Ralph Rashleigh [ By: James Tucker ]

Ralph Rashleigh [ By: James Tucker ]

by James Tucker

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Tucker is alleged to have written at Port Macquarie three works: 'Jemmy Green in Australia', a comedy in three acts; 'The Grahames' Vengeance', a historical drama in three acts by 'Otto von Rosenberg'; and 'Ralph Rashleigh or the Life of an Exile', by 'Giacomo di Rosenberg', the advertisement of which was dated 31 December 1845. The manuscripts of these works were first noticed publicly in the Sydney Morning Herald, 9 April 1892, the author being described as 'a convict, an architect by profession … who had been transported for forgery'. They had apparently been bequeathed by the author to Alexander Burnett, who had been overseer in the Road Department and 1838-41 clerk of works under the colonial architect, and who had them for some thirty years before his death in 1885. First published in 1929, Ralph Rashleigh was re-edited in 1952 by Colin Roderick, whose claim for Tucker's authorship has not been conclusively proved. The case for Tucker rests on internal evidence (the manuscripts are in Tucker's hand and the alias of Rosenberg is one he had used in 1826) and on the testimony of a resident of Port Macquarie, Charles Edwin Dick (1875-1953), who had in his youth heard of Tucker's activities from ex-convicts still living there (three other plays were named) and who had in 1889 perused the manuscripts of two other prose works. However, it had also been claimed that Tucker was merely a copyist of works originally composed by another and that the level of education required of the author of Ralph Rashleigh is not to be found in other examples of Tucker's hand, such as the blackmailing letter of 1826 and official Port Macquarie papers of 1846. Until further evidence is produced, the question of authorship is likely to remain in dispute.

In 1847 Tucker was granted a ticket-of-leave for the district of Port Macquarie, but in 1849 was arrested for absence from his district and sent to prison at Goulburn. Tickets-of-leave were again issued to him on 18 March 1850 and for Moreton Bay on 30 January 1853. After this date Tucker is not mentioned in convict records and his movements are not easily traced. It has been asserted that he was the James Tucker who died at Liverpool Asylum on 11 June 1866 aged 72; however, this man has been identified as a free assisted immigrant, who arrived in the Edward Coulson in November 1833. Another James Tucker, native of Bristol, who died at Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, on 20 December 1888, apparently aged 84, had married Louisa Binks at St Laurence Church of England, Sydney, on 19 January 1853 and had at least two children: Valentine Kelso, born at Kelso on 2 November 1858 and Fanny, born at Sydney on 2 August 1864. When registering the birth of his son in 1858 Ticker gave his birthplace as Bristol and age as 49; these details coincide with those of the convict James Tucker.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940012641809
Publisher: Publish This, LLC
Publication date: 02/17/2008
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 408 KB

About the Author

James Tucker is the presumed author of an early Australian novel, Ralph Rashleigh, or The Life of an Exile, by "Giacomo di Rosenberg". This first came to light in 1920, when an old man, Mr. Robert Baxter, brought a battered manuscript to an exhibition by the Royal Australian Historical Society. The manuscript, and three others, had been in his family's possession for 50 years, a gift from another who claimed to have had it from the author 30 years before that.

After 30 more years of controversy and investigation, the authorship was established, with a high degree of probability, to have been the work of James Tucker, a convict.

That being so, the work is therefore the only known novel by an Australian convict, and Australia's earliest novel.

A much-edited version was published in 1929. An "authentic" edition based on the original manuscript was not published until 1952.

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