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Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, The


Ernest Jones's biography of Freud, titled Sigmund Freud: Life and Work, appeared between 1953 and 1957. The biography has been translated into all the major European languages. The first volume deals with Freud's childhood, youth, complex academic and personal life, and the gradual discovery of psychoanalysis, including The interpretation of dreams. The second volume deals with the years of Freud's maturity: his scientific achievements, his personal and professional life in Vienna during the first two decades of this century, the foundation of the international psychoanalytic movement, his various pupils, and the so-called heretics, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung. The third volume deals with the last period of Freud's life: his later scientific achievements, his troubled personal life and illness, the events that led him and his family to emigrate from Vienna to London to escape Nazi persecution in 1938, and his last months in London until his death. This volume also contains an overview of Freud's work, its links to various other natural and social sciences, and the contribution of psychoanalysis to the understanding of literature and art in general and religion in particular.

In spite of Jones's declarations concerning his objectivity in writing Freud's biography, there were several mitigating factors. One must consider his declared attempt to defend Freud and psychoanalysis from the constant attacks to which they were subjected, the personality of Jones as a biographer of Freud, his complex and often ambivalent relationship toward the founder of psychoanalysis, the cultural and social context in which the biography was conceived and written, and the pressures and control exerted on him and the use of Freud's material by Anna Freud and other Continental colleagues and friends in America and England. Furthermore, not all the documentation concerning Freud's life and work was available at that time.

In writing the biography Jones was helped by several colleagues and friends. First among them were Siegfried Bernfeld and Suzanne Cassirer-Bernfeld, without whose help many chapters of the first volume would have been impossible. Also helping were Marie Bonaparte, James Strachey, and Kurt Eissler. The biography contains numerous factual errors and has recently been criticized and attacked by many so-called independent scholars, but here one should consider Jones's advanced age and declining health. The work reflects a image of Freud as he was known, loved, and critically appreciated by the generation of analysts and friends who lived and worked with him.

Riccardo Steiner

See also: Anna O., case of; "Autobiographical Study, An"; Freud: Living and Dying ; Freud's Self-Analysis ; Fromm, Erich; Gestapo; Jones, Ernest.

Source Citation

Jones, Ernest. (1953-1957). Sigmund Freud: Life and work (3 vols.). London: Hogarth. (Later published under the title The life and work of Sigmund Freud.)


Freud, Anna. (1979). Personal memories of Ernest Jones. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 60, 285-287.

Gay, Peter. (1988). Freud: A life for our time. London: Dent.

Mijolla, Alain de. (1998). Freud, biography, his autobiography and his biographers. Psychoanalysis and History, 1 (1), 4-27.

Roazen, Paul. (1976). Freud and his followers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Steiner, Riccardo. (1993). Introduction. In R. Andrew Paskauskas (Ed.), The complete correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones, 1908-1939 (pp. 21-49). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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