restricted access Style and Authorship in a Classic of Popular Culture: Henry Livingston and “The Night Before Christmas”
Abstract

abstract:

“The Night Before Christmas” is among the most popular poems in English. Largely responsible for establishing the modern American notion of Santa Claus, it was published anonymously in 1823, but later included among the Poems of Clement Clarke Moore. His name has since been attached to innumerable reprints of the iconic rhymes. The descendants of Henry Livingston, however, claim that he was the true author. Controversy has continued. A recent book (Jackson) made out a case for Livingston’s authorship, reassessing the “external” evidence and applying multiple stylistic tests that distinguished between Moore’s and Livingston’s acknowledged verse. Among the most effective discriminators were rates of usage of (a) common words and of (b) “phoneme pairs,” more favored by one poet or the other. Although there are no other contenders for the honor of having composed “The Night Before Christmas,” the present article employs these two potent tests to discriminate between Livingston’s verse and a corpus of verse akin to his by a wide range of contributors to the journals in which he published. Again, “The Night Before Christmas” turns out to be associated with Livingston, rather than with his contemporaries.


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