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Clement Clarke Moore

Clement Clarke Moore Clement Clarke Moore[1†]

Clement Clarke Moore (July 15, 1779 – July 10, 1863) was an American writer, scholar, and real estate developer[1†][2†]. He is best known as the author of the Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, more commonly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"[1†][2†].

Moore was a Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, located in New York City[1†]. The seminary was developed on land donated by Moore and it continues on this site at Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st streets, in an area known as Chelsea Square[1†].

Moore gained considerable wealth by subdividing and developing other parts of his large inherited estate in what became known as the residential neighborhood of Chelsea[1†]. He also served for 44 years as a member of the board of trustees of Columbia College (later University), and was a board member of the New York Society Library and the New York Institution for the Blind[1†].

“A Visit from St. Nicholas”, which later became widely known by its opening line, “'Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was first published anonymously in 1823[1†]. Moore publicly claimed authorship in 1837, and this was not disputed during his lifetime[1†].

Early Years and Education

Clement Clarke Moore was born on July 15, 1779, in New York City at “Chelsea”, his mother’s family estate[1†]. He was the only son of Benjamin Moore (1748–1816) and Charity (née Clarke) Moore (1747–1838)[1†]. His father, Benjamin Moore, was assistant rector of Trinity Church in Manhattan and later became rector of Trinity and bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York[1†]. He also served as acting president of Kings College in 1775 and 1776 and president of the renamed Columbia College (now Columbia University) from 1801 to 1811[1†].

Moore’s maternal grandfather was Major Thomas Clarke, an English officer who stayed in the colony after fighting in the French and Indian War[1†]. He owned the large Manhattan estate “Chelsea”, then in the country north of the developed areas of the city[1†]. Moore’s grandmother Sarah Fish was a descendant of Elizabeth Fones and Joris Woolsey, one of the earlier settlers of Manhattan[1†].

Moore received a very good education as a boy[1†][3†]. He was capably tutored at home by his father until he entered Columbia College[1†][4†]. He graduated first in his class from Columbia College in 1798[1†][5†] and got a Master’s Degree from there in 1801[1†][5†]. He could speak Italian, French, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew[1†][3†]. He was also a competent architect and a talented musician who enjoyed playing the organ and the violin[1†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Clement Clarke Moore had a long and distinguished career as a scholar, writer, and real estate developer[1†][2†][6†]. He was a Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, located in New York City[1†][2†]. The seminary was developed on land donated by Moore and it continues on this site at Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st streets, in an area known as Chelsea Square[1†].

Moore gained considerable wealth by subdividing and developing other parts of his large inherited estate in what became known as the residential neighborhood of Chelsea[1†]. He also served for 44 years as a member of the board of trustees of Columbia College (later University)[1†], and was a board member of the New York Society Library and the New York Institution for the Blind[1†].

Moore is best known as the author of the Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, more commonly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"[1†][2†]. The poem was first published anonymously in 1823[1†][2†]. Moore publicly claimed authorship in 1837, and this was not disputed during his lifetime[1†][2†]. However, a rival claimant emerged later and scholars now debate the identity of the author, calling on textual and handwriting analysis as well as other historical sources[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Clement Clarke Moore is best known for his Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, more commonly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"[1†][2†]. This poem was first published anonymously in the Troy (New York) Sentinel on December 23, 1823[1†][2†]. Moore publicly claimed authorship in 1837, and this was not disputed during his lifetime[1†][2†]. However, a rival claimant emerged later and scholars now debate the identity of the author, calling on textual and handwriting analysis as well as other historical sources[1†][2†].

In addition to this famous poem, Moore also produced other significant works[1†][4†]:

These works, along with “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, showcase Moore’s diverse literary talents and contributions. His works ranged from poetry that captured the imagination of children and adults alike, to scholarly works in literature and history[1†][2†][4†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Clement Clarke Moore’s works, particularly “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, have had a significant impact on American literature and culture[2†][1†]. His poem, with its vivid imagery and memorable rhymes, has become a cornerstone of Christmas traditions in the United States and around the world[2†][1†].

Moore’s poem is structured with a consistent rhyme scheme, which fits well with the content of the poem[2†][7†]. The poem’s enduring popularity attests to Moore’s skill in capturing the magic and anticipation of Christmas Eve[2†][1†][7†].

However, the authorship of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” has been disputed. While Moore publicly claimed authorship in 1837, the family of Henry Livingston, Jr., a soldier and landowner, argued that Livingston was its author[2†][1†]. Livingston’s death in 1828 and a lack of physical evidence hindered their argument[2†]. In the early 21st century, computer-aided analysis of the poem showed that it had more in common with poetry known to have been written by Livingston than with poetry by Moore[2†].

Despite this controversy, there’s no denying the influence of “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. Whether attributed to Moore or Livingston, the poem has shaped the way we envision Santa Claus and has contributed to the joy and anticipation of Christmas for generations[2†][1†].

Personal Life

Clement Clarke Moore was born to Benjamin Moore and Charity Clarke Moore[1†]. His father, Benjamin Moore, was a prominent figure in the church and academia, serving as the rector of Trinity Church, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and president of Columbia College[1†].

In 1813, Moore married Catharine Elizabeth Taylor[1†][4†][8†][9†]. The couple had several children[1†][8†][9†]. Moore’s personal life was closely intertwined with his professional and academic pursuits. He was deeply involved in church matters and had a lifelong interest in religious studies[1†][2†].

Moore’s personal life was also marked by his significant contributions to the development of New York City. He inherited a large estate, which he subdivided and developed into the residential neighborhood of Chelsea[1†]. This development not only brought him considerable wealth but also had a lasting impact on the city’s landscape[1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Clement Clarke Moore’s legacy is deeply intertwined with both his scholarly pursuits and his contributions to popular culture[1†][2†]. As a professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Moore had a significant impact on the academic community[1†]. He also served for 44 years as a member of the board of trustees of Columbia College (later University), and was a board member of the New York Society Library and the New York Institution for the Blind[1†].

However, Moore is perhaps best known for his poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, more commonly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"[1†][2†]. This poem, first published anonymously in 1823 and later claimed by Moore in 1837, has become a beloved part of Christmas tradition[1†][2†]. Despite some controversy over its authorship, the poem’s influence is undeniable[1†][2†].

Moore’s contributions to the development of New York City are also part of his legacy[1†]. He donated 66 tracts of land to the Episcopal Diocese of New York, which included an apple orchard from his inherited Chelsea estate[1†][10†]. This land was developed into the residential neighborhood of Chelsea, which continues to be a vibrant part of New York City[1†].

In recognition of Moore’s contributions, the Church of the Intercession in Manhattan started a service in 1911 on the Sunday before Christmas that included a reading of the poem followed by a procession to Moore’s tomb at Trinity Church Cemetery[1†]. This tradition continues to this day[1†].

Key information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Clement Clarke Moore [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Clement Clarke Moore: American scholar and author [website] - link
  3. ThoughtCo - Clement Clarke Moore [website] - link
  4. Poetry Foundation - Clement Clarke Moore [website] - link
  5. The New York Institute For Special Education - Clement Clarke Moore [website] - link
  6. Poem Analysis - The Elusive Life of Clement Clarke Moore [website] - link
  7. Poem Analysis - A Visit from St. Nicholas [website] - link
  8. Famous Birthdays - Clement Clarke Moore - Facts, Bio, Age, Personal life [website] - link
  9. Famous Birthdays - Clement Clarke Moore - Trivia, Family, Bio [website] - link
  10. Victorian Era - Clement Clarke Moore, Clement Clarke Moore Family Tree [website] - link
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