Monday, April 2, 2012

Ralph Keeler, Literary Vagabond

Above: the lost literary vagabond, Ralph Keeler (1840-c.1873). Who? Exactly.

I'm currently writing a conference paper on the journalist and writer Ralph Olmstead Keeler and, in particular, his apparently indelible effect on Gilded Age friends and contemporaries like Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Thomas Bailey Aldrich. More of that soon. The purpose of this post, however, is to assemble an ongoing list of Keeler's published works with links to full text where available - a provisional bibliography, if you will, for this forgotten, influential figure. If you're wondering why Keeler might be worth resurrecting, this potted biography by Thomas Bailey Aldrich, written for the New York Tribune not long after Keeler's mysterious disappearance in December 1873, gives plenty of clues:

A caveat: this list is far from complete, and a work in progress. All additions gratefully received and acknowledged here.


Gloverson and his Silent Partners (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1869).

Vagabond Adventures (Boston: Fields, Osgood & Co., 1870).

(See also: Thomas Bailey Aldrich, "The Friend of My Youth", The Atlantic Monthly, 27:160 (February 1871), an article that grows out of Keeler's reminiscences about "Governor Dorr" in Vagabond Adventures.)


According to Franklin Dickerson Walker's San Francisco's Literary Frontier (1939):
UPDATE: Google newspaper archives have scans of the Golden Era, and it turns out that Keeler's pen name was actually Allaquiz. His first "Lucubrations" column appears to have been published on January 22 1865; the last that I've found so far is July 30 1865. Here's a fun one, from June 11 1865, detailing a trip to the "Wine Cellars of Sonoma."

"The Eldest Scholar", The California Teacher, 5:5 (November 1867)

Late 1867: "Keeler's Letters", Daily Alta California - a series of sketches about life in the East for those in the West. Here, for example, are Keeler's first impressions of Boston: "Keeler's Letters", Daily Alta California, November 16, 1867, 1.

"Romance of a Boarding-House", Daily Alta California (22 March 1868)

"Three Years as a Negro Minstrel", The Atlantic Monthly, 24:141 (July 1869)

"A View of the National Capital"The Overland Monthly, 3:5 (November 1869)

"John Chinaman Picturesquely Considered", Western Monthly, 3:17 (May 1870)

"The Tour of Europe for $181 in Currency"The Atlantic Monthly, 26:153 (July 1870)

"Six Months on Five Cents", Old and New, 2:3-5 (September, October, November 1870), Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

"Confessions of a Patent-Medicine Man"The Atlantic Monthly, 26:158 (December 1870)

"Up the Mississippi" - a series of articles published in Every Saturday from May to December 1871, documenting Keeler's trip along the river accompanied by artist Alfred Waud. Not currently digitized, as far as I can tell. Anyone?
UPDATE February 2014: handily, Hathi Trust now has some of these articles available. The first instalment of "Up The Mississippi" (Every Saturday, May 20, 1871) is available here. Others follow on a roughly weekly basis.
Before travelling along the river with Alfred Waud, Keeler also went on some preliminary expeditions with artist Harry Fenn. The beginning of their journey to Pittsburgh (Every Saturday, March 4, 1871) is available here; "Sketches in Oil" (Every Saturday, April 1, 1871), is available here. Before reaching the Mississippi, Waud and Keeler described a visit to the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky (Every Saturday, May 6, 1871), here.
"The Fat Man's Story"Appletons' Journal, 7:163 (May 11, 1872)

"Street-Corner Studies"Appletons' Journal, 7:167 (June 8, 1872)

"The Great Scare at Shirkshire"Appletons' Journal, 7:170 (June 29, 1872)

"The Great American Hotel"Lippincott's Magazine,  10:17 (September 1872)

"Geneva"Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 45:270 (November 1872)

"With the American Ambulance Corps at Paris"Lippincott's Magazine, 12:28 (July, 1873)

"An Amateur Supe's Story"The Atlantic Monthly, 32:189 (July 1873)

"Put-in-Bay and the Wine Islands", Appletons' Journal, 10: 247 (December 13, 1873)

"Around Lake Leman"Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 48:283 (December 1873)

"Owen Brown's Escape from Harper's Ferry", The Atlantic Monthly, 33:197 (March 1874)


"The Village Bell", "At the Play", "Madge", in Poetry of the Pacific: Selections and Original Poems from the Poets of the Pacific States, May Wentworth ed. (San Francisco: Pacific Publishing Company, 1867).


George Sand, The Marquis de Villemer, Ralph Keeler trans. (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1871). (First serialised in Every Saturday.)

UPDATE, 24/10/16: Four years later, the fruits of this labour finally saw the light of day. "Missing Ralph Keeler: Bohemians, Brahmins and Literary Friendships in the Gilded Age" has just been published in Comparative American Studies - and it's available here.