By 1849, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” had become a standard of the Christmas season. It was an easy way to please readers: the generation born with the poem now had children; and Clement Moore’s poem had become associated with coziness and good cheer. It should also have become associated with typographical errors. Perhaps because the poem was a standard, perhaps because it was set in type hastily, it attracted typos the way a magnet attracts iron filings. Almost every reprinting before 1873 is its own version. The reprinting in the Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio] is no different: words are left out, letters are left out of words; only one stocking is hung up by the chimney with care, though later St. Nicholas fills multiple stockings. The saving grace is that William Shakespeare probably fared no better. The editor of the Dealer includes a few lines from Hamlet (act 1, scene 1), making Shakespeare’s greatest play into an opening act for the most popular poem in American literature.
“Christmas Times.” (Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio] 24 December 1849; p. 2.)

“Christmas has Come”

With pleasure, again we present the Compliments of the season, to our indulgent readers, and wish them most heartily, a Merry Christmas.

Agreeably to custom, there will be no paper issued to-morrow.

Laying aside anxieties, speculations, politics, the thoughts of war, Oregon, California, and Cuba! let us do meet honor to a season which the great master of Poetry, and of the human affections thus beautifully describes:

Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes

Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated

The bird of dawning singeth all night long:

And then they say no spirit stirs abroad:

The nights are wholesome: then no planet strikes,

No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm

So hallowed and so gracious is the time.

Heap up the fire then—draw close the curtains—let the viol and the tabret sound, the agile foot of childhood twinkle, be merry and be thankful.


’Twas the night before Christmas, when all tho’ [sic] the house

Not a creature was sti[r]ring, not even a mouse.

The stocking was hung by the chimney with care,

In the hope that St. Nicholas* soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

And mama 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 wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his courses they came,

and he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer! now Vixen!

On Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixen!

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

No [sic] 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 the house-top the coursers they flew,

With a sleigh full of toys—and St. Nicholas 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 was turning round,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

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

And his clothes were all tarnished 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 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 work,

And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger astride of his nose,

And giving a nod up the chimney he rose:

He sprang to his slegh, [sic] to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle,

But I head him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,

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


* Santa Claus.

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