When Clement Moore wrote his poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, his most profound inspiration came from a keen appreciation of his audience. He wasn’t writing for publication, but to delight his own six children. To that end, he transformed the legendary figure of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, into Santa Claus, a fairy tale character for children.
Moore himself was a dour, straitlaced academician and a professor of classics. The year he wrote the poem, he refused to have it published, despite its enthusiastic reception by everyone who read it. The following Christmas A Visit from St. Nicholas found its way into the mass media when a family member submitted it to an out-of-town newspaper. The poem (also known by the title ’Twas the Night Before Christmas) was an “overnight sensation,” as we would say today, but Moore was not to acknowledge authorship of it until fifteen years later, when he reluctantly included it in a volume of collected works. He called the poem “a mere trifle.”
The irony of this, according to Duncan Emrich (author of Folklore on the American Land), is that for all his protestations, Professor Clement Clarke Moore is now remembered for little else at all.