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 Ernest Jones, James Putnam

Three Letters re "The controversy over Psychoanalysis"

March, 1911


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Sidis wrote in a footnote: "Some of Freud's admirers, with a metaphysical proclivity, are delighted over the theory of suppressed wishes. The wish is fundamental and prior to all mental states. This piece of metaphysical psychologism is supposed to be based on clinical experience. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. The Freudist manages to ride such horses."  Article

Wrote Jones: "Sidis' remark is of course unpardonable, and Prince should not have allowed it to be printed; one will be bound to ignore him in the future."


[ Jones to Putnam, ca. March 1, 1911. First page of letter missing.] . . . they get taken out of one's own hand. I fully agree, with you that it is mean-spirited to put personal feelings in front of principles, but I do not feel specially guilty of my desire to succumb to such a temptation. It is true that I feel sore at the ungrateful way Prince has treated me, and am surprised at it in a man of his generosity of heart. I console myself, however, with the knowledge that such behaviour indicates weakness; he knows he is being pushed into a corner. I do not feel at all inclined to answer his last article.2 It would obviously mean much quibbling and back-biting, with no real gain, and I think that to people who count it is obvious that he has given himself away rather badly, with his flood of irrelevancy and abuse. Sidis' remark3 is of course unpardonable, and Prince should not have allowed it to be printed; one will be bound to ignore him in the future. One thing above all else I hope, and that is that in America abusive language (Dercum, Collins,4 Prince, Sidis, etc.) will remain in the monopoly of our opponents. Then it is bound to react on them in time, while if any of us were to reply in the same strain it would lead to a never-ending muddle. So long as we maintain a dignified attitude we are safe, and the onlooker will soon see which side has the fanaticism and high feeling. The only man I am afraid of here is Brill. I had a heated letter from him this morning, but think I shall be able to hold his hand.

        With regard to unity, that is on the lap or the gods. No one desires it more warmly than I do, except at the price of self-respect and honest convictions. I suppose no big movement can proceed harmoniously, without involving some alienation. Pour faire une omelette il faut casser les oeufs."5 But it is very evident that here the disruption is coming entirely from the other side. Such language as the current number of the Journal contains makes it very difficult to keep the peace, and for such a situation Prince is altogether responsible. I trust you were very cross with him in your letter to him. I am exceedingly anxious to hear what he has to say to you. Probably he will show you the letter I wrote him. I should be very much obliged if you would keep me in touch.


Yours sincerely,
Ernest Jones



1 See preceding letter.

2 "The Mechanism and Interpretation of Dreams―A Reply to Dr. Jones."
3 In "Fundamental States in Psychoneurosis," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, February-March 1911), 320-327, Boris Sidis wrote: "In other words, slippery and mutable as Freud's statements are, he clearly declares in the last edition to his magnum opus the far and wide reaching generalization that all psychoneurosis is based on sexual wish impulses (Wunschregungen) coming from infantile life. Suppression of sexual experience can be easily observed (by competent observers, of course), in infants of a few months old. If you miss the process of suppression in the baby, you can easily trace it by means of psychoanalysis to the early recollections of tender infancy. It is certainly lack of comprehension that induces Ziehen to doubt Freud's speculation as Unsinn [nonsense].
    "Some of Freud's admirers, with a metaphysical proclivity, are delighted over the theory of suppressed wishes. The wish is fundamental and prior to all mental states. This piece of metaphysical psychologism is supposed to be based on clinical experience. 'If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.' The Freudist manages to ride such horses" (p. 322).
4 Joseph Collins (1866-1950), New York neurologist. According to Jones, Collins had attacked Putnam's first paper on psychoanalysis as made up of "pornographic stories about pure virgins." See Jones. Sigmund Freud, II, 115; and Francis Xavier Dercum, "An Analysis of Psychotherapeutic Methods," Therepeutic Gazette (Detroit), 32 (May 15, 1908), 305-316.
5 You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.



March 2, 1911
106 Marlborough Street

Dear Dr. Jones

        It is rather amusing that the last of the patients spoken of by Sidis in his paper1 has just come under my care, quite as badly off as ever, and that he himself told, without urging, of strong sexual tendencies (desire for exposure, with reference to older women―perhaps originally nurse or mother) dating back to earliest childhood.

        Sidis and Prince should not, however, be spoken of as on the same plane, though in my optimism, I believe both of them are 'curable.’

        It is rather funny that I find myself in the position of a buffer. First Prince writes, that he considers himself ――d by you, and then you write that you consider yourself  ――d by him. I have written several long letters to him,2 striving to induce broader attitudes, and I do think that patience is necessary on a large scale. We must all put ourselves into 50 years ahead.

        I am insisting more and more, with my patients, that to get well from a psychoneurosis should mean not only losing symptoms but becoming broader and more reasonable and more moral persons.

        I insist also that the practice of tends in the same direction.

        Prince is a fighter by nature and loves the rough and tumble of a battle for its own sake, and he cares less intensely for the issues than you and I do in this case. For, ignorant though I am I do care more intensely for these issues than for any others for a long time, except certain ones rangeable as philosophic, in a broad sense. But Prince has strong virtues and much real generosity and public spirit.

        He is not an expert in questions; is less of an expert even than he thinks; and so (being a fighter) he says things which he should not say and does not recognize the obligations which we see.

        He might well have turned down Sidis, as you say, but I think he believes it best to let all combatants enter the arena.


Yours sincerely
James J. Putnam


1 "Fundamental States in Psychoneurosis." See preceding letter.
2 Missing.



March 5, 1911

407 Brunswick Avenue

Dear Dr. Putnam.

        All I was told about the Munich Congress was that it would be held "early in October."1 I shall be writing again to the Secretary,2 and will let you know the exact date if they, have settled it.

        I am glad to see that you are apparently less depressed and even optimistic in regard to the recent situation.3 The trouble with Prince is that the very qualities that make him so loveable personally, his boyish love of fighting and his irrepressible irresponsibility, are harmful factors for a man placed in the responsible and influential position he is. One is always torn between the desire to forgive him everything, and the knowledge that in his wilful innocence he is bringing about an undesirable state of affairs.

        It is the same thing over publishing questions: I simply cannot get him to take anything seriously. He laughs lightheartedly at careless blunders and inaccuracies that make my blood run cold, and yet I always imagined I had a fairly philosophic sense of humour. But my Weltanschauung (or what does duty for one) does not allow me to view everything as a joke; I could even, in private, subscribe to the platitude that life is real, life is earnest." Or, put in a more acceptable way, I feel that there are things worth doing, and worth doing well.

Yours very sincerely
Ernest Jones



1 Probably a reference to the International Congress for Medical Psychology held in Munich, September 25-26, 1911.
2 Probably Hans von Hattingberg (b. 1879), Munich neurologist and psychotherapist and, with August Forel, a founder of the International Society for Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy.
3 The controversy over psychoanalysis involving Prince. See all the letters from Prince to Putnam; Putnam to Jones, January 5, February 24, and March 2, 1911; and Jones to Putnam, February 19, February 27, 1911.


Top row, left to right: A.A. Brill, Ernest Jones, and Sandor Ferenczi.
Bottom row: Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung

(Click image for source.)

Ernest Jones, 1879–1958
"Ernest Jones was born Jan. 1, 1879, in a village in Wales. He graduated from medical school in London in 1900 and gradually became interested in psychiatry. He met Carl Jung in 1907, and in 1908 he traveled with Jung and Abraham Brill to the first historic congress of what became known as the International Psychoanalytic Association in Salzburg. There he first met Sigmund Freud and soon became a member of Freud’s inner circle. The following year, 1909, Jones met Freud in New York and accompanied him to Clark University, where Freud and Jung received honorary degrees. Following the secession of Alfred Adler in June 1911 and the resignation of Wilhelm Stekel from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in November 1912, Jones suggested the formation of a secret committee designed, like the Paladins of Charlemagne, "to guard the kingdom and policy of their master." The committee was to be unofficial, informal, and entirely secret and was to remain in close communication with Freud. Jones thus became the model of a very loyal, dedicated colleague, devoted to the founder of psychoanalysis, to the "cause," and to the advancement of psychoanalytic theory and practice." Harold P. Blum, M.D.
Amer. J. Psychiatry


"As early as 1906, James J. Putnam, a professor of neurology at Harvard University, published the first paper in English specifically on psychoanalysis. Starting in 1908, when A.A. Brill was a guest of the Psychoanalytic Society in Vienna, Freud showed a keen interest in developments on this continent through correspondence with Drs. Putnam, Brill, and Ernest Jones." Rodrigo Muñoz, M.D.,
APA President  Psychiatric News


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