16 OCTOBER 1953, Page 24


Sigmund Freud. Life and Work. Volume I, The Young Freud. By Ernest Jones. (Hogarth Press. 27s. 6d.) "LET the biographers chafe, we won't make it too easy for them." So Freud wrote to his fiancee in 1885, announcing that in packing up for his forthcoming journey to Paris he had destroyed a mass of private papers. It was a wry form of humour, for just then his hopes of achieving distinction were not great. He had been obliged to give up anatomical research, in which his undergraduate publications had already won praise, in order to try to become a consultant in clinical medicine, which he detested.

The moment was deeply significant. But for these months with Charcot at the Salpetriere, it is possible that Freud might have been remembered only as the hapless physician who published a pre- maturely enthusiastic account of the new drug cocaine, which he recommended for the relief of depression and of morphine addiction, saying: "Absolutely no craving for the further use of cocaine appears after the first, or even repeated taking of the drug." (In fairness, one must remember that he had tried it out thoroughly upon himself.) In Paris, he received the stimulus which ultimately drove him to his true vocation. Of Charcot he wrote at the time: "Whether' the seed will ever bear fruit I do not know, but what I certainly know is that no other human being has ever affected me in such a way." His own peculiar daemon was aroused, and from this time he had to contend not only with the need to earn money enough to maintain his family but also with the realisation that he was committed to a series of original—and unwelcome—discoveries.

If the 'eighties was the period of Freud's greatest poverty (involving, among other hardships, the postponement of his marriage for four years), it was in the next decade that he suffered the loneliness of an intellectual pioneer. He became subject to periods of depression and neurasthenia and yet was sustained, as he wrote in 1894, by the conviction of "having touched on one of the great secrets of nature." This great secret—unconscious motivation—provided his life-work.

The second turning-point of his life came at the, age of fdrty-one when he decided that the only remedy for his sickness was to submit himself to his own method of exploring unconscious motivation- psycho-analysis. The first years of this process coincided with the writing of The Interpretation of Dreams, and rewarded him with unshakeable self-confidence and equanimity. In view of the popular view that psycho-analysis condemns us to bear for ever the scars of our first three years, it is reassuring to learn that Freud's own emotional development was not complete until his middle forties.

There have been several books on Freud, and there will no doubt be more; but none is likely to equal this in the exhaustiveness of its detail. After reading it, one feels that one knows the young -Freud almost as well as an analyst must know his patient after years of therapy. The analogy is heightened by the fact that Dr. Jones employs analytic technique to show that certain of Freud's incon- sistencies of behaviour and lapses of memory can be understood in the light of the emotional contexts in which they occurred. Even the reader may catch the infection, and notice Dr. Jones's unwonted emphasis in denying that Freud was a "difficult" or quarrelsome man —followed soon after by several instances of just those qualities. It is a measure of the biographer's integrity (and of his insight into his own partiality) that they are so faithfully recorded.

This careful chart of Freud's emotional history is used to illuminate the arguments which he advanced in successive publications; but it is far from being a merely clinical assessment. The narrative is studded with unexpected details which make the portrait live. One remembers Freud in a restaurant covering his ears because he detested beer-hall music; his mother's fond "Mein goldener Sigi"; his enthusiastic description of the Louvre, where he was so taken with the Egyptian antiquities that he did not get the length of seeing the pictures; his pacing the streets of Brussels admiring its rococo architecture and counting his money before he had a meal; his Saturday evenings consecrated to playing Tarock with the same unvarying group of friends. Above all, there emerges that side of his nature which he kept most secret—his capacity for loving. The young Freud was passionate, self-contained, ambitious: it will surprise many people to realise that he was so long familiar with unsuccess and dejection.

The account of the development of his theories deals with more familiar matters, though with an unprecedented throughness. Dr. Jones has succeeded in unearthing remote sources of his ideas which in some cases Freud himself had forgotten; for example, Ludwig Borne's essay, "The Art of Becoming an Original Writer in Three Days," which Freud admired as a schoolboy, and which contains an explicit account of the method of free association. Dr. Jones would also have us remember Freud's early patient, Frl. Elisabeth, who made the important contribution to psycho-analytic technique: "Don't interrupt!" Was Freud really a scientific thinker? He once said to his future biographer: "As a young man I felt a strong attraction towards speculation, and ruthlessly checked it." Throughout his life there seems to have been a struggle between what may be termed the poetical and the pedantic sides of his nature. Flights of imagination had for him a seductive, feminine attraction which he tried to exorcise by means of a strict attention to detail. At first, in his laborious treatises on anatomy and neurology, speculation was wholly excluded. Later, so Dr. Jones loyally maintains, the success of his self-analysis liberated his imagination while keeping it still in harmony with his scientific demand for proof. Freud himself was not always quite so sure. In 1900 he wrote to Fliess: "I am not really a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter. I am nothing but by temperament a Conquistador—an adventurer, if you want to translate the word—with the curiosity, the boldness and the tenacity that belong to that type of being. Such people are apt to be treasured if they succeed, if they have really discovered some- thing; otherwise they are thrown aside." That was in 1900, the date to which this volume carries the story. In subsequent volumes Dr. Jones will describe the man he knew, and events in which he has himself played a part: but it is hard to believe that he can improve upon the compelling portrait which he has composed for us here. G. M. CARSTAIRS