An idea of how people the world over came to perceive the streets of the East End of London in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s can be gleaned from a perusal of various newspapers. indeed, the press coverage fostered an image the East End streets – and of the people who lived in them – as being lawless, immoral and dangerous.
The Gainesville Weekly Ozark County News, on Thursday, 14th August, 1890, published the following article, that was written by journalist Arthur Warren, that painted a depressing picture of the district, and which must have resulted in the readers of his article closing their papers with a sigh of despair and a determination to never venture into a district that was, evidently, totally uncivilised:-
WHITECHAPEL BY NIGHT
HORRIBLE SCENES OF MISERY AND RIBALDRY
A Waste Of Wickedness In London
“There goes Jack the Ripper.” It was not a cry of alarm that was heard on the Whitechapel pavement, yet it was a woman’s cry; the gin-voiced shout of a young girl who ambled along the sidewalk in draggled skirts; with a tattered shawl over her Shoulders, her greasy, scraggy hair uncovered, her face bloated, her eyes blind, a creature horrible to look upon.
The cry she uttered was meant in jest. It was her idea of fun, and was taken up by a group of her kind, all shouting after a respectable stranger who had come to Whitechapel for curiosity’s sake.
“There goes Jack the Ripper;” the woman laughed hoarsely, and the cry was taken up by the rough men lounging along the streets.
NOTHING SO FUNNY
You might have thought, had you known nothing of the Whitechapel murders, that there was nothing so funny in the world as Jack the Ripper.
Yes, they sported with the assassin’s name tonight here in horrible Whitechapel, and I heard women in the gin shops drinking to the murderer’s health. They were merry in their cups according to their ideas of merriment, and they flaunted out upon the street, some laughing at the murderer’s name, some venting incoherent defiance.
A TYPICAL SATURDAY NIGHT
Tonight was a typical Saturday night in Whitechapel. The East end seemed to have turned its million people into the broad highway and the principal byways.
I went all through Whitechapel tonight, far from the garish high road to the back alleys, and the stuffy, dingy courts. Narrow and crooked and dark were the streets.
There may have been a thousand policemen lurking in dark corners, but for ten minutes at a time I did not see one, and I went into places so lonely and wretched and gloomy that the sight of them almost made one’s flesh creep.
SLUMS DESIGNED FOR MURDER
One does not go alone into Whitechapel byways after dark, and we were glad to get away from the horrible slums that seemed to have been designed for murder.
It is very easy, altogether too easy, to lose one’s way in these East End labyrinths, and the people one meets there are not likely to be friendly.
They are burly ruffians, foul-mouthed women, evil-looking beggars, cut-throats, pick-pockets, rascals of all nationalities.
THE SADDEST SIGHT OF ALL
At every turning you hear sounds of fighting; you hear oaths and shrieks and blows and ribald songs and drunken brawls; you see humanity of all ages, all in rags, but, saddest of all sights, are the children.
There must be more children in proportion to the population in Whitechapel than anywhere else in the world. They swarm everywhere; they seem to get into the streets as soon as they are born, and as soon as they can talk they brawl and swear and lie, and then it is only a step to stealing, and the whole catalogue of crimes.
PEOPLE OUT ON THE STREETS
It has been warm tonight in Whitechapel, and everybody who could do so got into the streets for air, or for what passes for air in the overpopulated East End.
I am sure Whitechapel was never more horrible than it is tonight.
All its wretchedness and vileness and brutality came forth, sickening to look at, deafening to hear, depressing to think of, and then, perhaps, Jack the Ripper was prowling among the crowds, with his knife sharpened and ready.”