It seems that, throughout November, 1888, the Jack the Ripper letter writers were extremely busy composing missives that were then sent to those in the public eye, and which, so they claimed, had been written by the perpetrator of the Whitechapel atrocities.
THE ACTRESS AND THE LETTER
One of those who received a letter that purported to have been sent by the murderer was the actress Marie Montrose.
At the time she was a rising star of the Victorian theatre, who would go on to impress audiences and critics alike throughout the 1890’s, as this summary of her career – which appeared in the Illustrated Sporting And Dramatic News, on Saturday 27th January, 1894 – demonstrates:-
MISS MARIE MONTROSE
“Miss Marie Montrose, whose portrait we give this week, is a young and rising burlesque actress, whose successes in the provinces have made her a great favourite.
Her first dramatic ventures were as a child at Drury Lane, and in her earliest teens she sustained a series of minor parts in metropolitan pantomime.
Possessed of a flexible and sympathetic mezzo-soprano voice (which has been cultivated with considerable care), and endowed, moreover, with an engaging style, Miss Montrose rapidly made headway.
She gave provincial playgoers a taste of her quality, first as a juvenile prima donna in comic opera adapted from the French, and later as Tina in My Sweetheart, which she interpreted with much dainty abandon.
Latterly, Miss Montrose has devoted herself exclusively to burlesque. Her pantomime engagements, some five or six in number, have proved very successful. Glasgow, Huddersfield, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol audiences – fairly representative of the provincial critical faculty – have been lavish in their approval.
This Christmas Miss Montrose was selected by Sir Augustus Harris to play the title role in Cinderella, at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle, where she has made a remarkable success.
It is worthy of note that in Mr. James Macready Chute’s pantomime at the Prince’s Theatre, Bristol, last season – one of the best Christmas productions in the provinces – Miss Montrose, although she went to the west as an absolute stranger, carried off the chief honours.
On a plebiscite, arranged in connection with the pantomime, she secured an overwhelming majority.
Miss Marie Montrose was born and educated in London, and it is not long since that she attained her majority. ”
THREATENED BY JACK THE RIPPER
So, as the Whitechapel murders raged in the East End of London, throughout the autumn of 1888, Marie Montrose was touring the country establishing her reputation as a popular and talented actress.
By the time of Mary Kelly’s murder she was appearing in Sheffield; and, whilst doing so, she attracted the attention of one of the Jack the Ripper letter writers.
The following article, giving details of one such epistle, was published in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph on Saturday the 17th of November, 1888:-
“Sheffield has been singularly free, compared with some towns, from “Jack the Ripper” scares, but on Thursday a postcard was received at the Alexandra Theatre, purporting to come from the notorious Whitechapel murderer, threatening Miss Marie Montrose, the leading actress there this week.
Miss Montrose is playing the part of Tina in “My Sweetheart,” and the writer, for some reason best known to himself, has addressed the communication to Tony, Tina’s sweetheart in the play.
On the other side is written:-
“Dear Tony, – I write these few lines to you hoping to find Tina is in good health as it leaves me at present.
I wish I could meet Tina tonight when she has done.
I will try at any rate, and will try the Whitechapel wonder.
I remain yours, JACK THE RIPPER.
I mean what I say”
IN LEAD PENCIL
The writing is in lead pencil, and is surmounted by a rude drawing of a knife.
The writing is small and cramped, and the spelling betrays the fact that the perpetrator of the senseless concoction is a person of the illiterate class.
THE SHOW WENT ON
Miss Montrose, who, despite the prominent part she takes, is exceedingly young, received the effusion with equanimity, and played with her accustomed ability, though the remembrance of the existence of the Whitechapel fiend was necessarily painfully revived.”
THE EARLY BIRD
Despite her youth, it appears that Marie Montrose was not going to let the unknown practical joker, who had singled her out to receive one of the infamous murder missives, stand in the way of her and her audience, as this article, which appeared in the “Green Room Gossip” section of The Sheffield Evening Telegraph on Saturday the 17th of November, 1888, demonstrates:-
“Miss Marie Montrose, who is sustaining the part of Tina this week at the Alexandra, and who was on Thursday the butt of “Jack the Ripper’s” senseless attempt at a joke, is one of the few actresses on the stage sustaining principal parts while yet in their teens.
Miss Montrose will not be nineteen for some months to come.
Some dozen offers have been made to her for pantomime by managers in various parts of the country, but the agreement she is at present under precludes her accepting even the most flattering of them.
Next year she will be free for such an engagement.
Local managers should essay the part of the “Early Bird.”