Saturday 28 November 2015

26 Dr Ernest Jones, psycho-analyst

26. Dr Ernest Jones (photos: Freud, Morfydd Owen, Ernest Jones, Grammar School) - 28/11/15

A few months ago we wrote about Morfydd Owen, the brilliant mezzo-soprano and composer who died tragically in 1918 and is buried in Oystermouth cemetery.  Today we look at the life of her husband, psychoanalyst Dr Ernest Jones.

In Gowerton a blue plaque presented by the British Psychoanalytical Society hangs above the front door of number 12 Woodlands Terrace.  On New Year’s Day 1879, when Gowerton was still known as Gower Road, that semi-detached house became the birthplace of Ernest Jones.  The son of a colliery manager, he went to Swansea Grammar School, won a scholarship to Llandovery College, and from Cardiff University went on to University College Hospital, London, qualifying as a doctor in 1900 when aged 21.  Having read of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical approach in a German psychiatric journal, Jones began to use those techniques in dealing with mental illness, although the medical establishment was wary of this emphasis on the id and the libido, and he had to resign from his post at the London hospital. 

In 1908 Ernest Jones organised the world’s first psychiatric conference at Salzburg, when he first met Sigmund Freud, whose major biography he was later to write, published between 1953 and 1957 in three volumes.  While teaching in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto from 1911 to 1913, Jones published psychoanalytical works on Hamlet and on dreams and nightmares, and coined the term ‘rationalisation’.

Jones had an apartment in London at 69 Portland Court, and purchased The Plat, a Jacobean cottage in Sussex, for a weekend retreat.  His first wife was the talented Welsh musician, composer and mezzo-soprano, Morfydd Owen from Treforest, to whom he proposed on their third meeting.  Tragically she died after an operation for appendicitis in Mumbles in 1918 aged 26.  Jones remarried the following year – he proposed to Czechoslovakian Katharina Jokl within three weeks of their meeting.  They had four children, including the writer Mervyn Jones, and a daughter Gwenith, who died aged seven. 

Jones was influenced by Melanie Klein’s series of lectures in the new field of child analysis, and he encouraged her move to London in 1926.  Her approach and the therapeutic techniques for children that she devised were very different from those of Freud’s daughter Anna, and Jones championed Klein’s approach.  This caused sharp disagreement between Jones and Freud, and members of the British Society were polarised into rival factions in what became known as the ‘Jones-Freud controversy’.  However cordial relations were later resumed between the two psychoanalysts.

For many years the Jones family had owned a holiday cottage Tŷ Gwyn, the former bakery in Llandmadoc, which on the wall had a framed map of Gower, drawn by and signed, as an eleven-year-old schoolboy ‘Ernest Jones 19/11/1890’.  Tŷ Gwyn was a welcome holiday retreat, for he loved the Gower countryside.  He was also a keen ice skater and a fine chess player, writing a psychoanalytical study of the life of an American chess genius. 

Ernest Jones was twice President of the International Psychoanalytical Association, for several years each time, and was instrumental in the British Medical Association coming to officially recognise psychoanalysis in 1929.  Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Jones bravely flew to Vienna to bring Freud and nearly fifty German and Austrian Jews away from the Nazi threat to safety in London. 

Ernest Jones died in London in 1958 aged 78, was cremated at Golders Green crematorium, with his ashes buried in Gower in Cheriton churchyard, in the grave of his young daughter Gwenith, and where his second wife was later to be buried. 

Fluent in German, the language of the early psychoanalysts, this Gowertonian became the first English-speaking psychoanalyst and its leading exponent in the English-speaking world.  His uncompleted autobiography called ‘Free Associations’ was published posthumously in 1959.             

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