Writing on architecture is not like history or poetry. History is captivating to the reader from its very nature, for it holds out the hope of various novelties. Poetry, with its measures and metrical feet, its refinement in the arrangement of words, and the delivery in verse of the sentiments expressed by the several characters to one another, delights the feeling of the reader, and leads him smoothly on to the very end of the work.

But this cannot be the case with architectural treatises, because those terms which originate in the peculiar needs of the art, give rise to obscurity of ideas from the unusual nature of the language. Hence, while the things themselves are not well known, and their names not in common use, if besides this the principles are described in a very diffuse fashion without any attempt at conciseness and explanation in a few pellucid sentences, such fullness and amplitude of treatment will only be a hindrance, and will give the reader nothing but indefinite notions.

Therefore, when I mention obscure terms, and the symmetrical proportions of members of buildings I shall give bride explanations, so that they may be committed to memory, for thus expressed, the mind will be enabled to understand them more easily.


(1st Century BC, Harvard University Press, 1914)

When people ask me what From Hell is about, I usually say that it's about Jack the Ripper, but not really. For me it's about architecture. Inspired by Douglas Adams' idea that crimes must be solved holistically, Alan Moore wrote his finest work across the span of seven years. During this time he attempted to solve the great mysteries of Victorian London, engaging in deep research that always seems to empty out into architecture and the deep structure of London as a (hole)y city.

From Hell is not a mystery novel in the more traditional sense. We know who the killer is within the first hundred pages and we can peek at his motivations and upbringing. Rather, the mystery is more esoteric and peeked at in small ways through both the killer's experience and through the extensive appendix of information included after the story is over. We are asked to consider the question: What is the fourth dimension?

Fourth dimensional patterns within Eternity's monolith would.. seem merely random events to third-dimensional percipients, events rising towards inevitable convergence like an archway's lines. Let us say something peculiar happens in 1788… a century later, related events take place. Then again, 50 years later. Then 25 years, then 12. An invisible curve rising through the centuries. Can history then be said to have an architecture? The notion is most glorious and most horrible.

Misogyny & Sexuality

"Symbols have power, Netley… Power enough to turn even a stomach such as yours… or to deliver half this planet's population into slavery."

Obviously the Whitechapel murders were crimes against women, but we can somehow trace the roots of this situational misogyny to ancient times and the creation of the modern nation in London through stories of druids and queens.

Masonic struggles are cast into the light of eons of "magic" geared towards securing patriarchal controls in society. From the rape of Boadicea and her daughters to the strategic use of obelisks to contain female superiority (rape!), the ripper himself considers his slaughtering prostitutes as a continuation of this Londonesque ritual narrative.

The women themselves in this book are vast and complex. Victoria herself is portrayed as cold and ruthless and secluded and emotional. The Whitechapel women all have histories and stories of their fall from grace and we see how they get by - selling themselves for four pence a john, bedding down in doss houses with a rope stretched across their chest like a line of fish, alcoholism, etc. They pine over lost children and admire the sunlight through a glass of beer. Female homosocial and homosexual situations feature in their lives as sources of support and solidarity, but most importantly they see men as the Ripper himself sees them: as slavers, thugs, rapists, and uncaring thugs.

The male characters in the story constantly belittle and deride the female sex, calling them tarts and whores, shoving them off as two dimensional and subhuman pawns in day to day existence. Even when confronted with the body of his mother, one character simply says "Poor mother… I have forgiven you for what you have done to me." A working-class man plays accomplice to the Ripper, highlighting problems with class solidarity when it comes to gendered issues. Even a policeman attempts a relationship with a victim, only to drop pretenses when she abandons him. Instead of continuing to view her as unfortunate and helpless, she is now simply a "tart". Male homosexuality is presented in the story, but only as a reaction to misogyny - homosexuality between men is presented as a preferred alternative to dealing with the "lesser sex". Male homosocial spaces are sinister and dark, contrasted with female spaces that are presented as defensive and reactionary to rampant Victorian misogyny.


We are constantly confronted with the stark class realities of Victorian London. Of course, the Ripper is a wealthy aristocrat professional and he preys on dejected working-class women. The murders begin when the Whitechapel women attempt to blackmail the Crown, challenging it on its own principles and hypocrisy. For the mere sum of 10 pounds, they are all sentenced to die. Not over money, but to assert class superiority. The working class - and especially the working woman - is expected to know its place.

Marxism and socialism is mentioned frequently. One of the more famous murder scenes is interspersed with a character reciting the poem "Love is Enough" by William Morris. Another chapter begins with every other panel showing scenes from the prostitute-to-be-murdered's life as contrasted to the comfortable luxury of the Ripper.

Importantly, a major chapter features a tour of London between the Ripper and his accomplice, a working-class coachman. The Ripper goes on and on in detail, elucidating scholarly ideas that the illiterate coachman is unable to follow, revealing his motives simply because he understands the coachman cannot understand him.

There is even tension between the bourgeois and capital class, as illustrated by the relationship of the police versus the perpetrators, the conspiracy and the masons. The bourgeois actors are literally paid off to protect and sustain the upper class actors involved.


"He knew that madmen are but prisoners of war, and had no fear of madness, for he knew its glory, knew its power." - Sir William Gull

Of course, the story is rife with apocrypha and ritual. Each murder unlocks a different series of visions out of chronological timespace, culminating with the death of the Ripper and his visions and experiences therein. Adolph Hitler was conceived during the Whitechapel murders, and a great many British serial killers were inspired by Jack the Ripper lore. Aleister Crowley has a cameo (you really have to keep an eye out on the cameos!) and the Ripper pays many visits to Joseph Merrick (the elephant man) as he views him as a sort of avatar of the Hindu god Ganesh. The story is steeped in Masonic ritual and history. The mysticism is my favorite aspect of the story and I don't want to give too much away. You should really read this book!


There are other aspects to this work I have failed to highlight - antisemitism, race and immigrant tension, relationship between citizen and state, imperialism at home and abroad, gentrification, etc. But I don't want to steal all the fun! If you've read it, please be sure to comment on parts you find interesting and aspects you want to explore. Maybe even add to what I've already written, because goodness knows I don't want to spend five hours working on this!

From Hell is a masterful tapestry of well-researched storytelling. Alan Moore once said something like: it's not what you know, it's how many connections you see. In this way, I can never really get sick of rereading From Hell. Since I moved to London I'm rereading it to get a sense of geography and history as well as the Victorian aesthetic. I'm on Chapter Six and would love to read along with y'all. There is a PDF copy floating around or else feel free to pick up a copy at your local library or used book store.

A NOTE ON THE 2001 JOHNNY DEPP ADAPTATION: It blows! It has nothing to do whatsoever with the graphic novel. Alan Moore has distanced himself completely from all film adaptations of his work, so please give the graphic novel a chance!

Discussion of FROM HELL on tHE r H i z z o n E:

~woot~ thanks for the link I'll catch up
and hopefully have something to say irt

antisemitism, race and immigrant tension, relationship between citizen and state, imperialism at home and abroad, gentrification, etc.

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This is really awesome, thanks for posting it!

I'm personally a big fan of a lot of Moore's stuff but I have not read From Hell itself... I would love to do a read along!

On your comments about Misogyny in From Hell, I'm reminded of Dave Sim, of Cerebus fame. Apparently the two were good pals. Have you ever read Moore's coorespondance (4 parts, first is here with him around the time when From Hell was coming out? I've always thought it was odd that Sim is vilified beyond reckoning for his bizarre views on feminism/women (and to be fair, he is a pretty crazy dude and would rant at length in his comic's "letters" pages) and yet no one ever sez anything about Moore when he makes stuff like a Jack the Ripper comic and the "0__0"-ifying Lost Girls.

I'm also really interested to see what Moore sez about Marx... he's been known for his libertarian streak at least as far back as V for Vendetta, but I've never really bought that he was in the same line as his die-hard Paultard fans due to his seeming rejection of their naive conceptions of Nietzche in The Watchmen. (which was all about Ubermenschen and Master/Slave Morality)
I'll read this after I finish Debt By Dabid Groubar
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no because theyre reading Doubt by Daylin Groebeur
I just started, I'm @ the start of chapter 2. Riveting!
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yeah i'm going to read a comic book. then maybe play nintendo and study for my addition test tomorrow in grade school. grow up, discipline.
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OK, I'm gonna be a lame-o and just go through some categories as I saw them:
(I'm starting on chapter 3 right now)

Anti-semitism - Annie says in the shop, "I wouldn't want to jew you now, would I?"
It's a little thing, but Moore puts it front and center. It's pretty much the first thing Annie says, and it's very offhand. Her frank speech may be a marker of her class, and her uncouthness (she is Catholic, after all!). So far we haven't seen any Jewish characters (that I know!), only the attitudes towards them. For the more educated man, there's the spiel that William goes through to join the Masons, which references "the Juwes" and also the dead religions.

Immigrant tension - Again, Annie spells it out early on, as an Irish Catholic she knows of her majesty as "the Famine Queen." Annie's "trouble" is made more urgent by her Catholicism, which spurs the Queen to terrible action.

Class in general - William and his driver, John Netley, dance the dance of the English class system. John fawns over William, William rebukes the overly "respectful" attention and insults him, John pretends not to have noticed the harsh words. The poor make up an experimental class for William, especially poor women.

Any societal problems are to be solved by men voting for representatives. Lees the middle class socialist calls himself a fraud, though he's talking about his supposed supernatural powers. Abberline is a bootstraps Tory.

From what I've seen so far, misogyny is indeed the main thematic thread running though the story. The first woman we meet is a whore, the next woman is later labeled a whore for her pregnancy, and William treats his female "patients" (victims?) with less respect than his male cadavers. I'm thinking especially of the panel where he has his fingers in the syphilitic mad woman, and Annie's operation - which reminded me of the Rosemary Kennedy fiasco. Class and gender mix in the scene where William steals a heart from a male cadaver, and laments to the woman witness that she just doesn't understand science or his professional needs. This woman is invisible/ignorable because of her station and her gender - and really, she wouldn't think of going against this doctor's wishes.

According to wikipedia, the historical William Gull was a proponent of women doctors. I'm not too far in and the murders haven't even started yet, but this thing is dense!
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bump because i'm gonna read this now
I swear to god I'm still reading it//
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I'm about 1/5 of the way through and right now the big thing is the architectural conspiracy theories. Moore is pretty clearly using his pov/status as the writer to keep us off balance irt them. We (probably) have no grounding for them which makes them both impenetrable and "believable" (in context w/the story at least).

We don't know what of Moore's writing is "accurate" in this regard and what is being deliberately tweaked for the story. The atmosphere of London is an oppressive one rife with whiffs of paganism and conspiracy. Again, Jack the Ripper is not some unexpected monster puncturing this idyll, he is just one more symptom of a sick society that is eating itself.
i just finished .... jesus, it was incredible, I can't believe I haven't read this until now. that scene where he sees the skyscraper after he rips fake marie gave me fuckin' chills... good golly... I'll have to reply in more detail...
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discipline posted:
hhaha I was so full of smiles last night it seems...


this really is an incredible book and i will post more in this thread after i reread it via the convenient pdf link, as i loaned out my copy a couple of years ago and still dont have it back
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i randomly went inside a graphic novel bookstore today and randomly happened upon this and vaguely remembered this thread and bought From Hell. holy shit, it owns, thank you!
I wonder why the part where those doors open and an ocean of blood spills out like that scene with the elevator doors in The Shining and drowns all of those Jews as a metaphor for the birth of Hitler wasn't shown in the movie.

Maybe it's in the deleted scenes.
bump cause i just read this and its really good. having lived in london all my life i can its accurate about the general atmosphere of this place, and about the stark creepy malevolent beauty of hawksmoors churches.

also im a huge sucker for anything thats some kind of rumination on grand historical narratives, so thats cool. i guess things get pretty spoilery from here but then i dont "Care" about plot spoilers lol

i guess thats what stood out for me. there is a sense in this book of simultaneity, that the ritual completed by the ripper doesnt so much create the 20th century but reveal one possibility among many already existing. his visions arent so much views of things yet to come but a revelation of an alternative in that place - look at the way it talks about whitechapel being the home to huguenots then jews then south asians, but always remaining the home to immigrants. it begs us to see this violence against women as not something in the past, but an alternative expression of something that remains with us.

in regard to this, moore realy reallly really effectively creates a picture of historical time that lets us look at this history dialectically, a great whirling mechanism all happening at once, not some kind of placid river. architecture plays an important role in this too - hes careful to maintain constancy in settings to a great extent, with hawksmoor this looming presence.

theres maybe 5 or 6 times more than this to say about this particular aspect of from hell - like looking at this in respect to all the stuff gull says about eternal ideas
someone (in this thread ) got me this thing for christmas, im gonna start readign it after i finish man in the HIGH castle
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discipline posted:

also joey you are a real jerk for not posting anywhere

if you like his theory of four-dimensional time architecture biznasty then maybe you oughta read his first novel....its called "voice of the fire". its about the string of terrible related events that leads to the creation of a bad city which is called northhampton. it focuses around twelve characters, you get to know them through the storys they tell of themselves and their situation and also your own historical speculations. every one of the stories takes place in the northhampton vicinity at a different point in its timeline. as the march of history progresses the story becomes more and more infested with these holistic influences and the ghosts of the past stories begin to accumulate and overwhelm the story. both in literal form and in their barely tangible mythical presence. there is also a constant theme of the many uses of fire. burning effigies, burning helpless victims, 'criminals' and cute gay witch pals. celestial fire, prophetic fire. fire which can cook the bones of earth, melt them into puddles, let them be molded by blows and sharpened to a bloodletting point. the heaving inferno and choking smoke that builds a new industrial society. i dont have a lot of time to sit here and tell you about why you gotta read my favorite book, youre wasting your time if you arent doing it already 5minutes ago. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. read the fucking book. (11)
if you get to end there is a really hilarious diss on b. clinton
cool thread. From Hell is so good, the art is so sick
I dled it, started reading it
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