- Project Runeberg -  Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark /
148

(1889) [MARC] Author: Mary Wollstonecraft With: Henry Morley
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148 LETTERS ON SWEDEN,
the stone-work is still standing, and a great number of
the poor, during the late fire, took refuge in its ruins
till they could find some other abode. Beds were
thrown on the landing-places of the grand staircase,
where whole families crept from the cold, and every
little nook is boarded up as a retreat for some poor
creatures deprived of their home. At present a roof
may be sufficient to shelter them from the night air ;
but as the season advances, the extent of the calamity
will be more severely felt, I fear, though the exertions
on the part of Government are very considerable.
Private charity has also, no doubt, done much to
alleviate the misery which obtrudes itself at every
turn ; still, public spirit appears to me to be hardly
alive here. Had it existed, the conflagration might
have been smothered in the beginning, as it was at
last, by tearing down several houses before the flames
had reached them. To this the inhabitants would not
consent; and the prince royal not having sufficient
energy of character to know when he ought to be
absolute, calmly let them pursue their own course, till
the whole city seemed to be threatened with destruc-
tion. Adhering, with puerile scrupulosity, to the law
which he has imposed on himself, of acting exactly
right, he did wrong by idly lamenting whilst he
marked the progress of a mischief that one decided
step would have stopped. He was afterwards obliged
to resort to violent measures ;
but then, who could
blame him ? And, to avoid censure, what sacrifices
are not made by weak minds ?
A gentleman who was a witness of the scene assured

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