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Jack the Ripper - a Paradox
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|“Every Scope, by immoderate use, turns to restraint”
The motto of Francis Thompson.
|“I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled”
The motto of Jack the Ripper.
|The poet Francis Thompson was born on December the 18th, 1859, in Preston Lancashire. His father Dr. Charles Thompson acted as the midwife. His father was also a Catholic Lay Healer interested in the church. The family home was a gathering place for the local clergy. His mother had only recently converted to Catholicism. It had caused her Protestant family to disown her. Thompson was rescued from the streets of London in later 1888 by Wilfrid Meynell a publisher of a periodical named the “Merry England’. The Meynell's enthusiasm for Thompson was spurred by the poet Robert Browning who wrote: 'Both the Verse and Prose are indeed remarkable’ Browning died two months later. Thompson wrote upon Browning’s help: 'Browning stooped and picked up a fair-coined soul that lay rusting in a pool of tears...As though one stirred a fusty rag in a London alley, and met the eyes of a cobra scintillating under the yellow gas lamps.' Thompson poems published in the magazine brought him fame as a poet. Francis Thompson died in 1907 aged 48 in London.|
|Francis Thompson in 1894|
|St Mary’s Catholic Church gave Whitechapel its name. The Church grounds held a sanctuary. It was once the law of Sanctuary that if someone suspected of a crime reached consecrated ground then they could avoid arrest. It was reasoned that if a suspect was truly guilty then their fate was under the jurisdiction not of the sheriff, but of God. In 1623 Protestant King James I, had sanctuaries abolished. If the Ripper was a staunch Catholic, he may have felt this ruling, tied as it was to the reformation, was illegitimate and that much of Whitechapel was still Holy Ground.|
|St Mary's Church|
|The occupations believed by most police and theorists to be that of the Ripper’s were the same as those protected under the Catholic Patron saints for the dates of the Ripper’s five canonical murders. The 1888 Roman Calendar shows that the August 31 murder of Mary Ann Nichols fell upon Saint Raymund’s day. This martyr is the patron saint of the innocent and the falsely accused. The occupation protected by this saint is that of Midwives. One long held hypothesis as to a suspect for the Ripper murders was that it might have been a midwife. The murder of Chapman occurred on the feast day for Saint Adrian the patron saint of both Butchers & Soldiers. A water soaked leather apron was found folded in the yard that she was found and thought to be a vital clue, re-igniting expectations that the killer was a butcher. The apron was soon discovered to belong to a resident. Also found were the remains of an envelope that bore the red military seal for the Sussex Regiment. Detectives believed the murderer could be a soldier but discovered that the public could purchase the same kind of envelope. The night of the double murders was the feast day of Saint Jerome. He is the patron saint of Doctors. The murder of Mary Kelly occurred on the feast day for Saint Theodore the martyred patron saint of soldiers. It is plausible to assume that the Ripper may have chosen the dates of the murders to coincide with these Patron Saints believing bizarrely he was working under their blessing and therefore was innocent of any crime.|
|Research on each murder site points toward a religious motive to the crimes.
Bucks Row was, before 1888, was named Ducking Pond Row. This was to honour a medieval practise when women, who were under trial and punishment, were tied to a special chair and submerged in a pond. This device was often used to punish prostitutes, so called godless women. Such treatment could prove fatal due to suffocation or hypothermia. The use of ducking ponds as punishment continued until 1809.
|Close to where Mary Ann Nichols’s body was found was the ducking pond. In 1888 maps detailing this and ones like it were housed in the London’s Guildhall library well known for its rare collections and century old survey maps. When Thompson was homeless he spent a ‘good deal’ of his time amidst the bookshelves of the Guildhall library musing over its contents, until after complaints from the attending librarian, he was barred from entering by the police.|
|At the front of Twenty-Nine, Hanbury Street hung a sign which read 'Mrs. A. Richardson. Rough Packing Case Maker'. The front of the ground floor was part of the quarters of Mrs. Richardson, her son, and the offices for her packing case firm. Mrs. Richardson was a practicing Millenniast. This was a Protestant sect that preached the Second Coming with the passing of the second millennium. The businesswoman's back rooms served, part time, as a meeting hall for her Co-religionists. It was besides the backrooms that Annie Chapman’s body was found. The last positive sighting of Chapman was when she was last seen entering a court called Paternoster-row. The name of this court derives from when it was a place where Catholic worshippers would buy items such as types of prayer beads and rosaries.|
|Elizabeth Stride’s body was found at the rear of the 'International Working Men's Educational Club,' in Berner Street. This club was attended mainly by Jewish Atheists. The club provided a venue for those who proscribed to the socialist ideal. On the evening of the double murders the topic of discussion at the hall was upon the necessity of socialism for the Jews.|
|Mitre Square, where Catherine Eddowes was found, was beneath the shadow of The Great Jewish Synagogue that fronted adjacent Dukes Place. The square, having once been Catholic owned and part of the Prior of Holy Trinity, was where from the beginning of the 17th century the Ashkenazi Jews congregated and where their earliest synagogue was likely to have been.|
|Great Jewish Synagogue|
|Mary Kelly’s body was found in her room less than 100 meters from Christchurch. Completed in 1729 and dominating the surrounding streets with its portico and spire. This imposing landmark was commissioned to strengthen Protestant Anglicanism in the East End.|
|After the murder of Nichols the killer turned west with the murder of Chapman. He then went southeast and killed Stride, before again making his way west to slay Eddowes. Finally the killer returned to the northeast with Kelly's murder. If a line is drawn, following these directions, given that they are true and equidistant, they make a figure eight pattern. This pattern is more commonly called the ‘Vesica Pisces’ or Vessel of the Fish and is a paramount image of sacred geometry and central symbol to Christian religion. Engraved upon Francis Thompson’s tomb are two linked crowns, one of laurels, and the other of thorns. Thompson longest poem ‘Sister Songs’ depicts Dryads, which are mythical winged spirits. These spirits trace two circles in a linked figure eight pattern in the air. ‘Sister Songs’ records:|
|‘Gyre in gyre their treading was,...
Wheeling with an adverse flight,
In twi-circle o'er the grass,
All the band linked by each other's hand;’
|Francis Thompson had a violent childhood, doomed medical school training, and a continual fascination with death. Thompson’s life and verse reflect his downward drug induced spiral into vagrancy. In 1888 Thompson was suicidal, and in possession of a dissecting scalpel. He had trained as a surgeon for six years and failed in his attempt for the Catholic priesthood. He was living near the murder scene in the West India docks, and he had been homeless man for three years. His addiction to opium was constant for the past decade. During the murders, he was seeking out a prostitute for whom he had a fancy. Upon meeting Thompson she vanished and he became delirious all during the very time of the Whitechapel murders.|
|Francis Thompson was named after Saint Francis of Assisi. This saint was the first person to manifest the wounds known as stigmata. This was spontaneous bleeding from locations corresponding with the five wounds of the crucified Christ. The constant pain took two years to kill him. Thompson would grow up to write in an essay of his namesake: 'the pain of his stigmata was agonising, but was accompanied by a sweetness so intense as made it ecstatic to him...Pain may be made the instrument of joy.'|
|Saint Francis of Assisi|
|In 1868 when Francis was almost nine years of age, and living in Ashton-under-Lyne, an anti-Catholic agitator, named William Murphy, arrived. He appealed for the crowd to riot against the Catholics. A large mob descended upon the two small churches of St. Mary and St. Anne. The interior of St. Anne was destroyed. The crowd then attempted to storm St. Mary while the parishioners, who included the Thompson family, mounted a guard inside. The rioters attacked with bottles and stones. Shots were fired and the Riot Act was read. After three days of continual fighting, the army was called in. By the end, of the rioting, the church of St. Anne’s school, and presbytery were broken into they contained altars, paintings, and statues, which were incinerated. A further 111 houses of the Catholic congregation were gutted. For a month, the entire clergy was obliged to leave town. It was in this year that Thompson would first read the 'Apocalypse'. On it he wrote:
‘An appalling dream; insurgent darkness, with wild lights flashing through it...on the earth hurryings to and fro, like insects at a sudden candle...Such is the Apocalypse as it inscribes itself on the verges of my childhood memories.’
|Thompson’s schooling was at Durham Seminary College, which prepared novice priests to take Holy Orders. While there Francis refused to wear the proscribed church robes demanding that he be allowed to wear one of purple. Francis responded to the priest’s rebuttal by stealing the church lighters lamp and threatened to burn the church down. Later he tried again. Acting as an altar boy in church, at the age of twelve, he unexpectedly, seized another boy's thurible. This is the device, on a chain, used to hold burning frankincense. Francis spun the thurible around, over his head, causing the charcoal embers to be scattered. He had previously unhinged the lid.|
|In 1878, after seven years at the seminary Thompson returned to his Manchester Home. The director of the college wrote to Thompson father that it was ‘not the holy will of God that he should go on for the priesthood.’ Dr. Thompson chose that his son should become a surgeon. In the same month as his return, Francis sat for his entrance examinations into Medical College. At home Francis played with his siblings Mary and Margaret his sister Mary told: ‘in our play-room he used to get Maggie and me to join him in mimic sieges...he could get into a temper when roused.’ In the autumn of 1878, Francis entered his name on the Manchester Royal Infirmary registrar. Lectures and practical experience divided studies. A high physical endurance was vital for the gruelling workload. From the first semester the study of anatomy, with dissection classes, was a major course requirement.|
|In 1879 Francis Thompson fell ill with a lung infection, and he was medicated with laudanum. His mother gave him De’Quincey’s ‘Confessions of an opium eater’. Thompson became endeared to this writer who was also from Manchester and died the year Thompson was born. De’Quincey published, in 1827, a work titled ‘Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts’. It was an instructive piece upon how a poet could commit murder. From this year began his lifelong addiction to opium.|
|On December the 19th, 1880, after suffering a complaint of the liver, Francis' mother died. This happened the day after his twenty-first birthday. In 1882, Thompson suffered a mental breakdown.
An unpublished verse by Thompson on the death of his mother reads:
|'Died; and horribly
Saw the mystery
Saw the grime of it-...
Saw the sear of it,
Saw the fear of it,
Saw the slime of it,
Saw it whole!
Son of the womb of her,
Loved till the doom of her’
|Near the end of 1882, Francis Thompson went to the city of Glasgow for his second attempt at the medical finals. Thompson failed the exam again and compensated his poor marks in theory with long hours and a scalpel in the college’s mortuary. A medical pastime that brought his sister, Mary, to remark:
'Many a time he asked my father for 3 pounds or 4 pounds for dissecting fees so often that my father remarked what a number of corpses he was cutting up.'
|In 1883, after being informed of his son’s medical school failure, Dr. Thompson found him a position at a local medical instrument factory. This provided Thompson with access to thousands of scalpels and surgical knives though he only managed a fortnight’s work before being dismissed.|
|In 1885, during a heated argument, Francis Thompson’s father accused his son of drunkenness. Francis, knowing that the cause of his flushed appearance was opium, denied the accusation. His father then accused him of stealing laudanum from his supply of medicine. It was on the night of November 9 1885, three years ago from the night of the murder of Mary Kelly, that Thompson, leaving only a note, fled his father’s Manchester house for London.|
|From November 1885, to August 1886, Francis Thompson stayed at a number of cheap lodgings in Lambeth paid for by his father. Ripper victim Mary Ann Nichols spent time as an inmate of Lambeth Workhouse on several occasions from 1881. Thompson also was recorded to have spent nights in the cheap lodging houses of Lambeth.|
|Before he was called Jack the Ripper the Whitechapel murderer was known as Leather Apron. On September 6,1888, the police placed wanted posters looking for the killer, of Mary Nichols, dubbed 'Leather Apron.‘ Everard Meynell, a son of Wilfrid, wrote in his biography on Thompson on his sleeping habits, and society while homeless. Everard also provided a glimpse of the poet’s sense of humour telling of Thompson’s leather apron joke:|
|'The murderer to whom he makes several allusions...In a common lodging-house he met and had talk with the man who was supposed by the group about the fire to be a murderer uncaught. And when it was not in a common lodging-house. It was a Shelter or Refuge that he would lie in one of the oblong boxes without lids, containing a mattress and a leather apron or coverlet, that are the fashion, he says, in all Refuges.'|
|In a letter to the press, the Ripper was known to have written:
‘That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits.’
|Some would say we cannot place credence on Thompson’s verse as indication of any actual event: Thompson himself wrote about his poems to his publisher Wilfrid Meynell:|
|'I am painfully conscious that they display me, in every respect, at my morally weakest...often verse written as I write it is nothing less than a confessional, a confessional far more intimate than the sacerdotal one. That touches only your sins.’ Part of Francis Thompson’s, poem ‘The House of Sorrows.’|
|‘The life-gashed heart, the assassin’s healing poinard [knife] draw
... The remedy of steel has gone home to her sick heart.
Her breast, dishabited,
Revealed her heart above,
A little blot of red.’
|Thompson gained no steady employment and his income was minimal. Thompson tried his hand as a bootblack. Complaints from a nearby shopkeeper caused the police to order him to move from the corner on which he had established his business. Thompson thereafter relied on the pennies gathered in tips for carrying luggage, minding cabs, or selling matchboxes, and newspapers in Soho. Finally, he gained temporary work at a shoemaker’s shop in Haymarket. In mid-January 1887, Thompson was dismissed and five weeks after becoming unemployed he let fall a crumpled parcel into the ‘Merry England’s’ Kensington letterbox. The parcel held some torn pages of writing that included ‘Nightmare of the Witch Babies.’ The poem ‘Nightmare of the Witch Babies’ was withheld from publication. It was about a knight who hunts down women. A portion reads:|
|'Swiftly he followed her
Eagerly he followed her
From the rank, the greasy soil,
Red bubbles oozed and stood;...
Into the fogginess
Lo, she corrupted
Comes there a Death
With the looks like a witch,...
And its paunch [stomach] was rent
Like a brasted drum;
And the blubbered fat
From its belly doth come
With a sickening ooze-Hell made it so!
Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!’
|Francis Thompson's parcel was pigeonholed and would not be opened for over a year.
In April of 1887, while Thompson was homeless in London having fled is father’s house, Dr. Charles Thompson married his second wife Anne Richardson. Readers on the Ripper crimes know that the front sign of the building in Hanbury Street, where Annie Chapman was strangled and repeatedly stabbed to death, read, ‘Mrs. A. Richardson. Rough Packing Case Maker,'
|Thompson claimed that it was in the spring of 1888 that he attempted to commit suicide. He planned it to be by an overdose of enough laudanum to kill two men. Thompson took half when he claims the ghost of the writer Thomas Chatterton saved him. In 1770, Chatterton, finding himself unable to find a publisher, committed suicide by arsenic poisoning.|
|Thompson wrote of his father and stepmother in his unpublished poem, ‘The Ballad of Fair Weather’ in the following verses:|
|'My father, too cruel,
Would scorn me and beat me;
My wicked stepmother
Would take me and eat me,
They looked in the deep grass
Where it was deepest;
They looked down the steep bank
Where it was steepest;
But under the bruised fern
Crushed in its feather
The head and the body
Were lying together,-
Ah, death of fair weather!
Tell me, thou perished head,
What hand could sever thee?...
My evil stepmother,
So witch-like in wish,
She caught all my pretty blood
Up in a dish:
She took out my heart
For a ghoul-meal together,
But peaceful my body lies
In the fern-feather,
For now is fair weather.’
|The day after the murder of Chapman the ‘Daily Telegraph’, reported that with the body of Chapman: 'There were also found two farthings brightly polished, and according to some, these coins had been passed off as half-sovereigns upon the deceased by her murderer.' The Deputy Head of the City Force in 1888 was Major Henry Smith's his memoirs, ‘From Constable to Commissioner,’ gave an account of his attempt to trace the killer: 'I thought that he was likely to be in Rupert Street, Haymarket. I sent up two men, and there he was; but polished farthings and all, he proved an alibi without the shadow of doubt' Panton Street in Haymarket where Francis Thompson had resided with his shoemaking tools is less than two hundred yards from Rupert Street.|
|A central maxim of the Dear Boss letter was:
‘I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled.’
|In the top ten favourites list Thompson had filled out his choice of motto was:
‘Every scope by immoderate use turns to restraint.’
|The Ripper wrote.
‘I saved some of the proper red stuff…and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope Ha ha…Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands.’
|Thompson wrote in his 1888 essay ‘Paganism Old and New’: ‘Red has come to be a colour feared; it ought rather to be the colour loved. For it is ours. The colour is ours, and what it symbolises is ours. Red in all its grades...to that imperial colour we call purple, the tinge of clotted blood,...proudly lineal; a prince of the Blood indeed.’|
|Assistant Commissioner Dr. Robert Anderson wrote:
‘The "Jack the Ripper" letter is the creation of an enterprising London journalist...I am almost tempted to disclose the identity of the murderer and the pressman who wrote the letter.’
|Everard Meynell wrote of Thompson:
‘The streets, somehow, had nurtured a poet and trained a journalist.’
|Francis Thompson, Life Mask.|
|Mr. Wilfrid Whitten, of the ‘Academy’ paper, described Thompson:
'When he opened his lips he spoke as a gentleman and a scholar…His low voice had a peculiar quaver, a slight wobble in tone, that empathized its curiously measured cadence.' Thompson’s sister Mary described her brother. Starting and ending with appearance of his eyes: ‘A dark gray with a bluish shade in them - something like the shade one sees in mountain lakes. Full of intelligence and light. His hair was very dark brown, so dark as to appear almost black at first sight. His complexion was sallow rather than pale, drawing further attention to his eyes.’
|A description of the Ripper, in the ‘People’s Journal’ said to be from a detective who worked on the case told:|
|‘He was about 5 feet 10 inches in height and was dressed rather shabbily though it was obvious that the material of his clothes was good...His face was long and thin, nostrils rather delicate and his hair was jet black. His complexion was inclined to be sallow...The most striking thing about him, however, was the extraordinary appearance of his eyes. They looked like two luminous glow worms coming through the darkness. The man was slightly bent at the shoulders, though he was obviously quite young - about 33 at the most - and gave one the idea of having been a student or professional man. His hands were snow white, and the fingers long, tapering...The man stumbled a few feet away from me, and I made that an excuse for engaging him in conversation. He turned sharply at the sound of my voice, and scowled at me in a surly fashion, but he said "Goodnight" and agreed with me that it was cold. His voice was a surprise to me. It was soft and musical, with just a tinge of melancholy in it, and it was the voice of a man of culture - voice altogether out of keeping with the squalid surroundings of the East End.’|
|In November Mary Kelly’s face was slashed repeatedly, her ears, nose, and breasts were sliced off. Her stomach was ripped open and her heart, kidney's, liver & uterus were severed. These pieces were laid about her bed and nearby furniture. The November 1888 edition of the ‘Merry England’ contained Thompson’s ‘Bunyan in the Light of Modern Criticism.’ In his essay Thompson gave advice to his readers:|
|‘He had better seek some critic who will lay his subject on the table, nick out every muscle of expression with light, cool, fastidious scalpel, and then call on him to admire the "neat dissection"’|
|When Francis Thompson was a child, he complained the right to own a doll. Of one doll in particular he would write: 'With another doll of much personal attraction, I was on the terms of intimate affection, till a murderous impulse of scientific curiosity incited me to open her head, that I might investigate what her brains were like. The shock which I then sustained has been a fruitful warning to me, I have never since looked for a beautiful girl's brains.’|
|This is what Thompson wrote about prostitutes:|
|‘These girls whose Practice is a putrid ulceration of love, venting foul and purulent discharge- for their very utterance is a hideous blasphemy against the sancrosancity of lover’s language!’|
|While Francis Thompson was a vagrant, he formed a friendship with a prostitute.
In the summer of 1888, upon hearing of his publication in the ‘Merry England’, Thompson returned to the streets to seek her out. Everard Meynell detailed the final conversation, between Thompson and his secret admirer, and her growing resemblance to his late mother and his sister who died at infancy.
|'After his first interview with my father he had taken her his news "They will not understand our friendship." She said, and then, "I always knew you were a genius." And so she strangled the opportunity; she killed again the child, the sister; the mother had come to life within her.'|
|She was never heard from again.|
|In January 1889, after his rescue from the streets the Meynells sent Thompson to a Franciscan priory in Storrington. A Saint Bernard, that patrolled the yard, attacked the poet who was given a room on the top floor. Here he began to write discussions on poetry and verse and once more take up opium. In February 1889, Thompson wrote to Wilfrid Meynell with a request:|
|'Dear Mr. Meynell...Can you send me a razor?...Any kind of razor would do for me; I have shaved with a dissecting scalpel before now...I would solve the difficulty by not shaving at all., if it were possible for me to grow a beard, but repeated experiment has convinced me that the only result of such action is to make me look like an escaped convict.'|
|Francis Thompson’s only published tale was written in autumn 1889. His short story, which is called Finis Coronat Opus or the 'End Crowning Work', is narrated by a poet, named Florentine who, for the sake of being crowned the city’s chief poet, sacrifices a woman. Part of Thompson’s story tells:|
|"I consent!"...If confession indeed give ease, I who am deprived of all other confession, may yet find some appeasement in confessing to this paper. With the scourge of inexorable recollection I will tear open my scars. With the cuts of pitiless analysis I make the post-mortem examen of my crime...I reared my arm; I shook; I faltered...I swear I struck not the first blow. Some violence seized my hand, and drove the poniard down. Whereat she cried; and I, frenzied, dreading detection, dreading above all her awakening, - I struck again, and again she cried; and yet again, and yet gain she cried. Then her eyes opened. I saw them open, through the gloom I saw them; through the gloom they were revealed to me, that I might see them to my hour of death. An awful recognition, an unspeakable consciousness grew slowly into them. Motionless with horror they were fixed on mine, motionless with horror mine were fixed on them...I know you, and myself....I do not repent, it is a thing for inconsequent weaklings.’|
|Everard Meynell described Thompson’s state of delirium before his rescue:|
|‘And now he knows not how or why, his weakness has passed, and he is drifting along the streets, not wearily but with dreadful ease, with no hope of having resolution to halt.’|
|For Wilfrid Meynell’s daughter Monica, Thompson wrote The Poppy - To Monica.|
|'With burnt mouth, red like a lion's, it drank
The blood of the sun as he slaughtered sank,
And dipped its cup in purpurate [crimson] shine
When the Eastern conduits ran with wine...
I hang 'mid men my needless head
And my fruit is dreams, as theirs is bread:
The goodly men and the sun-hazed sleeper
Time shall reap, but after the reaper
The world shall glean of me, me the sleeper.'
|When after Thompson’s death his executors went through his meagre possessions they found as well as notes on reincarnation he had begun to keep newspaper clippings. One was a cutting from the Daily Mail, an article titled Maria Blume’s Will. Maria Louisa Blume was murdered in 1907 by a carpenter named Richard Brinkley. Mrs. Blume was seventy-seven years old when she and Brinkley met. Mrs. Blume had a house in Fulham and Brinkley wanted it. Brinkley drew up a will leaving him Mrs. Blume’s house and her money. He gained her signature by saying he was seeking names for those wishing to attend a seaside holiday. Two days after Mrs. Blume had signed Brinkley poisoned her by lacing her drink with cyanide. Relatives became suspicious and went to the police. Brinkley’s trial at Guilford Assize was amongst the first to introduce forensic evidence. The inks used for the will’s signature were compared and the handwriting was examined. It was on the handwriting evidence that Brinkley was found guilty. On August 31 1907, nineteen years since the Ripper wrote ‘Red ink is fit enough I hope Ha ha.’ and on the anniversary of the Ripper’s first canonical murder, Brinkley was hung in Wandsworth prison. Why Francis Thompson would consider the subject of the Brinkley case worth his while is anybody’s guess. Surely, it was not to compose a poem on her murder.|
|Top Row. Francis Thompson|
|Bottom Row. Jack the Ripper|
|Top Row. Francis Thompson|
|Bottom Row. Jack the Ripper|
|A Letter by Francis Thompson|
|A Letter by Jack the Ripper|
|In this sample the writing on the top box is that of Jack the Ripper while those beneath are that of Francis Thompson's.|