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FREUD’S WIZARD by Brenda Maddox Kirkus Star


Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis

by Brenda Maddox

Pub Date: March 30th, 2007
ISBN: 0-306-81555-9
Publisher: Da Capo

Revealing analysis of the man who made the work of Sigmund Freud accessible to readers in English.

Ernest Jones, suggests seasoned biographer Maddox (Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, 2002, etc.), was fortunate to have found psychoanalysis; otherwise, he might have remained a Harlow Street surgeon or doctor, for which he had a good mind but no real inclination. He may also have found it easier to disguise himself in the arcana of analysis, for very early in his medical career he was charged with behaving indecently toward mentally handicapped adolescent patients. He was acquitted, but his life, by Maddox’s account, was dogged by unseemly and strange incidents, possibly even criminal ones. One such mystery was the death of his first wife, without the benefit of autopsy; Maddox notes that Jones’s explanation that “a wartime diet low in sugar had made his wife susceptible to chloroform poisoning” is unconvincing, adding that even Freud himself sensed that something was amiss. Jones had by this time been Freud’s champion and representative for several years, first among a group of peers who deemed themselves “paladins” defending the true church of Freud against its many critics. The knightly circle soon collapsed through infighting, and Jones’s own politicking had its role in what would be a Hobbesian war within the psychoanalytic profession; still, Freud recognized the value Jones brought as one of the few non-Jewish members of his inner circle. Nonetheless, with the rise of Nazism, all forms of Freudian thought were tarred as non-Aryan perversions, and it was Jones—who, among other things, introduced terms such as id, cathexis and repression into English—who rescued Freud from Nazi Vienna, at considerable personal risk.

Readers with an interest in the history of science—and with a taste for the dark side of scholarship—will find this irresistible.