Letter: Freud's reputation

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Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith, in his account of Freud's seduction theory, states that "Freud had become convinced by stories related to him by patients of the importance of sexual experiences undergone during childhood" (23 September). This is the account Freud gave many years later, but is false. As his original papers show, it was he who insisted that the patients had experienced sexual molestation in infancy; the patients, Freud reported, "assure me ... emphatically of their unbelief".

Mr Whittam Smith alludes to the many references to Freud in recent publications as evidence of our debt to him, but Richard Webster is nearer the mark when he writes that Freud is treated as "a kind of dead letter box into which any profound insight into human nature whose origins are obscure ... is automatically sorted".

As Mr Whittam Smith indicates, there have been several scholarly critiques of Freud in recent years. The fact that he describes these as "vicious" suggests that he has not read them, but is relying on second hand reports.

Allen Esterson

London W6

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