Project Canterbury

Doctor Tucker, Priest-Musician:
A Sketch which Concerns the Doings and Thinkings of
the Rev. John Ireland Tucker, S.T.D.
Including a Brief Converse about the Rise and Progress of Church Music in America.

By Christopher W. Knauff, M.A.

New York: A.D.F. Randolph, 1897.

Chapter XX. Afterward

It was on a Sunday, not long after the day of the memorable burial, that two persons walked in Oakwood, near to the place of his resting. They noted the bank of flowers there preserved. Said one of the visitors: "Is that Doctor Tucker's grave?"

Being answered in the affirmative, the woman continued:

I am no Episcopalian; hut Dr. Tucker was one good man. I knew him thirty years ago. My husband was a real-estate agent; he rented a house to a man who came here with his family, and tried to make a living by teaching music. He did not get on very well here, and finally went to Hoosack Falls, leaving his family in the house. Not long afterwards he came home late one night, and his wife soon came to our house, asking my husband to go for Dr. Vincent, as her husband was very ill.

Dr. Vincent came, and said there was no hope for the man; then, at their request, my husband went for Dr. Tucker. I remember it was just at the break of day when he came. After a few words with the sick man, he knelt down by his bed, and offered up the best prayer I ever heard in my life.

The man died soon after. Dr. Tucker paid the expenses of the funeral, took the girls into his school, found employment for the boys, and in fact raised that family until they could care for themselves. There is no doubt about it--he was really a good man.

On the 18th of September a memorial Celebration was held at the Church of the Holy Cross, the Bishop of the Diocese being Celebrant and Preacher. The sermon consisted of a brief address, in a part of which the Bishop said:

You and I are here today for the first Communion Service since this pulpit became empty. I am not seeking to fill it, and I thank God that no man can fill it. When God raises us individuals. He is not as cheap and mean as you and I. Dr. Tucker's place can never be filled, and we would not have it filled. But it would be a dishonor to him and a discredit to God if the work he began should go into unworthy hands, for he was too good a workman. You and I are here, for the first time since the burial service never to be forgotten. We came then to share our common sorrow. Today we come for a memorial Celebration of the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is a thanksgiving. He had faith, love, hope; and because he believed and loved whatever God told him, he gained the increase. What can we find depicted more grand than his beautiful character?

So there began a series of offices in memory.

On the 29th of the same month the Rev. H. R. Freeman delivered a discourse at St. John's Church, in memory of Doctor Tucker. Other memorial services were held elsewhere.

On the recurrence of the Feast of All Saints, the loving ones, remembering ever, could not but give chief place to this high saint of God. Under the auspices of parish guilds, a service was held in the open air, at Oakwood, about the new-made grave. Parishioners and visiting clergy were present. The faithful choir was on duty; each member carried a bunch of flowers; later these were laid upon the mound of earth. Large floral crosses and other offerings had been sent by the four guilds of the parish.

Dr. Maxcy chanted the especial office. Among the hymns there were two having tender significance and association. One was

The Saints of God!
Their conflict past,
And life's long battle won at last,

which was sung to Stainer's setting; the other was the elder Bishop Doane's hymn, "Thou art the way," set to one of the tunes the authorship of which is marked in the Hymnal by the modest initials "J. I. T." So two friends who had loved long, parted for a while but now reunited in Paradise, were associated in this office of All Saints at Oakwood: the one as the author of a hymn, the other the composer of the tune to which the words were sung.

Doctor Tucker's composition for the 425th Hymn will no doubt come into use more and more as it becomes the better known. It is eminently proper for this particular wording, and it is a noble sacred song.

Yet one year later, when All Saints' came round again, the good people might not yet forget; so long as they live they are bound to remember and pray for him, with reference to whom they give God thanks. A memorial service was held "for all the saints," but with especial remembrance of the names associated with the parish. This time the office was said in Church, on the afternoon of the Feast. Bishop Doane made the address. Again his father's hymn was sung to the tune by "J. I. T." A large number of local clergy were in attendance. Other music composed by the late Rector had place in the festival services.

A few months after the day of parting, the present writer stepped within the confines of the "parsonage," as it was ordinarily styled in Troy. The place was forsaken--no one dwelling therein. Yet there was enough about the walls and rooms to convey an indefinable sense of the presence which had passed away. Rooks were everywhere, not only in the two libraries, but in unexpected localities, such as in the entry passages far up on the third floor. All the volumes, except the hymnals, had been willed to St. Stephen's College, long served by Doctor Tucker. At the time of my visit a few books were already in packing boxes, ready for transshipment; but enough remained to indicate the character of the late owner. There were fine editions of belles lettres. One would read the title "Hawthorne's 'Our Old Home,'" and of many another favorite. Good editions were the rule. Encyclopaedias appeared in the original English print, likewise standard books of theology.

Dr. Maxcy once made the remark that the Rector of the Holy Cross was an omnivorous reader, rapid but accurate, making- the hook his own. He was also great in the preparation of indexes of that which had been read.

The furnishing of the house was liberal; it all gave token of culture. But in the Doctor's bedroom on the third floor--the apartment which concerned only himself and which entered not into the service of others--one would be struck by the extreme simplicity. Here asceticism found play--in this case, sign of unselfishness and generosity.

Below, in the drawing-room, there was a grand piano, as became the home of a musician. And, like the books, paintings were manifest at every turn.

In the hallway, at first entrance one would note colored prints of the Vatican and St. Peter's, Rome. In the dining-room, at the right, etchings have place, including a striking picture by Haig of the Cathedral of Toledo, in which a procession is just entering the choir. Over the sideboard is an etching of Canterbury. In another frame, monks are at a Friday refection; there is much fish, but large flasks are also brought in. Sir Walter Scott appears in one corner; beneath this the Kaulbach engraving of Goethe's "Lottie" cutting bread for the children. Beside the mantel-glass Salisbury comes into view.

Mount to the second story by the broad stairway; pass before the many books lining the entry-way, and you find yourself in the front study, having the solid cases of black walnut built up into the structure of the apartment. Here are the large standard works of theology, for reference. This was the original study, used years ago. Over the mantel-shelf there is a colored print, "Le Recit de Missionaire," who sits and tells his story--about his serious work--to monks that care not; they are heedless, attending to lighter affairs.

Beside this is the drawing-room, with the grand piano and a library of valuable music. Paintings in oils hang on the walls. There is a great canvas showing "Ruth and Naomi"; another, "The Early Mass"; yet again, "Isaac and Rebecca." The "Mater Dolorosa" is prominent, but St. Cecilia presides over the precincts largely devoted to her art.

At the back of the building was located the second study, occupied by the Doctor for a number of recent years. Here was the working plant for every-day use: a writing-table, large files of manuscripts, of papers; also books, photographs, engravings. The portraits of friends hang within reach--Bishop Doane of New Jersey and Bishop Henry C. Potter, apparently taken when Dr. Potter was a young Rector in Troy.

A small anteroom opens next to the study. Here is the varied assortment of two hundred different musical hymnals, bequeathed to the friend and organist, Mr. Rousseau. There is just room for a lounge; nevertheless over that hangs a fine etching.

Above, au troisième, one notes the Bishop's room which was set apart in the times when Bishop Horatio Potter used to come on from New York and to stay a while. Beside this was Doctor Tucker's own apartment, where he lay down to nightly rest and where he lay down for the last sleep. Upon the wall is a drawing of the Church of the Holy Cross as it appeared in its childhood; also over the couch an illuminated sentence--the only text inscribed anywhere in all the house--"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

Yet later, a few months farther on, I made a brief stay at the Warden's home, located on the leafy and lovely campus of St. Stephen's College. There Dr. Fairbairn--old friend of the Rector of the Holy Cross--said to me:

From time to time Doctor Tucker had stayed here with me.

I sent for him to come spend the night before Commencement. He wrote that he had ceased to be away from home over night. It was a genial letter. A few days after I went to see him.

In the old time, I was Rector of Christ Church in Troy. The first four years of Tucker's ministry we lived together tinder the same roof. We were peculiarly intimate, constant friends. Frequently we used to go to his father's house; we dined there often. His father was kind to me; Tucker was kind to me.

Then the Warden told the story, quoted elsewhere, about the one friend procuring a nurse for the other through a spell of sickness. Dr. Fairbairn continued: He married me, married my daughter and baptized my son. He buried my wife; to the grave he carried some flowers, and laid them there after he had read the service.

He used to complain sometimes about the condition of the Church in general. It was pretty bad at that time. He was tempted to give it up. But he balanced the question, and settled it once for all.

Some people used to think that he might be persuaded to renounce his Church. Deshon was an army officer in the ordnance department. He used to come to me and say, "You hold on to Tucker, or he'll go to Rome." But Deshon went and he didn't. Dr. Rider, President of a R. C. College at Worcester, Mass., came to Troy, delivering addresses and making some converts, among them Deshon, who became a priest. Dr. Tucker remained a faithful Anglican to the end.

He always set apart a portion of the day for regular study. Besides this he gave attention to lighter reading, especially on Church subjects. No important work of fiction, such as Mrs. Ward's book, escaped him. Bull's works he read in Latin, just after he went to Troy. He told me that he found it a little laborious; but he stuck to it. He was a studious man.

He gave the afternoon to pastoral visiting. In his pastoral work, a remarkable trait was his care of the girls; he looked after them and their parents; he went into the school and taught them.

Intellectually he was not a brilliant man, but he had a good mind; wrote a good sermon. He confined himself to the Holy Cross. He was rarely absent: never exchanged. Once he had an engagement to exchange with the chaplain at West Point, but when the time came, he got me to go and do it for him. He was regular and faithful in the writing of his sermons. I think they kept progressing most of the week.

In social life, he loved company; he entertained a great deal after he got in his own house, and he received many even when in apartments. Gibson used to come down from Cohoes nearly every week. Dr. Muhlenberg came up and preached.

Among the books [bequeathed to St. Stephen's College] we found a lot of receipted bills, many of them for jewelry. I began to find out. These things had been given to the children of that school. It only shows with what affection he dealt with them. He gave them not only books, he set before them not only religion, but he gave them things which "would make them feel at home with themselves, make them feel good and comfortable.

Dr. Fairbairn talked further about the musical abilities of his friend; also about the effect produced by his personal presence. "Few were as graceful as he."

The Warden had published a paper in the St. Stephens College Messenger. In this he urged the young men at college to become acquainted with Doctor Tucker's life, and to find in his career a stimulus and encouragement. "Dr. Tucker lived in Troy," he wrote, "for fifty-one years; and at the end of that period, he was probably more respected, more influential, and more loved than at any portion of it. His life would be a great study for young men."

The writer referred to propriety of conduct as one of the elements of a true success.

His conduct was always proper. I have attempted to recall some improper action or word which escaped him during the four years that we stood in such intimate relations. But I do not recall any such. The picture before my mind is a man of the utmost propriety. His manners and his dress were of such a character as always to impress one. One could not fail to feel that he was in the presence of a superior person. No vulgar expression or story ever escaped from his lips. No slovenliness was ever seen in him. This neatness was natural to him. It was not assumed or put on, but it became part of him. There are plenty of clergymen who are as learned, and as vigorous in their work, but it is rare to find one as graceful as he. That was one of the elements of character which made Dr. Tucker. He exemplifies in a grand sense what William of Wyckham said, "Manners maketh man." There might be written a discourse on the manners of Dr. Tucker, which would be a great lesson to young men. Such cultivation would be in any one a real element of success.

So the head of a college talks to the youth under his care; he calls attention to the shining example which has been set before them.

He emphasizes a feature characteristic of the entire earthly career which we have contemplated. Doctor Tucker never outlived that to which he was born and bred.

Says Thackeray: "What is it to be a gentleman? Is it to have lofty aims; to lead a pure life; to keep your honor virgin; to have the esteem of your fellow citizens and the love of your fireside; to bear good fortune meekly; to suffer evil with constancy; and through evil and good to maintain truth always? Show me the happy man whose life exhibits these qualities, and him will we salute as gentleman."

And so it is that a bright and wholesome memory abides of him who liked always a sufficiency of light, having no fellowship with darkness either in his chancel or in his every-day living, and whose body sleeps now "where the sun may shine upon it."

The story here told had just been completed, its manuscript was ready for the press, when a telegram came to hand announcing the sudden death of William W. Rousseau, whose name appears more than once in the foregoing pages. He was the organist at Holy Cross during the latter half of Doctor Tucker's rectorship, also the constant co-worker with his Rector, especially in the editorship of all the hymnals.

The two were linked together, like David and Jonathan, in bonds of affection. For his chief the younger cherished a reverential admiration. Further, there existed in both a oneness of sentiment, as, for example, about the absolute desirability of the adoption of the lovely art into the direct service of God. Each worked as hard as he could for the accomplishment of this end.

Fitting it seemed that the one friend should follow so soon the other into the world beyond. That was a joyful reunion.

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