21 October 1888
London, Sept. 22, 1888.
London has not for many a year received so great a shock as it has done within the past few days by what has seemed the culmination of a series of ruthless and purposeless murders in the East end. The terrible details of these tragedies have already been fully described by a variety of pens, and it will suffice here to chronicle the state of panic fear into which they have reduced the people of a large section of the metropolis. Recollections of "Williams the Monster" and of other violent and bloodthirsty desperadoes, whose crimes have from time to time within this century filled London with horror, have naturally been abundant since the series of Whitechapel horrors began; but it may be doubted whether any of the crimes perpetrated by these men have been worse in character or degree than those with which we have recently been startled. Readers of the more morbid works of Poe will remember his sketch of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," a tale which was not merely thrilling in its essence, but so precise in its details that many were persuaded of its truth, but were disappointed when they looked for the street named among the thoroughfares of Paris; and to such as these there will appear to have been no recent parallel to those imaginary horrors more exact than the very real horrors to which we have just been subjected in London.
Naturally as a consequence of these crimes, popular attention has been directed even more closely than it otherwise would have been to the change which has recently taken place in the headship of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Metropolitan police, or, in more common phrase, the detective section of Scotland yard. Mr. Munro, who has filled that position for some years, has been transferred to a post of great difficulty and confidence at the Home Office; and his successor, Mr. Anderson, more fortunate than many men similarly circumstanced, has immediately had placed in his hands an excellent opportunity for proving his capacity for his new position. Of late there has been a very large development among novel writers of what is technically known as the detective story, and nothing has ensured a more ready sale than tales of extremely mysterious but ultimately discovered crime. The detective of real life, however, is not quite the figure to which we are accustomed in fiction; and it is obviously one thing for an author to construct in his study a puzzle of which he himself has the key, and quite another of a police officer to have to deal with a crime towards the elucidation of which scarcely even the faintest clue can be obtained.