One of the elements of archival work I have always enjoyed is the opportunity to get to know a collection really intimately. In order to generate intelligible finding aids for researchers, it is important to get a good overview of a collection: to understand how records relate to each other and to learn all that you can about the format, creator, use and date of an item. Luckily, this is often pretty easy but sometimes an item comes along which presents a bit more of a challenge.
Challenging items bring out an archivist’s inner Sherlock Holmes. Minute clues are forensically examined in the hope of cracking the mystery. However, some challenges are easier than others and today I would like to ask for your help with a mystery I have been unable to solve so far.
The item in question is a six-line, rhyming poem on a suitably psychoanalytical theme.
My familiarity with Ronald Fairbairn’s papers means that I know this item is in his handwriting*. However, I have no real idea as to the author of this poem. Is this an original Fairbairn composition or is it something he merely transcribed?
Knowing the answer to this mystery will be invaluable as it will help to ensure Fairbairn’s papers are catalogued to the highest possible standard. So, can anyone out there help?
*By now, I can read Fairbairn’s hand pretty easily, but just in case it proves a little tricky, here’s a transcription of the poem:
Remember well what Freud hath said-
We want to take our mums to bed.
And, since they always utter “no”,
We feel we’ve nowhere else to go.
Hysteria doth thus emerge
Through failure of the sexual urge.
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