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Collection Princess Marie Bonaparte Papers

About this Collection

Correspondence (300 items; 1,238 images) from psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) to Princess Marie Bonaparte (1882-1962), his analysand, pupil, confidante, and benefactor, forms the entirety of this digital collection.  Part of a larger collection of Princess Marie Bonaparte Papers at the Library of Congress, Freud’s letters, telegrams, and cards span the years 1925-1939 and provide an intimate perspective on the last fifteen years of his life. A separate digital edition of Bonaparte’s letters to Freud, 1925-1939, will be available onsite at the Library of Congress in the near future. The remainder of the Bonaparte Papers, which includes her journals, memoirs, correspondence with psychoanalysts and others, draft writings, notebooks, legal documents, obituaries, genealogical notes, photographs, watercolor drawings, and printed matter, has not been digitized but is available for research use in the Manuscript Reading Room of the Library of Congress.

Freud’s correspondence to Bonaparte, written primarily in German, chronicles the final years of his life and Bonaparte’s progressively important role as his confidante and benefactor. Freud analyzed Bonaparte for several years beginning in 1925, and his letters to her during this period reflect that relationship. They discuss psychoanalytic theory, her progress in analysis, her French translations of his writings, her own writings, her role in founding the Société psychanalytique de Paris and Revue française de psychanalyse, and, eventually, her work as a lay analyst. Freud took Bonaparte increasingly into his confidence, sharing his thoughts on fellow psychoanalysts; the progress of his own work, particularly his writing; his declining health and advancing age; and his alternating satisfaction and cynicism over the reception of his work and psychoanalysis in general.

The correspondence also documents Bonaparte’s role as a benefactor, including her investments in Freud’s publishing house, Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, which saved it from bankruptcy in 1929 and several times thereafter; her purchase in 1937 of Freud’s letters, 1887-1904, to Wilhelm Fliess, an unparalleled source on the origins of psychoanalysis; and her personal and financial assistance to psychoanalysts attempting to leave Nazi-controlled countries. Many of Freud’s letters beginning in 1933 discuss the worsening political crisis following the rise of Nazism in Germany and his counterintuitive determination to remain in Austria. When leaving Austria became imperative for the Freuds in the spring 1938 after Anschluss, Bonaparte’s influence and wealth made their departure possible.

Freud’s correspondence to Bonaparte is organized chronologically.