Read Victor Hugo’s Dernier Jour d’un Condamne! It is powerfully written, and the author identifies his feelings so strongly with the condemned, that he must, while writing the book, have experienced similar emotions to those which a person in the same terrible position would have felt. Wonderful power of genius, that can thus excite sympathy for the erring and the wretched, and awaken attention to a subject but too little thought of in our selfish times, namely, the expediency of the abolition of capital punishment! A perusal of Victor Hugo’s graphic book will do more to lead men’s minds to reflect on this point than all the dull essays; or as dull speeches, that may be written or made on it.
Talking of —— to-day with —— ——, she remarked that he had every sense but common sense, and made light of this deficiency. How frequently do we hear people do this, as if the possession of talents or various fine qualities can atone for its absence! Common sense is not only positively necessary to render talent available by directing its proper application, but is indispensable as a monitor to warn men against error. Without this guide the passions and feelings will be ever leading men astray, and even those with the best natural dispositions will fall into error.
Common sense is to the individual what the compass is to the mariner—it enables him to steer safely through the rocks, shoals, and whirlpools that intersect his way. Were the lives of criminals accurately known, I am persuaded that it would be found that from a want of common sense had proceeded their guilt; for a clear perception of crime would do more to check its perpetration, than the goodness of heart which is so frequently urged as a preventive against it.
Conscience is the only substitute for common sense, but even this will not supply its place in all cases. Conscience will lead a man to repent or atone for crime, but common sense will preclude his committing it by enabling him to judge of the result. I frequently hear people say, “So and so are very clever,” or “very cunning, and are well calculated to make their way in the world.” This opinion seems to me to be a severe satire on the world, for as cunning can only appertain to a mean intellect, to which it serves as a poor substitute for sense, it argues ill for the world to suppose it can be taken in by it.
I never knew a sensible, or a good person, who was cunning; and I have known so many weak and wicked ones who possessed this despicable quality, that I hold it in abhorrence, except in very young children, to whom Providence gives it before they arrive at good sense.
Went a round of the curiosity shops on the Quai d’Orsay, and bought an amber vase of rare beauty, said to have once belonged to the Empress Josephine. When I see the beautiful objects collected together in these shops, I often think of their probable histories, and of those to whom they once belonged. Each seems to identify itself with the former owner, and conjures up in my mind a little romance.