Young Girl's Diary, A
YOUNG GIRL'S DIARY, A
Probably written by Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth, a non-medical psychoanalyst who was considered a pioneer in the field of child psychoanalysis, A Young Girl's Diary was, upon publication, considered to be a watershed event (Sándor Ferenczi, December 26, 1919) and was highly successful. It was the first—and remained the only—book in a series entitled "Fundamental Texts on Spiritual Development," which the new publishing company, created through the generosity of Anton von Freund, intended to publish. Because of its success the book provided considerable income.
Introduced by an anonymous "editor" who claimed to have retained the girl's style unaltered and uncensored, it was accompanied by an enthusiastic letter from Freud, dated April 27, 1915, which stated, "This diary is a little jewel. I truly believe that we will never again penetrate with such clarity and sincerity into the movements of the soul that characterize the development of a young girl in our society in the years before puberty, in the present state of our civilization."
The Diary contained the thoughts of the young "Rita," written between the ages of eleven and fourteen and a half. Her lengthy commentary, which would be considered innocuous by twenty-first century standards, described the awakening of adolescent feelings in a girl living in Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century. The book describes, in Freud's words, "how the secret of sexual life emerges, first obscurely, then taking complete control of the childish soul." It is more of an interesting commentary on middle-class Viennese life and family relations during the birth of psychoanalysis.
Welcomed by Lou Andreas-Salomé ("this young girl has lifted her diary to the rank of works esteemed for their literary value"), Stefan Zweig ("a quite remarkable document"), and the majority of critics, its authenticity was soon questioned by the psychoanalytic community. Siegfried Bernfeld began an investigation. The arguments in favor of fraud, published in August 1921 by Cyril Brut, an English critic, in the British Journal of Psychology, resulted in the exposure of Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth in 1922. Although she provided additional details on the presumed author, Hug-Hellmuth's claims were not felt to be convincing, and a number of individuals—Karl and Charlotte Bühler, Josef Krug, Hedwig Fuchs—attempted to prove it was a fraud. It has come to be felt that a number of details in the diary are autobiographical.
The murder of Hermine von Heg-Hellmuth by her nephew, Rudolf Hug, on September 9, 1924, served only to intensify the swirl of rumors circulating around the work, which in spite of its success was withdrawn from publication in 1927. It was translated into English in 1927.
See also: Adolescence; Hug-Hellmuth-Hug von Hugenstein, Hermine; Technique with children, psychoanalytic.
Hug-Hellmuth, Hermine von. (1919). Tagebuch eines halbwüchsigen Mädchen; von 11 bis 14 1/2 Jahren. Vienna: Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag; A Young Girl's Diary. London: Allen and Unwin; New York: Seltzer, 1924.
Hug-Hellmuth, Hermine von. (1911-1924). Essais psychanalytiques (D. Soubrenie, Ed.). Paris: Payot, 1991.
MacLean, George, and Rappen, Ulrich. (1991). Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth. New York-London: Routledge.