Lions at Lamb House: Freud's Lost Analysis of Henry James

Overview

"This wonderful novel discloses the nature of two monumental minds, making each more dazzling in the process. . . . A rare book, as moving as it is thoughtful."-Roger Rosenblatt

In 1908, an Austrian psychiatrist visits southern England at the urgent request of a Boston colleague, who fears his brother's intention to rewrite his early novels may be the sign of debilitating neuroses. The Austrian doctor is Sigmund Freud. The Boston psychologist is William James, and the novelist is his brother Henry. ...

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Overview

"This wonderful novel discloses the nature of two monumental minds, making each more dazzling in the process. . . . A rare book, as moving as it is thoughtful."-Roger Rosenblatt

In 1908, an Austrian psychiatrist visits southern England at the urgent request of a Boston colleague, who fears his brother's intention to rewrite his early novels may be the sign of debilitating neuroses. The Austrian doctor is Sigmund Freud. The Boston psychologist is William James, and the novelist is his brother Henry. Over ten days, the worlds of psychology and literature collide-giving rise to this charming novel of ideas.

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Editorial Reviews

Wendy Lesser
A sturdy structure of fact holds up the fictional fabric of Lions at Lamb House. Anyone familiar with the life of Henry James will recognize his edgy but loving relationship with his psychologist brother, his witty friendship with Edith Wharton…the atmosphere of Lamb House and its semirural surroundings, the drunken butler Smith, and so on. To this standard cast, though, Edwin Yoder has added a startling new figure: Sigmund Freud, on a visit from Vienna in 1908…This is where fiction begins to depart heavily from fact, and the resulting distortions may put a few teeth on edge…Still, if you grant the premise, you can find enjoyable insights here. Yoder is particularly strong on two important qualities that defined James as a novelist: his tendency to be silent about the things that most required ambiguity, and his ability to insert a certain amount of comedy into even the most serious and desperate of situations.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
Sigmund Freud spars with Henry James in this light and amusing historical novel. Although there is no evidence that Freud ever met novelist James, the contemporary thinkers would have had much to discuss. In this fanciful imagining of such a meeting, Yoder (Telling Others What to Think, 2004, etc.) envisions a visit brought about by the novelist's brother (and Freud's psychological colleague) William James, who fears that Henry's increasingly ornate later literary style is the result of obsessive neuroses. The year is 1908, when the younger James was in fact revising his earlier works. Yoder creates a young scholar, Horace Briscoe, to observe the events both at the time and from a later date when, as a noted academic, he must decide what to do with Freud's incomplete case notes taken during a brief, informal psychoanalysis performed on the novelist during the visit. Briscoe also serves as the hero of a romantic subplot, as his courtship of the troubled but beautiful Agnes brings more human drama into play. But the action in this brief novel is really between the great men, and they are at odds from the start. James' famed celibacy, for example, makes an obvious focus for Freud, who was then disseminating his theories of infantile sexuality and the Oedipal complex. But to the fastidious, if not prissy, James, such notions are repellent. To James, the Austrian intellectual is primarily a wonderful character; he is chiefly concerned with capturing the doctor's mannerisms as fodder for letters to his dear friend, Edith Wharton. When James begins poking fun at Freud, his young assistant steps in to warn the doctor, and the long passages detailing the great minds' views of each other are thehighlight of the book. Yoder, a Pulitzer-winning journalist, doesn't get much more dramatic than these high-minded face-offs, but the overall effect is knowledgeable fun.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933372341
  • Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2007
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 898,459
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Edwin M. Yoder Jr. is the author of The Night of the Old South Ball and Joe Alsop's Cold War. He has served as the Editorial Page Editor at The Washington Star, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1979, and as a columnist for The Washington Post (1982-1997). He and his wife live in Washington, DC.
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