HD & Freud

May 28, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

Recently I heard about HD, an author from the early 20th century who, among other things, worked with Freud and then wrote a book about her experience. I thought I’d include some sections from the beginning of that text.

In addition I thought I’d include a little bit of her biography which I found on this site, where you can read its entirety.

hilda_1014859

H.D., Hilda Doolittle, was born on September 10, 1886, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Her mother a Moravian, and her father an astronomer, she grew up to be what some have called the finest of all Imagist poets. Her accomplishments, though, extended far beyond her early Imagist poems. Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction writings were published on both sides of the Atlantic, and her roles in a few early films also earned her praise. Most of the awards, including the Gold Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Brandeis and Longview Awards came late in her life, when her poetry had begun to break away from strict Imagism.

Her days in Pennsylvania were spent among her family and extended family. As a young woman she began lifelong friendships with Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound. She met them both before and during her days at Bryn Mawr, but dropped out and found her way to England in 1911. Her romance with Ezra Pound had ended, but he had found his way to Europe before her and he introduced her to London’s literary circles. In London she also met the novelist Richard Aldington, whom she married on October 18, 1913 in the borough of Kensington.

The Imagists held three principles: direct treatment of the subject, allow no word that was not essential to the presentation, and follow the musical phrase rather than strict regularity in their rhythms. They began publishing circa 1908, and H.D.’s first published poems appeared in the journal Poetry in January 1913. (“Hermes of the Ways,” “Orchard,” and “Epigram.”) Throughout her life she had adored all things Greek, and during this time she began to travel throughout Europe, and saw Greece for the first time. Her friends and associates included Ford Madox Ford and Amy Lowell, and her poetry appeared in the English Review, the Transatlantic Review, and the Egoist. And, thanks largely to Amy Lowell, she was introduced to audiences in the United States. She also began turbulent times during which her intense, but non-sexual relationship with D.H. Lawrence began, and her marriage became troubled. (Her novel “Bid Me to Live” is largely about this time.)

AUSTRIA FREUD ANNIVERSARY

A Tribute to Freud

by HD

There were  wide stone steps and a balustrade. Sometimes I met someone else coming down.The stone staircase was curved. There  were two doors on the landing. The one to
the right was the Professor’s professional door; the one to the left, the Freud family door. Apparently, the two apartments had been arranged so that there should be as little confusion as possible between family and patients or students; there was the Professor who belonged to us, there was the  Professor who belonged to the family; it  was a large family with ramifications, in-laws, distant relatives, family friends. There  were other apartments above but I did not  very often pass anyone on the stairs, except  the analysand whose hour preceded mine. My hours or sessions had been arranged  for me, four days a week from five to six;  one day, from twelve to one. At least, that  was the arrangement for the second series of sessions which, I have noted, began the  end of October, 1934.
….
I said to the Professor, “I always had a feeling of satisfaction, of security when I passed Dr. van der Leeuw on the stairs or saw him in the hall. He seemed so self-sufficient, so poised and you had told me  about his work. I felt all the time that he was the person who would apply, carry on  the torch carry on your ideas, but not in a stereotyped way. I felt that you and your  work and the future of your work were  especially bequeathed to him. Oh, I know  there is the great body of the Psycho-Analytical Association, research workers,  doctors, trained analysts and so on! But Dr.  van der Leeuw was different. I know that  you have felt this very deeply. I came back  to Vienna to tell you how sorry I am.”

The Professor said, “You have come to  take his place.”
….
I do not think that the name of the  winged messenger, Hermes of the Greeks,  Mercury of the Romans, ever came up in  my talks with the Professor, except once in  a  oundabout way when I had a dream sequence that included a figure from the famous Raphael Donner fountain in the  Marktplatz. This is a very beautiful f ountain with reclining figures of river gods,  two women and two men. My dream was  connected with a young man of my acquaintance in London; his name is not Brooks but his name does suggest streams and rivers so we may call him Brooks. I  connected this young Mr. Brooks with the  figure of the younger of the male river  gods in my dream sequence. It was then  that I said to the Professor that the reclining bronze fountain figure had certain  affinities with the poised Bolognese Mercury. We agreed that the Raphael Dormer  figure was the more attractive and original  of the two, but that if you should raise the  reclining river god and stand him on his  feet, he might faintly resemble the Mer-  curyor in  everse, set the Mercury down  to lean on his elbow and he might almost  take the place of the bronze fountain figure. It was in any case our Professor’s  charming way to fall in with an idea, to  do it justice but not to overstress unimportant details. For this seemed unimportant at the time.

Perhaps it is not very important now. It  is interesting, however, to note in retrospect how the mind hedges away. I connected the Raphael Donner figure, and by  implication the Mercury, with a charming but not very important young London acquaintance, when the actual personable image is there in Vienna and was there had been there reclining on this very  couch, every hour just before my own ses- sion. As I say, I did not consciously think  about Dr. van der Leeuw or weave him  into my reveries. Nor did I think of him as
Mercury, the Messenger of the Gods and  the Leader of the Dead, after he crashed.

He was a stranger. I did not really know  him. We had spoken once in the house at
Dobling, outside Vienna. The Professor waved him across the large, unfamiliar
drawing room. Dr. van der Leeuw bowed,  he addressed me in polite, distinguished German, would the gnadige Frau object  to altering her hour for one day, to-mor-
row? I answered him in English, I would  not mind at all, I would come at 4, he at
5. He thanked me pleasantly in friendly  English, without a trace of accent. That
was the first and last time I spoke to the  Flying Dutchman. We had exchanged
“hours.”

you can read the full text of this book by going here.

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3 Responses to “HD & Freud”

  1. johnstevens Says:

    п»ї
    Great post, thank you

  2. John D. Powell Says:

    “Recently I heard about HD”????

    Recently you heard? Recently you heard?

    START with HD

    Honestly … what do you think you’ve been doing with literature if you only just discovered HD and Freud. What nerve. The nerve of you!

    • urbesque Says:

      Certainly, it’s incredible to discover someone so late, especially, yes, someone like HD. She’s amazing. And it’s even easier to feel ashamed of the blindspots one discovers. It can be terrifying sometimes, bumping up against one’s ignorance. (For the record I’ve been long aquainted with Freud. Again it was HD that was new to me.) Nevertheless, that moment of discovery ought to be celebrated: To realize the world you’d taken for granted is not actually as limited or finite as you’d assumed is tremendous. Particularly in a this day and age when we’re so saturated with media, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by not knowing everything. If you’re too overwhelmed or too ashamed all the time, there’s no pleasure in learning for its own sake, or the ensuing step of sharing or translating that experience of learning. Personally, I believe that literature is something that feeds not just the individual, or the ivory tower, but also communities. In the same way that a yawn is contagious, I’ve found learning–curious facts, authors, theoretical platforms, discoveries etc.–to be similarly contagious. And inspiring. Having said that, it’s only contagious if it is joyful, unabashed. Thus. I stand unabashed to your attempted shaming. I will always have the nerve to confess discovering something that I had not seen before, even if those around me have heard of it before. Similarly I will always admit to my mistakes, my failings. Those are the moments in which one learns the most, discovers the cracks in one’s preconceptions, wrestles with humility. Which is the best thing in the world, even if it is awkward.

      Instead of my defending this matter, I wish we could have had a conversation about HD, one in which your appreciation of her was conveyed with some referential foundation, not a shaking finger. I hear what you say, perhaps one ought to start with HD. I did not, for various reasons, mostly outside my control. But, I’m sure glad I found her now.
      All the best,
      Caroline


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