A Newport Author's Famous Story
For as long as my husband and I have been reading the famed “The Night Before Christmas” story to our children, we have adopted the tradition of driving through the beautiful Kay/Catherine area of Newport each year to show them the house in which the actual story was written. There is even a plaque of Santa Claus himself right on the front of the big, old, white Victorian home so that must mean it was written here right??
Before my children grow up to call their childhood memory of this seasonal tradition a big ole farce, I thought to do a little research on the author, Clement C. Moore. Did he really write the story and did he do so while residing at 25 Catherine Street? And to satisfy my literary curiosity further, I decided to examine some of the fascinating relationships between Newport and some very prominent authors that have called Newport home at one time or another.
Newport RI Authors
Newport was a breeding ground for some of the most incredible literary works of the 19th and 20th centuries. Perhaps the most famous author was Edith Wharton, who penned The Age of Innocence in 1921, a novel that awarded her the Pulitzer Prize. In 1893, after many summers under her parent’s roof, she bought and renovated the house known as “Land’s End” at the southeast end of Ledge Road. Her dear friend and author, Henry James, best known for The Portrait of a Lady, also had a strong connection to Newport. James wrote a wonderful piece in Harper’s Bizarre Magazine in 1906 called “The Sense of Newport”. He profiled Newport, “the city by sea” as an enchanting destination, but was equally beguiled by it as the playground for the super rich in the opulent Guilded Age.
Many authors like Julia Ward Howe, who wrote Battle of the Republic, were from wealthy families who summered here. They were all well traveled and educated and returned year after year drawn to Newport’s natural beauty. Thorton Wilder, another Pulitzer Prize winner, first got his taste of Newport via the Army while stationed at Fort Adams during the final months of World War I. He later returned to Newport, staying at the Castle Hill Inn and wrote several great works including Theophilus North, which was later, adopted for film and shot here in Newport in 1987.
But I digress. What about Clement C. Moore and "The Night Before Christmas"? While Moore is said to be the true author of the wonderful story, he did not write it here in Newport. He did not arrive to our fair city until the 1850’s and the story was said to have been written in 1822 somewhere else.
However, I’ll continue to drive my children by the house, otherwise known as the “Clement C. Moore” house, and discuss not just the infamous story, but all the wonderful things about Newport that I want them to embrace and cherish. From famous authors and the stories that inspired generations of literary masterpieces... and the list continues to grow.
Caroline Richards, Realtor, Hogan Associates, 129 Bellevue Ave., Newport, RI 02840