Sunday, July 11, 2010

Significant Moments: Unopened Letters

Perhaps it is significant that I mention the theme of unopened letters at two different points in my book Significant Moments.  I first mention this theme in connection with the largely epistolary friendship between Wilhelm Fliess and Sigmund Freud.  I also mention the theme in connection with the love affair between Mathilde Wesendonk and Richard Wagner, who exiled himself to Venice for some months after the end of the affair was discovered by the parties' respective spouses.  (Historians strongly believe that the relationship between Wagner and Matilde Wesendonk, though emotionally passionate, was platonic.)

Clearly things had come to such a pass that it was not only inevitable that the two friends should part but better that they should do so.
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.
It was their last "congress," the last time they saw one another. They continued to correspond for a while, ever more sparsely. Writing to Fliess in the summer of 1901, Freud once more gratefully recited his debts to him, but bluntly told him that they had drawn apart and that in personal as in professional matters "you have reached the limits of your perspicacity."
Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time.
The actual end of the friendship was particularly difficult for Freud, and later in his life he seldom spoke of Fliess at all.
J. Moussaieff Masson, Introduction to The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887-1904.
It should be added—
Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales.
My last letter was returned to me, . . .
In These Great Times: A Karl Kraus Reader.
. . . unanswered!
Richard Wagner, Lohengrin.
. . . stamped: "Shipped out. Address unknown."
In These Great Times: A Karl Kraus Reader.

O Mathilde!
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo.
Take my entire soul as a morning salutation!
Richard Wagner, Letter to Mathilde Wesendonk (April 7, 1858).
His letters were returned to him unopened: but he and Mathilde each kept a diary which was read by the other at a later date. Wagner’s diary, kept in the form of letters to Mathilde, gives us an incomparable picture of his inner life during his Venice sojourn.
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner.
Leaving behind the growing frustrations of . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight to Italy: Diary and Selected Letters (editor’s note).
. . . creative . . .
K.R. Eissler, Goethe: A Psychoanalytic Study 1775-1786.
. . . work, a difficult love-affair, and lack of time to write, he discovers himself again . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight to Italy: Diary and Selected Letters (editor’s note).
. . . in the wondrous island city . . .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight to Italy: Diary and Selected Letters (Diary entry, September 28, 1786).
. . a sensuous being and an artist.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Flight to Italy: Diary and Selected Letters (editor’s note).

In an earlier blog post I wrote that I felt humiliated and frustrated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the mid-1990s when the Bureau took to returning my many letters unopened.

"In the fall of 2009 I decided to devote my blog My Daily Struggles to documents and writings concerning my job termination by my former employer, Akin Gump.  Since the mid-1990s, I had wanted the FBI -- a law enforcement branch of the Justice Department -- to investigate my job termination.  The Bureau consistently refused to initiate an investigation, despite my persistent letter writing to the FBI.  (In the mid-1990s, it got to a point where the FBI would return my letters to me unopened, which was humiliating and frustrating for me).   In the fall of 2009 it occurred to me that I could devote My Daily Struggles to my job termination, advise the FBI of the existence of my blog, and the FBI could peruse my blog at it's convenience.   Perhaps the FBI would eventually see the need to initiate a criminal or civil rights investigation of the circumstances of my job termination."

I suppose I see the FBI as a special friend or "platonic lover."  Don't tell Robert Mueller!  Coincidentally, Akin Gump partner Robert S. Strauss is a former FBI agent.

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