Orsam Books

A Frequenting Occurrence

The author of the diary known as the Maybrick Diary writes at some point during the first half of what is supposed to be 1888:

'Frequented my club.' 

This is not good English, to say the least, as it is spoken in 2019, and, indeed, as it was spoken in 1992 when the Diary emerged.  I rather suspect it wasn't good English as it was spoken in 1888. 

Does the fact that this embarrassingly constructed sentence appears in the Diary tell us anything about its author?

It will be recalled that, in his 1995 affidavit, Mike Barrett claimed that Anne Barrett wrote the Diary at his dictation.

But, while I was a member of the Casebook Censorship Forum, one of the co-authors of 'Inside Story' said that she believed that the existence of 'Frequented my club' in the Diary effectively allowed us to eliminate Anne Barrett from the frame.  Anne Barrett could not possibly have made such a basic mistake of grammar, she said (in the form of a question).  Thus, in the thread 'Acquiring a Victorian Diary' on 26 February 2018 (#1199), Caroline Morris (a.k.a. Caz) posted (underlining added):  

'... wasn't Anne far too sensible and competent to have written the nonsensical 'frequented my club' with a straight face? It smacks to me of someone wanting "Sir Jim" to sound comical, ridiculous and pretentious, to imagine that one could 'frequent' one's club as a one off instance rather than a regular event, like a faux posh way to say 'visit'. It's almost Pooteresque, in its jumped up late Victorian clerkishness.'

At this time, there were no known examples of Anne's written work in existence.  All we had was a voicemail message she left for Shirley and Doreen in 1994 in which she used the expression, 'I seen'.  Hence, this was my response to Caroline Morris at the time (#1200): 

'I think I'm finally getting the hang of this.

'Mike was too stupid to write the diary while Anne was too clever.

She would never have written "Frequented my club" with a straight face because she was too sensible and competent! Mind you, what does being sensible and competent have to do with it?

In her voicemail message of 31 July 1994, we find that Anne said this:

"I think it was in 1968/69 I seen the Diary for the first time."

AND

"I never seen Tony again."

AND

"I seen Paul the other day..."

Not so sensible and competent as to be able to speak English properly, it seems. But perhaps she did not say those words with "a straight face".

In response to this, we were told by Ms Morris that 'I seen...' was 'very common in conversation and informal writing in Liverpool' (#1307) and that it wasn't found in the London area (#1329, and #260 of thread 'Who was the author of the Maybrick diary? Some options'). In #1369 I demonstrated, however, that it was found all over the country, including London, that it was not in any way unique to, or representative of, Liverpool and was simply an example of bad English. 

What I hadn't realized at the time was that the same language used by Anne in the voicemail is actually in the Diary ('The whore seen her master today').  But, having then spotted it, I wrote (#1331):

'I see that someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes to convince us (or "educate" us) that "I seen" is somehow unique to Liverpool. It is not. It is a wrong use of language made by people throughout the country, not identifiable to any particular area.

When I drew attention to Anne's repeated use of "I seen", I had no idea it was even in the Diary. I have now located the relevant extract.

"The whore seen her master today..."

Let's remind ourselves of what Anne said in a single telephone message in 1994:

"I think it was in 1968/69 I seen the Diary for the first time."

AND

"I never seen Tony again."

AND

"I seen Paul the other day..."

I mean, come on, it's an absolute giveaway!!! '

It remains a giveaway (and I subsequently discovered a number of other linguistic similarities between the Barretts and the Diary author) but for the moment let's concentrate on the idea that Anne was 'too sensible and competent' to have written 'frequented my club' in the Diary.  It struck me as a ludicrous claim at the time; something which was based, apparently, on nothing more than that Anne had worked as a secretary at some stage.  Hence we had this (#1589):

'Anne worked as a secretary, so unless she was considerably more literate than Mike was, bless him, I'm not sure how she'd have held down a job like that for long. It would have been pretty much a basic requirement, probably more so than for other lowly clerical posts such as filing clerks and office juniors.'

As if secretaries are immune to basic errors!  To me, it showed that certain Diary Defenders were prepared to raise any obstacle, however absurd, against the idea that the Barretts could have been involved in the forgery.  In fact, it was even worse than this because, as R.J. Palmer pointed out, Caroline Morris had argued in 2005 that Anne Barrett could quite easily have made elementary mistakes of English.  From having read some of her correspondence, she said, 'Anne may be streets ahead of Mike, but she ain't all that.'   This was when she was trying to argue a different point, namely that Anne could have prepared a supposedly shoddy transcript of the Diary that was delivered to Doreen and Shirley in 1992.

So it's a classic case of a person arguing whatever supports her case at the time, rather than having genuine belief in those arguments.  

Fortunately, by chance, a few weeks after the discussion about Anne's competence in the Forum, I managed to acquire some examples of letters written by Anne by which I could test Anne's ability to make basic mistakes of grammar in her written work.

What those few letters revealed was that there can be no doubt that Anne Barrett could easily have been responsible for all the grammatical and spelling errors which are found in the Diary, including 'Frequented my club'.   Here are the errors that she made:

"he knows the type of keys and rythams she will need "

She is also getting quiet a reputation as a singer and in the last 2 weeks has sang solos in Church..."
 
They are reading “The Hobbit” in English which she or any one else can’t make head nor tale off..."

"People get divorced every day it is only you who are making this one so cruel..."

"And when you did retrieve it you had the bloody gaul to send the card to her…"

"Your messages of tonight have gone in the bin were they belong."

Perhaps the most interesting mistake made by Anne was when she wrote that no-one could make head nor tale off 'The Hobbit'.  For the Diary author (while, like Anne, correctly using the word 'of' on a number of occasions) wrote:

"However, the pleasure of writing off all that lays ahead of me...",

"I ate all off it" 

So we have an example here of Anne carelessly making EXACTLY the same mistake of confusing 'of' and 'off' that the author of the Diary makes.  What a coincidence!

Then we have the fact that Anne often omits to use apostrophes, just like the author of the Diary!  Hence: 

"Why you should do that when you were sending notes by the dozen to my fathers address, I don’t know."

"I had to get two police officers to stand at my fathers funeral'

"My sex life, or lack of it is my own business, not yours or anyone elses"

"Well lets face it Mike" 

"It is Helens birthday on Sunday"

"Thats her second certificate"

According to Caroline Morris:

"Our diarist hardly uses the humble apostrophe at all - not even of the greengrocer variety." 

Just fancy that! 

So Anne was more than capable of making basic mistakes, including the omission of apostrophes, and, from the evidence of her own correspondence, she probably wouldn't have batted an eyelid had she been asked to write 'Frequented my club' during a dictation session.

But there is a twist in this story.  For, during July 2019, the usual suspects in JTR Forums suddenly decided that 'Frequented my club' could be grammatically correct after all! 

It all started in typical clownish fashion when San Fran posted at #185 in the notorious muppet thread, 'One off', by saying of 'Frequented my club':

"How did a modern author have the 20-20 hindsight to know that frequent actually meant "attend one time" because it comes from the French "to stop and haunt"?

That shows a level of knowledge of archaic usage that surpasses all modern scholarship in all these gatherings of minds." 

This caused Paul Butler to respond in #192 by saying:

'I wasn't aware of the word "frequent" correctly meaning a single visit.  That's interesting too.' 

Except.... it didn't.  It was the usual cock-up from that quarter and, in #203, after being challenged by Sam Flynn, San Fran admitted that he had been wrong:

'Alright, I think I had it slightly mixed up.  It seems "hanter" came from "frequenter" which came to mean abide in one place.  The French probably claimed French origin of "frequenter" from "freiner" and "hanter".' 

Undaunted, in #209, San Fran posted an extract from the seventeenth century in which one John Evelyn had written that on the 18th of the month, 'I frequented a course of Chemistrie'.

In the middle of this discussion, before San Fran had corrected his error about the origins of the word 'Frequented', we had Caroline Morris posting (#193):

'Modern hoax theorists up until now have typically put 'Frequented my club' down to a poor grasp of English usage by one or both Barretts. And I was no better informed, assuming it was just another example of 'Sir Jim' coming across as a pretentious bore of little brain.'

So now Caroline Morris has had a sudden epiphany.  'Frequented my club' does not show a poor grasp of English apparently!  Well, great, so now she must think that Anne Barrett COULD after all have written that sentence, right? Well, funnily enough, that's not the conclusion she draws.  In fact, as far as I can tell, in the mind of Caroline Morris, if 'Frequented my club' shows a poor grasp of English then Anne Barrett didn't write it but if it shows a good grasp of English then Anne Barrett also didn't write it!!! 

Well San Fran was wrong about the origins of 'frequent' as meaning 'attend one time' and the single example we have of an English writer possibly using 'frequented' to mean a single attendance (although, as he was referring to a course, it's a ambiguous) is from the seventeenth century, not the nineteenth century in which the Maybrick Diary was purportedly written.

There can be no doubt that 'Frequented my club', if written in modern times, shows a poor grasp of English and, as I stated at the outset, it probably showed a poor grasp in 1888.  There is no evidence that it was good English in the nineteenth century and it almost certainly was not.  But I'm not particularly interested in arguing about grammar in this article. I simply wanted to draw attention to the fact that Caroline Morris, when being converted to the idea that 'Frequented my club' was decent English, didn't follow her own logic by announcing that the clever Anne could have written it after all.

I say 'the clever Anne' because there was never any acknowledgment from Caroline Morris that Anne did make basic errors and thus could have written a poorly constructed sentence such as 'Frequented my club'.  The evidence shows that of course Anne Barrett could have written this.  

Finally I want to stress a point that R.J. Palmer has made a number of times but which is usually ignored by those who have difficulty accepting that the Diary is a modern forgery.   In Bernard Ryan's 1977 book, 'The Poisoned Life of Mrs Maybrick', we find this sentence:

'James continued to spend frequent evenings 'at the club' and to travel to London for a day or two 'on business'.

In Ryan's book, this sentence cuts across two pages (28 and 29) but here is how it is seen on page 29: 

Now, sure, we see a different meaning of 'frequent' here but anyone who has ever seen Derren Brown in action will know of the power of word suggestion.   We have the word 'frequent' linked here to Maybrick's visits to his club, not just in the text but also in the page header.  To my mind, this is undoubtedly what put the phrase 'Frequented my club' into the forger's head.

And we should note the crucial nature of this passage which shows that Maybrick often travelled to London, supposedly using his business as a cover story.  The context of this is that it appears in a discussion of events in 1888. The very next sentence actually begins, 'One day in 1888....'.  So anyone reading this book might well have the thought "Aha!  Maybrick could have been Jack the Ripper!"  As we know, the Diary author wrote, 'do I not frequently visit the Capitol and indeed do I not have legitimate reason for doing so.'  Again, we have the word 'frequently', there, planted as if by mind control from reading Ryan's book, I suggest.

The problem with Diary Defenders is that they will attempt to explain away each individual difficulty in isolation without considering the entirety of the evidence which is so overwhelming as to the period of creation of the Diary and the identity of the forgers.  This kind of failure to spot the blindingly obvious seems to occur very frequently!  

 

Lord Orsam
8 September 2019