Rediscovered: The Poet Jack

It’s been mentioned before on These Mean Streets, but among the numerous hobbies and preoccupations — Autograph Hound, Two-Gun Bob fan — of Brian Leno, he’s got an interest in Ripperology, and herewith marks a grim anniverary:

On September 30, 1888,  one hundred thirty-two years ago, Jack the Ripper killed two women, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. The ladies were not murdered at the same time. 

Stride went first, with the Ripper, perhaps through fear of discovery, being forced to leave her body before he could work his usual mutilation upon it. Eddowes, found about 45 minutes after Stride, was not so lucky. 

The Ripper was not too kind with her body and had time to work his trademark hideous transformations on the corpse.

This double murder has become known, to Ripperologists, as the “double event.”

Of course no one knows who the Ripper was, although many candidates have been brought forth, and one of these names is Francis Thompson, poet, author of “The Hound of Heaven.”

Around the time that Jack was roaming the streets of Whitechapel, Thompson was suffering an addiction to opium and was pretty down and out. He was rescued by an unnamed prostitute, with the proverbial heart of gold.

According to the story she let Thompson share her rooms, and provided him with food. When she realized he had the makings of a great poet she left him, not wanting to stand in the way of his chance at happiness.

She disappeared and Thompson never told anyone her name.

Some other stories, a bit more sinister, postulate that she vanished, but it was under the knife of the Ripper–perhaps one of Thompson’s first kills.

Of course this is hogwash, but it makes for an interesting story. Jack’s true identity, hopefully, will always remain unknown.

The book pictured is the first edition of Thompson’s Poems, from 1893. It has a Slipcase and two bookplates, Reverend Paul J. Barry and William Crampton.

But the most interesting thing is what one of these gentlemen affixed to the book with a little glue. It’s a library ticket from February 16, 1901 with Francis Thompson asking to look at a copy of a book by E. T. Hoffmann.

As you can see it bears Thompson’s signature, and I think that’s great. Only example of his autograph I’ve come across, but I would guess he’s signed a few things — all authors of books have signed copies floating around but this is the first I’ve seen of Thompson’s.

So there you go, Jack the Ripper’s signature. Or maybe not.

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