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A Letter to Anna Freud

From: American Imago
Volume 53, Number 3, Fall 1996
pp. 201-204 | 10.1353/aim.1996.0007

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American Imago 53.3 (1996) 201-204


Freud amuses Anna with anecdotes of his life at Karlsbad in summer 1915, such as his re-write of the inept advertising jingle composed by a weighing-booth attendant. He also explains to her the meaning of "transference." His light-hearted tone is a counterweight to her anxieties about separation from her parents and her imminent new teaching job.

Kbd. 1.8.15

My dear Anna,

To set your mind at rest, I want to reply quickly to your letter that came today. We are both well again and have given up Marienbad, but not you. We are now thinking of extending our stay here until the 15th, as Dr. Kolisch advised, and then going to the hotel in Ischl to celebrate the birthday, and spending the rest of the summer either in Ischl or Aussee, wherever we can find somewhere feasible. You will surely be satisfied with that.

Your desk-misfortune is not without its counterpart. Here too, during the first few days, the good strong maid hurled your picture to the floor, and it had to be reglazed. Unfortunately I didn't take the warning. Some days later she flung down an ashtray and broke it; no doubt she was sorry it was only the porphyry one and not the jade bowl that I left at home. Then I regained my energy, and after some altercations showed her a large sheet of paper I had tacked over the desk, which read:

Do not touch the desk!
Offenders will be prosecuted!

That did the trick.

I had the opportunity of working on another literary task while here. In front of the Hall of Friendship where we have our breakfast there is a man with a weighing-booth which, for many years, one has been invited to use by the following ghastly quatrain:

As true as the light of God's own eyes
Every spa guest has their weight and size.
So he should not let his chances slip
Of getting weighed in the Hall of Friendship.

I finally took the liberty of asking the man where the verse came from, to which he answered that it was his own composition, but he knew it was not free of fault. Touched by such modesty I took it upon myself to produce a substitute for this absurdity and the next day put the following verse at his disposal:

As head and heart are given by fate,
So every spa guest has his weight.
That this should not torment him at all,
Let him weigh himself oft in the Friendship Hall.

He praised it highly and promised to post it up next season.

I must have already written that Ernst should have been mobilized yesterday. A card from Martin came yesterday in which he speaks of a two week holiday.

A few days ago a Tarock party of brothers took place here for the first time.

"Transference" [Übertragung] is a technical term that means the transfer of the patient's latent tender or hostile feelings onto the doctor.

Despite the bad times -- one becomes used to everything -- we have resumed our relationship with Frau Schapira. After much prompting Mama has had her pearls reset and is only now able to enjoy them, for Grandmother an extravagant old brooch has been acquired, for you a small opal object is being worked, and I am bargaining for a jade bowl which is fabulously beautiful, but for some strange reason has an old German groschen cemented in the middle. We have not yet reached an agreement about it.

Much love

from your

Freud Museum
20 Maresfield Gardens
Hampstead, London NW3 4SX


1. © 1960 Sigmund Freud Copyrights Ltd., London, by arrangement with Mark Paterson & Associates. Translation and notes ©1996 Michael Molnar, by arrangement. Anna Freud's letters © The Anna Freud Estate by arrangement with Mark Paterson & Associates.

2. This letter was originally published in the German edition of Freud's letters, Sigmund Freud: Briefe 1873-1939, selected and edited by Ernst L. Freud, Frankfurt/Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1960, 308-10, but was not included in the English edition. [An unattributed English translation appeared in...

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