Like a lot of people I guess, I had never heard of Theodora Roosevelt Rauchfuss Keogh until The Telegraph ran her obituary today. An obituary, as a matter of fact, Keogh had requested not run at all, according to The Charlotte Observer who said that one time novelist, socialite and ballet dancer had requested there be “no funeral or obituary and leaves no children of her own, according to family and friends.”
Keogh died January 5th at age 88 and was, according to The Telegraph, the granddaughter of President Theodore Roosevelt and “the author of nine novels, all of them dark in tone and many of them peopled with sinister figures.”
The remarkable early novels treated young girls facing sexual conflict in New York and Paris, and critics could not decide whether Theodora Keogh possessed extraordinary understanding of these matters or was merely aiming to shock.
Though Keogh’s work gained some critical respect, in the United States her novels were produced as pulps and are all out of print, though in the last few years, reports The Telegraph, “she was tracked down by a disparate group of new readers from various lands, some bearing offers of republication.”
Theodora Keogh published her first novel, Meg, in 1950. Partly autobiographical (the heroine came from an Upper East Side family), it tackled dark areas – the heroine was raped, and passed her history exam by threatening to expose her teacher as a lesbian.
John Betjeman described it as a “brutally frightening picture of what may happen to a little girl in New York”, and Nigel Nicolson wrote: “A great many people will be outraged by this book, but I place it first on my list because of its remarkable originality, good sense and utter lack of sentimentality.”
In the Saturday Review, Patricia Highsmith gave an unknown woman a rare favourable review: “She writes with a skill and command of her material that should set her promptly into the ranks of the finer young writers of today.”
Though from the little I’ve been able to learn about Keogh, I think she would have hated all this fuss about her, The Telegraph obituary paints an amazing portrait of a life well lived. The author herself might have paused before making some of this stuff up. The Charlotte Observer adds a bit here and here.
Ironically, we bring you the news about Keogh’s death on the very day former first daughter and mystery author Margaret Truman Daniel passes away at age 83. The Rap Sheet has that story here.