Saturday, May 07, 2011
A Suspicious Man
The newspapers of the day seized the story, embroidered it, made it even more sensational to the point where questions were being asked in the House of Commons about why it was taking so long to solve the case. They fed with lurid details a sensation seeking public who gobbled up all the sensation and gore. The prim, sober Victorians seemed especially ready to be titillated in this manner, a media process that has carried on ever since. We cannot pretend we aren't equally fascinated by darkness and horror in our own times, though it appears now in the form of televsion documentaries, crime series or books and plays. A remove from the reality of a situation, dipping into hell from a safe distance. We don't watch public executions any more thank goodness. My mother was taken to one in Istanbul as a child of four and it upset her so much that she became paralysed on that same day for a year. She had a morbid fear of hanging and death for the rest of her life.
It is, however, from this late Victorian period in history that the detective novel, with writers such as Dickens and Wilkie Collins, began to emerge as well as those horror stories of the Edgar Allen Poe variety and Bram Stoker's delicious sexual vampires and transylvanian castles full of dark mysteries. The story of the murder at Road Hill House provided the basis for many of the famous crime and mystery novels produced from then on. After all, it was great stuff; families full of hidden rage, jealousy, sexuality and evil feelings, all lurking beneath respectable, calm exteriors and nicely conformist public behaviour.
Jack Whicher was a highly celebrated detective sent from the newly formed detective force with the Metropolitan Police in London. Up to this point his successes had been achieved through instinct, intuition and a very keen memory for detail. He was a working class man, he understood the ways of all the hustlers and thieves and could pick a man out as if through a kind of strange affinity. Policeman, criminal . . . these two are one another's opposites, what Jung would call each other's shadow side. This is how they recognise each other. They are one another at some archetypal level. Whicher was absolutely sure who it was that had murdered Saville Kent, knew full well it was an inmate of the house and a young family member. Due to all the hoo-ha in the press and in Parliament, he was forced to try and solve the crime quickly as if evidence and answers could be found growing on bushes. Evidence was not produced and the local police Inspector, who sympathised with the family, did much to obstruct him. Plus, because of his lower class origins and the fact that his accusations were directed against a person of middle class, he was castigated, scorned and laughed out of court. Whicher never really recovered his confidence or his position after this. However, events eventually turned out exactly as he had predicted when a confession was eventually made by the guilty party many years later.
- My home is my retreat and resting place from the wars: I try to keep this corner as a haven against the tempest outside, as I do another corner of my soul. Michelle de Montaigne
- Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony: Mahatma Gandhi
- Friends are people you can be quiet with. Anon.