Monday, December 23, 2013

"A mere trifle"

Chester Pike at Gardner Ave. looking east toward Darby about 1906.

   Clement Clark Moore never really understood what it was all about. A graduate of Columbia University, at the head of his class, he got a job as professor of Oriental and Greek Literature at what is now, New York University. He got the job after the publication of his book, Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language. Moore also spoke German, Italian, French, Greek and Latin. Married to Catherine Taylor in 1813 by December of 1822 they had 5 children and Moore, a well respected scholar at school, liked to compose poetry for his wife and children on special occasions. He promised six year old daughter, Charity a "special" poem for Christmas Eve of 1822. Going thru several books, including  Knickerbockers, History of New York and  an anonymous book, The Children's Friend, Moore using his own ideas too, wrote, "Twas the night before Christmas" which was read to the family after dinner.
  Charity loved her poem, of course, so much she shared it with a family friend, Harriet Butler of Troy, New York. Harriet loved the story and Charity swore her to secrecy. Not to tell anyone her father, Clement Clark Moore, had written it. As a respected professor he would be laughed at, if people knew he wrote children's poetry. Harriet sent the poem anonymously to the editor of the Troy Sentinel newspaper who published the poem in their Christmas edition in 1823. From there the poem took off like wildfire, published in 100's of papers across the country for the next 15 years. Moore was horrified and swore his family to secrecy, afraid he would become the laughing stock among his "scholarly friends". When other people began to claim they had written the poem, Moore finally allowed his name to be used as the author in 1837. Moore could not understand what all the fuss was all about and considered his scholarly works much more important. Moore was asked to write the poem out in his own hand 100's of times and almost always refused. Only two copies are known to exist of the poem in his own writing. Moore never really got what the poem was all about, the innocence, wonder and simple belief of childhood that he captured perfectly over 190 years ago. As Moore once wrote to a friend, the poem was " just a mere trifle, that had been found to afford far greater pleasure than what was by myself, esteemed of more worth".
    May all my readers have a wonder and safe Holiday Season !!

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