BIOGRAPHY TERMINABLE AND INTERMINABLE:
ON WRITING A LIFE OF FRANCIS GALTON
Raymond E. Fancher
I probably don't have to tell you that my title is a play on Freud's Analysis Terminable and Interminable. In that late work, Freud considered the question of whether or not a psychoanalytic treatment can ever be said to be "completed" in an ultimate sense, and concluded that it could not be. Sometimes I think about Freud's title and conclusion both, as I reflect on a project of my own project that has been going on as long as a protracted psychoanalysis. I started plotting a psychological biography of Francis Galton nearly twenty years ago, and sometimes its completion seems to lie just as far in the future. Today I'd like to extend the psychoanalytic theme further, while exploring some of the factors that may be involved.
James Anderson (1981a, 1981b) has suggested that psychologically oriented biographers inevitably have complicated and intense personal reactions to their subjects, reactions that he likens to the psychoanalyst's countertransference. This of course is the tendency to respond to patients or subjects not "objectively," but in terms of one's own personal needs and previous experiences. When brought to full awareness, countertransference feelings may offer tentative but useful hints about the personality of a patient or subject; but if left unconscious and unanalyzed, they create biases and blind spots that can only hinder the progress of the analysis. I'd like to use the rest of my time today - which is just slightly less than the analyst's "50 minute hour" - to examine some of my attitudes towards Galton, to see what role they may have had in helping or hindering my progress on the biography.
I will begin with the easy part. This is the positive side of my countertransference, the things about Galton that I find attractive and that made him seem a good subject. Back in the early 1970s, when I selected the original cast of characters for my Pioneers of Psychology, Galton was an obvious choice. His important psychological contributions ranged from studies of mental imagery to intelligence testing, word association to behavior genetics, questionnaire methodology to statistical correlation. He popularized the term "nature and nurture," and originated both the intelligence test and the eugenics movement, thus inaugurating one of the most enduring and heated controversies in the history of our discipline. Besides this, he had been an important explorer of southern Africa, a pioneering meteorologist who invented the modern weather map, and one of the originators of modern fingerprint analysis. Here was someone undeniably interesting as well as important, so I wrote a draft chapter about him that I tried out on my history of psychology classes in the mid-70s.
I might never have gone much further, had a student not lingered after class one day to say, "You know, of all the people you covered in the course the one I would most have enjoyed meeting personally was Francis Galton." This offhand remark set me to thinking. As far as I knew then, the only extended biography of Galton was Karl Pearson's massive Life, Letters and Labours of Francis Galton (1914-1930). Although fascinating, this work was unwieldy, slanted by Pearson's strong eugenic biases, and long out of print. I fleetingly thought a more conventional biography might be in order. Almost immediately, however, I discovered that D. W. Forrest had recently published just such a biography (Forrest, 1974) - which I read, enjoyed and used in preparing the final draft of my Galton chapter. I also learned from Forrest that Galton's papers were preserved in the Library at University College London. As it happened, I shortly left for a sabbatical year in London, and stopped by for a quick look at the papers.
This moderately large and well-indexed collection immediately captivated me. My attention was particularly caught by a large quantity of material dating from Galton's childhood and youth - only a portion of which had been described or reproduced in the biographies. My countertransference must have came into play almost immediately, for I reacted to this material with an impression of Galton quite different from the "standard" view of him in the textbooks. That view portrays Galton as having been an extraordinary child prodigy and "genius," and it dates from a 1917 paper by Lewis Terman. Terman, who had just promoted the notion of "IQ" a year earlier, was mightily impressed by some of Galton's childhood accomplishments as described in the first volume of Pearson's biography. These included printing his name when only two-and-a-half, and writing a letter to his sister declaring: "I am four years old and I can read any English book. I can say all the Latin Substantives and Adjectives and active verbs besides 52 lines of Latin poetry. I can cast up any sum in addition¼ . I can also say the pence table. I read French a little and I know the Clock" (Pearson, 1914-1930, Vol. 1, p. 66). From data like these, Terman estimated that young Francis had routinely performed intellectual tasks at about half the age at which a normal child would. This suggested an IQ approximating 200 - far higher than any score obtained to that date by any living child on any actual IQ test. A few years later Terman's student Catherine Cox estimated the IQs of some 300 other eminent figures, based on their childhood biographies. While the average of these estimates was an impressive155, none reached the 200 mark Terman had projected for Galton; John Stuart Mill at 190 and Gottfried Leibniz at 185 topped the list (Terman, 1917; Cox, 1926).
E. G. Boring's influential history text disseminated these findings to countless psychology students in the following terms: "Galton was a genius¼ . His intelligence quotient, had he been tested for intelligence, would probably have approached [that of] the most intelligent persons who have been tested or whose biographies have been examined, with John Stuart Mill, Goethe, and Leibnitz" (Boring, 1950, p. 461). And so Galton became widely known as a "genius." Forrest's biography was subtitled "The life and work of a Victorian genius."
Galton's designation as a genius was undoubtedly reinforced by the fact that he himself coined the term "hereditary genius" to describe his own best known theory. And further, since Galton himself was related to both the Darwins and the Barclays (of British banking fame), an impression naturally arose that he must have seen the term hereditary genius as referring quite directly to himself - a rather transparent form of self-flattery.
But the archival documents from Galton's childhood suggested something rather different. The hard evidence of his precocity seemed less impressive than Terman had made it out to be. There were obvious elements of "show" in virtually all of his childish writings, which were meticulously "witnessed" by members of his family. The famous letter to Adele shows clear signs of being staged, including the fact that it was written on the day before his fifth birthday - the last day he could claim to do all of those things as a four-year-old. Family diaries that I examined described how Francis was regularly trotted out to "perform" for visitors by reciting long stretches of poetry. Clearly these data - collected by a family with obvious investment in showing off their youngest child's precocity - were not the equivalent of objectively recorded IQ test responses. Clearly they were not the equivalent of John Stuart Mill's or Gottfried Leibniz's scholarly accomplishments as children. Young Galton was very bright and lively to be sure - but one of history's greatest prodigies? I doubted it.
Data from Galton's later childhood reinforced these doubts. At age eight he was sent to a competitive boarding school, where he proved to be a mediocre classical scholar and had to be set back a class. His letters home, mainly unrecorded by Pearson, reveal Francis as miserable both emotionally and physically. Now this really was a brutal school, especially unsuited to a curious and somewhat restless child like Galton. In more relaxed academic settings, and particularly in the study of medicine and mathematics, he later did relatively well. But he never won the highest prizes he and his family so clearly coveted. He went to Cambridge with hopes of winning high honors in mathematics, but was devastated by a second class finish in the second year's preliminary exam. This precipitated an emotional breakdown, and led him to withdraw from honors competition altogether. The ex-prodigy's formal academic career ended with an undistinguished, non-honors degree.
Galton subsequently drifted aimlessly for five years until something - perhaps desperation - led him to consult a phrenologist. This practitioner told Galton that his brain was not properly configured for high academic success, but should serve him better in practical and outdoorsy pursuits. This explanation must have satisfied and perhaps reassured Galton, who certainly had been motivated to achieve academic success and who had had the environmental advantage of coming from a wealthy and cultured family. Yet despite these advantages he had always been surpassed by at least some of his peers. The explanation that he had lacked the requisite innate ability must have made sense. The more positive suggestion to engage in more active pursuits also must have made sense, for Galton shortly set out to become an African explorer. His expedition to the present day country of Namibia won the Royal Geographical Society's gold medal for 1853, and Galton's productive career was underway.
Nevertheless, memories of his earlier academic disappointment clearly lingered. When Galton wrote his book Hereditary Genius, he likened intellectual to athletic ability in that training and education, no matter how intense or efficient, always arrive at a closely fixed limit. Just as highly trained athletes learn to within inches how high or far they can jump, so do the most highly educated students discover their own intellectual limitations. In a passage that I believe was poignantly autobiographical, Galton wrote:
The eager boy, when he first goes to school and confronts intellectual difficulties, is astonished at his progress. He glories in his newly developed mental grip, and [may believe] it to be within his reach to become one of the heroes who have left their mark upon the history of the world. The years go by; he competes in the examinations of school and college, over and over again with his fellows, and soon finds his place among them. He knows he can beat such and such of his competitors; that there are some with whom he runs on equal terms, and others whose intellectual feats he cannot even approach (Galton, 1972/1869, pp. 56-57).
Thus I believe Galton arrived at his conviction of innate intellectual differences not because of any personal sense of superiority or "genius," but because of his awareness of his own relative limitations. I believe that he never completely lost sight of those limitations, even after he became a well known figure. However creditable he saw his own contributions as being, he knew they were not in the same class as those of people like his cousin Charles Darwin. In Hereditary Genius, Galton proposed a classification system according to which his own status would be rated "eminent" or "very eminent" - sufficient to earn a listing in biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias. The Darwins and Newtons, however, were labelled "illustrious" - individuals "whom the whole intelligent part of the nation mourns when they die; who have, or deserve to have, a public funeral; and who rank in future ages as historical characters" (Galton, 1972, p. 53). Since Galton and Darwin shared the same privileged social class and had had received very similar educations, Galton concluded that the difference in their ultimate status must have been determined by other, innate factors.
Now this interpretation of Galton seemed seemed quite obvious to me from very early in my research. Could there have been anything in my own background that predisposed me to it? Well - yes. I experienced a sharp thrill of recognition when I read his passage about the eager boy, starting out with grand hopes and ambitions but soon enough settling for more modest goals. I learned that lesson first on the high school basketball court. Despite the fact that I spent far more hours shooting baskets than at my studies, I never became more than a benchwarmer. I got just good enough to appreciate what it took to be a basketball star, but those who really were stars existed on a different plane altogether. Academically, however, I was a high school star, and my Galtonian epiphany in this domain was deferred until college. There I was surrounded by students who had also been at the top of their classes, many from schools much more rigorous than mine. Like Galton's eager boy, I gradually found my place among them, and learned to be content with status as a "respectable" honors student - but far from the rarefied intellectual air at the very top of the class.
A somewhat similar pattern marked my career in psychology. After starting out with high ambitions to be a trailblazing empirical researcher, I gradually realized that my particular projects were not going to compete for the Nobel Prize. Also gradually, my focus shifted to a study of psychologists who had been able to make primary contributions of great significance - to a vicarious experiencing their accomplishments, as it were. This has proven to be a satisfying and enjoyable enterprise for me, with rewards of its own kind. But still, much of the experience is vicarious, and I think it helped me to appreciate - on a reduced scale - how Francis Galton felt as he compared his own merely eminent contributions with those of the illustrious Darwins and Newtons he admired so much.
Now let me turn to the negative side of my countertransference, and discuss one of Galton's characteristics that I do not admire. A close colleague at the Royal Geographical Society captured something of this quality in the following description:
[Galton] held to his own opinions and aims tenaciously. His mind was mathematical and statistical with little or no imagination. He was essentially a doctrinaire not endowed with much sympathy. He was not adapted to lead or influence men. He could make no allowance for the failings of others and had no tact (quoted in Forrest, 1974, p. 69).
Galton's inability to empathize with others showed up in different ways with different sorts of people. It appeared in a mild form in his relations with the many talented women he encountered over the course of his life. One of these was the cofounder of the Fabian Society, Beatrice Potter Webb. As a young woman Webb served as Herbert Spencer's personal assistant, and got to know his circle of scientific friends, which included such figures as Huxley, Tyndall, Hooker, and Lubbock, as well as Galton. Out of all these luminaries, the one who most struck her as the "ideal man of science" was Galton, with his "enigmatical smile,¼ penetrating humour, contemplative grey eyes¼ , and all-embracing but apparently impersonal beneficence." Webb also recalled that she always listened to Galton "with rapt attention, [but] I regret to say without the least reciprocity" (Webb, 19, emphasis added). Later in life Webb was a frequent visitor at the Galton home, as was the novelist George Eliot and the noted botanical painter Maryanne North. Florence Nightingale contacted Galton in 1891 to ask his help in establishing a university program in applied statistics. Yet despite the fact that Galton's autobiography contains descriptions of more than 250 of the famous and not-so-famous men he had met in his life, Webb, Eliot and Nightingale are not mentioned at all and North is passed over in two lines. Given Galton's statistical interests and background at that time, the Nightingale proposal ought to have interested him tremendously. Instead, he politely but firmly threw cold water on the project - one of the few acts from his life to elicit the disapproval of Karl Pearson (1914-1930, Vol. 2, pp. 416-424).
Galton's attitude towards talented women might be characterized as one of polite neglect. Towards several ambitious men, who came from a lower class than his, he was neither polite nor altogether benign. Charles Andersson, for example, was Galton's second-in-command on his African expedition. When Galton became exhausted and returned home before fulfilling all of his original goals, Andersson stayed behind and continued to explore for two more years. He achieved the original goals, and most histories of Namibia name Andersson rather than Galton as the territory's most important early explorer.
When the weary Andersson returned to England, he solicited Galton's help in finding a publisher for a book about his travels. In one sense, Galton was gracious, for he publicly praised Andersson's work, and arranged for him to be presented with a gift set of surveying instruments by the Royal Geographical Society. But when Andersson asked for a loan of £40 to tide him over, Galton replied with a patronizing letter quoting Shakespeare to the effect that "loan oft loseth both itself and friend." Then came a gratuitous scolding. If only Andersson had worked his passage home from Africa as a common sailor, or had written his book while on shipboard so as to have a manuscript ready to sell upon his arrival, he would not be in this fix. Andersson knew full well that this advice was coming from someone who had not done a lick of work on his own return from Africa, and who had required several additional months of convalescence upon getting home. He also knew that Galton had received the RGS Gold Medal for an accomplishment that was objectively considerably less than his own. To his credit, Andersson replied with dignity. He accepted his token recognition from the RGS gracefully, and thereafter maintained civil but decidedly cool relations with Galton.
Another explorer whom Galton offended responded with less restraint. Henry Morton Stanley, a reporter for the New York Herald, was secretly commissioned in 1871 to find and "relieve" David Livingstone - who had not been heard from for several years after departing on an expedition to Lake Tanganyika. Of course Stanley succeeded, and his greeting cry of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" became household words. More importantly, he did genuinely "save" Livingstone, who was on the point of running out of supplies. The grateful explorer befriended Stanley, and gave him reports of his geographical observations to take back to London and the Royal Geographical Society.
The RGS, however, reacted badly. As the first reports of the episode began to filter out of Africa, it issued a statement declaring that Stanley had not relieved Livingstone but the reverse - that actually the upstart yellow journalist had been rescued by the experienced (and RGS sponsored) British explorer. When this proved manifestly untrue, the Society tried to ignore Stanley. They sent no one to greet him when he arrived in England, even though he had been given a hero's reception at all of his stops along the way in France. Galton's exact role in these decisions is uncertain, but as an officer of the RGS he had to have had some involvement. And when the Society finally realized that they would be obliged to organize a public meeting at which Stanley could report, Galton was named as its Chair.
In introducing Stanley to the huge crowd that attended the meeting, Galton gratuitously asked him clarify certain "mysteries" about himself and his origins. This was an unsubtle reference to rumors that Stanley was the illegitimate child of a Welsh mother, and had emigrated to America and changed his name. Galton also pointedly asked Stanley to refrain from "sensational stories," and to address only genuine geographical issues such as the quality of water from Lake Tanganyika. Stanley proved to be more than Galton's match. He retorted sarcastically that the waters of Lake Tanganyika were perfectly delicious, and ideal for the making of tea. He openly berated Galton for his "nosey parkering" about his origins. Following the meeting, Stanley exacted further revenge in published accounts referring to "that suave gentleman, Mr. Francis Galton," or "Mr. Francis Galton, F.R.S., F.R.G.S., and God knows how many other letters to his name." Stanley reported that Galton "rose, and in a sweet, smooth, bland voice said, 'We don't want sensational stories, we want facts.'" He went on to remind his readers that Galton had cut his own African expedition short, and had left the hardest work to be completed by Andersson (Anstruther, 1960, pp. 141-150; Forrest, 1974, pp. 117-118; Stanley, 1872, pp. 684-687).
After the meeting, Galton confirmed that the rumors about Stanley's birth were true, and joined others from the RGS in informing Queen Victoria of the fact before she could publicly honor him. I am happy to say that the Queen took no notice and presented Stanley with a gold snuffbox as a token of the nation's gratitude. In the next decade, Stanley's explorations of the Congo won him a knighthood. Galton, however, publicly dismissed this monumental effort as "a geographical raid" (Pearson, 1914-1930, Vol. 2, p. 167), and Stanley himself as "essentially a journalist aiming at producing sensational articles" (Galton, 1907, p. 207). Coming from someone whose own book about his African exploration was filled with "sensational" details about wild animals and exotic natives, and who had striven within the RGS to popularize geographical accounts, these words strike me as a touch hypocritical. Of course as an independently wealthy gentleman, Galton had not had to worry - as Stanley did - about where his financing would come from. Clearly, he had little capacity to appreciate the position of less privileged explorers.
Another victim of Galton's insensitivity was a medical missionary named Henry Faulds. In early 1880, Faulds sent Charles Darwin a letter suggesting that fingerprints are unique and stable throughout life, and therefore potentially useful as means of individual identification. Darwin sent the letter to Galton, who passed it on without comment to the the Anthopological Society where it was filed away. Soon after, Faulds published a very similar letter in Nature, which elicited a reply from Galton's friend Sir William Herschel. Herschel said he had conducted, but not published, some informal experiments over a twenty year period, which confirmed Faulds' hypotheses. Over the next few years Faulds developed a scheme for classifying and measuring fingerprints, and tried unsuccessfully to interest Scotland Yard in his work.
Galton entered the picture only in 1888, when he became interested in the issue of personal identification. In a lecture to the Royal Institution, he reported that Herschel had introduced the subject of fingerprints in his 1880 Nature letter and been responded to by Faulds - a reversal of the true sequence. Soon after, Galton developed his own fingerprint classification system, based on the counting of "arches," "loops," and "whorls," and convinced Scotland yard to adopt it. He wrote two books on fingerprint analysis, one dedicated to Herschel and both crediting him in both with originating the idea. Faulds, with his name misspelled, was dismissed in a few words. Herschel returned Galton's favor, writing in another letter to Nature that modern fingerprint analysis "is wholly due to Mr. Galton through his large development of the study, and his exquisite and costly methods." Faulds responded in a book of his own, which referred to Herschel's unpublished work as "mute, or at least inarticulate musings," and which cited "Mr. Galton who frequently acts as a graceful chorus to Sir William." Faulds's book made little impact, however, partly because it received an influential review in Nature that dismissed it as "biased and imperfect," containing "nothing new that is of value" but only proposals that "fell flat" because they lacked supporting research (quotations in Pearson, 1914-1930, Vol. 3, pp. 146-8). The review's author? - Francis Galton. Once again, he could neither understand nor tolerate the pretensions of a cheeky upstart from outside the establishment.
Among the most egregious examples of Galton's insensitivity are his descriptions of groups of people from outside his immediate circle. His book about his African expedition overflows with crude and demeaning accounts of the natives. The first group he encountered, for example, had "a most ill-looking appearance¼ and they clicked, and howled, and chattered, and behaved like baboons" (Galton, 1889/1853, p. 10). Another group impressed him as physically attractive, "magnificent models for sculptors," but also: "Filthy and disgusting in every way¼ . There is hardly a particle of romance, or affection or poetry in their character or creed, but they are a greedy, heartless, silly set of savages¼ . When they sleep¼ they lie huddled up together like pigs." Remarking on their abilities at numerical calculation, he likened them to his pet dog trying to keep track of her six newbon puppies: "Taking the two as they stood, dog and Damara, the comparison reflected no great honour on the man" (pp. 50, 115, 116, 81-82). I could go on, but will spare you further details from Galton's "ethnography."
In an earlier paper (Fancher, 1983) I compared Galton's attitudes with those of other 19th century African explorers, and noted that he was not alone in his racism. His friend Richard Burton, for example, published even more extreme fulminations against the character of black Africans. But several other explorers - including great names such as Mungo Park, David Livingstone, and John Hanning Speke - showed considerable sympathy, respect, and even affection for the natives. On a one to ten scale for relative ethnocentrism among Victorian explorers, I would rate Galton as at least an eight.
Galton's ethnocentrism had some scientific consequences, for he himself cited a belief in "the mental peculiarities of different races" as a major inspiration for the ideas of eugenics and hereditary genius (Galton, 1972/1869, p. 23). And in fact, invidious racial stereotypes figure quite prominently in the crucial 1865 paper where he first introduced those concepts. In "Hereditary Talent and Character," American Indians are described as "naturally cold, melancholic¼ , not tied [together] by affection¼ . They nourish a sullen reserve, and show little sympathy with each other, even when in great distress." By contrast, West African natives are "eminently gregarious,¼ always jabbering, quarrelling, tom-tom-ing, or dancing." Galton described Americans as descended from "the most restless and combative class of Europe," and asserted that they show a moral nature "just what we might have expected from such a parentage. They are enterprising, defiant, and touchy; impatient of authority; furious politicians; very tolerant of fraud and violence; possessing much high and generous spirit, and some true religious feeling, but strongly addicted to cant" (Galton, 1865, pp. 321, 325).
Elsewhere in this strange paper Galton expressed contempt for the majority of members of his own culture. He called for tests of hereditary "natural ability" - prototypes of modern intelligence tests - to identify the best parents for the new eugenic society. These tests should be used to "divide the rising generation into two castes, A and B, of which A was selected for natural gifts, and B was the refuse" (Galton, 1865, p. 319). Four years later in Hereditary Genius, Galton stated categorically that the two most stupid "grades" of human beings were inferior intellectually to the two most intelligent grades of dogs. In sum, Galton was someone who could casually dismiss low intelligence test scorers as "refuse," or could easily liken groups of people to baboons, pigs, or dogs.
In some earlier work I have speculated about some possible psychodynamic factors underlying these attitudes. I have suggested that his violent dislike of some African native groups may have been a defensive reaction against sexual feelings that they aroused with their physical attractiveness and uninhibited behavior (Fancher, 1983). I have also speculated that Galton may have learned to suppress any empathic tendencies when he was a teenaged medical student, and had to assist at painful operations performed without anaesthesia (Fancher, 1998). Instead of "feeling the pain" of his patients, he came to regard them as "objects" to be dispassionately analyzed and operated upon. I further speculated that this tendency to objectify people subsequently became a permanent aspect of his character. It may have helped him to take the generally detached view of human beings that rendered them subject to measurement and statistical analysis, in his most famous psychometric contributions. But it also may have drastically reduced his capacity for sympathetic identification with other people - particularly those most different from him in background.
Of course, even if these psychobiographical hypotheses are basically correct, other factors and predispositions must have been involved. After all, other people underwent similar experiences but turned out very differently. But whatever the explanation, of one thing I am sure: Unlike my student, I do not regard Galton as the psychological pioneer I would most enjoy meeting. Although he was undeniably an "interesting" personality, he certainly was not a "nice guy." And I have a nagging suspicion that I might fall into that large category of people for whom he had little capacity for sympathy or respect. Personally, I would much prefer to meet Charles Darwin. Despite coming from both a hereditary and a social background very similar to Galton's, Darwin was a totally different personality whose geniality, tact and sympathy for others was well known.
I have not yet decided exactly how this negative side of my countertransference has affected my writing about Galton. I do tend to get hung up at precisely those points where I have to discuss some of Galton's more inflammatory or outlandish passages from "Hereditary Talent and Character" and Hereditary Genius. But then, Alan Elms (1994) has suggested that it is good for psychobiographers to have mixed feelings and that the biggest problems arise when the subject is either idolized or completely detested. If ambivalence is good attitude for a biographer to have, then in the long run I will have picked a perfect subject.
I will mention one final issue. The phase of Galton's life that I have had the most trouble writing about is aptly characterized as a mid-life crisis. Throughout the 1860s, Galton struggled with a series of personal conflicts involving religious doubts, the philosophical implications of Darwinian theory, and an increasing awareness that his marriage was destined to remain childless. I have speculated that the basic ideas of hereditary genius and eugenics first occurred to Galton within the context of these personal conflicts, and that initially they only aggravated his problems. While powerful and appealing, these ideas also hit too close to home to be fully under control. Accordingly his 1865 paper, "Hereditary Talent and Character," clearly anticipated many of the ideas that would preoccupy Galton for the rest of his life, but presented them in a highly disorganized and often illogical manner. After publishing that paper Galton experienced the worst emotional breakdown of his life. For four years he produced no significant scholarly or scientific work, and could not even bring himself to dine with friends. Only in 1869 did Galton emerge from his crisis, at peace with his personal lack of offspring, and with eugenics comfortably established in his mind as an explicit "secular religion."
Is it worth noting that I myself was at the mid-point of my career, while first trying to write about Galton's mid-life crisis? As far as I can tell, my own mid-life issues have been quite different from Galton's, and I don't see any direct or obvious way in which they might have interfered with my writing. But then, I still haven't completed my self-analysis, and, I will have to put off any further associations on this issue until my next "analytic hour."
For my final and appropriately inconclusive conclusion, I return to "Analysis Terminable and Interminable." Freud tells us there that he dealt with some of his own most protracted cases by adopting "the heroic measure of fixing [an absolute] time limit for the analysis." Sometimes this worked, and sometimes I wonder about trying a variant of his technique myself. What if I took an oath to complete my biography by the end of my upcoming sabbatical, or else consign the manuscript to the fire? Freud's experience was not very reassuring, however, because sometimes the ploy did not work and, unfortunately, he discovered no clues as to when this was most likely to happen. He concluded that "there can be only one verdict about the value of this blackmailing device," namely that it only works "providing that one hits the right time for it." And as to the right time? "[That] decision must be laid to the analyst's tact" (Freud, 1964/1937, pp. 217-219). So I will close today with the firm declaration that I very much hope to finish the biography by the end of my sabbatical. And I thank you for sharing my ruminations about it this afternoon.
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