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Editorial In My End Is My Beginning By Eduardo Zinna Winter is the bleakest, longest lingering season of the year. It is a time for sad tales and ashenskies, short-lived days and gloomy evenings, the sound of snow crunched underfoot, the glow ofdistant fires, the falling of light across barren fields. People grow sullen and morose in winter.Birds sing their songs in warmer lands; snakes and bats go into a dreamless sleep; plants and cropsweaken, wither and die. The landscapes of winter are alien and forlorn. Hans Andersen recalls theSnow Queen’s castle, whose walls were of the driven snow and whose windows and doors were ofthe biting winds, and where a child’s heart was a lump of ice. Plutarch tells of a faraway landwhere the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are spoken, and after some timethaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until spring. Every season remembers the seasons that came before it and longs for those to come. The harshest winter has mem-ories of summer and dreams of spring. Under the frozen, hardened earth, seditious life thrives. The soil grows richerand more nourishing; seeds prepare to sprout, bulbs to open, buds to unfurl. As the world goes deeper into darkness,it comes closer to light; as it goes deeper into death, it comes closer to rebirth. Each day is born at dawn, lives throughnoon and dies at dusk. The seasons succeed one another. The old gods are born, live, die, descend into the underworldand are reborn. In their end is their beginning. In ancient times, people dispensed with the rigours of astronomy. For them, winter did not begin with the wintersolstice, on 21 December, to end three months later with the vernal equinox; it began in early November, as soon asthe sun grew weaker and the days shorter and colder, and ended in February, when a faint intimation of future warmthcoloured the frosty air. The solstice marked midwinter — the moment when the wheel of the year is at its low point,ready to rise again. In London, in the autumn of 1888, a man killed. No one knows how many times he killed or why. Only the womenhe killed saw his face, heard his voice and, perhaps, knew his name. He came by night and vanished with daylight. Aswinter set in, he vanished forever. For a few weeks they continued to fear him. Then came the rituals of midwinter,when love and joy are strongest and the demons of the soul are banned. Christmas came and men and women dreamedof peace on earth. As winter waned and spring slowly waxed, darkness and fear dissolved. Life began again. The man who killed is long dead, as anonymous in death as he was in life. He left no trace of his presence, no recordof his thoughts. Yet many imagined him and told tales about him. They called him by one name and many names. Theydressed him in formal attire or a cutaway jacket, an opera cloak or a woollen overcoat, a top hat or a cloth cap. Somegave him a black Gladstone bag to carry in his white-gloved hand. They all gave him a sharp knife and cold, cruel eyes.His name, his real name, is neither known nor remembered. But the wraithlike, terrifying shape that haunts the nar-row, fog-bound alleyways of London’s East End has never been forgotten. In the dead of night, when fires burn low andthe wind blows outside, his pale figure, his atrocious crimes and the terror he wrought are remembered. Perhaps theyalways will. In his end was his beginning. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 1
The Cremers Memoirs :Another Crumbled PillarBy Howard Brown One of the five major elements or pillars which comprised the edifice supporting the now widely discredited Ripper suspect Robert D’Onston Stephenson’s candidacy was the 1930s exchange of com- munication between reporter and author Bernard O’Donnell and Baroness Vittoria Cremers, an inti- mate of Stephenson’s. The exchange of information between O’Donnell and Cremers, of which there is no tangible evidence left, to our knowledge, may be found in the body of work compiled over a 30-year period (from roughly 1930 to 1958) in what is known as the “O’Donnell Manuscript.” We have no idea whether Mr. O’Donnell ever intended to publish this tome, which is 370 pages long and is delineated into ten chapters, but we do have it available to us today on one of the major Ripper web- sites, JTRForums.com.1 Bernard O’Donnell Within the tome are the recollections of Mrs. Cremers, transcribed by Mr. O’Donnell, known as the “Cremers Memoirs.” Mrs. Cremers had also been an intimate of Aleister Crowley, the notorious British occultist, and it was from Crowley that O’Donnell first heard of Mrs.Cremers’s story a few years prior to the development of Mr. O’Donnell’s work in 1930. Another version of Cremers’s story appeared in the form of a newspaper article in the November 30th, 1929, East Anglian Daily Times, written by a former Parisian policeman, Pierre Girouard. Little of value can be taken from this latter article, as most of it is a mishmash of other stories, mis- remembered or haphazardly constructed for the reader. A copy of this article may be found on pages 141-143 of The True Face of Jack The Ripper by the late Melvin Harris. Work still needs to be undertaken to determine whether all of what Mrs. Cremers offers within the O’Donnell Manuscript actually came from her without some rearrangement. Not that anything was added to her statements, but perhaps some of the dialogue was rearranged by Mr. O’Donnell to give the reader a more entertaining story overall. The Cremers Memoirs pillar stood somewhat on its own in the previous attempts to make Robert D’Onston Stephenson a viable Ripper suspect. It 1 You, the reader, may read the document in its entirety free without any required enlisting or joining JTRForums.Com Ripperologist 98 December 2008 2
is a wholly independent and ostensibly factual recounting of the year-and-a-half relationship between Cremers and Stephenson, who by the fall of1889 (actual start of the liaison date is unknown) had been living near to oractually with Minna Mabel Collins (the British theosophist and author of theBlossom and the Fruit and other Theosophist novels), in Southsea, England.All three went into a business relationship selling cosmetics in 1890, thefirm being named (and who came up with the name is unknown) ThePompadour Cosmetique Company, with its office on Baker Street in London. Let us begin with Mrs. Cremers’s comments on her interest in theWhitechapel Murders. From what she stated, she had only a marginal inter-est in the murders, gleaning whatever she knew about the murders fromthe headlines of the various tabloids. She lived in London in 1888 and thenwent abroad, not returning until February 1890. It is interesting to notethat no one—until now, perhaps—has considered that there actually mayhave been an earlier understanding that Cremers and Collins would go intobusiness together without Stephenson, and quite possibly into the realm ofpresenting fashion shows. Collins, as I have found through my own research,did write articles for London newspapers regarding fashion expositions in Madame Helena Blavatskythe city. Although Cremers never received a reply from Collins to herrequest in 1889 about a business and pleasure arrangement, it may wellhave been agreed upon when Cremers and Collins met in March of 1890 before any subsequent business “idea” had beenthrown in D’Onston’s direction. Cremers, like Collins, had been a Theosophist devotee of Helena Blavatsky, the guru of global Theosophy. Cremers men-tions that it was in December of 1888, probably within the early part of that month, when she chanced to hear the twoKeightley brothers, Bertram and Archibald (two leading representatives of theosophy), and Mme. Blavatsky poring overthe recent article in the Pall Mall Gazette from December 1st (the front page story), entitled, “The Whitechapel Demon’sNationality and Why He Committed The Murders,” written by someone using the nom de plume, “One Who Thinks HeKnows”. Cremers observed that the three felt that the author of this piece was the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres2 and thatthe three occultists were particularly interested in the “black magic” angle on which the author of the piece focused.Cremers, as mentioned, was not interested in the Whitechapel Murders, and let the incident slip her mind until sometimelater. Mabel Collins, likewise, felt that the author might well have been the Earl. It might seem to modern readers that Cremers, who one would assume had more than a marginal interest in occultistevents, also would have been as interested in the Whitechapel Murders as the readers of this article. But, according toCremers herself, she was indifferent to the East End crimes that had captivated the British people and in fact, the entireworld, in the fall of 1888. This is not the sole instance in our study of Cremers (of whom no known photograph exists—save for a nearly impossible to obtain caricature drawn by Aleister Crowley), where she displays an indifference that issomewhat disturbing, if at all real. Without reproducing the body of the Cremers Memoirs, available on Jack The Ripper Forums, I will bring up some ofthe more important aspects of the Cremers dialogue for your perusal. I am sure you will see the absurdity of theseMemoirs. Not, perhaps, as fully as I do, but at least so in several areas that defy common sense and rational behavior,2 Debate exists whether Balcarres actually was an occultist and perhaps in the future the truth to the matter will emerge. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 3
regardless of any high falutin ‘worldview’ preached by a rank and file Theosophy hanger-on. Cremers was a virtual nonentity in the world of Theosophy and no known work was ever produced during her years involved with this coterie of oddballs from the Leisure Class. Before I begin, allow me to point out that the real author of the Pall Mall Gazette article was Robert D’Onston Stephenson, using one of a handful of nom de plumes he would employ in writing his vari- ous, if all too few, articles during his life. It is noteworthy to mention that there are at least four errors in the December 1st piece. Let us now look briefly at what “One Who Thinks He Knows”, did not know. That is, the author claimed: 1. That the author of the Goulston Street message left the infamous twelve-word message over the body in Mitre Square near the spot where Mrs. Catherine Eddowes was found—it was left on Goulston Street. 2. That a certain portion of a harlot was necessary to implement a “black magic ritual” and that was the intent of the WhitechapelSir Charles Warren examining the Goulston Street Graffito Murderer. This is false. There are no known rituals that need oremploy organs or portions of dead prostitutes to fabricate black magic rituals.3. That the Whitehall Mystery was part and parcel of the Whitechapel Murders and with this murder site in mind,Stephenson constructed a “cross” within his article and by adding this atrocity to the existing Whitechapel murders, heoffered up seven victims of the same killer. While it is impossible to prove that the Whitechapel Murderer did not performthe dismemberment of the torso found in the basement of Scotland Yard, it is overwhelmingly unlikely. Few have evercontemplated that the Whitehall Mystery was indeed linked to the Whitechapel Murder Case.4. The fourth error is the lead-pipe cinch assumption by Stephenson, and likewise one or two other researchers who havepromoted Stephenson as the Ripper, that the second word in the Goulston Street message was written in cursive. Fromthis, Stephenson (and the researchers) arrived at the conclusion that was that this word could have indicated Juives. Andthat is the seminal gist of Stephenson’s article: That a Frenchman committed the murders. The October 8th missive from Sir Charles Warren to Home Secretary Matthews does employ cursive type, written in fivelines. However, Stephenson was not and could not have been privy to this official police document. It remains to be seenwhether the actual writing on the wall was in script or in cursive and regardless, two independent police officers at theactual location, Detective Constable Halse of the City police and P Long of the Metropolitan police, both indicated that .C.the word contained a “u” (Juews, by Long as opposed to Juwes, by Halse). Stephenson, confined to the Currie Ward inthe London Hospital on or around October 16th, 1888, wrote an earlier version of the December 1st article, when heoffered up his version of events to the City of London police, dated October 16th,1888. Needless to say, he was not at thescene at the Wentworth Model Dwellings, when the message was found, on Sept. 30th, 751888. It is worth bearing in mind these four (and possibly other, more minute) errors within the “hospital bed” version ofevents transpiring on the streets of the East End written by D’Onston, when we encounter the following statement by Mrs.3 The True Face of Jack The Ripper, Melvin Harris, 1994, Michael OMara Books, Limited, p.244. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 4
Cremers3 “Who but the murderer himself could possibly know the thingsD’Onston has told me?” Coupled with the “indifference” she mentionedearlier to the actual reports describing the horrific details of the murdersback in 1888, it is not hard to see how Cremers could be persuaded toaccept that what D’Onston told her was an accurate accounting of themurders. Mrs. Cremers did not know that Stephenson was in the London Hospitalin late 1888 when the murders transpired. She did know he was in thefacility in 1889 and it was because of the two articles D’Onston submit-ted in January and February of 1889 to the Pall Mall Gazette that MabelCollins eventually liased with Stephenson. Let us now look briefly at some of the pronouncements—one of whichwill be a first-ever observation made by this researcher—and statementsfound within the Cremers Memoirs. We are told, by Cremers, that Collins referred to Stephenson as a won-derful magician at the outset of their relationship. However, at no timeduring the entire period covered by Mrs. Cremers’s memoirs doesStephenson so much as pull a rabbit out of a hat. There simply is no evi-dence within the Cremers Memoirs that suggests Stephenson practicedany magic, far less black magic. Either in front of Cremers or anyoneelse—period. In fact, the only time Stephenson discusses black magic is inthe ridiculously fictional accounts of exploits he claims to have experi-enced in 1896, in Borderland, a magazine published by the one time editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, W. T. Stead. We learn from Cremers that there were “many quarrels” between Collins and Stephenson because of the “inability ofD’Onston to forget Ada”. It may come to a surprise to the reader, but the “Ada Louise” story which may be found in the1892 article published by Stead once more, in Review of Reviews, New Year’s Extra Number and entitled, “Dead Or Alive”is just another rehashing of an old English “lovers story” that predates D’Onston’s rendition by many years, entitled, “TheLovers of Porthangwartha”. That’s right. This Ada Louise is a fictional individual. Whatever the quarrel betweenStephenson and Collins was about, its hard to understand why or how a fictional story and fictional character—one hewould write about for Stead within a year’s time—could cause the degree of tension between these two. We learn from Cremers that D’Onston casually told her one fine day some very revealing inside information regardingCremers and her relationship with Collins. This was potent enough to incense Cremers (living with Jack The Ripper appar-ently wasn’t alarming enough, one surmises) to the point where she confronted Collins and from that point on the Cremers-Collins relationship was little more than The logo for the Pompadour Cosmetic Company superficial, as was Cremers’s with Stephenson. That she became as angry with Collins and Stephenson because of this betrayal of trust is not hard to under- stand. Yet, where is the shock and revulsion when she believes he is Jack The Ripper? We now move on to the most contentious issue of the whole of the Cremers Memoirs, which is the dis- covery of some stained and soiled ties in a black enamel deed box that the less-than-agile Cremers Ripperologist 98 December 2008 5
complained of bumping her shin on from time to time in the offices of the Pompadour Cosmetique Co. back in the neigh-borhood of Sherlock Holmes’ old digs, Baker Street. Curious as to the real surname of Stephenson (of which I am of the opinion that Collins and Cremers really knew, butthat’s for another time and article), we learn that their attempts at ascertaining his true identity were stymied, but nev-ertheless Cremers was compelled to investigate two items, one a deed box and the other a trunk in which Stephensonkept his possessions. The trunk was opened at one point and letters that Collins had originally sent Stephenson wereremoved and given back to Collins by Cremers, eventually resulting in a legal suit brought against Collins by Stephensonthat was ultimately dropped. The other item is the legendary black enamelled deed box. From this box, the 100-year-oldsaga of bloody cravats or ties has encouraged Ripperologists to take a serious look at the potential complicity ofStephenson in the Ripper murders. One afternoon, Cremers recalled, tackled the deed box, but her first attempt at opening it failed. She didn’t have thekey required to open the box. What she also mentioned—and bear in mind that this has never been mentioned before inprint until this researcher recently stumbled upon it—is that that there were two locks on the deed box.4 Nothing wasever mentioned before about the two locks problem until now. Before I proceed, one mini-mystery in the reading of these memoirs is why Cremers was so intensely interested in the“true” identity of D’Onston. For some reason, this interest and disbelief is never explained at all in the whole of theO’Donnell Manuscript, because neither Cremers or Collins believed his surname was D’Onston as he evidently stated itwas. This is a mystery in itself. Why would they doubt his surname in the first place? But, for now, let us go back to thatdeed box. Possessing a previously unacknowledged talent for locksmithing, Cremers, armed only with her observation as to whattype of lock was on the box (as she left the actual box back at Baker Street), scoured the neighborhood for a shop fromwhence she could find an appropriate key. Her attempts were to no avail. She then went into another, undisclosed, neighborhood, whereupon, Eureka! She miraculously discovered the right key!There’s just one problem. How did she open the second lock? Up until this point in time, this seeming gaffe by Cremershas never been mentioned. It makes everything to follow even more suspicious and makes one question whether this dis-covery ever transpired in the first place. Giving Cremers the benefit of the doubt, it is noteworthy that at the time she first spied the ties or cravats at the bot-tom of Stephenson’s deed box it contained, according to Cremers, books on magic and other subjects and the impressionis given that it is a rather deep box. She did not, however, mention that the ties appeared to be blood stained! Stephenson,of course, provided her with the basis of what she ultimately referred to as blood on those ties when she liased withCrowley years later. There’s no evidence, and I’m confident none will ever be forthcoming, to demonstrate what was actu-ally on those ties, be it water or wine—or the blood of harlots. Nor, for that matter, is there any evidence that the ties-in-the-deed-box story ever really happened. Once she were of the opinion that she was in fact sharing living space (she, on the third floor, he, on the first) with“Jack The Ripper” in the building on Baker Street, one would think that even the most blase and indifferent Theosophistwould hightail it out of town for fear of being suspected of any shenanigans regarding touching Stephenson’s personal pos-sessions. And if there were no enough, the knowledge of Stephenson’s possible complicity in the Whitechapel Murdersplight to have had her running for safety. Yet, nothing of the sort transpires. Cremers’s indifference to his being Jack The Ripper is astounding. Like her previousindifference to the reports and details of the murders some 18 months prior, her indifference to actually being around and4 The True Face of Jack The Ripper, Melvin Harris, 1994, Michael OMara Books, Limited, p.77 Ripperologist 98 December 2008 6
conversing with Jack The Ripper is unfathomable. She, in her ownwords, accepts that since Donston-as-Ripper has told her that no moremurders would occur that was sufficient for her to not worry one bitas to any future murders of strangers and/or intimates in the BigSmoke. Thank goodness, for that, eh? She easily moves from the extreme act of burgling his deed box todiscover his “true” identity to a feeling of serenity that he would nolonger kill again on the streets of Whitechapel and, moreover, acceptsliving in the same building as Jack The Ripper. Read that last sentenceten times to get the full impact of the absurdity of her behavior Cremers and D’Onston-as-Ripper dissolved their relationship aroundthe summer of 1891. The final event in their relationship occurred,according to Cremers, this way. Cremers lived at 21 Montague Place ina residence managed by a Mrs. Heilmann. Somehow—and we do notknow how—D’Onston found out where she was living and began to slipnotes to Mrs. Cremers under the door of 21 with requests for money.She rejected and dismissed the three or four requests up until thepoint where D’Onston appeared to bear his fangs. The last note left by Stephenson read, in part, “I would not fail ifI were you . . . keep this to yourself.” The last section was underlined. Aleister Crowley, One wonders, however, if these events ever occurred, since the let-ters could have been picked up by any of the other (at least four) boarders in Mrs. Heilmann’s building. And by virtue ofthis fact, someone else picking up any of the four letters may have responded by calling the police to investigate whatwas obviously (to any unknowing party) a threatening letter. Cremers became aware of the unmarked missives throughStephenson’s handwriting and that he was on the mooch for money from the Baroness, now living in an apartment houselike a commoner. The final episode in this letters event finds Cremers being asked to meet Stephenson-the-Ripper at midnight—and todo so alone. Spooky stuff, perhaps, to you or me, but to the ballsy Baroness, it is standard fare. She, after all, is com-pletely indifferent to the 1888 murders, so why should one more rendezvous with the Ripper disturb her, I hear you say. Mrs. Heilmann is apprised of the situation and suggests with good common sense that Cremers should notify the police.But Cremers decides against this sensible maneuver and asks two men who live in the Heilmann boarding house to standguard in the alcove just in case D’onston has something violent up his sleeve. Sure enough, D’Onston shows up and is handed a sovereign, a full pound. He originally asked for only a half-crown (2s6d), which puzzled Cremers, who by the tone and insistency of D’Onston’s missives had expected a rather heftier sumbeing requested. He turns away and walks away into the pitch black midnight . . . never more to see Cremers. She confided all this to Aleister Crowley, who had undoubtedly heard of the deed box and ties story from her, as shewas his secretary some time later early in the 20th Century and from this collaboration with Crowley, the seed was plant-ed for the inevitable Bernard O’Donnell manuscript. From her “experiences” with this bogus Jack The Ripper, the momentum to make this hack fiction writer, but aboveall innocent man, the Whitechapel Murderer fulfilled itself in 1988, when Melvin Harris proudly introduced the world to5 The True Face of Jack The Ripper, Melvin Harris, 1994, Michael OMara Books, Limited, p. 84 Ripperologist 98 December 2008 7
this alleged occultist, doctor, Satanist, venereal diseased, intrepid world traveler and consort to prostitutes from Hull toHanbury Street on the Centennial year (1988) television program, “Secret Identity Of Jack The Ripper”, hosted by PeterUstinov and featuring Ripperologists Martin Fido and Donald Rumbelow. From then on, three books promoting him specif-ically used these very same Cremers’ memoirs as some sort of proof he was not only an extremely plausible suspect, butthat he practiced black magic. Neither accusation is correct. How did Vittoria Cremers, who died in 1936, rationalize her behavior after “discovering” D’Onston Stephenson wasJack The Ripper? Let us remember once more these words that Melvin Harris stated rather boldly were “sound reason-ing”:5 I am a Theosophist. I believe that whatever we do upon this plane we shall reap our deserts [sic] in the next incar-nation. I believe that we shall be rewarded or punished according to our life on earth. It is not for me to interfere withthe laws which govern destiny. I did not do it then, I would do it now. You will remember that D’Onston had alreadyassured me in the clearest possible terms that there would be no more Ripper murders and that the last one had beencommitted on 9 November, 1888. He had spoken truly; there were no Ripper murders during the 21 months which hadelapsed between that date and the time of our talk. Consequently I felt quite certain that, being the murderer, he knewwhat he was talking about. That there would be no more murders by Jack The Ripper. I knew that there was no dangerto others.ReferencesThe True Face of Jack The Ripper, Melvin Harris, 1994, Michael OMara Books, Limited.The O’Donnell Manuscript, unpublished but available for reading and research at http://www.jtrforums.com/. Written byBernard O’Donnell, circa 1958.AcknowledgementsNina BrownJohn SavageMark FranzoiMike CovellGraham WilsonSpiro DimolianisRobert Linfordand last, but not least, Jon “Big Jon” Rees , of JTR Forums.com Howard Brown (seen with his wife and fellow Ripperologist Nina Brown) was born in Philadelphia 55 years ago and is the father of 2 daughters & 3 grandsons. He has worked in the plastics manufacturing field for 33 years and has lived in Alabama,Virginia,and Texas. He has also coached hockey, driven a taxi, been a logger, a short order cook, is a member of MENSA and has never been so much as fingerprinted by the police, despite his notorious bad behavior. He is a direct descendant of two signers of the Declaration of Independence (Read & Stockton), but is an ardent Anglophile... He is a hardcore Ripperologist who enjoys scouring newspapers from the LVP and also discussing the history of Robert DOnston Stephenson. Along with his wife, he intends to write a book on the history of Stephenson during 2009. He is the owner of Jack The Ripper Forums (www.jtrforums.com) and a supporter of Casebook.org. He regularly appears on Jon Menges Rippercast podcast radio pro- gram each Sunday. His one wish this Yule season is for continued good health for his close friend and Ripperologist, Mike Covell of Hull, England. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 8
D’Onston Stephenson: From Robert to Roslyn By Mike Covell In April 1841, Richard and Isabella Dawber Stephenson had been married for 10 years. They already had two sons, William and Richard, and two daughters, Isabella and Elizabeth, when Isabella gave birth to their fifth child, Robert Donston Stephenson on 20 April. The birth took place at the family home, 35 Charles Street in the parish of Sculcoates, Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire. As we can see, Isabella Stephenson was a mother and housewife to an already expanding family when infant Robert was born.1 Just over three weeks later, on 16 May 1841, the new baby was christened at St. Mary’s Church in the parish of Sculcoates. The entry in the parish register is straightforward: 1 1841 Census HO107/1232 F583 P30.Period view of Charles Street, Kingston-upon-Hull,Yorkshire: a look at the street where RobertD’Onston Stephenson was born.Courtesy of Mike Covell. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 9
Entry showing the christening of Robert D’Onston Stephenson. Courtesy of Mike Covell. Child’s Christian Name, Robert Donston Parent’s Name, Christian, Richard and Isabella Surname, Stephenson Abode, Charles Street Quality, Trade, or Profession, Oil and Bone Merchant By whom the Ceremony was performed, Ed. Ward.2 Richard Stephenson was a partner in the firm of Dawber and Stephenson, oil, cake and bone merchants and crush- ers.3 The business relied heavily on the whaling industry and because of this was situated on the north side of what is now Queen’s Gardens. The new child’s birth certificate states he was born at 35 Charles Street, on 20 April 1841 to Isabella Stephenson (formerly Dawber) and Richard Stephenson. Richard Stephenson’s occupation is listed as ‘Seed Crusher’—a popular term still in use today, and a line of business in which the present author’s father happens to be employed.4 According to the birth certificate it took the family until the 27 May 1841 before the birth was registered. The child was registered under the name Robert Donston Stephenson, no sign of the apostrophe that would enter his middle name in later life. It might seem strange to us today that a family would baptise the child before registering his birth, but with Victorian 2 BAPTISMS solemnized in the Parish of SCULCOATES, in the County of YORK, in the Year 1841, When Baptized, 1841, 16 May, p 304, no. 2411. 3 1838 White’s Vol 2 lists. Dawber and Stephenson, Oil, Cake and Bone Merchants and Crushers, Church Street and North Side Old Dock. 4 Robert D’Onston Stephenson’s birth certificate. A ‘Seed Crusher’ is a man who works in the seed crushing industry. The industry takes hops, rape seed, and corn and heats it, usually in a kiln or kettle, then applies pressure through the use of stone or steam presses. As the seed is crushed, oil is produced. The oil can be used for food, as a lubricant, or for agricultural purposes. Several seed crushing mills still exist in Hull. My father works at one such establishment—a converted Victorian mill.Copy of birth certificate of Robert D’OnstonStephenson. Courtesy of Mike Covell. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 10
childhood mortality rates being as high as they were, I can understand the family waiting to register the birth. The trend seems to remain as Robert Donston Stephenson appears in several census entries and newspaper reportsas either R. D. Stephenson or Robert Donston Stephenson. An entry in the guestbook of the Black Lion Hotel inBridlington though lists a Robert D’Onston Stephenson.5 Another entry appears in 1869 when the local Trade Directory lists the staff of the Hull Custom’s House. Under the headingof ‘Clerks’ we see R. D’Ouston Stephenson, an entry written in 1868, as Stephenson had been relieved of his post by this time.6 Where did the name Roslyn come from? By 1871, Robert D’Onston Stephenson had moved out of his parents’ house and was using an alias, Roslyn D.Stephenson.7 Could it be that Stephenson, now a free man, had changed his name to the mystical ‘Roslyn’ to reinforcehis supposed beliefs about the occult and black magic, as some have said?8 Or is there some other explanation? It has been Stephenson selected the name as a nod to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. But would a man with such knowl-edge of religion and esoteric beliefs get the spelling wrong? Furthermore, if D’Onston Stephenson truly was the most powerful Black Magician of all time, why would he choosea name that has deeply religious connections? Perhaps then ‘Roslyn’ was selected for another reason. As is well known, Stephenson would develop into a publishedwriter. Could it be that the real reason that Robert D. Stephenson selected the name ‘Roslyn’ was that it representedthe adoption of a pen name for an up-and-coming writer and journalist? The Case of Robert Stephanus Robert Stephanus was born in Paris, France, in 1503 and went by several names including Robert Estienne and RobertStephens.9 Robert Stephens was the pen name he used in 1551 when he successfully divided the New Testament of the Bibleinto readable verses.10 Could it be that the man who was born Robert Donston Stephenson altered his name to avoid confusion with RobertStephanus? In the Explanatory Preface to Roslyn D’Onston’s 1904 book, The Patristic Gospels, he mentions that ‘. . . I have there-fore retained, so far as possible, the old verse order of Robert Stephanus. . .’11 The Dawber Family Connection During the 1860’s, the Dawber family moved into Linnaeus House, known locally as Sunnyside House, which stands proudlytoday on Linnaeus Street off Anlaby Road in West Hull. The house is a large building and stands within its own grounds. The earliest mention of the family residing there appears in 1866, when Richard Stephenson Sr. applies for the job as WaterBailiff and Reciever of Corporation Dues and lists Robert Dawber as a character reference.12 By the following year, Joseph Dawberis also listed as residing at the property.13 By 1871, the Dawber family are listed as residing at Sunnyside House, Linnaeus Street. Maps of the area for 1854 show no properties in the immediate area, so we must assume that the building was builtbetween 1854 and 1866, all prior to Robert D’Onston Stephenson adopting the name ‘Roslyn’ and all prior to him leav-ing Hull for London, where he appeared in the 1871 Census under the alias.14 Sunnyside House stood on the western side of Linnaeus Street and and probably received the name due to the passageof the sun from rising to setting, which would have bathed the rear of the house in its warm glow. Immediately next toSunnyside House stood two smaller private residences, with little information on who resided there, or of when they werebuilt. 5 Bridlington Free Press, Monday 11 July 1868. 6 Mercer and Crocker’s Directory and General Gazetteer of Hull 1869 lists R. D’Ouston Stephenson. 7 1871 Census Class: RG10; Piece: 368; Folio: 40; p 20, GSU roll, 824612. 8 For example, see Melvin Harris, The True Face of Jack the Ripper. London: Michael O’Mara Books, 1994, and Ivor Edwards, Jack the Ripper’sBlack Magic Rituals. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd., 2002. 9 See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Estienne10 See www.whatsaiththescripture.com/The.Holy.Bible/Interesting.and.Unusual.html11 Roslyn D’Onston, The Patristic Gospels. London: Grant Richards Publishing, 1904, p vii.12 Dated 12 January 1866.13 1867 Trade Directory of Hull lists, Joseph Dawber, Solicitor, Tenny and Dawber Solicitors, Linnaeus Street.14 1871 Census, Class, RG10, P4796, F43, P5, GSU roll 847351 Ripperologist 98 December 2008 11
Further down the street, less than 200 feet from Sunnyside House, stands a row of Victorian terraced town houses,all with spacious front and rear yards, communal entries, and an array of greenhouses and garden sheds. This row ofterraced houses, like many others in the area during the period, has a name: Roslyn Villas! There is nothing in the immediate area to indicate why this name was chosen. There is in the neighbourhood, no streetor avenue bearing the name. It must be assumed that the terrace was named after a local builder, as it was fairly commonplace to do so with several examples still in existence in the ‘old town’ area of the city of Hull. When the Stephenson fam-ily visited the Dawber family, they would have seen and known about the named terrace of villas just yards down the street. Some other possibilities for the origin of the name ‘Roslyn’ admittedly do exist in the Hull area. In a listing for 1892,there appears a Roslyn House on Cottingham Road, home of Henry Moor, managing director, Moor’s and Robson’sBreweries Ltd.15 Cottingham Road is about 3.4 miles from Linnaeus Street and is home to Hull University. The area isquite a ‘Victorian honeypot’ with numerous houses still standing from the period. I am currently investigating when thehouse was built and if there might be a connection to Roslyn Villas. Hull does have a Roslyn Road, which is just off Anlaby Road and about 1.8 miles away from Linnaeus Street, so it isquite possible there is a connection. That having been said, Roslyn Road is quite a recent road, and would have beenbuilt around the first decade of the 1900’s, or possibly later. Another local road, Roslyn Crescent, is about 6.5 miles from Linnaeus Street in the ancient village of Hedon. Thestreet is off the main street which links several of the villages, but it appears to be quite modern, with cul-de-sacs andpost-World War II houses. The search for the origin of Stephenson’s adoption of the name ‘Roslyn’ continues.15 ‘Hull Trades and Professions by Alphabetical Street (1892), Letter N‘ atwww.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/Misc/Transcriptions/ERY/Hull1892StreetsN.html.Sunnyside House, Linnaeus Street, Kingston-upon-Hull, today, once home to the Dawber family, Stephenson’s mother’s family.Photograph by Mike Covell. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 12
Above: Period view showing street repairs being carried out in Linnaeus Street; the metal gates belong to the Dawber family residence,Sunnyside House. Courtesy of Mike Covell.Below: A view of Linnaeus Street at the turn of the century. Courtesy of Mike Covell. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 13
Conclusion In my opinion, the evidence presented shows that Robert D’Onston Stephenson adopted the pen name of RoslynD’Onston so as not to confuse his readers with the earlier work of Robert Stephens. It is highly likely that he selectedthe name not because of any black magic or occult reason, but simply because it was the name of a location close tohis grandparents’ house in Kingston-upon-Hull. We will leave the last word to Robert D’Onston Stephenson. In the Explanatory Preface to The Patristic Gospels,Stephenson mentions reading the ‘Revised Edition’ of the Bible,16 which he abbreviates as ‘R.V.’: Of course, I know that I must first satisfy the scholars, and that I hope to do fully; but from twenty years’ experi-ence of the R.V., I am satisfied that there were two principle reasons why the people would not—and never will—takekindly to it.17 If the book appeared in 1904, as the book’s publication information would suggest, that means that Robert D’OnstonStephenson was reading the revised edition of the Bible as early as 1884, possibly even earlier depending upon whenhe wrote the preface. Does this mean that during the Whitechapel Murders, Stephenson was practicing Christianity, andnot black magic, as some have suggested? Mike Covell is a happily married father of two who lives in Kingston-upon-Hull. Mike has studied the ‘Whitechapel Mystery’ since he was a teenager, but diagnosed with a heart condition three years ago, he turned his attention to the case full time. Mike has two books on the way relating to the mystery and continues to share his research on the JTR Forums.com and ‘Casebook: Jack the Ripper’ websites, as well as on his blog, which he tries to update weekly. He has appeared on the Ripper podcast on numerous occasions, and is also an historical advisor to the Hull-based paranormal investigations group Ghosttrackers.16 The New Testament version, commonly called the ‘Revised Version’ (RV) or the ‘English Revised Version’ (ERV) of 1881, was followed bythe Old Testament in 1885. See ‘English Revised Version of the Bible (1881–1895)’ at www.bible-researcher.com/erv.html17 D’Onston, The Patristic Gospels, p vii. Detail of 1889 map showing Roslyn Villas, Linnaeus Street, Kingston- upon-Hull, less than 200 feet from Sunnyside House.
A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Panto. . . By Jane Coram ‘He’s behind you!’ No, not Jack the Ripper, although it could well be someone almost as das-tardly — like Captain Hook, the Giant or the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham — the archetypalPantomime Villain. We Brits all love booing and hissing at the heinous characters who are tryingtheir best to get the better of our beloved panto heroes and heroines, but not nearly as much aswe love cheering the good guys on. It’s surprising that the tradition hasn’t spread to the rest of the world — although there are pockets of defiancearound the globe, such as in Australia, where the panto is very popular. Christmas pantomimes have been performed inCanada for as many years as there have been British residents that enjoy this type of theatre, and even the Swiss have had a go, but the main hotbed of pantomania is still the UK. It A 19th century pantomime poster, featuring the is a beloved institution, which brings out the best in people and characters of a Harliquinade. is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. People of all ages flock to theatres around the country every Christmas, although it is supposedly meant as a children’s entertainment. It’s not unknown for childless adults to kidnap unsuspecting neighbour’s kids so they can take them along with them as an excuse to go themselves. Many grown-ups will just pull their coat collars up, keep their heads down and sneak in, hoping that nobody notices them. So what is panto? Well, if we discount the classical Greek origins of the word, ‘pantomimos’,1 because it has little or nothing to to do with what is known as pantomime these days, then we can just about trace it back to Italy sometime before the 16th century. Then it was a troupe of actors, moving around the country, performing any kind of act they could muster to cater for the locals. The pantomime first arrived in England as a filler between opera pieces, but ended up being so popular they were given shows in their own right. 1 In Greece, the pantomimos was originally a solo dancer who ‘imitated all’ (panto — all, mi mos — mimic) accompanied by sung narrative and instrumental music, often played on the flute. The word later came to be applied to the performance itself. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 15
The great clown Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837), the most celebrated ofEnglish clowns, was responsible for actually making them into a story ofsome kind to link the performances, and many of the pantomime char-acters we have today originated there. Of course in those days, actresses didn’t exist — well, they existed, butthey never set foot on any stage. Women didn’t walk the boards until the17th century in England, at least, and the fuss it caused almost startedanother civil war. Even when they were eventually accepted, for some rea-son the pantomime still favoured some very odd, but endearing, crossgender characters. In Restoration England, a pantomime was considered a low form ofopera, but very popular with the unwashed masses, who could afford theprice of admission. In 1717 a man called John Rich,2 a theatrical manager,introduced the character ‘Harlequin’ to the British stage, performingsomething closer to the modern mime performances favoured by suchpeople as the great Marcel Marceau — well, Marceau overdosed on caf-feine — as the performances were pretty frantic to all accounts. The story revolves around the lives of its five main characters:Harlequin, Pierrot, Columbine, Clown, and Pantaloon. It included lots of Joseph Grimaldislapstick and silliness, which would probably leave us singularly unamused.Whilst the pantomime was still in its Harlequin form, ‘Tabs scenes’ or ‘transformation scenes’ were introduced as a wayof moving between the different sections of the pantomime, giving the stage hands a chance to move scenery. A cur-tain could be dropped at the front and the frantic scurrying behind the scenes could be covered by a necessarily noisypiece of mayhem at the front. Rather than just stopping one section and starting another, actors found ever more cre- ative and imaginative ways to continue the story until the neces- sary scenery changes had been made. Joseph Grimaldi as the archetypal clown As pantomime developed and stage technology became more advanced, the transformations became events in themselves. Scenery was flown in from above on wires or changed by a series of hinged flaps, smoke bombs were let off to cover the appear- ances of the villains, trap doors made demons disappear, and every cunning device invented was employed to trick and capti- vate the audience. The rivalry between the different London theatres in producing these kinds of entertainments was keen during the 18th century. John Rich adopted entertainments in the Italian style as the corner- stone for his new theatre at Lincoln’s Inn Fields (built 1714) in order to compete with the Drury Lane theatre (then under the 2 John Rich did not have a good speaking voice, but using the stage name of Lun he made Harlequin the star of the entertainments which he called ‘pan- tomimes’, playing him as a silent character who excelled in mimic dancing and physical comedy. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 16
management of Colley Cibber).3 Rich’s pantomimes consisted of incredible stories with as many frills and embellisments as he could fit on the stage without causing permanent injury to the actors. There were fine costumes, elaborate dances, and everything was as over-the-top as possible, money no object. The Lincoln’s Inn Field Theatre and the Drury Lane Theatre were the first to stage something like real pantomimes as we know them today, although it is a matter of some debate as to when the pantomime actually started in the form we have now. The first ‘Cinderella’ pantomime in England was the 1804 production at Drury Lane, but there were certainly performances before that which could be recognizable as real pantomime. Most theatrical scholars, though, will say that the first true performance of Cinderella was in 1870. Augustus Harris, the manager of the Drury Lane theatre who took over his control of the theatre in 1879, is now considered the ‘father of mod- ern pantomime’, by most theatrical scholars. (See the following article on Augustus Harris.) Although pantomime changed its form dramatically during the 18th and 19th centuries, certain traditions still continued throughout its history. Tradition has it that ‘Good’ enters from stage right and ‘Evil’ from stage left. This seems to echo from medieval times, when the entrances to Original ‘Cinderella’ poster from the Drury Lane Theatre. (Late 19th century) Heaven and Hell were placed on these sides. Tradition also dictates that the pantomime villain should be the first to enter, followed by his adver-sary the Good Fairy. The job of the villain is to make all the innocent characters’ lives a total misery, from beginningalmost to end, with good winning out at the last minute through some fairly drastic act of heroism. Of course by theend of the show, all the baddies and their henchmen will have either Harlequin and Columbinebeen destroyed, or be made to see the error of their ways and turn intoreformed characters. Up until the mid-19th century, pantomimes were not specifically aChristmas entertainment, nor were they aimed at children, but wereaimed more at the adult audiences, bearing in mind that much of thehumour of the period was generally very unsophisticated and naive andwould be considered very childish by standards today — purely physicalslapstick humour rather than verbal humour, the only dialogue being atthe opening by way of introduction. There were, though, traditionalChristmas connections when travelling players, known as ‘Mummers’,played in the great manor houses for favours. Victorian pantomimes of the late nineteenth started to take on theirrecognisably modern form, with dialogue running all the way throughthe performance and the story lines becoming more established and3 Colley Cibber (1671–1757) was a British actor-manager, playwright, and Poet Laureate.His colourful memoir Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber (1740) started a British tra-dition of personal, anecdotal, and even rambling autobiography, which has been a treas-ure for theatrical historians as a souce of information on the18th century theatre. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 17
shortened to accomodate a younger audience. This made it far more appealing for children, and gradually they becamethe predominant audience. With children making up a large percentage of the audience, pantomime became estab-lished as a holiday entertainment staged mainly at Christmas and Easter. By the beginning of the Edwardian era, a pantomime generally consisted of two parts. A fairy piece dramatising somewell-known children’s fairy tale, and a Harlequinade. Traditionally, a pantomime would open on Boxing Day and,depending on its success, run as long as early March or even April. Gradually Harlequinade grew less and less popular,and this was dropped from the performance and the true pantomime was born. True pantomime plots are very easy and simple - A girl will dress up as a boy, who is usually the son of a man dressed up as a woman, who will always win the othergirl (who surprisingly dresses as a girl) with the help of person(s) dressed in animal skins. You can’t beat that for a plot. There are a number of traditional story-lines, all based on fairy tales, although recently there have been a few addi-tions, like the Wizard of Oz and even Frankenstein. They have even wheeled out a Dalek or two in a recent productionof Aladdin. Many of the story lines are those of the fairy stories by Charles Perrault, although thankfully they have beensanitized for the youngsters over the years and no longer do the Ugly Sisters in the story of Cinderella have to chop offtheir toes and dance themselves to death, and the body count has dropped considerably. Aladdin (sometimes combined with ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ and/or other ‘Arabian Nights’ tales): This bears no resemblance whatsoever to the 1001 night story, and in fact often involves a blond Australian star from a soap opera in the title role of the Asian hero, complete with digeridoo and boomerang. There is still a genie in it, who is usually a famous wrestler, or one of the TV Gladiators, and the special effects and lighting people have a great deal of fun, finding inventive ways to get them out of the lamp and even more inventive ways to get them back into it. Cinderella The most popular of all pantomimes, complete with Wicked Stepmother, Ugly Sisters and Prince Charming. The main deviation from the original story line is the addition of the character ‘Buttons’, a servant in the house that falls desper- ately in love with Cinders, but who never gets more out of her than a peck on the cheek and a pat on the head. He usually ends up with one of the chorus as a consolation prize. The character of Buttons seems to have come from page boys, who were nicknamed ‘Buttons’ from the close-sewn rows of buttons on their uniforms. The character first appeared in 1860, given the Italian name of ‘Buttoni’, and underwent many changes of name from Chips, Alfonso, and Pedro, before settling down as the Baron’s trusty servant, Buttons. One version of the production in 1820 opened at Covent Garden. Entitled ‘Harlequin and Cinderella, or the lit- tle glass slipper’ it featured Grimaldi as the Baron’s wife. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 18
Dick Whittington This was first staged as a pantomime in 1814, based on a 17th century play. The story revolves around a simple country lad who goes to London to seek his fortune, and on his way, meets a cat whom he befriends. Press-ganged to serve aboard a ship, heading for the Middle East, he becomes the ship’s hero when his cat kills all the rats on board. When news reaches the desperate Sultan, whose land is plagued by rats, Dick’s cat clears the land of rodents, presumably knackering himself in the process, and Dick returns to London a hero, eventu- ally becoming Lord Mayor of London. A tip there for Ken Livingstone. The panto sticks fairly closely to the original story, replete with a man-sized cat who apparently has lost the ability to meow and has to whisper his pearls of wisdom in Dick’s ear. The cat spends much of the panto chasing a rubber rat on a bit of string around the stage. The audience is often treated to a rat ballet some- where in the middle for good measure.Some of the most popular titles are: Jack and the Beanstalk This is usually a standard retelling of the tale, but often difficult tostage as 10-foot giants are usually hard to come by these days. The prob-lem is often solved by clever use of projection, or puppetry in the 21stcentury, whereas in times past, the Giant was just the biggest chap theycould find, with a very large papier mache head mask and a powerful setof neck muscles. Sleeping Beauty This is usually traditionally retold, with few extras, buta lot of comedy content. Following the rage for pantomimes, Pollock’s, a print-ers based in Hoxton in the East End, produced a ‘Do ityourself’ toy theatre, penny-plain and twopence-coloured, for children to stage their own pantomimes ona toy theatre. Sheets of characters were provided and‘Sleeping Beauty’ was a favourite. Children would pro-duce their own pantomimes for the family on festiveoccasions. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 19
Snow White This usually follows closely to the Disney storyline, and bears little real resemblance to the original fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, the names created by Disney — Doc, Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy and Bashful can’t be used, because it would breach copyright, and other names had to be found for them. The original version of the story didn’t give them names at all. Writing scripts for panto seems to be quite a lucrative business these days. Searching the net finds hundreds of web-sites, all selling panto scripts for a small fee, and varying from good to fairly dire. Most village halls and schools willput on a Christmas panto, some of which are surprisingly good. The show usually opens in a market square, with cardboard houses and a few peasants walking about with baskets,pretending to have a conversation, or singing ‘Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning,’ or an appropriate (and often inap-propriate) song enthusiastically, to give the lead players a chance to get on stage and warm the audience up. There is always a supporting chorus and younger actors and actresses that play minor roles, and this is an importantfeature of the pantomime, because it gives youngsters a chance to get some experience in the theatre. Many estab-lished stars started in panto. The local stage school often provides these without payment as it is such good experiencefor them. Mums and dads often have to provide the costumes out of their own pocket, but never seem to mind. The first major player on is usually one of the supporting cast, to set the scene and tell the optimistic audience what Eve Gray starring as Cinderella in to expect. This is often the heroine’s father. the 1929 production One of the main attractions for the directors when producing a pan- tomime is that they can wheel out all the geriatric actors that used to be somebody once upon a time, who they can drag out of retirement to play one of the older character parts. These are usually bit-players from old TV comedy series, who shuffle across the stage and play such roles as Cinderella’s father, Baron Hardup, or Sleeping Beauty’s dotty old dad. This tradition of having a celebrity guest star dates back to the late 19th centu- ry, when Augustus Harris hired well-known variety artists for his pan- tomimes at Drury Lane. Many popular artists play in pantomimes across the country and these are mainly TV personalities, especially from soaps, who will have a trademark phrase or routine that they incorporate into the per- formance, even if it has nothing at all to do with the plot. Next we are introduced to the hero/heroine, who will tell us how miser- able they are because they haven’t got anyone to love, and how desperately short of money they are, and or how hard they have to work just to survive. The heroine could be Cinderella, Aurora or Snow White, always beautiful, always with a wonderful singing voice, and on one memorable occasion weighing several times as much as the Prince and almost flattening him when she ran into his arms. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 20
The heroes are smaller in number, usually Aladdin or Jack of beanstalk fame —but they have the same wretched start as the heroines, the only difference beingthat don’t usually end up running into the Prince’s arms swearing their undyinglove. Once we’ve been introduced to hero/heroine the audience then get anotherlighthearted song from them along with the chorus, just to let the audience knowthat although they are miserable, they can still put a brave face on it. Over the years the leading lady of the pantomime would have been famousMusic Hall singers of the day, and it was a plum role for the younger, more attrac-tive songbirds. Marie Lloyd, ‘Queen of the Music Halls’, was a favourite leadinglady in pantomimes throughout her lifetime, changing roles from the youngerheroine to more mature parts as she grew older. Next on is the obligatory Pantomime Dame, who is almost always the hero’smother, and always a man, sporting a massively oversized fake chest and wearingso many bright colours that most cameras can’t cope with it. They spend most ofthe performance cradling their bosom, making jokes about it and giving out sageadvice that is always ignored. Often, the Wicked Queen is a man as well, and in many cases the Fairy Godmother hasmore than one wand tucked away in their clothing. The panto dame appears at various points in the pantomime, oftenjust to link scenes and give the stage hands a chance to change the scenery without getting a hernia. Traditonally the dame gets through more clothes in the course of the performance than any other character — cos-tumers can run riot with old curtain material making the outlandish costumes, and such characters as the Ugly Sistersin ‘Cinderella’ are bedecked with luminous monstrosities which defy description, but which are a joy to behold. GeorgeLacy is said to have started the tradition of the dame changing her costume constantly in 1923. The more bizarre theoutfit, the better. The role of the dame is to act as a friend to the hero and Dan Leno heroine, a good hearted but rather dim soul, who does her best to help but who invariably causes more trouble for them. She often ends up living happily ever after with either the Principal Girl’s kindly old widowed Father/Uncle/Guardian or with the ultimately-reformed Principal Baddie. They are played either in an extremely camp style, often but not exclusively by actors well-known for their homosexuality or effeminacy, or else by men acting ‘butch’ in women’s clothing. Dan Leno4 was one very famous pantomime dame. After see- ing him in music hall, the pantomime producer George Conquest signed him to appear as Dame Durden in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at the Surrey Theatre, London in 1886. The following year Augustus Harris booked him to appear at Drury Lane, where he was to remain for the next sixteen years as star of pantomime. Productions included ‘Jack and the 4 Dan Leno was the greatest comedian of the Victorian Music Hall. His real name was George Galvin, and he was born in 1860. From 1886 to his death in 1904 he was immensely popular, pioneering the style of stand-up comedy which held sway until the gag-men of the 1930s took over. ‘The Archetypal Dame’ he brought to the part not just his comic genius and inventiveness, but great warmth and sympathy. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 21
Beanstalk’, ‘Babes in the Wood’ and ‘Mother Goose’. It was at Drury Lane that the role of ‘Mother Goose’ was created for him, in which he effectively created the modern pan- tomime Dame. His entrance in bun-wig, shawl and button boots was to influence every pantomime dame that fol- lowed him. He arrived on stage sitting on a cart, pulled by two donkeys. On board was a crate of live geese. In virtually all of these productions he played the Dame to Marie Lloyd’s5 Principal Girl. Dan Leno is still considered, with Joseph Grimaldi, the finest of all pantomime performers. Unlike the dame, the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella are rather more ambiguous; part comedy support and part villains, they need to keep the audience hating them and loving them all at the same time. They usually have few redeem- ing qualities, but often end up as almost good, being for-The traditional Ugly Sisters — enough to put anyone off their cornflakes given by Cinderella and vowing to mend their ways. The ugly sisters are of course an intrinsic part of the Cinderella story; they seem to have been introduced in the 1860 pro- duction at the Strand Theatre. The traditional names for the ugly sisters were Clorinda and Thisbe, but their names have constantly changed to accommodate the fashions of passing times.These days such names as Buttercup and Daisy, Euthanasia and Asphyxia or Posh and Scary are used. The Principal Boy, usually Prince Charming in some guise, often doesn’t appear until a good way into the pantomime, usually wandering about in the woods with his friend looking for something to shoot, and trying to get away from the tedium of court life. The Principal Boy may or may not be a Vesta Tilley as Principal Boy boy at all. Tradition has it that the Principal Boy, such as Prince Charming, and Dandini, his faithful side kick, were always played by a girl, who invariably had better legs than the heroine. Nowadays, they seemed to have gone back to having men playing the lead male role, which is probably a good thing as kids are confused enough these days as it is. The woman playing the Principal Boy usually dresses in short, tight fitting skirts, which barely cover their differences, along with knee-high leather boots and fishnet stockings. This was nothing more than a good excuse for the repressed females in days of yore to show bits that would otherwise be well and truly hidden under long voluminous skirts and pas- sion-killer bloomers. The men got a chance to have a good ogle, without being slapped in the face by their wives. It was very common, in both Regency and Victorian produc- tions particularly, but nowadays the Principal Boys are mainly 5 Marie Lloyd was born Matilda Wood, in Hoxton on the 12th February 1870. In her teens, she adopted the name Marie Lloyd, and quickly became one of the most famous of English music hall singers and come- diennes. Her first major success was The Boy I Love is up in the Gallery. She was the eldest of nine siblings, seven of whom had theatrical careers, the most successful being Daisy, Rose, Grace, and Alice. All but Daisy performed under the name Lloyd in honour of their eldest sister. Lloyds songs, although perfectly harmless by modern standards, began to gain a reputation for being "racy" and filled with double entendres. She died on the 7th October 1922 (aged 52). Over one hundred thou- sand people attended her funeral at Hampstead. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 22
men, so the women get a chance to have some eye candy as well. Eliza Povey was one of the first women to play the title role in Jack and the Beanstalk in 1819. The Principal Boy will usually bless us with a song at this point, just to demonstrate that the Prince has a good singing voice and is worth the money they are pay- ing him. Decades-old pop songs are reeled out, hopeful- ly with words appropriate to the scene, although you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Prince Charming singing ‘I’m In The Mood for Dancing,’ with a tree. Often the lyrics are rewritten for the occasion, which usually ends up as an even greater catastrophe.The audience are encouraged to sing along, which plummets the disaster to a whole new level. One half of the audience is chal- lenged to sing “their” chorus louder than the other half. Grannies strain their vocal chords to compete, and a Jack and the Beanstalk with Jack, his mother great time and laryngitis is had by all. and a rather dubious looking cow One intrinsic feature of the Pantomime is audience participation, including calls of ‘Look behind you!’ (or Hes behind you!), and ‘Oh, yes it is!’ or ‘Oh, no it isn’t!’ The audience is always encouraged to ‘Boo’ the villain, and ‘Awwwww’ the poor victims, such as the rejected dame, who usually fancies the prince. There would often be a ghost (one of the chorus, dressed in a sheet) stalking the hero or heroine and hiding behind trees to jump out on them. Sometimes there will be a short ballet by the children of the chorus in the middle somewhere, accompanied by the scraping and banging of scenery in the background. Then we come to one of the joys of the panto — the Panto Animal, particularly the cow, which principally appears in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. Two actors bent over double, dressed in a patched up old animal suit and trying desper- ately to keep in time with each other and go in the same direction. The poor sod at the back can’t see anything, although they do usually put eyeholes in the bottom part of the torso so that he at least has a chance of putting his feet in the right place and breathing now and again. It’s glorious, and an art form its own right. They often have to dance as well — something that certainly ought to give the kids nightmares for the rest of their lives. It is true to say, however, that some of the greats started theirHeaven only knows what’s going on in this modern version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ careers by literally playing the back legs of the Pantomime horse. Many years ago at the Hippodrome Theatre, Stockport, the front end of the horse was a young man named Charlie Chaplin. Other ways to get the audience to participate can be quite inventive. Invariably a couple of cute small children, often dressed in Harry Potter robes, or their new ballerina costumes, straight out of the Christmas wrappings, will troop up on stage to be quizzed by one of the supporting cast. Such questions as ‘Are you married or do you have a boyfriend?’ put to a four year old, dribbling chocolate down the front of her dress. It’s all good fun though, and the kids get a bag of goodies out of it, so they’re not complain- ing. The members of the cast also throw out sweets to the children in the audience, often resulting in some maiming, but the crowd are in such a good mood by this time that nobody seems to care. Ripperologist 98 December 2008 23
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