The Art Student And His Landlady

Approaching the Jack the Ripper murders with tunnel vision – what I mean by that is just focussing on the Whitechapel atrocities – can mean that one misses so much of the everyday life that was going on at the time.

For those who bother to delve a little further, a rich tapestry of human interaction awaits discovery.

Take, for example, the following story that appeared in The Dundee Courier on Monday the 17th of September 1888.

It has nothing to do with Jack the Ripper; and yet, it does provide us with a little glimpse of everyday life in Victorian London:-


A gentleman who stated that he came from New York to pursue art study the National Gallery, attended before Mr Biron at the Westminster Police Court on Saturday for advice, making the prefactory announcement that had had a terrible fuss with his landlady on Friday night.

Mr Biron:- “Had what ?”

The Applicant:- “A terrible shindy.” (Laughter.)


Since I gave her notice to leave the premises, in Sloan Street, this woman has been annoying me in every way she possibly can.

She ran against me in the hall, and when I, with some misgiving, asked her if my wife and were going to have our dinner, the servant having obtained the meat about hour and a half before, she worked herself in such a fearful temper that she almost spat in my face in the vehemence of her language.

She told me to talk to her servant, and stigmatised me as a low American.


Mr Biron:- “Why don’t you leave such a landlady and her apartments?”

The Applicant:- “I went there with some furniture, and was foolish enough to tell her that she might have it and “take it out of the rent.” Instead of that she is taking it out of me – (laughter) – and I could not take it away. I should be positively frightened to try.” (Renewed laughter.)

Mr. Biron:- “It seems that you have made a very ridiculous bargain. You find yourself in an exceedingly embarrassing position.”


The Applicant:- “I do indeed. You can have no conception of such a landlady. She threw a pair of scissors at me, lustily screamed murder, and then caught hold of the lapels of my coat to prevent my escape. Really a most absurd situation.” (Laughter.) For the first time in my life I felt positively frightened.”

Mr Biron:- “Well, you have brought all this unpleasantness on yourself.”

The Applicant:- “Yes, but inadvertently.”


Mr Biron:- “I will send Dengate, one of the warrant officers, to caution this woman while you are there.”

The applicant thanked his Worship, and expressed a hope that the caution would have salutary result.