This famous illustration by John Tenniel shows a policeman wearing a blindfold that also covers his ears and nose, flailing into space as various criminal types converge around him. A satirical comment on the Metropolitan Police’s ineptitude at detection, the poem that accompanies the illustration is, if anything, even more savage. Talking of the slums of East London, it reads in part:
Haunts from of old these dens of darksome slime.
There, where well-armed authority fears to tread,
Murder and outrage rear audacious head,
This was one of several illustrations that Tenniel produced at the onset of what would become known as The Whitechapel Murders. Between 1888 and 1891, eleven women were knifed to death in the district. The extremity of some of the attacks – which included disembowelment and organ removal – and the fact that most of the victims were prostitutes led police to assume a single culprit for most of the killings. Five days after this illustration was published, the Central News Agency in London received a letter – signed ‘Jack’ – from a person claiming to be responsible for the murders. He became known in popular culture as ‘Jack The Ripper’, though his real identity was never discovered. Indeed, none of the Whitechapel Murders has ever been solved.
Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914) was the principle political cartoonist for Punch magazine for fifty years, but is perhaps best known to modern audiences as the original illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking-Glass.
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- Crime and crime fiction
The unidentified killer known as Jack the Ripper murdered a series of women in the Whitechapel area of London during 1888. Judith Flanders explores how the excitement and fear surrounding the mysterious murderer made its way into late-Victorian literature.