KLEIN, Melanie (1882-1960)
Plaque erected in 1985 by Greater London Council at 42 Clifton Hill, St John's Wood, London, NW8 0QG, City of Westminster
MELANIE KLEIN 1882-1960 Psychoanalyst and Pioneer of Child Analysis lived here
Melanie Klein was a psychoanalyst and pioneer of child analysis. In London, she based herself at 42 Clifton Hill in St John’s Wood, not far from the house of her rival, Anna Freud.
Born to Jewish parents in Vienna, Melanie – whose surname was Reizes before she married Arthur Klein at the age of 21 – became interested in psychology on reading Freud’s On Dreams in about 1914. By 1919, she had begun the work for which she would become best known – analysis of children. The first psychoanalyst to work in this area, she published her first paper, ‘The Development of a Child’, in 1921.
In that year Klein moved to Berlin, and in summer 1925 she came to London to give a series of papers on her work. Invited back by the British psychoanalyst Ernest Jones, she settled permanently in the capital in 1926, and became a British citizen in 1934.
Klein quickly established herself as a leading light of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, and her theories and approach, especially her play technique, attracted widespread attention. Her most important publication, The Psychoanalysis of Children, appeared in 1932.
42 CLIFTON HILL
Three years later, Klein moved to 42 Clifton Hill, a semi-detached house built about 1840. The address was not far from Maresfield Gardens, West Hampstead, the home from 1938 of Anna Freud, Klein’s professional rival. So strong was the split between the two women and their followers – originally over different approaches to the theory and practice of psychoanalysis – that it had a permanent impact on psychoanalysis in Britain.
Klein turned to another Freud, Sigmund’s son Ernst, to rework number 42’s interior. The result of this, his first commission in England, was ‘rather Bauhaus, very attractive in its way, but some people felt it unsuitable for a Regency house’. At the unveiling of the plaque in 1985, the house was described by Dr Hanna Segal, Chairman of the Melanie Klein Trust, as ‘a cradle of new generations of analysts and new ideas’, and it was apparently ‘the home she was most attached to’.
Klein’s visitors here included Virginia Woolf, who described her host as a ‘bluff grey haired lady, with large bright imaginative eyes’. Number 42 remained Klein’s residence until 1953, when – aged 71 – she moved to her last home, a first-floor flat at 20 Bracknell Gardens in Hampstead.