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D'Onston's "French Connection"... Log Out | Topics | Search
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Casebook: Jack the Ripper - Message Boards » Suspects » Stephenson, Roslyn Donston » D'Onston's "French Connection" « Previous Next »

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Chris Scott
Assistant Commissioner
Username: Chris

Post Number: 1320
Registered: 4-2003
Posted on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 10:54 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IPPrint Post   Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

On 16 October 1888, D'Onston, from the London Hospital, wrote a letter asserting that the "Juwes" of the Goulston Street inscription was, in fact, "Juives" and concluded from this that the writer (and, presumably, by extension, the killer) was French. (The full text is on page 205 of Letters from Hell and also can be found in the Ultimate Sourcebook)
D'Onston some weeks later (1 December 1888) had an article published in the Pall Mall Gazette under the nom de plume of "One Who Thinks He Knows" in which he repeated these assertions. His main assertions are:
1) The writer (and killer) was a Frenchman
2) That the French are "the worst linguists in the world"
3) That French people frequently confuse the gender of nouns in their own language. (This arise because "Juives" is feminine plural and would mean "Jewesses", not Jewish men.

The letter below was published by the Pall Mall Gazette on 6 December 1888 and replies to these points from a French speaker's point of view:

Pall Mall Gazette
Thursday, 6 December 1888.

To the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette

I venture to offer you a few remarks upon the singular article which appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette last Saturday upon the Whitechapel murders. Under some circumstances I might comment upon the inferences drawn by your contributor, "One Who Thinks He Knows," from the fact that straight lines, drawn through the point at which the outrages were committed cross one another, but, remembering that I am in a country where Mr. Ignatius Donnelly and his Great Cryptogram are the subjecys of serious discussion, I, as a native of a grivolous land, abstain from saying more than that I am myself engaged in preparing a diagram by which I hope to prove that the crimes were really the work of a Unionist who is gradually marking out in the East end of London an exact reproduction of the Union Jack.
Now, Sir, to speak seriously, I do not at all deny that the assassin may be a Frenchman; there are plenty of French assassins in the world, and, though I venture to think that in London English assassins are more plentiful, I am willing to admit the possibility of "Jack the Ripper" being my compatriot. But I say that the arguments by which "One Who Knows" seeks to establish this are utterly baseless and absurd. Frenchmen may be, as he says "the worst linguists in the world," but if he were a better "linguist" himself he would know that bad "linguists" may know their own language, and in this respect, Frenchmen may be compared favourably with any other people. As to his assertion that they constantly make mistakes in gender, it is simply untrue. There are a few substantives, such as "hotel," "ouvrage," &c., which have a feminine sound to the ear, and as to which some utterly uneducated French people fall into the error of applying to them feminine articles or adjectives; such a person might therefore talk of "une hotel juive," or "une ouvrage juive," but no French man, woman, or child would ever mistake a feminine for a masculine substantive, and the idea that they could, under any circumstances, write Juives for Juifs when using the word as a substantive is enough to make a Frenchman hold his sides with laughter. Perhaps "One Who Thinks He Knows" also thinks that the uneducated Frenchman speaks of femmes when he means hommes!
Your contributor refers for proof of his assertions to the "voluminous correspondence of Napoleon III." As I have not had access to thsi source of information - and, indeed, though tolerably conversant with the literature of my country, now hear for the first time of its existence - I should be much obliged if "One Who Thinks He Knows" would send you for publication a few extracts from this "voluminous correspondence" containing examples of mistakes in gender. He would be a doing a kindness to a poor French professor, who has always held that Napoleon III did much harm to his country, but who has hitherto held him guiltless of having introduced into its literature a new form of grammatical error.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
December 4.

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