The Whitechapel Unfortunates

The Pall Mall Budget, on Saturday, 24th November, 1888, published the following article that took a harsh – and it must be said offensive – view of the lives of the Whitechapel unfortunates:-


“While every one must admire the spirit of Mr. Walter Hazell’s letter in the Times, in which he offers £50 to a fund to provide against a sudden and large influx of unfortunates from the streets, we fear that he somewhat underrates the difficulties of the problem with which he proposes to deal.

He says: “Now is the opportunity to offer to these poor people, who at all times deserve our sympathy and help, a specially open invitation to forsake their evil lives and to return “to the paths of virtue.”

By all means let us extend them a special open invitation, but how can they accept it unless for the rest of their lives they are offered board and lodging at the public expense?


If any one imagines that it is an easy thing to provide employment for a middle-aged woman who most unfeignedly repents and reforms, we fear his first practical experiment would bring about a cruel disillusion.

What, then, is the chance of providing means of livelihood for a host of unfortunates who do not repent, who are not anxious to leave their evil life, and who, above all things in this world, long for gin?

It is a grim tragedy of despair, no doubt, that we are witnessing so grim as sometimes to madden those who are con fronted with its realities, but it is not so pathetic as the unavailing struggle of the decent woman to earn a decent livelihood, and who finds herself driven steadily step by step backward into the abyss from which even the knife of the Whitechapel murderer may be regarded as a merciful deliverance.


So utterly hopeless it some times seems to try to get a subsistence wage for a decent woman, that we have often wondered whether, after all, it would not be well to allow the hard-driven woman at least a choice of suicide as alternative to vice.

If in every town there were established an asphyxiating chamber, in which on due declaration being made the applicant, having exhausted all means of procuring employment, preferred to die rather than to purchase the means of existence by a life of shame, we fear it would be much more used than people imagine.


Much the most gruesome contribution to the Whitechapel horrors is that which appears in the Standard from its Vienna correspondent.

According to Dr. Bloch, a Galician member of the Reichsrath, there is no more inveterate superstition among German thieves than the belief that a candle made from the the missing portions of the victims in Whitechapel will throw all those upon whom its light falls into the deepest slumber. Such candles are, therefore, invaluable to burglars.

In 1810 a man was executed at Madgeburg at whose trial it was proved that “a regular manufactory had been, established by gangs of thieves for the production of such candles.”

“A regular manufactory!” Did ever the diseased imagination of Edgar Allan Poe conceive a more ghastly idea than this systematic manufacture of thieves’ candles from the vitals of their murdered victims?”