Sir, - Referring to the fourth paragraph of Mr. Barnett's letter, published in The Times of to-day, and the comments thereon in your leading article, allow me to suggest that a practical solution of the control of tenement houses, at present dedicated to vice and crime, by a responsible landlord, would be found were a limited liability company formed for the purpose of buying up and improving such property as Mr. Barnett describes.
This need not be a matter of much difficulty if men of means who take an interest in the welfare of this great city could be induced to co-operate to form such a company, and my individual opinion is that from the improvement that would be wrought in the neighbourhood where such property was bought up, and its character transformed, a very good pecuniary result might be looked for.
Let a number of rich philanthropic gentlemen decide to underwrite the necessary capital, and then float such a company, taking up the shares not subscribed for by the public, and giving their services as directors gratuitously until a 5 per cent dividend could be paid. The operations of such a company might be extended to any extent by obtaining mortgages on the property acquired, or issuing debentures against it.
There are doubtless many men in London who would subscribe largely, by the actual gift of money, were any well considered scheme set on foot to abolish these rookeries of vice. I am not asking so much of them; let them simply invest the money in a company that would have every prospect not only of being self-supporting, but of paying a good dividend.
Sir, - It has long been the custom for provincial newspapers to publish serial stories in their weekly issues, generally of a more or less sensational character. These stories of late have in many instances taken the form of the lives and actions, most highly exaggerated, of notorious criminals - e.g., "A Race to Ruin; or, the History of William Palmer the Poisoner," "Charles Peace, the King of Criminals," "Dick Turpin, the Prince of Highwaymen," "Pritchard, the Poisoner of Glasgow."
It is only those whose duties cause them to be mixed up with the lower and criminal classes who can really appreciate how great is the evil influencing of this pernicious literature and how eagerly it is sought after.
Not long since some lads, children of honest parents, committed two burglaries; it was clearly shown by their own confession that they had been instigated to do so by reading "Dick Turpin, the Prince of Highwaymen." A youth of about 18, of miserable physical power, when arrested for larceny bit the constable's thumb and said, "I am as game as Charlie Peace, and I will do as much as him before I die." The history of the "King of Criminals" was being published at the time by one of the local papers. Many similar instances could be furnished.
It is, to my mind, quite possible that the Whitechapel murders may be the fruit of some pernicious seed falling upon a morbid and degraded mind.
Although the law is powerless to repress such publications, they might be brought into disrepute and contempt if the attention of the better class of newspapers and the respectable portion of the community was drawn to this evil and its results by your powerful aid.