Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, December 18, 2005

1849 illustration by Boyd to "A Visit From St. Nicholas";
this one is closest to the text of the poem.

The Thomas Nast Santa, 1881. Some web sites color his suit red;
I'm not confident of the authenticity.

The Coca-Cola Santa, drawn by Haddon Sundblom in the 1930s.

Blogging from my sister's house in Chicago. Cold weather -- 14 degrees Farenheit when she picked us up at the airport, 10 degrees 25 minutes later at her house! Good to be here.

Last year I looked online for a collection of Nast Santas in book form. Couldn't find one.
Thanks, Jody "The Anachronist" Rosen and A.C. "sounds and fury" Douglas, for your comments. It appears you are both right: Nast gave Santa his bulk, and Coke gave him his red suit. But I love that feral Puck-ish Santa as drawn by Boyd; another of his illustrations from that edition -- which is the first single-poem book edition of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" -- is featured on the cover of Stephen Nissenbaum's fascinating book "The Battle for Christmas." And it's just plum interesting to me that modern illustrations of the old poem give us a Coca Cola Santa in flat contradiction to the words he purportedly illustrates.
By the way, I've never found the Shakespeare-authorship controversy all that persuasive, though for Borgesian reasons I love the theory that the works weren't written by William Shakespeare but by a different man with the same name. I am, however, a firm Livingstonian in the "Night Before Christmas" controversy. A few years ago, in his book "Author Unknown," Don Foster proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Henry Livingston, not Clement Clarke Moore, wrote "A Visit," which in its first publication was called "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas. Burton Stevenson came very close to making the same conclusion in his book "Famous Single Poems and the Controversies which Have Raged Around Them" in the early 1920s; but he finally decided on Moore on the grounds that a professor of theology wouldn't have lied about so serious a matter as authorship. Foster found evidence that Moore could very well have lied; that, indeed, he may have lied about other writings as well. Foster and Stevenson agree that stylistically "A Visit" is 99% closer to the style of the extant writings of Livingston than Moore; Foster also shows that in the original 1822 publication, the last 2 of Santa's 8 reindeer were "Dunder and Blixem," a common Nederlandish expression meaning "Thunder and Lightning!" Livingston was of Dutch ancestry; Moore knew German but not Dutch and changed it to "Donder and Blitzen." Expressions like, "Moore's poem," such as Jody used in his terrific profile of Mannheim Steamroller honcho and "Convoy" composer Chip Douglas in the New York Times magazine today, remain sadly accurate, though, since most people haven't read Foster's book and Moore's spiritual ownership of the poem is still generally endorsed.
If I don't check in again for a week or 10 days -- and I'm not planning to, really (well, at least not after tomorrow night) -- Cheers.

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