Sherlock Holmes is reading A Cure for Cecily by Annabelle Troy. It’s a dark Victorian tale of romance, insanity and passion. Cecily, a young artist, is locked away in an asylum by her wealthy husband; she rebels by running away with a sympathetic doctor–but at what price? The book is available for free on Amazon Nov. 13-17:
Now back to Jack. For obvious reasons, Sherlock has had a lifelong fascination with this case. There’s even a movie called Murder by Decree, in which Christopher Plummer plays Holmes tracking down the Ripper, who turns out to be the son of Queen Victoria. In real life, Australian author Richard Patterson has spent decades positing the theory that Jack was poet Francis Thompson, born a doctor’s son, December 1859. After failing to become a priest he spent six years studying surgery–but even after three attempts was unable to pass his exams. He started to write poetry and, in 1879, became addicted to opium, which was prescribed to him for a lung infection. (Were there any Victorian poets who did NOT have weak lungs?) Drug-addicted, he became a vagrant who lived mostly in the Dockland area of London, expiring unmourned in 1907; at the time of his death he weighed only 70 pounds. His poem, The Hound of Heaven, beloved by Oxford theologian types, would ultimately sell 50,000 copies.
The Ripper murders would have happened when Francis–incidentally, he was named for St. Francis of Assisi by his mother, a convert to Catholicism–was 29 years old. It was said he always carried a scalpel around with him which he used, Sweeney Todd-like, to shave. Though The Hound of Heaven depicts a soul pursued by God, he also wrote poems about women being murdered under creepy circumstances, and he was known to have once lived with his lover, an East End prostitute. If Patterson’s theory is correct the 1888 killing spree of five ladies of the night would have been undertaken right after Francis’s lover left him. Patterson has thought Francis was Jack since the 1990’s but his theory has only recently been taken seriously. To quote from The Hound of Heaven:
“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled HIm, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind…” Do you think Thompson was Jack the Ripper? And if so who will play him in the inevitable movie?