Many versions of The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore were available. That poem is as ubiquitous in this season of the year as decorated trees and jingling bells. But there is something vastly wrong with it.
That poem–also known as A Visit From Saint Nicholas–is said to be a fraud.
The evidence says Clement Clarke Moore did not write it.
First, a little background.
The September 2001 issue of “Smithsonian” magazine carried a fascinating article about a forensic linguist named Don Foster. Titled “Don Foster Has a Way With Words,” the article introduced this Vassar professor who is known for his detective abilities regarding works of literature.
This same Professor Don Foster proved that Ted Kaczynski wrote the Unabomber Manifesto. He identified Joe Klein as the “anonymous” author of “Primary Colors” a few years back, and he uncovered and established the authenticity of a Shakespeare elegy.
He does this by studying the wording of the written pieces–that is, the word choices, phrasing, and numerous other aspects of a document–and comparing it with known samples of the writings of various people. He then announces which of the suspects is the actual author.
I had to know more. So, I drove to our local library and checked out his book, “Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous” (published by Henry Holt, 2000).