Friday, 11 March 1910
Reply by Sir Robert Anderson.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE "JEWISH CHRONICLE."
SIR, - With reference to "Mentor's" comments on my statements about the "Whitechapel murders" of 1888 in this month's Blackwood, will you allow me to express the severe distress I feel that my words should be construed as "an aspersion upon Jews." For much that I have written in my various books gives proof of my sympathy with, and interest in, "the people of the Covenant"; and I am happy in reckoning members of the Jewish community in London among my personal friends.
I recognise that in this matter I said either too much or too little. But the fact is that as my words were merely a repetition of what I published several years ago without exciting comment, they flowed from my pen without any consideration.
We have in London a stratum of the population uninfluenced by religious or even social restraints. And in this stratum Jews are to be found as well as Gentiles. And if I were to describe the condition of the maniac who committed these murders, and the course of loathsome immorality which reduced him to that condition, it would be manifest that in his case every question of nationality and creed is lost in a ghastly study of human nature sunk to the lowest depth of degradation.
We have thought well to send Sir Robert Anderson's letter to our contributor "Mentor" for his perusal of it prior to publication. "Mentor" deals with the letter in the "Communal Armchair" column. - Editor, JEWISH CHRONICLE.
THE RIPPER CRIMES AND SIR ROBERT ANDERSON.
I have read the interview with a representative of the Globe which Sir Robert Anderson accorded that paper in order to reply to my observations upon what he said in Blackwood's Magazine concerning the Jack the Ripper crimes. The editor of the JEWISH CHRONICLE has also been so good as to send for my perusal Sir Robert Anderson's letter to him, which appears in these columns, on the same subject. With great deference to Sir Robert, it appears to me that he misses the whole point of my complaint against what he wrote. I did not so much object to his saying that Jack the Ripper was a Jew, though so particular a friend of our people would have been well-advised, knowing the peculiar condition in which we are situated, and the prejudice that is constantly simmering against us, had he kept the fact to himself. No good purpose was served by revealing it. It would have sufficed had he said that he was satisfied the murderer was discovered.
As I pointed out, the creature whom Sir Robert believes to have been the author of the heinous crimes was a lunatic - obviously his brain virulently diseased - so that if he was a Jew, however regrettable it may be that our people produced such an abnormality, in that there does not lie the aspersion. What I objected to - and pace Sir Robert Anderson's explanations still do - in his Blackwood article, is that Jews who knew that "Jack the Ripper" had done his foul deeds, shielded him from the police, and guarded him so that he could continue his horrible career, just because he was a Jew. This was the aspersion to which I referred and about which I notice Sir Robert says nothing. Of course, when Sir Robert says that the man he means was "proved" to be the murderer, and that upon that point he spoke facts, he also ignores the somewhat important matter that the man was never put upon his trial. Knowing what I do, I would hesitate to brand even such a creature as Sir Robert describes as the author of the Ripper crimes upon the very strongest evidence short of a conviction after due trial. I wonder whether the circumstance I am about to mention was brought to Sir Robert Anderson's notice.
Before the Ripper crimes took place there came into my hands a book which had been sent to me by the author, whom I had known since he was a little child. The book, if I remember aright, was printed by a provincial printer and was issued anonymously. The young man, whose first effort it was, had always been a strange, weird, dreamy sort of an individual. I confess that when I received it I merely glanced through its pages and wrote the writer something complimentary. I recollect that the story the book told appeared to me then to be mere extravagancies of a highly imaginative character, and seemed to have resulted from the author having dived deeper into the "Gehenna" of modern Babylon than was good for one of his years, especially as the "Gehenna" district he chose to explore was the most sordid and filthy it was possible to find. I put the book aside and though no more of it till the Ripper crimes were setting the town in panic. Then I recollected that its author had prophesied that such crimes would take place and gave details of happenings, in local, in method and in manner, which convinced me could not be accounted to the long arm of coincidence when they actually took place.
The very streets in which the murders took place, the exact class of victim are all set down with weird accuracy. I read the book carefully, I re-read it, and the more I studied it the more did the horrible conviction grow upon me that it was possible the young man who had written it - a young Jew - had become mad and that the author of the book might be the author of the Ripper crimes. I consulted a literary friend of mine of great experience and he said it was "impossible" - I remember his repeating the word three times, each with growing emphasis - "impossible" that anyone, especially a raw youth, should so accurately have forecasted such outrages by someone else. The home of my young acquaintance was in a northern town, and enquiries I set on foot elicited the fact that while the Ripper crimes were in progress he was away from his house - in London. Enquiry at his hotel brought me the news that he invariably went out late at night, and did not return till the small hours. I am afraid I had little doubt that my "theory" about the Whitechapel crimes was correct. I am happy to think I was quite wrong. I communicated to the Scotland Yard authorities all I knew - although I was a Jew and the one I suspected was a Jew too. I sent them the book. I took care to tell them that the youth had always been strange in manner. After some days the authorities assured me there was nothing in my "theory," and that they had convinced themselves that all that was in the book was purely imaginary and coincidental! I was naturally much relieved, though to this day my suspicion, formed I am bound to say upon some apparent substance, is a really painful memory. My only complaint against Scotland Yard in the matter was that they kept the book, and I could never get it from them or - from anyone else! But I believe a copy exists in one of our public libraries.