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Kaplan, D.M. (1966). Biography of an Idea: Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel Edward L Bernays. By Edward L. Bernays. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965. 849 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 53A(1):134-135.

(1966). Psychoanalytic Review, 53A(1):134-135

Book Reviews

Biography of an Idea: Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel Edward L Bernays. By Edward L. Bernays. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965. 849 pp.

Review by:
Donald M. Kaplan, Ph.D.

Edward L. Bernays, the famous public relations advisor, is, of course, Sigmund Freud's nephew, and among Mr. Bernays' voluminous memoirs is a brief chapter on his correspondence with his distinguished uncle. The correspondence begins with Mr. Bernays' efforts to bring out an American edition of Freud's General Introductory Lectures and continues over various favors and services which Mr. Bernays found himself extending to his uncle in Vienna. Mr. Bernays' headquarters was New York City.

The chapter on Freud is comparatively brief. (The vast remainder of the book is not without interest, though this interest is not psychoanalytic. Bernays' career has carried him into all phases of society and has introduced him to practically every celebrity of the twentieth century. He has kept detailed notes on his extraordinary life, which he shares with the reader in this large and handsome volume.) But this brief chapter on Freud is recommended to students of the analytic movement for several reasons. For one, these letters and extracts of letters—some fifty in all—have not appeared before. (It may be of some passing interest that the current market-value of a letter by Freud is a thousand dollars. However, it is next to impossible to locate a seller.) For another, the correspondence centers on extra-analytic matters, such as money, and reveals Freud among issues more personal than we are used to. Also, Bernays, himself, was wholly an outsider with respect to the psychoanalytic movement—and a very American outsider at that—which sheds on the incidents and personages appearing in the chapter an unexpected light. Ernest Jones, for example, comes off as a rather bizarre and petulant character, not without paranoid features. (I was reminded of Lionel Trilling's word for Jones: mercurial.) Paul Federn turns up at one point, a “not completely reliable” man, Freud instructs his nephew.

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