Folie à deux

The Freud/Jung Letters: The Correspondence Between Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung

edited by William McGuire, translated by Ralph Manheim, by R.F.C. Hull
Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XCIV, 650 pp., $17.50

In view of the fact that both Freud and Jung have made a great stir in the world and that the ideas of both of them have become part of the intellectual climate of our time, the publication of their letters to each other is obviously an event of some general interest—and of some importance to scholarship. This volume is therefore to be welcomed, since it will form an essential source of material to anyone wishing to do research into the history of the psychoanalytical movement. Having said this, I must, unfortunately, add that the letters themselves, and the way in which they have been edited, will deter all but the most determined readers from actually reading The Freud/Jung Letters straight through as a book.

The first obstacle anyone trying to read these letters will have to surmount is the discovery that they have been published against the express wishes of one of the correspondents, while the views of the other one are not known. Although Jung issued contradictory statements on the matter, at no time did he give permission for his letters to be published before 1980, and at no time did he express any positive wish that they should ever be published at all—indeed quite the contrary.

My letters were never written with any thought that they might be broadcasted. As a matter of fact, many of them contain unchecked and highly objectionable materials, such as are produced in the course of an analysis, and shed a most one-sided and dubious light on a number of persons who I don’t want to offend in any manner whatever. Such material enjoys the protection of the secretum medici. These people or their descendants are still alive.

And in his television interview with John Freeman, Jung rejected the suggestion that these letters were “probably of great historical importance” with “I see no particular importance in them.”

Secondly, the correspondents’ literary executors, Franz Jung and the late Ernst Freud, decided in order to guarantee impartiality that the letters should be printed as historical documents, without any commentary, and the editor, William McGuire, has abided by their decision. As a result, The Freud/Jung Letters is in no sense an account or history of the relationship between Freud and Jung—as is claimed of it—but merely provides some of the raw material on which such a history could be based. Although footnotes are frequent, they are confined to identifying the various persons and places named, the sources of all literary quotations and allusions, and to mentioning the occasions on which Freud and Jung met. Some of the notes are ridiculously pedantic; they include a speculation about the identity of someone named in the beginning of a sentence, the remainder of which is missing, and the information that the Latin tag “Nemo me impune lacessit” is not of ancient origin but was coined as the motto of the Order of the Thistle of Scotland—in which case, to cap …

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Letters

Romantic Jones July 18, 1974