Psy­cho­an­a­lyz­ing the Pres­i­dent

WHAT DROVE SIG­MUND FREUD AND HIS AMER­I­CAN CO-AU­THOR TO WRITE A SCAN­DALOUS BI­OG­RA­PHY OF WOODROW WIL­SON?

Smithsonian Magazine - - Somario - By Ben Yagoda

What mo­ti­vated Sig­mund Freud, the founder of psy­cho­anal­y­sis it­self, to col­lab­o­rate with a ju­nior Amer­i­can diplo­mat on a scan­dalous bi­og­ra­phy of Woodrow Wil­son?

SIG­MUND FREUD WAITED TOO LONG. Through­out the 1930s, as the Nazis rose to power in Ger­many and took ever more ag­gres­sive ac­tion against the coun­try’s Jews, the fa­ther of psy­cho­anal­y­sis had in­sisted on re­main­ing next door in Aus­tria, where he had lived vir­tu­ally his en­tire life. On March 13, 1938, in the so-called An­schluss, Ger­many an­nexed Aus­tria. Freud, near­ing his 82nd birth­day, re­al­ized that the prospects for Jews there were dis­mal in­deed and agreed to leave. But by then, as his physi­cian, Max Schur, later wrote, “we had to wait for ‘le­gal per­mis­sion.’”

The bu­reau­cratic wheels ground slowly, and the sit­u­a­tion in Vi­enna grew darker by the day. On March 15, the Amer­i­can chargé d’af­faires there, John Wi­ley, sent a mes­sage to the State Depart­ment, to be passed on to Wil­liam C. Bul­litt, the U.S. am­bas­sador to France: “Fear Freud, de­spite age and ill­ness, in dan­ger” from the Nazis. A few weeks later, Wi­ley sent Bul­litt a cable that am­pli­fied his con­cern: “The treat­ment of the Jews has ex­ceeded any­thing that took place in Ger­many. It has been an eco­nomic pogrom; bur­glary in uni­form.”

Bul­litt was looped in be­cause he had a spe­cial in­ter­est in events in Aus­tria: Freud was his friend, his one­time psy­cho­an­a­lyst and his co-au­thor on what might be the odd­est lit­er­ary project in the

Freudian canon.

In the pre­ced­ing years, Bul­litt had kept a watch­ful eye over the doc­tor, promis­ing him in 1933 that “if things should be­come dif­fi­cult for you in Vi­enna the same wel­come will be await­ing you in Amer­ica as if

I were at home.” Now, five years later, Bul­litt, who earned $17,500 a year as am­bas­sador and came from

a wealthy Philadelphia fam­ily, ca­bled the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador to Ger­many that if Freud and his fam­ily needed aid, “please ren­der ev­ery pos­si­ble as­sis­tance in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial for which I will be re­spon­si­ble.”

Sev­eral of Freud’s close rel­a­tives left Aus­tria, one by one, as the spring pro­gressed. By early June, Freud, his wife and their daugh­ter Anna were the only ones still in their home. On June 4, they boarded the Ori­ent Ex­press, bound for Paris. When the train pulled into the Gare de l’Est, on the plat­form to meet it were Freud’s nephew and grand­nephew, his good friend Marie Bon­a­parte and Am­bas­sador Bul­litt, dash­ing in a gray her­ring­bone suit and tan hom­burg. The doc­tor and the diplo­mat walked into the city arm in arm.

If Woody Allen’s film Zelig didn’t ex­ist, we might de­scribe a fig­ure who con­tin­u­ally rubs up against fa­mous fig­ures and fa­mous events, with­out quite be­com­ing fa- mous him­self, as a “Bul­litt.” Bill Bul­litt was voted most bril­liant in Yale’s class of 1912 (which in­cluded Averell Har­ri­man, Cole Porter and Ger­ald Mur­phy), and he cov­ered World War I for the Philadelphia Pub­lic Ledger. His work was so im­pres­sive that he was ap­pointed as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state at the age of 26. In 1919, he led an Amer­i­can mis­sion to as­sess Soviet Rus­sia. His ver­dict: “We have seen the fu­ture, and it works.” The writer Lin­coln St­ef­fens, who ac­com­pa­nied Bul­litt on the mis­sion, later claimed the line as his own.

Bul­litt sat on the Amer­i­can com­mis­sion that ne­go­ti­ated the Treaty of Ver­sailles af­ter World War I, but he even­tu­ally re­signed in protest af­ter Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son re­fused to ac­cept his rec­om­men­da­tion to rec­og­nize the Soviet Union. He sent the pres­i­dent a scathing (and prophetic) let­ter charg­ing that “our Gov­ern­ment has con­sented now to de­liver the suf­fer­ing peo­ples of the world to new op­pres­sions, sub­jec­tions and dis­mem­ber­ments—a new cen­tury of war.” His force­ful tes­ti­mony be­fore Congress in Septem­ber 1919, Janet Flan­ner wrote in the New Yorker, “was con­sid­ered to have brought the great­est weight against Amer­ica’s join­ing the League” of Na­tions.

It also ru­ined, for the time be­ing, Bul­litt’s diplo­matic ca­reer.

In 1923, he mar­ried Louise Bryant, the widow of the jour­nal­ist John Reed (Diane Keaton played her in the 1981 film Reds), and lived with her among the ex­pa­tri­ates in Paris. Writ­ing to F. Scott Fitzger­ald in 1927, Ernest Hem­ing­way referred to Bul­litt as “a big Jew from Yale and a fel­low novel writer.” (Bul­litt’s mother de­scended from wealthy Ger­man Jews who had con­verted to the Epis­co­pal Church many years be­fore.) Bul­litt’s re­venge was that his first and only novel, It’s Not Done, a racy sendup of Philadelphia so­ci­ety, sold 150,000 copies in 24 print­ings—a far bet­ter ini­tial show­ing than Hem­ing­way’s The Sun Also Rises.

In the mid-’20s, Bul­litt ap­pears to have suf­fered a ner­vous break­down of sorts. Bryant wrote to a friend that he “devel­oped the ut­most of ec­cen­tric­i­ties. He would lie in bed and be afraid of any­one com­ing into the room.” Like many well-to-do Amer­i­cans in such straits, Bul­litt trav­eled to Vi­enna to be psy­cho- an­a­lyzed by the great Sig­mund Freud. Later Bul­litt would claim it was Bryant, not he, who was treated, but Freud on sev­eral oc­ca­sions in his let­ters de­scribes Bul­litt as a pa­tient.

Af­ter Bul­litt went into treat­ment, his re­la­tion­ship with Freud deep­ened fairly quickly into friend­ship. His char­ac­ter­is­tic salu­ta­tion in their warm, in­ti­mate cor­re­spon­dence was, “Dear Freud.” Ac­cord­ing to Freud’s bi­og­ra­phers, Bul­litt was one of just three peo­ple per-

“AS FAR AS A SIN­GLE PER­SON CAN BE

RE­SPON­SI­BLE FOR THE MIS­ERY OF THIS PART OF THE WORLD, HE SURELY IS.”

mit­ted to ad­dress him by name, and not as “Herr Dok­tor.” (The oth­ers were H.G. Wells and the French en­ter­tainer Yvette Guil­bert.) Freud, in turn, closed his let­ters to Bul­litt, “Af­fec­tion­ately yours.”

Given that the two men were dif­fer­ent in vir­tu­ally ev­ery way—not least a 35-year age gap—the re­la­tion­ship that devel­oped be­tween them was hardly pre­dictable. But in ret­ro­spect it is not shocking. Freud was known for be­ing drawn to charis­matic in­di­vid­u­als, and that ad­jec­tive fit Bul­litt as well as his suits did. Ge­orge Ken­nan, who worked closely with him in the diplo­matic corps, ob­served that “he res­o­lutely re­fused to per­mit the life of those around him to de­gen­er­ate into dull­ness and drea­ri­ness.” Be­yond that, how­ever, a spe­cific in­ter­est also drew the men to­gether. As an­other Amer­i­can pa­tient and stu­dent of Freud’s, Mark Brunswick, would put it, “Bul­litt and Freud fell in love at first sight on the ba­sis of their ha­tred of Wil­son.”

Bul­litt’s an­i­mos­ity was so en­dur­ing that he wrote a play ti­tled The Tragedy of Woodrow Wil­son in the late ’20s. It was, de­servedly, never pro­duced, though when the play­wright sent Freud a copy, the doc­tor wrote him back, in English: “I soon was swept away by the pas­sion­ate rhythm. I en­joyed the thing im­mensely. I see I was right for trust­ing your pow­ers as a writer. Take my con­grat­u­la­tions for your work.” Freud fre­quently blamed the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent for the breakup of the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire. He told a friend, “As far as a sin­gle per­son can be re­spon­si­ble for the mis­ery of this part of the world, he surely is.”

In 1930, the two agreed to col­lab­o­rate on a Wil­son bi­og­ra­phy, Freud ac­cept­ing a co-au­thor for the first time since he co-wrote Stud­ies in Hys­te­ria with Josef Breuer in 1895. Bul­litt—free to re­lo­cate fol­low­ing his di­vorce from Louise Bryant—started spend­ing large chunks of his time in Vi­enna.

As it hap­pened, their book wouldn’t come out un­til 1967—28 years af­ter Freud’s death. When it did, Thomas Woodrow Wil­son: A Psy­cho­log­i­cal Study out­did Bul­litt’s novel for shock and out­rage. As the his­to­rian Barbara Tuch­man put it at the time, Freudi­ans re­ceived the book as “some­thing be­tween a forged First Fo­lio and The Pro­to­cols of [the El­ders of] Zion.”

In the New Re­pub­lic, the psy­chi­a­trist Robert Coles wrote, “The book can ei­ther be con­sid­ered a mis­chievous and pre­pos­ter­ous joke, a sort of car­i­ca­ture of the worst that has come from

FREUD WROTE AN IN­TRO­DUC­TION

AND CHAP­TER 1, WHICH SET OUT SOME OF

THE PRIN­CI­PLES OF PSY­CHO­ANAL­Y­SIS AS

THEY AP­PLIED TO WIL­SON.

psy­cho­an­a­lytic dialogues, or else an aw­ful and un­re­lent­ing slan­der upon a re­mark­ably gifted Amer­i­can pres­i­dent.” And in the New York Re­view of Books, Erik Erik­son char­ac­ter­ized the work as “Freud­u­lence” and as­serted: “For me and oth­ers, it is easy to see only that Freud could have ‘writ­ten’ al­most noth­ing of what is now pre­sented in print.”

This re­ac­tion es­tab­lished the gen­eral rep­u­ta­tion of Thomas Woodrow Wil­son over the past half-cen­tury: It has been con­sid­ered ei­ther a com­plete or par­tial fraud per­pe­trated by Bul­litt, who af­fixed Freud’s name to his own di­dac­tic and in­ept ap­pli­ca­tion of Freudian prin­ci­ples to his bête noire, Wil­son.

But that rep­u­ta­tion is wrong—or, at least, a gross car­i­ca­ture of their col­lab­o­ra­tion. Bul­litt’s papers, made avail­able to the pub­lic af­ter the death of his daugh­ter in 2007, demon­strate not only that Freud was deeply in­volved in writ­ing the book, but also that he com­posed some of the pas­sages that es­pe­cially pro­voked the re­view­ers’ wrath. Fur­ther, the papers an­swer two ques­tions that have al­ways sur­rounded this bizarre part­ner­ship: Why would Freud, who at that point was an em­i­nent fig­ure in West­ern thought, agree to col­lab­o­rate with an un­em­ployed jour­nal­ist and ju­nior diplo­mat? And why did it take so long to get the book into print?

Af­ter Bul­litt fin­ished his play— which he ded­i­cated to Freud, “who, be­cause he has acted al­ways with both in­tel­lec­tual in­tegrity and moral courage, is a great pathfinder for hu­man­ity”—he de­cided to write a non­fic­tion book on the Treaty of Ver­sailles, com­pris­ing stud­ies of Wil­son and the other main par­tic­i­pants. One day in early 1930, Bul­litt met Freud in Ber­lin and de­scribed his plans. “Freud’s eyes bright­ened and he be­came very much alive,” Bul­litt re­called. “Rapidly he asked a num­ber of ques­tions, which I an­swered. Then he as­ton­ished me by say­ing he would like to col­lab­o­rate with me in writ­ing the Wil­son chap­ter of the book.”

Bul­litt replied—with un­char­ac­ter­is­tic mod­esty— that “to bury” Freud’s con­tri­bu­tions in a chap­ter of a Bul­litt book “would be to pro­duce an im­pos­si­ble mon­stros­ity; the part would be greater than the whole.” The two men went back and forth over the next few days and emerged with an agree­ment: They would col­lab­o­rate on the en­tire book, and it would be a psy­cho­log­i­cal study of Wil­son.

It’s easy to see why Bul­litt would be so at­tracted to this un­der­tak­ing. It’s less im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous why Freud would go for it. But he had his rea­sons. Bul­litt re­called that when they met in Ber­lin, Freud was “de­pressed. Somberly he said that he had not long to live and that his death would be unim­por­tant to him or to any­one else, be­cause he had writ­ten every­thing he wished to write and his mind was emp­tied.” Bul­litt was prone to hy­per­bole, so Freud may not have said those ex­act words, but he was cer­tainly at a low point. Seven years ear­lier, he had been di­ag­nosed with can-

cer of the jaw, and in ad­di­tion to ra­di­a­tion treat­ments and sev­eral op­er­a­tions, he had to con­tend with an un­com­fort­able metal pros­the­sis, which he called “the Mon­ster,” that es­sen­tially re­placed the roof of his mouth. In fact, he hap­pened to be in Ber­lin for read­just­ment of the Mon­ster, un­der­go­ing hours of fit­tings ev­ery day for sev­eral weeks. Be­yond that, over the pre­vi­ous decade he had ex­pe­ri­enced the deaths of a cher­ished grand­son and other fam­ily mem­bers, as well as the de­fec­tions of sev­eral dis­ci­ples, in­clud­ing Carl Jung, Al­fred Adler and Otto Rank.

Freud also needed money, es­pe­cially for his strug­gling pub­lish­ing com­pany, the Ver­lag. Given Bul­litt’s track record with It’s Not Done and the still-in­tense in­ter­est in Wil­son and his le­gacy, Freud likely imag­ined the book as a po­ten­tial best seller. Leav­ing aside his fond­ness for Bul­litt, the man was a rich Amer­i­can, and Freud had a ten­dency to see his pa­tients from across the ocean pri­mar­ily as sources of in­come. As he once re­marked to his Welsh dis­ci­ple Ernest Jones, “What is the use of Amer­i­cans, if they bring no money? They are not good for any­thing else.”

In any case, the men quickly agreed to em­bark on the Wil­son project. On Oc­to­ber 26, 1930, Bul­litt wrote to his friend and men­tor Ed­ward House, “To­mor­row, F and I go to work.” Three days later, Freud made a three-word en­try in his di­ary: “Work taken up.”

Anna Freud re­called that the two men met dur­ing the evenings in a se­cre­tive, al­most con­spir­a­to­rial man­ner. Bul­litt’s di­ary gives a vivid sense of the tex­ture of those evenings, as in these en­tries (never pre­vi­ously pub­lished), writ­ten af­ter two of their early meet­ings:

Saw Freud this evening at 6. He was seated in his study at his desk, dressed in pa­ja­mas & a dress­ing gown. He jumped up and seemed gen­uinely glad to see me. He looked well—eyes sparkling—but he told me he was just re­cov­er­ing from an at­tack of pneumonia. It was the first time he had been out of bed . . . he had seen no one but his fam­ily for some weeks. “I think I re­cov­ered more quickly,” he said, “be­cause I wanted so much to see you and the ma­te­rial you have brought.”

. . . He said: “I hope one re­sult of the pub­li­ca­tion of this book will be your re-in­tro­duc­tion to pol­i­tics.” I told him I hoped it might be. “That is re­ally, I think, my chief rea­son for want­ing to write it,” he said, “my af­fec­tion for you is very great.” Then he laughed & added: “But my dis­like of Wil­son is al­most as great as my lik­ing for you.”

Eleven days later, Bul­litt recorded this ex­change:

While work­ing to­day with Freud, he said—“You and I know that Wil­son was a pas­sive ho­mo­sex­ual but we won’t dare say it.”

I said “Cer­tainly we’ll say it but sub­tly.”

Freud an­swered: “That’s the equiv­a­lent of not say­ing it at all.”

The di­vi­sion of la­bor worked out this way: Bul­litt wrote what turned out to be a 30-page ac­count of Wil­son’s early life. Freud wrote an in­tro­duc­tion and Chap­ter 1, which set out some of the prin­ci­ples of psy­cho­anal­y­sis as they ap­plied to Wil­son. And Bul­litt com­posed the re­main­ing 33 chap­ters, send­ing them to Freud for his edi­to­rial notes and even­tual ap­proval. And ap­prove he did. In Septem­ber 1931, af­ter Bul­litt sent on a draft of the en­tire book, Freud re­sponded: “While I made many changes to the gen­eral sec­tion and rewrote the whole in Ger­man, I found in the specifics, when you turn to W him­self, very lit­tle, and from page 43 on ab­so­lutely noth­ing, that would have re­quired my in­ter­ven­tion. It re­ally has been done ex­cel­lently.”

That first chap­ter by Freud—pre­served in the Bul­litt Papers in 24 pages of his Ger­man Gothic script—con­tains many of the sort of pas­sages that drew the re­view­ers’ scorn, as when he wrote: “The in­tro­duc­tion of the super­ego of course does not re­solve all the dif­fi­cul­ties as­so­ci­ated with the Oedi­pus com­plex, but it does pro­vide a lo­ca­tion for a cer­tain part of the li­bido flow, which orig­i­nally ap­peared as ac­tiv­ity to­ward the fa­ther.”

Bul­litt’s sec­tions, by con­trast, while marred by the oc­ca­sional psy­cho­an­a­lytic jar­gon and re­duc­tive­ness, more of­ten show, in vig­or­ous prose, the fruit of his ex­ten-

“OUR BE­LIEFS WERE DIS­SIM­I­LAR. HE WAS A JEW WHO

HAD BE­COME AN AG­NOS­TIC. I HAVE AL­WAYS BEEN A BE­LIEV­ING CHRIS­TIAN.”

sive re­search and his per­sonal his­tory with Wil­son and many of the other char­ac­ters. Here is Bul­litt on the first meet­ing be­tween Wil­son and House, who would serve as the pres­i­dent’s pri­mary ad­viser on Euro­pean af­fairs dur­ing and af­ter World War I:

Af­ter look­ing for the first time through Wil­son’s eye­glasses at his pale gray eyes, House told a friend that the time would surely come when Wil­son would turn on him and throw him on the scrap heap. This did not dis­turb House. He was happy to use his power so long as it might last. He soon learned that Wil­son did not like open op­po­si­tion but that he could make a sug­ges­tion to Wil­son, drop the mat­ter if Wil­son dis­ap­proved, and re­make the sug­ges­tion a few weeks later in a slightly dif­fer­ent form and be rea­son­ably sure that Wil­son would an­swer him in the words of the first sug­ges­tion.

And on the Paris Peace Con­fer­ence in 1919, which Bul­litt at­tended:

On June 10, he [Wil­son] re­fused to sit again for the por­trait that Sir Wil­liam Or­pen was paint­ing of him be­cause Or­pen had drawn his ears as large and pro­tu­ber­ant as they ac­tu­ally were, and he was per­suaded to sit again only by the prom­ise that the ears should be re­duced to less grotesque di­men­sions. They were.

In Jan­uary 1932, the writ­ing part­ners signed a con­tract stip­u­lat­ing that Bul­litt would re­ceive two-thirds of any roy­al­ties on the book and Freud one-third. At the same time, Bul­litt gave his co-au­thor an ad­vance of $2,500—more than $40,000 in to­day’s money, and a sub­stan­tial sum in the depths of the De­pres­sion. “The book is at last fin­ished,” Bul­litt wrote to House in April, “that is to say the last chap­ter has been writ­ten and it could be pub­lished if both F. and I were to die tonight.”

But no pub­li­ca­tion plan en­sued. In De­cem­ber 1933, Freud com­plained to Marie Bon­a­parte (who was the great-grand­daugh­ter of Napoleon’s younger brother, Lu­cien): “From Bul­litt no di­rect news. Our book will never see the light of day.”

Why the holdup? Ac­cord­ing to Bul­litt’s ac­count, in the spring of 1932, Freud made changes in the text and wrote “a num­ber of new pas­sages to which I ob­jected. Af­ter sev­eral ar­gu­ments we de­cided to for­get the book, and to at­tempt then to agree. When we met, we con­tin­ued to dis­agree.”

Ev­i­dence in Bul­litt’s papers sug­gests that he re­jected a num­ber of Freud’s pas­sages, all of which might be per­ceived as un­founded and in­de­cent. He jet­ti­soned spec­u­la­tion that Wil­son mas­tur­bated ex­ces­sively and had a cas­tra­tion com­plex, and he nixed a pas­sage in which Freud di­rectly links Chris­tian­ity with ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. Bul­litt’s fore­word to the fin­ished book sug­gests that that may have been a par­tic­u­lar stick­ing point. In comparing their per­son­al­i­ties, he wrote, “Both Freud and I were stub­born, and our be­liefs were dis­sim­i­lar. He was a Jew who had be­come an ag­nos­tic.

I have al­ways been a be­liev­ing Chris­tian.”

An­other rea­son for the de­lay in pub­li­ca­tion—and per­haps the most im­por­tant—had to do with pol­i­tics. With the nom­i­na­tion of Franklin D. Roo­sevelt for pres­i­dent in 1932, Bul­litt’s ban­ish­ment ap­peared to be com­ing to an end. House, a Demo­cratic power bro­ker, wrote him, “I should like to see you play a great part in for­eign af­fairs dur­ing the next ad­min­is­tra­tion, and there is no rea­son why you should not do so pro­vided our crowd is suc­cess­ful.” It ob­vi­ously wouldn’t do to come out with a book that por­trayed the last Demo­cratic pres­i­dent as a ho­mo­sex­ual with a killer Oedi­pus com­plex. Freud pre­dicted to a friend that the book would never be is­sued “as long as a Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion was in of­fice.”

The re­mark was prophetic. Roo­sevelt ap­pointed Bul­litt as the first U.S. am­bas­sador to the Soviet Union in 1933, and as am­bas­sador to France in 1936. Af­ter help­ing Freud es­cape from Aus­tria in 1938 and set­tle in London, Bul­litt vis­ited him there and, he wrote, “was de­lighted when he agreed to elim­i­nate the additions he had writ­ten at the last minute, and we were both happy that we found no dif­fi­culty in agree­ing on cer­tain changes in the text.”

Freud’s amenabil­ity was hardly sur­pris­ing; Bul­litt had helped res­cue him and his fam­ily from the Nazis. But even then the book was not of­fered to pub­lish­ers. The rea­son, Bul­litt wrote in his fore­word, was that it would not be proper to put out such a lac­er­at­ing por­trait while Wil­son’s se­cond wife, Edith, was still alive.

Both men signed the last page of each chap­ter, and Bul­litt or­dered a hand­tooled leather folder into which to put the man­u­script, with Freud’s ini­tials en­graved on the front. The doc­tor died the fol­low­ing year, 1939. Bul­litt’s diplo­matic ca­reer reached its apex in 1940: Af­ter the Ger­mans oc­cu­pied Paris, he was the last am­bas­sador to re­main in the city, and served for a time as its de facto mayor.

Then Bul­litt made a dire po­lit­i­cal mis­cal­cu­la­tion. Later in 1940, a State Depart­ment ri­val of his, Un­der­sec­re­tary Sumner Welles, sex­u­ally propo­si­tioned a male rail­road porter. Bul­litt pre­sented this in-

for­ma­tion to Roo­sevelt, hoping to tor­pedo Welles’ ca­reer. In­stead, FDR re­mained loyal to Welles and ef­fec­tively black­balled Bul­litt from gov­ern­ment ser­vice.

Bul­litt spent the rest of his life writ­ing and speak­ing, most of­ten about the dan­gers of Com­mu­nism—like many young leftists, he took a hard right­ward turn later in life. Mean­while, the Wil­son book re­mained in its leather case.

In 1946, for rea­sons Bul­litt never pub­licly dis­cussed, he trans­ferred own­er­ship of the man­u­script to his daugh­ter, Anne. That’s how mat­ters stood un­til 1965, when Bul­litt, now push­ing 75, wrote a let­ter to Henry A. Laugh­lin, re­cently re­tired as chair­man of the board of the Houghton Mif­flin pub­lish­ing com­pany, say­ing she had deeded the man­u­script back to him. Edith Wil­son had died four years ear­lier, and Bul­litt no longer had a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer to pro­tect. He of­fered the man­u­script to Laugh­lin, who ac­cepted.

For­tu­nately, Bul­litt, like his co-au­thor, would never know how Thomas Woodrow Wil­son was re­ceived. He had had leukemia for years, and it reached a ter­mi­nal stage just as the book was pub­lished. He died on Fe­bru­ary 15, 1967.

At the time, Freud’s rep­u­ta­tion in the United States was at its high-wa­ter mark. Philo­soph­i­cally, he was con­sid­ered one of the troika of mod­ern thinkers—along with Dar­win and Ein­stein—who had up­ended tra­di­tional no­tions of man and the world. Med­i­cally, his ideas ruled: In a 1966 sur­vey, three-quar­ters of Amer­i­can psy­chi­a­trists re­ported us­ing psy­cho­an­a­lytic meth­ods. It is lit­tle won­der the Wil­son book’s faults were laid at Bul­litt’s feet.

But the book’s crit­i­cal re­cep­tion hinted at things to come for Freud. Grad­u­ally, then swiftly, med­i­ca­tion over­took talk ther­apy as the dom­i­nant mode of psy­chi­atric treat­ment. And Freud’s ideas took hit af­ter hit, in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple rev­e­la­tions that he had fudged or mis­rep­re­sented his find­ings.

Bul­litt’s rep­u­ta­tion, mean­while, dropped from min­i­mal to nil. Per­haps the dis­cov­ery that he did not, in fact, write the worst pas­sages in the book— that his con­tri­bu­tions of­fer use­ful ob­ser­va­tions on the think­ing and be­hav­ior of the 28th pres­i­dent—will help draw this 20th-cen­tury Zelig out of the shad­ows.

The couch on which Freud’s pa­tients lay be­came iden­ti­fied with psy­cho­anal­y­sis it­self. He shipped it to London when heleft Vi­enna.

Freud’s li­brary. The doc­tor andhis co-au­thor dif­fered in age,health and wealth, but theywere united in the an­i­mus they felt to­wardWil­son (left).

“I still greatly loved the prison from which I have been re­leased,” Freud (with Marie Bon­a­parte, left, and Wil­liam Bul­litt, cen­ter) wrote of Aus­tria.

Freud (right) col­lected an­tiq­ui­ties (above) as pri­mal ex­pres­sions of the hu­man mind. He and Bul­litt (left)an­a­lyzed Wil­son’s pres­i­dency through the same prism.

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