The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

May 18, 2016

May 18, 1920

When Anthony Storr (May 18, 1920 to March 17, 2001) died, the Guardian led with this line:

Anthony Storr, who has died of a heart attack aged 80, was Britain's most literate psychiatrist.

And:

A prolific author, journalist and radio and television commentator, he was widely respected as a fount of wisdom and good sense in a profession not particularly noted for such qualities.....

Born in London, Storr was a solitary, friendless child, plagued by frequent illness,.... His father, Vernon Faithfull Storr, sub-dean of Westminster Abbey, was 51 when Anthony was born, and his mother, Katherine Cecilia Storr, was 44. They were first cousins, and their consanguinity probably accounted for his asthma, from which he, like two of his siblings, suffered for most of his life. He also seems to have inherited from his mother a tendency to occasional episodes of depression.

Growing up in the privileged seclusion of Dean's Yard, Westminster, as virtually an only child, Storr was particularly affected by the trauma, shared by most boys of his class and time, of being sent away to a boarding prep school at the age of eight. There, and later at Winchester College, he was bitterly unhappy.

.... Extremely slow to make friends, and showing little proficiency for games, he was bullied, and made only average academic progress...[T]he sense of being a loner never left him, and was to affect the course of his career, as well as the content of his books.
.....

Storr's decision to become a psychiatrist was made soon after he went up to Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1939. His moral tutor was CP Snow, who became a lifelong friend. "I owed him a tremendous debt," Storr told me. "He was the first person who made me feel I might be any good at anything. I had disappointed my parents and teachers by not doing nearly as well as I should have. When I told Snow tentatively that I might go into psychiatry, he said, 'I think you'd be very good at it.' It was a ridiculous thing to decide one's future on a chance comment like that. The crucial thing was that he liked me, and thought I could do it."

After two years at Cambridge, Storr was given a wartime courtesy degree without taking a tripos, and continued his medical studies at Westminster hospital (1941-44), where he won prizes for medicine and surgery. [and married in 1942 a woman who also became a psychotherapist] He gained membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 1946.
.....

He obtained the diploma of psychological medicine in 1951, and, developing an interest in analytical psycho- therapy, went into analysis with Jung's English friend and colleague, Dr EA Bennet. He later became a member of the (Jungian) Society for Analytical Psychology. He practised psychotherapy privately, and, from 1961, combined his practice with various hospital appointments as a consultant.

Storr's reputation as a writer and broadcaster began with publication of his first book, The Integrity Of The Personality, in 1960. He was 40, and, up to that point, had not thought of himself as a writer. "I just felt the need to explain to myself what the hell I thought I was doing," he said. "For me, that is the motive for writing anything. I get intrigued by a puzzle, and writing a book is the best way to solve it."

During the next six years, 11 other books followed, of which the most notable were The Dynamics Of Creation (1972), Jung (1973), The Art Of Psychotherapy (1979), Solitude (1989), Freud (1989), his favourite, Music And The Mind (1993), and Feet Of Clay (1996).

Although he did a Jungian training, Storr declined to be labelled a Jungian, preferring to remain "an eclectic sceptic rather than a convert". His books reflected this lack of dogmatism. His love of music and literature, together with his medical and psychiatric training, enabled him to bridge the "two cultures" defined by his friend, Snow.

Storr's particular gift for rendering difficult concepts accessible, as well as his lucid, immensely readable style, made his books as appealing to lay people as to professionals, and his sales reflected this....[for instance] Essential Jung  (1983) sold 50,000 worldwide..... The books were translated into 24 languages... and Storr was especially charmed when Solitude was translated into Chinese for the republic of Inner Mongolia.
.....
At the same time, his understanding of human psychopathology gave him a rich appreciation of the creative possibilities inherent in mental suffering, and the powerful potential for self-healing to be found in artistic and intellectual creativity. This made him impatient with the medical model for psychiatry and its obsession with its symptomatic classification. "I want to show," he wrote, "that the dividing lines between sanity and mental illness have been drawn in the wrong place. The sane are madder than we think, the mad saner."

In 1974, Storr gave up private practice in favour of a teaching appointment at the Warneford hospital, Oxford; a post he held until his retirement in 1984. He was very happy in Oxford, enjoying dining rights at Wadham College and becoming a fellow of Green College, where he built his [stet] library from scratch.

A number of honours were granted him in appreciation of his contribution to psychiatry and literature. He was elected emeritus fellow of Green College (1984), fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (1990), and honorary fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (1993).....

The Guardian also mentions that:

Storr's work revealed an abiding concern for those trapped in suffering, whether as psychiatric patients, prisoners or victims of oppression and torture. He served as a member of the Parole Board (1976-77) and the Williams Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship (1977-79), and his need to penetrate the mysteries of deviant or violent behaviour was apparent in his books on Sexual Deviation (1964), Human Aggression (1968) and Human Destructiveness (1972).

It may be one of these books where Rene Girard found, and quoted Storr thusly:

"The physiology of violence varies little from one individual to another, even from one culture to another...
Nothing resembles an angry cat or man so much as an angry cat or man."


It speaks well of Storr that he noticed this and of Girard that he quoted him in Violence and the Sacred (1979).

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