Frederick Goddard Tuckerman: Poems

Tuckerman and his Contemporaries

Wilson goes on to draw a comparison to the work of Emily Dickinson and wonders at the missed intersection between the lives and work of these two reclusive, western Massachusetts poets, as well as with the correspondent and literary mentor of Dickinson, Thomas Wentworth Higginson: "Tuckerman's occasional obscurity, like that of Emily Dickinson, contributes to one's general impression of a soliloquy not quite overheard. It is interesting that Emily Dickinson should have known Frederick's brother Edward, who taught botany at Amherst College, and also Tuckerman's son and his son's wife. There is a good deal about the Tuckermans in Emily's letters; but—though Greenfield is not far from Amherst -- there is no mention of Frederick Goddard. Did Emily know that the father of her friend, almost as much a recluse as herself, was writing remarkable poetry? Had Tuckerman ever been told that Emily Dickinson wrote? Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson—though he and Tuckerman had been classmates at Harvard—had no notion of Tuckerman's talent. Old Higginson was still alive when Tuckerman was rediscovered [see below], and in response to an inquiry by Witter Bynner, he explained that he remembered his contemporary 'as a refined and gentlemanly fellow, but I did not then know him as a poet'."[8]

Eugene England discusses Tuckerman's position as a Romantic poet and his work in relation to that of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "He is not merely a Romantic, nor yet exclusively an anti-Romantic; not just influenced by Emerson or simply reacting against Emerson's excesses ... With the Romantics, Tuckerman yearned to be at home in the universe, to feel himself deeply related to its central reality, and he understood and participated in various efforts to bring that about—including the Emersonian temptation to assert a pantheism that would make everything divine and thus destroy all ethical distinctions and exalt simple merging, including the final merge of death. But Tuckerman also realized that alienation is part of the price we pay for our humanness, for conscious life and perceived feeling, that the void between the mind and the world remains, unless we destroy the mind in primitivism or death—or do away with the world in some form of subjectivism.[9]

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