American Writers Supplement I, Parts 1 & 2 by Leonard Unger

By Leonard Unger

Covers Jane Addams to Sidney Lanier

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She was typical of many women, Addams felt, "who had touched bottom . . " The giving of bread, woman's ancient charge, showed the way to peace by the propaganda of the deed. And so a book, marred by sorrow and disillusionment, was able to end, like all Addams' others, on a note of renewed optimism. That was ever the affirmation, more difficult this time than before; but still it struck the dominant and recurring theme. " Their "natural tendency" to draw together into "friendly relationships" and "to live constantly a more extended life" was sure to reassert itself.

It opens with a confession whose disarming truthfulness not many of Addams' contemporaries and but a few of her biographers recognized. During her lifetime it was usual to perceive her as a radical, a prophet ahead of her time; images set so early and so firmly have a way of persisting beyond the span of life. Addams knew better. " She became the target of distorted news stories, and an object of derision and hate. Addams fell into an illness (beginning with a bout of pleuropneumonia) that led to three years of semi-invalidism.

Until recently, most of Alcott's critics have been less perceptive or open than that little girl who so frankly registered her shock at the discrepancy between the literary persona and the reality of Louisa May Alcott. For, to put it dramatically, Alcott was a woman with a secret, and one that she meant to keep, possibly even from herself. Despite her ruthless censoring of her private journals and correspondence, despite her determined refusal to identify much of her most interesting work, Alcott did not succeed in hiding her self.

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