What's in a name?

Ken Robinson and Brenda Maddox

Photo: James Royall

Tuesday 25th September, 2007 | Posted by Caroline Graty

Brenda Maddox abandoned one of her own principles of biography writing when she tackled the life of Ernest Jones in Freud’s Wizard. Discussing her work at the latest Connecting Conversations event, she talks about her usual chronological method. ‘I don’t jump ahead,’ she says. ‘I try to tell the story the way we live our lives – we don’t know what’s going to happen next.’ Freud’s Wizard, however, opens with Jones’ risky journey to Nazi-controlled Austria in 1938 to negotiate Freud’s passage to safety in England.

Her reason for this narrative decision? To anticipate the question ‘Jones who?’ The name ‘Freud’ is familiar to most people - in fact reference to his first name isn't even necessary. But Ernest Jones, who rescued Freud, wrote his biography, popularised his ideas in the UK and established the Institute of Psychoanalysis, is a little-known figure outside the world of psychoanalysis.

A vain man, Jones himself worried about obscurity. How would he be distinguished from ‘the other half a million people called Jones’? He considered writing under the name 'Beddoe-Jones', but was dissuaded by Freud. Maddox thinks Jones had a point. 'The ordinariness of his name obscured the singularity of his achievements,' she says.

Jones’ name may have been ordinary, but his life was anything but. From modest beginnings in a small Welsh village he trained in medicine but was prevented from pursuing a medical career following allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour around children. He turned instead to the emerging field of psychoanalysis. He was highly intelligent with a gift for communicating ideas, and was valued by Freud as a non-Jewish champion of his work. Jones played a central role in the establishment of the psychoanalytic field, dealing with squabbles and gossip amongst the analysts. A small, dark and entirely self-assured man, women seemed to find him irresistible and his exploits earned him the nickname ‘erogenous Jones’.

‘I’m a journalist at heart,’ says Maddox, ‘I like a good story.’ Maddox also has the journalist’s knack of finding a new angle, of seeing fascinating stories in the otherwise overlooked. Her study of Jones will ensure that he gets at least some of the recognition he so desired.

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