Henry Livingston Jr.
Biography of Henry Livingston Jr.
Henry Livingston, Jr. (October 13, 1748 - February 29, 1828) has been proposed as being the uncredited author of the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", more popularly known (after its first line) as "The Night Before Christmas." The poem has always been attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, and the Livingston claim is hotly disputed.
He was born on October 13, 1748 in Poughkeepsie, New York, to Henry Livingston, Sr. and Susannah Conklin.
In 1774, Livingston married Sarah Welles, the daughter of Reverend Noah Welles, the minister of the Stamford, Connecticut Congregational Church. Their daughter Catherine was born shortly before Livingston joined the army on a six months' enlistment. In 1776, their son Henry Welles Livingston was born; the child was fatally burned at the age of fourteen months and, when another son was born, he was given the same name, according to the common practice of necronyms. Livingston farmed. Sarah died in 1783, and the children were boarded out. During this period Livingston began writing poetry.
Over the next ten years, Livingston was occupied with poetry and drawings for his friends and family, some of which ended up in the pages of New York Magazine and the Poughkeepsie Journal. Although he signed his drawings, his poetry was usually anonymous or signed simply, "R".
Ten years to the day after Sarah's death, Livingston remarried. Jane Patterson, at 24, was 21 years younger than her husband. Their first baby arrived nine months after the wedding. After that, the couple bore seven more children. It was for this second family that Henry Livingston is believed by some to have written the famous poem known as "A Visit from St. Nicholas" or "The Night Before Christmas".
This famous Christmas poem first appeared in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. There seems to be no question that the poem came out of the home of Clement Moore, and the person giving the poem to the newspaper, without Moore's knowledge, certainly believed the poem had been written by Moore. However, several of Livingston's children remembered their father reading that very same poem to them fifteen years earlier.
As early as 1837, Charles Fenno Hoffman, a friend of Moore's, put Moore's name on the poem. In 1844, Moore published the poem in his own book, Poems. At multiple times in his later life, Moore wrote out the now famous poem in longhand for his friends.
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Henry Livingston Jr. Poems
Epithalamium: A Marriage Poem
'Twas summer, when softly the breezes were blowing, And Hudson majestic so sweetly was flowing, The groves rang with music & accents of pleasure And nature in rapture beat time to the measure,
Hail sov'reign love that first began, The scheme to rescue fallen man; Hail matchless, free, eternal grace, That gave my soul a Hiding-Place.
Take the name of the swain, a forlorn witless elf Who was chang'd to a flow'r for admiring himself. A part deem'd essential in each lady's dress With what maidens cry when they wish to say yes.
To My Little Niece Anne Duyckinck
To his charming black-eyed niece Uncle Harry wishest peace! Wishes roses over strow'd O'er her sublunary road!
The Crane & The Fox, a Fable
In long gone years a fox and crane Were bound in friendship's golden chain; Whene'er they met, the fox would bow And madame Crane would curtsie low-
With the ladies' permission, most humbly I'd mention How much we're obliged by all their attention; We sink with the weight of the huge obligation Too long & too broad to admit compensation.
Children Pray dearest mother if you please Cut up your double-curded cheese,
Her little bark on Life's wide Ocean tossed, In the unequal struggle soon was lost, Severe its conflict! Much alas it bore, Then sunk beneath the storm and rose no more.
Account of a Visit From ST. Nicholas
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' 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;
To My Little Niece Sally Livingston
To my little niece Sally Livingston, on the death of a little serenading wren she admired. Hasty pilgrim stop thy pace
The Vine & Oak, A Fable
A vine from noblest lineage sprung And with the choicest clusters hung, In purple rob'd, reclining lay, And catch'd the noontide's fervid ray;
The legislators pass along A solemn, self-important throng! Just raised from the common mass, They feel themselves another class.
The IX Ode to Horace
HORACE. While I was pleasing to your arms, Nor any youth, of happier charms,
Careless Philosopher's Soliloquy
I rise when I please, when I please I lie down, Nor seek, what I care not a rush for, renown; The rattle called wealth I have learnt to despise, Nor aim to be either important or wise.
With the ladies' permission, most humbly I'd mention
How much we're obliged by all their attention;
We sink with the weight of the huge obligation
Too long & too broad to admit compensation.
For us (and I blush while I speak I declare)
The charming enchanters be-torture their hair
Till gently it rises and swells like a knoll
Thirty inches at least from the dear little poll;
From the tip-top of which all peer out together