For children’s writers, there’s a moral behind the tale of how the classic poem, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” (also known as “A Visit from St. Nicholas“) came to be.
Clement C. Moore (July 15, 1779 – July 10, 1863) wrote the poem on whim in 1823 for a young relative. He had no intention of anyone else reading it. After all, he was a distinguished academic, NOT a lowly children’s writer.
But another relative liked it so much she submitted it to a newspaper (without Clement’s permission or name listed as author), and the paper published it. As the poem gained fame, the search was on for the author. Did Clement C. Moore stand up and claim it? Certainly not! As least, not for 14 years. Please! He was a distinguished academic, not a lowly children’s writer.
Eventually, of course, he did come forward, but the time lag made some people question — to this day — whether he actually wrote it. Now comes the moral of the tale: For what is Clement C. Moore best known today? What is his primary legacy? For being a distinguished academic in a brief period of history? No! For contributing a children’s poem that lives on and on. In other words, for being a children’s writer!
Two more tidbits:
Clement Clarke Moore was a writer and American Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York City.
And according to my geneology-obsessed late father, he was my great-great-great-great-great-great uncle. So thanks, Uncle Clement, for gifting the world with your poem, and even moreso for ensuring that folks everywhere, especially this time of year, appreciate children’s writers.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and to all a good night.