There's a joke about this guy who's seeing a psychiatrist. The shrink shows the guy an inkblot and says, "What does this look like?" And the guy says, "That's a hot, wet pussy!" The shrink takes out another inkblot and says, "What's this?" and the guy says, "That's a hard throbbing dick!" The shrink pulls out yet a third inkblot and says, "What do you see here?" and the guy says, "That's a woman screwing two goats."
"Hmmm," says the shrink, "I think you have a sexual obsession."
"What do you mean, doc?" says the guy. "You're the one with all the dirty pictures!"
In just the same way, Richard Wallace has found nasty anagrams in the works of Lewis Carroll. I have here a copy of Wallace's book, Jack the Ripper: "Light-hearted Friend", (ISBN 0-9627195-6-0, Gemini Press, 293 pages, trade-paperback, $13.00) the latest example that 'non-fiction' is a publishing category, not a solemn assurance that every word is true. This is a book that purports to prove that Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper. For some reason Wallace seems to think that the fact that he can find anagrams, however tortured or meaningless, in both the works of C. L. Dodgson and the letters attributed to Jack the Ripper is significant. The large-text centered headings in this review are examples of some of Wallace's anagrams.
Never mind that the Ripper Letters may or may not have been written by the real killer. John Douglas, the gent who wrote Mindhunter (one of the FBI's retiring profilers), is of the opinion that the person(s) who wrote the Jack the Ripper letters and the person who committed the murders weren't the same person, and that they didn't know each other.
In brief, the main proof from Wallace that Dodgson was Jack the Ripper is this: Dodgson liked wordgames.
Jack the Ripper removed organs, and the organs he removed could all form anagrams. For example, uterus (suture), heart (hater), liver (viler) and intestines (test is nine). 'Left kidney' becomes 'felt kid yen' (a desire for intercourse with young goats), thus proving that sly Jack liked wordgames too. This proves he was Dodgson.
This causes me to wonder why Jack, if he was really looking for organs that formed anagrams, never removed the lungs (slung), a diaphragm (rip mad hag), an esophagus (posh usage), a stomach (ham cost) and duodenum (no mud due), or a spleen. 'Spleen,' of course, is an anagram of 'pensel,' an obsolete term for 'pencil,' the instrument with which writers slay, when they turn their 'words' into a 'sword.'
The letters supposedly from Jack the Ripper also contain anagrams: I'm not a Yid, Wallace tells us, is an anagram for O, I'm dainty! What this means is anyone's guess. It's also an anagram for Yo, Dan, I'm it! and, perhaps more accurately, I'm an id toy, but Wallace doesn't mention this.
The further proof is that Wallace finds anagrams that he claims are confessions in Dodgson's writing.
For example: Wallace found a letter that Charles wrote to his sister Lizzy, that included the line "I believe in the doctrine of Eternal Punishment." What sinister meaning does this hold? Answer: not one but two anagrams. "I'd be proven insane if I let the lion meet her cunt," and "I believe the Fathers condemn penile nutrition."
The first of those is undoubtedly true, as the second would be, if the Fathers had the slightest idea what 'penile nutrition' was.
Observe how The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits (a poem, Wallace informs us, that is full of masturbatory and anal-erotic themes), becomes, by anagramming, not only "None hunt the King of Hearts in the gay night fits," but also "They, the Uranian kings, often hit on night fags," and "The king of urnings hateth any Onanite fights."
Wallace finds it significant that in those cases in which he derives multiple possible anagrams, that they are all full of death and sexual images. I too find this significant, but possibly not signifying the same thing Wallace thinks it signifies.
Wallace can't decide on how many Ripper murders there were -- either five (the usually accepted number), six, eight (he needs eight because there were eight women in Dodgson's family) or nine (he needs this because one of his longer anagrams says, among other things, "I slit nine throats"). He flips back and forth as his argument-of-the-moment demands.
Finding a matching number of murders isn't too great a challenge -- slicing up whores seems to have been a popular Victorian sport, and with police science in its infancy bunches of them went unsolved. But some of the murders he credits to Jack the Ripper, like the woman who died of peritonitis after a rape-by-instrumentality, don't seem to fit Jack's MO at all.
If you're interested, there's a fairly extensive Jack the Ripper page out here on the web, with notes on other unsolved mutilation-murders in London at roughly the same time.
Shaky as anagrams are in general, Wallace's are shakier still. In order to make his anagrams work, he sometimes finds it necesary to either leave letters out:
If we remove eight letters, bringing the fifty letters down to forty-two (I find no anagram that uses all fifty) we have a manifesto...
or change letters:
and with a single letter replaced (an 'i' for an 'o')... we have an anagram for ripper....
If I'm allowed to add, subtract, or change letters, I can make absolutely any anagram I please out of any text whatever. Given that lattitude, you'd think that Wallace could have at least found anagrams that are grammatical in standard English.
Wallace also relies extensively on the argument from coincidence.
And at one point he asks:
Is it coincidence that DAGGER is an anagram for RAGGED, characteristic of some of the wounds, but more significantly, it becomes RIPPER by Doublet conversion (DAGGER, bagger, bagged, barged, barred, burred, burped, bumped, dumped, damped, damper, dapper, dipper, RIPPER).
Yes, Robert, it's a coincidence. Moreover, given a fourteen step doublet conversion, one can make almost any six-letter word one cares to find out of dagger.
Did you know that Charles Dodgson wrote his diary every day in purple ink, with only one exception? On the night Catherine Eddowes was murdered by Jack the Ripper, he wrote his entry in black ink. The next day, he was back to purple. Could this, Wallace asks, be mere coincidence?
Yes, Richard, it could.
"Is it coincidence," Wallace asks at another place, "that one of the victims was found barely a block from Collingwood Street?" Collingwood, he informs us, was Dodgson's sister Mary's married name.
Sounds like coincidence to me.
Is it coincidence, he asks again, that in The Hunting of the Snark we are told:
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care:
They pursued it with forks and with hope;
They threatened its life with a railway share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
And we know from police reports that the dead women had, variously, a thimble, a fork, and soap (among other things) in their pockets at the time of their deaths? (Why none of the dead women were found clutching a railway share Wallace doesn't mention.)
To this and more all I can wearily reply is, "Yes, Richard, it is a coincidence."
Wallace's own prose is so heavy and tortured he may not notice that the anagrams he finds aren't terribly witty and graceful. His writing teems with sentences like this:
In an early short story with the same masturbatory themes that appear throughout his works, a story published while he was an adolescent at home with the unwitting support of his parents titled "The Walking Stick of Destiny," he created right under their noses a character named "Baron Slogdod" (an anagram for "Dodgson labor") and a second "Signor Blowski" (an anagram for "I blow gross kin" with blow meaning "to destroy" in Victorian usage).
Wallace never explains why Dodgson would use the American spelling of 'labour.'
Did you know that
"He thought he saw a Banker's Clerkanagrams to
Descending from a bus:
He looked again, and found it was
'If this should stay to dine,' he said,
'There won't be much for us!"
Dodgson, disguised as a clerk,
bought a knife, took trains,
stayed in his London house.
He'd help the Fates.
Hump from behind,
cut a whore in the face,
While one or two of the Ripper victims were cut on the face, Jack attacked from the front, not the rear; he did not have intercourse with the victims, nor did he masturbate on the scene; and Dodgson, so far as is known, didn't own a London house.
Still, under the circumstances, I'd wash up.
Have I mentioned the number 42? Apparently the number 42 was important to both Lewis Carroll and Jack the Ripper.
"Rule 42" in Alice is this: "All persons more than a mile high to leave the court." That is, Wallace tells us, an anagram of "Let not holier thoughts reveal cheap animal mores."
In The Hunting of the Snark, we find "Rule 42 of the Code," "No one shall speak to the man at the helm, and the man at the helm shall speak to no one," an obvious anagram for "No one shall spanketh the hot male meat, and the hot male meat shall spanketh no one." Never mind that an educated man would hardly use the construction 'shall spanketh.'
Jack the Ripper (according to Wallace and just about nobody else) killed Emma Smith, and she was forty-five years old. Forty- five, Wallace informs us, is exactly three more than forty-two. Martha Tabram was killed with thirty-nine knife strokes and she was thirty-nine years old. Thirty-nine, Wallace tells us, is just three less than forty-two, confirming the pattern. "Could this be coincidence?" he asks.
Mary Kelly, the last of the generally acknowledged Ripper victims, was 24 years old. 24, of course, is 42 backwards. Could this be coincidence?
So now we have to imagine Reverend Dodgson tottering around the East End at night, enquiring of prostitutes how old they might be. It is certainly an odd picture.
(Most folks don't count Tabram and Smith as Ripper victims, because they didn't have the Ripper MO -- a deep cut across the throat followed by disemboweling. Rather, Smith was the one who died of peritonitis, after an attack by (she claimed) three gentlemen. Tabrum was stabbed by two weapons, a bayonet and a dagger. The last people Tabram had been seen with alive were a pair of soldiers.)
You may not have known that a gent named Harry Furniss illustrated Sylvie and Bruno. You may or may not have noticed that Lewis Carroll quoted from Hamlet in Sylvie and Bruno, to wit: "The funeral-baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables." Had you noticed, you might have wondered why that quote was used. Admit it, you were wondering! Well, the answer is revealed here. William Shakespeare (or perhaps it was Bacon -- I never could tell them apart), had himself hidden an anagram in that line, which Wallace found and revealed: "Harry Furniss called me a harsh, demented tart, but I faked the glib fool." Surely this could not be mere coincidence.
"There is no question but that Furniss was unaware of the material hidden in the works," Wallace assures us. Thank goodness for that.
The next thing -- revealed in the anagrams for the first time -- is that Jack the Ripper didn't work alone. No, Charles Dodgson was joined in his murders by Thomas Bayne, a dean at Oxford.
Oddly, Bayne's motive is never given. Wallace proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Dodgson and Bayne knew each other, though.
"He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again and found it was
'You'd best be getting home,' he said;
'The nights are very damp!'"
Thomas Vere Bayne penned,
posted a "Dear Boss" letter to the papers in red ink.
He laugh'd with a fit at the thought of getting hounds to bag us.
We dandy, gay sons, hump, hate all, Mama!
How significant is this? Well, Wallace tells us, with deep sincerity, "Mama was the name used by the Dodgson children when they referred to their mother as evidenced by early letters." What a surprise.
One problem, Wallace admits, is that the first 'Dear Boss' letter was received on 29 September, while Bayne had been in France since 1 September. Not to worry:
A Ripper letter could have been sent by Bayne to Dodgson for forwarding using a domestic post office. He could have used any of a number of enciphering methods he possessed.
Never mind that this contradicts Wallace's own anagram solution.
Anagrams, in fact, aren't significant. Especially not in a positional language like English. They are funny coincidences at best, like the fact that "Clint Eastwood" is an anagram for "Old West Action."
In a positional language the sentences "The boy hit the ball" and "The ball hit the boy" have very different meanings. When the person finding the anagram puts the words together, the word order, and hence the meaning of the sentence, is entirely the product of the finder.
Literary kooks go for anagrams because they can always find exactly what they're after. Take, for example, all the anagrams purporting to prove that Francis Bacon did (or didn't) write the works attributed to Shakespeare.
I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone -- it's desperately badly written, to the point of being nearly unreadable, and poorly organized. What you find in it will leave you pinching the bridge of your nose and shaking your head so often that your friends will ask if you have a sinus headache. There is a great deal more nuttiness in the book than I've chosen to highlight in this review.
I think this book is another example of the Kennedy Conspiracy Delusion. It's intolerable to some people that major events could have been brought about by chance, or that a notorious crime could have been commited by an obscure loser.
Jack the Ripper: "Light-hearted Friend" is a dramatic demonstration that some people shouldn't be allowed near a Scrabble set. As an example of literary scholarship gone horribly wrong, you can't top it.
I'll leave you with this thought:
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