Clement Clarke Moore 1779 ~ 1863
Clement Clarke Moore was born on July 15, 1779 in New York City. He was the only child of heiress Charity Clarke and Dr. Benjamin Moore, Episcopal Bishop of New York, Rector of Trinity Church, and President of Columbia College. Moore was educated at home in his early youth and graduated first in his class from Columbia in 1798.
Unlike his father, his life's work did not lay in the ministry. He had a well developed love of language and pursued the learning of ancient dialects of Hebrew, Greek and German.
He married Catherine Elizabeth Taylor in 1813 and was shamelessly devoted to her. While courting her, Moore wrote to his future mother-in-law that he would carve her name into trees. Together, they had nine children. When her life unexpectedly was taken when she was 30, he was devastated.
In 1820, Moore helped Trinity Church organize a new parish church, St. Luke’s in the Fields, on Hudson Street, and the following year he was made professor of Biblical learning at the General Theological Seminary in New York, a post that he held until 1850. The ground on which the seminary now stands was his gift.
At the age of thirty, he compiled a Hebrew lexicon, the first work of its kind in America. He translated Juvenal, edited his father's sermons, wrote treatises and political pamphlets, including his well-known 1804 attack on the president in Observations Upon Certain Passages in Mr. Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, Which Appear to Have a Tendency to Subvert Religion and Establish a False Philosophy, and was often a contributor to the editorial pages of local newspapers. He also wrote George Castriot, Surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albania, which appeared in 1852 and was highly commended at the time.
He died on July 10, 1863 and his funeral was held in Trinity Church, Newport, where he had owned a pew. His body was interred in the cemetery at St. Luke in the Fields. On November 29, 1899, his body was reinterred in Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in New York.
Although he was embarrassed for most of his life that his scholarly works were overshadowed by what he publicly considered a frivolous poem, Moore will forever be remembered as the person who truly gave St. Nicholas to the world. Legend has it Moore composed "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his family on Christmas Eve of 1822, during a sleigh-ride home from Greenwich Village. The inspiration for St. Nick was drawn from the roly-poly Dutchman who drove his sleigh that day.
A Visit from Saint Nicholas:
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his courses they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the courses they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!