The Info List - A Visit From St. Nicholas

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'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 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 luster of mid-day to objects below; When, what to my wondering 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 call'd them by name: "NOW! DASHER, NOW! DANCER, NOW! PRANCER AND VIXEN, "ON! COMET, ON! CUPID, ON! DUNDER AND BLIXEM; "To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! "Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!" As dry leaves that 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 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 around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound: He was dress'd 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 look'd like a peddler 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 laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly: He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laugh'd 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 fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprung 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—‌ Happy Christmas
to all, and to all a good night.

"A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS", more commonly known as "THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS" and "\'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore
Clement Clarke Moore
, who claimed authorship in 1837. Some commentators now believe the poem was written by Henry Livingston Jr. .

The poem has been called "arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American" and is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus
Santa Claus
from the mid-nineteenth century to today. It has had a massive impact on the history of Christmas
gift-giving. Before the poem gained wide popularity, American ideas had varied considerably about Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
and other Christmastide
visitors. "A Visit from St. Nicholas" eventually was set to music and has been recorded by many artists.


* 1 Plot * 2 Meter * 3 Literary history * 4 Original copies

* 5 Authorship controversy

* 5.1 Evidence in favor of Moore * 5.2 Evidence in favor of Livingston

* 6 In popular culture

* 6.1 Comics * 6.2 Films * 6.3 Literature * 6.4 Music and spoken word * 6.5 Radio and television * 6.6 Other

* 7 See also * 8 References * 9 External links


On Christmas
Eve night, while his wife and children sleep, a father awakens to noises outside his house. Looking out the window, he sees Santa Claus
Santa Claus
( Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
) in an air-borne sleigh pulled by eight reindeer . After landing his sleigh on the roof, the saint enters the house through the chimney, carrying a sack of toys with him. The father watches Santa filling the children's Christmas
stockings hanging by the fire, and laughs to himself. They share a conspiratorial moment before Santa bounds up the chimney again. As he flies away, Santa wishes everyone a "Happy Christmas
to all, and to all a good night."


The poem's meter is anapestic tetrameter (four feet of unstressed-unstressed-stressed). The anapest is the same foot used to construct limericks, and the common metrical modifications that can be observed in the limerick form also can be observed in Moore's poem. For example, while the first two lines each use full anapests, lines 3 and 4 each drop the first unstressed syllable. Likewise, lines 9 and 10 drop the first unstressed syllable; they also add an extra unstressed syllable to the end.


Clement Clarke Moore
Clement Clarke Moore
, the author of A Visit from St. Nicholas
A Visit from St. Nicholas

According to legend, "A Visit" was composed by Clement Clarke Moore on a snowy winter's day during a shopping trip on a sleigh . His inspiration for the character of Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
was a local Dutch handyman as well as the historical Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
. Moore originated many of the features that are still associated with Santa Claus
Santa Claus
today while borrowing other aspects, such as the use of reindeer. The poem was first published anonymously in the Troy, New York
Troy, New York
Sentinel on 23 December 1823, having been sent there by a friend of Moore, and was reprinted frequently thereafter with no name attached. It was first attributed in print to Moore in 1837. Moore himself acknowledged authorship when he included it in his own book of poems in 1844. By then, the original publisher and at least seven others had already acknowledged his authorship. Moore had a reputation as an erudite professor and had not wished at first to be connected with the unscholarly verse. He included it in the anthology at the insistence of his children, for whom he had originally written the piece.

Moore's conception of Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
was borrowed from his friend Washington Irving
Washington Irving
(see below ), but Moore portrayed his "jolly old elf" as arriving on Christmas
Eve rather than Christmas
Day . At the time that Moore wrote the poem, Christmas
Day was overtaking New Year\'s Day as the preferred genteel family holiday of the season, but some Protestants
viewed Christmas
as the result of "Catholic ignorance and deception" and still had reservations. By having Saint Nicholas arrive the night before, Moore "deftly shifted the focus away from Christmas
Day with its still-problematic religious associations." As a result, "New Yorkers embraced Moore's child-centered version of Christmas
as if they had been doing it all their lives."

In An American Anthology, 1787–1900, editor Edmund Clarence Stedman reprinted the Moore version of the poem, including the German spelling of "Donder and Blitzen" that he adopted, rather than the earlier Dutch version from 1823 "Dunder and Blixem ." Both phrases translate as " Thunder
and Lightning
" in English , though the German word for thunder is "Donner" and the words in modern Dutch would be "Donder en Bliksem."

Modern printings frequently incorporate alterations that reflect changing linguistic and cultural sensibilities. For example, breast in "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow" is frequently bowdlerized to crest; the archaic ere in "But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight" is frequently replaced with as. Note that this change implies that Santa Claus
Santa Claus
made his exclamation during the moment that he disappeared from view, while the exclamation came before his disappearance in the original. "Happy Christmas
to all, and to all a good-night" is frequently rendered with the traditional English locution "\'Merry Christmas\' " and with "goodnight" as a single word.


'Twas the night before Christmas
(credit: New-York Historical Society )

Four hand-written copies of the poem are known to exist and three are in museums, including the New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
library. The fourth copy, written out and signed by Clement Clarke Moore
Clement Clarke Moore
as a gift to a friend in 1860, was sold by one private collector to another in December 2006. It was purchased for $280,000 by an unnamed "chief executive officer of a media company" who resides in New York City
New York City
, according to Dallas, Texas -based Heritage Auctions which brokered the private sale.


Moore's connection with the poem has been questioned by Professor Donald Foster , who used textual content analysis and external evidence to argue that Moore could not have been the author. Foster believes that Major Henry Livingston Jr. , a New Yorker with Dutch and Scottish roots, should be considered the chief candidate for authorship, a view long espoused by the Livingston family. Livingston was distantly related to Moore's wife. Foster's claim, however, has been countered by document dealer and historian Seth Kaller, who once owned one of Moore's original manuscripts of the poem. Kaller has offered a point-by-point rebuttal of both Foster's linguistic analysis and external findings, buttressed by the work of autograph expert James Lowe and Dr. Joe Nickell, author of Pen, Ink and Evidence.


Moore is credited by his friend Charles Fenno Hoffman as author in the 25 December 1837 Pennsylvania Inquirer and Daily Courier. Further, the Rev. David Butler, who allegedly showed the poem to Sentinel editor Orville L. Holley , was a relative of Moore's. A letter to Moore from the publisher states, "I understand from Mr. Holley that he received it from Mrs. Sackett, the wife of Mr. Daniel Sackett who was then a merchant in this city". Moore preferred to be known for his more scholarly works, but allowed the poem to be included in his anthology in 1844 at the request of his children. By that time, the original publisher and at least seven others had already acknowledged his authorship. Livingston family lore gives credit to their forebear rather than Moore, but there is no proof that Livingston himself ever claimed authorship, nor has any record ever been found of any printing of the poem with Livingston's name attached to it, despite more than 40 years of searches.


Advocates for Livingston's authorship argue that Moore "tried at first to disavow" the poem. They also posit that Moore falsely claimed to have translated a book. Document dealer and historian Seth Kaller has challenged both claims. Kaller examined the book in question, A Complete Treatise on Merinos and Other Sheep, as well as many letters signed by Moore, and found that the "signature" was not penned by Moore, and thus provides no evidence that Moore made any plagiaristic claim. Kaller's findings were confirmed by autograph expert James Lowe, by Dr. Joe Nickell
Joe Nickell
, the author of Pen, Ink "> Some contend that Henry Livingston Jr. , not Moore, was the author of the poem

The following points have been advanced in order to credit the poem to Major Henry Livingston Jr.:

Livingston also wrote poetry primarily using an anapaestic metrical scheme, and it is claimed that some of the phraseology of A Visit is consistent with other poems by Livingston, and that Livingston's poetry is more optimistic than Moore's poetry published in his own name. But Stephen Nissenbaum argues in his Battle for Christmas
that the poem could have been a social satire of the Victorianization of Christmas. Furthermore, Kaller claims that Foster cherry-picked only the poems that fit his thesis and that many of Moore's unpublished works have a tenor, phraseology, and meter similar to A Visit. Moore had even written a letter titled "From Saint Nicholas" that may have predated 1823.

Foster also contends that Moore hated tobacco and would, therefore, never have depicted Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
with a pipe. However, Kaller notes, the source of evidence for Moore's supposed disapproval of tobacco is The Wine Drinker, another poem by him. In actuality, that verse contradicts such a claim. Moore's The Wine Drinker criticizes self-righteous, hypocritical advocates of temperance who secretly indulge in the substances which they publicly oppose, and supports the social use of tobacco in moderation (as well as wine, and even opium, which was more acceptable in his day than it is now).

Foster also asserts that Livingston's mother was Dutch, which accounts for the references to the Dutch Sinteklaes tradition and the use of the Dutch names "Dunder and Blixem". Against this claim, it is suggested by Kaller that Moore — a friend of writer Washington Irving and member of the same literary society — may have acquired some of his knowledge of New York Dutch traditions from Irving. Irving had written A History of New York in 1809 under the name of "Dietrich Knickerbocker." It includes several references to legends of Saint Nicholas, including the following that bears a close relationship to the poem:

And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream,‍—‌and lo, the good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children, and he descended hard by where the heroes of Communipaw had made their late repast. And he lit his pipe by the fire, and sat himself down and smoked; and as he smoked, the smoke from his pipe ascended into the air and spread like a cloud overhead. And Oloffe bethought him, and he hastened and climbed up to the top of one of the tallest trees, and saw that the smoke spread over a great extent of country; and as he considered it more attentively, he fancied that the great volume of smoke assumed a variety of marvelous forms, where in dim obscurity he saw shadowed out palaces and domes and lofty spires, all of which lasted but a moment, and then faded away, until the whole rolled off, and nothing but the green woods were left. And when St. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the tree-tops and disappeared. — Washington Irving, A History of New York

MacDonald P. Jackson , Emeritus Professor
of English at the University of Auckland
University of Auckland
, New Zealand and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand , has spent his entire academic career analyzing authorship attribution. He has written a book titled Who Wrote "the Night Before Christmas"?: Analyzing the Clement Clarke Moore
Clement Clarke Moore
Vs. Henry Livingston Question, published in 2016, in which he evaluates the opposing arguments and, for the first time, uses the author-attribution techniques of modern computational stylistics to examine the long-standing controversy. Jackson employs a range of tests and introduces a new one, statistical analysis of phonemes; he concludes that Livingston is the true author of the classic work.


Cover of a 1912 edition of the poem, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith

A Visit from St. Nicholas, being very well-known, has inspired many parodies , adaptations, and references in popular culture.


* In the Garfield
comic strips published during the week of 19–24 December 1983, the text of the poem was drawn above scenes of Garfield acting out the part of the narrator. * From 13–25 December 2010, Over the Hedge
Over the Hedge
covered the poem in a story arc, in which Verne tries to read it to Hammy and R.J., but keeps getting interrupted by their silly comments. * The 11 December 1968 installation of Peanuts
features Sally Brown attempting to recite the poem but inadvertently substituting the name of golfer Jack Nicklaus for "Saint Nicholas" ("The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that Jack Nicklaus soon would be there"), after which Charlie Brown is hesitant to correct her. * Issue 40 of the DC Comics
DC Comics
book Young Justice (2001) is a full-length parody of the poem. Unusual for a comic book, it features no panels or word balloons , only full-page illustrations accompanied by rhyming text. In the story, Santa sacrifices his life to save the world from a vengeful alien villain (though it's implied he'll be reborn next Christmas) and the teen heroes are stuck with the task of delivering all his gifts. * Florence Cestac adapted it for Christmas
Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Nineteen (2010).


* The short silent film The Night Before Christmas
(1905) was the first production of the poem on film. * In the 1933 Pooch the Pup cartoon Merry Dog (1933), Pooch recites the poem. When he mentions the line "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse," a rat finds it ludicrous, and therefore comes out to cause a little trouble. * The Silly Symphonies cartoon short, The Night Before Christmas (1933), * The Tom "> * Lance Corporal
Lance Corporal
James M. Schmidt penned "Merry Christmas, My friend. A Marine's version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'" (1986). * James Thurber\'s parody, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas
IN THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY MANNER", which originally appeared in the 24 December 1927, issue of The New Yorker
The New Yorker
. * Trosclair's children's book, The Cajun
Night Before Christmas (1973), offers a Cajun
version of the classic tale, written in Cajun dialect and changing the scene to a Louisiana
swamp and the saint's vehicle to a skiff pulled by alligators . * In E.B. White\'s novel Stuart Little (1945), the title character's parents change the second line to "not even a louse", so as not to offend their son, who is a mouse.


The Librarian of Congress
Librarian of Congress
, Dr. James Billington , reads The Night Before Christmas
to the Little Scholars, December 2010

* In 1953, Perry Como
Perry Como
recorded a reading of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Its original release was on the Around the Christmas
Tree LPM-3133. * In 1955, Jo Stafford
Jo Stafford
recorded a reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" on her Christmas
album Happy Holiday . * The Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
CD Christmas
Through the Years includes Louis reading the poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas", better known as "The Night before Christmas". Recorded on 26 February 1971 in the den of his Corona, Queens
Corona, Queens
home (now the Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
House Museum ), it is his last commercial recording, and the only one without his own music. * The nu metal band Korn
released a limited edition promotional 12-inch single
12-inch single
in 1993, which featured two versions of their "A Visit from St. Nicholas" parody: " Christmas
Song (Squeak by the FCC version)" and " Christmas
Song (Blatant FCC Violation version)". The song was also planned to appear in Korn's debut album , but eventually was not included. * The poem was set to music by Ken Darby and recorded by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians in 1942 in an arrangement by Harry Simeone . * Dave Seville recorded the poem for the 1963 album Christmas
with The Chipmunks, Vol. 2 . * Anthony Daniels voiced the character of C-3PO on Meco Monardo\'s 1980 record Christmas
in the Stars reciting "A Christmas
Sighting ('Twas the Night Before Christmas)", in which he describes "S. Claus" coming to the droids' toy factory to pick up the year's presents to distribute. * Actor Jack Palance
Jack Palance
narrates the poem on Laurie Z\'s 2001 recording, "Heart of the Holidays". * Under the title "A Visit From St. Nick", the poem was set for Speaker & Orchestra by Robert Lichtenberger in 1987. It was commissioned for and premiered by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Polochick, and repeated by the BSO on a number of subsequent Christmas
holiday concerts. The work has also been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra
National Symphony Orchestra
of Washington, DC
Washington, DC
, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by the late Erich Kunzel , the Maryland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Elizabeth Schulze as well as other ensembles in the USA. Narrators have included then-mayor-of-Baltimore Kurt Schmoke
Kurt Schmoke
, actor George Clooney
George Clooney
and actress Pat Carroll . * The poem was set to music by Aaron Dai in 2006 as "The Night Before Christmas
". It has been performed by The Chelsea Symphony and noteworthy narrators such as Richard Kind
Richard Kind
, Ana Gasteyer
Ana Gasteyer
, and David Hyde Pierce . * A Pokémon
version of this poem is included on the soundtrack CD album of Pokémon-themed Christmas
songs entitled Pokémon
Christmas Bash. * In a 1939 recording included in the Nimbus Records collection Prima Voce: The Spirit of Christmas
Past, actor Basil Rathbone
Basil Rathbone
reads the poem. * The Bob Rivers comedy album Twisted Christmas
features the track "A Visit from St. Nicholson", a narration of a Christmas
visit from Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson
. * In the Dave Van Ronk
Dave Van Ronk
song "Yas Yas Yas", the poem is parodied in the verse "'Twas the night before Christmas, all was quiet in the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, when from the lawn there came a big crash. It was Father Christmas
landing on his yas yas yas." * A new rock/pop musical adaptation was released in 2011 by the artist JJ's Tunes "> * In the Barney and the Backyard Gang
Barney and the Backyard Gang
special, " Waiting for Santa ", Barney reads the story to Michael and Amy, whom he has befriended, while Santa himself is in the living room of the house doing his usual work. He falls asleep just as he comes to "With a little old driver, so lively and quick/I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick." Santa whispers the last quotation to the camera after that. * In the 1961 Bell Telephone Hour television program A Trip to Christmas, Ken Darby's musical version of the poem is performed off-screen by hostess Jane Wyatt and a chorus, and enacted onscreen by the Bil Baird Marionettes. * The 23 December 2011 broadcast of the CBS Evening News
CBS Evening News
ended with Scott Pelley saying: "Merry Christmas
to all, and to all a good night!" * Some holiday airings of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy had Charlie McCarthy trying to recite the poem from memory, resulting in such lines as: "The stockings were hung by the chimney with care/In hopes that the laundryman soon would be there". (A few times the line went: "In hopes that the room could stand some fresh air"), "He flies through the air with the greatest of ease/The jolly old elf in the red BVD\'s ", and "Now, Dasher, Now, Dancer, and what do you know/Dasher and Dancer paid $220 to show!" * The song with the poem as its basis, arranged by Harry Simeone and music by Ken Darby, was performed at holiday airings of Fibber McGee and Molly , usually introduced by Teeny, the neighbor girl, as their " Christmas
Carol". * At the beginning of Friends (TV series) episode 9, "The One with Christmas
in Tulsa " (airdate 26 September 2002), Phoebe sings the last four lines of The Night Before Christmas, and Joey claims she wrote it. Another reference is seen is episode 10 of season 7, "The One with the Holiday Armadillo " (aired December 14, 2000), when Ross asks Chandler to leave and Chandler responds by saying "But I didn't get to shake my belly like a bowl full of jelly!" * The special Power Rangers Megaforce episode, "Robo Knight Before Christmas", ends with Robo Knight saying: "Merry Christmas
to all humans on Earth, and to all a good night!" * The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show
The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show
story arc " Topsy Turvy World " featured a plot by Boris Badenov to replace Santa Claus
Santa Claus
for nefarious purposes. The cliffhanger pun titles for one segment of the storyline were: "'The Fright Before Christmas', or 'A Visit From Saint Nicholouse '." * The Shake It Up episode "Merry Merry it Up" ended with Flynn in the hot tub, saying "Merry Christmas
to all, and to all a good soak!" * A hip-hop animated version of the poem was made as an hour-long animated special, The Night B4 Christmas. * Bell Telephone Company
Bell Telephone Company
sponsored a short film titled The Spirit of Christmas
(circa 1950), featuring the Les and Mabel Beaton marionettes . Within a few years, it became a holiday perennial in many TV markets, especially in the Philadelphia
area. In subsequent years it was licensed out as a 16mm film and shown in schools during the Christmas
season. * In the animated TV special by Rankin/Bass (1974), titled Twas the Night Before Christmas
, the characters and portions of the plot are loosely based on the poem. * In the Cabin Pressure radio show on BBC4 the intro of the episode Molokai references some verses of the poem.


* For Christmas
1985, the Internet Engineering Task Force
Internet Engineering Task Force
circulated an RFC document that was actually a poem about the early days of the Internet, titled "Twas the Night Before Start-up". * A version that originated on USENET
in 1988 has circulated on Internet message boards and chain emails ever since. The entire poem is rephrased using more complicated and lesser known words. It is sometimes called "Technical Night Before Christmas" or subtitled "For readers in their 23rd year of schooling". * "The Night Before Doom", which appears in the Official DOOM F.A.Q., is a poem centered on the computer game Doom (1993). * "Are Santa's Reindeer
Used for Propulsion or Navigation?" (2013), written by Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
student Phillip M. Cunio, deconstructs the poem to determine the answer to that question.


* Santa Claus\'s reindeer * Old Santeclaus with Much Delight



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Washington Post
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Louis Armstrong
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Song U.S. 12" Vinyl (EAS 6643)\'". Korn
Is Peachy. GeoCities.com
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* Jackson, MacDonald P. (2016). Who Wrote "The Night Before Christmas"?: Analyzing the Clement Clarke Moore
Clement Clarke Moore
vs. Henry Livingston Question. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476664439 . * Foster, Donald (2000). Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-6357-9 . * Gardner, Martin (1991). The Annotated Night Before Christmas: A Collection Of Sequels, Parodies, And Imitations Of Clement Moore's Immortal Ballad About Santa Claus; Edited, with an introduction and notes, by Martin Gardner. Summit Books. ISBN 0-671-70839-2 . * Nissenbaum, Stephen (1997). The Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Christmas
that Shows How It Was Transformed from an Unruly Carnival Season into the Quintessential American Family Holiday. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-41223-9 . * Niels Henry Sonne . "The Night Before Christmas"—Who Wrote It? S.l: s.n, 1972. Reprinted from The Historical magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, vol. 41, no. 4, pages 373-380.


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