DEPTFORD QUATRAINS Walk Three: Rilke and Freud

Having just read the third Duino Elegy, during which the name “Freud” leapt off the page at me, and having just seen Wagner’s “Ring” cycle I wondered what it would be like to be able to engage with a work of art without Freud peering over your shoulder, so to speak. Rilke seems to have met him and run ten thousand miles. Can’t say I blame him.

A Letter from Freud to Lou Andreas Salome:

Vienna IX, Bergasse 19

Dear Frau Andreas

Your letter, in which as usual you pay back more than you have received, prompts me to an uneasy surmise. Between the lines in the first sentences I read a very discreet reproach that I have not replied to one of your letters, and I conclude from this that either one of your letters or my reply to it has gone astray. According to my list of letters received, the last one I got from you was on 18 November; that day a letter arrived from you which was answered immediately. It was dated 7.xi and dealt with my paper on ‘Repression’. Your manuscript, which will soon make its now so delayed journey to the compositor, had arrived a few days earlier. I have never received a letter containing your reaction to my paper on the Unconscious. Actually there is a point in that paper about which I am very curious to know who will be the first to have seen its significance. I am sure it will again be you.

From these introductory remarks you will doubtless have concluded that nothing bad has happened here. The heroes at the front and the timid ones at home are all still alive. My German son-in-law is slightly wounded in a hospital in Valenciennes, but will no doubt be very soon back at the front. Ernst spent his leave in Hamburg and Vienna and has at last met his hero Rilke. But not at our house. Rilke was not to be persuaded to visit us a second time, though his first visit before his call-up had been so very cordial.

Your observations on the case of paranoia I find fully justified apart from what you say about the element of phantasy. It is not a real, but once again a formal, progress – a compromise, as ever. Not a step to recovery in the sense of adjustment to life, but it nevertheless shows the tendency towards progress at work.

Faced with all that must be expected to fill the coming months, one can only react with a certain dull resignation.

We all loved and read Frau Ebner-Eschenbach. I knew her only as the ‘Tant Marie’ of one of my patients, to whom she had dedicated a children’s book.

Please make good the lost letter.

With all good wishes,


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