological Seminary. Not long after, Moore himself relocated to 444 West 22nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. He summered in Newport.

One other place Herman Melville possibly could have seen Clement C. Moore in person was at No. 1 Bond Street, the home of their mutual friend Dr. Francis.

From Old New York
via The New York Public Library - Digital Collections
Dr. Francis attended the wedding of Herman's brother Allan Melville and Sophia Thurston on September 22, 1847. Herman Melville, as Augustus Kinsley Gardner reported in 1854, occasionally joined convivial gatherings of literati at the home of Dr. Francis. Hershel Parker observes that
"Melville considered Dr. Francis an intimate friend all through the 1850's, a time when Dr. Francis in public addresses and writing spoke admiringly of Melville and Tuckerman in the same breath."  --Historical Note - Published Poems
Melville's friend and sometime host was Clement C. Moore's very close friend and family physician, too. Henry T. Tuckerman testified to their long connection, and the wonderful, "cosmopolitan" breadth of the Doctor's associations, in his biographical introduction to Francis's Old New York:
But so large was the tolerance and so vivid the humanity of Dr. Francis, that while he was justly considered a thorough representative of the Knickerbocker character,—to whom the New Year's festival, as characteristic of his father's Nuremberg home as of Dutch hospitality, and his old friend Clement Moore's household rhymes of Santa Claus, with the annual schnapps and pipes of this local saint, brought such genial inspiration,—he yet thoroughly enjoyed the thrifty and intellectual example of the Yankee, welcomed the persecuted foreigner, and found delight in the spectacle of variety of race and customs, of excitements and phenomena which transformed, before his eyes, the town, where every one he met was an acquaintance, into the kaleidoscope of modern New York. Indeed, he recognized this expansive destiny in the natural advantages of the island, whose bay and climate Verazzano eulogized centuries ago, and whose noble river Hudson laid open to the Dutch West India Company, whence dates her commercial development. These divers associations only knit the bond of nativity in and identity with New York more strongly. To him, the Jay homestead at Bedford was as endeared because of its Huguenot as the Stuveysant estate for its Dutch traditions; the Tory families of Westchester, the old Episcopal exclusiveness, the wise Rabbis of the Synagogue, and the proscribed Unitarian from Boston, found their due historical and social consideration in his retrospective thought; and the arrival of a Japanese embassy or the Prince of Wales made him a holiday as well as the festivals of St. Nicholas; and loyal as he was to old New York, and proud of Motley's splendid vindication of the Dutch character, he none the less cheerfully grew cosmopolitan with the modern city; and only protested, with a magnetic zeal, alike individual and persuasive, that her Past should not be forgotten amid the absorbing claims of her Present, and the expanding promise of her Future.  --Old New York
Clement C. Moore was one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Lorenzo Da Ponte on August 20, 1838. Attending physician Dr Francis led the train of mourners, as noted in the 1868 article on Lorenzo Da Ponte by Henry T. Tuckerman.

Melville's Not the Only One | New York Society Library

"Beyond Herman Melville, nineteenth-century literary figures like Washington Irving (a trustee), John Romeyn Brodhead (an early historian of New York), Clement Clark Moore, and William Cullen Bryant were all members of the Society Library...."
Melville's Not the Only One | New York Society Library

Herman Melville at the Society Library | New York Society Library

What with trying to save Christmas and everything, I missed this incredibly great exhibit...

Herman Melville at the Society Library | New York Society Library

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Allan Melville advertises for a law copyist

Now my original business—that of a conveyancer and title hunter, and drawer-up of recondite documents of all sorts —was considerably increased by receiving the master’s office. There was now great work for scriveners. Not only must I push the clerks already with me, but I must have additional help. In answer to my advertisement, a motionless young man one morning, stood upon my office threshold, the door being open, for it was summer. I can see that figure now—pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby.  --Bartleby, the Scrivener
Like the lawyer-narrator of "Bartleby," the author's lawyer-brother Allan Melville once advertised for a scrivener. Allan Melville's want ad for "An experienced copyist" appeared in the New York Daily Tribune on October 12, 1847:

New York Daily Tribune - October 12, 1847
WANTED—An experienced copyist. Apply to ALLAN MELVILLE, 12 Wall-st.
You can see the whole page three of the Tribune with Allan Melville's advertisement amidst similar notices in the online file of Historic American Newspapers at Chronicling America:
Allan was a newlywed when he placed the ad for a law copyist--just married September 22, 1847 to Sophia Thurston. As Warren Broderick reports in his June 2011 Leviathan article on "Bartleby," Allan Melville, and the Court of Chancery," Allan had been appointed "Examiner" in the New York State Court of Chancery in May 1844, after older brother Gansevoort resigned. Court records show that Allan Melville was formally approved as "Solicitor" in the New York State Court of Chancery, First Circuit, on May 23, 1844. The timing of Allan Melville's Tribune ad for a law copyist backs up Warren Broderick's argument for the influence of Allan's professional experience on Melville's Wall Street story, and to the 1847 feel of its setting, "during the final months of the Court of Chancery's existence."
“If not during 1844, the subject of Allan’s legal career would have surely come up in the autumn of 1847 when the newlyweds Herman and Lizzie secured a residence at 103 Fourth Avenue in New York City, thanks largely to Allan’s assistance…. Herman, Allan, and their new families resided together at the very time Allan would have lost his position in Chancery." --Warren Broderick on Bartleby, Allan Melville and Chancery

Two poems by Clement C. Moore, as first published in the New York Evening Post

Found on

To start with, here is the original version of "Lines Written after a Season of Yellow Fever" by Clement C. Moore as first published under the title of "Congratulatory Lines" in The New York Evening Post, November 27, 1805.

These "Lines" were republished with interesting revisions in Moore's 1844 volume Poems. For example, Moore significantly revised this confession by the "veteran belle" who is his invented speaker throughout:
my soul’s to madness wrought
By forms which fly like meteors in my thought!
In revision, Moore replaced "forms" with "visions" and changed the end rhymes:
I'm madden'd with delight
By visions flying round, as meteors bright.
Moore deleted two couplets of imagined censure by "moralists and dull divines," and weakened their supposed authority by changing "purists" to casuists."  Moore also changed "pas battu" to "pigeon-wing"; and "ever-willing belles" became "ever-ready" in revision. He changed "which" to "that" and normalized archaic spellings of "frolick," "eccentrick," and "panick." In the last line, the belle's carefree perspective prevails over that of the moralizing poet, when "starch morality" mockingly replaces the former, heavy-handed concern with endangered salvation.


Addressed to the fashionable people of New-York upon their return to the city, after the disappearance of the yellow-fever. BY A LADY.
Dread pestilence hath now fled far away;
And life and health, once more around us play.
The din of commerce spreads from street to street;
Long-parted friends with new-warm'd friendship meet.
Now many-color'd nymphs, in noon-tide rows,
To gazing eyes fresh-gather'd charms disclose.
Welcome; all welcome to your wish'd abodes,
But chiefly you who’re skill'd in pleasure's modes;
Whose minds on humbler themes ne’er deign to dwell,
Receive the welcome of a veteran Belle
Whose heart's now dancing at the visions bright
Of high exploits which play in fancy's sight.
Now haste we to our winter's lov'd campaign,
Arm'd for the glorious contests we maintain;
Not wars of prudish belles with forward beaux
(These but inure to strife with real foes)
But wars with all the rules grave matrons teach,
Cold purity applauds, and parsons preach.
Courage, dear friends! our cause shall yet prevail:
But there are notions, hatch'd from doctrines stale,
'Gainst which 'twere well your valorous souls to guard;
For trifles oft e'en conquerors retard.
We're told by moralists and dull divines
That no pursuit becomes us which confines
Our highest wishes to mere sensual joys,
And thought of dread futurity destroys.
But most they deem morality disgrac’d
When those who’ve just by threat’ning death been chas’d
Soon as the danger’s o’er, with ten-fold glee,
Return to idle sports and revelry.

They hold it not, indeed, true wisdom’s part
To wear grief's impress ever in the heart,
But think the oblivious temper of our mind
For noble purposes by Heaven design'd;
To aid mortality beneath the weight
Of evils which oppress our tottering state;
To check despair, and give our reason play;
Reason, which calls from anxious cares away;
And teaches to behold, with minds serene
The joys and ills that crowd life's motley scene.
Try now this antique stuff by reason's test.
All science and all rules of action rest
On few clear principles assum'd as true.
The rule we, frolick's children, keep in view
Is this plain truth, whence all true precepts flow;
“Pleasure's the worthiest object man can know:”
Not pleasure felt by intellect alone;
Nor dreams of bliss in distant prospect shown;
But solid pleasure, present and secure,
All that can flatter passion, sense allure.
Let no vain fears this golden maxim hide,
But let heart-chilling laws by this be tried;
Then mark how emptily these croakers prate
Of what becomes [1844: beseems] our frail inconstant state.
Our frailty well we know; and 'tis for this
We should forget futurity's abyss,
And snatch from ruthless time each proffer’d joy.
Shall we, like drowsy dotards, e'er destroy
Our blissful sports by thought, of ills the worst
With which humanity by Heav’n is curs’d?
Thought! which forever tells some hateful truth;
Says wintry age soon [1844: must] chills the glow of youth;
To towering strength decrepitude foretells,
And wrinkles to the cheek where beauty dwells?
No! but this once the unruly traitor use
Then drive the fiend forever from your breasts;
On thoughtlessness alone your pleasure rests.
‘Tis true, we’ve just been chas’d by panick fears:
Whence sure ‘tis wise to claim the due arrears
Of pleasure thus detain'd, and to our store
Of present joys add those withheld before.
Let listless drones serenity approve;
In no dull medium let us deign to move.
Society is like a running wheel;
All parts the same progressive impulse feel;
And yet towards happiness, the general end,
These various parts with different motions tend.
Calm conscientious minds the centre hold;
While we are in the swift circumference roll'd.
Those at the centre keep an even way;
We in eccentrick movements round them play.
In quick vicissitudes we're whirl'd around;
Now rais'd on high, now low upon the ground.
We spurn the safe unchanging course they keep;
And while they calmly take their central sleep,
We rush like wind; we make the sparkles fly;
We raise the dust, and plunge through wet and dry;
We splash the folk, and make the world all know,
Our rattling shall be heard where'er we go.
"Enough of argument"; I hear you cry,
"Where pleasure calls we'll like the lightning fly.”
Come then, ye honour’d [1844: lofty] favourers of the dance
And splendid feast, whom fortune's gifts advance
To eminence in Fashion's wide domain;
Whose bright example leads a mimic train,
With eager steps, your flowery paths to tread;
Whose ire all deprecate with deeper dread
Than wrath of Heav'n (for how can Heav'n assist
The heart which mourns an invitation miss'd?)
Come forth with all your gay munificence,
And teach mankind that true pre-eminence
In dignity from outward grandeur springs;
That they rise highest in the scale of things
At whose command the guests most numerous throng;
Whose halls ring oftenest with the dance and song;
Who Nature's ill-fram'd laws most boldly slight;
Convert the night to day, and day to night;
Decrepitude in youthful sports engage;
And teach to youth the confidence of age.
To arms! ye ever-willing belles, to arms!
Sharpen each glance, and brighten all your charms.
Arouse! ye gallant beaux, at Fashion’s call:
She, to excuse you from the feast or ball,
Will heed no specious plea by sloth alledg'd,
And chiefly you, ye beaux with chins unfledg'd,
Who wisely quit your Algebra and Greek,
True honour in our well throng'd school to seek;
Now quickly muster all your hopeful band,
Train'd by our care, the glory of the land.
How bright ye shine beyond those awkward clowns
Who care for none but their preceptor's frowns;
Who heed their noisy sports and cross-grain'd books
More than the fairest fair-one's sweetest looks.
Men are too oft by this persuasion led;
Beneath the unpolish’d sage too oft they place
The beau who walks and dances with a grace.
But you, ne'er let your learned feet forget
Their chassez, pas battu and pirouette;
And let mankind by your example know,
The head's no worthier member than the toe.
Ye tawny minstrels; wake your viols sweet
Whose measures guide our lightly tripping feet;
Our life, depriv'd of you, were worse than death,
Your heav’nly notes are pleasure's vital breath.
How oft doth gloom the crowded hall pervade;
In vain the hostess smiles, the beaux upbraid;
Soon fly the whispers, and [1844: The whispering murmurs rise,] the gape goes round;
Decorum's self in weariness is drown'd.
But let your magic string's approaching twang
Be heard, and feast of Comus sure ne'er rang
With keener ecstacy, and mirth more loud
Than burst tumultuous from the wakening crowd.
Thus, when some bark's becalm'd upon the deep,
The listless passengers lie press'd with sleep
And lassitude; the moments scarce creep by;
And Sol seems weary as he climbs the sky.
But when some skilful mariner foresees,
By tokens sure, the fair approaching breeze,
Then instant life appears in every part;
All spring alert, for joy fills every heart;
With various notes the coming breeze they hail,
Strain every rope, and set each swelling sail.
Ye powers of sport! my soul’s to madness wrought
By forms which fly like meteors in my thought!

Cotillions, concerts, fiddlers, mirth's whole train
Of countless joys rush wildly through my brain.
Oh! may the phrenzy catch from soul to soul;
May all who now own sober law's controul
Acknowledge law mere breath, mere ink and paper,
And sacrifice salvation for a caper!
The previous spring, on May 24, 1804, the Evening Post had published Moore's "Lines to the Fashionable" over the pseudonym "Florio."

Found on

In the transcription below, bracketed words indicate revisions to the text printed in the 1806 Juvenal translation under the title, "Lines Addressed to the Fashionable Part of My Young Countrywomen." Moore's heading in the 1844 Poems volume adds, "and happy am I to say, now no longer applicable to them." The 1804 preface to the newspaper version addresses William Coleman, the first editor of the New York Evening Post.



It is hoped that the cause which the following lines are intended to serve, will induce you to excuse the faults which they contain. And if the strife and tumult of politics have afforded you leisure, for a year past, to look into the fashionable world, you must acknowledge that they are not guilty of any misrepresentation.
Ye gentle Fair [blooming nymphs], our ornament [country's joy] and pride,
Who in the stream of Fashion thoughtless glide;
No modish lay, no melting strain of love
Is here pour'd forth, your tender hearts to move—
Yet, think not envious age inspires the song,
Rejecting all our earth-born joys as wrong:
Suspect [Think me] no matron stern, who would repress
Each modern grace, each harmless change of dress;
But one whose heart exults to join the band,
Where joy and innocence go hand in hand.
One who, while modesty maintains her place,
That sacred charm which heightens every grace,
Complacent views [sees] your robes excell the snow,
Or borrow colors from the painted [1844: aerial] bow;
But dreads the threaten'd hour of Virtue's flight,
More than the pestilence which walks by night.
Say, in those half rob'd bosoms are there hid,
No thoughts which shame and purity forbid?
Why do those fine-wrought veils around you play,
Like mists which scarce bedim the orb of day?
What mean those careless limbs, that conscious air,
At which the modest blush, the vulgar stare?
Can spotless minds endure the guilty leer,
The sober matron's frowns, the witling's sneer?
Are these the charms which, in this age refin'd,
Insure [Ensure] applause, and captivate the mind?
Are these your boasted powers? are these the arts
Which kindle love, and chain inconstant hearts?
Alas! some angry pow'r, some envious [envious] demon's skill
Has [1844: Hath] wrought this strange perversity of will:
For sure some foe to innocence beguiles,
When harmless doves attempt the serpent's wiles,
True, Fashion's laws her ready vot'ries screen,
And ogling beaux exclaim, Oh, goddess! queen!
But, low [vile] the praise and adoration sought
By arts degrading to each nobler thought.
A base-born love those notes of praise inspires--
That incense rises from unhallowed sires.
If deaf while shame and purity complain,
If reason's gentle voice be heard [rais'd] in vain;
Learn from the flowers which deck those bosoms white
What charms alone can give unmix'd delight—
[Those flowers you cull with such instinctive art,
Shall teach the charms that captivate the heart.
1844: Learn from the scented nosegay in your hand
The charms that can alone true love command.]
The flaunting tulip you reject with scorn,
Though ting'd with ev'ry hue which can adorn [Its hues tho' brilliant as the tints of morn:] And careful, search for humbler flowers which bloom [But search with care, for humbler flowers that bloom]
Beneath the grass, yet scatter sweet perfume,
The buds which only half their sweets disclose
You fondly seize; but leave the full blown rose.
Humble the praise, and trifling the regard,
Which ever wait upon the moral bard.
But, there remains a hateful truth unsung
Which burns the cheek, and faulters on the tongue;
And which, if modesty be more than sound [still hover round]
With shame each virgin bosom must confound. [Each virgin breast, with sorrow must confound.]
These modes becoming [graceful modes], say your flattering beaux,
From ancient times, and tastes refin'd arose.
Disgrace not thus the names of Greece and Rome,
Their birth-place must be sought for nearer home.
Shame! shame! heart-rending thought! Disgraceful [deep sinking] stain!
That Britain's and Columbia's Fair should deign,
Should ev'ry art employ, to dress, to dance [Nay, strive their native beauties to enhance,]
Though virtue blush, [By arts first taught by] like prostitutes of France!*
Oh! Modesty, and Innocence! sweet pair
Of dove-like sisters! still attend our Fair.
Teach them how vain, without your [heavn'ly] influence,
Are all [How vain] he charms of beauty, or of sense.
Invest them with your radiance mild, yet bright;
And give their sparkling eyes a softer light.
Enchanting [1844: Quick mantling] dimples on their cheeks bestow;
And teach [bid] them with a purer red to glow.
Let winning smiles, too from [round] those dimples gleam,
Like [sportive] moon-beams sporting on [o'er] the ruffled [curling] stream.
[1844: Like moon-beams on the ruffled stream.]
And if resentment should [on] the Muse attend,
Who thus presumes to shew herself your friend; [From those she loves, and truly would befriend:]
Tell them how cruel and unjust their ire;
How pure the feelings which this strain [these lays] inspire;
How pants her heart, those graces to secure [oft she sighs, those beauties to impart,]
Which constant love, and endless praise ensure [charm the soul, and meliorate the heart.]
[1844: Tell them, that cruel and unjust their ire;
That she would warm their hearts with holy fire;
And to the charms that soon must pass away
Would add those mental beauties which shall ne'er decay.]

*Dr. Barrow, in his treatise on education, vol. 2, p 305, says, "Our young women are probably little aware that the fashionable nakedness of the present day was first adopted in this country in imitation of the revolutionary prostitutes of France."
Moore's poem "To the Fashionable" was reprinted at the end of A New Translation with Notes, of the Third Satire of Juvenal by Moore's friend John Duer. The 1806 Port-Folio review of  Duer's volume sharply criticized Moore's contributions. The reviewer made fun of Moore's immature, hyper-critical preface and derided the appended contributions as morally sound but aesthetically vapid.
We have made no secret of the disgust excited in our minds by the critical preface to this volume. But the author of the preface, too, appears before us as a poet. "This and the following pieces, subscribed L, was given me by the friend who furnished the introductory letter; most of them have been already published, either in the Port Folio, or in the New-York Evening Post." Really this gentleman gives and furnishes with profusion! he gives too, it appears, what he had given elsewhere before; and this second-hand sort of gift must be infinitely valuable: 
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes!
 The note, just transcribed, is appended to the lines from which we have already extracted the beautiful and delicate images, and which the author’s primary concern (and certainly a very allowable one) is, not to be thought an old woman. --The Port-Folio
In the last sentence the reviewer has humorously paraphrased Moore's plea, "Think me no Matron stern."

Among other lessons, the Port-Folio review shows why aspiring poets rarely signed their real names to fledgling verses. Over time Moore seems to have heard and heeded as best he could the just verdict of the Port-Folio reviewer:
"Sound sentiments are truisms; what we expect from the poet is, to deliver them in beautiful terms. He that does this, is a poet; he that does not, is none."  --The Port-Folio
Not surprisingly, neither one of these early ventures was selected for inclusion in The New-York Book of Poetry,  the 1837 anthology of well-regarded fugitive pieces by natives of New York State. Besides "A Visit from St. Nicholas," three additional poems there by "C. C. Moore" are
No doubt marriage tempered Clement C. Moore, and made him a better, wiser poet. He acknowledges as much in the poem From a Husband to His Wife:
You have awaken'd in my breast
   Some chords I ne'er before had known;
And you've imparted to the rest
   A stronger pulse, a deeper tone.
As shown in a previous post, Moore's Lines Written after a Snow-Storm originally appeared, like "A Visit from St. Nicholas," in the Troy Sentinel. "To the Sisters of Charity" (signed "SILVIO") appeared in the New York American on April 15, 1834. "Sisters of Charity" was reprinted in The Churchman, and later the Philadelphia Catholic Herald, August 28, 1834.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Abstract of a cruise in the frigate United States

via Boston College University Libraries
Now available in the online Special Collections of the Boston College University Libraries, the manuscript Abstract of a cruise in the frigate United States for the years 1842-1844. Melville joined up at Honolulu, Oahu on August 17, 1843 for the cruise which ended when the United States reached Boston on October 3, 1844. Homeward-bound harbors included Nuka Hiva, Tahiti, Valparaiso, Callao, Lima, and Rio de Janeiro. Melville gives a fictionalized account of his experiences on this cruise in White-Jacket.

This abstract is highly compressed and obviously selective. It seems related and possibly indebted to (though not identical with) the anonymous Journal of a cruise to the Pacific Ocean, edited by Charles Roberts Anderson and published in 1937 by the Duke University Press. Hershel Parker in the first volume of Herman Melville: A Biography lists three additional manuscript journals of the cruise, by Midshipmen William Sharp (National Archives), Alonzo C. Jackson (Library of Congress) and William H. Wilcox (U. S. Naval Academy Museum).

The ledger of "Ships Boarded during the Cruise" lists the whaler Elizabeth on August 6, 1843, visited the day after it arrived on the island of Oahu.
"August 5. Whale Ship Elizabeth came in from a cruise having lost her Captain and a boat's crew, in taking a whale."  --Abstract of a cruise, page 8
Here is the page on Nukahiva...

Abstract of a cruise in the frigate United States
via Boston College University Libraries


On the 6th of October we made the Island of Nukahiva. The Harbor is not visible from Seaward on account of Intervening Rocks. it is completely Ironbound and near the entrance of the Strait or Gut, which leads to the Harbor, are two immense Rocks, called the Sentinels, one of which has a streak of White Sandstone and the other a cross of the same which points to the Harbor. Heading in and sailing for about 3/4 of a mile you came suddenly in one of the safest harbor's in the world. It is in Shape of a Horse Shoe, the entrance being very small in going in we could almost throw a biscuit on Shore from either bow. The view of this Steep and lofty Island is truly Sublime and Beautiful, it is completely covered with the brightest verdure and enlivened with numerous hills.

We found the French in possession of the Island having built a Fort on the Site Chosen by Commodore Porter the remains of which are being used in building theirs. They are sending their Convicts from France and peopling the Island, they take a Wife from the Inhabitants, with or without their Consent, and at this rate in a few years they will speak the French Language altogether. They live in Tents, pitched around the Fort, and it is not safe for them to venture outside the limits of their Sentries. The Inhabitants are Cannibals and are Continually at war with each other, the Prisoners they take they eat. Their appearance is terrific and they are tattoo'd from head to foot. On the 7th of October we got underweigh with the French boats ahead, and stood out to Sea, bound to the Society Islands, and on the 12th of October, dropped Anchor at Matavia Bay, Island of Otaheite.
The description of Tahiti is mostly copied verbatim from a piece in the Army and Navy Chronicle for December 17, 1840 titled Notes of a Circumnavigator—No. I. Otaheite. Interestingly, the abstract supplies information about the naming of Point Venus that the 1840 article lacks. Where the "Circumnavigator" parenthetically admitted ignorance ("whence named I know not") the Abstract informs:
"so named by Captn Cook, as it was the only Planet he could get a correct Observation of from that Point."
For future reference and study, links below are to "Notes of a Circumnavigator" in the Army and Navy Chronicle:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Settle your brains, Clement C. Moore wrote "The Night Before Christmas"

Image via Conversant - The Philips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum
And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap....  --A Visit from St Nicholas
Clement C. Moore liked the word brain so much he used it twenty times in his poetry, not counting "settled our brains" in A Visit from St. Nicholas, aka "The Night Before Christmas." Henry Livingston maybe speaks of "brains" one time only, in one poem that he might or might not have written: Filly and Wolf, where the wolf got its brains kicked out by the clever and spirited filly.


  1. Confounds my brain, and nearly splits my head. --A Trip to Saratoga 
  2. And raise a tumult in the coolest brains. --A Trip to Saratoga
  3. Her brain, of borrow'd thoughts a mingled mass --A Trip to Saratoga
  4. As dreams which haunt the feverish brain --Translation - Chorus from Prometheus
  5.  Some thoughts, the ravelings of my brain --Lines for a Fragment Fair
  6. Of countless joys, rush wildly through my brain -- Lines to the Fashionable, From a Veteran Belle
  7. Like many which puzzle deep reasoners' brains --The Pig and the Rooster
  8.  E'er rack your joints or cloud your brain;  --The Water Drinker
  9. No vertigos your brain perplex --The Water Drinker
  10. Oh! child of frolic, in whose giddy brain --The Sisters of Charity  
  11. This faithless prospect of a dreaming brain --To Southey
  12. But oh! these spectres that infest my brain! --To Southey
  13. “But, sure, thro' my brain how your image kept jaunting!”  --Irish Valentine
  14.  And glaring lights, the sight and brain confound.  --Newport Beach
  15.  "Of late, good aunt, I have perplexed my brain"  --Charles Elphinstone
  16.  And cool'd the fever that had touch'd his brain.   --Charles Elphinstone
  17.  That swell'd his brain and flutter'd in his breast.  --Charles Elphinstone
  18.  Produced such wild delirium in his brain, --Charles Elphinstone
  19.  Engender'd in a loving maiden's brain;  --Charles Elphinstone
  20.  Nor was this wish mere fancy of the brain;  --Charles Elphinstone
MacDonald P. Jackson's recent study of function words and phonemes makes a virtue of ignoring   words that actually mean something. My wish this Christmas is that Professor Jackson would run the nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives through his computer as well. Every time I look into it via Mac Jackson's Databases at the great Henry Livingston website, the vocabulary of "The Night Before Christmas" is overwhelmingly Moore's, not Livingston's. The melvilliana review of Professor Jackson's monograph cites additional parallels of diction that also feature, as in the case of brain, similar ideas and poetical contexts. Striking correspondences of diction and thought include multiple references to visions and dread, one "wond'ring ear" in To The Nymphs of Mount Harmony, and the transcendent cluster of words, images and ideas in these famous lines:
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below...  --A Visit from St. Nicholas
The noun merry-make occurs once, perhaps adjectivally, in the 1819 Carrier's Address published over the signature of young Frederick T. Parsons (1803-1842) and ascribed by family members to Henry Livingston. Otherwise, in verse Livingston never employs merry. Moore does, at least six times. And only Moore calls anything "lively." In the jesting vein of The Pig and the Rooster, the two talking animals are (like St. Nick) "so lively." Only Moore says "lustre." Two times (not counting "the lustre of mid-day" in "Visit") if you include "The constant lustre of the day" in the manuscript poem "Biography of the Heart of Clement C. Moore." By contrast, words and rhymes in "The Night Before Christmas" that Henry Livingston uses but that do not appear in other poems by Clement C. Moore are either coincidental and fairly isolated, like forms of the word hurricane; or strictly commonplace, like the house/mouse and jelly/belly rhymes.

Even the much stronger verbal parallels like brains, visions and dread don't prove authorship, necessarily, but in this case Moore's authorship is already established by strong historical and biographical evidence. Editor Orville L. Holley learned who wrote "A Visit from St Nicholas" only months after it first appeared in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. The New-York Book of Poetry in 1837 confirmed what the literati already knew. Any lingering doubt was settled when Clement C. Moore included A Visit from St Nicholas without fanfare in his 1844 Poems, where any contribution by another person was identified as such and duly credited, clearly and unambiguously. Extant manuscripts in Moore's handwriting likewise confirm his modest claim.

Links to more facts and reasons in support of Moore's authorship:
Then there's this, the published letter from Clement C. Moore to his friend Charles King, editor of the New York American. In this letter Moore plainly and directly claims authorship of the Christmas poem, although he doubts its "intrinsic value." In other words, Moore does not think the poem we know today as "The Night Before Christmas" is all that good, but he owns up to it, anyhow. Moore wrote the letter on February 27, 1844 after a false claim for authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" had appeared in the Washington National Intelligencer
... 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.

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, 
New York American - March 1, 1844
Related posts:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"Lines Written after a Snow-storm" by Clement C. Moore, reprinted in 1824 from the Troy Sentinel

Clement C. Moore's classic poem A Visit from St. Nicholas aka The Night Before Christmas was first published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel, on December 23, 1823. Everyone knows that, but here's a melvilliana exclusive to deck your holiday halls with. Only a few months later (definitely before March 2, 1824) another unsigned poem by Clement C. Moore also appeared in the Troy Sentinel. Of course, this one never spread as rapidly or widely as "A Visit from St. Nicholas" did. Nevertheless, it was noticed and reprinted in at least one other newspaper. I have not yet located the original Troy Sentinel printing [Update: found! in the Troy Sentinel, February 20, 1824] but here is the version reprinted "FROM THE TROY SENTINEL" in the Providence, Rhode-Island American on Tuesday, March 2, 1824. Found in the online Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank.
[Providence] Rhode-Island American - March 2, 1824
Like "A Visit from St. Nicholas," this poem was reprinted with minor revisions and corrections in Moore's 1844 volume of Poems, under the title Lines Written after a Snow-Storm. The table of contents there gives the title as "Lines Written after a Fall of Snow."

In 1913 Arthur Inkersley associated these very "Lines" with the more famous holiday poem, as the  two works Moore then was best remembered for:
... Mrs. MacNutt was Miss Margaret Ogden, a granddaughter of Clement C. Moore, the scholar, poet and musician, widely known as the author of “ 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and “Lines Written After a Snowstorm.” --The Overland Monthly
It makes a neat companion piece with "The Night Before Christmas." As pointed out in our last, Moore addresses his meditative "Lines Written after a Snow Storm" to his kids. And as Stephen Nissenbaum aptly remarks, the poem
 could almost be titled "The Morning after Christmas."  --There Arose Such a Clatter



COME children dear, and look around;
   Behold how soft and light
The silent snow has clad the ground
   In robes of purest white.

The trees seem deck'd by fairy hand,
   Nor need their native green;
And every breeze appears to stand,
   All hush'd, to view the scene.

You wonder how the snows were made
   That dance upon the air,
As if from purer worlds they stray'd,
   So lightly and so fair.

Perhaps they are the summer flowers
   In northern stars that bloom,
Wafted away from icy bowers
   To cheer our winter's gloom.

Perhaps they're feathers of a race
   Of birds that live away,
In some cold dreary wintry place,
   Far from the sun's warm ray.

And clouds, perhaps, are downy beds
   On which the winds repose;
Who, when they rouse their slumb'ring heads,
   Shake down the feath'ry snows.

But see, my darlings, while we stay
   And gaze with fond delight,
The fairy scene soon fades away,
   And mocks our raptur'd sight.

And let this fleeting vision teach
   A truth you soon must know —
That all the joys we here can reach
   Are transient as the snow.
 Related posts:

Monday, November 7, 2016

Computer error, please try again: MacDonald P. Jackson on the authorship of "The Night Before Christmas"

First off, a little Christmas music to get in the right spirit. Here's Aaron Neville, right on time with our theme song...
When out on the driveway I heard such a clatter,
I dimmed all the lights and turned on Clyde McPhatter.

Now that we have the lights down, a confession: besides being continually engrossed in 19th century studies and the writings of Herman Melville, I'm obsessed with all kinds of authorship mysteries. Truth is, MacDonald P. Jackson had me at “Who.” Yes I pre-ordered his monograph on the disputed authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas," aka “The Night Before Christmas.” Full title: Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"? Analyzing the Clement Clarke Moore vs. Henry Livingston Question. Bought it in Kindle and Paperback. Lamentably, this particular case finds Professor Jackson way off his Shakespeare square. Even so, I hope his method will succeed in getting the writers right, after a needed overhaul. For my own warped ends (public knowledge via my other blog Dragooned), I'm ridiculously glad to allow plenty of theoretical room for the merits of using internal textual evidence to establish authorship. With better analytics, maybe function words and phonemes will prove useful outside of early modern drama. If so, by all means let's crunch the numbers 'til Christmas!

The trouble here is that so much external evidence supports the traditional attribution of “The Night Before Christmas” to Clement C. Moore. Professor Jackson grants as he must the prima facie case for Moore yet proceeds as if none of it matters. At their worst, some of his claims for the import of stylistic evidence and certain external facts (Livingston family letters and oral tradition, reindeer names and other aspects of revision history, poems by Moore in manuscript) amount to special pleading of the kind Mac Jackson, Shakespeare expert rightly abhors in strained, counter-factual arguments for the Earl of Oxford as the true author of Shakespeare’s works. The awkwardest contortions occur in chapter 3, minimizing likely textual corruptions in the first, unauthorized newspaper printing; chapter 4, denying the clear and direct influence of Washington Irving's portrait of St. Nicholas in the 1812 and later editions of A History of New York; and chapter 21, trivializing the important early association of "The Night Before Christmas" with the family of Moore's godfather Jonathan Odell. Jonathan's daughter Mary Odell copied out "A Visit from St. Nicholas" which has survived with other poems by Moore and a couple of his letters among the Odell papers at the New Brunswick Museum Archives.

About Jonathan Odell, even Moore's biographer Samuel W. Patterson erred when he supposed, "The Moores do not appear to have kept up his acquaintance." The next piece of documentary evidence is always out there, somewhere. Joy of discovery awaits, and it would be a shame to explain away the import of a great find.
"By the way, opening the files in a research institution is much like reaching into a sock on Christmas morning, you never can be certain as to the goodies that could be found." --Ruby Cusack
Solutions to authorship mysteries are most satisfying when there’s a real mystery to solve, and when style evidence fits with biographical and historical evidence. For historical background, The Battle for Christmas is indispensable. There Stephen Nissenbaum offers a superb reading of "The Night Before Christmas" which underscores the class tensions and unruly carnival rites historically evoked in celebrations of Christmas and New Year's Day. As Professor Nissenbaum shows, Moore's poem helped domesticate Christmas. In his fine online essay at Common-place, Professor Nissenbaum specifically addresses authorship issues raised by Don Foster in Author Unknown, effectively rebutting Professor Foster's negative portrayal of Moore and helpfully reading "The Night Before Christmas," too.

Stylometry alone rarely (never?) settles authorship questions anyway. But it’s fun to keep trying. Hopefully we’ll learn from our mistakes as we go.

All things being equal (which they're not), Professor Jackson's mission would be a fine one, prompted by the noble scholarly motive of giving credit where it’s due. Employing expertise in what he calls “computational stylistics,” he aims to determine who most likely wrote the world-beloved poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Basically Professor Jackson picks up where Don Foster left off and decides, after a grueling set of mathematical exercises, that Henry Livingston, Jr. probably wrote the best Christmas poem ever, not Clement C. Moore as traditionally supposed.

What we've got here is an entertaining and potentially instructive non-problem. On the positive side, how wonderful to learn about Henry Livingston, discover and enjoy his witty verse, and ponder the odds. And three cheers for anything that inspires people to re-read Moore and begin to appreciate his life and other works. By my calculations, the real probability that Clement C. Moore wrote “The Night Before Christmas” is still right around 102%, give or take a couple of percentage points. Fortunately, however, Professor Jackson has the scruples of a first-rate scholar. He makes his errant way so earnestly that it’s easy to spot the wrong turns. Here they are:
  1. False premise: Moore sucks Moore's poetry sucks. All of it except "The Night Before Christmas." Obviously.
  2. Disregard of historical and biographical evidence. 
  3. Over-confidence in numbers; corresponding indifference to poetical contexts and words that mean something.

    The False Premise

    Rehearsing Don Foster's "'Funeral Elegy' Fiasco," Ron Rosenbaum has traced Professor Foster's overconfidence in numbers and unwise reliance on computers to his "failure of close reading." Problem was, 
    "he was substituting a silicon chip for a tin ear."  --The Shakespeare Wars
    In a nutshell, that's it! Sir Brian Vickers, before he became "Sir Brian," more elaborately and devastatingly critiqued Professor Foster's methodology and results in Counterfeiting Shakespeare. As the Funeral Elegy fiasco reminds, anything can happen once you turn words into numbers. Professor Jackson knows this and therefore tries early on to ground his investigation on sound principles of literary criticism. Unsuccessfully, because he takes for granted the very thing he wants to test. Professor Jackson gives away his bias for Livingston in one sentence and appears not to realize the damage done to his desired stance of cool scientific objectivity:
    However, no reader of poetry with any sense of literary style and value could compare Moore’s body of verse with Livingston’s without recognizing that “The Night Before Christmas” is a conspicuous misfit within Moore’s canon but would be comfortably at home within Livingston’s.” (11)
    In other words, only an idiot would align “Night Before Christmas” with the transparently awful poetry of Clement C. Moore. But if that were true, the thing is already proved by chapter 2 so we don’t need to bother with chi-squares, arithmetical means, and standard deviations. We don't even need to turn on the computer. Fortunately for the future survival of computational stylistics as a legitimate method of academic inquiry, it's not true!

    Nothing at all against Henry Livingston, but his poems aren’t nearly so mellifluous and magical as Professor Jackson thinks, and Moore’s aren't so bad. Even though Livingston lived decades into the nineteenth century, his poetic sensibility (viewable at the fabulous Henry Livingston website) remained strictly and statically 18th century. The American revolution molded Livingston into a fine patriot, family man and farmer-poet, but I’m here to tell you the Romantic revolution in literature missed him in Poughkeepsie. In that regard, Livingston is like Dylan had Dylan stayed a folkie and never plugged in with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Not that Moore ever went all-Byron or Coleridge on us. Clement C. Moore shares with Livingston the usual eighteenth-century models like Pope, Dryden and Swift, but some of Moore’s later verse gets electrified by the subjective, emotional intensity of Southey and so-called pre-romantics or transitional poets like William Cowper and Oliver Goldsmith. Livingston values classical forms, artifice, reason and rationality, and displays of wit—hence his fondness for rebuses, acrostics, and verse paraphrases from Aesop and the Bible. And burlesques, social and political. Professor Jackson means to dismiss Moore as a “moralist” and “satirist” but see here now, those labels equally apply to Livingston who lectures his sister Joanna to count her blessings and “Meekly attend the ways of higher heav'n!” On her birthday! It’s the latent Romantic in Moore who will express people’s feelings with a degree of emotional intensity, a subjective directness you might find in Livingston’s private letters, but almost never see in his published writings.

    Professor Jackson’s conclusion merely restates his introductory premise, 117 pages later:
    “No experienced reader of poetry who was familiar with the verse of the two rival candidates could fail to recognize that “The Night Before Christmas” is as uncharacteristic of Moore as it is characteristic of Livingston, with his proven ability to take a child’s view of things, his intense awareness of flying creatures, and his fascination with the miniature.” (128)
    "No experienced reader"? O! for an esteemed and truly estimable Shakespeare scholar to bluster so.  Professor Jackson’s dual purpose premise-conclusion excludes anybody who does not agree with his dim view of Moore's poetry from the ranks of discerning readers. His exclusive club of experienced readers of poetry would not have included William Alfred Jones, the accomplished essayist (as Bryant called him) and Hazlitt fan, who wrote a glowing contemporary review of Moore’s Poems that appeared in the July 17, 1847 issue of the New York Literary World. Niels Henry Sonne the distinguished librarian would not have known enough poetry by Livingston, so he's banned along with his rock solid defense of Moore's authorship on the biographical evidence. More recently, the case for Moore’s authorship has been ably upheld, in print and online, by Seth Kaller, Joe Nickell, and (as mentioned already) Stephen Nissenbaum. All excluded from the club. Professor Jackson does list Stephen Nissenbaum's excellent book and online essay in his bibliography. But he never directly engages with the enlightening discussion in There Arose Such a Clatter of "A Trip to Saratoga," the poem "that shows Moore at his most child-centered." Throughout his monograph Professor Jackson argues with Joe Nickell, without much luck.

    The Tin Ear

    It's most noticeable in the aforesaid rebuttal of Joe Nickell's "The Case of the Christmas Poem" (Manuscripts 55/1:5–10). That's where Professor Jackson's ear appears tinniest. I can't help calling him out, because he makes such a big deal of Livingston-like qualities he hears in these lovely lines:
    The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
    Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below...  --A Visit from St. Nicholas
    Image Credit: Conversant - The Philips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum
    Three of Livingston's Rebus poems according to Professor Jackson replicate the familiar couplet in "Night Before Christmas," by describing how moonlight turns night into day.
    That goddess refulgent whose far beaming rays,
    Dart full upon error's dark midnight their blaze.  --Apollo Rebus

    The Goddess refulgent whose far-beaming rays
    Can pour upon error meridian blase.  --Deity Rebus

    That goddess refulgent whose glance pours the day,
    Where midnight, and error, and ignorance lay. --War Rebus
    Professor Jackson explains it this way:
    "The moon's shedding of bright light that turns night to noonday is a recurrent notion in Livingston's verse that links it to the lines in "Visit." There is nothing comparable in Moore's Poems."

    What the "recurrent notion" boils down to is one formula repeated three times. At best it's a clever verbal puzzle, signifying one of the needed letters via formulaic allusion. Professor Jackson solves it "T" for Thea, the Titan goddess of shining light. Granted. But play fair now. Livingston's "goddess refulgent" is Thea or Theia the mother of the moon, Selene. And the sun, Helios. And as every crossword freak knows, the Dawn, Eos. You only get Theia as the moon by overreaching. In each Rebus clue the implied Theia is rather the goddess of shining illumination and therefore the enabler of sight, figuratively understood to mean insight or wisdom--as opposed to ignorance and error. As an adjective, refulgent cannot grammatically parallel lustre, a noun. "Mid-day" (noun, again) does match up nicely with "meridian" in one of the three examples, but meridian there mainly conveys the association of the goddess with the bright light of daytime, and night with error. No natural moon is pictured there or anywhere. There's no snow either. No objects. There's literally no material thing whatsoever to be seen in any of Livingston's three Rebus couplets, beyond metaphorical ray-beams from heaven and implied insight.

    Nothing comparable in Moore's Poems? Hunting up the words via the handiest of Mac Jackson's Databases with the color-coded alphabetized list of all words in all poems, I find all the key ones used by Moore, not Livingston.

    Jiminy Christmas! Moore wrote a whole poem on new fallen snow: Lines / Written After a Snow-Storm. For his kids. [And as I later discovered, also published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel, two months after "A Visit from St. Nicholas."] The word lustre appears only in Moore's poems, two times. Boom, boom. The second instance occurs in a manuscript poem that Professor Jackson should have included in his counts but did not: Biography of the Heart of Clement C. Moore. There Moore as patient scholar (no ballroom beau, he) identifies himself with "constant lustre of the day" produced by "the glow-worm's steady ray." Not only lustre but "lustre of the day" which hey! to my mind qualifies as a compelling "trigram" that ought to have been considered as such in this same chapter 9, "Shared Three-Word Sequences and Parallels." Same goes for the still-smoking title of Moore's From St. Nicholas but let's not get sidetracked.

    For "breast" with "snow" Professor Jackson invokes the commonest commonplace "snow-white breast" in Livingston's "As on a Summer's Fervid Day." The playful Poughkeepsian does love breasts, especially on "lovely Delia":
    A breast from beauty's model made
    Where all the loves & graces play'd. --Spadille
    Major Livingston never looks at a non-human breast. Every one of the 14 occurrences of the word breast in known Livingston poems and poems attributable to him belongs to a human being. Breast with reference to any phenomenon of non-human nature occurs only once in Moore, but contextually the image is good and relevant. Lines by Moore figure "breast" in non-human terms as a "mountain's breast," in close thematic connection with all forms of water in nature including snow.
    Howe'er disguis'd by Nature's power,
    In chrystal ice or snowy shower;
    Whether to open sight reveal'd,
    Or in the ambient air conceal'd;
    In misty vapor if it rest
    Upon some lofty mountain's breast,
    In clouds bedeck the welkin blue,
    Or, heav'n-distill'd, descend in dew;
    In earth or sky, wherever found,
    The praise of water I'll resound.  --The Water-Drinker
    Better yet, who speaks of interesting things and people as "objects"? Who points these "objects" out to his children, and marvels at their clarity and brightness in broad daylight? Moore, of course, 3x (two plural forms, one singular) in "A Trip to Saratoga." For example:
    All objects shone so lucid and so clear,
    So sharp each outline on the deep-blue sky,
    That what was distant seem'd to draw more near,
    And ev'ry tint came radiant to the eye.  --A Trip to Saratoga
    Likewise the whole point of visiting West Point is to view "objects near" and far.

    Here's the clincher I hear somebody asking for, with "objects" and "moon," too.  
    "Surpris'd, I found the moon's soft silvery ray
    Spread like a mantle o'er the objects round. 
    --Charles Elphinstone
    The verse-epic "Elphinstone" (Elfin-Stone, get it?) is another poem in manuscript that, like the unpublished Biography of the Heart of Clement C. Moore, defies computerized analysis:
    "It is so remote in manner and matter from 'The Night Before Christmas' that breaking it down into sections and offering counts of all the authorial data is scarcely warranted."
    Fortunately, one grand consequence of Professor Jackson's research and the monumental work done by Mary S. Van Deusen is the online availability now of most (not all) Moore's poems, including From St. Nicholas among miscellaneous manuscript poems, and many others transcribed from the Poetry Manuscript Book of Clement C. Moore, now held by the Museum of the City of New York. These lines from "Charles Elphinstone" are worth another look:
    "Surpris'd, I found the moon's soft silvery ray
    Spread like a mantle o'er the objects round. 
    --Charles Elphinstone
    The "Elphinsone" example in context invites both literal and metaphorical readings. Dying, the hero recalls this vivid experience of illuminating moonlight which he perceives in figurative terms as "an emblem of my death!" The poet goes on to claim another level of significance for the natural, physical sight of objects lit up by the moon, as a literal foretaste of the soul's experience of the "light celestial that guide's it on angels' wings to heaven. Bottom line: there is no bottom, as Ron Rosenbaum perceives in Shakespeare. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen.... 

    To resume counting... How many instances of objects is that altogether? Six total for Moore, paying no attention to instances where object means something like "goal" or "purpose." For Livingston? Just one, maybe, in Tears of Science where "pleasing objects" refer to distracting features of beautiful women. Dimples and eyes, of alluring females.

    No way around it, Professor Jackson badly misreads the best textual parallel he can muster. To his credit, he picked glorious lines to discuss, but he can't hear the words, and won't grapple with their meaning in context. Bias for Livingston, against Moore makes him miss the most pertinent verbal associations and where they point. Moon, breast, snow, objects, and daylight lustre all harmonizingly attest to Clement C. Moore's authorship of "The Night Before Christmas."


    Contempt of Biography

    In a generous mood, Professor Jackson grants that Moore unquestionably “loved his wife and children.” That statement makes me think he has not looked into Moore’s life or poetry much. If he had, he might have paused there to consider earth-moving life events and their likely after-effects: getting married and becoming a father, most obviously, and later the devastating emotional impact on Moore of his wife’s death.

    Let’s make a pact: never to grab examples from a poem, say, without reading it first. I’m thinking now of Moore’s poem “To Southey.” Professor Jackson and Don Foster before him cite the same line from “To Southey” in order to score the same ho-hum point in favor of Foster's proposition that Moore wrote a supposedly bad Santa Claus poem. So both Moore and the author of "Old Santeclaus" adopt the expression "make their home." Fine, a commonplace. When you stop trashing Moore and actually read his verse, you see the line in question embraces what scholar Herbert F. Tucker in Epic: Britain's Heroic Muse 1790-1910 calls the “proliferant psychedelia” in Southey's mythological romances, trippiest in The Curse of Kehama.

    Moore in To Southey goes on to speak in profoundly sad, personal terms as a bereaved father and husband. Look, the Moores’ daughter Emily died in 1828 at the age of six. Clement C. Moore’s wife Eliza died in April 1830. Another daughter named Charity, age 14, died in December of the same year. So when Moore reads the dedication to “The Tale of Paraguay,” he can’t help but respond with intense emotions to Southey’s feeling words on the death of loved ones, especially his infant daughter. What Professors Foster and Jackson miss about “To Southey” is heartbreaking:
    I saw my wife, then, to the grave descend,
    Beloved of my heart, my bosom friend.
    So interwoven were our joys, our pains
    That, as I weeping followed her remains,
    I thought to tell her of the mournful scene—
    I could not realize the gulph between. --To Southey
    Biography makes a difference. Professor Jackson constructs a fictional scenario for how it went down in 1844, and imagines how much “moral courage” Moore would have needed to confess he never wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas." Moore's imaginary moral failure goes from hypothetical to practically certain when Professor Jackson graciously pardons it as just another example of human frailty. These little slips happen to the best of us, even lawmakers and priests. Ah! humanity!

    Moore lost his wife and two daughters long before he published "A Visit From St. Nicholas" over his own name in the 1844 Poems. He had perspective on fame. His personal fortune was never at risk. Not only that, the 1844 volume shows how eager Moore was to give credit wherever due. See how carefully he acknowledges his late wife and then living friends for verses they composed. Moral courage? How hard could it have been to add something like, “The following is a holiday favorite, ascribed to me by mistake." Or "I know not the original author of these popular verses, so beloved by my children.” Especially since by all accounts he wrote “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for light family entertainment, with absolutely no idea of making it a personal monument in verse. From Moore’s perspective, he more likely needed a healthy shot of liquid courage to come clean and confess having written it. 

    People in the best position to know attributed “A Visit from St. Nicholas” to Clement C. Moore, early and confidently. As shown in a previous melvilliana post, Orville L. Holley on December 28, 1836 stated that he learned the author's identity only months, not years after he first published "A Visit From St. Nicholas" in The Troy Sentinel. The whole point of the 1837 New-York Book of Poetry was to name names, to identify praiseworthy New York authors of formerly “fugitive” poems in newspapers and magazines. What, the experienced writer, editor, native New Yorker and Columbia grad, the ultimate Knickerbocker Charles Fenno Hoffman got this one wrong? Not likely. I protest the implied assumption that critics now are so much smarter than brilliant journalists were or could have been in the benighted 19th century. Also, the appearance of other poems by Clement C. Moore in the 1837 volume suggests that Moore might have corresponded with Hoffman or another agent of the publisher, in advance of publication. Somehow or other Hoffman got hold of three additional poems by Moore for inclusion along with "Visit" in the New-York Book of Poetry: To A Lady (dated 1804); From a Father to His Children; and From a Husband to His Wife.

    And how ironic is this. William Alfred Jones, the best and most sympathetic reviewer of Moore's Poems in the 19th century, was a great grandson of Philip Livingston. Yes, indeed. The most eloquent champion of Clement C. Moore's poetry ever, was a relative of Henry Livingston, Jr.

    All honor to the Livingstons! The best chapter in Professor Jackson's book honors the Livingston family with a respectful and informative chronicle of the claim by some descendants and sympathizers that Henry Livingston, Jr. wrote "The Night Before Christmas." Predictably, however, the best piece of external evidence, poetical "visions of gaiety" in pre-1823 family correspondence is pretty weak. Commonplaces, again, and no sugar-plums. But so what. Again, all honor to Major Livingston and his descendants. Personally, I'm most grateful for all the historical information, fabulous texts and great holiday fun at Mary S. Van Deusen's website. Paying respectful attention to Livingston family narratives, I think alternative explanations could reasonably account for the mistaken impression that Henry wrote "The Night Before Christmas." Conjecture #1: Thanks to the great Henry Livingston website we know of Major Henry Livingston's regular service in composing the Carrier's Address for the Poughkeepsie Journal, traditionally published on New Year's Day. The experience of hearing the author deliver lines like this
    But hark what a clatter! the Jolly bells ringing,
    The lads and the lasses so jovially singing,
    Tis New-Years they shout and then haul me along
    In the midst of their merry-make Juvenile throng;
    But I burst from their grasp: unforgetful of duty
    To first pay obeisence to wisdom and Beauty,
    My conscience and int'rest unite to command it,
    And you, my kind PATRONS, deserve & demand it.
    On your patience to trespass no longer I dare,
    So bowing, I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR.
    --1819 Carrier's Address, Poughkeepsie Journal
    conceivably might have morphed over time and blended with other holiday memories of reading or hearing "A Visit From St. Nicholas." (If you're smiling at my hypocrisy here, after complaining about Professor Jackson's fantasy of moral failure by Moore, please consider that the facts are already for Moore. Another advantage: I don't have to impute bad faith to the Livingstons or anybody, whereas Professor Jackson does.)

    As Don Foster found, Moore's poem appeared on the front page of the Poughkeepsie Journal on January 16, 1828, reprinted from the Philadelphia National Gazette--without comment and without naming the author.

    So Henry Livingston possibly could have seen it before he passed away at the age of 79 on February 29, 1828. Maybe a family member clipped or copied it down by hand, who knows?

    The viral spread of "A Visit From St. Nicholas" via newspaper printings and re-printings guaranteed an authorship controversy somewhere down the road. Sure enough, in December 1843 a reader submitted "Visit" to the Washington, D. C. National Intelligencer as the work of Joseph Wood, a recently deceased artist. The National Intelligencer duly reprinted it, then quickly published a correction on December 28, 1843. Unaware of the published correction, Charles King the editor of the New York American asked the Washington editor to reprint a letter from Clement C. Moore acknowledging his authorship. In 1888, a holiday memorial article in The Churchman observed how the expected "legion of would be authors" demanding credit for "The Night Before Christmas" never materialized, and explained their non-appearance as satisfying evidence that "a well-informed public has been early possessed of the knowledge that the author was Clement Clarke Moore":
    "Probably no American poem is more widely and favorably known than this, and the only wonder is that it has not been claimed by a legion of would be authors. It is doubtless because a well-informed public has been early possessed of the knowledge that the author was Clement Clarke Moore, son of Bishop Benjamin Moore, the second Bishop of New York. What is less generally known is that Mr. Moore studied for Holy Orders, but never presented himself for the ministry." --The Churchman - December 22, 1888

    “Counting is imperative…”

    Professor Jackson conducts us through a series of tests comparing A to B, the set of Moore’s poems to the set of Livingston's known poems. Not all of Moore's poems, though--some good ones are missing from the data set of Moore's "corpus." On shaky ground, Professor Jackson withholds from the Moore-side (besides “The Night Before Christmas”) the manuscript "Biography of the Heart of Clement C. Moore" (Ouch!), the manuscript sonnet from Petrarch, the verse translation from Aeschylus' Prometheus, and Moore's "Ode to Nice." The last three apparently are forbidden as translations, but the reason why verse translations don't count as legitimate poetry needs a more thorough discussion than Professor Jackson gives. That discussion also would need to explain the reason for including Livingston's paraphrases from Aesop and verses based on biblical passages in Habakkuk, Hezekiah, Isaiah, and Job. Professor Jackson does include The Mischievous Muse (of dancing) which Moore rendered from a canzonet by his friend and Italian teacher Lorenzo Da Ponte. Good to have in the mix, but keeping in "Muse" ("translated from the Italian of Signor Da Ponte") makes the translation-bar seem all the more arbitrary. Speaking of subjective and questionable value judgements, Professor Jackson would prefer not to bother with Moore's verse-epic in manuscript, "Charles Elphinstone."
    "Charles Elphinstone" is a long pseudo-autobiographical "epic" blank-verse narrative about the struggle between the powers of heaven and hell for the hero's "immortal soul." It is so remote in manner and matter from "The Night Before Christmas" that breaking it down into sections and offering counts of all the authorial data is scarcely warranted.
    --MacDonald P. Jackson - Who Wrote - page 91
    Nevertheless... Professor Jackson does in fact give raw counts and percentages for the whole of "Charles Elphinstone," same as for the other manuscript poems (except that translated sonnet): Moore markers, high- and medium-high-frequency words, phoneme pairs, articles definite and indefinite, and attributive adjectives. Whew! Just when I thought Elfin-Stone was benched, he's back in the game. Good. Still, the unjustified exclusion of some Moore data and inclusion of some Livingston data just possibly invalidates the whole experiment.

    Within each set, A & B, the things Jackson chooses to count are literally meaningless bits, inconsequential and perhaps random in their distribution. He needs to explain but never does exactly how these comparisons establish authorship. Especially considering the diversity of rhetorical aims and settings in occasional poems by both writers. The “More like Livingston” vs. “More like Moore” game gets tiresome fast. Or not--since, like I said, amazing things can happen when you turn words into numbers. As Professor Jackson demonstrates with admirable clarity and precision, some individual poems by Clement C. Moore are more like poems written by Henry Livingston, Jr. in some respects. And wouldn’t you know it, some poems by Livingston are in certain respects more Moore-like. Crazy!

    In chapter 6, Professor Jackson anticipates objections like mine to his numbers games. Aiming to de-mystify his method of statistical analysis, he explains he's only counting because he has to:
    “But the claim that a particular poem, play, or novel is “more like” the work of A than B is essentially a claim about frequency—that A employs a certain kind of linguistic unit (sentence, phrase, word, phoneme) more (or less) often than B, relative to the sizes of their respective corpora. And to make the claim good, counting is imperative…”
    Agreed then, we have to count things. Count what? is the question. Since we're all about establishing authorship, here again the methodology deserves a more expansive discussion than we get. How and why exactly do common words discriminate better than uncommon ones? As hinted at the outset, I myself am abnormally interested in the possibilities here. Granting the vaunted success of such tests when investigating authorship of plays written by professional playwrights in Renaissance England, I want to know if and how they should be adapted for American amateurs writing mostly occasional verse in a different century.

    Without another chapter on methodology, it seems like Professor Jackson just enjoys counting the wrong things. Instances of "that." Articles, definite and indefinite. Turns out, Livingston uses the definite article “the” way more than Moore. Which means he uses the AH phoneme way more than Moore. And now we’re getting somewhere? Yes we are, in fact, only it's not where Professor Jackson meant to go. Naturally, Livingston's usual anapestic meter pumps up usage of just the things Professor Jackson has been trying to count. Meter has to skew usage of "the" and "a" and "and." And how many other elements being counted, becomes the overwhelmingly pertinent question.

    Moeraki Boulders strewn along Professor Jackson's sandy beach are the building blocks of anapests.
    "don’t be fooled into thinking they are the only ones – there’s tons!"
    --Backpacker Guide .NZ
    To his everlasting credit, Professor Jackson counts the rocks in his way and eventually recognizes them as functions of meter. Indeed, if you're on a deadline and need to cut to the chase, go right to page 97. I told you Professor Jackson has scruples, and here in chapter 18 is where he proves it by walking back earlier claims in chapter 7 for the discriminating value of attributive adjectives:
    So it seems likely that the meter militates against the liberal use of adjectives.... It would be reasonable to infer that Livingston's lower rates than Moore's are in part due to his much greater use of anapests, and that Moore could conceivably have written a poem in anapests that was as sparing of adjectives as "The Night Before Christmas."
    --MacDonald P. Jackson - Who Wrote - pages 97-98
    With that concession, it's all over but the crying.
    "Anapestic tetrameter is more familiar from comic poetry, like Twas the night before Christmas, Yertle the Turtle, and other Doctor Seuss stories." --The Hip-Hop Guru

    On the Moore side, it could be useful to isolate test results for "The Pig and the Rooster," "Irish Valentine" and anything else Moore wrote in close to the same meter. Or how about comparing subsets of poems for and about kids. A number of poems by Clement C. Moore expressly situate a father in some relation to living children. Prime examples are "A Trip to Saratoga"; "To My Children after Having My Portrait Taken for them"; "From St Nicholas" (a-hem); and "Lines Written After a Snow-Storm." Henry Livingston wrote poignant lines "On My Little Catherine Sleeping" and heartfelt memorial verses. Livingston's charming "Dialogue between Madame J. L. & Her Children" pictures a mother conversing with her children. Kids want cheese, now; Mom makes them wait a few months. Unlike Clement C. Moore, however, Henry Livingston does not poetically represent a plurality of children and their father. Unless I missed something.

    As we've seen, where Professor Jackson picks good parts to examine, his statistical apparatus discourages context and meaning. This flawed approach he boldly finesses as a virtue. He's avoiding bias. In the effort to be objective and not subjective, he will stick like white on rice to meaningless bits of sentences and words. Numbers of counted bits are paraded in tables over many short chapters, with diminishing concern for the meaning or merit of any individual poem by either poet. 

    For purposes of really useful comparing, the kind that considers distinctive meanings and contexts, the Henry Livingston website offers a great database of all the words in most (not all) poems of Livingston and Moore. You might wonder, whose working vocabulary does “The Night Before Christmas” witness, Moore’s or Livingston’s? Maybe this fantastic online resource could settle the question without ever having to worry about counting and sorting function words and phonemes. In view of Professor Jackson’s stated aim and statistical methods, it’s reasonable to expect his book to include somewhere a table giving relative frequencies of words that actually mean something: nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs.

    Good opportunities to examine meaningful words would seem to be in chapter 14 on “Very High-Frequency Words” and chapter 15 on “Favorite Expressions and Quirks of Style.” But Chapter 14 again exposes the basic flaw in methodology. If I understand this right, forms of be, the second commonest lexeme in English after the, have to be excluded because they're hard to count. Words that threaten to mean something risk immediate exile as “likely to be sensitive to context.” When the purified method yields results that tend to support Moore, Professor Jackson blinks. Turns out, usage in “The Night Before Christmas” of the next very high-frequency word (“to”) statistically “is closer to Moore’s mean” than Livingston’s. Oops.

    Again in Chapter 15, Jackson isolates words and phrases that can't mean anything (some; oft; many a) apart from context, yet he flaunts the five-page chapter as “strong stylistic evidence” for Livingston over Moore. Among the supposedly distinctive and "conspicuous" markers of Moore’s style that Professor Jackson adduces in chapter 15 are expressions that occur 12 times (“at length”), 16 times (“in vain”), and 17 times (“many a”), not yet counting usages in Moore’s manuscript poems.

    Sometimes it's good to turn off the computer and go for a drive. Driving through “The Night Before Christmas” while looking for meaningful and potentially distinctive words to examine, I find myself slowing down at ‘kerchief and braking at brains. These days we don’t hear "‘kerchief" much, and the use of “brains” likewise seems a little peculiar. Moore’s poem “A Visit to Saratoga” also features (besides Dad with multiple kids, a theme close to Moore's heart that is absent in Livingston's verse-world) a “kerchief." In conjunction with “cap,” very nice. As for brains, I half expected the speaker to say he and Mamma had “just settled down.” That's how Perry Como read it in 1953. Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians likewise sang "just settled down."


     Louis Armstrong reads “settled our brains.” Wynton Marsalis, too. So Jazz cats love the brains line!

    Who's the jazziest, would you guess: Dr. Moore or Major Livingston?

    You got it, Dr. Moore. Moore's "corpus" boasts brains on top of brains: nineteen instances (total of combined singular and plural forms), many contextually similar to the usage in “The Night Before Christmas.” The one case of brains in a poem possibly by Henry Livingston, Jr., Filly and Wolf, uses the word with anatomical precision in reference to a dead animal. Spoiler alert: Filly kicks Wolf's brains out. Here's a veritable Moore marker, if ever there was one. Livingston never uses the word brains with reference to human psychology, thoughts or reasoning, dreams or schemes. Like Moore elsewhere, Livingston writes mind, as in the "undisturb'd mind" he wishes brother Beekman, or the "magnanimous mind" of Columbus in the Hero Rebus. In his prose Description of the Baby House of Miss Biddy Puerilla, Livingston has to say "cerrebellum."

    The word brains is not required by the verse form or rhetorical situation or the homely holiday setting of “The Night Before Christmas.” Ergo, brains might well be a meaningful reflex of the author’s style and just possibly, if you’re in the mood to stretch, his personality. Hmmm. On that note, maybe brain marks the distinguishing Romantic or transitional, "pre-romantic" quality in Moore. Romantic qualities would be strongest and most perceptible, where brains in Moore's poetry are associated with the imagination, with dreams and visions, or with unsettled, disturbed patterns of thinking and feeling.

    Moore’s poem A Trip to Saratoga opens on a houseful of kids, and Spring Fever everywhere disturbing Dad enough to “raise a tumult in the coolest brains.” As in "The Night Before Christmas," people’s brains in Moore’s poems rarely stay settled. The tee-totaling speaker of The Water Drinker fears and fixates on the brain-perplexing effects of alcohol. For the pleasure-seeking speaker of Moore’s Lines Written after a Season of Yellow Fever, exciting visions of dancing at the next fancy ball “rush wildly through my brain.” Impossibly abstract intellectual problems “puzzle deep reasoners’ brains” in The Pig and the Rooster.

    Moore employs brain/s nineteen times, and not only for comic effects. In mournful lines To Southey, memories of the suffering endured by the speaker’s deceased loved ones are figured as “spectres that infest my brain!” These haunting visions painfully and pathetically replace the happy expectations of his former days, which Moore retrospectively calls the “faithless prospect of a dreaming brain.”

    Pat, the infatuated speaker of Irish Valentine, can’t get the mental picture of his beloved out of his head:
    “But, sure, thro' my brain how your image kept jaunting!”
    At evening balls in the resort town of Newport, the blaring music and bright lights “confound” the eye and what else? Right, “the brain.” Charles Elphinstone features six instances of the word brain, unsettled variously in that manuscript poem by anxieties, fever, mysteries, dreams, and delirium. Also in a serious vein, Lines on the Sisters of Charity depict the excited mind of a party-girl as a “giddy brain.”

    Afterthought 11/10/2016: The banishment of Moore's Prometheus chorus from Professor Jackson's database keeps a 20th instance of brain in hiding. Prometheus chained to the rock needs help, but the humans he gifted with fire are mere "mortals" who remain powerless to challenge almighty Jove
    As dreams which haunt the fever'd brain. (Revised in the 1844 Poems volume to "feverish brain.")

    Visions and Dread

    Besides brains, the words visions and dread also attest to the compatible style of other poems by Moore when compared with “The Night Before Christmas.” Some but not all instances are reviewed by Joe Nickell and listed with other verbal parallels.

    Visions are a great Moore marker. Moore has them, Livingston don't. Eight instances of visions plural in Moore’s poems, plus seven in the singular form, add up to a total of fifteen instances--not including those tasty plums in “The Night Before Christmas.”

    By contrast, Livingston uses vision only in the singular form and only one time, in a literally, deliberately dread-ful verse paraphrase from Job; and he employs “visionary” one time when versifying Aesop’s fable of the frogs who wanted a king. About the Job poem, it's interesting to note the third-person point of view in Livingston's paraphrase. Livingston looks at Job objectively. Byron by contrast renders the same biblical passage in the first person, in the lines beginning A spirit pass'd before me. Byron identifies with Job.

    The “visions” in “Cholera” as in "The Night Before Christmas" are happy dreams, of carefree wining and dining and dancing. The youthful recipient of Moore’s “Valentine” enjoys “visions of delight,” meaning the prospect of a bright future. Again in “Water Drinker” visions are dreams—this time bad dreams, “goblin visions of the night” brought on by drinking alcoholic beverages. In “From a Husband to His Wife” the speaker remembers rapturous but fleeting “fairy visions,” poetically conveying the experience of being young and in love. Moore’s Wine Drinker cites “glowing thoughts and visions” among the heady benefits of drinking in moderation. Both instances of visions in Moore’s Lines Written after a Season of Yellow Fever refer to dancing, the anticipation of which engenders “visions bright” in the heart of the dancer as she excitedly beholds, in her imagination, “visions flying round, as meteors bright.” Her visions dance, quite like the visions of sugarplums in “The Night Before Christmas.” Sunrise at West Point inspires “visions” of nothing in particular—undefined, but strongly associated, again, with dreams. Indeed, Moore’s West Point “visions” at sunrise are explicitly the product of a “morning dream.”

    The animated “vision” of Moore's "Apology" is diminutive (“far below the human size”) like St. Nick in his “Visit,” an elvish taskmaster who keeps Moore from abandoning the business of scholarship for the sake of pleasures like dancing and drinking. Also like St. Nick, Moore’s friendly but firm “Guardian” does not stay long but disappears, soon as his work is done:
    So spoke the friendly power; then, waving light
    His azure pinions, vanish'd from my sight. 
    --Apology for Not Accepting an Invitation to a Ball
    Then there’s "dread." Don Foster malevolently but accurately established the word dread as a Moore marker. Foster made dread out to be a bad sign, but a good clue to Moore's identity as the first Grinch who stole Christmas. Stephen Nissenbaum answers with impeccable logic that
    “in his own terms the appearance of this word in ‘The Night Before Christmas’ (and at a key moment in its narrative) ought to constitute textual evidence of Moore's authorship.” --There Arose Such a Clatter
    Joe Nickell lists a couple of examples of dread in the online Comparison of Phraseology at Seth Kaller’s website. One particularly revealing instance, not listed by Nickell, occurs in Moore’s poem “A Trip to Saratoga.”
    Ah no! her ev'ry word and ev'ry look
    Proclaim'd that no such fate she need to dread;  --A Trip to Saratoga
    Stephen Nissenbaum in There Arose Such a Clatter very helpfully contextualizes “A Trip to Saratoga” as a light verse satire, a humorous travelogue in the manner of Byron’s Childe Harold only more family-friendly. The father-with-kids theme of the whole poem recalls the setting of "The Night Before Christmas." Besides that, the usage of dread in the lines quoted above is remarkably similar to the usage of dread in “The Night Before Christmas”:
    A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
    Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
    In both cases, dread occurs as an end-rhyme. Not only end-rhyme, but end rhyme in the infinitive form “to dread.” Moreover, the two examples exhibit parallel thought, structure, and syntax. Thought: facial features display harmlessness. Structure: next line begins with synonymous verbs, both in the past tense (proclaimed/gave to know). Syntax: negatively constructed with “no such” in “Saratoga” comparable to “nothing” in “The Night Before Christmas.”

    via Conversant - Phillips Library

    Clement C. Moore's wondering eyes and ear

    You should have heard just what I seen.... --Bo Diddley
    One instance of wondering, compressed for the sake of meter--imabic tetrameter--to wond'ring, does not appear in Joe Nickell’s Comparison of Phraseology:
    Thus whisper'd in his wond'ring ear. --To the Nymphs of Mount Harmony
    In a conventional move of pastoral verse, Moore’s shepherd in “To the Nymphs of Mount Harmony” hears in his “wond’ring ear” the complaints of an Arcadian “sprite” or fairy (or elf, like jolly old you-know-who), a “mournful spirit of the wood.” He tells of his enchantment by a fiend, the cause of his present captivity in the woods. The imprisoned elf hopes the nymphs will return to the woods someday and release him from the evil spell. What the whispering spirit misses most is their dancing and singing. If those fine maids ever do come back, he vows to join them.
    When what to my wondering eyes should appear... --A Visit from St. Nicholas
    It takes a wondering ear to hear talking elves and fairies in the woods, just like it takes wondering eyes to see Santa Claus on the lawn, under the moonlight. Clement C. Moore had the right hardware.

    Or is it software. Uh-oh. This always happens around the Holidays. Let me untangle my metaphors and get back to you.

    Gratuitous correction, only a stocking-stuffer:
    • Bulwer as in Edward Bulwer-Lytton is misspelled 4x as “Bulmer.”
    • The surname of Scott's Dutch smuggler in Guy Mannering is misspelled 3x as "Halteraick." This seems to be a fairly common misreading of scanned 19th century texts by OCR systems. It's Hatteraick, with two "t's."
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