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Schwartz, M.M. (2004). Analyzing Freud: Letters of H.D., Bryher and Their Circle. Edited by Susan Stanford Friedman. New York: New Directions, 2002. 615 pp. $39.95.. Am. Imago, 61(1):120-127.

(2004). American Imago, 61(1):120-127

Analyzing Freud: Letters of H.D., Bryher and Their Circle. Edited by Susan Stanford Friedman. New York: New Directions, 2002. 615 pp. $39.95.

Review by:
Murray M. Schwartz

From March 1, 1933, just a month after Hitler became Chancellor in Germany, to June 12, 1933, and again from October 31, 1934 to December 2, 1934, the poet Hilda Doolittle—H.D.—was analyzed by Sigmund Freud in Vienna. The analysis, for a “trial period” (8), was arranged and paid for by H.D.'s intimate friend and sometime lover, Bryher, born Annie Winifred Ellerman, the illegitimate daughter of Britain's wealthiest shipping magnate. Bryher's marriage to Kenneth Macpherson in 1927 had enabled H.D. to continue her affair with Macpherson while Bryher and Macpherson adopted H.D.'s daughter Perdita, who was fathered in 1919 by Cecil Gray while H.D. was married to Richard Aldington. The ménage à trois between H.D., Bryher, and Macpherson—one of many triangles in H.D.'s life—was beginning to break up during H.D.'s analytic period with Freud, with each of the three forming another pair, as Bryher became infatuated with the famous actress Elizabeth Bergner, Macpherson took up with David Wickham, a young Barbadian suffering from tuberculosis, and H.D. entered her multileveled relationship with Freud. Freud was nearing his seventy-seventh birthday; H.D. was forty-six. A severe writing block jeopardized her identity and reputation as a poet.

These bare facts only hint at the fluid bonds, instabilities, and remarkable continuities at play in the 307 letters gathered by Susan Stanford Friedman in Analyzing Freud. These letters were written between 1932 and 1937. H.D. would later return repeatedly to her experience with Freud: in a poem, “The Master” (written in 1935 but not published until after her death), The Gift (written in 1941-43), Tribute to Freud (written in 1944), and “Advent” (written in 1948). Friedman has organized the letters as a drama in two acts, with a prologue, an interlude between acts, an epilogue, and a coda. She supplies a lucid introduction, week-by-week summaries, copious informative notes, and pages of illustrations and biographical sketches of the main characters in the drama.

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