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One hundred and twenty three years ago today, Jack the Ripper was to claim the first of his five victims, each one brutally murdered in London's East End during in the autumn of 1888.

Over the years, the hope of discovering an identity for the murderer has proved to be quite an industry. The latest suspect is a German merchant by the name of Carl Feigenbaum who was executed in New York's Sing Sing prison in 1894, convicted of the murder of his landlady in Manhattan. And now, a Ripper expert, the former murder squad detective, Trevor Marriott, is convinced that Feigenbaum is 'his man'.

Feigenbaum's lawyer in New York was quite convinced that his client had been Jack the Ripper - presumably because Feigenbaum told him. Marriott has now discovered that a German ship called the Reiher was docked at the time of the murders, and one of the seamen on that ship was Feigenbaum, who therefore was in the vicinity and had the predisposition to carry out such crimes.

The link is somewhat tentative. There is no definitive answer. It seems that the Ripper's identity may well remain a mystery for another hundred years.

For related Jack the Ripper Posts -






The Little Mermaid meets the Prince - by Dulac

Hans Christian AndersEn was the Danish author of many classic fairy tales such as The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid.

Hans Christian Anderson 1805-1875

As the child of a washerwoman and shoe maker, Anderson’s childhood in Odense was one of poverty. His grandfather was said to be mad and his grandmother worked in a lunatic asylum. An aunt ran a brothel and a half-sister was a prostitute who in later life attempted to blackmail her brother. However, despite such a motley crew, Hans' father was always keen to insist that his son was related to Danish royalty. No proof of this claim has ever been found.

When Anderson’s father died, the somewhat prudish and self-obsessed son who used to play with dolls in the street while singing in a lovely high tenor voice, left his home town for Copenhagen where he studied at the university and hoped to pursue a career on the stage. But when that dream failed to materialise, he worked on his writing instead – producing novels, travelogues and poetry – and, in due course, creating the fairy tales that would lead to the fame he always craved –

‘My name is gradually beginning to shine, and that is the only thing I live for...I covet honour in the same way a miser covets gold.’

A recent Danish stamp in honour of Hans Christian Anderson

By the end of his life, the Danish government proclaimed him a national treasure with designs for a statue being made long before his actual death. He was feted by such luminaries as Balzac, Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Dumas, Victor Hugo, Ibsen, Wagner and Liszt. Charles Dickens welcomed him into his home for a visit that lasted five weeks – though there was talk of it being a great strain. Kate Dickens called him a ‘bony bore’ and when Anderson finally left the house Dickens pinned a note to a wall of the room in which his troublesome guest had slept: ‘Hans Anderson slept in this room for five weeks – which seemed to the family AGES.’

When it came to his love life, the lanky, gauche and effeminate writer had very little luck. He felt himself an outsider, and his grief for the lack of a sexual ‘companion’ is shown in this diary entry –

‘Almighty God, thee only have I; thou steerest my fate, I must give myself up to thee! Give me a livelihood! Give me a bride! My blood wants love, as my heart does!’

What he desired remained unrequited. Anderson cultured strange ‘love triangles’ where his wooing of a sister often hid the lust for the brother, as in the case of Riborg Voigt – a letter from whom was found in a pouch on Anderson’s chest at the time of his death. 

Jenny Lind

A courtship of the singer Jenny Lind for whom he wrote The Nightingale led on to her being nicknamed the Swedish nightingale. But again, the ‘affair’ was unconsummated and while the two ‘friends’ were staying in Weimer with Duke Carl Alexander, Anderson was more entranced with their host. The two men were often seen holding hands,sobbing over their mutual adoration of Jenny while the duke – ‘... told me he loved me and pressed his cheek to mine...received me in his shirt with only a gown around...pressed me to his breast, we kissed...’  

But it was Andersen’s life-long love for Edvard Collins (whose sister he also courted) that inspired him to write The Little Mermaid – a story of obsessive longing and pain, and the intense desire to be ‘transformed’ which the author expressed in this letter –

‘I languish for you as for a pretty Calabrian wench...my sentiments for you are those of a woman. The femininity of my nature and our friendship must remain a mystery.

The VV is now inspired to read The Little Mermaid again - and no doubt to view the story in quite a different light.



Feeling very Undancy by Arthur Rackham

There was a point in her youth when, much to her mother's dismay, the VV felt very 'undancy', preferring to stay in her bedroom and dream, and that bedroom painted a very dark green, with oriental shawls and fans, and peacock feathers and pampas grasses and, in pride of place, above her bed, not the usual posters of pop stars, but some poignantly beautiful printed cards with softly rounded corners depicting the seductively inky illustrations of the Victorian artist, Arthur Rackham.

Arthur Rackham 1867 - 1939 - a self portrait

How serious and respectable Arthur looks in this self portrait, more like an accountant from the 1950's than a man who created such magical scenes of fairytales and myths. But then, he did indeed work as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office before going on to study part time at the Lambeth School of Art.

Fairy on a Spider's Web

At the age of twenty five, Arthur left his 'serious' job and began a career in book illustration, devising a gritty, realistic technique which involved sketching an outline in pencil and then blocking in some colour, before adding detail in india ink. Sometimes this 'sepia' monotone look was enhanced with watercolours, building up layers of transparent tints. He also worked with silhouettes and was inspired by Japanese woodblocks.

A decidely Japanese influence in this illustration taken from Das Rhiengold

The director, Guillermo Del Toro says that Rackham inspired his work, notably the faun in Pan's Labyrinth - as well as the tree that grows out of a Scottish church altar in Hellboy which Del Toro called the 'Rackham Tree'.

The faun in Pan's Labryinth

Arthur Rackham is still inspiring the VV's imagination today while she writes a new novel based on a Victorian artist. His work was very prolific and though filled with romance, it is rarely 'twee'- perhaps due to the clarity and truth of  line, which is also something to be said of another favourite illustrator, the contempory artist, P J Lynch. 

The Rhienmaidens from The Ring

There is a wealth of Rackham's work to view online, as well as still being available in many children's classic books, from the stories of the Brother's Grimm, and Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland. to the Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, or English Fairy Tales, or Peter Pan, or The Ring - to touch on but a few.  

Here is just one of the tributes to his work found on Youtube - Enjoy!