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Mrs. McNamara Gives Tumblety a Character

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Mrs. McNamara Gives Tumblety a Character

Post by Karen on Sat 4 Feb 2012 - 14:16



[Special Correspondence of the Picayune.]
NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 1888.

The interest that attaches to criminals is peculiar, but it exists. It is often very morbid and distressing to the well-balanced mind, but it remains. No murderer is so repulsive or fiendish but that some tender-hearted woman will send a flower to brighten his cell or a prayer to sanctify it. The long-suffering wife whose eyes have been gouged out by her husband forgives the beast and refuses to testify against him.
Is it because human nature is such a fagot of contradictory attributes that no woman nor man is certain that she or he will not some day be criminal either in thought or deed?
"Be sure your sin will find you out." Have no great criminals gone to their graves undetected? According to the moral law, if I wish a man dead I am a murderer. How many such murderers may have been eulogized and commemorated with monuments!
When you kill character you are worse than a murderer if the body is but the temporary habitat of an immortal personality. Robbed of life, the body dissolves into its primal elements. The stabbed character bleeds on.
Yes, there is such a thing as the romance of crime. It has a horrid background and an indefinable fascination, but if the brotherhood of man is an instinct rather than a theory it is inevitable.
We have in our midst once more here in New York that unique personage known as Dr. Tumblety. The man is not a criminal in the ordinary sense, but the suspicion that he is one in some extraordinary sense makes him interesting. He is big, tall and brawny. His heavy moustache exudes black hair dye. He is on the sunny side of 60 and by no means unprepossessing. "Bless you," says Mrs. McNamara, "he wouldn't hurt a fly. He is a perfect gentleman and he always pays me punctual."
Mrs. McNamara keeps a boarding-house at No. 79 East Tenth street and she is a landlady of irrefragable respectability and irreproachable veracity. Tumblety has boarded with her off and on for years. That is why it came to be known he was in town again.
Inspector Byrnes has known Tumblety a long, long time. He has always regarded him as a suspicious character, but has never had occasion to cause his arrest. Some things about the man's life are known, but more are veiled in mystery. He was probably born in Canada. As a boy he hung about the canals in Rochester, and there he served some sort of an apprenticeship in a dingy little out-of-the-way drug store. He was an "herb doctor" when he first appeared in this vicinity, and there is no doubt that he made a great deal of money out of a preparation he sold to eradicate pimples. He was an original advertiser. His style of dress always attracted attention to him. Crowds followed him in the street to catch the coin he scattered. It was Cheap John quackery, nothing worse, and it was pursued with variations in various cities of the United States and in Canada. In Pittsburg the "Great American Herb Doctor" rode about on a white horse, followed by a lackey in livery. In Washington he cut even a greater dash. There he was arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice of the Dr. Blackburn accused of plotting to spread yellow fever at the north, but the suspicion could not be verified. He always declared that Secretary Stanton confiscated a large lot of securities belonging to him when he was thrown into prison and never returned them. He crossed the Atlantic frequently and in time came to be almost as well known in Europe as in America.
Detective Pryor, of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, was once obliged to bounce Tumblety because the guests of the hotel objected to his presence as a lounger. He had known the "doctor" for a long time and yet, strangely enough, had never heard the sound of his voice. In the barroom of the hotel one day Tumblety had a hand to hand encounter with Ralston, the editor of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Ralston got the best of it and was challenged, but refused to fight a duel with a man he regarded as beneath contempt. He had made an expose of some alleged shady doings of Tumblety in Nova Scotia.
Tumblety always manifested a decided aversion to the fair sex. Whether this was an affectation or a seated prejudice, it probably led the way to his latest notoriety. He set out for Europe something over a year ago and was not heard of on this side again until his arrest in London for possible complicity in the ghastly Whitechapel butcheries. To English as to American detectives he appeared a suspicious person, but all that could be done was to hold him in $1500 bail, and that didn't hold him. He got away to France and took the first steamer for New York. He sailed under a false name, but the Puckish girdle of electricity around the earth turned the precaution into puerility. Two New York detectives and one London detective were on the dock when he landed here and followed the carriage which took him, metaphorically or otherwise, to the hospitable arms of Mrs. McNamara.
Dr. Francis Tumblety returns to America more famous than ever. Lynx eyes are watching him. Everything he does or says will be reported and recorded. If he takes to vending his pimple eradicator again detectives in disguise will lay in samples. Sometimes and in some way it pays to be a suspect. Tumblety always has plenty of money. That he has anything to do with the Whitechapel atrocities is as likely as that the most innocent reader of the Picayune is "Jack the Ripper."
It is a coincidence, but one of no significance. George Bidwell is in New York simultaneously with Tumblety. No contrast of personality could well be greater than that between these two men. Bidwell looks like a plain country gentleman. He is of medium size and well built. His face is square and resolute. His head, crowned now with rapidly whitening hair, is well shaped and well poised. He has the nervous manner and movement of the typical Yankee, and he came from as good Puritan stock as the best of them. Meet him anywhere and under any circumstances you might, you would never take him to be not only a criminal, but a great one.
It was of George Bidwell that Rothschild said, "He is the brainiest banker in Europe," and that was after his trial and conviction for forging Bank of England notes to the extent of 1,000,000 pounds. Everybody knows that he was in prison in England sixteen years and that for some fifteen months he has been a ticket-of-leave man. He and his brother Austin were sentenced for life, and he owes his release primarily and all the time to his wife, who devoted herself to securing it with that self-abnegation which is paradoxically common in women good and true themselves who bestow their affections upon unworthy objects.
This great forger, before whose prowess the Bank of England quaked, is a meek enough man nowadays. He goes about lecturing and selling an autobiography which tells of his crime, trial and imprisonment. Sixteen years is a long time, he says, when a man has nothing to do but to think, and I came from the hardships of an English prison with pretty level ideas, fully determined that my life should atone for the wrong I had done. The petition for my pardon was signed by such people as John Bright, Lord Randolph Churchill and Joseph Chamberlain on the other side, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Secretary Bayard, John C. New, General Alger and Governor Grey of Indiana on this side. My chief object in life at present is to set my brother free, because he is undergoing punishment unjustly for my crime.
Bidwell tells a story about his brother that fairly belongs to the romance of crime, whether it is authentic or not. That it is substantially true seems most probable. Its main incidents are these:
Austin was living with me in London when I was arranging the details of the Bank of England forgeries, but he knew nothing of them and had no hand in them. He was, in fact, the last one in the world to whom I would have confided my plans. He had been carefully educated, and was a handsome fellow of 24, as proud of his splendid physique as I was of him. It was at that time that he fell in love with the daughter of an English army officer, a girl of much beauty and amiability. The pair were well suited to each other, and they got married at the American embassy in Paris when Washburne was United States minister. Austin wanted a grand wedding tour, so he proposed to go to Havana by way of Cadiz, and then to cross over to New Orleans and go up the Mississippi - and so on to our old home in New England, where he meant to start a business of some kind.
This journey was destined to be an eventful one. The idea of traveling under any other than his own name did not for a moment occur to Austin. After he got into Spain he was captured by the insurgent Carlists and detained several weeks. At last he reached Cadiz and sailed for Havana. By this time my forgeries had been discovered and as it was known that my brother had been living with me he was easily tracked to Cadiz. Upon his arrival at Havana he was arrested before he left the ship and was dumb with amazement when he heard the charge against him. A guilty man would have covered his tracks and Austin could have done so with the greatest ease. There was nothing whatever to prevent him.
At Havana Austin was separated from his bride and guarded as closely as a prisoner of state. Half-crazed by the misfortune that had befallen him he made a rash attempt to escape. Jumping from a second-story window of the building in which he was confined he landed directly in a crowd of people in the street below, and as luck would have it got away and reached the mountains in safety. His aim was to join the insurgents, and when a Spanish soldier armed with a machete tried to intercept him forcibly he coolly wrenched the machete away and run the fellow through. With his physical development and training he was a match for half a dozen such hirelings - a Hercules panting for freedom and for reunion with the young wife so rudely torn away from him.
Unfortunately he left a mute accuser in the dead soldier lying across his path to safety. Comrades of the killed gave chase, recaptured the fugitive and bore him back to Havana. There was no extradition treaty then, but that did not matter apparently, for my brother was taken on board the British man-of-war that had been sent after him.
The Bank of England had me in the toils and was bent upon making a terrible example. For any one who had been in any way connected with me there was little chance. Unable to secure a separate trial Austin prejudiced his case fatally by concealing simple facts. Through a false sense of honor he refused to reveal that he had been married and was on his wedding tour. I pleaded with him in vain. He declared absolutely that neither his wife nor her family should be subjected to the publicity and consequent disgrace of having their names brought out in such a connection. Conscious of innocence, he was to the end confident of acquittal, and so his disappointment and despair were all the keener when he was convicted with me and heard the dreary sentence of life imprisonment. We parted at Newgate over seventeen years ago and I have never seen him since. Since my release I have had a paid agent in London working in his behalf and my sister is there now at my expense and has enlisted the active sympathy of the Exeter Hall Young Men's Christian Association.
Austin Bidwell, a victim of circumstantial evidence, is suffering the cruelest possible wrong because he happened to be the brother of a forger. His wife disappeared after his arrest in Havana and nothing has ever been heard since of her whereabouts or her family. Continuance of this monumental injustice should be averted, and all my energies are concentrated upon regaining freedom for one who was molded by nature to enjoy it and who forfeited it only because of a chivalrous but mistaken sense of duty to the woman he married for love and love only.
Verily their is something affecting in all this. It has the ring of sincerity about it. Can it be possible that a ticket-of-leave man would dare to make the asseveration of innocence as a mask to hide guilt? If Austin Bidwell had no hand in the forgery upon the Bank of England why is he doomed to life servitude in an English prison? On the other hand, if he was an aider and abetter of the crime, why should his punishment be prolonged beyond that of its chief instigator and perpetrator? The last would seem a pregnant question to those who asked mercy for George Bidwell. VIDETTE.

Source: The Daily Picayune-New Orleans, Monday December 10, 1888, Page 3

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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