Did Fundie prig falsely claim authorship of "The Night Before Christmas"?

Copyright 2000 by Hugo S. Cunningham
Italicized portions copyright 2000 by the New York Times
First posted: y10822
latest change: y10822

Whose Jolly Old Elf Is That, Anyway?
Literary Sleuth Casts Doubt on the Authorship of
[a beloved children's classic]

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

Every Christmas for more than 150 years, children have hung their stockings by the chimney with care and learned to thank Clement Clarke Moore for the tradition. Moore, a wealthy Manhattan biblical scholar, went down in history as the man who in 1823 ...

October 26, 2000, Thursday
The Arts/Cultural Desk , 1709 words
[It appeared on pp. B1, B9. --HSC]

[end of excerpts from NYT site]

To summarize the article's high points:

Literary sleuth Don Foster, professor of English at Vassar college, claims in his new book ("Author Unknown," Henry Holt & Co.) that Clement Clark Moore's belated (1844) claim of authorship of the "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" (aka "The Night Before Christmas") (printed anonymously in 1823) was fraudulent.

In 1823, it was customary for gentlemen who valued their standing in snobbish circles to keep their literary submissions to the popular press a shameful secret. (In more recent times, my high-school science teacher Harry Clement Stubbs found it prudent to conceal his "Hal Clement" science fiction stories from stuffy administrators at his high school.)

Prof. Foster points out that none of Mr. Moore's public writings have any stylistic or spiritual resemblance to the friendly and cheerful "Night Before Christmas." On the contrary, Mr. Moore was a gloomy, orthodox religious prig. His published St. Nicholas was no jolly elf, but rather "a skinny stern bishop visiting children to dispense discipline as often as gifts, and not necessarily on Christmas Eve." Elsewhere, and typically, the published Mr. Moore inveighed against "clamorish girls" and "boisterous boys."

As the actual author, Prof. Foster promotes Henry Livingston Jr., a gentleman-poet from Troy NY, of Dutch descent. He (and most others who would know) died before Moore claimed authorship in 1844. Prof. Foster points out that Mr. Livingston used many of the same style elements and Dutch imagery found in "A Night Before Christmas" in some of his published works.

Prof. Foster has pioneered the technique of computerized text analysis to prove authorship. He is best known for identifying "Newsweek"s Joe Klein as the "Anonymous" author of "Primary Colors," a "roman clef" derived from Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential campaign.


Return to selective index of E-postings.