Freud's Letter to Fliess


I must tell you about a nice dream I had after the funeral. I found myself in a shop where there was a notice saying:


I recognized the place as the barbershop I visit every day. On the day of the funeral I was kept waiting and therefore arrived a little late at the house of mourning. At that time my family was displeased with me because I had arranged for the funeral to be quiet and simple, which they later agreed was quite justified. They were also somewhat offended by my lateness. The sentence on the sign has a double meaning: one should do one's duty to the dead (an apology as though I had not done it and were in need of leniency), and the actual duty itself. The dream thus stems from the inclination to self-reproach that regularly sets in among survivors.

Sigmund Freud, 1889

Curator's Comments

Freud called one's father's death "the most important event, the most poignant loss, of a man's life." In the late 1890s, while in his forties, Freud was anxious about never "arriving" professionally, and perhaps also about failing to live up to his own father's expectations.

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