The Forgotten Analyst: Hermine Hug-Hellmuth (1871–1924)

Author(s) : Prophecy Coles

The Forgotten Analyst: Hermine Hug-Hellmuth (1871–1924)

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : February 2025
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 240
  • Category :
  • Category 2 :
  • Catalogue No : 97835
  • ISBN 13 : 9781800132849
  • ISBN 10 : 1800132840
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Why was the first Viennese child psychoanalyst murdered by her nephew? Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was much admired by Freud but her tragic end was seen as bringing shame to the psychoanalytic world; her work was ignored and she was forgotten. Prophecy Coles traces the life of this talented woman through her published work and finds answers to her murder.

Hermine Hug-Hellmuth was an extremely gifted and intelligent woman, with a poetic mind that had been influenced by the German Romantic Movement. Her untimely murder at the age of fifty-four by her illegitimately born nephew Rolph has cast a shadow over her reputation. Her original contribution to understanding the mind of the child, her fine appreciation of the psychological suffering of the illegitimate child, and her challenge to Freud’s theory about female sexuality has been largely ignored in order to save the reputation of the history of psychoanalysis.

Her murder needs to be understood against the backdrop of the many tragedies she suffered. She lost her mother, Ludovika, when she was twelve, and her father, Hugo, deceived her over her illegitimately born half-sister Antonia. Hermine felt deeply unloved and could never trust anyone to get close to her. When Antonia died, leaving behind her nine-year-old illegitimately born son Rolph, Hermine was faced again with the stigma of illegitimacy and her father’s lie about Antonia. She was further humiliated by Antonia’s stipulation in her will that Rolph was not to be cared for by Hermine. The sisters had fallen out over Hermine’s analysis with self-styled psychoanalyst Isidor Sadger, who disliked Antonia, and Hermine publishing extensive observations about Rolph and his sexual behaviour. Rolph was a troubled child and his disrupted upbringing after his mother’s death was compounded by Hermine’s ambivalent behaviour towards him. In the end, her father’s lie, Antonia’s will, and the behaviour of her delinquent nephew rebounded upon her and the intergenerational trauma achieved its nemesis in her murder.

Prophecy Coles brings new insights to the life of the first child psychoanalyst. She reveals Hug-Hellmuth to be a woman before her time in her profound understanding of children, women’s sexuality and desires, the impact of a mother’s state of mind upon inter-uterine life, and the concept of “motherese”, the universal pre-verbal language of mothers and their newborn babies. Coles exposes Hug-Hellmuth’s genius, her flaws, and her inadequate care of her troubled nephew to create a rounded picture of a brilliant woman trying to find her own path while struggling with her own demons and the constraints of the time.

Table of Contents

About the author

1. The end and the beginning
2. Vienna
3. Educational reform
4. Hermine’s psychoanalyst
5. Hermine’s autobiographical writing
6. A young girl’s diary
7. Antonia’s illegitimacy
8. The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society
9. Hermine’s early psychoanalytic writing
10. War trauma
11. Hermine and Rolph
12. Hermine at the peak of her career
13. The last year
14. The end


About the Author(s)

Prophecy Coles trained as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist at the Lincoln Clinic and is a member of the London Centre for Psychotherapy. She has worked as a psychotherapist for 30 years and has published widely on sibling relationships, family and transgenerational conflict.

More titles by Prophecy Coles

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