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James Tucker James Tucker i(A3736 works by) (a.k.a. James Rosenberg Tucker)
Also writes as: Otto Von Rosenberg ; Giacomo Di Rosenberg
Born: Established: 1808 Bristol,
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 1888 Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
Arrived in Australia: 1827
Heritage: English
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Described by Colin Roderick as an 'educated Imperial convict', James Tucker had been a student at a school attached to Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, a Jesuit seminary, from 1814 to 1821. As pupils were admitted normally at the age of eleven, it has been argued that Tucker was more likely born in 1803, rather that 1808, which was probably the year of his baptism. On 3 March 1826, under the name James Rosenberg Tucker, he was tried at the Essex Assizes, charged with writing and sending a threatening letter to his cousin. He was found guilty and transported to Australia for life. He arrived in Sydney Cove in February 1827 on the convict ship, Midas, giving his occupation as clerk and shopman.

In the convict colony of New South Wales he was sent to Emu Plains Agricultural Establishment at the foot of the Blue Mountains, where he may have taken part in theatrical activities. During the 1830s he worked at the colonial architect's office in Sydney, winning a ticket of leave in 1835. He lost and regained his ticket-of-leave several times for various offences, moving to Maitland, Port Macquarie, Goulbourn and Moreton Bay before disappearing from convict records. While at Port Macquarie Tucker seems to have initiated theatrical entertainments, and also is said to have written several literary works; manuscripts of two, Jemmy Green in Australia (a comedy, first published 1955) and The Grahames' Vengeance (a historical drama by 'Otto von Rosenberg'), and a novel, Ralph Rashleigh (by 'Giacomo di Rosenberg'), have survived.

The existence of these works was first noticed publicly in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1892, when their authorship was linked with Francis Greenway. In 1920 the manuscripts were brought to an exhibition organised by the Royal Australian Historical Society, whose president sent Ralph Rashleigh to London. It was published there in 1929, in a severely edited form, as a convict memoir. After research in 1949-51 Roderick established the connections between Tucker and the manuscripts, and was responsible for the editions of Ralph Rashleigh and Jemmy Green in Australia which were published in 1952 and 1955 respectively. Primarily a picaresque novel, Ralph Rashleigh also conforms to other genres such as the English criminal novel and the guidebook genre popular at the time.

Some scholars believe that Tucker died in Sydney in 1888, but others have linked him to the earlier death of a James Tucker at the Liverpool Asylum in 1866. Some commentators, notably M.H. Ellis in an exchange with Roderick in the Bulletin December 1952 to February 1953, have argued that Tucker was a copyist whose known writing, e.g. the 1826 letter, does not reveal the kind of literacy and education required of the author of Ralph Rashleigh. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the authorship of Ralph Rashleigh and Jemmy Green in Australia, they remain widely admired as two of the best works on the transportation system written in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Source: Tucker, James The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. William H. Wilde, Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews. Oxford University Press 1994. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Queensland University. 13 November 2007

Most Referenced Works


  • See also the full Australian Dictionary of Biography Online entry for Tucker, James.

Known archival holdings

National Library of Australia (ACT)
Last amended 18 Jan 2013 10:26:46
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