In 1895 an unostentatious book quietly appeared in Leipzig and Vienna entitled Studies of Hysteria (Studien über Hysterie), written jointly by two authors, Dr. Josef Breuer and Dr. Sigmund Freud. There was no public ready to receive the book, it attracted little attention, and had a small sale. In England and America it remained almost unknown, so that it is now a satisfaction to the present writer to recall that almost the first full exposition in English of the views set forth in this book appeared in the first volume of his own Studies in the Psychology of Sex in 1898. Yet these studies of hysteria, as an attentive reader could scarcely fail to realise, turned over a new page in medical psychology, and the new page was of fascinating interest. A case of hysteria was no longer to be regarded as, on the psychic side, almost beneath a physician's serious attention, nor was it to be settled merely by an accurate description of the physical symptoms, after the manner of Charcot's school, to which school in the first place Freud himself had belonged. It was a mystery to be patiently investigated, a mystery to which the key often lay far back and forgotten in the patient's history, and when skilfully used, with knowledge and insight, the patient's medical history acquired not only psychological significance but something of the interest of a novel. Freud himself clearly recognised this and stated, even in this first book, that it was by a representation of psychic processes, “such as we are accustomed to receive from the poet,” that he had gained his insight into the nature of hysteria.
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