In Margaret Guilford-Kardell’s childhood, Joaquin Miller was a “given.” Now we find he is being rediscovered and described just as the blind men described the elephant. Margaret nearing 86, and Scott McKeown father of three children hasten to help set Miller’s records straight for future generations.
Early on, Miller was identified as a poet. He was lauded and criticized for his poetry and his prose. No one seems to have considered or analyzed Miller as a journalist, or as an essayist or for what he was saying, or for the history he mentioned.
In 1980 Dr. Ray C. Longtin began to sense “... a subtle undercurrent of rethinking about this eccentric man.” He suggested that “perhaps, for reasons other than his poetry, Miller deserves re-study."
Bill Miesse, California art historian, has read more of Miller’s works than most. His assessment of Joaquin Miller agrees with ours. We feel that Joaquin Miller had a “timeless point of view on civil rights and environmental issues, and was directly in touch with the elements of nature."
Among today's literati, Alan Rosenus has started to reintroduce scholars and students to Miller through scholarly articles and in reprints of Life Amongst the Modocs: Unwritten History, which Rosenus terms Miller’s best work and which he clearly identifies as a novel. William Everson has identified Miller as the archetype of Far Western literature, and has found an 1870 poem from Miller”s diary which he considers a totally “achieved” poem. So, finally Miller has been recognized by the literary establishment. But critics of these reprints still chatter about Miller”s style and lifestyle, all on the basis of a few works or even just one work that chances to hand.
Miller started writing notes and poems to editors years before he spent two winters in college. Later, his articles in newspapers and magazines far exceeded
his output of poems or books, if you discount reprints. He also served some time as
Only fleeting passes have been made at studying Miller as a writer of political protest and as a writer on human rights. Such studies have often been by those trying to include Miller in their own political camp. But they have had difficulty with his deep foundation in the Bible and compassion for all men.
No one seems to have studied Miller’s ties to his Bible background. Liberal Boston and New York publishers of his day recognized these ties as well as his popularity with their readers who were also students of the Bible.
No one seems to have studied Miller as a travel writer or as an historian, perhaps because his early detractors suggested he was all fiction and a liar. They didn’t like his truth. Historical research has proven the authenticity of his real experiences upon which frames he wove his work. In articles for The Californians, Guilford-Kardell has begun to set the record straight as to the history of events in Miller’s life and in his time frame. Earlier commentators’ discrepancies have been rectified by uncovered records.
Past bibliographies are neither up-to-date nor complete. It is apparent that a chronological bibliography is needed. This we have created. It is not perfect and it is not final, but we offer it as a point of departure. We have personally seen most, but not all, of the entries. Additions and corrections are welcome.
We trust that this chronological bibliography will awaken curiosity among graduate students in various disciplines and encourage more reprints of Miller’s diverse works. People have always enjoyed reading Miller and will welcome reprints which include additional factual insights into his life and times.
Joaquin Miller would be proud to be a part of a renaissance of moral validity in American culture.