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  • George Sims

    I wondered whether anyone here had read William Fishman's recent book, Into the Abyss: The Life and Work of George R. Sims:

  • #2
    Jonathan Hainsworth kindly directed me towards two of Sims's columns in the Referee which aren't included in the collection in the press section.

    The first is from 22 February 1891:
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    • #3
      The second is from 17 April 1910:
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      • #4
        Thanks Chris

        Dear Chris

        I want to pubicly thank you, so much, for tracking down these Dagonet-George Sims' pieces, which also help fill in the gaps of Mac's machinations over what he believed was the solution to the mystery.

        The first piece from 1891 shows that Sims' skepticism about Tom Sadler being the Ripper was ahead of the constabulary's eventual [and reluctant] opinion.

        But what it is also confirms is that Sims had no notion -- as yet -- of the 'drowned doctor' alleged solution.

        By 1891 Sims was already a Liberal-Radical celebrity who was chums with an affable Tory, Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten. The latter also loved the theatre and boxing (and both would be fellow members of a gentleman's Crimes Club).

        Furtehrmore, Sims certainly has no sense of the 'canonical-five' and even reaches back before 1888 to another murder allegedly by 'Jack' (eg. the Bedford-Square Mystery of Christmas 1887).

        At some point between this piece, and his 1899 one denouncing a dotty Vicar for daring to suggest that 'Jack' had time to make a confession to a priest, Sims had been informed by Macnaghten that the mystery was practically solved before the Coles murder and the arrest of Sadler.

        Jaw-droppingly, that it had been allegedly solved even before the 'mad doctor' drowned himself in the Thames; he was about to be arrested between the Kelly murder and his rotting corpse being fished from the river.

        Did Sims actually believe this [instituioinally] self-serving and unlikely 'shilling shocker' which must have been hustled to him by good ol' Mac?

        William Le Queux, a right-wing best-selling alarmist, bluntly dismissed this 'scoop' as a police 'excuse' shoehorned back into 1888 -- and the flamboyant jingoist is correct.

        Perhaps Sims did not believe and was 'in on it' with his seductive, boyish police pal.

        Or, Sims fell for this hook-line, and sinker because -- as the second extraordinary piece retrieved by Chris shows -- that the famous writer-criminolgist put so much weight in a definitive document of state: a 'Home Office Report'.

        Twice in his previous press spat with Abberline, Sims had referred to this allegedly definitive text, and he had even outed 'the Commissioner' as it's unimpeachable author (but did not make it clear that he meant the Assistant Commissioner-CID of 1903: Macnaghten).

        Here Sims writes in 1910 in his scathing denuncciation of Anderson's memoir revelations and claims about the Polish Jew suspect:

        '... Jack the Ripper was a Jew, and that the Jews knew who he was and assisted him to evade capture. The statement went beyond ascertained facts / The mad Polish Jew, to whom Robert refers, was only one of three persons who were strongly suspected of being the genuine Jack. The final official report, which is in the archives of the Home Office, leaves the matter in doubt between the Polish Jew, who was afterwards put in a lunatic asylum, a Russian doctor of vile character, and an English homcidal maniac, one Dr---, who had been in a lunatic asylum. In these circumstances it was certainly indiscreet of Sir Robert to plump for ther Polish Jew, and to imply that many of the Jewish community in the East End were accessories after the fact.'

        No such document was ever sent to the Home Office.

        I have long argued that Sims was misled by Major Griffiths, who was himself misled by Macnaghten about all this supposedly definitive bureaucratic status of Druitt -- and the police chief certainly never set his writer friend straight about it over the years.

        Griffiths adapted the 'Aberconway' version in which 'Kosminski' and Ostrog are mostly exonerated, and the middle-aged 'Dr. Druitt' (my compression) who, by implication, lived with family at Blackheath, is almost certainly the fiend.

        Most of Sims' writings between 1899 and 1917 reflect the thrust of 'Abeerconway', a document -- either a sexed-up copy from 1898 or a sexed-up draft from 1894 -- which was in Macnaghten's and then his family's private possession, and which [mostly] entered the public domain in 1965.

        It's not an official document. Thus Sims' trump card is nothing of the kind, and he misled his readers.

        Griffiths probably never knew this either -- but we know that fact is being turned into fiction because the Druitt 'family' were hidden, for the public, as anomic 'friends' in the Major's 'Mysteries of Police and Crime'.

        If it was that important to hide the family, that the murderer even had family -- which is echoed by William Druitt's dodgy inquest testimony -- then how could Macnaghten so blithely and blatantly expose the Blackheath doctor who drowned himself in the Thames?

        Those details alone would make Druitt visible to certain people.

        My theory -- universally rejected here -- is because it was not a lucky accident that this profile also hid the young barrister-teacher, rendering him unrecognisable to the respectable circles in which his brothers, sisters, and cousins moved (and to the graduates of the Valentine School, already traumatised by the memory of the inexplicable suicide of their youthful, sporty master).

        On the other hand, foir the only time, Sims here in 1910 pulls back from certainty over the drowned doctor (in fact he does not mention at all that he took his own life).

        Sims' characterisation of the document now leaves 'in doubt' who was the best suspect which matches not 'Aberconway' but rather the official version which resided in Scotland Yard's archive, and not the Home Office.

        In that archived version, M. J. Druitt (who might be a doctor or might not be?) and 'Kosminski' and Michael Ostrog, are all minor suspects -- but allegedly better than Cutbush even thought the latter, unlike the trio, had been arrested and sectioned for harming random women with a knife.

        Is this Macnaghten carefully covering himself -- as usual -- if Anderson's contremps with the Jewish community, and over other explosive matters, ends up escalating into an inquiry. Then he would have to wheel out the real version of his 'Report' in which Druitt is nearly nothing. To show in his office for affronted community leaders -- in writing -- that, yes, a Polish Jew was suspected.

        Interestingly, Sims makes a point of suggesting to his readers that he knows the name of the doctor -- whom for the only time he makes clear is English. It was implied that he was a national, now he establishes this beyond doubt.

        But surely witholding the name is not enough if you do not want his English family to be ruined among the class in which their deceased and tragic member will be recognised (how many people fatally throw themselves in the Thames?)

        Except that ... the Ripper has no family according to Griffiths and Sims.

        But what about his friends?

        That's alright too, for they already suspected the worst.

        Well, wat about the physician-murderer's horrified patients?

        According to Sims -- and again not in the Report(s) -- the doctor had been unemployed for years and years, due to bouts of periodic and dangerous insanity in which he wanted to savage harlots and should never, writes Sims, have been released (the reactionary, penny-pinching state is ultimately to blame).

        Bottom Line: there are no patients to offend or distress.

        The perfect, discreet fix which pleases everybody and offends nobody.

        Sims in that 1910 piece adds that critical detail he first published in 1902 and which is not in the Major';s scoop of 1898: That the English doctor had been previously in a lunatic asylum which, by implication, forms the basis of the 'strong' suspicion against him.

        Not only is this detail not in the Report(s) it is also not true of the real Montague Druitt either (his mother had been sectioned while his father had been a doctor).

        This is arguably evidence that much of this 1910 piece comes, at least originally, from Macnaghten in perhaps verbal communication with Sims.

        Mac had told Tatcho (Sims' affectionate nickname among his pals) that the Polish Jew was on file as a strong suspect, but he was never shielded by his people.

        Sims then goes for the low blow by accusing Anderson, albeit satirically, of the worst kind of anti-Semitism: that the Ripper was aided by the international conspriacy of Jewish bankers:

        'Anderson's Fairy Tales' ... 'There is no truth in the rumour that in the course of further romantic revelations to be expected from sir Robert we shall learn ... the name of the eminent Jewish financiers who assisted Jack the Ripepr to evade arrest.'

        This is incredibly unfair to Anderson who, a study of all the sources arguably shows, was not at all an anti-Semite -- however clumsily and offensively he wrote about this in his memoirs.

        In 1914 Macnaghten never mentioned Anderson in his memoirs, perhaps paying him back for obliquely referring to him -- Griffiths' 'action man' -- as a jelly-backed coward over a threatening letter (Mac does praise a number of policemen by name: including Swanson, Abberline and Jack Littlechild).

        In 1914, with 'Aberconway' at his elbow, an ill, retired Mac arguably tried to set the record straight as far as he could without dropping the surviving Druitts in it. In the very preface he pointedly denied being completely too late to identify 'Jack', deceitfully blaming an 'enterprizing journalist'.

        He wanted to make it clear that he had found the Ripper, had 'laid' his 'ghost' to rest as the police were still pursuing 'Jack' in 1891 -- he had found him posthumously but definitively.

        In 'Laying the Ghost of Jack the Ripper' Mac also claimed to have identified the hoaxer of the 'Dear Boss' infamy, that by implication the other two suspects were not worth mentioning, that the Ripper was in fact a ;Simon Pure' Gentile angry at Jews -- and thus not a Jew himself -- that there had been so super-witness, that he had never been 'detained' in a madhouse, that the police (eg. Anderson) had never heard of him until 'some years after' he took his own life because he fortuitiously imploded, and that he did not kill himself instantly after the Miller's Ct. 'awful glut' (but rather 'soon after').

        As gently and as discreetly as he could, while Sims is also fulsomely [over]praised in the same memoirs, Sir Melville Macnaghten had to some extent debunbked the 'drowned doctor' story George Sims had been arrogantly hammenring for fifteen years -- which had originated with Mac.


        • #5
          This is from the other site. It shows a picture of Sims' widow and is about his collection of crime memoirabilia:

          Though hard to read the article inevitably mentions the Ripper.

          The writer is unaware that Sims believed that the Whitechapel crimes were solved; eg. the Dronwed Doctor Super-suspect.

          So, practically from the moment the famous writer died, in 1922, the [alleged] solution of the un-named, semi-fictionalised Druitt began slipping away too, leaving behind only the vague cultural residue of the top-hat toff carrying a medical bag.

          This was, to some extent, a pop caricature of Sims' description of Jack as being well-dressed in the East End -- and wearing a naval beard, eg. Sims' double.

          The journalist in this article just deals with the crime collection in front of him, and reports that among the effects is the original 'Dear Boss' letter (and copies of the photos of the Whitechapel victims).

          How, or from whom, did Sims acquire that artifact?


          • #6
            Hi Jonathan,

            Sims died in 1922.

            If there was any merit to his story, then why, just a few years later, did fellow journalist Leonard Matters kick it into touch, spin the story and come up with the revengeful doctor/father searching the East End for the dollymop who had given his son, Ernest, a wildly contagious dose of the clap?

            Matters' story survived throughout the 30s and 40s, and even into the 50s. Indeed, it was the story I was brought up upon.

            I'm only asking.


            Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.


            • #7
              Dear Simon

              I don't really understand your question? eg. 'Kick it into touch ...'

              My question was how did Sims have the 'Dear Boss' letter?

              If he did.

              Mac in his memoirs claims he identified the journalistic hoaxer in June 1890.

              Did he give Tatcho the letter as a souvenir to keep him sweet while he hustled him a story which was, unbenknownst to Sims, a mixture of fact and fiction?

              I will try and fathom what you are asking.

              Do you mean: why did Matters' vengeful doctor mythos take off, leaving the Drowned Doctor in his dust?

              Is that it?

              Three reasons:

              Only Macnaghten knew about the Druitt solution (along with the Druitts) and so when he died in 1921, and then Sims (who died thinking he was Dr. Druitt) expired the following year it died with all of them.

              Mac's 1914 memoirs were too opaque to cement this solution (neither 'drowned' nor 'doctor' appears in them) and the official version of the 'memo' was so unknown that both Thompson, his usccessor, had to rely on Griffiths to write about this suspect, and Browne arguably never found it when finishing the history of Scotland Yard either.

              Secondly, in 1923 William LeQueue rebooted the case as a mystery. As one never solved by the police (but he had via the bogus Rasputin source) LeQ's legacy was to create what is sometimes called 'Ripperology': the notion that it is up to a new generation of reserachers to solve what the primary sources cannot.

              Thirdly, Matters did try to find the 'rowned doctor' in newspapers and medical archves.

              This is the moment Mac had prepared for with his own 'substanbtial truth in ficitous form'.

              That Druitt could not be found.

              Sure enough, Matters found no such medico's suicide and assumed it was a made-up story by Sims -- and was half-right.

              In 1959, Farson with the 'Aberconway' version and pressured by a tight deadline, could not find 'M. J. Druitt' initially and went public with his dilemma in the TV Guide-- that he was vexed by the mystery of the 'man who never died'.

              That Farson was dealing with a redundant ruse by Lady aberconway's late father was quite beyond his knowledge or resources at that time (or later for that matter).

              But Farson had the advantage over Matters and the rest -- he had the name: M. J. Druitt.

              Eventually a researcher on his team found Druitt relations and then Montague, and of course he was a young barrister and not a middle-aged doctor.

              At the very moment that the 'drowned dcotor' had been recovered, had proven to exist the solution was already slipping back into the murky Thames, seemingly built on clay.

              This is because Farson made a fateful assumption for the future of this subject, having not studied the Mac memoirs or gained access to the official version ('said to be a doctor ... was sexually insane ...') and that was that Christabel's father's memory was obviously at fault (other sources on her father would have told him thia was very unlikely, to say the least).

              It is fascinating to see in the extant record as Matters (and the arch-hoaxer McCormick) are misled by this disguise, while its 'author' was in his grave. It was created by Macnaghten via Sims to fool nosy, Edwardian hacks, not generation after generation of researchers -- but that has been the unintended effect.

              Had Farson been aware of the Sims angle -- and he had no time in 1959 to find out -- he might have paused.

              For here was Christabel, the warm-hearted, aging Edwardian aristocrat with progressive sympathies, demanding that Druitt's name not be aired as it might harm the feelings and reputations of the Ripper's descendants (of a man who had killed himself in 1888!) and yet her equally affable and discreet father had, supposedly, fed Sims enough data for the same figure to be easily identified by his contemporaries.

              That does not make sense. Unless ... Mac knew the data could not harm the family. Then everything which did not fit, does fit.

              In a sense Matters proved this to be the case: that Montie could not be found by what Mac had provided Sims, and so the Druitt clan were safe.

              According to the overwhelming majority opinion of today's Whitechapel cognoscenti, they are still quite safe.


              • #8
                Hi Jonathan,

                "Kick into touch" is a rugby expression. It means to put the ball out of play.

                Matters certainly put Sims' ball out of play.


                Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.


                • #9
                  Mac before Matters?

                  Oh, I see -- Rugby.

                  To an extent, Macnaghten tried to put Sims' ball out of play before anybody else.

                  From retirement, and very unwell, Macnaghten wanted to establish that he had identified the Ripper, albeit posthumously, from information received from 'his own people'. That the Ripper was not necessarily a middle-aged medico, had not been 'detained' in an asylum, and did not kill himself instantly after Miller's Ct.

                  Nor did he confirm -- or deny -- that the murderer was Sims' double.

                  Therefore it was Mac himself who began the process of 'De-Siminization' having been the same source's enabler for fifteen years.

                  None of this was noticed because it was way too subtle, and was hamstrung by the fact that it was, after all, the same suspect as Sims': the un-named Montague John Druitt.

                  This was a three card trick too difficult to bring off; to simultaneously strip Druitt of his fictional outer layer, yet agree with Sims that it was the man who killed himself, and yet not provide enough information for the killer to be recognized by the respectable circles in which the surviving members of his family moved.

                  It cost Macnaghten dearly as a primary source in much later secondary sources -- some superb -- to the point where he has been routinely described as not as certain as Anderson, or not much involved in the investigation, or as a fact not in direct contact with the killer's family.

                  Mac's solution was mostly accepted as definitive in the era he was Assistant Commissioner (though tellingly it was not known to be his solution) but the short-term propagandist-apologetic gains of the Sims' tale for Scotland Yard, in the long run, undermined his too veiled attempts to put the genie of the 'drowned doctor' back in the proverbial bottle.