Margaret's Memento

Wes Morgan

One of the more curious objects in the Blanton Collection of the University of Tennessee Archives is a 4.5 x 6.5 cm. hand-painted yellow and red paper mashie box in the shape of a primitive face.

The occasion of Margaret’s receipt of the contents of the box is recorded in a footnote written by Margaret which appears in her husband’s (Smiley Blanton), Diary of my analysis with Sigmund Freud. She describes a 10-minute visit with Professor Freud immediately before her husband’s last session with him in London on 7 September 1938, a year before Freud’s death.

"Freud made me welcome and seated me by a desk covered with his books and personal effects and made bright with a bowl of white and red carnations. He was not distracted from his usual simple kindliness. He put me at ease at once and began asking me about the trip we had made meantime to Lourdes and added that he thought our thesis about the cures there tenable…

We talked a while about Smiley, he asking me questions about Smiley’s personal life and especially about his opinions—about Lourdes and the cures. I then told Freud how we had worried about him all spring until we heard that he was in England.

'Yes, that is the pleasant aspect—England. But only to have this operation! That is not so happy.' He moved his expressive hands. His face was troubled. 'It is the over-and-over part of it that is so bad. The again and again.' And he added something which I did not quite get, to the effect that perhaps I had come to see him for the last time.

I got up to leave. We shook hands, and remembering the smooth swiftness with which he terminated interviews, I started for the door.

But a slight sound checked me, and I turned. He was standing by the bowl of carnations, carefully selecting for me two, one of each color, perfect and in full bloom.

It was almost intolerable to leave him there—an aged and ill exile among unhappy fellow exiles.

But somehow Freud could never really be aged and ill. In his small body but great presence he was always to us the great explorer into the dark continent of the unconscious mind" (Blanton, 1971, pp. 114-115).

Inside the box are the blooms of two dried carnations, obviously treasured for nearly three-quarters of a century, and a handwritten note on a scrap of pink paper which reads, “Prof. Freud gave me these flowers the last time I saw him in London 1938 M.G.B.” The memento is found in Collection MS-739, Box I: Folder 6. The Blanton Collection. Papers, 1900 – 1973, Margaret Gray and Smiley Blanton.

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Last revised: 7 January 2008