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January 2022

The kidnapping of W. S. Gilbert

Journal/Book: J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 1985; 33: 133-48.

Abstract: Gilbert's probable screen memory of having been kidnapped, along with his persistent preoccupations with babyhood, remembering and forgetting, stress the intensity of his struggle against remembering the painful experiences from his childhood. His creative efforts function as an obsessional defense; they divert his attention from the experiences themselves to a fascination with the process of remembering and forgetting, while the painful affects are reversed into playful, good-natured humor. The results are some of his most treasured anecdotes. Watson (1918) quotes Gilbert' s story of the amateur burglar who badly bungled an attempted robbery and ended up being arrested and jailed under the most humiliating circumstances. For years afterward, every time he though of the incident, he felt wretchedly uncomfortable, and he tried vainly to drive the occurrence from his mind. The story concludes with a statement which, remarks Watson, only Gilbert could have written: "Gradually one detail after another slipped from my recollection, and one lovely morning last May I found to my intense delight that I had absolutely forgotten all about it" (p. 94).

Keyword(s): Memory|. Psychoanalytic Interpretation|

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