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Lulie Westfeldt
F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work
[Memoirs of Training in the Alexander Technique 1931-34]
Paperback. 176 pages. 1964 (1986, 1998).
Published by L. N. Fowler (UK).Hardback. 1964. No ISBN.
1986: ISBN 0913111151. 1996: ISBN 0952557428. 978-0952557425.
Status: In print. Publisher website
First published 1 January 1964
A personal and critical account of Alexander and his teaching.
Mouritz description
This is a personal and critical account of Alexander and his teaching. Westfeldt (1895-1965) relates her own case history (she had childhood polio) and describes her lessons with Alexander, training on the first course, performing in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and teaching the Technique in New York. The Technique is described and several case histories are provided. This second edition contains 15 new photographs and 3 new appendices.
List of illustrations
Author's note and acknowledgements
Author's preface
John Dewey on F. M. Alexander
Part One: Training with F. M. Alexander 1931-1934
1. My introduction to Alexander's work
2. My first series of lessons
3. Early days of the training course
4. Gradual change in my outlook on Alexander
5. Our progress in learning-some of the changes the work brought about in pupils
6. Alexander and opportunities
7. The Merchant of Venice
8. Learning to be teachers
9. A personal experience
10. Postscript to the teacher's training course
11. My teaching experience in New York City
Part Two: Alexander's discoveries
12. Alexander's discovery of the HN & B pattern
13. Detailed discussion of the head, neck and back relationship
14. Other discoveries of Alexander's
15. Alexander's technique of inhibition
16. Summary and evaluation
Part Three: Appendixes
A. Clarification of terms 1) and 2)
B. Comments of John Dewey, Sir Charles Sherrington and G. E. Coghill on Alexander's search and discovery
C. Review by Marjory Barlow of Lulie Westfeldt's "F. Matthias Alexander"
D. Two letters on Hamlet
E. Newspaper reviews of Hamlet
Publisher's description

Lulie Westfeldt was the only teacher from F. M. Alexander's first teacher training course to write extensively about her experiences both as a student and as a teacher of the Technique.
As well as providing an authentic and critical account of Alexander's teaching Lulie Westfeldt explains the fundamental principles of the Alexander Technique.

As a child Lulie Westfeldt suffered from polio and she underwent several operations but these failed to help her. In her book she relates the remarkable beneficial effects which the Technique had on her physical and mental health and well-being. The many case histories from her teaching illustrate the Technique's wide field of application.

This new edition contain 15 new illustrations. and new appendixes containing: "Review of F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work" by Marjory Barlow, and newspaper reviews of "Hamlet" and "The Merchant of Venice" performed by Alexander and his students in 1934 and 1935.

First published 1964. Paperback facsimile edition October 1986. Second edition published February 1998 by Mouritz.

Paperback, 176 pages, 216 x 138 mm, 25 b/w illustrations. Printed on 90 gsm acid-free paper.


Page i, 5th line: for "Kinglsey" read "Kingsley"

page xvi, 5th line: for "jugdement" read "judgement".

Review by Malcolm Williamson
First published in STATNews, vol. 5 no. 1, May 1998.
Much welcomed republishing of this entertaining and fascinating book which includes an account of the author’s experiences in the first years of Alexander’s training course, 1931-34. As Marjory Barlow writes in her 1966 review for the Alexander Journal (included in this new edition, pp. 168-70):

“The real stature of [Alexander] clearly emerges. An original thinker is certain to be to some extent a law unto himself, and Alexander was no exception. As Miss Westfeldt says, the very qualities which made his achievements possible were sometimes a cause of difficulties between him and his associates.”

© Malcolm Williamson 2006 ( Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2006-2015. All rights reserved.
Review by Eliezer Livneh
First published in Jerusalem Post 30 April 1965.

Alexander’s technique for a coordinated use of the human body and an awareness of the muscular system is, when expressed in words, shockingly simple. First, one has to prevent stiffening one’s neck; second, to direct the head “forward and up”; third, “to lengthen and widen the back.” The difficulty is that these directions have to be maintained constantly: standing or sitting, lying down or walking, till they replace a faulty pattern of habits. Moreover, the “orders” constitute one “primary control” operating from the brain to specific coordinated crossroads in the body.

Years of constant work is required. there can be on sudden catharsis, no hope of “salvation” out of sheer faith and passive identification. The instructor cannot replace strong determination and lucid consciousness on the part of the pupil.

F. Matthias Alexander was an Australian actor whose career was threatened by sever malfunctioning of his vocal organs. Physicians and specialists did not succeed in helping him. He himself reached the confusion that the source of the disturbance was not in the larynx or in the lungs, but in the defective use of the entire muscular system. After nine years of experimentation he succeeded in curing himself, and in the process discovered a new technique for the correction of the whole psycho-physical system.

He went to London in 1904 where he taught his technique to such prominent people as Henry Irving, John Dewey, Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, Lord Lytton, Archbishop William Temple, the biologist G. E. Coghill, Sir Stafford Cripps and many others.

It was not until 1931 that he began his first course for instructors in his technique. Despite request from his pupils to start such a course earlier, he hesitated for many reasons. He found it difficult to express himself in writing and orally. He lacked pedagogical talents. And he did not really believe that his technique could be transferred to others without being distorted.

Mr Alexander wrote four books. Reading them is no pleasure. People with no personal experience of his work are not likely to be convinced by them. His technique needed a new vocabulary, original formulas and surprising syllogisms.

Curiously enough, the first serious book on the Alexander Technique was published in 1964 by Lulie Westfeldt, an American teacher of the technique and one of the students of the first training course for teachers in 1931.

Miss Westfeldt speaks of the achievements of the technique, and her own improvement. Of the influence of the first training course on its participants she testifies in addition to the great physical improvements “most of them thought in a more organized way, with less confusion and greater consciousness. Some handled their lives with more mastery and ease; they lived more successfully and happily.” She quotes Sir Stafford Cripps: “Instead of feeling one’s body to be an aggregation of ill-fitting parts . . . the body becomes a coordinated and living whole;” and Aldous Huxley: “Physical self-awareness and self-control leads to, and to some extent is actually a form of, mental and moral self-awareness and self-control” (p. 119).

Some of the difficulties of the technique are well described in the book. One of the basic principles of the Alexander Technique is “inhibition.” Unlike the psycho-analysts’ definition of this term, Alexander used it to mean a conscious psycho-physical act which brings the person in contact with certain activities and feelings in his body, leads him to stop some habitual reactions in order to free the way for more efficient and proper activities. The pupil has to become aware that his habitual concept of the use of his body and quality of his movements is basically wrong. Alexander found difficulty in transferring the meaning of this concept to his pupils. “He told me each time,” Miss Westfeldt writes, “. . . to inhibit or say ‘no’ so that I could get rid of my old pattern of getting up or sitting down. There were several other phrases about ‘inhibition’ which he used as well, but not a thing he said had any meaning for me. . . . Even if I had understood this, I would never have been able to apply this difficult technique so quickly. I was to say, no, I am not going to get up, knowing that I’d be taken up in about five seconds. . . What did the man mean? I was completely at sea.”

Difficulty still remains in making clear other basics concepts, no less important. The pupil is asked, for example, constantly to give certain orders to his muscular system, keeping it in a wholesome inter-related adjustment. The mere giving of such an “order” is not easy, as it must constantly be repeated while performing a certain activity (standing up, walking, thinking). The main difficulty is the explanation in words of the quality of the “order”: is it “to do” some thing or “to think” the right pattern of behaviour? It lies somewhere close to “thinking,” but nevertheless is not identical with what we call “thinking.” A new system of words is required to express what is wanted. No wonder, then, that “Alexander always passed over his ineptness with words by saying that his work was a sensory experience and as such could not be described or communicated in words” (p. 60). This is evading the issue to a certain degree, but I think no serious teacher of the Alexander Technique can claim to have solved the problem.
© Jerusalem Post

This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.
Later editions
Paperback 1986. Centerline Press, USA. ISBN 0913111151. Facsimile of 1964 edition with foreword by Troup Mathews and introduction by Alice Westfeldt Mathews.
Paperback 1996. 176 pages. Mouritz (UK). 216 x 138 mm. ISBN 0952557428. 978-0952557425.Subtitled added.

Earliest publication date: 1 January 1964