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Kuhn, P. (2002). “Romancing with a Wealth of Detail”: Narratives of Ernest Jones's 1906 Trial for Indecent Assault. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 3(4):344-378.

(2002). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 3(4):344-378

“Romancing with a Wealth of Detail”: Narratives of Ernest Jones's 1906 Trial for Indecent Assault Related Papers

Philip Kuhn

In March 1906 Dr. (Alfred) Ernest Jones was put on trial for indecently assaulting two young “mentally defective” girls at a special school in South East London. Jones claimed it was “the most disagreeable experience in [his] life.” A detailed reconstruction of the trial, drawn from contemporaneous records, reveals significant flaws in Jones's autobiographical account. Reading those records in the light of early psychoanalytic theory and recent British “political” texts on child sexual abuse—from “Cleveland,” “Orkney,” and “Jason Dabbs” through to “Lost in Care”—helps illuminate the dominant medicolegal ideologies that informed Jones's trial. Adapting Leo Strauss's concept of persecution reveals how details of the children's allegations were occluded from the trial reports. A jigsaw reconstruction of these silences offers a restitutive narrative of the children's persecuted speech.


A poet and historian, Philip Kuhn has published a significant number of articles on Freud's early writings. He is currently writing a book on the methodologies of reading and is preparing an exhibition exploring the visual dimensions of words and texts.

I acknowledge the kind assistance of Rhys Griffith, Alan Field, and other members of the staff at The London Metropolitan Archives. I also thank the anonymous readers of Studies in Gender and Sexuality for their invaluable comments during the revision of this paper.

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Jones is an enigma to me. He is so incomprehensible that it's quite uncanny. Is there more in him than meets the eye, or nothing at all? At any rate he is far from simple; an intellectual liar (no moral judgement intended!) hammered by the vicissitudes of fate and circumstances into many facets. But the result? Too much adulation on one side, too much opportunism on the other?

—Carl Jung to Sigmund Freud, 12 July 1908

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