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2013-08-24 20:01:51
Dickens, Charles
[Letter on Public Executions]
1850. In: The Tioga Banner. Wellsboro Penn., January 8, 1850. One broadsheet (35" x 22") folded to make four pages. On November 13, 1849, Charles Dickens (with his friend, the illustrator John Leech) witnessed in Horsemonger's Lane, London, the public hanging of George Manning and his wife Maria (for the murder of her former lover). Dickens was disgusted not by the executions themselves, but by the fact that they were public -- it is estimated that the hangings were witnessed by about 30,000. Later that very day Dickens wrote a letter to the editor of The Times, and it appeared the next day...~In it he expressed his shock at the behavior of the crowd at the hangings, going on to ask that public executions be abolished.~... When I came upon the scene at midnight, the shrillness of the cries and howls... made my blood run cold. As the night went on, screeching, and laughing, and yelling in strong chorus of parodies on Negro melodies, with substitutions of "Mrs. Manning" for "Susannah," and the like, were added to these. When the day dawned, thieves, low prostitutes, ruffians and vagabonds of every kind, flocked onto the ground, with every variety of offensive and foul behavior... When the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgment... than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world...~This letter by Dickens prompted editorials by The Times and responses by other readers over the following week - … [Click Below for Full Description]
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