Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas ! The story of a "mere trifle"

Washington St. In Media aka Baltimore Pike looking east c.1910 in winter
"A mere trifle"
     All Clement Clarke Moore could think of was they had not used his name. The Troy, New York Sentinel newspaper had somehow obtained a copy of the poem he had written for his daughter, Charity the year before in December of 1822. Charity, had shared "her' poem with friend, Harriet Butler who had sent the poem to the Troy newspaper anonymously. The poem was titled,
 "Something about a Visit from St. Nicholas". Moore who lived in New York City, his home "Chelsea" is the name of a section of Manhattan today was a professor at the General Theological Seminary. Moore had graduated from Columbia College with honors in Oriental Languages and had written a dictionary of the Jewish Language. But he was a poet at heart and often wrote poems for his wife, Catherine and their six children. Christmas Eve of 1822 was no exception. He promised six year old daughter Charity, "something special". Moore got some of the ideas from "The Children's Friend" an anonymous book published in 1821 and Washington Irving's The Knickerbocker's History of New York". But much of the reindeer, stockings etc. came from his own imagination. The poem was read after dinner, twice by request and that was it. Or so Moore thought. Unaware that his daughter, Charity had shared "her" poem, he was stunned to see it in the newspaper the next year in 1823, but thankful his name had not been used. As a professor, writing children's poetry would have been frowned upon and Moore did not want fellow professors making fun of him. What shocked Moore was that the poem took off like wildfire, being published hundreds of times in newspapers and books thru out the country. Finally in 1837 he included the poem under his name for the first time in a book he was editing on New York State Poetry. Moore never really understood what all the fuss over his poem was all about. He was asked numerous times to write the poem out in his own hand, but he almost always refused. Only two copies are known to exist. As Moore himself once wrote, "It was a mere trifle, one that been found to afford far greater pleasure that what was by myself deemed of more worth".
Merry Christmas to all my blog readers!!


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