Page 276. " I got into my Figaro-mood, judging it to be the only merit of these grandees that they had taken the trouble to be born "

    Freud refers to a line from the final act of Pierre Beaumarchais' drama The Follies of a Day, or The Marriage of Figaro (1778), later adapted into an opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Expressing the general feeling of the play Figaro, valet to a powerful nobleman who covets his fiancée Suzanne, disparages the very idea of inherited nobility:

"Because you are a great Man, you fancy yourself a great Genius.—Which way?—How came you to be the rich and mighty Count Almaviva? Why truly, you gave yourself the Trouble to be born!"


Online script of the play, as translated by Thomas Holcroft (1785)


Page 280. " You know, I was always one of the finest cases of male hysteria "

    Theodor Meynert (1833-1892) was director of the University of Vienna's psychiatric clinic during Freud's studentship there; a neuropathologist who sought scientific understanding of the human mind based wholly on anatomy.  His focus on the physical led him into a war of words with his pupil, whose own work took him increasingly in the opposite direction.  Freud's mention here of his one-time mentor's deathbed words as a 'confession' of defeat has been questioned as somewhat opportunistic – Meynert never denied the existence of 'hysteria' as a condition, merely that it had a psychological rather than a physical basis. 


Discussion of the Meynert/Freud feud in Frank J. Sulloway's 'Freud: Biologist of the Mind', (1979)


Page 283. " By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept "

   The first line of Chapter 137 in the Biblical Book of Psalms, in which the people of Israel mourn their exile from Jerusalem and swear an oath of vengeance for the city's conquest against the invading Babylonians.

Online edition of the 'Authorized King James Bible', (originally published 1611)

Page 285. " I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a hand-saw "
Mortar hawk and trowel
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumMortar hawk and trowel - Credit: Creative Homeowner
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumHandsaw - Credit: Sunset Publishing Corporation

   These lines are spoken in Act II, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (circa-1600), which Freud examines in more detail elsewhere (see note to page 204).  Readers often wonder how anyone but a madman could mistake a hawk for a handsaw: the type of 'hawk' meant is a commonly used tool rather than a bird of prey, specifically the flat panel a mason uses to carry mortar prior to spreading.


Online text of the play at ‘

Page 288. " my second son, whose first name I chose after a great figure in history "
Oliver Freud, (circa-1894)
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumOliver Freud, (circa-1894) - Credit: Freud Museum London

    Freud refers to his third child Oliver (1891-1969), named after 17th century English republican Oliver Cromwell. 


Page 294. " In both novels a woman is the guide; both of them are about a perilous journey "

   Henry Rider Haggard was an English writer of the late 19th century who found great popularity writing tales of adventure and exploration.  She (1886-87) chronicles the rediscovery of a lost African civilisation, ruled by a beautiful and immortal sorceress of the ancient world who awaits the reincarnation of her lost love.  Ayesha is a distinctly Victorian nightmare: a woman whose beauty and knowledge grant her absolute power over men, while her timeless perspective on human civilisation conjures up the unsettling implications of Darwinian evolutionary theory.

    Haggard's later work Heart of the World (1895) follows a similar pattern, substituting Central America for Africa.  This time his explorers happen upon the last remaining tribe of Aztec 'Indians', whose quest to unite two halves of a mystical emerald heart could return them to total dominion over the American continent.  A woman of the lost city, Maya, guides them to it and ultimately brings ruin on her own people. 


Online edition of H. Rider Haggard's 'She', (serialised 1886-87)


Online edition of H. Rider Haggard's 'Heart of the World', (1895)



Page 294. " I was once in a grave, but that was in an excavated Etruscan grave near Orvieto "
Etruscan tomb at Cerveteri, Italy, (2007)
Public DomainEtruscan tomb at Cerveteri, Italy, (2007) - Credit: Mogi

   The most significant Etrurian gravesite in Orvieto is the necropolis at the site now called 'Crocifisso di Tufo', one of the largest in central Italy.  Excavated during the 19th century, it has remained open to the public since, although the tombs are largely empty after the plundering of their contents for display in various museums abroad.

Information page about the tombs, at the Umbria Archaeological site


Google Map
Page 295. " a distinct row of books in a bookcase against the wall. I can see 'Wealth of Nations', 'Matter and Motion' (by Maxwell), thick books bound in brown linen "

    The Wealth of Nations is an influential analysis of the principles of trade by Scottish philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790), pioneering the theory of economics now called 'capitalism'.  Smith made the argument, ever-popular amongst stockbrokers, that the freedom for each person to amass as much wealth as possible without government intervention benefits the economy in general as much as the individual. 

   James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) was a theoretical physicist, particularly respected for his innovative work in the field of electromagnetism, which united and greatly advanced the study of electricity and light.  His Matter and Motion is an ambitious text examining the dynamics of movement at all levels; beginning with an elementary account of how particles interact within the atom, its focus ultimately expands to compare the gravitational manoeuvrings of planets.


Online edition of Adam Smith's 'Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations', (first published 1776)

Online edition of James Maxwell's 'Matter and Motion', (first published 1876)