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Macmillan, M. (1990). New Answers to old Questions: What The Complete Freud-Fliess Correspondence Tells Us'. Psychoanal. Rev., 77(4):555-572.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Review, 77(4):555-572

New Answers to old Questions: What The Complete Freud-Fliess Correspondence Tells Us'

Malcolm Macmillan


One of the most significant sources of our information about the origins of psychoanalysis is Sigmund Freud's correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess between 1887 and 1904. Especially is this so because Freud himself, most probably intimating his own greatness, twice destroyed his early letters, diaries, and papers (Sulloway, 1979, pp. 6-8, 464, 479). All of Freud's letters to Fliess were published recently (Masson, 1985) and it is my purpose to make a start toward evaluating their importance.

The details of how Freud came to write to Fliess, how the letters survived the catastropic upheavals in Central Europe, and how, after they were retrieved in the 1930s, they also survived Freud's opposition to their preservation are well known (Jones, 1953, pp. 287-289). It is also well known that not all the letters were included when they were published. The Editors explained that their principle of selection was one of making public “everything relating to the writer's scientific work and scientific interests and everything relating to the social and political conditions in which psycho-analysis originated” (Freud, 1950, p. xi). The principle included “omitting or abbreviating everything publication of which would be inconsistent with professional or personal confidence” (Freud, 1950, p. xi). Consequently, it did not seem too surprising that only 168 of the 284 letters appeared and that gaps occurred in those that did.


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