A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe
A Journal of the Plague Year
Daniel Defoe
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A Journal of the Plague Year: Being Observations or Memorials, Of the most Remarkable Occurrences, As well Publick as Private, which happened in London During the last Great Visitation In 1665, commonly called 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.

A Journal of the Plague Year

Being Observations or Memorials,
Of the most Remarkable Occurrences,
As well Publick as Private, Which happened in
London During the last Great Visitation in 1665
Written by a Citizen who continued
all the while in London.
Never made publick before

by
Daniel Defoe


Section I

It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard in ordinary discourse that the plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither, they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus. It mattered not from whence it came; but all agreed it was come into Holland again.

We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since. But such things as these were gathered from the letters of merchants and others who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by word of mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now. But it seems that the Government had a true account of it, and several councils were held about ways to prevent its coming over; but all was kept very private. Hence it was that this rumour died off again, and people began to forget it as a thing we were very little concerned in, and that we hoped was not true; till the latter end of November or the beginning of December 1664 when two men, said to be Frenchmen, died of the plague in Long Acre, or rather at the upper end of Drury Lane.

The family they were in endeavoured to conceal it as much as possible, but as it had gotten some vent in the discourse of the neighbourhood, the Secretaries of State got knowledge of it; and concerning themselves to inquire about it, in order to be certain of the truth, two physicians and a surgeon were ordered to go to the house and make inspection. This they did; and finding evident tokens of the sickness upon both the bodies that were dead, they gave their opinions publicly that they died of the plague. Whereupon it was given in to the parish clerk, and he also returned them to the Hall; and it was printed in the weekly bill of mortality in the usual manner, thus —

Plague, 2. Parishes Infected, 1.

The people showed a great concern at this, and began to be alarmed all over the town, and the more, because in the last week in December 1664 another man died in the same house, and of the same distemper. And then we were easy again for about six weeks, when none having died with any marks of infection, it was said the distemper was gone; but after that, I think it was about the 12th of February, another died in another house, but in the same parish and in the same manner.

This turned the people’s eyes pretty much towards that end of the town, and the weekly bills showing an increase of burials in St Giles’s parish more than usual, it began to be suspected that the plague was among the people at that end of the town, and that many had died of it, though they had taken care to keep it as much from the knowledge of the public as possible. This possessed the heads of the people very much, and few cared to go through Drury Lane, or the other streets suspected, unless they had extraordinary business that obliged them to it.

This increase of the bills stood thus: the usual number of burials in a week, in the parishes of St. Giles-in-the-Fields and St. Andrew’s, Holborn, were from twelve to seventeen or nineteen each, few more or less; but from the time that the plague first began in St. Giles’s parish, it was observed that the ordinary burials increased in number considerably. For example: —

From December 27 to January 3 ____________________{ St Giles’s _______________16
_____________________________________________________{ St Andrew’s ____________17
From January 3 to January 10 ______________________{ St Giles’s _______________12
_____________________________________________________{ St Andrew’s ____________25
From January 10 to January 17 _____________________{ St Giles’s _______________18
_____________________________________________________{ St Andrew’s ____________28
From January 17 to January 24 _____________________{ St Giles’s _______________23
_____________________________________________________{ St Andrew’s ____________16
From January 24 to January 31 _____________________{ St Giles’s _______________24
_____________________________________________________{ St Andrew’s ____________15
From January 30 to February 7 _____________________{ St Giles’s _______________21
_____________________________________________________{ St Andrew’s ____________23
From February 7 to February 14 ____________________{ St Giles’s_______________24

The like increase of the bills was observed in the parishes of St. Bride’s, adjoining on one side of Holborn parish, and in the parish of St. James, Clerkenwell, adjoining on the other side of Holborn; in both which parishes the usual numbers that died weekly were from four to six or eight, whereas at that time they were increased as follows: —

From December 20 to December 27 ____________________{ St Bride’s____________0
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s____________8
From December 27 to January 3 ________________________{ St Bride’s____________6
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s____________9
From January 3 to January 10 __________________________{ St Bride’s____________11
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s____________7
From January 10 to January 17 _________________________{ St Bride’s____________12
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s____________9
From January 17 to January 24 _________________________{ St Bride’s____________9
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s___________15
From January 24 to January 31 _________________________{ St Bride’s____________8
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s___________12
From January 31 to February 7 _________________________{ St Bride’s___________13
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s___________5
From February 7 to February 14 ________________________{ St Bride’s___________12
_________________________________________________________{ St James’s____________6

Besides this, it was observed with great uneasiness by the people that the weekly bills in general increased very much during these weeks, although it was at a time of the year when usually the bills are very moderate.

The usual number of burials within the bills of mortality for a week was from about 240 or thereabouts to 300. The last was esteemed a pretty high bill; but after this we found the bills successively increasing as follows: —

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