Jolly Old St. Nicholas
Words: Emily Huntington Miller, printed in "The Little Corporal Magazine," December, 1865.
Source: Mrs. Alfred Gatty, ed., Aunt Judy's May-Day Volume For Young People. Volume 6. No. XXXVI. March, 1869 (London: Bell and Daldy, 1869), p. 316. citing "The Little Corporal Magazine," December, 1865. (See below.)
1. Jolly old St. Nicholas,
Lean your ear this way!
Don't you tell a single soul
What I'm going to say.
Christmas Eve is coming soon!
Now, you dear old man.
Whisper what you'll bring to me;
Tell me, if you can.
2. When the clock is striking twelve.
When I'm fast asleep,
Down the chimney broad and black,
With your pack you'll creep.
All the stockings you will see1
Hanging In a row;
Mine will be the shortest one ó,
You'll be sure to know.
3. Johnny wants a pair of skates.
Susy wants a dolly,
Nelly2 wants a story bookó
She thinks dolls a folly.3
As for me, my little brain
Never was the wisest.4
Choose for me, old Santa Clans,
What you think is nicest.5
Over the years, the following changes to lyrics have occurred:
1. "All the stockings you will find." Return
2. The spelling is changed to Nellie. Return
3. "She thinks dolls are folly." Return
4. "Isnít very bright." Because of this change, the last line must also be changed. Return
5. "What you think is right." Return
One set of lyrics that are commonly sung are reproduced below.
Sheet Music to "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" from James Ramsey Murray, ed., School Chimes: A New School Music Book. (Cleveland, Ohio: S. Brainard's Sons, 1874), No. 86, p. 43.
Sheet Music from J. P. McCaskey, ed., Franklin Square Song Collection, No. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881, p. 80. The citation above the sheet music is to "School Chimes. Per. S. Brainard's Sons," that is, to James Ramsey Murray, School Chimes: A New School Music Book. (Cleveland, Ohio: S. Brainard's Sons, 1874), above.
A musical setting can also be found in Roy Ringwald's Book Of American Carols, #111, pp. 238-241 (2004), who adds a fourth verse.
This is the earliest publication that we've found these verses (so far). Emily Huntington Miller was an Associate Editor of "The Little Corporal Magazine" in December, 1865, and would later become Editor-in-Chief. This magazine merged with the St. Nicholas Magazine in 1875. Attribution elsewhere to Benjamin Russell Hanby is erroneous; Mr. Hamby was the author of a similar song, also in the 1860s, "Up On The Housetop."
The following paragraph in "Aunt Judy's" magazine introduced these verses:
Our old friend "The Little Corporal" (Chicago) had a pretty tale about " Santa Claus " in January, 1866, and a jolly little poem about him in the previous month (December, 1865). As some reparation for our forgetfulness here are the verses:ó
The piece concluded with:
We hope "Gerty" will be pleased with the lines ... .
We understand that Emily Huntington Miller was also the author of the story in the January, 1866, issue of "The Little Corporal Magazine." We have been unable to access either of these two issues to date (as of Jan. 26, 2018).
Late on the same morning that we conducted our research, we discovered that Dr. Mark C. Samples, Assistant Professor of Music and Coordinator of Musicology at Millikin University, had already confirmed that Emily Huntington Miller was the author of these lyrics. Dr. Samples published his findings, "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" in Tradition of Excellence Band Method, Book 1, by Bruce Pearson and Ryan Nowlin. San Diego: Neil A. Kjos Music Publishing Company, 2011.
Here are the lyrics as commonly sung, changed by numerous editors from the original in 1874:
1. Jolly old St. Nicholas, Lean your ear this way!
Donít you tell a single soul, What Iím going to say;
Christmas Eve is coming soon; Now, you dear old man,
Whisper what youíll bring to me; Tell me if you can.
2. When the clock is striking twelve, When I'm fast asleep,
Down the chimney, broad and black, With your pack you'll creep;
All the stockings you will find Hanging in a row;
Mine will be the shortest one, You'll be sure to know.
3. Johnny wants a pair of skates, Susy wants a dolly;
Nellie wants a story book; She thinks dolls are folly;
As for me, my little brain Isnít very bright;
Choose for me, old Santa Claus, What you think is right.
Sheet Music from Eudora Lucas Hailmann, ed., Songs, Games and Rhymes for the Nursery, Kindergarten and Primary School (Springfield, MA: Milton, Bradley Co., 1887), pp. 20-21.
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