Strachey, James Beaumont (1887-1967)

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James Strachey, British psychoanalyst, was born in London on September 26, 1887, and died there on July 3, 1967. He belonged to a very distinguished upper-middle-class family. He studied at St. Paul's School in London, achieving good academic results, and in 1904 went to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study classics. Owing to personal difficulties, he ended up not with a degree in classics but with an unclassified degree in moral sciences (1909). Like many other pioneers of the British Psycho-Analytical Society at Cambridge, Strachey discovered the Society for Psychical Research, where he read Freud's paper "A Note on the Unconscious in Psycho-Analysis," published in the society's journal in 1912. It was this paper that stimulated Strachey's interest in psychoanalysis.

He had a brief career as a journalist working in London for The Spectator and The Athenaeum, during which time he also became part of the Bloomsbury Group, led by his brother Lytton. In 1919 he approached Ernest Jones about becoming a psychoanalyst. He married Alix in 1920. In the same year Jones, having perceived Strachey's literary talents and wanting to use him to begin the systematic translation of Freud's work into English, sent him to Vienna to be analyzed by Freud. While in analysis with Freud, who chose him officially as his translator, James, together with Alix, began to translate several of Freud's works, such as "A Child is Being Beaten" (1919e) and "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego" (1921c). This was done under Freud's supervision and with the help of Anna Freud, who then became his collaborator and counselor in translating Freud's works.

Strachey returned to London in 1922 and, while practicing as a psychoanalyst, nevertheless dedicated most of his time to translating Freud's work. Particularly important was the Stracheys' translation of five of Freud's case histories, published in 1925 as the third volume of Freud's Collected Papers. James became an associate member of the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1922, a full member in 1922, and a training analyst in 1928.

As a training analyst, Strachey took an active part in the life of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, then under the rule of Ernest Jones, who as early as the 1920s had already planned what was to become, after the Second World War, the Standard Edition of theComplete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Strachey helped Melanie Klein to come to London and played an important mediating role in the controversial discussions between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein in the 1940s. In 1948 Strachey became the general editor of the Standard Edition translation of all the psychological works of Freud into English, and after retiring to the country at Marlow with his wife, he dedicated the rest of his life to accomplishing this task, using and revising the translations made in the 1920s by him, Joan Riviere, and others that had appeared in the first four volumes of Freud's Collected Papers and retranslating other works such as The Interpretation of Dreams and the metapsychological papers. One of the greatest contributions of his work was the editorial apparatus that he added to the translations of the Standard Edition, which has become invaluable in understanding and contextualizing Freud's work.

Strachey was well aware that his translations and editorial apparatus were not definitive and that they would need further revisions and corrections. Particularly important was the glossary of psychoanalytic terms, which he prepared reusing old material and most of the terminology already established in the 1920s and published in 1924 in The Glossary of Psychoanalytical Terms, edited by Ernest Jones. To Strachey we owe, among other translations, the terms "cathexis" to translate the German "Besetzung" and "anaclitic" to translate "Anlehnung." Both terms were derived from ancient Greek. Indicating the importance of its translations and editorial apparatus is the fact that the Standard Edition has become the text used by the International Psychoanalytical Association and that it is also the point of reference for other translations of Freud's works into such major languages as German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. In 1967 Strachey was awarded the Tieck Prize for his translation of the Standard Edition.

Strachey also significantly contributed to clinical psychoanalysis on his own. One paper particularly deserving to be remembered is "The Nature of the Therapeutic Action of Psycho-Analysis" (1934). This paper is considered a landmark for its discussion of problems related to the interpretation and mutative effects of transference.

Riccardo Steiner

Notion developed: Transmuting internalization.

See also: British Psycho-Analytical Society; Controversial Discussions; Empathy; Great Britain; Hogarth Press; International Journal of Psychoanalysis, The ; Libido; Maturation; Neutrality/benevolent neutrality; Primary identification; "Project for a Scientific Psychology, A"; Psychoanalytic semiology; Resolution of the transference; Scoptophilia/scopophilia; Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud ; Strachey-Sargant, Alix; Studienausgabe ; Time.


Freud, Sigmund. (1912g). A note on the unconscious in psycho-analysis. SE, 12: 255-266.

Holroyd, Michael. (1973). Lytton Strachey: A critical biography. London: Heinemann.

Ornston, Darius Gray. (1992). Improving Strachey's Freud. In Darius Gray Ornston (Ed.), Translating Freud (pp. 1-23). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Meisel, Perry, and Kendrick, Walter. (1986). Bloomsbury-Freud: The letters of James and Alix Strachey, 1924-1925. London: Chatto and Windus.

Steiner, Riccardo. (1987). A world-wide international trademark of genuineness? International Review of Psychoanalysis, 14, 33-102.

. (1991). To explain our point of view to English readers in English words. International Review of Psychoanalysis, 18, 351-392.

Strachey, James. (1934). The nature of the therapeutic action of psycho-analysis. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 15, 127-159.

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Strachey, James Beaumont (1887-1967)

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