Henry Livingston Jr. (1748-1828)
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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The legislators pass along
A solemn, self-important throng!
Just raised from the common mass,
They feel themselves another class.
--But let them in the sunshine play
For every dog must have his day.
There moves the law's close-wedged band
The scourge and terror of the land!