- “I have seen, habitually, some of the worst sources of general contamination and corruption in this country, and I think there are not many phases of London life that could surprise me” is a quotation from a letter to The Times written by Charles Dickens (on the Manning execution at Horsemonger Lane Gaol), November 1849.
Quotation taken from a letter Charles Dickens wrote to The Times newspaper, published on 14 November 1849.
Background: Dickens and the Mannings Execution.
Charles Dickens attended a public execution at Horsemonger Lane Gaol on the morning of Tuesday, 13th November 1849, staying all night to witness the crowds gathering for the event. Maria and Frederick Manning were hanged on gallows erected on the flat roof of the prison’s gatehouse for murdering a friend for money. Dickens was so appalled by what he saw that he wrote a strongly worded letter to The Times newspaper later that day, deploring the behaviour of the crowd. Charles Dickens was one of a number of influential people who campaigned against holding executions in public, which finally ceased in 1868.
Taken from the following passage in Charles Dickens’s Letter on Public Executions, 14 November 1849:
I have seen, habitually, some of the worst sources of general contamination and corruption in this country, and I think there are not many phases of London life that could surprise me. I am solemnly convinced that nothing that ingenuity could devise to be done in this city, in the same compass of time, could work such ruin as one public execution; I stand astounded and appalled by the wickedness it exhibits. I do not believe that any community can prosper where such a scene of horror and demoralisation as was enacted this morning outside Horsemonger Lane Gaol is presented at the very doors of good citizens, and is passed by, unknown or forgotten. And when, in our prayers, and thanksgivings for the season, we are humbly expressing before God our desire to remove the moral evils of the land, I would ask your readers to consider whether is not a time to think of this one, and root it out.
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