When I first created a site about William Halse Rivers Rivers, he was still a largely forgotten figure, only recently re-discovered due to Pat Barker’s trilogy of ‘Regeneration’ novels, set during the Great War. Lately, however, more and more people are finally becoming aware of his work, not only in Psychology but also in Ethnography, Anthropology and Neurology. Information about the doctor is at last springing up all over the internet
In light of that, some may argue that this site is surplus to requirements. In addition it is woefully inadequate; as Sir Henry Head wrote in his ‘Appreciation’ *, ” No mere recital of the events of his life, the posts he held…is capable of doing justice” to such a person.
However, whilst that may be true and this site not as skillfully written or its research resources as well funded as some, I have tried to ensure that the information presented is accurate. It is my tribute to a man to whom I owe a great deal; a man who repeatedly dedicated his life to improving the lot of others despite the problems in his own.
F J Robinson
*Head H. , June 1922 , the British Medical Journal
Hello. Can you please tell me where in Rivers’ papers I might find the views and explanations you attribute to him with regard to both John Layard’s contention that Rivers abandoned him on Vauatu and Rivers’ apparent claim that he tried to help by discussing sexual issues with him. Can you also please tell me where I might find details of the longstanding engagement which required Rivers to leave Vanuatu only 10 days or so after bringing his student there.
Thank you for your message. Any information about the John Layard incident takes some tracking down – it took me years to get the details I have! The first I think came from my enquiring directly to St John’s College (they were more than a little reluctant to answer)and Pat Barker (author of the ‘Regeneration’ trilogy). The second I will have to look up as I can’t remember ( I wrote the site some years ago). From what I recall there is very little actual detail of the event itself, only that this was the explanation given by Rivers and others; some mention of it quite possibly resides in Layard’s own report/memoirs
Here is some comment on the situation. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xW2p63BH-p4C&pg=PA342&lpg=PA342&dq=john+layard,+w+h+r+rivers,+sexuality&source=bl&ots=KAwlVUcvse&sig=yDEfEew8iIXHRNAn7fkbeL07j-4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiA1Z2fgYfXAhVGnRoKHXB8Da4Q6AEITzAF#v=onepage&q=john%20layard%2C%20w%20h%20r%20rivers%2C%20sexuality&f=false
I’m trying to track down the rest but I’m moving house and everything is in chaos. I’m pretty sure if you can find Layard’s papers online, that will give you at least one side of the story.
There is nothing that remains in what’s left of Rivers own papers that discuss it, I’m afraid – He ordered that most of his private paperwork be burnt after his death – possibly to maintain patient confidentiality – and much of what we might have learnt was destroyed then. He was an incredibly private person.