Vida Dutton Scudder to Jane Addams, June 13, 1902


Glion, Switzerland.

June 13, 1902.

Dear Miss Addams, at last I have had the joy of reading your book, and I want to tell you what refreshment it has brought me. I do not know what I admire more,--the large general conception to which every sentence of the book bears direct or indirect relation, or the practical wisdom and loving kindness that throws light on one detail after another of our American Experience, and will--or should--be helpful to hundreds of bewildered minds, even to those which cannot conceive your idea as a whole. The book seems to me the most valuable I have ever read, coming out of experience of democracy as opposed to theory about it, it leaves out [page 2] the contention to which you constantly [refer?], that wisdom comes only from wide contact with popular life,--that "to attempt to attain a social certainty without a basis of [illegible] ↑democratic↓ experience--ends in an exaggerated individual morality but not in social morality at all"-- In reading you, I understand what "social morality" implies better than ever I did before, and the book helps me in matters that have puzzled my thought again and again-- Of course, I had read many, perhaps most of the chapters before, but they gain very much in effect from the grouping, and form a whole which seems to me to express the mind and conscience transformed by democracy, in a remarkable way.

You will know that I do not praise [page 3] for the sake of praising, but because I am glad. You asked me to criticize, the only criticism I can think of is a tedious formal one, due I dare say to an over-pedagogical habit of mind on my part; I could wish the articulation and sequence of thought sometimes a little more obviously stressed; I am afraid that a good many people may miss in some cases the structural unity that really exists, and see only a series of independent, [though] stimulating reflections. I think however that my years of contact with young students may have made me exaggerate the capacity of people for missing the point. I found myself wishing [page 4] for a [little] concluding summary, the length of the delightful introduction, that should put together the results of ↑your↓ enquiry into the effect of democracy on philanthropy, the family, industry, etc., in a few clearly related sentences. But this sounds helplessly academic as I write it,--and I should grieve, believe me, to lose the profoundly moving effect of your last paragraph.

With earnest thanks to you, for all the book must mean to countless readers as well as what it means to me.

Affectionately yours,

Vida D. Scudder

Mrs Dudley sends her love; she is getter so much better, sleeping as she hasn't slept for ten years or more.

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