They All Love Jack

Combing through the Victorian newspapers in search of stories that shine a light onto the everyday lives of the ordinary people of the age can be a rich and a rewarding experience.

A great source of stories that can be both poignant and humorous are the records of the various court appearances that occurred in the 19th century.

Take, for example, the following story that appeared in The Blackburn Standard in its edition of Saturday the 15th of December 1888.

Although, at first glance, it could be about Jack the Ripper – it does, after all, have the same heading that is now the title of a suspect book by Bruce Robinson, the story did, in fact, have nothing to do with the Whitechapel murders:-


At Dalston Police Court, on Wednesday, Joseph Abbott Smallwood, of Richmond Road, Dalston, commercial traveller, was summoned by the Hackney Guardians to show cause why he did not maintain his wife Mary.

The husband, it was said, offered his wife a home: but she had refused, on the ground that her medical man had decided that it was unsafe.


Mrs. Smallwood went into the box and gave details of a very unhappy marriage since 1877.

She had suffered from personal violence at the hands of her husband, and had been physically weak as a consequence, as her doctor told her, of her husband’s misconduct.


Cross-examined, Mary said:-

“I know a young man named Jack Burton. He might have called me “Dear Mary.” He never called me “My darling wife.”

My husband did find 13 or 14 letters from Jack Burton to me. I have been out walking with Jack Burton. He might have kissed me many times, he and his brothers, there were four of them.


Jack was only 18 years old. I may have sent Jack flowers, but I have not received letters from him suggesting improper intimacy.

I did compose the line:-

Oh, come back, my darling,
My dear one, to me,
Thy Susie is breaking
Her poor heart for thee. (Laughter.)


Mr. Horace Smith:- “Your name is not Susie?”

Witness:- “No; but I wrote those lines to no one in particular.”

Mr. Young:-“But the lines are to “Jack”.

A knock and a step
‘Tis my Jack come at last
To his own darling
His sweet, bonnie lass.
Chorus:- Oh, come back my darling, etc. (Laughter.)

At this point the case was adjourned