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Khan, M.R. (1962). Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873–1939: Edited by Ernst L. Freud. Translated by Tania and James Stern. (New York: Basic Books, 1960; London: Hogarth Press, 1961. Pp. 464. $7.50; 50s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:83-86.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:83-86

Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873–1939: Edited by Ernst L. Freud. Translated by Tania and James Stern. (New York: Basic Books, 1960; London: Hogarth Press, 1961. Pp. 464. $7.50; 50s.)

Review by:
M. Masud R. Khan

It is one of those lesser ironies which Freud throughout his professional life was wont to analyse, not without some zest, that a man who had such rooted objection to biographical designs on his life should have given so many hostages to biographical fortune. 'As for the biographers, ' he writes to his fiancée, Martha Bernays, in 1885 [letter 61] 'we have no desire to make it too easy for them'; and, again, writing to Wittels in 1923 [L.205] 'It seems to me that the world has no claim on my person and that it will learn nothing from me so long as my case is not fully transparent.' Yet as his son, Ernst, who edits this present collection of letters with skill, modesty, and unerring taste, points out in his preface, Freud was an unusually prolific and conscientious letter-writer. This series of 315 letters was selected from some 4, 000, dating from every phase of his life from 1873 to three days before his death in 1939 at the age of 83.

A fortunate windfall for readers who in succeeding generations are eager to learn what they can of the personal lives of great men. For as those will realize who have read the Life and Work by Ernest Jones, no biographical effort, however meticulous, no deliberate portraiture, whether intuitive or analytical, can surpass Freud's own letters as a source of information and of insight into the character of the man. Although it would be wrong to say that he who runs may read them, for indeed the letters call for leisured perusal in chronological order, it is true that in them Freud satisfied quite unintentionally the condition he himself laid down regarding biography.

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