Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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Dr. Ernest Jones (1879-1958) lived in Toronto between 1908 and 1912. An exceptionally randy Welshman, he spent much of his professional life as Sigmund Freud’s all-purpose attack dog, organizational drummer, heretic hunter, and hagiographer.

Jones came to Toronto trailing clouds, though not of glory. In London, a physician of precocious ability, he had been accused of sexually assaulting two mentally handicapped girls, and of talking dirty to a physically handicapped girl, who he had examined without permission. He was acquitted of the first charge, but the second one sent him packing.

At the University of Toronto, Jones’s boss was Dr. C.K. Clarke, for whom the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry — “The Clarke” — was later named: it is now the College St. branch of CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Clarke, who kept Jones on a tight leash, mainly confining him to non-psychiatric matters, was repelled by Jones’s Freudianism, and looked askance at his unconventional ménage at 407 Brunswick Avenue. Jones lived with two of his sisters, two female servants, and a wealthy Dutch Jewish morphine addict named Loe Kann, who had followed him from London.

Jones didn’t like Toronto, though its long winters presumably appealed to him; since boyhood he had been an ardent figure skater. Writing to Freud, he called Torontonians “a despicable race, exceedingly bourgeois, quite uncultured, very rude, very stupid and very narrow and pious." This seems fair comment, though the household that Torontonians scowled at would have been unusual for any time or place.

Tribulations beset Jones in Toronto. A well-known physician tried to get him fired on the grounds of sexual perversion and bad influence. An irate former patient was paid $500 to shut her up. He had sex with one of the servants, which didn’t improve Kann’s mood; understandably, she interested herself temporarily in another man. None of this kept Jones from working hard. He published "The Oedipus Complex as an Explanation of Hamlet's Mystery: A Study in Motive," which Laurence Olivier later found handy in conceiving his famous film Hamlet.

Jones’s exile ended when he returned to London in 1913. Loe Kann went to Vienna, where Freud psychoanalyzed her. Predictably, he thought her depression and abdominal pains were caused by hysteria. But her maladies were organic: she was diagnosed with pyelonephritis, a urinary tract infection.

Brenda Maddox ably tells Jones’s story in Freud's Wizard: The Enigma of Ernest Jones, which Cyril Greenland, an historian of Canadian psychiatry, reviewed in a 2007 issue of the Literary Review of Canada>/em>.

Ernest Jones: philandering figure-skating psychiatrist living with five women. What marvelous material for a novel, screenplay, opera, or ballet.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Fraser Sutherland

At last count, Fraser Sutherland has published fifteen books: one of them short fiction, four nonfiction and ten poetry, His most recent poetry collection is The Philosophy of As If. A freelance editor, he may be the only Canadian poet who is also a lexicographer. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, he lives in Toronto.

Go to Fraser Sutherland’s Author Page