Freud, Sigmund (1856 – 1939)
“You perhaps are unable to fathom the degree to which this condition changes a person’s general outlook in regard to everything in this world”
A significant unpublished one-page autograph letter signed by Sigmund Freud, October 14th 1926. Freud comforts a woman who, it appears, is suffering from cancer; Freud himself had been suffering since 1923 from cancer of the jaw.
He opens, “Dear woman, Please do not interpret my long silence as a lack of empathy on my part! I can absolutely identify with everything such an event engenders, I just find it very difficult to put my feelings into words, particularly as one who is no longer enjoying life in its fullness, and as one who certainly doesn’t count himself entirely among the living.” He goes on, “You perhaps are unable to fathom the degree to which this condition changes a person’s general outlook in regard to everything in this world. I am not trying to console you, and do not wish to disturb your legitimate grief, I only offer my heartfelt regards as your kin. Yours devotedly, Freud.”
To the reverse is the last page of a letter from Freud’s wife, Martha, to the same recipient – the first page of Martha’s letter was undoubtedly written on an integral leaf that is no longer present.
Martha Freud writes, in part, “I would love to learn, dear Hanna, how you are doing now, whether it is possible for you to work professionally, and whether you are still living by yourself in that large house… I have not visited Hamburg in exactly two years, but in our hearts we are close and enjoy our deep friendship despite the great distance between us. For today I remain with best wishes and a heartfelt embrace. Your loyal, Martha Freud.” In very fine condition.
Freud wrote widely on the subject of death. Ahead of his death drive theory, set out in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Freud wrote in 1915, “It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death; and whenever we attempt to do so we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators. … At bottom no one believes in his own death … In the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his own immortality.” In the context of Freud’s own writings on the subject, one might then presume that Freud chooses his words carefully when describing himself as “(not) entirely among the living”.
A moving insight into Freud’s thoughts on his own mortality that is unknown to scholars.