The editor of the Gloucester Telegraph apparently hadn’t heard of St. Nicholas when he reprinted “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1834. “St. Nichols” is unique in the many reprints of the poem. There are other unique touches: the children are “all nested” in their beds, and the old saint flies around before rising up the chimney. These phrases were changed back to the original versions when the Telegraph reprinted the poem in 1841. The 1834 version is one of the first to change the last line from “Happy Christmas to all” to “Merry Christmas to all,” a change the Telegraph would stick with in 1841.
“Christmas” (from the Gloucester Telegraph [Gloucester, Massachusetts] 8 January 1834; p. 1)

’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.

The children were nested all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads,

And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap—

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter;

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

When what to my wandering [sic] 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 coursers 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! Dunder & Blixen:

“To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

“Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sligh full of toys, and St. Nichols 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 turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nichols came with a bound,

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot,

A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

And he looked like a pedlar 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 of 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 jirk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And flying around, 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,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Authors at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.