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Freud's Wizard: Ernest Jones and the…
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Freud's Wizard: Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis

by Brenda Maddox

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Brenda Maddox's "Freud's Wizard: Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis" (Da Capo Press, 354 pages, $26) poses a fundamental question about biography: To what extent do ideas, or, more specifically, the spread of ideas, depend on personalities? Freud himself wondered whether or not his new "science" of psychoanalysis would travel beyond turn-of-the century Vienna, Austria, and become something more than an exclusively Jewish enterprise.

At first Carl Jung seemed to be the gentile vehicle for Freudian ideas, but he became a rival. Ernest Jones, a Celtic Welshman turned Anglophile, proved an antidote to renegades such as Jung who broke out of Freud's tight circle and sought to establish their own therapeutic regimes.

Jones was a kind of wizard (his mother had wanted to name him Merlin). He was a good mobilizer with a knack for establishing organizations that furthered Freudian ideas. He wrote in an accessible style that enticed influential readers — his book on Hamlet and Oedipus impressed both James Joyce and Laurence Olivier.

But Jones was not merely a popularizer. He had a magnetic personality that attracted women. He courted Freud's daughter, Anna, and though his suit was not successful, it demonstrated how powerfully he wished to impose his personality on Freud's movement as well as his intimates. Jones's erotic adventures often got him into trouble, but Freud understood that Jones was the indispensable disciple, worth any amount of trouble.

Jones repaid his mentor's trust during Freud's moment of peril in Vienna. Ms. Maddox begins her biography by tersely evoking Jones's mission in March 1938 to save the founder of psychoanalysis. Hitler had entered Vienna the day before. His views of psychoanalysis as a Jewish virus were well known. Jones understood that if Freud did not leave Vienna he might well be murdered. Commercial flights to Vienna from London had been canceled. The enterprising Jones hired a private plane and managed to enter the city, only to be arrested. Fluent in German, he talked his way out of incarceration. It took him nearly a week to convince Freud to abandon the city that meant everything to him.

Freud did not relent until Jones promised to spirit his master's immediate family and associates out of Nazi-occupied Vienna. Not only did Jones succeed in this daunting task, he got the British government to approve work permits for these refugees at a time when public opinion in Britain was opposed to exiles whose arrival increased competition for precious jobs.

Where did Jones get his chutzpah? He liked to joke that he was a "Shabbes-Goy" who does the work Jews are not allowed to perform on the Sabbath." Jones had grown up in Wales at a time when a bright boy yearned to assimilate into British culture. Yet he never lost his Welsh character, a feistiness he shared with his hard-working father.

Jones rejected a place at Oxford for medical studies in London and Cardiff, Wales. Interested in brain neurology, Jones found Freud's ideas captivating and adapted them to his own purposes. That Jones became Freud's biographer, writing an elegant three-volume biography, seems inevitable in retrospect. The Freud biography perfectly expressed Jones's desire to honor his master even as Jones advanced his own life's work.

Jones's story, Ms. Maddox notes, has been told before by Jones's friend Vincent Brome, and she might have added another word or two about her predecessor, an author of several biographies to whom many of us are deeply indebted. But Ms. Maddox is right that much new material has appeared since Brome published his biography in 1982, and she pays handsome tribute to the scholars who have enriched her work.

Ms. Maddox herself has a special place among current biographers. She has a knack for picking figures like Nora Joyce, for example, who are slightly off-center, but without whose presence the story of a James Joyce or a Sigmund Freud would be immeasurably diminished. Her approach to biography did not seem essential when she first began work on Nora Joyce. Richard Ellmann, the distinguished Joyce biographer, doubted Ms. Maddox would have enough material for a full-scale biography. But Ellmann acknowledged that Ms. Maddox had proved him wrong.

While Ms. Maddox does not face the same skepticism with "Freud's Wizard," it is important to realize how her work has re-centered the enterprise of biography, broadening and deepening its reach into the panoply of personalities that surround and sustain the Freuds and Joyces who once seemed a force unto themselves. ( )
  carl.rollyson | Sep 14, 2012 |
In writing the life of the man who established psychoanalysis in Britain, Brenda Maddox gives a fascinating picture of the early world of psychoanalysis, with its conflicting egos and theoretical battles, particularly between strict Freudians and the followers of Melanie Klein, which fiercely divided the English psychoanalytic society founded and ruled over by Ernest Jones. Maddox frames Jones's life as the story of a man whose enormous gifts finally allowed him to triumph over early disgrace. A Welshman who'd shown brilliance as a medical student, Jones (1879-1958) had to leave England in 1908 after accusations of sexual impropriety while examining several younger women; Maddox finds the evidence in one case "damning." But Jones returned two years later to practice psychoanalysis and advocate tirelessly for it, soon becoming a member of Freud's inner circle. While one wishes for a bit more insight, Maddox wisely refrains from psychoanalyzing Jones, who took full advantage of his ability to mesmerize women before finally settling into a happy marriage, and his alternately affectionate and irritable relationship with his mentor (Jones at one point accused Freud's daughter, Anna, of being "insufficiently analyzed"; Freud in turn called Jones a lying Welshman). Perhaps Jones's greatest moment was in saving Freud and many other Jewish psychoanalysts from the Nazis. Maddox adds an important chapter to the history of psychoanalysis in this balanced and skillful biography.
  antimuzak | May 29, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306815559, Hardcover)

The saturation of the English-speaking world with Freudian psychoanalytic concepts was due largely to one brilliant analyst, Ernest Jones. As Freud’s disciple, colleague, biographer, and empire builder, he led the international psychoanalytic movement and moved its vortex from Vienna to London, and its influence to Toronto, New York, and Boston. While negotiating the ferocious politics and rivalry of the movement, Jones also managed an imposing series of liaisons that included an heiress and her maid, analysands, and a “Druid Bride.” Jones, unlike Freud, never had to wonder “what do women want?” From Jones’s first encounter with Freud’s writings as a medical student to the eve of World War II, when he orchestrated the master’s escape to London a hairsbreadth away from the death camps, Maddox lays bare a dark and creative era, and a colorfully flawed but powerfully influential man.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Ernest Jones was one of the shapers of the 20th century. In this biography, Brenda Maddox uncovers the gripping drama of the life of this intrepid Welshman. She investigates his early troubles with the law, his conversion to psychoanalysis, his long friendship with Freud, and even his passion for figure skating. Originally published: 2006.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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