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  • The Swanson marginalia - a new interpretation?

    I initiate this thread with some trepidation, knowing the response that ideas from left field sometimes seem to generate on Casebook. However, I don't think I have ever seen this interpretation of the marginalia discussed before, so here goes.

    We all know that after the first euphoria of this fresh material emerging in the 80's, questions began to emerge about seeming errors in what Donald Swanson wrote and even about the believeability of the story he unfolded. (I'm not concerned here with allegations about the authenticity of the maginalia as a whole or in part.)

    It seemed that either Swanson must have been in his dotage when he wrote his notes in Anderson's book; or that he inadvertently wrote the wrong thing (Seaside Home for Seamen's Home?); or got his facts muddled over the passage of time.

    As an historian (albeit an amateur one) I do not believe that we should write off evidence simply because what it says contradicts other survivingevidence or conventional wisdoms. My experience is that when people write things they have a purpose - it could be to amuse, deceive or satirise - but they do not just write down anything. In a case like the marginalia - if deliberate deception is ruled out - we must (it seems to me) assume that Swanson had something to say.

    People do make mistakes, honest ones, buut we should be careful about claiming this without supportive evidence (such as a clear difference between two drafts of the same or similar text).

    So I began to read the marginalia with that in mind, and as I did so a frsh insight came to me.

    What if Swanson was not setting down his memories or views but simply recording what Anderson had told him?

    I don't think such an interpretation does violence to the language or grammar of the marginalia, and might explain some of its features.

    The scaenario I envisage is as follows:

    Swanson receives a copy of his friend and colleague Anderson's memoirs. He reads the volume with interest but when he comes to the Ripper murders is puzzled by what Anderson says. Some of the discussion of the suspect who was identified is new to swanson and he is intrigued. So, when the two men next talk (either face to face or on the telephone) Swanson asks his old chief what the talk of this suspect is all about. He then notes down almost verbatim what Anderson tells him - the name Kosminski is put in the way it is because it was new to Swanson - or if he knew the name, he was unaware that he was so firmly suspected.

    I can understand that others will say that Swanson must already have known all this, given his role in the case and the instruction that he see all papers. But it seems that the abortive idenification etc took place after the main case had died down and Swanson could have been involved in other things. Alternatively (or in addition) if what occured was at all secret or confidential Anderson may have been involved and Swanson kept out of the loop.

    Such a situation might explain why the marginalia (or at least the first part) is written so closely around the relevant text. Had Swanson been supplying his own separate account augment Anderson's then he might have been expected to begin on the endpapers giving him the space he required.

    If the marginalia is "reportage" - a transcription of what Anderson said as he spoke or immediately after, it would also explain the errors - Swanson did not know the details of arrangements for taking the suspect to the Home (he simply recorded what he was told by Sir Robert). He would not have known why the unusual procedures were followed, or whether the "home" was Seaside or Seaman's. He would have been reliant on Anderson for saying why the witness refused to confirm the identity, and for details about the death of the suspect. Swanson might no longer have followed the case, but he would suppose that Anderson had and that the information was true.

    It seems to me that a reading of the marginalia in this way does not in any way distort the text - any reference to "us" or "we" is merely Swanson recording Anderson's words. It means that we do not have to question Swanson's memory, character or common sense (or his professionalism or propriety as a police officer), yet explains how and why the marginalia came to be written and the form, style they adopt.

    I fully recognise that my perceptions may cut across the agendas or views, interprtation of others, but I do think they are worth considering.

    Of course, I may have missed something crucial and obvious to others which will immediately sink my "theory" and others will recognise that fact. You will, I am sure, tell me if that is so.

    In that spirit I commend this to you.

    Phil

  • #2
    Hello, Phil.
    I've always felt that the purpose of the marginalia was to expand on what Anderson meant. Swanson is adding his own footnote to the views of his old chief.

    It does not necessarily follow that Swanson believed that Kosminski was the Ripper. It is easy to read the notes and conclude that Swanson is not at all sure of Anderson's pronouncements - merely adding what he knew to be further info. on Anderson's position.

    I don't see why it could not have occurred, as you suggest, following a conversation (or private correspondence - what a find that would be!) between the two men.

    Best wishes,
    Steve.

    Comment


    • #3
      The 'Anderson' Marginalia?

      To Phil

      I totally and completely agree.

      I argued this a year or so ago in an article in 'Ripperologist' called 'Safely Caged'.

      That a perplexed Swanson had spoken with Anderson in 1910 and was stunned by this tale which mixed and matched bits and pieces from Druitt, Kosminski, the Seaman's Home and the Seaside Home, Lawende's 'no' and 'yes' before Gentile suspects both seamen, Tom Sadler, Mary Kelly, Frances Coles, Sims from 1907, William Grant -- and knowing that he would never recall such a train wreck he hastily committed it as an annotation in Anderson's book.

      A self-serving tale with a dead suspect at the end of 1888, or the beginning of 1889.

      That is why Swanson ends with the flat sentence 'Kosminski was the suspect'. That is why the wording is so pompous. That is why Swanson seems not to have told anybody about it, not even his family.

      In 1895 Swanson supposedly believed the Ripper was deceased but this could be a reference to Druitt (I doubt it) or Dr. Tumblety, who according to Littlechild in 1913 was 'believed' to have committed suicide -- who spread that tale I wonder?

      Tom Divall claimed, in 1929, that Macnaghten had told him that the fiend had fled to the States where he had died there ...

      Comment


      • #4
        Jonathan,

        I'm sorry I missed the article - I must try to get hold of a copy.

        The various different stories Macnaghten told - I still regard him as honourable but I begin to have doubts - increasingly make me wonder whether senior Met officers were engaged in some sort of misinformation exercise. If indeed Swanson was kept out of the loop/unaware of what was going on viz a viz Kosminski, but Anderson was involved, what you say might support such a view.

        Thanks,

        Phil

        Comment


        • #5
          In Part II of my trilogy on Macnaghten for The Examiner I called Mac an 'honourable schoolboy' (and yes, I acknowledged that this title is lifted from a Le Carre novel).

          By this I mean Mac was engaged, via Griffiths and Sims, in disinformation though it was not just harmless and prankish, it was also understandable that he created 'Dr D' as he did not want the cruel tabloid searchlight to shine upon the surviving Druitts.

          Incredibly this ruse works to this day, as this and the other site prove.

          I do not believe that there has been a Jack the Ripper 'mystery' since 1959.

          Macnaghten would never have briefed George Sims, one of the leading writers of his day, unless he was certain as you could be about Montie's guilt, whilst he would also never have allowed a deceased, tragic, Anglican, Gentile gentleman -- never arrested let alone charged -- to be recoverable at that time.

          Mac loved his days at Eton, the highlight of his entire life, and he loved Cricket. Here was a Ripper who was a champion cricketer AND who taught at (an admittedly far more modest) public boy's school?!

          By contrast, I think Abberline, Anderson, Swanson, Littlechild, Smith and Reid were honest, to the best of their recollection, and none of them knew anything about Druitt -- as he was a way-too-late suspect known only to the Old Boy Net.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Phil,

            Personally, I welcome alternative ideas, the more left the better they always come across as less dogmatic. It often takes another way of looking at things to find a final clarification.

            I am still considering your idea so I cannot yet give you a full contribution.

            But initially a number of things occur to me.

            It would appear to me very plausible that Swanson wanted to complete what he considered to be an unfinished section of the book, particularly as it centred on an unsolved case that he had been involved in.

            That the annotations were written down at the time of obtaining the information by telephone seems to fit well with where and how the notes were written.

            So it is possible.

            Another thought that occurs to me , as a sort of logical progression, is that if this is true then Swanson may not have agreed with it all, but was merely completing his copy of another person's book.

            Intriguing, and worthy of more consideration and debate.

            Thanks.

            Best wishes.

            Comment


            • #7
              Perhaps the explanation is much more simple than we have imagined. Kosminski is a non-English name with various spelling options. Perhaps Swanson intended to address the plausibility of this suspect at some point and simply made a note of the correct spelling for future reference.

              c.d.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Phil H View Post

                So I began to read the marginalia with that in mind, and as I did so a frsh insight came to me.

                What if Swanson was not setting down his memories or views but simply recording what Anderson had told him?

                I don't think such an interpretation does violence to the language or grammar of the marginalia, and might explain some of its features.

                The scaenario I envisage is as follows:

                Swanson receives a copy of his friend and colleague Anderson's memoirs. He reads the volume with interest but when he comes to the Ripper murders is puzzled by what Anderson says. Some of the discussion of the suspect who was identified is new to swanson and he is intrigued. So, when the two men next talk (either face to face or on the telephone) Swanson asks his old chief what the talk of this suspect is all about. He then notes down almost verbatim what Anderson tells him - the name Kosminski is put in the way it is because it was new to Swanson - or if he knew the name, he was unaware that he was so firmly suspected.

                I can understand that others will say that Swanson must already have known all this, given his role in the case and the instruction that he see all papers. But it seems that the abortive idenification etc took place after the main case had died down and Swanson could have been involved in other things. Alternatively (or in addition) if what occured was at all secret or confidential Anderson may have been involved and Swanson kept out of the loop.

                Such a situation might explain why the marginalia (or at least the first part) is written so closely around the relevant text. Had Swanson been supplying his own separate account augment Anderson's then he might have been expected to begin on the endpapers giving him the space he required.

                If the marginalia is "reportage" - a transcription of what Anderson said as he spoke or immediately after, it would also explain the errors - Swanson did not know the details of arrangements for taking the suspect to the Home (he simply recorded what he was told by Sir Robert). He would not have known why the unusual procedures were followed, or whether the "home" was Seaside or Seaman's. He would have been reliant on Anderson for saying why the witness refused to confirm the identity, and for details about the death of the suspect. Swanson might no longer have followed the case, but he would suppose that Anderson had and that the information was true.

                It seems to me that a reading of the marginalia in this way does not in any way distort the text - any reference to "us" or "we" is merely Swanson recording Anderson's words. It means that we do not have to question Swanson's memory, character or common sense (or his professionalism or propriety as a police officer), yet explains how and why the marginalia came to be written and the form, style they adopt.

                I fully recognise that my perceptions may cut across the agendas or views, interprtation of others, but I do think they are worth considering.

                Of course, I may have missed something crucial and obvious to others which will immediately sink my "theory" and others will recognise that fact. You will, I am sure, tell me if that is so.

                In that spirit I commend this to you.

                Phil
                Its a theory that has been pushed around a lot recently.

                It simply goes against what is known about the various marginalia written by Swanson in his copy TLSoMOL.

                It appears that Swanson did as policeman do ie expands on the written contents.

                And there seems no evidence that Swanson was not in complete control of his mental facalties.

                Pirate
                Last edited by Jeff Leahy; 05-12-2011, 01:39 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pirate Jack View Post

                  It simply goes against what is known about the various marginalia written by Swanson in his copy TLSoMOL.

                  Pirate
                  Did he make other notes then apart from those most of us are familiar with?

                  Best wishes,
                  Steve.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The Swanson Marginalia is neither official, nor was it's opinion or tale publicised or leaked, nor was it known to the man's family -- apparently.

                    It is as private an act as, well, masturbation.

                    If we take it as Swanson's own opinion, and own memory, then it shows him to be arguably unreliable, to the point of being self-servingly so, even if it was only for his own private self-satisfaction.

                    Aaron Kosminski, if that is whom he means, was not dead 'soon after' the final murder, or dead soon after his incarceration -- a much more satisfying element than that he was still with us when the annotation was scribbled.

                    Macnaghten is cognizant in 1894 (and perhaps as late as 1898) that 'Kosminski' was probably still breathing -- and he was. The same police chief who is more reliable about the suspect being still alive, and -- via Sims --- that he was out and about for a very long time after the Kelly murder, also never mentions any positive witness identification by a Jewish witness.

                    That no murders were committed after his being incarcerated is glaringly mistaken. A few days after Coles was murdered and there would have been no need to embarrass themselves with the tabloids if they knew that 'Jack' was 'safely caged'. They could have gone after Sadler for just Coles, not muddied the waters ith the fiend.

                    If Swanson and Anderson already knew, or even thought they knew.

                    But did they ...?

                    It appears the Kelly and Coles murders are being fused as they both involved young and pretty unfortunates; the messy events of 1891 redacted into 1888.

                    The limitation of an entirely private notation is that you can write what you like without being accoutanble to anybody.

                    Interesting too that 'Kosminski' remains bereft of his first name, as he is in the Mac Report(s), and it is the latter source where he first shows up in the extant record as a Ripper 'suspect'.

                    So, if it is Swanson's own opinion then his memory, by 1910 or thereafter, was hopelessly and self-servingly flawed. If, on the other hand, he is only recording Anderson' opinion then it is an egocentric, yet sincere mishmash of suspects, victims and witnesses -- the less said about the better thought the retired Chief Inspector.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Steven Russell View Post
                      Did he make other notes then apart from those most of us are familiar with?

                      Best wishes,
                      Steve.
                      Yes. I the same document you also have Swanson's comments about the journalist 'Known to City CID' with regards the letter.

                      Pirate

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Is there anything in the other annotations, do you feel, that is inconsistent with Swanson recording extra information supplied by Anderson rather than his own recollections?

                        Phil

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jonathan H View Post
                          The Swanson Marginalia is neither official, nor was it's opinion or tale publicised or leaked, nor was it known to the man's family -- apparently.

                          It is as private an act as, well, masturbation.

                          If we take it as Swanson's own opinion, and own memory, then it shows him to be arguably unreliable, to the point of being self-servingly so, even if it was only for his own private self-satisfaction.
                          No more unreliable than MacNaugten who also makes errors.

                          Originally posted by Jonathan H View Post
                          Aaron Kosminski, if that is whom he means, was not dead 'soon after' the final murder, or dead soon after his incarceration -- a much more satisfying element than that he was still with us when the annotation was scribbled..
                          Your having your cake and eating it. If he isnt talking about Aaron how do you know he's made any errors?

                          Aaron is simply the only Kosminski found in the Asylum records who might fit.

                          Originally posted by Jonathan H View Post
                          Macnaghten is cognizant in 1894 (and perhaps as late as 1898) that 'Kosminski' was probably still breathing -- and he was. The same police chief who is more reliable about the suspect being still alive, and -- via Sims --- that he was out and about for a very long time after the Kelly murder, also never mentions any positive witness identification by a Jewish witness.

                          That no murders were committed after his being incarcerated is glaringly mistaken. A few days after Coles was murdered and there would have been no need to embarrass themselves with the tabloids if they knew that 'Jack' was 'safely caged'. They could have gone after Sadler for just Coles, not muddied the waters ith the fiend.

                          If Swanson and Anderson already knew, or even thought they knew.

                          But did they ...?.
                          Well theres the big question. However they were the two guys in charge and they were there when the murders happened. Swanson was arguably the most important officer. And you have shown no reason why he would lie or make stuff up for his own personal reference.

                          Originally posted by Jonathan H View Post
                          It appears the Kelly and Coles murders are being fused as they both involved young and pretty unfortunates; the messy events of 1891 redacted into 1888.

                          The limitation of an entirely private notation is that you can write what you like without being accoutanble to anybody..
                          Except yourself. And why lie to yourself?

                          Originally posted by Jonathan H View Post
                          Interesting too that 'Kosminski' remains bereft of his first name, as he is in the Mac Report(s), and it is the latter source where he first shows up in the extant record as a Ripper 'suspect'.

                          So, if it is Swanson's own opinion then his memory, by 1910 or thereafter, was hopelessly and self-servingly flawed. If, on the other hand, he is only recording Anderson' opinion then it is an egocentric, yet sincere mishmash of suspects, victims and witnesses -- the less said about the better thought the retired Chief Inspector.
                          Its reasonable to assume that one forgets details, facts and dates after a period of time. The memory does make errors, that doesnt necessarily make one senile or unable to remember the key elements to a story.

                          There is no evidence that Swanson didnt stay lucid into old age. None what so ever.

                          Pirate
                          Last edited by Jeff Leahy; 05-12-2011, 12:41 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Phil H View Post
                            Is there anything in the other annotations, do you feel, that is inconsistent with Swanson recording extra information supplied by Anderson rather than his own recollections?

                            Phil
                            Not that I'm aware of.

                            Pirate

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              To Pirate

                              Not once did I suggest deceit on the part of either Anderson or Swanson.

                              Neither is a fading and muddled memory evidence of being ga ga.

                              It is just natural aging processes, especially if there are no documents or files to peruse about the topic.

                              You are, arguably, putting the cart before the horse. eg. Swanson's memory was unimpaired therefore the Marginalia is reliable -- except the bits where it is clearly not.

                              How about, the Marginalia is unreliable therefore this is the evidence of a fading and self-serving memory.

                              I do not subscribe to the entrenched theory that Macnaghten made any errors (except that he just missed the correct spelling of Goulston Street in his memoirs).

                              The point is that what Macnaghten wrote about 'Kosminski' -- and disseminated via Sims -- is closer to the real Aaron Kosminski then what either Anderson and/or Swanson ever said, or wrote, or annotated.

                              Mac's 'error' was to boldly redact the Polish Jew's incarceration into 1889, and this sleight-of-hand, I argue, was absorbed by Anderson and/or Swanson.

                              In his own 1914 memoirs 'Kosminski' and Michael Ostrog are deemed to be, by implication, nothing. Secondary sources completely agree with his opinion about the hapless Russian thief.

                              Comment

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