In February 1939, a small, stooped man called to No 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead. He was Wilfred Trotter, a surgeon who had been asked by his brother-in-law, the psychoanalyst Dr Ernest Jones, to give a second opinion on a cancer case. The patient was Sigmund Freud, who over several years had undergone numerous operations and radiation therapy for an oral cancer. Jones had been a close associate and disciple of Freud’s for three decades, the unofficial leader of the “Paladins”, Freud’s protectors and the proselytisers of his ideas. He had almost single-handedly extracted the ailing Freud from Vienna after the Anschluss the year before. Trotter and Freud had met once before, at a psychoanalytic conference in Salzburg in 1908. After his examination, Trotter confirmed that the cancer had returned and that further surgery was not possible. Freud died seven months later.
Jones was born in Gowerton, near Swansea, in 1879. He studied medicine at Cardiff University and University College Hospital (UCH) London. Clever, completely self-confident and intensely ambitious, he later described his younger self as “opinionated, tactless, conceited”. As a house officer at UCH, he was mesmerised by Wilfred Trotter, six years older and a surgical registrar at the hospital. Trotter was able – so able that the senior surgeons routinely delegated major operations to him. He was also an intellectual, with interests in psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology and literature. He had endured a difficult childhood, contracting spinal tuberculosis, for which he was confined to bed until the age of sixteen. Thereafter he had a permanent stoop, and his health was always precarious. In his unfinished autobiography, Free Associations, Jones wrote: “Wilfred Trotter was my best friend and – apart from Freud – the man who mattered most in my life.”
Jones and Trotter got on so well that in 1905 they jointly took out a lease on consulting rooms in Harley Street, where they lived and worked. Trotter was now well-established in UCH as “dresser” (assistant) to the great pioneering neurosurgeon Sir Victor Horsley, but Jones was a callow, unknown twenty-five-year-old without a hospital appointment. “In spite of being a professional surgeon,” wrote Jones, “Trotter was really always more interested, and I should say remained so, in mind than in matter, and so he encouraged me in my predilection. We started from the same sociological motives and cherished the same biological goal – that is, comprehending psychology in terms of biology.” They subscribed to a huge number of scientific journals – somewhere between fifty and a hundred, according to Jones. Much of what stimulated them was written in German; Trotter drew Jones’s attention to Studies in Hysteria (1895), written by two Viennese doctors called Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud. They engaged a German language tutor, a Berliner, who came two or three times a week. Jones claimed that thereafter he spoke German with a pronounced Prussian accent.
Hoping to train as a neurologist, Jones applied for a post at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen Square but was not appointed. He was distraught, but the setback was temporary. With his customary energy, he developed a portfolio career. He coached candidates for medical examinations, wrote up lectures and conference proceedings for the Medical Press Circular, gave evening talks for London County Council on hygiene and first aid. One of his clinical jobs was carrying out speech assessments on intellectually disabled children. In March 1906 he was accused of indecently exposing himself by two girls at the Edward Street School in Deptford, south London. Jones was arrested and appeared before Tower Bridge Police Court. The magistrate threw out the case on the grounds that a jury would not convict on the evidence of “mentally unreliable” children.
By this stage, Jones’s clinical interests had gradually drifted from neurology to psychiatry. He attended the First International Congress of Psychiatry and Neurology in Amsterdam in September 1907, where he met the tyro psychoanalysts Carl Gustave Jung and Otto Gross. Gross, a morphine addict and compulsive womaniser, was, according to Jones, “my first instructor in the technique of psycho-analysis”. In November 1907, he spent a month in Munich at a postgraduate course run by the famous psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin. The expenses were covered by his newly acquired wealthy mistress, Loe Kann. On his way back to London, he visited Zurich, spending five days with Jung, with whom he had long, animated discussions on Sigmund Freud’s ideas.
Early in 1908, Jones was yet again accused of sexual impropriety with a patient. He was working at the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases where Dr Harry Campbell asked him to examine a ten-year-old girl with a “hysterical” paralysis of her left arm. Campbell challenged Jones “to see if I could discover any sexual basis for the symptom”. After seeing Jones, the girl “boasted to other children in the ward that the doctor had been talking to her about sexual topics”. Her father complained to the hospital’s management committee, and Jones was asked to resign: “This meant that all hope vanished of ever getting on to the staff of any neurological hospital in London.”
Undaunted, Jones travelled to Salzburg just a month later to attend the inaugural “Meeting for Freudian Psycholog”’ at the Hotel Bristol, where forty-two delegates had gathered. Freud himself gave a presentation on one his patients, known since as “the Rat Man”, a lawyer who had become obsessed with rats after reading about an ancient punishment where a pot of starving rats was clamped to the victim’s behind, their only means of escaping to eat through the gluteal flesh. Freud’s presentation began at 8 am. After speaking for three hours, he suggested that his talk might conclude; his audience, however, begged him to continue, which he did for another two hours. Jones had the unenviable task of following this with his paper on “rationalization”. This was his first meeting with Freud.
Trotter too travelled to Salzburg; it was he, after all, who had first told Jones about Freud. But he did not attend the five-hour talk on the Rat Man. “He gave his poor German as an excuse,” Jones moaned, “but one might have supposed that curiosity about a great man would have transcended this obstacle.” Trotter thought abroad was awful: “After a couple of days in what was evidently an atmosphere uncongenial to him, he abruptly left for home.” He did, however, attend the conference dinner, where he sat between Jones and the young Fritz Wittels (later biographer of Freud). Unimpressed by Wittels’s “jejunely facetious remarks”, he muttered to Jones: “I console myself with the thought that I can cut a leg off, and no one here can.”
After the conference, Jones travelled on to Vienna, accompanied by Abraham Brill, a New York-based Polish-born psychiatrist. They had long talks with Freud and sat in on one of the weekly meetings of the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society, held in Freud’s apartment. Jones wrote: “Freud was fifty-one years old, at the height of his powers and full of energy . . . His revolutionary discoveries had all been made in the past ten years.” (Jones would always refer to Freud’s ideas as “discoveries”, akin to the finding of a sub-atomic particle, or a fossil of a hitherto unknown species.) He was receptive to Freud’s teachings on childhood sexuality, perhaps because of his own childhood experiences, writing that “the practice of coitus was familiar to me at the age of six and seven”.
Following his dismissal from his post at the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Jones knew he had no future in London and accepted a post as pathologist and neurologist at the Ontario Asylum for the Insane in Toronto. He set up a psychiatric out-patient clinic, where he saw several patients whose problems appeared to be sexual, such as the boy suffering from the delusion that Jesus Christ was sucking his penis – “a beautiful case”, he wrote to Freud. He published a report in the American Journal of Insanity of a woman who saw Holy Communion as a form of oral sex, and who gave a vivid demonstration in the consulting room: “During the latter part of the performance a complete and exhausting orgasm took place.”
Jones was a brilliant networker. He regularly travelled from Toronto to meetings in New York, Boston and Detroit; he cultivated the acquaintance of many prominent neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists, including Morton Prince, William James, Boris Sidis and James Putnam. While he nurtured his friendship with Freud with a steady stream of intimate letters, his relationship with Trotter was gradually withering: “I saw Trotter every year on my visits to Europe, but our correspondence was sparse and became increasingly so.” Trotter guessed that Freud had replaced him in Jones’s affections. Writing to Jones in October 1908, he lamented: “I get as I have often got before in our talks about F. [Freud] a certain sense that you are letting me down easily . . . I do not get the sense of illumination, the sense of splendour that you do.”
But Jones and Trotter would remain connected until the latter’s death in 1939. Jones’s sister Elizabeth had kept house for them in Harley Street and later moved with her brother to Canada. She had been corresponding with an “eligible suitor” in England, and travelled to meet him in London. Trotter somehow got wind of her plans and met her on the railway platform, where his proposal of marriage was accepted. “Theirs was as successful a marriage as I have known,” wrote Jones. But around the time of this marriage in 1910, Jones noticed a distinct change in his friend:
In the earlier years he was the most extreme, and even blood-thirsty, revolutionary in thought and phantasy that one could imagine, though there was never any likelihood of this being expressed outwardly. After the change he shut down this side of his nature completely; as he somewhat cynically put it to me, shocking me by the words, he decided to put security first.
Jones was part of the delegation which welcomed Freud on his only visit to America in the summer of 1909. He consolidated his friendship with the master: in a frank conversation, he told Freud that he planned to devote his life to psychoanalysis, and rather daringly attempted to displace Jung, Freud’s chosen dauphin. Jung was suspicious of Jones; a year before, he had written to Freud: “Jones is an enigma to me. He is so incomprehensible that it’s quite uncanny. Is there more in him than meets the eye, or nothing at all. At any rate, he is far from simple; an intellectual liar hammered by the vicissitudes of fate and circumstance into many facets. But the result? Too much adulation on one side, too much opportunism on the other?”
This period of Jones’s life was very productive. He wrote numerous papers and was a much sought-after speaker at conferences. But yet again he was accused of sexual misconduct with a patient. He wrote to James Putnam in 1911: “A woman whom I saw four times last September (medically) has accused me of having had sexual intercourse with her . . . I foolishly paid her $500 blackmail to prevent a scandal.” Meanwhile, Loe Kann, who had moved with him to Canada, had become an invalid, due to a combination of arthritis and morphine dependence. She was suffering also from “frigidity” and lower abdominal pains, which Jones thought were psychosomatic in origin. He wrote to Freud with his concerns, and in 1912 he and Loe moved to Vienna so she could “place herself in Professor Freud’s hands”. When Freud told Jones that there was no need for him to remain in Vienna for the entirety of Loe’s analysis, he returned to Toronto. Loe moved into a small flat in Vienna, accompanied by her maid, Lina, and her dog, Trottie (named after Wilfred). She met and fell in love with Herbert Jones, a young American poet who had been brought to the city by his millionaire father to be treated by Freud. Although Loe’s analysis did not cure her problems, it all worked out: American Jones married Loe, Lina became Welsh Jones’s lover and Loe paid for him to set up in psychoanalytic practice in London.
Trotter’s life in the meantime was less eventful but just as productive. He wrote a landmark paper for the Sociological Review, published in two parts in 1908 and 1909. He was a member of the Sociological Society, where he first presented his ideas in 1905. An expanded version of these papers was published in 1916, at the height of the Great War, under the title Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War. Trotter was persuaded by a government official (who thought it might be useful anti-German propaganda) to expand this essay into a book. The core of the book is a mere thirty-five pages (the original 1908-09 essays), followed by a ninety-three-page section written during the war (“Speculations upon the human mind in 1915”), and, in later editions, a twenty-nine page “Postscript of 1919”. Instincts of the Herd was a bestseller, with several editions and print runs.
Trotter argued that the key to understanding human behaviour was gregariousness, which “is of a biological significance approaching in importance that of the other instincts” (self-preservation, sex and food). He listed the features of gregariousness in humans: first, a yearning for transcendence; second, a sensitivity to the voice of the herd which “is the source of his moral codes, of the sanctions of his ethics and philosophy”; third, a susceptibility to “the passions of the pack in his mob violence and the passions of the herd in his panics”; fourth, an attraction to leaders of a particular type: “the successful shepherd thinks like his sheep, and can lead his flock only if he keeps no more than the shortest distance in advance”. Gregariousness led to suggestibility: “man is not suggestible by fits and starts, not merely in panic and in mobs, but always, everywhere, and under any circumstances . . . a very considerable portion of his beliefs are non-rational”.
Trotter directly challenged Freud, arguing that “all human psychology . . . must be the psychology of associated man, since man as a solitary animal is unknown to us”. The herd instinct, he wrote, is evident in three forms: the protective, the socialised and the aggressive, represented respectively by the sheep, the bee and the wolf. English society was akin to the beehive, and Germany to the wolf pack: “It is a war not so much of contending nations as contending species”’ Trotter argued that Germany must lose because its lupine society was rigid and ruled by the whip, because its people had “swallowed the doctrine of the biological necessity of war”. Meanwhile, his idealised England would “continue on her road unconscious of herself or her greatness”. Writing a postscript in 1919, he admitted that he was not “immune to prejudice”.
The phrase “herd instinct” is now a pejorative term, but that was not Trotter’s intention. He viewed the human capacity for “association” as a good thing, a protection against loneliness and vulnerability. Nietzsche, who first used the phrase in The Gay Science, did so contemptuously, as did Francis Galton, who wrote that gregariousness had a “slavish” quality. Instincts of the Herd is often said to have been influenced by Gustave Le Bon’s The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895), but Trotter dismissed this “little book” and did not hold with the notion that crowds were synonymous with mobs, that they promoted destructive irrationality, that “association” dehumanised and stifled individuality. He acknowledged the influence of Karl Pearson’s concept of the “social instincts”, but did not accept his arguments for hierarchies, the elimination (by selective breeding) of “the unfit” and colonialism. Collective life was for Trotter a prerequisite for human flourishing, for individual fulfilment. Sensitivity to the group – or the herd – led to altruism. What defines us a species is our connectedness: “he [the individual] is able to feel with the other and share his pleasures and sufferings as if they were an attenuated form of his own personal experiences”. No man is an island.
Trotter warned that postwar optimism was misplaced when the “defect that made the war possible” remained uncorrected; he was at heart a pessimist:
. . . we seem almost forced to accept the dreadful hypothesis that in the very structure and substance of all human constructive social efforts there is embodied a principle of death, that there is no progressive impulse but must become fatigued, that the intellect can provide no permanent defence against a vigorous barbarism, that social complexity is necessarily weaker than social simplicity, and that fineness of moral fibre must in the long run succumb to the primitive and coarse.
He deplored the rigidity of the British class system, and correctly predicted that the war would trigger social change. Although he believed that inequality was one of the greatest obstacles to progress, Trotter wrote that communism was “deeply tainted by the belief in an inverted class segregation of its own, and by a horror of knowledge”.
He had an ambivalent attitude to Freud. Although he acknowledged his “rich genius” and the validity of some Freudian ideas, such as the importance of early childhood experience and the concept of the subconscious, he confessed to “a certain uneasiness as to the validity” of his system: “an inclination for the enumeration of absolute rules, a confidence in his hypotheses which might be called superb if that were not in science a term of reproach, and a tendency to state his least acceptable propositions with the heaviest emphasis”. Freud for his part read Instincts of the Herd, but his only comment was: “ΨA [psychoanalysis] stands rather isolated in the book.” Although Freud was unimpressed by the book, his nephew Edward Bernays (a pioneer in public relations and advertising) later cited it as a major influence.
Trotter had little confidence in the original essays published in the Sociological Review, writing to Jones in 1908: “It seems to me the most shockingly jejune piffle.” He also confessed to Jones how much he missed him: “Not that I can always make this [writing letters] a substitute for talking to you. When I really must talk with you.” When Jones settled back in London in 1913, he found that his old friend – who now had a wife and child to support – had become distant: “a new barrier had grown up between us which I was not to transgress; we were no longer to share our lives, our hopes, and aspirations”. The historian Reba Soffer wrote: “Wilfred Trotter, the most perceptive of the social psychologists before 1914, yielded after 1914 to Wilfred Trotter, distinguished surgeon and Fellow of the Royal Society, a skeptic who had overcome his sense of obligation.”
Trotter’s optimism had evaporated by 1919, and he retreated to the comfort of his craft. He became the pre-eminent British surgeon of the inter-war years, spending nearly all his career at UCH, where he eventually became Professor of Surgery. To the many medical students and junior surgeons that he trained, he became a god-like figure. His pupil the neurosurgeon Julian Taylor reflected on the roots of this worship: “It was because the clarity of his thought led infallibly to perfection in his work; because the skill that he employed in its execution was the match of its thoughtful inception; and because his bearing towards his patients was in its sensitive courtesy the complement of thought and dexterity.” Trotter was so admired that many of his students consciously or subconsciously imitated him, as his obituarist wrote in the British Medical Journal: “There are . . . many men . . . in whose conversation his habits of speech may still be heard. Some even may be recognized by their curiously softened and lazy-sounding sibilants.”
Trotter was not a natural researcher; he carried out just one original study – on the innervation of the skin. His genius – and that is not too strong a word – was for the clinical, not the experimental. His pupil Robin Pilcher described Trotter as “a surgeon of unusual virtuosity and versatility” with an “uncanny flair for diagnosis”. In those pre-ICU, pre-blood transfusion days, “the surgeon was almost entirely dependent on his own skill for the success of an operation and the survival of his patient”. No one was more successful than Trotter. He revolutionised the surgery of head and neck cancer, abandoning the hitherto mutilating operations in favour of a careful, conservative dissection based on a deep knowledge of anatomy. But surgeons in those days were generalists: Trotter also made major contributions to neurosurgery, and to surgery of the thyroid, chest and abdomen. Julian Taylor described his surgical technique: “His operative methods matched the perfection of the rest. Simplicity of equipment, exclusion of the unnecessary, deliberation, manual ambidexterity, and the gentlest of touches made up a style in which there was no element of display.”
Trotter was a perfectionist, preferring to do the post-operative dressings himself, a task usually delegated to nurses or junior surgeons. When George V fell gravely ill in 1928, the palace naturally called Trotter. He both diagnosed what ailed the king (empyema, or abscess in the pleural cavity) and cured him, draining the empyema by rib resection. The story goes that Trotter travelled by bus to Buckingham Palace, where he performed the operation, and that he was later offered a knighthood, which he stylishly declined. Trotter was monarch not only in the operating theatre but at the bedside too. Julian Taylor described his approach to history-taking: “it was his habit to listen attentively to the longest and most rambling story alike from the neurote and the husky old slum lady, with the same courtesy that he probably paid to duchesses . . . He never interrupted, but gradually led by agreement and sympathetic inquiry to things that might be important for the matter in hand.” “He was”’ concluded Robin Pilcher, “the perfect example of a good doctor.”
Because his health had been fragile since childhood, Trotter was careful about how he used his time. When he was appointed to (or more correctly, persuaded to accept) the chair of surgery at UCH in 1930, he abandoned his private practice, and thereafter devoted himself to teaching students and supervising trainee surgeons. Surgical training in those days was a haphazard affair; Trotter, uniquely for such a senior surgeon, stayed for the entirety of any procedure he supervised, but interfered as little as possible.
In the last two decades of his career, he was much in demand as a deliverer of those eponymous prestige lectures instituted by the medical royal colleges and societies. His Collected Papers (published posthumously in 1941) gathered ten of these orations. Reviewing the Collected Papers for the Archives of Internal Medicine, the American psychiatrist Charles Aring wrote: “He was a philosopher in a profession where there are none.” These essays are more engaging than Instincts of the Herd. His prose style had matured to a degree that a colleague wrote that “he used the English language as he used his hands, with a delicate precision born of constant striving after perfect control”.
The first essay in the Collected Papers is “Emergency”, based on an address given to the students and juniors at UCH. Although he does indeed deal with medical emergencies, the talk is really about the status of the medical profession, which then, as now, was burdened with more responsibility than power: “that profession finds itself of all professions the least in command of social prestige, the least privileged, the most exposed, and the hardest worked”. But Trotter did not deplore this state of affairs. Medicine, he wrote, was “in that very small class of professions that, in this tame world, can still be called jobs for men . . . By it I mean professions in which it is possible for people – men and women – to pursue the dying ideal than an occupation for adults should allow of intellectual freedom, should give character as much chance as cleverness, and should be subject to the tonic of difficulty and the spice of danger.”
Addressing a group of UCH students starting their clinical training in 1932 (“Art and Science in Medicine”), Trotter argued that medicine was a “practical art”, not an applied science. Practical arts, he wrote, preserved “the accidental fruits of experience and the creations of genius”, which is why they were “inherently conservative”. A practical art “must be sparing of theory and keep closely in contact with the facts”. Medical students had to be both taught and trained. Training he defined as “the cultivation of aptitude”. He questioned the standard exhortation to “think scientifically”: “the affectation of scientific exactitude in circumstances where it has no meaning is perhaps the fallacy of method to which medicine is most exposed”. The patient was at the centre of Trotter’s philosophy of medicine: “The well-equipped clinician must possess the qualities of the artist, the man of science, and the humanist, but he must exercise them in so far as they subserve the getting well of the individual patient.”
Six months before he died, Trotter gave a lecture at the Institute of Pathology at St Mary’s Hospital London called “Has the Intellect a Function?” He argued that so-called “rational” systems of the eighteenth century, such as those propagated by François Broussais and Georg Stahl, “armed with opium, antimony, alcohol, mercury, the lancet and the purge” devastated medicine. Similarly, philosophical and religious frameworks, such as those of Aquinas, Calvin, Hegel and Marx, were “more deadly than cholera or bubonic plague and far more cruel”. He concluded: “Philosophy then desires its conclusions to feel true, science that they should come true; philosophy needs certitude, science needs verification. Science has no certitudes because its conclusions are based not at all on internal conviction but wholly on the regularities of observed experience.” Was he thinking of psychoanalysis when he used the phrase “internal conviction”?
Jones’s son Mervyn wrote of his father’s relationship with Trotter: “the change in Trotter had robbed Jones of something of himself – something of his youth”. After their parting, Jones threw himself into the role of Freud’s disciple and protector: “my relation towards Freud, whom I appropriately designated the Darwin of the mind, was not altogether dissimilar from that of Huxley’s towards Darwin”. He was puzzled by any questioning of Freud’s ideas: “Theologians talk about sinning against the light; this is not only fighting against the light but being stupid as well.” In Instincts of the Herd, Trotter – although he didn’t name the psychoanalytic movement explicitly – observed of its resistance to criticism: “That heavy bodies tend to fall to the earth and that fire burns fingers are truths verifiable and verified every day, but we do not hold them with impassioned certitude, and we do not resent or resist inquiry into their basis.” Whatever misgivings he may have had about psychoanalysis, Trotter was instrumental in securing the Fellowship of the Royal Society for Freud in 1936. The society cannot have regarded psychoanalysis as a science, for Freud was the first – and last – psychoanalyst to be given this honour.
“We tend to get at the summit of our professions,” wrote Trotter in Instincts of the Herd, “only those rare geniuses who combine real specialist capacity with the arts of the bagman.” Jones was the bagman for the psychoanalytic movement. Freud disliked this side of him, telling Abraham Brill: “[Jones] has an inborn tendency to intrigue and crooked diplomatic means”. He was a wily diplomat: only he could have brought Freudians and Jungians together in the unlikely setting of a cricket match; only he could have persuaded the British Medical Association in 1929 to recognise psychoanalysis as a legitimate speciality. During the bitter dispute in the 1940s between the followers of Melanie Klein and Anna Freud, he privately sided with Klein but managed to persuade both camps that he was sympathetic to their cause. A series of meetings held in 1944 (chaired by Jones) known as “The Controversial Discussions” culminated in what was called the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” (even though the leaders of both factions and many of the analysts involved were women). Henceforth, there would two parallel psychoanalytic training schemes: the “A” stream would get Kleinian training and the “B” group Freudian training.
By the 1920s, Jones’s practice in London was busy and prosperous – psychoanalysis was, after all, as much an economic model as it was a school of thought, or “climate of opinion”. His biographer Brenda Maddox wrote that by 1914 Jones’s “appointment book was full. Of the thirty or forty psychoanalytic patients in London, he had eight.” A typical patient had 240 hour-long sessions a year for three years. When Jones’s fee in the 1920s was three guineas an hour, a full psychoanalysis would have cost 2,160 guineas. (The average UK house price in 1926 was £619.) Paying analysands were rare and highly prized, which was why their sometimes outrageous behaviour was tolerated: they were simply too valuable to be shown the door. None of Jones’s patients was more outrageous than the monstrous Joan Riviere. She was so enraged by news of Jones’s engagement to Morphydd Owen in 1916 that she broke off the analysis and left London for six months. She eventually returned to Jones, but despite seeing him in analysis three times a week, bombarded him with letters, frequently threatening suicide if he did not make her his lover. After Morphydd’s death in 1918, she accused Jones of indulging his grief when he should be paying more attention to his patients. “Psycho-analytic treatment,” Jones observed, “does not bring out the most charming aspects of human nature.” Joan Riviere was the not the only clever wealthy woman who fell for Jones. Dr Ethel Vaughan-Sawyer, a member of the Fabian Society and one of the first Englishwomen to become a surgeon, wrote passionate letters to him: “I hug myself for having found you.” He was also on very intimate terms also with Edith Eder, the wife of his friend the psychoanalyst David Eder; she had already been in analysis with Jung before she became Jones’s patient.
Although their intense relationship was over, Jones and Trotter continued to meet regularly: they were, after all, brothers-in-law. When Morfydd fell dangerously ill with appendicitis in September 1918 while on holiday in South Wales, he immediately phoned Trotter. He advised Jones that he would not get to Swansea in time to operate and that he should engage the services of William Frederick Brook, a local highly respected surgeon. A few days after the operation – which was carried out at the home of Jones’s father – Morfydd became delirious with a high fever. Trotter hurried from London and diagnosed “delayed chloroform poisoning”, an acute liver reaction, akin to halothane hepatitis. Morfydd died, aged just twenty-six; she was probably pregnant at the time.
Jones remarried the following year. His second wife, Katharina (“Kitty”) Jokl, was introduced to him by Hanns Sachs, one of Freud’s inner Viennese circle. Kitty was the sister of Sachs’s mistress, Gretl Ilm. Fluent in English and German, with a doctorate in economics, Kitty became Jones’s secretary in May 1919, and in October of that year, his wife. Like Trotter, he enjoyed a long and happy marriage, but had a typically psychoanalytical approach to parenting. Jones’s son Mervyn was sent at the age of four to Melanie Klein for analysis, as was his older sister Gwenith. Jones summarised the findings for Anna Freud (without mentioning that the analyst was her sworn enemy): “The girl proved to have a severe castration complex, intense guilt and a definite obsessional neurosis. The boy was very introverted, lived in a babyish dream world, and had an almost complete sexual inversion.” Gwenith died a couple of years later aged just seven, not of a severe castration complex, or an obsessional neurosis, but of influenza. A second daughter, Nesta, was born in 1930, and by 1937 was in analysis with Donald Winnicott for “pathological jealousy of her little brother”. Although as a boy Mervyn was fond of Freud, he later wrote: “It may or may not be true that all men are born to grapple with the Oedipus complex, but Freud was content to detect it among the bourgeoisie of Vienna without asking whether it was as clearly present in proletarian Glasgow, let alone among the Yoruba or the Navajo.” He mocked his father’s Hamlet and Oedipus, which saw “the Oedipus complex as the key to the problems of a Danish prince called Hamlet”. Or was this mockery itself a perfect example of the Oedipus complex in action? (The psychoanalysis of fictional and mythological figures was one of the more endearingly batty Freudian enterprises.)
Freud died on September 23rd, 1939; Trotter died six weeks later on November 25th. He had suffered from painful bouts of kidney stones for many years; this eventually led to chronic kidney failure. Jones went on to write the first major of biography of Freud, published in three volumes between 1953 and 1957. He was largely responsible for moving psychoanalysis from its “Viennese ghetto” to a position of unchallengeable authority in the Anglophone world. By the time of Jones’s death in 1958, Freudian psychoanalysis was the dominant force in American psychiatry.
The history of psychoanalysis is replete with men and women seeking surrogate fathers. Ernest Jones had a distant relationship with his father, Thomas, and sought out the guidance and friendship of older men like Trotter and Freud. To the contemporary observer, the relationship of Trotter and Jones as young men has a definite homoerotic flavour, but in the early years of the last century such intense, non-sexual friendships were common. Men and women lived before (and often after) marriage in entirely separate spheres at school, at work and at leisure. It was inevitable that after Jones’s move to Canada and Trotter’s marriage, their closeness would end. Trotter had no appetite for bohemia, and he must have concluded that given a choice between being a public intellectual or a great surgeon, he would choose the latter. Wondering why “Trotter selected me as his friend”, Jones recalled: “He said it was my capacity for imagination.”
Although Trotter was, in many respects, the antithesis to Freud, they had some things (apart from the admiration of Ernest Jones) in common: they both wrote exceptionally well; they both had a personal magnetism that attracted ardent admirers. But while Freud needed disciples, Trotter discouraged such attention; while Freud treated only fee-paying Viennese bourgeois (and later the rich from anywhere), Trotter treated the duchess and the husky old slum-lady alike; Freud craved titles and honours but Trotter declined them; Freud based his practice on his own grand unifying theory, while Trotter’s was a practical art; Freud is still taken seriously by the academy, while Trotter is all but forgotten. But it would not have concerned him; he had little regard for “the world’s coarse thumb and finger”. Trotter knew his own worth: he was, in his own phrase, one of “that small band of the heroically gifted”.
Books referred to:
Free Associations: Memories of a Psychoanalyst, by Ernest Jones (1959).
Freud’s Wizard: Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis, by Brenda Maddox (2006).
Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, by Wilfred Trotter (1921).
The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter F.R.S. (1941).
Seamus O’Mahony’s most recent book, The Ministry of Bodies, is published by Head of Zeus.