Erikson’s Second Thoughts

In response to:

The Strange Case of William Bullitt from the September 29, 1988 issue

To the Editors:

Ronald Steel’s otherwise excellent review of So Close to Greatness: A Biography of William C. Bullitt by Will Brownell and Richard N. Billings [NYR, September 29] quotes two sentences from Erik H. Erikson’s review of the Freud-Bullitt book on Woodrow Wilson that was widely influential at the time it first appeared in The New York Review of Books in 1967.

I would, however, like to call the interested reader’s attention to the fact that the first of those sentences, which said that Freud could have written “almost nothing of what is now presented in print,” was completely dropped by Erikson when in 1975 he reprinted the review in his Life History and the Historical Moment. Although in his book Erikson did not alert the reader to his changing ground, he did introduce major alterations to his NYR account of the collaboration between Freud and Bullitt. Although Erikson still thought the Freud-Bullitt book a bad one, he was now willing to see more of Freud’s hand in it. A detailed discussion of all Erikson’s alterations in his original NYR review can be found in my Erik H. Erikson: The Power and Limits of a Vision (1976), pp. 13, 201–203.

Paul Roazen
Toronto, Ontario