Friday, October 23, 2015

H. T. Tuckerman ("Knick") in the Boston Evening Transcript, on Melville's The Confidence-Man

Henry Theodore Tuckerman - Brady-Handy
Henry Theodore Tuckerman
Photo by Mathew Brady, via Wikimedia Commons
As mentioned in the previous melvilliana post on newspaper correspondents, it's good to have the fuller listings of popular writers and their pseudonyms. In slightly different words, Boston Post and New York Evening Post articles both acknowledge Henry T. Tuckerman as the author of regular New York literary letters to the Boston Evening Transcript. The Boston Post presented Tuckerman's authorship of the New York letters as a "well known" fact:
"H. T. Tuckerman, the popular essayist and true poet, writes the New York letters to the Boston Transcript, as is well known. The man himself and his literary productions are above all praise. The Transcript is fortunate in having him for its friend." --Boston Post, September 12, 1859
The New York Evening Post dropped the praise but confirmed nevertheless that:
"Henry T. Tuckerman does up New York literature for the Boston Transcript."  --New York Evening Post, August 14, 1860
 New York letters in the Boston Evening Transcript during this period (1855-1860) were signed, "KNICK."

Corroborating Tuckerman's identity as "KNICK," Graham's Illustrated Magazine quoted extensively from one of Knick's published letters in the Evening Transcript but gave away the open secret in crediting Tuckerman as the writer of a tribute to Allibone's Dictionary of Authors:
......The following from a letter by H. T. Tuckerman, in the Boston Evening Transcript of April 2, is a well-merited tribute to a stupendous work, which is destined to be read wherever the English language is spoken, and to become a table-reference for scholars of every grade. 
“We enjoyed another opportunity, last week, of examining the evidence of Mr. Allibone's progress in his great ‘Dictionary of Authors.' Our admiration of his conscientious research and eclectic literary enthusiasm is increased. He leaves no source of information unexplored, no means of illustrating the traits of authorship unimproved. It bewilders one to think even of the range of his investigations and the minuteness of his inquiries..."
Tuckerman-as-Knick is verifiable online, since Google News has the April 2, 1858 issue of the Boston Evening Transcript with Knick's tribute to Allibone that Graham's credited to H. T. Tuckerman. As quoted in advertisements for the Evening Transcript, Willis's Home Journal alluded to the New York star of the Boston paper--however, without naming him:
"Its New York literary correspondent, "Knick," is one of the first essayists in America."
Herman Melville: The Contemporary Reviews, edited by Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker, at page 489 gives the notice of Melville's The Confidence-Man from the Boston Evening Transcript of April 10, 1857. But as shown below, this notice appears within one of those renowned New York letters from "Knick."

That's H. T. Tuckerman!

So Melville's friend Tuckerman, in one of his regular New York letters signed "Knick," wrote favorably of the "Melvillish" Confidence-Man in the Boston Evening Transcript. Knowing that makes you look twice at the neatly appreciative praise of Melville as "an author who deals equally well in the material description and the metaphysical insight of human life." And wouldn't you know it, Hershel Parker is right again:
"Tuckerman was a loyal man." --Herman Melville: A Biography V2.484
Boston Evening Transcript, April 10, 1857
 Found in the historical Newspaper Archives at Genealogy Bank
The Boston Evening Transcript for April 10, 1857 is also available in the archives at Google News.

Tuckerman was more than ready to say a good word for The Confidence-Man. Back on January 29, 1857 Tuckerman's "Knick" letter to the Boston Evening Transcript ended with a look ahead to Melville's next work, hopefully forthcoming:  "...Dix, Edwards & Co promise us very soon a new book by Melville, and another by J. Milton Mackie."

Related post:


  1. Hurrah and hurray and huzza for Scott Norsworthy!

  2. Here is an obituary of Henry Theodore Tuckerman from Potter's American Monthly. Tuckerman died on December 17, 1871 at age 58.