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**New Independent Review : Issue One September 2011**

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  • #46
    Another point...

    Another point to note is the fact that Browne is highlighting the lack of consensus amongst the senior police officials over the identity of the Ripper, ergo he cites Anderson ('a low-class Polish Jew'), Thomson ('a man who committed suicide in the Thames at the end of 1888') and Macnaghten ('the leader of a plot to assassinate Mr Balfour at the Irish Office'), his point being to illustrate a variety of suspects named by three senior Scotland Yard officers.

    We then have to look at this in the context of Browne's times and the published 'Ripperology' of the day. I think that Browne probably had read Macnaghten's book and there found the verse he used. I also think that he was aware that Macnaghten gave his 'inclination to the belief' that the murderer had committed suicide. By the same token I also think that Browne thought that the police chiefs actually had no positive idea as to the identity of the Ripper, and illustrated that fact. He followed the official versions with the comment 'Where experts [i.e. the senior police officers] disagree' with, 'there is a fine opening for fancy...' Notable amongst the 'fancy' based theories is William Stewart's midwife theory which he states is, '...a fascinating one, but will not bear close scrutiny.' (to be continued).

    Comment


    • #47
      Dear Stewart

      Yes, I think I see what you are saying, and yes, how I could be wrong.

      Browne is quoting 'Days of My Years' via Stewart, because Stewart does in that context.

      This does not mean that Browne had not read, or was himself unfamiliar with 'Days of My Years'.

      Is that what you mean?

      P.S.

      Further to my [crumbling?] theory, I notice that Browne writes that all of these chiefs were in 'general' agreement that the murderer lived local to the area.

      Well, Macnaghten wasn't, but if you only had access to 'Laying the Ghost ...' you would not necessarily know that.

      Nor would you know that Macnaghten seems to have believed the best suspect was a doctor, that he lived in Blackheath, and that he drowned himself in the Thames.

      Comment


      • #48
        Basil Thomson

        Sir Basil Thomson (d. 1939) was Assistant Commissioner at New Scotland Yard from 1913 to 1919, and after that director of Special Branch, resigning in 1921. He was a somewhat controversial figure.

        Thomson's popular Story of Scotland Yard was published in 1935/36 on both sides of the Atlantic but is far from being the ideal historical source. Even so it is oft-quoted and at one time was looked upon as authoritative, hence its (apparent) use by Browne. But his references to the Ripper case are a real hotchpotch of unsourced derivative material and errors. For instance he has a Polish Jew suspect [Kosminski] sourced to PC Thompson, an insane Russian doctor [Ostrog], and a doctor on the borderland of insanity [Druitt], all unnamed. He is mixing up various police sources. He later returns to the Ripper in his book and concludes, 'The only clue was the fact that the man who ripped women up with what must have been a surgical knife had probably been at some time a medical student. In the belief of the police he was a man who committed suicide in the Thames at the end of 1888.'

        So on a reading of the sources we can see that Thomson clearly opts for, as 'the belief of the police', the suicide in the Thames. Macnaghten, however, skirts the issue with his 'incline to the belief', making Thomson's more positive and detailed statement the better to use. I do not think that Browne actually found Macnaghten's 1894 report naming Druitt, Ostrog and Kosminski as, being of a later date, it may well have not been filed precisely with the official material he undoubtedly did access.

        The assumption is that Browne saw some other memo, report, or reference by Macnaghten that did actually cite 'the leader of a plot to assassinate Mr Balfour at the Irish Office' as a Ripper suspect. But that is not saying that it was Macnaghten's preferred suspect, merely that he 'appeared to identify the Ripper' with such a suspect in a report he saw. And, as I say, Browne merely wanted to illustrate the disarray of police opinion on the Ripper's identity.

        Comment


        • #49
          First...

          Originally posted by Jonathan Hainsworth View Post
          Dear Stewart
          Yes, I think I see what you are saying, and yes, how I could be wrong.
          Browne is quoting 'Days of My Years' via Stewart, because Stewart does in that context.
          This does not mean that Browne had not read, or was himself unfamiliar with 'Days of My Years'.
          Is that what you mean?
          P.S.
          Further to my [crumbling?] theory, I notice that Browne writes that all of these chiefs were in 'general' agreement that the murderer lived local to the area.
          Well, Macnaghten wasn't, but if you only had access to 'Laying the Ghost ...' you would not necessarily know that.
          Nor would you know that Macnaghten seems to have believed the best suspect was a doctor, that he lived in Blackheath, and that he drowned himself in the Thames.
          Please see my last post.

          First you must not presume that Browne was precisian in his writing. He was a popular writer, including detective fiction, and would undoubtedly mould (or adapt) his material to what he wanted to show. But he does quote directly from the official files.

          Further to something I asked earlier, please could you direct me to chapter and verse (i.e. page and line) where William Stewart reproduces Macnaghten's 'anonymous verse'.

          Comment


          • #50
            Let me see if I understand:

            The most likely option is that Browne likely did see some kind of official/classified report in which Macnaghten identified the Ripper with a leader of a plot against Balfour.

            But Browne remained ignorant of the meaning of 'Days of My Years' (Mac did go, heavily I would argue, for a suicided suspect) and he never found or knew of the existence of the Mac 'Report', official version, because being filed in 1894, it did not come into bureaucratic view for the 1888 Ripper murders.

            Browne never realized that Mac had, at some later point, changed his opinion about the best suspect.

            Comment


            • #51
              No you've lost me again?

              Browne cites William Stewart, in a footnote, as the reference to 'Days of My Years', which I interpreted as having not read those memoirs himself.

              Comment


              • #52
                Why?

                Originally posted by Jonathan Hainsworth View Post
                ...
                Yes, I think I see what you are saying, and yes, how I could be wrong.
                Browne is quoting 'Days of My Years' via Stewart, because Stewart does in that context.
                ...
                Why do you say, 'quoting Days of My Years via Stewart'? To my mind the footnote is confusing (or ambiguous) and the sourcing of the midwife to Stewart is totally separate from the verse referenced directly to Days of Years.

                You are saying that a man writing a history of Scotland Yard (Browne) knows of a former Assistant Commissioner's (Macnaghten's) book on his days at Scotland Yard but doesn't bother to even look at it. I find that idea untenable.

                Comment


                • #53
                  Misinterpreted

                  Originally posted by Jonathan Hainsworth View Post
                  No you've lost me again?
                  Browne cites William Stewart, in a footnote, as the reference to 'Days of My Years', which I interpreted as having not read those memoirs himself.
                  I think that you have misinterpreted this.

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Put more simply..

                    Originally posted by Jonathan Hainsworth View Post
                    No you've lost me again?
                    Browne cites William Stewart, in a footnote, as the reference to 'Days of My Years', which I interpreted as having not read those memoirs himself.
                    Put more simply, and as I have already indicated to you, it is years since I read Stewart's book but I don't recall seeing Macnaghten's 'anonymous verse' in it. Which is why I am asking you for the page it appears on. I don't have the time to page right through the book looking for it. You have quoted the verse to back up your argument that Browne is quoting Stewart for the verse, I assume you have checked your sources, so I thought it would be easier for you to give me the page in Stewart's book it appears on.

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Also...

                      Also, of course, Macnaghten's book appears in Browne's bibliography, so I hardly think that he didn't look at it.
                      But it is interesting to note that Stewart's doesn't. Stewart was well known at that time for propounding the midwife theory, press stories etc., which may be why Browne accords the theory to Stewart in the footnote without giving the details of his book.

                      Click image for larger version

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                      • #56
                        Oh, I don't have access to that book. Though God knows, I tried.

                        The point is Browne is quoting from (William) Stewart's book by his citation?

                        I accept that you maybe right that what Browne meant was that W. Stewart was quoting this bit about the mid-wife and so on.

                        That Browne had read Mac's memoirs for himself.

                        Nevertheless, far from the need for classified sources to explain the Mac/Balfour oddity, what the whole Browne page shows is that he is simply trawling three top cops' memoirs -- and perhaps misunderstanding Mac's of 1914.

                        He was not the first. Woodhall did. And a much more respected writer than that did too. In his book of 1966, Robin Odell thinks that [the un-named] Druitt is entirely absent from 'Laying the Ghost ...' (It's partly Mac's fault for writing so opaquely.)

                        After all, that is quite a coincidence that Mac ends by writing about a 'sec. of state' (Matthews) under threat -- which we all know he means politically and not life-threateningly -- and here is Browne, ignorant of the import of Mac's memoirs, for whatever reason (and ignorant that Mac did, eventually, plump for a suicided suspect) and also claiming that a 'sec. of state' was literally threatened -- but also not actually bumped off.

                        See what I mean? That's some coincidence on a page about memoirs which disgaree.

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Basis

                          Originally posted by Jonathan Hainsworth View Post
                          ...
                          The point is Browne is quoting from (William) Stewart's book by his citation?
                          I accept that you maybe right that what Browne meant was that W. Stewart was quoting this bit about the mid-wife and so on.
                          That Browne had read Mac's memoirs for himself.
                          Nevertheless, far from the need for classified sources to explain the Mac/Balfour oddity, what the whole Browne page shows is that he is simply trawling three top cops' memoirs -- and perhaps misunderstanding Mac's of 1914.
                          He was not the first. Woodhall did. And a much more respected writer than that did too. In his book of 1966, Robin Odell thinks that [the un-named] Druitt is entirely absent from 'Laying the Ghost ...' (It's partly Mac's fault for writing so opaquely.)
                          After all, that is quite a coincidence that Mac ends by writing about a 'sec. of state' (Matthews) under threat -- which we all know he means politically and not life-threateningly -- and here is Browne, ignorant of the import of Mac's memoirs, for whatever reason (and ignorant that Mac did, eventually, plump for a suicided suspect) and also claiming that a 'sec. of state' was literally threatened -- but also not actually bumped off.
                          See what I mean? That's some coincidence on a page about memoirs which disgaree.
                          What we are trying to establish here is the basis for Browne's reference to the leader of a plot.

                          You have suggested that Browne's reference to the Ripper being identified with the leader of a plot to assassinate Mr Balfour at the Irish office is Browne making a mistake regarding Macnaghten's 'literary flourish' at the end of his Ripper chapter where he says that the Ripper had committed suicide (without saying how or where) '...after he had knocked out a Commissioner of Police [Warren who resigned] and very nearly settled the hash of one of her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State [Matthews whom the press called on to resign].

                          You suggest that Browne had 'absorbed' Woodhall's mistake (in his cheap pulp nonsense of the mid-thirties) and that Browne has misunderstood the importance of Macnaghten's memoirs 'having not seen them at first hand perhaps' and that Browne 'assumed' that a 'principal' Secretary of State was a target of the Ripper thus it must have been Balfour (not Matthews) as Balfour was the target of an assassination plot.

                          I find your reasoning convoluted and near untenable. A far more likely answer is that Browne found a reference, penned by Macnaghten, in an official file. This is backed up by several factors which include -

                          1. The fact that Browne did access the contemporary official files.
                          2. A plot to assassinate Balfour had emerged in early August 1888.
                          3. There is a CID leger of the time citing a connection of the 'Irish Party' with the Whitechapel murders. (This file cannot now be found but Browne may have seen it).

                          For the reasons given already I think that Browne did read Macnaghten's book but still used the very specific Balfour reference.

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            But..

                            Originally posted by Jonathan Hainsworth View Post
                            ...
                            Nevertheless, far from the need for classified sources to explain the Mac/Balfour oddity, what the whole Browne page shows is that he is simply trawling three top cops' memoirs -- and perhaps misunderstanding Mac's of 1914.
                            ...
                            But Browne did not simply 'trawl three top cops' memoirs', we know that he had access to the official files, the very point made in the A to Z.

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              Well...

                              Originally posted by Jonathan Hainsworth View Post
                              ...
                              After all, that is quite a coincidence that Mac ends by writing about a 'sec. of state' (Matthews) under threat -- which we all know he means politically and not life-threateningly -- and here is Browne, ignorant of the import of Mac's memoirs, for whatever reason (and ignorant that Mac did, eventually, plump for a suicided suspect) and also claiming that a 'sec. of state' was literally threatened -- but also not actually bumped off.
                              See what I mean? That's some coincidence on a page about memoirs which disgaree.
                              Well I see what you mean with the caveat that the meaning is derived from your own methods of interpretation and with a certain solution borne firmly in mind. I also think that you might read a whole lot more importance into Macnaghten's memoirs than Browne may have done.

                              The meaning of Macnaghten's reference is very clear, however, which makes Woodhall's writing a bit of a joke, but he has many examples of his nonsensical style in his book. Unlike Browne who seems pretty sensible and was fully aware of the press attacks suffered by the police and government. The resignations of both were being widely called for and Browne delves at length into the acrimonious relationship between Warren and Matthews. He is hardly likely to make the naive mistake that Woodhall made.

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                By 'certain solution' I presume you mean Druitt?

                                The sources scream 'Of course it's Druitt!' for me, not the other way round.

                                Believe me, I resisted for a long, long time before finally giving in.

                                As for the 'own methods of interpretation' they are just standard, even mundane historical methodology. Not idiosyncratic to myself.

                                Eg. Such methodology teaches that when a single source is totally out of step with other comparable sources, it must be treated with great caution.

                                The bottom line is that I think Browne is simply mistaken, and I am coming up with a theory as to why.

                                I think you, unsurprisingly, put a strong counter-argument, but we will just have to agree to disagree on this titbit.

                                Unless, of course, tomorrow, classified Scotland Yard files are opened and, lo and behold, there was Michael McRyan, the Fenien assassin, and previously unknown, arch plotter against Balfour. A man so bloodthirsty and unstable that his own people feared he was nothing less than Jack the Ripper. That this fear reached Littlechild's agents, and it was duly recorded. And read later by that 'Boys Own'/Sleuth wannabe/Ripper tragic Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten.

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