Orsam Books

Bunny's Friend Redux

It will be recalled that the original 'Bunny's Friend' article was a direct response to Caroline Morris' suggestion that a reference to Florence's friend in Margaret Baillie's letter of 13th April 1889 might, somehow, have been a reference to her Godmother.  As I explained in the article, the 'friend' in question was almost certainly Mrs Briggs.

I don't know whether Caroline Morris read my response but she seems to have dropped the notion about a possible friend/Godmother confusion.  Nevertheless, undeterred, in her unstoppable mission to defend the diary, and having seen a false reference in the Maybrick books to Margaret Baillie being a distant cousin of Florence, she next floated the possibility that Margaret Baillie, being a cousin (even though she wasn't), might, in a twisted way, have been the sick aunt referred to in the diary, despite Margaret being neither Florence's aunt nor in need of medical attention.

In one of my special statements posted by the Clanger on JTR Forums, I stated that Caroline Morris' claim that Florence was a distant cousin of Margaret was false (having already explained why on this site).  In response, Caroline Morris said, laughably, 'It wasn't my false claim' because, you see, she had read it in a couple of books (#498 of 'Lord Orsam's Blog' thread) so it was (I think she was saying) the false claim of the authors of those books.  

It doesn't work like that though.  If you repeat a false claim, you thereby adopt it.   SHE made the false claim that they were cousins on the forums, not anyone else, which is why I called her out on it.

To repeat: Florence and Margaret were not related.  They were friends who met while they were both holidaying on the continent (in Switzerland, according to John Baillie Knight).

In a dizzying display of twisted logic, after noting that both Christie and Ryan referred to the Baillies as distant cousins of Florence, Caroline Morris said:

'and Bongo Barrett is supposed to have taken his material direct for the diary text straight from Ryan.'  

A finer example of Caroline Morris attempting to befuddle and confuse her readers can hardly be found.  The diary doesn't mention any cousins of Florence, so why could it possibly matter (either to Mike Barrett or any forger of the diary) that Ryan said that Margaret was Florence's cousin?

I don't know whether the mind of Caroline Morris is thinking along the lines that, if Mike was the forger, he would have seen from Ryan that Florence stayed with Margaret while in London so, despite believing she was a cousin, he imagined James would have referred to her as an 'aunt' of Florence's when forging the diary, even though Margaret was not said to be sick or in need of nursing.  I mean, I can't think what other relevance there can be of her saying that Mike is supposed to have taken his material from Ryan in this context.

There is, of course, a far simpler explanation for the sick aunt reference in that Ryan also says in his book that Florence went to London to visit an AUNT who needed to undergo an operation.   Nothing to do with Margaret Baillie.

Last I saw on Casebook, Caroline Morris was under the misapprehension that Ryan said nothing in his book about Florence visiting an aunt (having simply not spotted it) so I really don't know whether she is aware of it to this day.  She never corrects her mistakes and she apparently refuses to educate herself by reading the articles on this site (unless they are sent to her unsolicited).

Anyway, because RJ Palmer posted some direct links on JTR Forums and spelt it all out for her, she now does know that Florence and Margaret were not related.  So that is getting somewhere but, still, she doesn't stop and she now has a new theory about the sick aunt.   

Before getting to that let's first deal with the questions that Caroline Morris posed on JTR Forums, to which she was supposedly so anxious to learn the answers that she posted them twice, because they relate to this new theory.

What she asked RJ (for him to subsequently ask me) was (#537 of 'Lord Orsam's Blog' thread, repeated in #541):

'Do you know for a fact that a) Florie saw her Godmother during that week, while she was staying with the 'misses Baillie', and b) she never referred to Margaret B or her Godmother as her "aunt"?'

Here are the key parts of my answers (as posted by RJ in #546):

Q1. Do you know for a fact that a) Florie saw her Godmother during that week, while she was staying with the 'misses Baillie'?

Lord Orsam: Whether Florence did or did not see her Godmother in London is irrelevant bearing in mind that the entry in the diary was supposedly written before the visit. All that is relevant is that we know for a fact that she gave to her husband as an excuse for going to London that she was going to see her Godmother who was said to be visiting London to consult a surgeon. This is from the evidence of Dr. Hopper.

Q2: and b) she never referred to Margaret B or her Godmother as her "aunt"?

Lord Orsam: She would never have referred to Margaret B as her aunt bearing in mind that she was a personal friend she had met while travelling on the continent. As for her Godmother, there is  no good reason to think that she ever inaccurately referred to the Countess de Gabriac as her aunt, especially considering that Dr Hopper was personally told by the Maybricks that she was her Godmother, and it's not even relevant bearing in mind that, even if she had ever referred to her inaccurately as an aunt (for which there is no evidence), that would not have confused James Maybrick who would have known that she was her Godmother (and did know this, as confirmed by Dr Hopper's evidence) and he would thus not have inaccurately used the word 'aunt' in his personal journal. 

Now let's carefully go through Caroline Morris' reply to those answers. She mainly avoided responding to them directly, mind you.  Her first comment was this:

'Thank you, RJ. So it's irrelevant whether Florie's plans for her London trip ever included seeing her Godmother, or whether she saw her at all that week. Good to know what we don't know.'

I'm not sure how to interpret that.  But yes it is entirely irrelevant what Florence actually did in London.  Frankly, she could have gone to the moon during her week away from Battlecrease.  It wouldn't change what her husband was already supposed to have written in his diary about what he understood her to be doing in the future.  So whether she did or did not see her Godmother in London (and we simply don't know either way if she did or did not, or even if it was true that her Godmother was in London) that doesn't affect what she had previously told James she was going to London for.

Then we have this: 

'The reference in the diary to Florie's aunt comes, of course, before the trip, when, at least according to Bernard Ryan, she had written two letters, one  to Margaret Baillie, a close family friend of her mother's generation, expressing a wish to 'stop with her for a few days', and one to Margaret's younger relative [nephew? cousin?] John Baillie Knight, a close family friend of Florie's generation, to ask if he would escort her to dinner on her first evening. '

You can see there in the first line that Caroline Morris actually repeats what I'd already said.  Thus, I wrote (underlining added):

'Whether Florence did or did not see her Godmother in London is irrelevant bearing in mind that the entry in the diary was supposedly written before the visit.'

And Caroline Morris replies:

'The reference in the diary to Florie's aunt comes, of course, before the trip'....

Yes, I'd already said that!  Which is why the question of whether Florence did actually visit her Godmother in London is irrelevant.  So why was her question so important that it needed to be asked twice?

A couple of other points of note about that passage.  The first is that Margaret Baillie is described by Caroline Morris as 'a close family friend of her mother's generation'. I can only assume that this formulation has been used to try and maintain the nonsense that Margaret might have been referred to as an aunt because she was 'a close family friend' who was in her 60s.

What is so amusing here is that, until now, and prior to being corrected by me, Caroline Morris has been telling us that Margaret Baillie was a distant cousin, so what is it that suddenly makes her think that she was a 'close' family friend?  I'm not aware of any evidential basis for this statement.   Nor is it anything other than misleading to describe her as a 'family friend' in circumstances where she only met Florence and her mother, jointly, while travelling in Europe, probably in the late 1870s (for John Baillie Knight said he was first introduced to her by his aunts in about 1879) when she was a young adult. 

But, more than this, by saying that she was someone of 'her mother's generation' she's obviously still trying to set up the possibility that she could thus have been referred to by Florence as her aunt.  It's a non-starter.  While, sure, young children who don't know the precise relationship between their mother and her close friends might think of them as aunts, that simply doesn't apply to someone you meet for the first time while on holiday while you are a teenager and, for that reason, we can be sure that Florence didn't suddenly call someone she came to be friends with (as well as Margaret's younger sister) her aunt.

The other point of note is the bit where we find it said:

'...Margaret's younger relative [nephew? cousin?] John Baillie Knight' 

Not only is this uncertainty inconsistent with what she goes on to say in the very next paragraph of the same post (as reproduced below) when she confidently refers to  'John's Aunt Margaret' but it's just another ludicrous attempt (1) to undermine what I have repeatedly stated, namely that John Baillie Knight was Margaret Baillie's nephew and (2) to float the idea that John might have been referring to his cousin as his aunt to bolster her nonsense that Florence might have been doing the same thing, which she has now, of course, abandoned.

Over a year ago, for a different purpose, I set out the family relationship between Margaret Baillie and John Baillie Knight.  It was to explain why Margaret was not Margaret Baillie Knight (as Iconoclast had inaccurately referred to her, an error subsequently repeated by Caroline Morris).  Allow me to reproduce what I first stated in 'Lord Orsam Says' part 3, on 27 October 2019: 

John Baillie Knight was the son of John Burgess Knight and Elizabeth Mary Knight.  So the 'Baillie'  in his name was technically his middle name.  It was given to him to reflect his mother's family name; for his mother, Elizabeth Mary Knight, was  formerly Elizabeth Mary Baillie, the daughter of George and Harriet Baillie.  Elizabeth had a  younger sister born on 20 March 1825 called Margaret.  So Margaret Baillie was John Baillie Knight's aunt.  But her name was NOT Knight.  She was separate from the Knight family, with John Burgess Knight being her brother-in-law.  So she was not Margaret Baillie Knight.  

So, no Caroline Morris, John and Margaret were not cousins and the attempt to try and throw in doubt the fact that they were aunt and nephew has failed.

It's strange, though, isn't it, that, without any challenge, Caroline Morris is able to describe John Baillie Knight as a possible 'cousin?' of Margaret Baillie in a thread on JTR Forums in which JTR Forums' resident genealogical research 'expert', the Clanger, is closely monitoring and posting in?  After all, it took me all of about five minutes on Ancestry back in 2019 to establish the correct relationship between the two.  So why didn't the Clanger do some quick checking and correct Caroline Morris?  Can you imagine what would had happened if I had suggested that John Baillie Knight might have been Margaret's cousin?  We would surely have had a brand new thread started by the Clanger followed by about 20 posts all showing that they were aunt and nephew and asking how Lord Orsam hadn't been able to find this out.  But with Caroline Morris, she is somehow allowed to float false possibilities to her heart's content without the Clanger even raising an eyebrow.

Anyway, Caroline Morris has more to say.  Before Florence's trip to London, she continues:

'at least according to Bernard Ryan, she had  written two letters, one to Margaret Baillie, a close family friend of her mother's generation, expressing a wish to 'stop with her for a few days', and one to Margaret's younger relative [nephew? cousin?] John Baillie Knight, a close family friend  of Florie's generation, to ask if he would escort her to dinner on her first evening. '

Well now.  There she goes again relying on Bernard Ryan.  His book was published in 1977.  So what could he possibly know about the case?  He didn't have access to the files in the National Archives and all his information came from published sources, either the trial transcript, other writers or newspapers.  We know that there is no reference in any of these sources to any letter written by Florence to Margaret expressing a wish to stop with her a few days.

Let's just think about Ryan for a minute.  He tells us that Florence's excuse for visiting London was to see an aunt who was due to have an operation.  Well we know that he was mistaken in saying this.  Dr Hopper mentioned nothing about an operation and he made clear it was a godmother.  We also know that Ryan falsely claimed that Florence and Margaret were related.  So that must surely be a red flag that Ryan is not entirely reliable.  He may well have been inventing details to assist in telling the story.  After all, if Florence visited Margaret while in London, and the two were known to communicate by letter, then she probably wrote to her in advance to set up the visit and Ryan might just have assumed this would have been the case, so no harm in including it in his book.

Having said this, the evidence of John Baillie Knight, as set out in 'Bunny's Friend', was that it had indeed been arranged that Florence was to spend some days with the Misses Baillie while she was in London. We need to remember, however, that Florence had booked a hotel room at Flatman's for a whole week. Having arrived in London on a Thursday evening, she appears to have had a falling out with Brierley on Sunday and thus cut short her stay at the hotel, going straight to Margaret Baillie in Notting Hill.  While it would seem that she was always planning to visit Margaret, her visit to her after parting with Brierley on the Sunday could not have been planned. It could not have been pre-arranged for that date at least.  We certainly know that Florence told an entirely false story to account for her movements in London up until that time because John Baillie Knight records that his aunt had great suspicion about what she was saying about those movements.

So Caroline Morris' theory is based on a dodgy foundation.  I should add though that it doesn't actually make any difference to anything whether Florence did or did not arrange in advance to see Margaret because she cannot in any way be the sick aunt referred to in the diary.  

Admitting that there is no source for Ryan's statement, Caroline Morris continues:

'I don't know Ryan's source for the first letter, but John did indeed escort Florie to dinner that evening, and she did indeed 'stop' with Margaret after leaving Flatman's Hotel, staying until her return to Liverpool. So it would have been prudent to set this up in advance, as her contingency plan, should the need arise - which it did.' 

Now, I have no problem with the possibility that Florence had arranged with Margaret that she would come round to see her at an unspecified date. The reason for this is that Margaret was neither Florence's aunt nor sick or having an operation so that this is the most irrelevant line of enquiry one can imagine.  I mean, it's even WORSE than the argument that James was referring to the Countess de Gabriac in his diary because at least she was said to have been seeing a surgeon in London, even though she was not, of course, his wife's aunt.  But Margaret Baillie has the double disadvantage of being neither an aunt nor sick.  I might be saying that again during this article because it's pretty crucial.

Then we have this:

'The excuse Florie gave to James and Dr Hopper about her main purpose for going to London - to see her Godmother - came after the event, so it's not clear what, or how much James was told beforehand.'

This statement is false.

There is no evidence of Florence saying anything to James "after the event".

Let's remind ourselves of the actual evidence in the case. Dr Hopper said that, following Florence's return from London, he spoke to James and Florence and that:

'They both told me that the cause of Mrs Maybrick's visit to London was that the Countess de Gabriac had had to come to London to see Sir James Paget and that she had called Mrs Maybrick to stay with her'.

That statement is perfectly clear and unambiguous to any speaker of the English language.   Florence had been summoned to London by her Godmother.

Dr Hopper says that this was 'the cause' of the visit to London or, in other words, it was the reason why Florence left Liverpool to go to London.   Her Godmother 'had had to come to London'.  She 'called' Florence down.  That was the cause of the visit. lt's so simple. It's basic comprehension.

Dr Hopper did not say that Florence went down to London for an unspecified purpose and while she was there happened to visit her Godmother.  No, that was the cause of the visit.

And he was told this by both James and Florence.

It's as plain as a pikestaff that James was aware prior to his wife's departure that she had been called to London by her Godmother who was visiting London to see a surgeon.  That is certainly what they both told Dr Hopper.

Now, the Caroline Morris theory that is going to unfold seems to be based on a bizarre suggestion that Florence told everyone that she was going to London to see Margaret Baillie (confusing James who thought that Margaret was her aunt and was sick, in need of nursing) but that, when she returned, worried that Margaret would not corroborate her movements for her first few days in London, changed her story to her having seen her Godmother (by accident, presumably!), even though she DID spend time with Margaret.

There are so many problems with this theory but one very obvious one is that, if Florence was worried that Margaret could be easily contacted by James to refute her story, this would surely have applied with equal force before her departure from Liverpool as after.  If she was planning to stay a week with Brierley it wouldn't have been a very good cover story to say she was spending time with Margaret if Margaret could easily say that wasn't true.  In other words, the very reason for Florence not wanting to use that story after her return from London applied with just as much force beforehand. 

Another obvious problem is that it's hard to think of anything more suspicious than Florence changing her story after her return.  If she had told her husband prior to her departure that she was off to London to visit Margaret, how suspicious would it have been for her to have said after her return that the cause of her trip was actually to visit her Godmother who had 'called' for her?  It's hard to imagine anything more suspicious than this. More than this, it doesn't even make sense for Florence to have claimed (after her return to Battlecrease) to have been called down to London by her Godmother if she had already told James prior to her departure that she was going to London to see Margaret.

More than this, though, if the real Florence Maybrick told James prior to her departure than she was off to London to visit her friend, Margaret Baillie, then that proves the diary to be a fake!  Because the James Maybrick of the diary believed she's going to London to visit her sick aunt.

All Caroline Morris has done is switch one mistake in the diary for another.  Or rather the same mistake but for a different reason, arriving at the same result that the diary is proved to be a fake.

She's got nowhere.  

But let's plod on to the bitter end.  Here's the theory in all its nutty glory:

'Florie had to tread carefully and not tell any lies that he could easily discover before she even set off. Setting up her stay with John's Aunt Margaret - assuming Florie would not have turned up on her doorstep unannounced - would have given her options. She could spend the whole week with her lover if all went well, and then claim afterwards that her Godmother had needed her, to explain why she didn't stay with Margaret after all. If things didn't go so well, she had Margaret to fall back on, and she could then say her Godmother had only needed her for the first couple of days. Florie's need was to sort herself out a credible 'alibi' for the nights she would be spending at Flatman's with Alf, whether it was two nights or six. She couldn't say afterwards that she had stayed the whole time with Margaret, because Margaret could have contradicted her. So her 'alibi' for the crucial time spent with her lover became her Godmother, who may not have been so easy for James to contact for confirmation.'

I've already explained why this doesn't work.  Florence would have known before she left that Margaret could have contradicted her because she was planning to stay with Brierley for a full week at Flatman's Hotel.   A story that she was staying with her the whole time would have been known to her to be just as easily broken before she left for London as after.  So why would she have adopted it in the first place?  Why not just tell the lie about the Godmother from the start?   And it simply doesn't fit with the known story that Florence had been called to London by her Godmother.

In this respect, I do think it's worth noting the evidence of Alice Yapp that Florence told her that she was going to London to see her 'mother'.  In my opinion, that's an obvious mishearing (probably by the newspaper reporters) for godmother.  One thing it certainly isn't is 'friend'.  Another thing it isn't is 'aunt'

Then we have this totally irrelevant and unsupported statement:

'It appears that the real James was not best  pleased with Florie on her return to Battlecrease,  as he intercepted letters to her from Margaret and sent them back to London, unopened, leading Margaret to think Florie had gone on to stay elsewhere without telling her. His motive for doing this is not clear.' 

When I read statements like this it genuinely makes me wonder if Caroline Morris just fills space in her posts with the aim of befuddling her readers as to their significance. She thinks James intercepted Florence's letters for an unclear motive.  And?  What is the purpose of including this information?

As to it's accuracy, I'm not aware of any evidence that James intercepted Florence's letters and sent them back to London.  Like Caroline Morris herself, I just can't think of any reason why he would have done it.

Her letters were certainly returned but it appears that there was an innocent explanation for this.  As Margaret Baillie stated in her letter of 13 April 1889:

'The forwarding of your letters was quite an innocent thing'

She also writes that Florence's mother had told her 'the reasons of your letters being returned here' about which she was 'quite satisfied'.

Margaret doesn't give those reasons in her letter but there is surely a clue when she writes:

'You left us for home on Thursday, and the inference would be that when you left you warned your servants of your coming, and that they would not forward any more letters'. 

She seems to be saying that Florence did not, in fact, warn her servants of her return.

An obvious possibility, therefore, is that one of the servants, unaware that Florence had returned to Liverpool, and thinking that she was still in London, returned Margaret's letters. It was just a cock-up, in other words. At the very least, we can see from Margaret's letter of 13th April that she was under the impression that it was the servants who were responsible for forwarding Florence's letters, nothing whatsoever to do with James.

So it would seem that Caroline has allowed her imagination to run wild here, attributing to James a malign but pointless and inexplicable motive for sending Florence's letters back to London. 

More than this, as I've said, it strikes me as entirely irrelevant to the topic we are discussing, so why mention it other than to make the readers of her post think it, in some baffling way, significant?

And that's the end of it.  The remaining two paragraphs relate of the post relate to a different subject.

An entire flurry of nonsense. 

They've tried one after another with all kinds of weird and wacky arguments but at the end of the day the facts are that Florence told James that she was going to see her Godmother in London but that the forger was unaware of this and, relying on secondary sources, misled by a muddled barrister, believed she was going to London to nurse a sick aunt back to health following an operation. It really is that simple. It proves the diary is a fake.  If you prefer, it's one of many mistakes which both individually and collectively prove beyond any possible doubt that the diary is a forgery.

 

LORD ORSAM
16 January 2021 

 

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