An ardent advocate of this theory, Dr. Thus there has been speculation that Druitt had drowned himself not just because of his dismissal from his teaching job but out of remorse for his terrible deeds in Whitechapel. Thomas Barnardo. Obscure or plebeian suspects include Joseph Barnett, the ex-lover of Mary Kelly; a vengeful doctor named Stanley, whose beloved son had sup- posedly caught venereal disease from Kelly; the mad Polish hairdresser Aaron Kosminski; and the mad Russian doctor Michael Ostrog. Francis J. Tumblety, a Canadian-born con man of Irish origins who made a small fortune by peddling a fake cure for pimples.
For the remainder of his life he died in he tried to dodge detectives and reporters looking for a good story. With all the zeal of a bloodhound but without providing any footnotes, Harris followed the tortuous and shadowy path of Stephenson, to whom he assigned the au- thorship of a bizarre article in the Pall Mall Gazette Dec. Besides the early prime suspect, John Pizer, a Jewish bootmaker who made some money by threatening to sue several newspapers for defamation of character, the pool of suspects included a nameless Jewish butcher or Kosher slaughterman known as a shochim or shochet ; a lunatic barber-surgeon Severin Klosow- ski, alias George Chapman ; a mad Russian secret agent Dr.
Alexander Pedachenko, alias Vassily Konovalov , who had supposedly been sent to London by the Ochrana in order to discredit Scotland Yard for failing to punish Russian anarchists severely; Dr. No doubt the Liverpudlian producers of this bizarre text— written in a uniform twentieth-century hand in an old scrapbook with many pages torn out—hoped to make millions by assigning the authorship to James Maybrick, a well-to-do and middle-aged cotton merchant who died in from an overdose of arsenic. Her trial in made headline news around the country and attracted hordes of spectators.
Nev- ertheless, Paul Feldman, a British video maker, embarked on a prodigious quest to prove the diary authentic.
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Running parallel to these masculine productions and rarely touching them at any point are a few important studies by British and American feminists who have their own distinct ideas about the murders as the epit- ome of male misogyny since time immemorial. Twelve years later, Jane Caputi launched her polemic against the lethal nature of male heterosexual desire and the vital role played by serial killers in not only the lives of women but also the mass media ever since In other words, there is no clear boundary between the lived realities of East Enders and our historical reconstruction more than a century later of Whitechapel during the year of the Ripper, just as the boundaries of the East End itself remain ambiguous.
At times it seemed like a remote colony of the impe- rial city, if not a foreign country. Filled with pride over the quality of English civilization, most West Enders regarded Tower Hamlets the core of the East End as an embarrassment—a vast Cimmerian den populated in the main by degenerates and troglodytes. Jekyll and Mr.
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In short, the edu- cated elite of Mayfair, Knightsbridge, and Kensington were not at all sur- prised that these homicidal horrors were taking place in Whitechapel. Condemned to sharing single rooms, these families were forced to scrounge for menial work when the Huguenot-dominated silk-weaving industry around Fournier Street started to decline. At the same time, the gulf between rich and poor steadily widened. So too did the sense of contrast between the two Ends of London, which had the effect of eliding central London in the collective imagination. To begin, its population is a strange amalgamation of Jews, English, French, Germans, and other antagonistic elements that must clash and jar, but not to such an extent as has been surmised and reported.
By the number of Jews living in Tower Ham- lets had climbed to 45, out of a total population of some ,, and many more were on their way. If most Londoners took inordinate pride in their modern Rome and hailed it as the epicenter of the greatest and richest empire the world had ever known, some pessimists saw the metropolis as overcrowded, unhealthy, and oppressive. Moreover, darkness also connoted chronic dirt, disease, drunkenness, crime, violence, pollution, pauperism, and overcrowding, all of which contributed to high infant mortality rates and physical and sexual abuse.
Clearly London was far too big and complex a social organization to be contained by a single trope. London offered spectators a bewildering variety of people, activities, goods, moods, and cityscapes. Hyde can be read as an extended metaphor for a deeply divided city, wherein the forces of reason, civility, and learning are pitted against those of animal passion and violence. Along with good intentions they carried a fair share of class and racial prejudice. These prejudices owed much to sheer ignorance of conditions in the rookeries and back alleys or wynds of Tower Hamlets. As the Daily Telegraph declared Oct.
With much help from the crusading journalist W. Civilisation, which can breed its own barbarians, does it not also breed its own pygmies? And he appealed to readers to give generously toward these goals. Besides indulging in the jungle trope, some late-Victorian reformers cherished sewer or midden metaphors when seeking to epitomize White- chapel and environs. At the same time, moral- istic reformers like the Rev. Andrew Mearns, W. Stead, the Rev. Sidney Godolphin Osborne, and General Booth binarized their urban world into zones of light and darkness, cleanliness and dirt, safety and danger, virtue and vice.
In their febrile imaginations all the drainpipes and sewers of the metropolis seemed to empty into the East End. The tendency of respectable Victorians to compare the dregs of the East End—or what they called with heavy irony and euphemism the residuum—to apes, pigs, rats, and dogs deepened the already profound gulf between the classes and the two Ends of London. By gathering reams of data about the earn- ings, expenses, and hardships of the inhabitants of every street and square, he sought to raise that curtain and reveal how people actually managed to survive.
Even so, Whitechapel had the largest number of paupers, casual workers, and semi-criminals in all of Tower Hamlets, at 3. And yet St. He wanted to see the poorest families resettled in industrial communities outside the slums; and if this did not appeal, then there was always the route of assisted emigration. Even the cats were starving. In sum, dark blue, pink, and purple predominated behind the main ave- nues, with only the occasional blotch of black signifying the worst slum areas.
This deep spatial and cultural division was reinforced in by the publication of the Rev. Stead touted enthusiastically. Most of the early suspects in the Ripper slayings fell into this category. Although most of the refugees from persecution in Eastern Eu- rope spoke little or no English upon arrival, many managed to climb up and out of poverty through shrewd selling of goods and services.
The palpable success of Jewish tradesmen, sweatshop owners, moneylenders, and pawn- brokers stirred the envy of many gentiles, especially those who had to borrow money at high interest rates. Struggling with a new language and an alien culture, these foreigners often had to contend with cruel ethnic or racial gibes. Only a few of the long-term under- employed and unemployed in the East End ever succeeded in climbing out of the deep trough of debt, despair, and alcoholism into which they had fallen.
The chronic poverty of such workers moved some social reformers to promote assisted emigration as the only way to alleviate their misery. While the population of central London slowly declined in the s, the periph- ery grew steadily. Between and , the number of residents of central London fell by In his panoramic survey of Tower Hamlets in , Fishman deliberately blurs the distinction between image and reality.
A grinning Hottentot elbows his way through a crowd of long-eyed Jew- esses. An Algerian merchant walks arm-in-arm with a native of Calcutta. A little Italian plays pitch-and-toss with a small Russian. A Polish Jew enjoys sauer-kraut with a German Gentile.
And among the foreigners lounges the East End loafer, monarch of all he surveys, lord of the premises. Even more colorful were the street actors, buskers, and puppeteers. As Stedman Jones has observed, the domestic comedy of the plebeian music hall contributed much to working-class consciousness in late Vic- torian London.
The founding of Toynbee Hall in gave Whitechapel a vital center for the evangelical impulses that had driven missionaries into the East End seeking to rescue lost souls from the demons of drink, prostitution, and violence. Samuel Barnett, rector of St. This book described a close-knit plebeian community where people knew each other only too well and where family feuding turned into tribal wars involving women and children as well as men.
One byproduct of the Whitechapel murders was a renewed demand by the social-purity lobby to stamp out prostitution. Since prostitution in itself was not a crime, a policeman could arrest a woman only for soliciting or be- ing disorderly—charges not so easily proven in a court of law. In addition, some prostitutes enjoyed a cozy relationship with the local constabulary, to whom they handed out sexual favors or bribes. They found it far harder to avoid alcoholism and venereal disease.
Moreover, the police rarely hassled the pimps or ponces who lived off the earnings of the women under their control. Most owners and operators of the lodging houses serving as brothels withstood the forces of the social-purity lobby until the arrival of Frederick Charrington. This courageous crusader, a scion of a rich brewing family, launched a one-man campaign against brothel keepers at some risk to his own safety. Another extended troping of the East End occurred in , when the American writer Jack London, a man of working-class origins and socialist sympathies, set forth on an expedition into a region that his friends re- garded as wholly foreign and dangerous.
There were no swelling muscles, no abundant thews and wide-spreading shoulders. They exhibited, rather, an elemental economy of nature, such as the cave-men must have exhibited. But there was strength in those meagre bodies, the ferocious primordial strength to clutch and gripe [sic] and tear and rend.
When they spring upon their human prey they are known even to bend the victim backward and double its body till the back is broken. The streets and houses, alleys and courts, are their hunting grounds. The slum is their jungle, and they live and prey in the jungle. Imbued with skepticism, we focus on the special interests and ideological leanings of the press corps and the moguls who dominate the mass media. Moreover, the prominent news stories or feature articles in newspapers constantly reinscribe the dominant values governing normative behavior.
Our contextualization of Ripper news begins with some general obser- vations about the nature of news reporting and its relation to the dominant values of society.
Thus journalists do not simply entertain readers with tales of crime, scandal, or sports, but wield real power. Their landmark work Policing the Crisis examined in detail the responses of the British public, press, and judiciary to some vicious muggings a term imported from America that had occurred in Birmingham, London, and other cities in — Aware that they had no easy answers to the inequities that had produced such crimes, they laid out in great detail how repressive forces within society and the state were mobilized so as to ensure the triumph of law and order over what was construed as anarchy or thuggery.
As soon as the media feature stories of ran- dom violence or street crime, the public starts to worry about the risk to their own lives and valuables. In this way law-and-order news plays into the hands of reactionary politicians in need of votes who condemn lax moral standards and lobby for more police repression. Crime waves are thus constructed by people who fear the erosion of traditional values and see gratuitous violence at every turn.
No mat- ter how hard reporters may work to capture what they consider the reality of any given event, what actually appears in print is the result of much selecting and editing. Therefore they must practice a form of triage, choosing the stories deemed worthy of notice and deciding on the appropriate number of column inches and the placement of the article on a given page. Although these radical critics were writing at a time of profound aliena- tion from the capitalist state as well as anger at the so-called Establishment, their strictures about the nature of crime news cannot simply be dismissed as the product of an outmoded or naive political protest.
Much of what Chibnall, Hall and his colleagues, and Box had to say about the con- struction of crime news in the s applies to both today and yesterday— notably, to late Victorian journalism. The Ripper murders prompted some papers to promote a moral and social panic far greater than the alarm raised over the garroting or mugging of a few gentlemen in the West End in , when the right-wing press and several Tory members of Parliament orchestrated a crime wave by turning several minor assaults into a threat to life and limb all over the metropolis.
The alarm over garroting resulted in a severe crackdown by the police, who arrested more suspects between July and December of than they had in the whole previous year. During November, twenty-three men charged with garroting were tried and convicted at the Old Bailey. In February , small bands of roving rioters looted shops in St. More than a year later, on Sunday, November 13, , thousands of un- employed and casual workers marched from Tower Hamlets to Trafalgar Square, resolved to hold another mass rally.
In a bullish mood, the Times Nov. On the other hand, the Liberal and Radical press, still angry over Bloody Sunday, accused Scotland Yard of utter in- competence because the killer had not been caught, and predicted that habitual criminals all over town would step up their activities now that they felt safe from the inept police. Beyond the arena of poli- tics, the old and new men of business and the professions were keen to achieve recognition as gentlemen of good taste, and for this reason they bought paintings and patronized painters who celebrated English civiliza- tion and the beauty of the countryside.
Artisans and factory workers with a penny or two to spare were entering the newspaper culture in droves, having improved their reading and writing ability in both Sunday schools and state-supported elementary schools. Editors and journalists working for the penny press knew how to satisfy the tastes of an increasingly plebeian readership without neglecting the needs of their middle-class readers. Mid-Victorian prosperity went far to lessen class antagonisms despite the disparities of wealth, economic interest, education, and political alle- giance.
So too did the mass circulation press, which proved an effective cultural bridge over the great social divide. Regardless of their class, status, or occupation, more and more readers relished the sheer entertainment value of the news, particularly when it came to disasters and crime, espe- cially murder. Then came the abo- lition of the duty on paper in As prices plunged, the number of newspapers in Britain rose steadily—from in to well over 2, by By the s, many skilled workers and artisans were buying an evening daily in addition to the cherished Sunday weekly.
The rapid growth in the number and readership of cheap papers meant that the fourth estate came to occupy a central position in Brit- ish culture and society, feeding the growing demand for not only knowl- edge but also entertainment. Early Victorian newspapers differed markedly from the small-circulation and gossipy journals of the mid-eighteenth century, but the changes in format, content, and circulation that took place between the s and s were almost as pronounced.
In addition to such technological ad- vances as the telegraph and the web rotary printing machine, the emergence of some remarkably able proprietors and editors, along with the surge in consumerism, advertising, and working-class literacy, left lasting marks on both the national and the provincial press. Technological progress did not stop with the adoption of the rotary-action press in the late s.
It had also been securely implanted into the cultural landscape as an essential reference point in the daily lives of millions of people. By the number of news- papers had at least doubled, the readership had quadrupled, and the size of the press corps had grown by leaps and bounds. By combining lurid stories of death and di- saster with summaries of political and economic events in a reader-friendly format, and by lowering prices to a penny, the Sunday press proved a roaring commercial success.
This quintessential expression of the new mass consumer society enabled newspaper owners and directors to charge less for their product while aiding and abetting the growing passion—especially among women—for shopping. The only English daily to surpass the 50, mark before was the Times, which peaked at close to 70, in the early s, slumped to 61, in , and then fell to 40, by , while the price stayed at threepence.
During the s several metropolitan and international news agencies made their debut on the strength of the telegraph and the growing demand for syndicated news. Whether pub- lished in its original form or reworked by editors, this material enabled provincial newspapers to expand their coverage of events, by carrying na- tional news that otherwise would have exceeded their resources.
In this new climate, few newspapers could afford to operate like the small family enterprises they had once been. Apart from lower prices, a more inviting format, and advances in print- ing technology, another factor in this long revolution in the newspaper industry was the sheer talent of such journalistic giants as George Reynolds, Edward Lloyd, Henry W.
Russell of the Times. But if we extend the term to include a heavier emphasis on crime, scandal, disaster, and sports along with bolder and more lurid headlines and subheads, then the Sunday and evening press of the s and s deserves most of the credit for this de- velopment. Clearly, it took more than the adoption of subheads or cross- heads to create a racier and more tabloidlike journalism. What was new about it was the extent to which it evoked comment, invited speculation, and engendered passions. But he should have acknowledged the role of the Sunday press and the illustrated weeklies in fostering the racier journalism of the s.
The shrewd Irish nationalist politician and editor T. Instead of printing long transcripts from a trial in the manner of the Times, the New Journalists preferred to summarize the proceedings and then describe the leading actors in the courtroom. They prefer smart headed paragraphs to able leading articles. The traditional emphasis on royal ceremonies, elite scandals, accidents, natural disasters, battles, domestic murders, and sports continued unabated, and the steady increase in sales convinced most editors that they were serving up the right mix of news to their readers.
Granted, the penny papers had bigger headlines on their front pages; nevertheless, both types of newspaper used much the same vocabulary and sensationalist style. Although the Times remained the paper of choice for the governing class, and retained the respect of most rival editors, it too delivered morsels of horror in stories about violent crimes and disasters. Moreover, most papers bought copy from one of the news agencies. Journalists were fully aware of what their competitors were producing, and any differences in sensationalism tended to be of degree rather than kind. In addition, editors and reporters often moved from one paper to another during their careers.
Few Victorian readers questioned the truth of the articles they read. And there were no other news media such as radio and television to provide an alternative version. In other words, there is more to murder news than descriptions of a dead body, suspects, motives, modes of detection, and the legal procedures attendant upon conviction or acquittal. In this respect, the sensational aspects of crime news functioned for the prurient reader as so much chocolate coating over the pill of old morality, and editors hoped that readers would prefer their version to that of the competition.
Not surprisingly, some late-Victorian men of letters saw little differ- ence between sensationalism and vulgarity. Vulgar or not, news of crime and scandal appealed to the classes as well as the masses, judging from the steady rise in readership after the s and the purchase of several different papers each day or week by those who could afford the price.
In the words of one Daily Telegraph editor, readers who complained loudest about a lurid report of murder often could not wait for the next installment of the story. Exteree speciul! But what did the latter word mean? As early as the s, the Perfect Diurnall was publishing short but dramatic accounts of murder and mayhem that boosted sales, and after the Restoration, broad- sides and pamphlets often celebrated the lives and deaths of highwaymen, thieves, and other criminals.
In the early s the talk of London was the exploits of Jonathan Wild, the master thief, crime boss, and receiver of stolen goods who in- formed on some of his accomplices and was eventually hanged at Tyburn in A legend in his own time, he too ended up swinging on the gallows, one year before Wild. Crammed with case histories of thieves, swindlers, mur- derers, and outlaws, this dictionary of roguish biography ranged from ob- scure men like William Hitchin, who stole an exchequer bill, and Joseph Moses, who received the skins of six purloined swans, to John Williams, the notorious Ratcliffe Highway murderer, who executed two families in December , and John Bellingham, who assassinated Prime Minister Spencer Perceval.
So popular was this work that many Grub Street writers and printers emulated its style and content—most notably James Catnach, the Rupert Murdoch of Seven Dials, who thrived on stories about ruthless killers. A small, crude sketch on the cover depicted her frail body suspended by a rope tied to a rafter, while the wicked stepmother beat her with a whip. When her trunk, legs, and head were discovered in different parts of the metropolis, suspicion focused on her lover, and after a two-day trial in May he was sentenced to death, while his paramour-accomplice, Sarah Gale, was transported for life.
The prime cul- prit in this much-publicized case, John Thurtell, was the wayward son of a Norwich merchant. Running with an unsavory crowd of gamblers, boxers, hustlers, and ex-convicts, Thurtell had fallen off the plateau of respectabil- ity, and this gave the press a chance to sing the familiar refrain about the wages of sin. The absence of photographs meant that words alone had to convey the horror of violent death. After the s, of course, weekly magazines like the Illustrated London News, the Graphic launched in at six- pence a copy , and the Penny Illustrated Paper carried images of murderers and their victims without any close-ups of the actual injuries.
While editors of the elite papers kept their eyes peeled for unusual crimes or major disasters, they tried to spare their more sensitive readers the grimmest details of violent death. Never were men and women more irretrievably aban- doned to their doom. Here an eye- catching or tantalizing headline could make all the difference. Not long after this the authori- ties closed down such freak shows in the East End. Then as now, the press indulged in feeding frenzies whenever some lady or gentleman broke the codes of acceptable behavior and ended up in the arms of a policeman, or—worse—in court.
The exposure of the sexual transgressions of Sir Charles Dilke and Charles Stewart Parnell in the divorce courts during —86 and —90, re- spectively, showed how heavy a toll such charges could exact. Breach-of- promise cases, moreover, left an indelible stain on any woman who admitted to having been seduced. During the early s Fleet Street played up these two grands scandales for months on end. Fleet Street assigned scores of reporters to cover the civil trial of the Claimant from May to March and the crimi- nal trial from April through February For some six years, the national press faithfully recorded the Tich- borne trials and editorialized about the moral implications of the case.
But whenever an aggrieved party took an aristocrat to court for some transgression, then this section of the paper carried its own form of sensationalism. Transcend- ing both class and gender, reader prurience created a strong demand for the details of illicit trysts, love letters, illegitimate babies, broken vows, and fraud.
Thus the steamy case of Thelwall v. During the spring of , W. While Stead rejoiced over this proof of his editorial clout, such sordid scandals prompted one erudite critic to deplore this pandering to the most vulgar tastes. Murray survived a gunshot wound, but Roberts died of head injuries several days later.
Even so, the Crown refused to indict Murray for either manslaughter or murder, and the public was denied the juicy details that would have poured forth from a trial. Surely nothing more barbarous ever occurred in the blackest epochs of our social history. Reynolds, author of the best-selling The Mysteries of London. Through these shilling shockers ran the crimson threads of sexually aggressive and mercenary rogues who slew rivals and seduced vulnerable women, in a heady mixture of soft-core pornography and hard- core violence that captivated thousands of readers.
His elaborate plots kept readers on edge until the last page and made them long for the next installment. These popular novels featured ladies and gentlemen caught up in all kinds of intrigues or deceptions by wicked friends or kin. With an unerring eye for distinctions of class and status, writers like Mary Braddon and Wilkie Collins wove elaborate plots based on disloyalty and desire masked by polite manners and apparent virtue. Sensation novel- ists like Collins often culled fragments of their plots from newspapers as in the case of the Road murder. Anticipating the classic detective story, the plots of sensation novels often revolved around innocent young women menaced by sinister schem- ers, whose evil designs supplied the necessary spine-tingling effects.
Unlike most real crime scenarios, however, these romances often contained an intelligent policeman or amateur detec- tive capable of cracking the case, whereas the constables and inspectors in murder news remained largely faceless and colorless, not to say dull-witted. Un- like the lower-middle-class police detectives of Scotland Yard, these elite amateurs could use their analytical powers to see through the dark glass of mystery and hypocrisy to the evil that lay behind.
The addiction of early Victorians to sheer horror found fullest expres- sion during the state-orchestrated ritual of execution outside prison walls. Public executions also brought out subversive impulses, as people applauded any sign of bravery by the prisoner. But if he struggled to delay the proceedings, then the crowd might utter cries of disgust.
But not even the fullest stretch of their imaginations could yield a small fraction of the thrills once derived from public hangings. It was found in the spleen, in the kidney, in the stomach, in the liver, in the heart, in the brain, in the blood, and in the rectum.
The body was impregnated with it. Subsequently the leaden lid was removed, and the spectacle presented by the body was absolutely frightful. Each limb was also swollen to prodigious proportions, and the sight was revolting in the extreme. At the heart of sensation-horror lie descriptions of battered, stabbed, strangled, burned, poisoned, and bullet-ridden bodies.
We spectators remain safely ensconced in our seats—somewhat agitated by the scary sce- nario, but fully aware of who and where we are and why this predator does not constitute a real threat. Men spoke of it with bated breath, and pale-lipped women shuddered as they read the dreadful details. People afar off smelled blood, and the superstitious said that the skies were of a deeper red that autumn.
But when combined with the clinical details revealed by the police surgeons at each inquest, the resulting catalyst enabled most Fleet Street papers to attain new peaks in circulation. Hyde In what must be deemed a remarkable coincidence, several fringe productions of this com- pelling story opened on the London stage on the eve of the Whitechapel murders. She paid good money to acquire the clothes in which the killers had died on the gallows. Some morbid entrepreneurs carried on the eighteenth-century tradition of anatomical display by assembling wax models of male and female bodies containing both healthy and dis- eased organs.
Stead and Shock Journalism Arguably the most astute practitioner of journalistic sensationalism in the late Victorian era was the crusading editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, William Thomas Stead. The lurid details of child prostitution revealed in these articles made the paper and its editor the talk of the town. He had bought the child from her willing mother. In other words, the attractions of such topics may have had much less to do with middle-class angst over poverty or fear of class war than with such pleasurable sensations as hair-raising thrills and schadenfreude.
Even more than sensation novels, murder news often in- duced what D. Sensationalism was thus associated with distinctly physical and emotional responses, and if readers did not feel any of these sensations, then the writer had clearly failed in his mission to provoke or excite. Once in a while a newspaper might omit a criminal case on the grounds of indecency or impropriety.
And if no terrible tragedies had occurred, they could always fall back on royal weddings or funerals, an eclipse, a comet, or an expedition down the Nile, if not into the always dangerous African jungle. On one or two occasions the voyeuristic Stead actually admitted at least for public consumption to having some qualms about featuring stories of sexual misconduct and homicide. And after all there is nothing so sensational as death, which is the climax and end of all sensation. Literature, painting, the theatre, our exhibitions, journalism, all bear witness to the fact that murder, suicide, or sudden death—that is to say, bloodshed in some form or another —is the master spell for enchaining human attention.
A few months later, at the height of the Ripper mur- ders, he wrote an editorial Oct. The paying thing to do is clear enough. As Judith Knelman contends, women who committed homicide had a much greater appeal to the predominately male reading public, who regarded murderesses as far more subversive of the social order than homicidal men. Robbery came next on the list of motives, followed at a long distance by political protest, which played a negligible role in murder in Great Britain, as distinct from Ireland.
Certainly, the attrac- tions and repulsions of murder news should not be forced into the simplis- tic category of peacetime boredom—least of all when we know so little about the fantasy lives of respectable readers, and how they were affected by their daily or weekly dose of news. We do know, however, that in the s most London papers were publishing many more clinical details of violent death than they had in the s, and that by the time of the Ripper murders, the penny press had won a huge readership owing to a combina- tion of low prices and bolder and bigger headlines for disasters, upper-class scandals, and domestic murders.
Before the Ripper episode, Victorians were accustomed to feature stories about lethal love triangles and murder arising from such motives as greed, anger, and jealousy. Because the strict codes of sexual propriety and re- spectability left so little room for deviance from the straight and narrow path of monogamy, the press leapt at the chance to publicize the murder of a mistress or wife by a respectable man desperate to keep up appearances.
William D. Stevenson agreed that criminals acted not out of deliberate depravity but in response to environmental or hereditary forces over which they had no control. The new schools of psychology and criminology, led by such notables as Henry Maudsley and Havelock Ellis, attributed criminal or lunatic behavior to such social factors as poverty, alcoholism, and parental neglect or abuse. Judges who had to punish these offenders should therefore take these mitigating factors into account. Fleet Street, in short, used murder news to remind readers once again about the wages of sin.
No other religion but Christianity meets the sense of sin, and sin is the great fact in the world to me. What lessons has to-day for each of us? Burn these two lessons of to-day into your memories, that they may never die out. In us, whose manhood is disgraced, pity for the wretched murderer has a hard struggle with shame at the crime. She died rather than sin; she has borne her cross; her soul is with God.
More than a decade later, De Quincey returned to this grave subject. There he endured the kind of shame and pain that Wilde would soon suffer in Reading Gaol. Fascinated by professional men who killed out of passion and who might have avoided detection had it not been for some foolish mistake, Orwell deplored the new age of witless and callous killers like the American army deserter Karl Gustav Hulten, who had shown no remorse, let alone imagination, in shooting an English cab driver in simply to impress his new English girlfriend.
Such notable culprits as Palmer, Cream, and Crippen were all proud and insecure men, who killed because they were obsessed with keeping their reputations unblemished. In other words, the rarity of gourmet murders meant that Fleet Street usually had to embellish or melodramatize what the aesthetes would have deemed sordid or crude. But he insisted that such excess was essential to commercial success, given the banal nature of most crimes.
We have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the result is. This is wanting in the police re- port, where more stress is laid perhaps upon the platitudes of the magis- trate than upon the details, which to an observer contain the vital essence of the whole matter. Depend upon it there is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace. For this reason Fleet Street reporters had less in the way of suspense to work with than their Parisian counterparts, because defendants found guilty of domestic murder could not escape the noose on this legal ground.
Since not even the penny press could award feature status to every murder committed in the country, let alone report every felony, editors had to pursue a policy of triage by highlighting crimes they considered unusual or intriguing. On the whole, the scarcity of elite victims and victimizers meant that such cases invariably received banner headlines and many columns about the inquest and trial. When dealing with felonies in general, the morning papers often divided them into four categories. The offenses discussed in these short articles ranged from muggings to murder. Second, a paper like the Times covered the inquests held by coroners in cases of suspicious death.
If the method and motive of murder seemed too ordinary, or if the police arrested the perpetrator right away, then the case might earn only a few lines of print at the bottom of a page devoted to domestic news. Hardly any evidence has survived about the day-to-day thoughts of edi- tors who had to decide how much or little space should be assigned to any given homicide, suicide, or other serious crime. Why, for example, did the Times devote sixteen columns to the six-day trial of Herbert John Bennett, aged twenty-one, for having strangled his estranged wife, Mary Jane, with a mohair lace from one of his boots on Great Yarmouth Beach on Sep- tember 22, ?
There was little about her death that could be called mysterious or intriguing, even though Bennett was keeping company with another young woman at the time. Nevertheless, the press sought out wit- nesses and friends of the young couple with such zeal that counsel for the defense accused journalists of having perverted the course of justice by publishing interviews before the trial began.
The case lacked not only a clever culprit but also gore. Why the trial was removed certiorari from Norwich assizes to the Central Criminal Court in London, where the Lord Chief Justice presided, remains a mystery. In sum, nothing about this do- mestic murder would have detained De Quincey, Stephen, or Orwell. Needless to say, not even the goriest murders monopolized the news, in either the local or national press.
On any given day, editors had to make some hard choices about which events or stories merited how many column inches and where these should go. War apart, a State Funeral sells more papers than anything else. Whenever sexual behavior came into play, euphemism, circumlocution, and elision were the order of the day. However habituated readers may have been to graphic accounts of violence, they rarely if ever encountered explicit mention of sexual activity or the genitalia unless they dealt in pornography or medical discourse.
Such reticence in reporting sexual activity did not apply to violence and bloodshed, where reporters tended to indulge their readers and themselves to the limit. And remarkably few readers ever wrote indignant letters to the editor protesting such lurid material. But if some sensitive readers skipped over the morbid passages, there can be little doubt that many others eagerly devoured the gory bits and secretly craved more. The sense of shame. According to a recent study of Victorian homicides, some 63 percent of all indictments for murder between and fell into the domestic category—granting the ambiguity of the term.
For centuries, murder within that supposedly safe and loving am- bience had been regarded as an unforgivable betrayal of trust and affection. Occasionally, an editorial on the day after a guilty verdict would demonize the man or woman who had broken the sacred trust that had once bound him or her to the victim. By con- trast, random assaults and stranger murders usually earned no headlines unless they occurred in the West End or involved people of social conse- quence. The exceptions were multiple murders, other crimes of violence, or plebeian love triangles ending in bloodshed.
As for motives, readers needed no lessons about the range of passions that drove someone to commit murder. A day or so later articles would appear about the inquest and possibly the police pursuit of suspects. The longest-running stories involved much repetition of detail from one article to another. Accustomed to the formulaic nature of murder news, spread out in a series of installments over weeks or months, readers knew more or less what to expect in form or layout, if not content. No simple summary of domestic murder reporting in any decade of the long Victorian era can possibly do justice to the rich variety and myriad nuances of the genre.
But a few highly condensed case studies may serve to illustrate the main features of murder news between the s and s. If the penny evening and Sunday papers contained articles that made easier or more exciting reading, there was often less difference than one might imagine between the elite and popular press when it came to such vital ingredients as gore and mystery. The St. Giles Murder, The St. Once inside the threepenny room he suddenly attacked her with the knife. The medical examiner repeated the testimony given at the inquest about the sixteen penetrating and incised wounds, and noted that he had found no signs of venereal disease in her organs.
Most papers lingered over the knife stuck in the neck, and the catalogue of stab wounds added more gore to this tale of lust and vengeance. The circumstances under which you committed it shew that he who offends against one law of God is guilty of the whole. What was begun in what is called venial sin ended, in your case, in the commission of that crime for which you will suffer.
Despite all the compression and omission of testimony, the Times still managed to devote a total of twelve columns, or some twenty-six thousand words, to this case between April 1 and June 3, proving that even an elite paper could sensationalize plebeian murder. Not only did this story reinscribe the codes of godly and righteous conduct, but it also reassured the public that the criminal justice system worked. What went wrong, why this youth had altered his habits so drastically, this paper did not say. But to make matters even sadder, the reporter revealed that Tape had arranged with a missionary to enter a Magdalen asylum for fallen women on the morning of the day she was murdered.
In the middle of the night of June 29, , someone murdered Francis Saville Kent, the four-year-old son of a wealthy factory inspector, Samuel Kent. Evidently the murderer had suffocated the boy in his bed and then carried him outside to a privy in the garden, where he or she cut his throat and stuffed the body through the hole in the seat. Thwarted by silences, profes- sions of innocence, lack of evidence, and malicious rumors, the local police failed to identify the culprit.
Gossip cast the father as the prime suspect, because he was deemed a mean-spirited philanderer, who was having an affair with the young nursemaid while married to his second wife. For this double rebellion, and because her bloodstained night- dress had mysteriously disappeared a day after the murder, she fell under suspicion.
Unable to crack the case, the local police called in Scotland Yard, and the highly respected Inspector Jonathan Whicher arrived on the scene. After interrogating family members and servants, Whicher con- cluded that Constance was guilty, largely on the strength or weakness of the missing nightgown. This brutal and bizarre slaying garnered headlines in both the provincial and national press for weeks on end. The Times devoted no less than six leading articles to the case during that autumn.
Five years later, however, Constance created a major splash by con- fessing to the murder without offering any explanation. When he arrived at the sen- tence of death, the judge supposedly broke down, and many of the specta- tors in the packed courtroom sobbed along with the defendant. Although a leader writer in the Times called this murder one of the most cold-blooded crimes ever committed, and expressed profound regret that Constance refused to explain her act, he urged that Constance be spared the gal- lows and sentenced instead to life imprisonment.
Shortly thereafter the Home Secretary commuted her sentence. Always on the lookout for unusual scandals and crimes, Wilkie Collins famously appropriated the case of the missing stained nightdress for The Moonstone Their known victims were family members, friends, and former lovers, but suspicion persisted that the actual body count was much higher.
William Palmer of Rugeley, Staffordshire, who went on trial in May for having poisoned his friend and gambling partner J. Parsons Cooke. His wife, brother, and sister-in-law had also died under suspicious circumstances, and reporters speculated that Palmer, who was eventually convicted of killing six people, might have poisoned as many as fourteen.
The second medical poisoner was Dr. Thomas Smethurst, a bigamist accused of murdering his second wife in in order to inherit her large estate. But he had to spend a year in jail after his conviction for bigamy. The third case involved Edward Pritchard, a Glasgow physician who was tried in for the murder of his mother-in-law and wife by means of assorted poisons. Found guilty of these crimes, he was soon executed.
Not only did the press award feature status to these betrayals of the Hippocratic oath by once highly esteemed professionals, it also brought to the fore all the arcane details of the poisons used to dispatch the victims. All this adverse publicity caused the medical profession much embarrassment, and the mercenary motives in each case only heightened the chagrin felt by some doctors.
He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession. At the same time, these cases may also have elicited feelings of schaden- freude among readers who relished the sight of eminently respectable men falling from a state of social grace. To make matters more alarming, anyone could buy arsenic, anti- mony, prussic acid, strychnine, and other poisons over the counter. Since poison was the weapon of choice for women who wanted to eliminate a rival, spouse, lover, or child, the use of this method by men, who tradi- tionally resorted to knife, pistol, or blunt object, added an extra charge of electricity to these narratives of domestic murder.
Bravo from suburban Balham, Surrey, fell under suspicion of having poisoned her late husband. The clouds of suspicion thickened when rumors circulated that she had enjoyed several love affairs before and after her marriage. However embarrassing, the latter disclosure constituted no proof that she had poi- soned her husband. The Daily Telegraph praised the jury for its hard work and then congratulated itself for having brought about the second inquest.
As a leader in the Daily Telegraph Aug. Percy King. Here was a murder that would have delighted De Quincey, Stephen, and Orwell, even though the culprit, Henry Wainwright, showed little imagina- tion, let alone skill, when it came to disposing of the body. When the lease ran out a year later, the now insolvent Henry dug up the decomposing corpse and chopped it into pieces, which he stuffed into two black canvas sacks. He then asked his employee, Alfred Stokes, to carry the parcels into the street, while he went in search of a taxi. Suspicious of the foul-smelling contents, Stokes opened one bag and to his horror saw a human head and hand.
After Wainwright had dragged the parcels inside a vacant store, the con- stables accosted him. A melodramatic penny pamphlet about the trial of the two brothers hit the streets after the jury had returned a verdict of guilty. Once again feature treatment in the papers swelled the number of spectators at each stage of the legal proceedings, and both the inquest and the trial drew a smattering of aristocrats and barristers, along with hundreds of ordinary citizens.
The allocation of so much space to the murder of an obscure seamstress by a smalltime businessman says much about edi- torial priorities along Fleet Street at a time of intense competition for new readers. After the Rev. Alfred Conder of Middleton, Middlesex, promoted this worthy cause in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, funds poured in to the tune of seven hundred pounds.
Societal Murder In stark contrast to domestic murder, wherein the victim and perpetrator knew each other, however slightly, societal murder was random and imper- sonal. Even when they did not end in death, crimes of opportunity like muggings, garrotings, purse snatchings, and burglaries provoked greater fear than did domestic crimes because assaults by strangers could affect any law-abiding citizen who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Clearly, the Ripper saga offered readers no such reassurances. Not only did this narrative have an ambiguous beginning was it April 2, August 6, or August 31? Here was a series of shocking crimes without any closure. Unlike Connor and Wainwright, who were rather weak men and posed no threat to the community, Jack the Ripper was anonymous, alien, ar- rogant, cunning, and, above all, powerful.
He made no attempt to conceal his savage deeds, and even more unusual, he taunted the police by sending boastful letters to the press defying Scotland Yard to catch him. Into the partial vac- uum created by all the unknowns in this strange case rushed social and political concerns about not only the East End but also the solemn cause of law and order and the state of English civilization. Interviews with relatives, friends, and neighbors who shed some light on the protagonists made such crimes seem comprehensible.
Far different were the Ripper murders, which belonged to the unknowable, if not unthinkable. Refusing to fade into obscurity, the specter of Jack the Ripper haunted the public imagination and provoked nightmares in adults as well as children. And the abundance of books, movies, and television documentaries about Jack in our own time attests to the continuing power of this legendary villain to attract and repel people with almost equal ease. In other words, they were far from being wrapped in the shrouds of Gothic mystery.
When early Victorian newspapers featured cases of murder arising out of rage, greed, jealousy, or the desperate quest to keep up appearances, readers found nothing exotic, let alone Gothic or mysterious, about these motives, which seemed so familiar as to arouse some guilty feelings. Devotees of Benthamite rationalism hardly needed any lessons about the dangers of yielding to the emotions, let alone sexual passion, because, like Sherlock Holmes, they knew and feared that love or lust eros could so easily upset the delicate mechanism of reason logos. Unlike cases of domestic murder, the Whitechapel slayings constituted a series of genuine mysteries that were bound to inspire fear and boost the sagging sales of any paper.
Alas, there was no cerebral detective capable of tracking down the perpetrator. The throat of one victim had been cut to the point of decapitation; the other had been throttled and then stuffed up the chimney with great force. So remote from the standard fare of murder, these atrocities denied the press and the public the spec- tacle of a trial and the satisfaction of a conviction followed by a hanging. Enterprising reporters sought out witnesses who claimed to have seen one of the victims talking to some strange man shortly before her death.
The number of victims, the nature of the mutilations, and the testimony of the police surgeons all drew readers ever deeper into the story, driving some into daytime panics and nightmares about encountering this monster in some part of town. In political sympathies the dailies ranged from Tory to Liberal and Radical. Although the magisterial Times took great pride in its avowed political independence, it steadfastly upheld the causes of law and order and Irish Unionism.
Under the editorship of Douglas Jerrold and his son Blanchard, this paper boasted of having the largest circulation in the world. A shrewd mix of attacks on the old aristocracy and the new plutocracy, along with republican sympathies, sensationalism, and a reader-friendly format, accounted for its vast circulation by the s.
In fact, not even the talents of editor Joseph Hatton and managing director William T. Exchanging its mantle of Palmerstonian Whiggery in the s for Dis- raelian Conservatism, this evening paper gained many new readers during the Tory resurgence after The enterprising William Madge became co-owner with Sir George Armstrong in and served as editor, manager, and publisher for some forty-two years. Until it championed Peelite principles and expedients; it then espoused the party of Derby and Disraeli after the split over the Corn Laws.
Scott, the beacon of Mancunian Liberalism, tried to recoup some of his losses on the Manchester Guardian by launching the Evening News. The brilliant left-wing journalist Henry W. Founded in by Colonel A.
See a Problem?
For all these rea- sons it became the most popular morning paper of the s. During their reign, John Walter III, the proprietor, and John Delane, the editor, adopted a prin- cipled stance toward partisan politics, criticizing or supporting the policies of either Gladstone or Disraeli, depending on their view of the issues at stake.
This penny paper appealed mainly to read- ers of lower-middle-class and artisanal origins who were concerned about working-class poverty and slum clearance. But reliance on the telegraph and the advent of able correspondents at home and abroad gave this paper a reputation for carrying the very latest news. Under the editorial thumb of T.
And his devotion to Home Rule nettled some of his best journalists, including a young Irish upstart named G. Bernard Shaw. When Massingham succeeded him, however, the editorial line moved even further left, and the Liberal directors sacked him in This trend continued from to under the inspired leadership of William Thomas Stead. He lived for scoops and sensations, and he died sensationally by going down with the Titanic in The rogue elephant of Fleet Street, he took the art of investiga- tive reporting a step beyond Mayhew, and made both himself and his paper the talk of the town.
Long before , of course, Fleet Street knew that murder news sold well. Even John Delane, the magisterial editor of the Times from to , recognized the magnetic attraction of crime and scandal, especially when respectable people were involved. The Whitechapel murders proved a journalistic windfall. Among other papers, both the Star and the People sold more copies in the autumn of than ever before. Committed to the promotion of law and order and public morality, most papers played up not only the brutality of the attacks but also the immoral lifestyles of the victims.
Ac- customed to the occasional prostitute murder, as well as domestic homi- cides and suicides, where the wounds were limited and the motives com- prehensible, readers must have had a hard time coming to terms with mutilation-murder. The slashing cuts and the apparent absence of any in- tent to rob the victims moved some readers to blame these atrocities on a Jewish, French, Italian, or Asian maniac, because Englishmen were far too self-controlled and clumsy to kill so sadistically and swiftly and then vanish without a trace into the night.
As might be expected, the search for an explanation for these crimes gave rise to many farfetched theories. Several psychologists, or alienists, cited Dr. But this anecdotal and clinical study had limited appeal to a public unaccustomed to sadomasochist or cannibal killers. Some papers discreetly sidestepped the question of motive and focused instead on the threat posed to life and property all over London by the apparent ineptness of the police, who could not catch one killer who attacked women out of doors and did not even try to hide their bodies.
While the Liberal and Radical press belabored the police and the government for their failings, Tory papers stressed the dangerous conditions in Whitechapel and the likelihood of collective vio- lence against Jews unless the police stepped up their patrols. For this reason readers had no clear idea as to whether or not Lipski had tried to rape her before pouring nitric acid into her mouth.
Only professional journals like the Lancet and the British Medical Journal broached such delicate matters, and even this was a rare occurrence. Besides the issue of propriety, reporters had to contend with the persistent refusal of Scotland Yard to divulge the details of their hunt for the killer. Drawing on second-hand reports, rumors, interviews, and accounts found in other papers, reporters cobbled together disjointed articles that often contained internal contradictions.
The relentless pressure of dead- lines and reluctance to reset entire columns of type to accommodate late- breaking information accounted for much of this conglomerated and con- tradictory effect. When reporters like Ernest Parke or William Madge brought their talents to bear on the murders, the results could and did attract many new readers. It's a thick book and reads from right to left, back to front.
Yes, it is black and white - but the drawings are superb. Do yourself a favour. Read this! Absolutely amazing story and illustrations. I can't wait for the next volume in the omnibus. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Write a review. Add to Wishlist. In Stock. Unable to Load Delivery Dates. Enter an Australian post code for delivery estimate. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Customer Reviews 2 Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book!
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