James Tucker, 1803-1866

Portrait

Biographical note

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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