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Khan, M.R. (1981). Havelock Ellis, a Biography. By Phyllis Grosskurth. London: Allen Lane, 1980. Pp. 493.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 8:358-360.

(1981). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 8:358-360

Havelock Ellis, a Biography. By Phyllis Grosskurth. London: Allen Lane, 1980. Pp. 493.

Review by:
M. Masud R. Khan

The real virtue of Professor Grosskurth's narrative of Havelock Ellis's life resides in the fact that two words that for decades have spelt merely a name for most people, gradually take the shape of a person: gentle, honourable, impotent, self-indulgent, unrelating but friendly, enquiring but at one remove, fearful of sex yet cerebrating it all the time, dreading intimacy whilst engendering it in others, unmalicious yet lacking generosity. In short, a curious self-fabricated human being of great diligence and little courage. Since Professor Grosskurth has gone to inordinate lengths of industry and effort, let us see how she puts flesh and sensibility on those two words: Havelock Ellis. Her narrative is so smooth that one misses its guile. Her authenticity of recounting facts of Ellis's life is so delicate and well-mannered (a rare quality in biographers these days) that one tends to take her tact for granted. She has no appetite for gossip and her prejudices are stated explicitly. To her, Freud is a hero and Ellis a hero-in-the-myth. But Freud did not have to mythify himself; Ellis had to, in order to become a person and not just stay a name. Freud spent enormous energy protecting the privacy of Sigmund; Ellis wanted Havelock to be his accomplice in a mutual exposure of one by the other. Freud shared with us his dreams; Ellis the results of his questionnaires. Freud chose to encounter the suffering in the person, presence to presence; Ellis evaded any such hazard and tantalized others and himself with the possibilities of both pain and pleasure.

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