Easton Press, Norwalk CT. 1988 Ronald W. Clark "Freud: The Man and the Cause" Limited Edition
Ronald Clark has written some excellent biographies (e.g., Einstein: The Life and Times; The Life of Bertrand Russell). While there are more recent biographies of Freud, more extensive biographies, and more "scandalous" biographies, I thought this was a balanced, reasonably comprehensive portrait of the man.
Clark notes that "Freud never doubted that he had been chosen for great things, that his mantle of leadership was tailor-made, and that while Moses had been picked to lead his people into the promised land, Sigmund Freud had a comparable destiny ahead of him." "If there was a likelihood that he would not be the first in the field, then Freud would switch to something else ...it was nevertheless an early indication of the determination to make his mark."
For his early promotion of cocaine as a local anesthetic, "He defended himself as best he could, declaring that he had never advised injection of cocaine but only the taking of doses orally--at best a Freudian slip which was repeated later when he omitted from his bibliography the damaging lecture to the Psychiatric Association. He had, in fact, been unlucky. When he set up his practice in 1886 he at first tended to be remembered in some medical circles not as the doctor who had discovered the anesthetizing value of cocaine but as the man who had let loose the third scourge" (the other two being alcohol, and morphine). At one point in 1885 Freud said that he had "destroyed all my notes of the past fourteen years ... I couldn't have matured or died without worrying about who would get hold of those old papers."
After he gave up hypnotism, Freud "decided to start from the assumption that my patients knew everything that was of any pathogenic significance and that it was only a question of obliging them to communicate it." Clark observes, "Yet though the unconscious had a long history, no one before Freud had pronounced so positively that it was the undiscovered country into which man tried to banish those memories he wished to ignore."; "Many of his patients were women, many were to some degree mentally unstable and many appear---from the scanty evidence available---to have been sexually repressed."; "it is interesting that psychoanalysis ... should have come into being during the treatment of a relatively small number of unrepresentative neurotic patients drawn most ... from an educated and literate social class."
Freud once admitted that "I am not basically interested in therapy and I usually find that I am engaged---in any particular case---with the theoretical problems with which I happen to be interested at the time." Clark details the origin of theories such as the Oedipus Complex, in ways that are very illuminating. Freud wryly observed in 1893, "The sexual business attracts people; they all go away impressed and convinced, after exclaiming, `No one has ever asked me that before!'"
Clark notes that Freud's Jewishness was important to him, and that he "grew up with a feeling for his race second only in importance to the cause of psychoanalysis. 'My parents were Jews,' he always stressed. 'and I have remained a Jew myself.'"
Clark is not afraid to make candid assessments of Freud: "it is necessary to ask how successful he was, not as an investigator of the way in which the mind worked but as a doctor curing sick patients. The evidence is remarkably slight." Late in life, Freud admitted that "one ought not to be surprised if it should turn out in the end that the difference between a person who has not been analyzed and the behavior of a person after he has been analyzed is not so thoroughgoing as we aim at making it..." In 1937, to a friend who encouraged him to leave Vienna now that the Nazis had come to power, he said, "I am not afraid of them. Help me rather to combat my true enemy: Religion, the Roman Catholic Church."
About the author
Ronald William Clark (2 November 1916 – 9 March 1987) was a British author of biography, fiction and non-fiction.
Born in London, Clark was educated King's College School. In 1933, he embarked on a career as a journalist, and served as a war correspondent during the Second World War after being turned down for military service on medical grounds. As a war correspondent, Clark landed on Juno Beach with the Canadians on D-Day. He followed the war until the end, and remained in Germany to report on the major War Crimes trials.