19 September 1888
The recent appalling crimes in the east of London have called forth from his seclusion a writer whose signature was once very familiar to newspaper readers, but who, with advancing years, has withdrawn almost entirely from the discussion of public affairs. "S.G.O." (which letters, it may be needful to explain to some, are the initials of the Rev. Lord Sydney Godol Phin Osborne) was the quarter of a century ago one of the most industrious of amateur journalist, and his sound common sense, expressed in forcible phraseology, always secured for his writings a ready and interested perusal. The veteran clergyman and philanthropist has now nearly reached his eightieth year, and the letter which he has written upon the tragedies that have just occurred bears the indications of somewhat failing vigour. "S.G.O.," however, is as earnest as ever in his denunciation of selfish wrongdoing and negligence, and as deeply anxious as in former times tohelp the miserable and the vicious in our population to a better way of life. What he has to say is not very new, but it is, unhappily, altogether true. The crimes which have horrified London have in them nothing which should surprise us. The are but the natural product of a state of things too long overlooked, or regarded as beyond remedy. We have sown the seed, and should not be astonished that we are now reaping the harvest. A large portion of the population of London and every great town is reared in circumstances which make the cultivation of the commonest morality simply impossible. As "S.G.O." puts it, there is not a shadow of doubt that in the case of the children of the slums, of both sexes, "they scarce have passed childhood before they fall into the grosser sins of that adult life which is their daily street example." The veil which had hidden the penetralia of low life in London was first lifted for us nearly forty years ago by the Late Mr. Henrey Mayhew, whose disclosures startled and shocked society for a while. Mr. George Sims, and other contemporary writers, have lately proved that things are not very much better even now. It is the painful fact that extreme poverty, overcrowding, and training through successive generations of vice have bred up among us a race of savages more brutal than the aborigines of New Guinea, or the least civilised parts of Central Africa. So far from wondering that crime of an awful character now and then occurs in the regions where they congregate, we can but be surprised that outbreaks are so few. that is no reason, of course, for acquiescing in the continued existence of the evil. It is our bounden duty to exert ourselves for its removal, and not duty only but the instinct of self-preservation teach the same lesson. It is impossible to say what may happen in the future if the classes who have been reared in absolute disregard of all considerations of the right and wrong, whose only gratifications are of the lowest and most brutal type, should by some unlucky mischance become conscious of their strength. We may form some idea of it by the terrors of the first French Revolution, and the Communist triumph in Paris not yet twenty years ago. London does undoubtedly contain in its midst the materials for an explosion of crime such as history has never yet had to record.
It is well to be reminded of the danger, if only that we may be stimulated to labour for its removal, and such appeals as that of "S.G.O." can hardly be unproductive of good. At the same time the blame does not rest so entirely with the comfortable classes as he and enthusiastic philanthropists generally are apt to assume. It is not altogether the fault of the West-end that the East is wretched and, to a great extent, vicious and even criminal. The development of a high civilisation has ever been accompanied by deep degradation of the masses. It is useless to rail at what seems to be a low of human nature in society. The only wise and useful course is to set ourselves calmly to consider the matter in detail, and combat the evil at its most vulnerable points. "S.G.O." hardly gives us the credit we deserve for what has already been done in this direction. It may be true, as he seems to suggest, that we have been spending in trying to convert the heathen abroad money and labour which would have been more profitably employed at home. Very likely we have not always gone the right way to work in our endevours to "elevate the masses." The fact remains, nevertheless, that well-to-do London has not, for many years past, at any rate, been indifferent to the needs of the poor. Any promising scheme to help them is assured of liberal support, and there are vast numbers of men and women labouring daily at the task without fee or reward. But the growth of centuries is not to be uprooted in a day. Nor is it by any means as clear as it could be wished what really can and ought to be done. Overcrowding is undoubtedly one great source of demoralisation, but there is no ready and unfailing remedy for overcrowding. Men must live somewhere, and poor men must live near their work. Suburban railways and tramways have conferred great benefits upon the respectable artisan class, but there are classes below the artisan who, if they are to find daily bread, must be upon the spot where the daily bred is to be earned. The thousands who find a hand-to-mouth subsistence by labour in and about the docks must reside within an easy walking distance of their employment. It is, in fact, the very poorest, for whom suburban homes are most to be desired, to whom the luxury is the most unattainable. We may erect artisans' dwellings, and insist upon decent conduct on the part of their tenants; but the family plunged in helpless poverty can neither pay the rent nor furnish the rooms. We have, in truth, yet to discover how to deal with the problem of an overgrown population, and it is but too clear to practical men who have studied it the most carefully that we cannot hope to make rapid progress. We need not abandon the task in despair, and we think it may be maintained that we are really, in spite of the tremendous difficulties to be grappled with, making some headway. Even "S.G.O." must acknowledge, if he keeps himself abreast of current information on the subject, that a great deal more is being done for outcast London, as well as written and talked about, than was was even dreamed of fifty years ago.
Wits reference to a report which appeared in the evening papers yesterday, Mr. Walker, proprietor of the City News Rooms, Ludgate-circus, has been questioned as to the circumstances under which the wearing apparel was left on his premises by a strange man on the morning of the 8th inst. Mr. Walker attached no importance to the incident at the time, nor does he now believe that the discovery will be proved to have the slightest connexion with the crimes now under investigation. He thinks that had the man wished to destroy his identity for the purpose of avoiding arrest, he would have taken advantage of the means at hand for disposing of his cast-off garments, instead of leaving them in the lavatory, which is free of access, and only separated from a public room by a partition. Moreover the clothes when found were not in such a condition as to attract special attention ; no suspicious marks or stains were noticed, and they were placed in the dust-box and carted away. Adjoining the lavatory at the news-rooms are several water-closets, and the proprietor's idea is that, had the strange visitor been a man implicated in the murders, he would have protected himself from risk of observation in one of these apartments, and would have taken care to prevent the clothes being seen.
Charles Ludwig, 40, a decently-attired German, who professed not to understand English, and gave an address at 1, Minories, was charged, before Mr. Saunders, at the Thames Police Court yesterday, with being disorderly and threatening to stab Alexander Finlay, of 51, Leman-street, Whitechapel.
The prosecutor said that very early yesterday morning he was standing at the coffee-stall in the Whiechapel road, when Ludwig came up in a drunken condition. In consequence, the person in charge of the stall refused to serve him. Ludwig seemed much annoyed, and said to witness, "What are you looking at?" The then pulled out a long-bladed knife and tried to stab the witness with it. Ludwig followed the witness round the stall, and made several attempts to stab him, until the witness threatened to knock a dish on his head. A constable came up and he was then given into custody.
Constable 221 H said that he was called to take the prisoner into custody, and found him in a very excited condition. The witness had previously received information hat Ludwig was wanted on the City ground for attempting to cut a woman's throat with a razor. On the way to the station the prisoner dropped a long-bladed knife, which was open, and when he was searched a razor and a long-bladed pair of scissors were found on him.
Constable J. Johnson, 866 City, deposed that early yesterday morning he was on duty in the Minories, when he heard loud screams of "Murder" from a dark court in which there were no lights. The court in question led to some railway arches, and is a well-known dangerous locality. The witness went down to the court, and found the prisoner with a woman. The former appeared to be under the influence of drink. The witness asked what he was doing there, and he replied "Nothing." The woman, who appeared to be in a very agitated and frightened condition, said, "Oh, policeman, do take me out of this." The woman was so frightened that she could then make no further explanation. The witness go her and the accused out of the court, and sent the accused off. The walked with the women to the end of his beat, when she said, "Dear me. He frightened me very much when he pulled a big knife out." The witness said, "Why didn't you tell me that at the time?" and she replied, "I was too much frightened." He then went and look for the prisoner, but could not find him, and he warned several other constables of what had occurred, and gave a description of the prisoner. Witness had been out all the morning trying to find the woman, but up to the present time he had not been able to do so. He should know her again. He believed the prisoner worked in the neighbourhood.
Mr. Saunders said it was clear the prisoner was a dangerous man, and ordered him to be remanded for a week.
Considerable excitement prevailed in the neighbourhood owing to a report that the prisoner was connected with the recent murders in Whitechapel, and that some important discoveries would result from his capture. Detective-Inspector Helson, J division, after the prisoner was remanded, had an interview ith him in his cell; but as the prisoner professed not to understand English, no information could be got out of him. It is understood, however, that the police favour the theory that the prisoner is not connected with the murder, but that his assault on the women, presuming it to have been committed, was in a great measure the result of the attention aroused by the East-end tragedies, acting on a mind in a state of excitement. It has been ascertained that Ludwig entered the employment of Mr. C. A. Partridge, hairdresser, the Minories, last Saturday fortnight. Mr. Partridge met him at a German club in Houndsditch, which is a house of a call for German hairdressers. After he had been in his new employment a week he asked to be allowed to sleep in the house, and to this Mr. Partridge consented. The reason he gave was that at the house at which he was staying there was a man lying dead, and he did not like to sleep there. He made another move on Sunday night, and wet to stay with a German tailor, named Johannes, in Church-street, Minories, leaving his scanty stock of worldly belongings at his employer's. On Monday, however, he was told that he must not come back again to Johanne's house. This in a measure accounts for his wandering about on Tuesday night. The things he left at his employer's include two or three shirts and barber's aprons, but not traces of bloodmarks can be found upon them. Mr. Partridge says he is a good workman, and ridicules the idea that Ludwig is in any way connected with the recent tragedies in the district, saying he is too much of a coward. Mr. Richter, the manager of the German Club, says he has known the prisoner for a little over a year. The accused was not a member of the club, but was allowed to call there when out of work, so as to obtain another engagement. Many barbers are given employment for Saturday and Sunday only, and employers, when they want extra hands, call at the club and engage men. It was in this way that the prisoner obtained work with Mr. Partridge. He is of a quarrelsome disposition, and entered the club Monday night about ten, and the manager would not allow him to stop, but had him turned out. The court into which he too the women is called Three Kings'-court, and is situated in the Minories, but a few yards from Mr. Partridge's establishment. It is a court only in name, as the houses have all been pulled down to make room for the railway, and all that is left is an alley of about 12 yards long leading to a small walled-in space about 40 feet square. On one side of the alley leading to this cul de sac is an empty house, and on the other side is a baker's shop. There is no light in either the alley or the yard.
A later account says that the prisoner's name is Wetzel, not Ludwig, and that he has various statements as to the time he has been in this country, but that his knowledge of English is imperfect, much importance cannot be attached to these discrepancies. On Sunday night he went to a lodging-house in Finsbury, where he had previously lodged, and remained there until about on o'clock in the morning, but the landlord would not allow him to stay the night. He produced a number of razors, and acted in such a manner that some of the inmates were frightened at his conduct. The landlady of the house stated to a representative of the Press Association that on the day after the last murder in Whitechapel Wetzel called early in the morning and washed his hands, stating that he had been injured. Another person has alleged that there was blood on the man's hands, but as to this the landlady could not speak. Wetzel, who is about 40 years of age, walks lame, having a stiff leg. Although every effort has been made to discover the woman with whom the prisoner was seen, the police had not up to a late hour last night been successful.