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Masson, J.M. (1985). Preface to The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904, ix-xi.

Masson, J.M. (1985). Preface to The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904. The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904, ix-xi

Preface to The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904 Book Information Previous Up Next

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

The publication in German in 1950, then in English in 1954, of The Origins of Psycho-Analysis, a selective edition of Sigmund Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess, stimulated every reader's desire — including my own — for a full and unabridged edition of these extraordinary documents. I approached Freud's daughter Anna in 1978 and told her of my interest and my certainty that the unpublished letters contained valuable information. She allowed me access to the documents from 1897, and when I was able to show her that they did indeed contain significant material for historians of psychoanalysis, she was willing to consider permitting a complete version of the letters to be published. But it was only when K. R. Eissler, Miss Freud's close friend and trusted adviser, added his voice to mine that she relented fully and agreed to let me prepare a new edition. I did not realize at the time how complicated this task would become, how much effort it would involve, how many countries would have to be visited, how many libraries searched, how many documents tracked down. When I had finished, 133 previously unpublished items in the correspondence had been added to the 168 documents presented, in full or in part, in Origins.

It is a hazardous undertaking to edit a work of this magnitude, which is likely to change the image of a great man. Still, I think most readers will agree that a more human, more likable Sigmund Freud emerges from this complete version of his letters to Fliess. It is also true that the fuller rendition of his thinking about some of his key theories contrasts rather starkly with the version that Freud presented to posterity many years later in his published works. This is perhaps inevitable. It is also inevitable that access to works that were never meant to be printed forces the impartial historian to difficult, sometimes unpopular conclusions.

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