The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison

The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison – The Chilling Confessions of James Maybrick – is a long book, but well worth reading. Check my notes on where the picture was taken. The book also contains the reproduction in full of the diary and a transcript of it.

I found out about James Maybrick when I read about his wife, Florence Maybrick. I read two books about her, Did she kill him by Kate Colquhoun and Mrs Maybrick by Victoria Blake. She was found guilty of murdering her husband, which I don’t think she did. She spent many years in prison, but was released and left for US. The Criminal Appeal Court was set up in 1907 as a direct result of her case.

Reading on Florence I found out about The Diary of Jack the Ripper, which was supposedly written by her husband. Well, I wanted to read that, so I got this book from the library.

The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison

James Maybrick was a 49-year-old Liverpool cotton merchant. The diary was found in early 1990s and Shirley Harrison spent a lot of time researching it, which included forensic analysis of the paper, ink, psychological analysis of the diary. Many believe that the diary is a forgery, which is so strange considering how much work was done with it, to prove that it is old. The ink was the same used in Victorian times, the paper is old (even if it can’t be determined that is exactly from the 1880s). The best explanation is that this was James Maybrick’s diary.

For the diary to be a forgery, one should have had:
– visit archives in London and Liverpool
– go to the University of Wyoming in America (unpublished material is only there)
– watch hundreds of pages of microfilm of national and local press
– read and understand obscure medical literature (including how arsenic addiction looks like and how it affects a person)
– locate the Grand National archives
– read the massive literature on the Ripper
– read the Maybrick trial material
– be familiar with an unknown 19th century poet – Richard Crashaw who published poems in the Victorian era, including 2 editions in 1881 and 1887
– create a script that would be considered as possibly written by the killer by two expert psychologists
– source the physical diary

She also talks about the watch. It was discovered a watch with the inscription I am Jack. J Maybrick. It also has the initial of the women murdered in London. There were a few other initials too, but it’s not clear of whom those belong to.

Why 4 stars? Mainly because the story was told in a much more complicated way than it was necessary. Also, she mentioned astrology. Those 6 pages costed the book a star. I can’t imagine why would anyone think mentioning astrology would make anyone think that this diary is real. Fortunately she stopped there with this nonsense and there are only 6 pages, so I would recommend the book.

The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison

Details about the picture: picture taken near the 77 Mount Pleasant building, where James Maybrick lived in the 1870s
My rating: 4/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: John Blake
Year it was published: 2010 (first published in 1993)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History
Pages: 470

About the author: Shirley Harrison had a broadcasting career on the BBC’s Children’s Hour in 1954. She also wrote for many national magazines and newspapers, turning to non-fiction after the death of her husband in 1982.
Her best known is the internationally best selling The Diary of Jack the Ripper in which she takes readers on a journey back to the home of the Ripper in Liverpool and to the scene and execution of the most infamous murders in history. It has all the pace and drama of a thriller and, being based on historical archives remains utterly convincing.
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2 thoughts on “The Diary of Jack the Ripper by Shirley Harrison”

  • This sound quite interesting. Like many, I have a fascination with Jack the Ripper. One of my favorite books I’ve read about the murders was the one you recommended about the victims. (The Five)
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    • I loved that book. I’m glad you liked it. In this situation I think you would like this book too. I really think that James Maybrick was Jack, mainly because going into all that trouble to make a forgery would have involved a team of experts working together to make it. While not impossible, it’s highly unlikely.

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