Like Father, Like Daughter

Miss Addams left all her papers to her nephew, James Weber Linn,who, in his perceptive biography of his aunt, observes that Jane andher father can be compared through the respective diaries that theykept at the age of twenty-two:

 

"The diary of this journey from Pennsylvania to Illinois, whichJohn Addams kept for six months without the break of a day, many ofthe entries being made at considerable length, is of . . . historicalinterest.... The young Pennsylvanian was a shrewd observer ofmaterial things. But the personal interest of the diary is much moreconsiderable than the historical. The record was intended for his owneyes only; indeed, until the little leather- bound volumes turned upin a 'secret drawer' of an old desk in the attic of the Addamshomestead, full eighty-five years after they had been written, thatrecord was probably seen by no other eye than his. And it is withhimself, his own ambitions, uncertainties, exaltations anddepressions of spirit, that he is . . . concerned.

 

"He reveals his eagerness for exact information, his caution as abargainer, his determination not to be ' over- reached' as hedetermined never to overreach; his industry, his endurance, hisphysical equability in temperament. It is curious to note how many ofthe entries conclude with an estimate of the day's feelings. Here aresuccessive final lines from one week's entries in September, while hewas waiting . . . in the hope that the owners of the mill he desiredto buy might come to terms. 'So ended this day in tolerable spirits.''My spirits were however good to-day.' 'Upon the whole I was verymuch discouraged to- day., 'This day spirits good.' 'I will endeavorto pray for better spirits.' 'Spirits to-day good while at work (hewas helping to pick potatoes that day) but otherwise discouraged.'There is nothing precocious, or even mature, in such entries. Indeedwhen Jane Addams read them, for the first time, in her own old age,she was amazed. She had had no conception of her quiet father asqualmish in youth. The simplicity of the father's self-analyses isthe more striking when they are compared to the similar diarial'searchings after self-understandings' of the daughter at the sametime of life--twenty-two. In a 'common-place book' dated 1882, theyear after John Addams' death, and a gloomy year for Jane, shewrites: 'The difficulty is not in bearing our ills, but in knowingwhat ills are necessary, not in doing what is right but in knowingwhat is right to do. I suppose to say that I do not know just what Ibelieve is a form of cowardice, just going on trying to think thingsout instead of making up my mind, but then why am I happier when I amlearning than when I am trying to decide? For I do not think therecould be any happiness in being a coward., The longing forself-understanding is the same, the souls of father and daughterdwelt in intimacy, but how different the approaches toself-knowledge! The difference is partly in the forms of theireducation, partly in the generations; the daughter was spiritually aninquirer, the father in many ways conventional; their wish howeverwas the same, to possess and recognize the 'inner light.' "

From Fishwick, Marshall W. Illustrious American: Jane Addams.Pp. 18-19. Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Company, 1968.


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