A Journal of the Plague Year

A Journal of the Plague Year

by Daniel Defoe


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A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in March 1722. The novel is a fictionalised account of one man's experiences of the year 1665, in which the Great Plague struck the city of London. The book is told roughly chronologically, though without sections or chapter headings.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781655015885
Publisher: Independently published
Publication date: 01/04/2020
Pages: 212
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.48(d)

About the Author

Daniel Defoe, born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer, and spy, most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe.

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A Journal of the Plague Year

By Daniel Defoe


Copyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-8418-8


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
January 3 " " 10 { St Giles's 12
" { St Andrew's 25
January 10 " " 17 { St Giles's 18
" { St Andrew's 28
January 17 " " 24 { St Giles's 23
" { St Andrew's 16

January 24 " " 31 { St Giles's 24
" { St Andrew's 15
January 30 " February 7 { St Giles's 21
" { St Andrew's 23
February 7 "
" 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
" December 27 to January 3 { St Bride's 6
" { St James's 9
" January 3 " " 10 { St Bride's 11
" { St James's 7
" January 10 " " 17 { St Bride's 12
" { St James's 9
" January 17 " " 24 { St Bride's 9
" { St James's 15
" January 24 " " 31 { St Bride's 8
" { St James's 12
" January 31 " February 7 { St Bride's 13
" { St James's 5
" February 7 " " 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:—

Buried. Increased.
December the 20th to the 27th     291
" 27th " 3rd January     349
January the 3rd " 10th "     394
" 10th " 17th "     415
" 17th " 24th "     474

This last bill was really frightful, being a higher number than had been known to have been buried in one week since the preceding visitation of 1656.

However, all this went off again, and the weather proving cold, and the frost, which began in December, still continuing very severe even till near the end of February, attended with sharp though moderate winds, the bills decreased again, and the city grew healthy, and everybody began to look upon the danger as good as over; only that still the burials in St Giles's continued high. From the beginning of April especially they stood at twenty-five each week, till the week from the 18th to the 25th, when there was buried in St Giles's parish thirty, whereof two of the plague and eight of the spotted-fever, which was looked upon as the same thing; likewise the number that died of the spotted-fever in the whole increased, being eight the week before, and twelve the week above-named.

This alarmed us all again, and terrible apprehensions were among the people, especially the weather being now changed and growing warm, and the summer being at hand. However, the next week there seemed to be some hopes again; the bills were low, the number of the dead in all was but 388, there was none of the plague, and but four of the spotted-fever.

But the following week it returned again, and the distemper was spread into two or three other parishes, viz., St Andrew's, Holborn; St Clement Danes; and, to the great affliction of the city, one died within the walls, in the parish of St Mary Woolchurch, that is to say, in Bearbinder Lane, near Stocks Market; in all there were nine of the plague and six of the spotted-fever. It was, however, upon inquiry found that this Frenchman who died in Bearbinder Lane was one who, having lived in Long Acre, near the infected houses, had removed for fear of the distemper, not knowing that he was already infected.

This was the beginning of May, yet the weather was temperate, variable, and cool enough, and people had still some hopes. That which encouraged them was that the city was healthy: the whole ninety-seven parishes buried but fifty-four, and we began to hope that, as it was chiefly among the people at that end of the town, it might go no farther; and the rather, because the next week, which was from the 9th of May to the 16th, there died but three, of which not one within the whole city or liberties; and St Andrew's buried but fifteen, which was very low. 'Tis true St Giles's buried two-and-thirty, but still, as there was but one of the plague, people began to be easy. The whole bill also was very low, for the week before the bill was but 347, and the week above mentioned but 343. We continued in these hopes for a few days, but it was but for a few, for the people were no more to be deceived thus; they searched the houses and found that the plague was really spread every way, and that many died of it every day. So that now all our extenuations abated, and it was no more to be concealed; nay, it quickly appeared that the infection had spread itself beyond all hopes of abatement. That in the parish of St Giles it was gotten into several streets, and several families lay all sick together; and, accordingly, in the weekly bill for the next week the thing began to show itself. There was indeed but fourteen set down of the plague, but this was all knavery and collusion, for in St Giles's parish they buried forty in all, whereof it was certain most of them died of the plague, though they were set down of other distempers; and though the number of all the burials were not increased above thirty-two, and the whole bill being but 385, yet there was fourteen of the spotted-fever, as well as fourteen of the plague; and we took it for granted upon the whole that there were fifty died that week of the plague.

The next bill was from the 23rd of May to the 30th, when the number of the plague was seventeen. But the burials in St Giles's were fifty-three—a frightful number!—of whom they set down but nine of the plague; but on an examination more strictly by the justices of peace, and at the Lord Mayor's request, it was found there were twenty more who were really dead of the plague in that parish, but had been set down of the spotted-fever or other distempers, besides others concealed.

But those were trifling things to what followed immediately after; for now the weather set in hot, and from the first week in June the infection spread in a dreadful manner, and the bills rose high; the articles of the fever, spotted-fever, and teeth began to swell; for all that could conceal their distempers did it, to prevent their neighbours shunning and refusing to converse with them, and also to prevent authority shutting up their houses; which, though it was not yet practised, yet was threatened, and people were extremely terrified at the thoughts of it.

The second week in June, the parish of St Giles, where still the weight of the infection lay, buried 120, whereof though the bills said but sixty-eight of the plague, everybody said there had been 100 at least, calculating it from the usual number of funerals in that parish, as above.

Till this week the city continued free, there having never any died, except that one Frenchman whom I mentioned before, within the whole ninety-seven parishes. Now there died four within the city, one in Wood Street, one in Fenchurch Street, and two in Crooked Lane. Southwark was entirely free, having not one yet died on that side of the water.

I lived without Aldgate, about midway between Aldgate Church and Whitechappel Bars, on the left hand or north side of the street; and as the distemper had not reached to that side of the city, our neighbourhood continued very easy. But at the other end of the town their consternation was very great: and the richer sort of people, especially the nobility and gentry from the west part of the city, thronged out of town with their families and servants in an unusual manner; and this was more particularly seen in Whitechappel; that is to say, the Broad Street where I lived; indeed, nothing was to be seen but waggons and carts, with goods, women, servants, children, &c.; coaches filled with people of the better sort and horsemen attending them, and all hurrying away; then empty waggons and carts appeared, and spare horses with servants, who, it was apparent, were returning or sent from the countries to fetch more people; besides innumerable numbers of men on horseback, some alone, others with servants, and, generally speaking, all loaded with baggage and fitted out for travelling, as anyone might perceive by their appearance.

This was a very terrible and melancholy thing to see, and as it was a sight which I could not but look on from morning to night (for indeed there was nothing else of moment to be seen), it filled me with very serious thoughts of the misery that was coming upon the city, and the unhappy condition of those that would be left in it.

This hurry of the people was such for some weeks that there was no getting at the Lord Mayor's door without exceeding difficulty; there were such pressing and crowding there to get passes and certificates of health for such as travelled abroad, for without these there was no being admitted to pass through the towns upon the road, or to lodge in any inn. Now, as there had none died in the city for all this time, my Lord Mayor gave certificates of health without any difficulty to all those who lived in the ninety-seven parishes, and to those within the liberties too for a while.

This hurry, I say, continued some weeks, that is to say, all the month of May and June, and the more because it was rumoured that an order of the Government was to be issued out to place turnpikes and barriers on the road to prevent people travelling, and that the towns on the road would not suffer people from London to pass for fear of bringing the infection along with them, though neither of these rumours had any foundation but in the imagination, especially at-first.

I now began to consider seriously with myself concerning my own case, and how I should dispose of myself; that is to say, whether I should resolve to stay in London or shut up my house and flee, as many of my neighbours did. I have set this particular down so fully, because I know not but it may be of moment to those who come after me, if they come to be brought to the same distress, and to the same manner of making their choice; and therefore I desire this account may pass with them rather for a direction to themselves to act by than a history of my actings, seeing it may not be of one farthing value to them to note what became of me.

I had two important things before me: the one was the carrying on my business and shop, which was considerable, and in which was embarked all my effects in the world; and the other was the preservation of my life in so dismal a calamity as I saw apparently was coming upon the whole city, and which, however great it was, my fears perhaps, as well as other people's, represented to be much greater than it could be.

The first consideration was of great moment to me; my trade was a saddler, and as my dealings were chiefly not by a shop or chance trade, but among the merchants trading to the English colonies in America, so my effects lay very much in the hands of such. I was a single man, 'tis true, but I had a family of servants whom I kept at my business; had a house, shop, and warehouses filled with goods; and, in short, to leave them all as things in such a case must be left (that is to say, without any overseer or person fit to be trusted with them), had been to hazard the loss not only of my trade, but of my goods, and indeed of all I had in the world.


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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'A Journal of the Plague Year' is journalistic history, not fiction. Defoe describes an event that happened when he was only an infant. He used family's and other accounts of the last great epidemic of the Black Death to strike England. It is readable and instructive. To me, the most interesting part of the tale, is the 'knowledge' seventeenth-century Londoners had of this disease [Bubonic Plague, Yersinia pestis] before knowledge of microbes and their transmission. Animals, especially dogs, cats and rats, were identified as possible vectors and shot on sight. Infected people were quarantined in their homes, along with uninfected relatives. Although these homes were guarded by armed watchmen, breakouts from quarantine were common. The disease spead and uninfected villages on the outskirts of London, themselves, set out guards preventing panicked refugees from entering and infecting their town. An interesting and human tale of desperation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Defoe's novel is fascinating, but this edition's flaws far overshadow the prose. The editors and Barnes & Noble Books should be ashamed of themselves for putting out such a shabby version of the novel. The text is full of typos (such as the previously noted 'tick' for 'sick'), dropped words, incorrect words ('last' instead of 'first' at the bottom of page 234, for example), and bad formatting (the notes). The additional materials¿contemporary descriptions of the plague¿are vaguely interesting, but not essential. Rather than some inconsequential snippets from Pepys and Boghurst, the editors should have considered a map of London at the time of the plague, annotations, or other materials to help illustrate some of Defoe's more difficult references. Avoid this edition and pick up one of the more professional releases from Oxford or Penguin.
jlacerra More than 1 year ago
It is certainly not appropriate for me to review Daniel Defoe as if he were a modern author. In this book Defoe takes on the guise of a first-hand observer of the London plague of 1665. The language is Olde English and somewhat difficult to wade through sometimes. But the drama of the crisis does come home in many areas. It is a worthwhile read if one can be patient with the archaic language.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book lets readers see life during the plague outbreak. It is very interesting, especially to people interested in this topic. Although it should not be considered a first-hand account, the individual obsevations made by the narrator are very probable. The narrator repeats some main points, but that is just to get one message across: life was scary at that time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book ln the world I like lt!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book still gives an excellent picture of the London Plague centuries after it was written. However, this edition suffers from poor proof-reading. There many misplaced words. To give only one example: on page 180 the author trys to speak of the prodigious number of the 'sick' but is hampered by the proof reader who lets the word 'tick' serve in its place. There are perhaps a half dozen times such as this one where too much reliance on Spell Checker jolts the reader out of the story to remind one that this $5.95 edition is no bargain.
gavieb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would rate this book 4 stars but for the errors in the edition I was reading (Barnes & Noble Library Of Essential Reading). Regardless of whether this book is fiction, history or a blend between the two, it is a very interesting account of the Great Plague of London, and if the subject interests you, I would recommend reading it.
AngelaG86 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kind of slow moving and repetitive in parts, not to mention long-winded. It was interesting, but I won't be rereading it.
Eurydice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Understated as it is, this fictional 'documentary' of the Plague Year is gripping. Compelling and eminently readable, it gives an almost businesslike account of the Plague's imagined horror.As birchmore pointed out, there are fascinating authorial techniques at work. Early in the story, the saddler establishes his claim as a truthful source not only by his sober and skeptical tone, but by his constant reference to the actual Bills of Mortality. Then, as the story progresses, the narrator, firmly established in the reader's confidence, begins to cast doubt on their legitimacy and accuracy - realistically heightening the fears of catastrophe. Even as a modern reader, it's difficult not to succumb to the Journal's appearance of truth. As far as I'm concerned, that's an extraordinary testimony to Defoe's brilliance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do like getting the sense of how horrid it was and the use of different ways to contain or avoid the infection.it is just incredably redundant.i hear this is just a version of the original.explains the poor text but. If the original is just as repeditive .it desensitizes the impact london truly much have gone thru
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A plague in today's society would be devastating, and that is the point of this book. It is written as though the accounts were absolutley accurate, and though the editors suggest that this is a novel, there is very little about it that doesn't seem true. It is, though, a difficult read and one that is truly unenjoyable. The concepts are hard to grasp, and the repetition is annoying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read Willowsong's story at spray.book one is at result one,book two is at result two and so on.please rearate and review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can you meet me at secrets result six
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Right on . good i shall teach her the ways of fire clan and shes honna a be a good warrior
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She crouches by the entrance, ready to alert her Clan if she sees Silvermoonstar or Evil Cats & co. She glances behind her to see the camp resting peacefully-for now.