In August 1934 Samuel Beckett was at his mother’s house in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock. In a letter to his friend Thomas McGreevy, he commented on the psychoanalysis he had been undergoing in London with Wilfred Bion: ‘It is only now that I begin to realize what the analysis has done for me,’ he wrote.
And now I am obliged to accept the whole panic as psychoneurotic – which leaves me in a hurry to get back & get on. Had a long walk with Geoffrey Sunday to Enniskerry & got soaked. He likes you very much & hopes to be writing to you soon.
The ‘whole panic’ is the series of heart palpitations that drove Beckett to seek medical help. Geoffrey is Geoffrey Thompson, an old school and university friend, now a doctor, who consulted with him about his symptoms and advised him to move to London for psychoanalysis.
Geoffrey Thompson was my grandfather.
Legal sanctions were in place against the talking cure in Ireland when Samuel Beckett decided to give it a shot. He'd been having panic attacks since his father’s death in 1933. So in 1934, aged 27, he moved to London, a place he didn’t much like but that at least wasn’t Dublin (where, he wrote in a letter, ‘you ask for a fish & they give you a piece of bog oak’). In addition to not believing that the Irish public ‘ever gave a fart in its corduroys for any form of art whatsoever’, he was on the run from his mother, who was, as he put it, ‘alertly bereaved’ and also prone to unlettered bourgeois notions concerning salaried employment. When not discussing her with his analyst, Wilfred Bion, a future pioneer of group therapy, Beckett read widely, moped in galleries and parks, visited a doctor friend working at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, and generally gathered the material that went into Murphy, his first published novel.
I don’t know what kind of demographic targeting apparatus the Lib Dems are packing in this election, but it seems to have determined that there are votes to be had from readers of the Saturday Guardian with a taste for the great masters of modernistic gloom and a relaxed attitude to not namechecking Nelson Mandela. The evidence: