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

By Leonard Unger

Covers Jane Addams to Sidney Lanier

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Extra resources for American Writers Supplement I, Parts 1 & 2

Example text

But there was a valid uncertainty, an instinct that she did not grasp the material he offered, as well as unexplored hostility, at work in her omissions. Bronson Alcott could not fully aid or sympathize with his most talented daughter; he did not really need her. This is to acknowledge how much he lacked at every level; but it did not alter for Louisa, nor should it for us, what, and how much, he possessed. Bronson's journals testify that he was, as historian Perry Miller has claimed, the "shrewdest judge of character" of his day in New England.

In social theory and in program she anticipated most of the measures of social democracy made real by subsequent generations. Where most of her contemporaries remained suspicious of unions, she insisted on the basic right of working men and women to organize and bargain collectively through agents of their own choosing; she regretted the resort to violence, but she remained true to the central principle of self-determination in the marketplace, as in all other arenas. Most other progressive reformers of her generation were hostile, condescending, or indifferent to the rights of racial minorities.

A witness to the cheapest kind of religious liberalization, Alcott, like his model Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was engaged in the critical process of modernizing—not secularizing—the religious sensibility. Alcott reaped the rewards of his disposition and effort. He is perhaps the only prominent American of the Victorian age who appears to have been almost consistently at peace with himself and who grew more so with age. Although horribly complacent at times, he did not stagnate. He never changed; he absorbed fresh life.

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