Who Wrote “The Night Before Christmas”?

Analyzing the Clement Clarke Moore vs. Henry Livingston Question


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About the Book

Published anonymously in 1823, “The Night Before Christmas” has traditionally been attributed to Clement Clarke Moore (1779–1863), who included it in his Poems (1844). But descendants of Henry Livingston (1748–1828) claim that he read it to his children as his own creation long before Moore is alleged to have composed it. This book evaluates the opposing arguments and for the first time uses the author-attribution techniques of modern computational stylistics to settle the long-standing dispute. Both writers left substantial bodies of verse, which have been computer analyzed for distinguishing characteristics. Employing a range of tests and introducing a new one—statistical analysis of phonemes—this study identifies the true author and makes a significant contribution to the growing field of attribution studies.

About the Author(s)

MacDonald P. Jackson is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Auckland and a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Bibliographic Details

MacDonald P. Jackson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 204
Bibliographic Info: tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6443-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2425-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Preface 1
1. Introduction to the Problem 5
2. Moore and Livingston: External and Internal Evidence 9
3. Reindeer Names, Exclamations and Other Clues 15
4. The Question of Sources 27
5. The Evidence of Meter 31
6. Statistical Interlude 34
7. Attributive Adjectives 38
8. Rhyme Links with Moore and Livingston 41
9. Shared ­Three-Word Sequences and Parallels 44
10. Phoneme Pairs 49
11. Categories of Phoneme Pairs 54
12. Individual Phoneme Pairs More Favored by Moore or Livingston 60
13. Definite and Indefinite Articles 64
14. Very ­High-Frequency Words 69
15. Favorite Expressions and Quirks of Style 73
16. Common Words That Discriminate 78
17. Words of ­Medium-High Frequency 85
18. Checking the Tests: Moore’s Manuscript Poems 90
19. The Moore Creation Myth 102
20. The Livingston Version 108
21. Further Considerations: Claims and Connections 116
22. “Old Santeclaus” and Moore 121
23. Summary and Conclusions 126
Appendix I: Henry Livingston: Selected Poems and Prose 137
Appendix II: Lists of the Poems of Livingston and Moore 164
Appendix III: Printer’s Copy for “Visit” in Moore’s Poems (1844) 173
Notes 175
Bibliography 187
Index 191