News

The Path to Public Service at SEAS

News

Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum

News

Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President

News

Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study

News

Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum

Jones' Freud

THE LIFE AND WORK OF SIGMUND FREUD. Vol. III: The Last Phase, 1919-1939, By Ernest Jones, M. D. Illustrated. 537 pp. New York: Basic Books. $7.50.

By Bryce E. Nelson

Ernest Jones' third volume in his epic biography of Sigmund Freud transcends much of the seeming trivitality that marks the first two volumes of the trilogy. In the first half of this tome, Jones relates the last twenty heroic years of Freud's life, and in the latter half, delivers an appraisal of Freud's contributions to clinical psychology, metapsychology, lay analysis, biology, anthropology, sociology, religion, literature, occultism, and art.

As much as any man of the modern era, Freud deserves a sustained and minutely probing biography, and Jones has, for the most part, measured up to the stringent demand. In the first volume, however, he often concerned himself with details of Freud's personal and professional life which added little understanding of the man or his work. Concern for detail, of course, can be a blessing as well as a bore, and in the latter stage of Freud's life, most of the details Jones relates are significant.

During these eventful years, the International Psycho-Analytical Association was formed; and the Association and its Journal occupied much of the energy of Freud and his "Committee." The workings and interrivalries of this Committee, which was composed of such psycho-analytic pioneers as Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, Sandor Ferenczi, Hanns Sachs, and Jones himself, take up a large part of the book. This is for the most part, space well-spent, since these men were instrumental in the formation of the presently-used theories of psycho-analysis.

These last years were also important for Freud's personal work; in this period he wrote, Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Group Psychology; Inhibition, Symptom, and Anxiety; his Autobiography, Lay Analysis; The Future of an Illusion; Civilization and its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures; Why War?, and Moses and Monotheism. This record of production is made even more impressive by the fact that the last sixteen years of his life were made physically miserable by cancer of the jaw, for which he underwent 33 operations. Freud had to wear a prosthesis, an artificial palate, which could never be made to fit comfortably, and which distorted his speech and face. His physical pain was compounded in this period by personal tragedies: the deaths of his daughter Sophie, his grandson, his mother, and the defection of his close friends, Rank and Ferenczi, both of whom subsequently died insane. These were "deep, narcissistic losses" to Freud.

During this life of personal trial, Freud continued his same cheerful stability and love of a life of intellectual adventure. He refused to take drugs to kill his constant pain, he said "I would rather think in torment, than think unclearly." He did think clearly, until the end of his long life. Moses and Monotheism, which was published a year before his death at the age of 83, is marked by clarity of ideas and exposition, although this attempt to apply psycho-analytic theory to the cultural phenomenon of religion was of more dubious validity than his other work.

Jones adequately captures the heroism and excitement of the last years of Freud's life, years that were made richer by the increasing acceptance of his ideas by the thinking world. However, Jones often does not seem to have the perception or desire to determine the sources of Freud's ideas and actions. His worshipful attitude towards Freud--"And so we take leave of a man whose like we shall not know again. He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead."--is quite often annoyning. But Jones does not fail to defend himself at great length about the instances when Freud criticized him.

Jones' triumphs outweigh his faults. His familiarity with Freud and psycho-analysis, and the objectivity resulting from his being the only non-Continental, non-Jewish member of the psycho-analytic movement, combine to render him an almost ideal biographer. In addition, he writes well and clearly, and his syntheses of Freud's ideas are nothing short of brilliant.

This last volume is probably the best single volume of the three for the person interested in Freud and psychoanalysis. It does not contain the first volume's intimate history of Freud's early life, nor the second volume's description of Freud's personality and the early reception of his ideas; but it does portray Freud in the great mature wisdom of his old age and gives the most complete account of his thought of any of the three. Freud is depicted as a live, vital human being; an invaluable service to this psychoanalytically-oriented age. Jone's third volume is a fitting climax to his description of the dramatic life of the man who made us more aware of the irrational motivations of our behavior than any other, a fitting tribute to a man who died as he had lived--a realist.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags