A Journal of the Plague Year is a book by Daniel Defoe, first published in March 1722. It is an account of one man’s experiences of the year 1665, in which the bubonic plague struck the city of London in what became known as the Great Plague of London, the last epidemic of plague in that city.
Two women lying dead in a London street during the great plague, 1665, one with a child who is still alive. Etching after R. Pollard II. Pollard, Robert, 1755-1838.
In today’s reading of the day, I would like to share an excerpt of the book I am currently reading, History of the Plague in London A Journal of the Plague by Daniel Defoe, which has perplexedly brought to my mind the similarities of our present day reality. Despite our hi-tech gadgets, how little or almost nothing has changed in over three centuries concerning contingencies due to Plagues. In today’s 21 century we can easily observe these flabbergasting conducts. I truly hope you find it as bewildering but enjoyable as I have done.
Nor did this unwary conduct of the people end here; for a great many that thus cast off their cautions suffered more deeply still, and though many escaped, yet many died; and at least it310 had this public mischief attending it, that it made the decrease 230of burials slower than it would otherwise have been; for, as this notion ran like lightning through the city, and the people’s heads were possessed with it, even as soon as the first great decrease in the bills appeared, we found that the two next bills did not decrease in proportion: the reason I take to be the people’s running so rashly into danger, giving up all their former cautions and care, and all shyness which they used to practice, depending that the sickness would not reach them, or that, if it did, they should not die.
The physicians opposed this thoughtless humor of the people with all their might, and gave out printed directions, spreading them all over the city and suburbs, advising the people to continue reserved, and to use still the utmost caution in their ordinary conduct, notwithstanding the decrease of the distemper; terrifying them with the danger of bringing a relapse upon the whole city, and telling them how such a relapse might be more fatal and dangerous than the whole visitation that had been already; with many arguments and reasons to explain and prove that part to them, and which are too long to repeat here.
But it was all to no purpose. The audacious creatures were so possessed with the first joy, and so surprised with the satisfaction of seeing a vast decrease in the weekly bills, that they were impenetrable by any new terrors, and would not be persuaded but that the bitterness of death was passed; and it was to no more purpose to talk to them than to an east wind; but they opened shops, went about streets, did business, and conversed with anybody that came in their way to converse with, whether with business or without, neither inquiring of their health, or so much as being apprehensive of any danger from them, though they knew them not to be sound.
This imprudent, rash conduct cost a great many their lives who had with great care and caution shut themselves up, and kept retired, as it were, from all mankind, and had by that means, under God’s providence, been preserved through all the heat of that infection.
231This rash and foolish conduct of the people went so far, that the ministers took notice to them of it, and laid before them both the folly and danger of it; and this checked it a little, so that they grew more cautious. But it had another effect, which they could not check: for as the first rumor had spread, not over the city only, but into the country, it had the like effect; and the people were so tired with being so long from London, and so eager to come back, that they flocked to town without fear or forecast, and began to show themselves in the streets as if all the danger was over. It was indeed surprising to see it; for though there died still from a thousand to eighteen hundred a week, yet the people flocked to town as if all had been well.
The consequence of this was, that the bills increased again four hundred the very first week in November; and, if I might believe the physicians, there were above three thousand fell sick that week, most of them newcomers too.
I gladly share with you the link, shall you like to read more of this amazing journal.