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

(1889) [MARC] Author: Mary Wollstonecraft With: Henry Morley
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BUSINESS having obliged me to go a few miles out of
town this morning I \vas surprised at meeting a crowd
of people of every description, and inquiring the cause
of a servant, who spoke French, I was informed that a
man had been executed two hours before, and the body
afterwards burnt. I could not help looking with
horror around the fields lost their verdure and I
turned with disgust from the well-dressed women who
were returning with their children from this sight.
What a spectacle for humanity! The seeing such a
flock of idle gazers plunged me into a train of reflec-
tions on the pernicious effects produced by false
notions of justice. And I am persuaded that till
capital punishments are entirely abolished executions
ought to have every appearance of horror given to
them, instead of being, as they are now, a scene of
amusement for the gaping crowd, where sympathy is
quickly effaced by curiosity.
I have always been of opinion that the allowing
actors to die in the presence of the audience has an
immoral tendency, but trifling when compared with
the ferocity acquired by viewing the reality as a show ;
for it seems to me that in all countries the common
people go to executions to see how the poor wretch
plays his part, rather than to commiserate his fate,
much less to think of the breach of morality which
has brought him to such a deplorable end. Con-
sequently executions, far from being useful examples

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