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Suggested annotations for Hallie Rubenhold's book "The Five" (2019)

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  • Suggested annotations for Hallie Rubenhold's book "The Five" (2019)

    This thread is for people to post corrections of errors, warnings about possibly incorrect statements, and uncredited sources of other material in Hallie Rubenhold's book.

    Periodically I'll try to collect these into lists to be maintained in the resources section of the site.

    Initially, I had thought we could also collect statements for which no source was cited, but on reflection I think there would be too many of those. So I'd suggest including only statements that are known or strongly suspected to be incorrect, and statements for which no source is cited but whose source can be identified.

  • #2


    Let me first add the one that astonishes me most.

    In the pre-publication spin for The Five we were told that ‘they’ (the C5) ‘rubbed shoulders with Charles Dickens’. Unfortunately, in the book Hallie failed to supply anything other than vague (and largely anachronistic) geographical overlaps between Dickens and Polly Nichols. This is Charles Dickens we are talking about, the obsessive London walker, who if we use Hallie’s definition of ‘rubbing shoulders’ probably did so with anyone who set foot in London during his lifetime (1812 - 1870).

    On page 20, she writes:

    ‘… the author of Oliver Twist had come to know these dingy courts and foetid alleys intimately in his youth when he worked as a shoe black…’

    There’s no evidence that Dickens ever worked as a shoe black. As a child he worked in a blacking factory at Hungerford Stairs, but that’s not the same as being a shoe black, someone who used blacking to polish the shoes of those who could afford the service on the streets. At the time a shoe black’s customers would have been gentlemen who probably didn’t venture too far into the ‘dingy courts etc’ to get their shoes cleaned. And Hungerford Stairs were at the western end of the Strand, roughly where Charing Cross Station sits today, not at the the eastern end of Fleet Street where Polly was born and raised.

    For an ‘historian’ to display so much ignorance of the subject, place and social conditions she is writing about is absolutely mind-boggling.


    Comment


    • #3
      In the next sentence, still on page 20, we are told:

      ‘Polly, as Caroline Walker’s daughter came to be called, would spend her first years in the same lodgings as the fictional Fagin and his pick-pocketing boys’.

      Polly was born in Dawes Court (more about that later) which wasn’t where the fictional Fagin had his lair. That was further north near Saffron Hill/Field Lane (more about Field Lane too).

      The Walker family then moved to Harp Alley, which was getting closer to Field Lane, but still not in the same fictional ‘lodgings’ as Fagin and his boys.

      Comment


      • #4
        There’s a thread on Dawes Court. Essentially HR got, or more likely was given, the wrong idea about the history of Dawes Court. This error requires her to be have been unaware of the Great Fire of London.

        https://www.jtrforums.com/forum/vict...53-dawes-court

        Comment


        • #5
          The Field Lane thing is Hallie applying a source describing conditions thereabouts to Dawes Court where Polly was born and conveniently leaving out the reference to Field Lane, thereby misleading her readers, most of whom will have assumed she was describing conditions in Dawes Court itself rather than an older, more run-down district the other side of Holborn.

          See pages 22/3 and the associated note 5.


          This is from the Dawes Court thread:
          Attached Files

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't know if this fits here in this post or I should deal with it in a different one, since I have my doubts that this is an invention or a mistake. If one is able to put aside all the embellishments and fantasies, one can clearly see the collaboration or contribution of Neal Shelden (such as HR claims), so I do not rule out anything that I can read in her book before checking it out.

            There is one part of Annie's parents' story in HR's that has me puzzled, the one concerning their supposed children Eli (1849-1854) and Miriam (1851-1854), who died (supposedly from scarlet fever) at home in 15 Raphael St, along with his two other brothers mentioned (too) by Shelden in Mary Jane Kelly & The Victims Of Jack The Ripper (not in The Victims of Jack the Ripper), who also lived at num ? Raphael Street: William and George William Thomas.

            I must admit that the coincidences are outrageously amazing. The actual facts are that four children lived in num ? Raphael St, died of a contagious disease and the names of all of them were derivations of the names of their parents or names that Annie's children would have in the future.

            I have been trying for days to find any document linking Eli and Miriam with George and Ruth, but I have not been successful so far.
            I have a feeling that this "apocryphal" story may be a true story. I'll keep trying to find something that links those two children to George and Ruth.
            Attached Files

            Comment


            • #7
              This must be a typo in the translation in the Spanish edition. It can be read that George and Ruth were married in 1824 instead of 1842
              Attached Files

              Comment


              • #8
                This is well worth following up Jose! Annie C is probably the victim I know least about.

                I don’t know exactly what Chris had in mind when he created this thread, but I’m intending to add things that I’m convinced are wrong or dubious and reference the page numbers they appear on in The Five to help Chris collate them.



                Comment


                • #9
                  Thanks very much to Gary and Jose.

                  As far as I'm concerned all contributions are welcome - definite errors, dubious claims, queries about whether people know of sources to back things up and so on. If we're able to identify the original sources where Rubenhold doesn't, that will be helpful. Equally, where she does identify a source and it had been found earlier by another researcher, it would be good to document that. Despite what I said above, perhaps it would be worth including specific biographical claims about the victims whose source can't be identified.

                  I don't think we need to have separate threads unless something develops into a major discussion that takes over the whole thread.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jose Oranto View Post
                    This must be a typo in the translation in the Spanish edition. It can be read that George and Ruth were married in 1824 instead of 1842
                    Yes. That must be peculiar to the Spanish edition. The English Kindle edition has 1842.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jose Oranto View Post
                      I don't know if this fits here in this post or I should deal with it in a different one, since I have my doubts that this is an invention or a mistake. If one is able to put aside all the embellishments and fantasies, one can clearly see the collaboration or contribution of Neal Shelden (such as HR claims), so I do not rule out anything that I can read in her book before checking it out.

                      There is one part of Annie's parents' story in HR's that has me puzzled, the one concerning their supposed children Eli (1849-1854) and Miriam (1851-1854), who died (supposedly from scarlet fever) at home in 15 Raphael St, along with his two other brothers mentioned (too) by Shelden in Mary Jane Kelly & The Victims Of Jack The Ripper (not in The Victims of Jack the Ripper), who also lived at num ? Raphael Street: William and George William Thomas.

                      I must admit that the coincidences are outrageously amazing. The actual facts are that four children lived in num ? Raphael St, died of a contagious disease and the names of all of them were derivations of the names of their parents or names that Annie's children would have in the future.

                      I have been trying for days to find any document linking Eli and Miriam with George and Ruth, but I have not been successful so far.
                      I have a feeling that this "apocryphal" story may be a true story. I'll keep trying to find something that links those two children to George and Ruth.
                      As she gives dates of death and durations of illness, I would say that Rubenhold had seen death certificates for those children (which would give the father's name). I think she must have seen that burial register too, as she mentions the death of John Fussell Palmer as well (though in that case no more details than are in the burial register).

                      As some corroboration that they do relate to the right family, in the online General Register Office index of births are entries with the right mother's maiden name, matching three of the four:
                      SMITH, ELI / CHAPMAN
                      GRO Reference: 1849 M Quarter in WINDSOR UNION Volume 06 Page 330
                      SMITH, MIRIAM / CHAPMAN
                      GRO Reference: 1851 D Quarter in WESTMINSTER Volume 01 Page 482
                      SMITH, WILLIAM / CHAPMAN
                      GRO Reference: 1854 M Quarter in SAINT PANCRAS Volume 01B Page 1

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It's difficult to know where to start with the account of Mary Kelly. Here's a funny little one I noticed a while ago.

                        On pp. 308-309 she quotes a description of the promenade of the Alhambra in Leicester Square, from Daniel Kirwan's "Palace and Hovel" (1870), p. 466, rendering it as:
                        "choked with men and women, walking past each other, looking at the stage, drinking at the bars, chafing each other in a rough way, and laughing loudly"

                        (She says this is the scene he experienced in 1878. Actually the edition of his book I found online was published in 1870.)

                        I was a bit surprised that men and women would be "chafing" each other roughly in public - that is, rubbing against each other roughly.

                        On checking the original, it turned out they were actually "chaffing" - that is, bantering with each other:

                        Click image for larger version

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                        • #13
                          On Breezer's Hill, I think the biggest problem is that she says John McCarthy and his wife Rose Mary were at number 1 when Mary Kelly was there (p. 323). In fact she says the house "belonged" to them. Obviously the evidence is that Stephen Maywood was the occupant at the time Mary Kelly was at Breezer's Hill, and that the McCarthys didn't marry until 1889. (Neal Shelden leaves open the possibility they might have lived there as common law husband and wife in 1888, or even earlier, but stresses how common the surname was and says Mrs McCarthy [or Carthy] "could be literally anyone of that name in the area".)

                          Elsewhere she makes the same leap of assuming that just because someone is listed in an electoral register, they must have owned the house they were living in. This seems to be the basis for the claim that Louis Boekü had a "portfolio" of several properties, including 79 Pennington Street (p. 319).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            On Breezers hill I think the biggest problem is Breezers Hill. :-)

                            Although it was said that she had lived there, I think it was 79, Pennington Street that was meant - on the corner of Breezers Hill. It had once been the Red Lion/Old Red Pub, the address of which alternated between Breezers Hill and Pennington Street. As Chris says, the Maywoods were in residence at 1, BH when MJK was there.

                            Hallie goes into a lot of detail about west end prostitution and women who were involved with guards officers, but neglects to mention that the 2nd Bn Scots Guards arrived at the Tower barracks in September, 1886.

                            I’ll return to the MJK chapter when I’ve got the Polly Nichols one off my chest.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                              On Breezers hill I think the biggest problem is Breezers Hill. :-)

                              Although it was said that she had lived there, I think it was 79, Pennington Street that was meant - on the corner of Breezers Hill. It had once been the Red Lion/Old Red Pub, the address of which alternated between Breezers Hill and Pennington Street. As Chris says, the Maywoods were in residence at 1, BH when MJK was there.

                              Hallie goes into a lot of detail about west end prostitution and women who were involved with guards officers, but neglects to mention that the 2nd Bn Scots Guards arrived at the Tower barracks in September, 1886.

                              I’ll return to the MJK chapter when I’ve got the Polly Nichols one off my chest.
                              Yes. I think different people will have different ideas about this - or will just decide that we can't decide without more information. I would say Rubenhold is at fault in two ways here - first for adopting what was acknowledged to be an entirely speculative idea and presenting it as fact, and second for making definite factual misstatements in her presentation of it.

                              Comment

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