Journal of the Plague Year

By Daniel Defoe

Edited and Abridged by Jack Lynch

Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year continues to puzzle critics. It’s a detailed first-person account of the Great Plague of London in 1665, and seems authentic enough to suggest it’s a true account rather than a work of fiction. But it can’t be Defoe’s own recollection; he was just four at the time. The narrative is signed “H. F.” at the end, and the narrator indicates that he’s a saddler. As it happens, Defoe’s uncle was a saddler named Henry Foe, which has led many people to speculate that the Journal is a reworking of his recollections. Perhaps, perhaps not. As a result, we’re left with a lot of uncertainty, and we don’t even know whether to call the book a “novel.”

This is an abridgment based on my hasty transcription of the first edition — about 20 percent of the original. I’ve mostly preserved originaly spelling, though I’ve corrected some obvious printer’s errors; still, I’ve been conservative in making emendations. In a handful of places the formatting of the original is beyond the ability of HTML to capture elegantly, so I’ve simplified them slightly. The paragraph numbers are my own. I’m sure I’ve let many mistakes slip through, and will be grateful for corrections.

Memoirs
of the
Plague

[1] It was about the Beginning of September 1664, that I, among the Rest of my Neighbours, heard in ordinary Discourse, that the Plague was return’d again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Roterdam, in the Year 1663, whether 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 come; but all agreed, it was come into Holland again.

[2] We had no such thing as printed News-Papers in those Days, to spread Rumours and Reports of Things; and to improve them by the Invention of Men, as I have liv’d to see practis’d since. But such things as these were gather’d 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 Counsels were held about Ways to prevent its coming over; but all was kept very private.

[3] Hence it was, that this Rumour died off again, and People began to forget it, as a thing we were very little concern’d 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 French-men, died of the Plague in Long Acre, or rather at the upper End of Drury Lane. The Family they were in, endeavour’d to conceal it as much as possible; but as it had gotten some Vent in the Discourse of the Neighbourhood, the Secretaries of State gat Knowledge of it. And concerning themselves to inquire about it, in order to be certain of the Truth, two Physicians and a Surgeon were order’d 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 publickly, that they died of the Plague: Whereupon it was given in to the Parish Clerk, and he also return’d them to the Hall; and it was printed in the weekly Bill of Mortality in the usual manner, thus,

Plague 2.     Parishes Infected 1.

[4] The People shew’d a great Concern at this, and began to be allarm’d 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.

[5] This turn’d the Peoples Eyes pretty much towards that End of the Town; and the weekly Bills shewing an Encrease of Burials in St. Giles’ 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, tho’ they had taken Care to keep it as much from the Knowledge of the Publick, as possible: This possess’d the Heads of the People very much, and few car’d to go thro’ Drury Lane, or the other Streets suspected, unless they had extraordinary Business, that obliged them to it.

[6] This Encrease of the Bills stood thus: the usual Number of Burials in a Week, in the Parishes of St. Giles’s in the Fields, and St. Andrew’s Holborn, were from 12 to 17 or 19 each, few more or less; but from the Time that the Plague first began in St. Giles’ Parish, it was observ’d, that the ordinary Burials encreased in Number considerably. For Example,

From Dec. 27th to Jan. 3.
St. Gile’s --------16
St. Andrew’s-----17
   Jan. 3 to------------10.
St. Gile’s --------12
St. Andrew’s-----25
   Jan. 10 to----------17.
St. Gile’s --------18
St. Andrew’s-----18
   Jan 17 to Jan. 24.
St. Gile’s --------23
St. Andrew’s-----16
   Jan. 24 to -----------31.
St. Gile’s --------24
St. Andrew’s-----15
   Jan. 30 to Feb. 7.
St. Gile’s --------21
St. Andrew’s-----23
   Feb. 7 to-----------14.
St. Gile’s --------24
whereof one of the Plague.

[7] The like Encrease of the Bills was observ’d in the Parishes of St. Brides, adjoining on one Side of Holborn Parish, and in the Parish of St. James Clarkenwell, adjoining on the other Side of Holborn; in both which Parishes the usual Numbers that died weekly, were from 4 to 6 or 8, whereas at that time they were increas’d, as follows.

From Dec. 20 to Dec. 27.
St. Bride’s -------- 0
St. James’s-------- 8
          Dec. 27 to Jan. 3.
St. Bride’s -------- 6
St. James’s-------- 9
        Jan. 3 to--------10.
St. Bride’s --------11
St. James’s-------- 7
        Jan 17 to-------24.
St. Bride’s -------- 9
St. James’s--------15
        Ja. 24 to -------31.
St. Bride’s -------- 8
St. James’s--------12
        Jan. 31 to Feb. 7.
St. Bride’s --------13
St. James’s-------- 5
       Feb. 7 to--------14.
St. Bride’s --------12
St. James’s-------- 6

[8] Besides this, it was observ’d with great Uneasiness by the People, that the weekly Bills in general encreas’d very much during these Weeks, altho’ it was at a Time-of the Year, when usually the Bills are very moderate.

[9] The usual Number of Burials within the Bills of Mortality for a Week, was from about 240 or thereabouts, to 300. The last was esteem’d a pretty high Bill; but after this we found the Bills successively encreasing, as follows.


                  Increased
Dec. the 20 to the 27th.
Buried 291. -------
                27. to the 3 -------349  --------58
January   3 to the 10. -------394  --------45
               10. to the 17. -------415  --------21
               17. to the 24. -------474  --------59

[10] This last Bill was really frightful, being a higher Number than had been known to have been buried in one Week, since the preceeding Visitation of 1656.

[11] 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 tho’ moderate Winds, the Bills decreas’d 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, continu’d high: From the Beginning of April especially they stood at 25 each Week, till the Week from the i8th to the 25th, when there was buried in St. Giles’s Parish 30, whereof two of the Plague, and 8 of the Spotted-Feaver, which was look’d upon as the same thing; likewise the Number that died of the Spotted-Feaver in the whole increased, being 8 the Week before, and 12 the Week above-named.

[12] This alarm’d us all again, and terrible Apprehensions were among the People, especially the Weather being now chang’d and growing warm, and the Summer being at Hand: However, the next Week there seem’d 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-Feaver.

[13] But the following Week it return’d again, and the Distemper was spread into two or three other Parishes (viz.) St. Andrew’s Holborn, St. Clement’s-Danes, and to the great Affliction of the City, one died within the Walls, in the Parish of St. Mary-Wool-Church, that is to say, in Bearbinder Lane, near Stocks-market; in all there was nine of the Plague, and six of the Spotted-Feaver. It was however upon Inquiry found, that this Frenchman who died in Bearbinder-Lane, was one who having liv’d in Long-Acre, near the infected Houses, had removed for fear of the Distemper, not knowing that he was already infected.

[14] This was the beginning of May, yet the Weather was temperate, variable and cool enough, and People had still some Hopes: That which encourag’d them was, that the City was healthy, the whole 97 Parishes buried but 54, 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 15, 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 Peoples were no more to be deceived thus; they searcht 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 it self beyond all Hopes of Abatement: that in the Parish of St. Giles’s, 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 shew it self; there was indeed but 14 set down of the Plague, but this was all Knavery and Collusion, for St. Giles’s Parish they buried 40 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 32, and the whole Bill being but 385, yet there was 14 of the Spotted-Feaver, as well as 14 of the Plague; and we took it for granted upon the whole, that there was 50 died that Week of the Plague.

[15] The next Bill was from the 23rd of May to the 30th, when the Number of the Plague was 17: But the Burials in St. Giles’s were 53, a frightful Number! of whom they set down but 9 of the Plague: But on an Examination more strictly by the Justices of the Peace, and at the Lord Mayor’s Request, it was found there were 20 more, who were really dead of the Plague in that Parish, but had been set down of the Spotted-Feaver or other Distempers, besides others concealed.

[16] 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 rise high, the Articles of the Feaver, Spotted-Feaver, 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 threatned, and People were extremely terrify’d at the Thoughts of it.


[19] I liv’d without Aldgate about mid-way between Aldgate-Church and White-Chappel-Bars, on the left Hand or North-side of the Street; and as the Distemper had not reach’d 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 throng’d out of Town, with their Families and Servants in an unusual Manner; and this was more particularly seen in White-Chapel; that is to say, the Broad-street where I liv’d: Indeed nothing was to be seen but Waggons and Carts, with Goods, Women, Servants, Children, &c. Coaches fill’d with People of the better Sort, and Horsemen attending them, and all hurrying away; then empty Waggons, and Carts appear’d, 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 any one might perceive by their Appearance.

[20] This was a very terrible and melancholy Thing to see, and as it was a Sight which I cou’d 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.


[23] I now began to consider seriously with my Self, concerning my own Case, and how I should dispose of my self; 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.

[24] I had two important things before me; the one was; the carrying on my Business and Shop; which was considerable, and in which was embark’d 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 Peoples, represented to be much greater than it could be.

[25] The first Consideration was of great Moment to me; my Trade was a Sadler, 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, who I kept at my Business, had a House, Shop, and Ware-houses fill’d 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.

[26] I had an Elder Brother at the same Time in London, and not many Years before come over from Portugal; and advising with him, his Answer was in three Words the same that was given in another Case quite different, (viz.) Master save thy self. In a Word, he was for my retiring into the Country, as he resolv’d to do himself with his Family; telling me, what he had it seems, heard abroad, that the best Preparation for the Plague was to run away from it. As to my Argument of losing my Trade, my Goods, or Debts, he quite confuted me: He told me the same thing, which I argued for my staying, (viz.) That I would trust God with my Safety and Health, was the strongest Repulse to my Pretentions of losing my Trade and my Goods; for, says he, is it not as reasonable that you should trust God with the Chance or risque of losing your Trade, as that you should stay in so imminent a Point of Danger, and trust him with your Life?

[27] I could not argue that I was in any Strait, as to a Place where to go, having several Friends and Relations in Northamptonshire, whence our Family first came from; and particularly, I had an only Sister in Lincolnshire, very willing to receive and entertain me.

[28] My Brother, who had already sent his Wife and two Children into Bedfordshire, and resolv’d to follow them, press’d my going very earnestly; and I had once resolv’d to comply with his Desires, but at that time could get no Horse; For tho’ it is true, all the People did not go out of the City of London; yet I may venture to say, that in a manner all the Horses did; for there was hardly a Horse to be bought or hired in the whole City for some Weeks. Once I resolv’d to travel on Foot with one Servant; and as many did, lie at no Inn, but carry a Soldiers Tent with us, and so lie in the Fields, the Weather being very warm, and no Danger from taking cold: I say, as many did, because several did so at last, especially those who had been in the Armies in the War which had not been many Years past; and I must needs say, that speaking of second Causes, had most of the People that travelled, done so, the Plague had not been carried into so many Country-Towns and Houses, as it was, to the great Damage, and indeed to the Ruin of abundance of People.

[29] But then my Servant who I had intended to take down with me, deceiv’d me; and being frighted at the Increase of the Distemper, and not knowing when I should go, he took other Measures, and left me, so I was put off for that Time; and one way or other, I always found that to appoint to go away was always cross’d by some Accident or other, so as to disappoint and put it off again; and this brings in a Story which otherwise might be thought a needless Digression, (viz.) about these Disappointments being from Heaven.

[30] I mention this Story also as the best Method I can advise any Person to take in such a Case, especially, if he be one that makes Conscience of his Duty, and would be directed what to do in it, namely, that he should keep his Eye upon the particular Providences which occur at that Time, and look upon them complexly, as they regard one another, and as altogether regard the Question before him, and then I think, he may safely take them for Intimations from Heaven of what is his unquestion’d Duty to do in such a Case; I mean as to going away from, or staying in the Place where we dwell, when visited with an infectious Distemper.

[31] It came very warmly into my Mind, one Morning, as I was musing on this particular thing, that as nothing attended us without the Direction or Permission of Divine Power, so these Disappointments must have something in them extraordinary; and I ought to consider whether it did not evidently point out, or intimate to me, that it was the Will of Heaven I should not go. It immediately follow’d in my Thoughts, that if it really was from God, that I should stay, he was able effectually to preserve me in the midst of all the Death and Danger that would surround me; and that if I attempted to secure my self by fleeing from my Habitation, and acted contrary to these Intimations, which I believed to be Divine, it was a kind of flying from God, and that he could cause his Justice to overtake me when and where he thought fit.

[32] These thoughts quite turn’d my Resolutions again, and when I came to discourse with my Brother again I told him, that I enclin’d to stay and take my Lot in that Station in which God had plac’d me; and that it seem’d to be made more especially my Duty, on the Account of what I have said.

[33] My Brother, tho’ a very Religious Man himself, laught at all I had suggested about its being an Intimation from Heaven, and told me several Stories of such fool-hardy People, as he call’d them, as I was; that I ought indeed to submit to it as a Work of Heaven, if I had been any way disabled by Distempers or Diseases, and that then not being able to go, I ought to acquiesce in the Direction of him, who having been my Maker, had an undisputed Right of Soveraignty in disposing of me; and that then there had been no Difficulty to determine which was the Call of the Providence, and which was not: But that I should take it as an Intimation from Heaven, that I should not go out of Town, only because I could not hire a Horse to go, or my Fellow was run away that was to attend me, was ridiculous, since at the same Time I had my Health and Limbs, and other Servants, and might, with Ease, travel a Day or two on foot, and having a good Certificate of being in perfect Health, might either hire a Horse, or take Post on the Road, as I thought fit.

[34] Then he proceeded to tell me of the mischievous Consequences which attended the Presumption of the Turks and Mahometans in Asia and in other Places, where he had been (for my Brother being a Merchant, was a few Years before, as I have already observ’d, returned from abroad, coming last from Lisbon) and how presuming upon their profess’d predestinating Notions, and of every Man’s End being predetermin’d and unalterably before-hand decreed, they would go unconcern’d into infected Places, and converse with infected Persons, by which Means they died at the Rate of Ten or Fifteen Thousand a-Week, whereas the Europeans, or Christian Merchants, who kept themselves retired and reserv’d, generally escaped the Contagion.

[35] Upon these Arguments my Brother chang’d my Resolutions again, and I began to resolve to go, and accordingly made all things ready; for in short, the Infection increased round me, and the Bills were risen to almost 700 a-Week, and my Brother told me, he would venture to stay no longer. I desir’d him to let me consider of it but till the next Day, and I would resolve; and as I had already prepar’d every thing as well as I could, as to my Business, and who to entrust my Affairs with, I had little to do but to resolve.

[36] I went Home that Evening greatly oppress’d in my Mind, irresolute, and not knowing what to do; I had set the Evening wholly apart to consider seriously about it, and was all alone; for already People had, as it were by a general Consent, taken up the Custom of not going out of Doors after Sun-set, the Reasons I shall have Occasion to say more of by-and-by.

[37] In the Retirement of this Evening I endeavoured to resolve first, what was my Duty to do, and I stated the Arguments with which my Brother had press’d me to go into the Country, and I set against them the strong Impressions which I had on my Mind for staying; the visible Call I seem’d to have from the particular Circumstance of my Calling, and the Care due from me for the preservation of my Effects, which were, as I might say, my Estate; also the Intimations which I thought I had from Heaven, that to me signify’d a kind of Direction to venture, and it occurr’d to me, that if I had what I might call a Direction to stay, I ought to suppose it contain’d a Promise of being preserved, if I obey’d.

[38] This lay close to me, and my Mind seemed more and more encouraged to stay than ever, and supported with a secret Satisfaction, that I should be kept: Add to this that turning over the Bible, which lay before me, and while my Thoughts were more than ordinarily serious upon the Question, I cry’d out, WELL, I know not what to do, Lord direct me! and the like; and that Juncture I happen’d to stop turning over the Book at the 91st Psalm, and casting my Eye on the second Verse, I read on to the 7th Verse exclusive; and after that, included the 10th, as follows. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, and my fortress, my God, in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisom pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shah thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day: Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness: nor for the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine Eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation: There shall no evil befal thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling, &c.

[39] I scarce need tell the Reader, that from that Moment I resolv’d that I would stay in the Town, and casting my self entirely upon the Goodness and Protection of the Almighty, would not seek any other Shelter whatever; and that as my Times were in his Hands, he was as able to keep me in a Time of the Infection as in a Time of Health; and if he did not think fit to deliver me, still I was in his Hands, and it was meet he should do with me as should seem good to him.


[51] The Face of London was now indeed strangely alter’d, I mean the whole Mass of Buildings, City, Liberties, Suburbs, Westminster, Southwark, and altogether; for as to the particular Part called the City, or within the Walls, that was not yet much infected; but in the whole, the Face of Things, I say, was much alter’d; Sorrow and Sadness sat upon every Face; and tho’ some Part were not yet overwhelm’d, yet all look’d deeply concern’d; and as we saw it apparently coming on, so every one look’d on himself, and his Family, as in the utmost Danger; were it possible to represent those Times exactly to those that did not see them, and give the Reader due Ideas of the Horror that every where presented itself, it must make just Impressions upon their Minds, and fill them with Surprize. London might well be said to be all in Tears; the Mourners did not go about the Streets indeed, for no Body put on black, or made a formal Dress of Mourning, for their nearest Friends; but the Voice of Mourning was truly heard in the Streets; the shriecks of Women and Children at the Windows, and Doors of their Houses, where their dearest Relations were, perhaps dying, or just dead, were so frequent to be heard, as we passed the Streets, that it was enough to pierce the stoutest Heart in the World, to hear them. Tears and Lamentations were seen almost in every House, especially in the first Part of the Visitation; for towards the latter End, Mens Hearts were hardned, and Death was so always before their Eyes, that they did not so much concern themselves for the Loss of their Friends, expecting, that themselves should be summoned the next Hour.

[52] Business led me out sometimes to the other End of the Town, even when the Sickness was chiefly there; and as the thing was new to me, as well as to every Body else, it was a most surprising thing, to see those Streets, which were usually so thronged, now grown desolate, and so few People to be seen in them, that if I had been a Stranger, and at a Loss for my Way, I might sometimes have gone the Length of a whole Street, I mean of the by-Streets, and see no Body to direct me, except Watchmen, set at the Doors of such Houses as were shut up; of which I shall speak presently.

[53] One Day, being at that part of the Town, on some special Business, Curiosity led me to observe things more than usually; and indeed I walk’d a great Way where I had no Business; I went up Holbourn, and there the Street was full of People; but they walk’d in the middle of the Street, neither on one Side or other, because, as I suppose, they would not mingle with any Body that came out of Houses, or meet with Smells and Scents from Houses that might be infected.


[59] But I must go back again to the Beginning of this Surprizing Time, while the Fears of the People were young, they were encreas’d strangely by several odd Accidents, which put altogether, it was realy a wonder the whole Body of the People did not rise as one Man, and abandon their Dwellings, leaving the Place as a Space of Ground designed by Heaven for an Akeldama, doom’d to be destroy’d from the Face of the Earth; and that all that would be found in it, would perish with it. I shall Name but a few of these Things; but sure they were so many, and so many Wizards and cunning People propagating them, that I have often wonder’d there was any, (Women especially) left behind.

[60] In the first Place, a blazing Star or Comet appear’d for several Months before the Plague, as there did the Year after another, a little before the Fire; the old Women, and the Phlegmatic Hypocondriac Part of the other Sex, who I could almost call old Women too, remark’d (especially afterward tho’ not, till both those Judgments were over,) that those two Comets pass’d directly over the City, and that so very near the Houses, that it was plain, they imported something peculiar to the City alone; that the Comet before the Pestilence, was of a faint, dull, languid Colour, and its Motion very heavy, solemn, and slow: But that the Comet before the Fire, was bright and sparkling, or as others said, flaming, and its Motion swift and furious; and that accordingly, One foretold a heavy Judgment, slow but severe, terrible and frightful, as was the Plague; but the other foretold a Stroak, sudden, swift, and fiery as the Conflagration; nay, so particular some People were, that as they look’d upon that Comet preceding the Fire, they fancied that they not only saw it pass swiftly and fiercely, and cou’d perceive the Motion with their Eye, but even they heard it; that it made a rushing mighty Noise, fierce and terrible, tho’ at a distance, and but just perceivable.

[61] I saw both these Stars; and I must confess, had so much of the common Notion of such Things in my Head, that I was apt to look upon them, as the Forerunners and Warnings of God’s Judgments; and especially when after the Plague had followed the first, I yet saw another of the like kind; I could not but say, God had not yet sufficiently scourg’d the City.

[62] But I cou’d not at the same Time carry these Things to the heighth that others did, knowing too, that natural Causes are assign’d by the Astronomers for such Things; and that their Motions, and even their Revolutions are calculated, or pretended to be calculated; so that they cannot be so perfectly call’d the Fore-runners, or Foretellers, much less the procurers of such Events, as Pestilence, War, Fire, and the like.

[63] But let my Thoughts, and the Thoughts of the Philosophers be, or have been what they will, these Things had a more than ordinary Influence upon the Minds of the common People, and they had almost universal melancholly Apprehensions of some dreadful Calamity and Judgment coming upon the City; and this principally from the Sight of this Comet, and the little Allarm that was given in December, by two People dying at St. Giles’s, as above.

[64] The Apprehensions of the People, were likewise strangely encreas’d by the Error of the Times; in which, I think, the People, from what Principle I cannot imagine, were more adicted to Prophesies, and Astrological Conjurations, Dreams, and old Wives Tales, than ever they were before or since: Whether this unhappy Temper was originally raised by the Follies of some People who got Money by it; that is to say, by printing Predictions, and Prognostications, I know not; but certain it is, Books frighted them terribly; such as Lilly’s Almanack, Gadbury’s Astrological Predictions; Poor Robin’s Almanack and the like; also several pretended religious Books; one entituled, Come out of her my People, least you be partaker of her Plagues; another call’d, Fair Warning, another, Britain’s Remembrancer, and many such; all, or most Part of which, foretold directly or covertly the Ruin of the City: Nay, some were so Enthusiastically bold, as to run about the Streets, with their Oral Predictions, pretending they were sent to preach to the City; and One in particular, who like Jonah to Nineveh, cry’d in the Streets, yet forty Days, and L O N D O N shall be destroy’d. I will not be positive, whether he said yet forty Days, or yet a few Days. Another run about Naked, except a pair of Drawers about his Waste, crying Day and Night; like a Man that Josephus mentions, who cry’d, woe to Jerusalem! a little before the Destruction of that City: So this poor naked Creature cry’d, O! the Great, and the Dreadful God! and said no more, but repeated those Words continually, with a Voice and Countenance full of horror, a swift Pace, and no Body cou’d ever find him to stop, or rest, or take any Sustenance, at least, that ever I cou’d hear of. I met this poor Creature several Times in the Streets, and would have spoke to him, but he would not enter into Speech with me, or any one else; but held on his dismal Cries continually.

[65] These Things terrified the People to the last Degree; and especially when two or three Times, as I have mentioned already, they found one or two in the Bills, dead of the Plague at St. Giles.

[66] Next to these publick Things, were the Dreams of old Women: Or, I should say, the Interpretation of old Women upon other Peoples Dreams; and these put abundance of People even out of their Wits: Some heard Voices warning them to be gone, for that there would be such a Plague in London, so that the Living would not be able to bury the Dead: Others saw Apparitions in the Air; and I must be allow’d to say of both, I hope with out breach of Charity, that they heard Voices that never spake, and saw Sights that never appear’d; but the Imagination of the People was really turn’d wayward and possess’d: And no Wonder, if they, who were poreing continually at the Clouds, saw Shapes and Figures, Representations and Appearances, which had nothing in them, but Air and Vapour. Here they told us, they saw a Flaming-Sword held in a Hand, coming out of a Cloud, with a Point hanging directly over the City. There they saw Herses, and Coffins in the Air, carrying to be buried. And there again, Heaps of dead Bodies lying un-buried, and the like; just as the Imagination of the poor terrify’d People furnish’d them with Matter to work upon.

So Hypocondriac Fancy’s represent
Skips, Armies, Battles, in the Firmament;
Till steady Eyes, the Exhalations solve,
And all to its first Matter, Cloud, resolve

[67] I could fill this Account with the strange Relations, such People gave every Day, of what they had seen; and every one was so positive of their having seen, what they pretended to see, that there was no contradicting them, without Breach of Friendship, or being accounted rude and unmannerly on the one Hand, and prophane and impenetrable on the other. One time before the Plague was begun, (otherwise than as I have said in St. Giles’s,) I think it was in March, seeing a Crowd of People in the Street, I join’d with them to satisfy my Curiosity, and found them all staring up into the Air, to see what a Woman told them appeared plain to her, which was an Angel cloth’d in white, with a fiery Sword in his Hand, waving it, or brandishing it over his Head. She described every Part of the Figure to the Life; shew’d them the Motion and the Form; and the poor People came into it so eagerly, and with so much Readiness; YES, I see it all plainly, says one. There’s the Sword as plain as can be. Another saw the Angel. One saw his very Face, and cry’d out, What a glorious Creature he was! One saw one thing, and one another. I look’d as earnestly as the rest, but, perhaps, not with so much Willingness to be impos’d upon; and I said indeed, that I could see nothing, but a white Cloud, bright on one side, by the shining of the Sun upon the other Part. The Woman endeavour’d to shew it me, but could not make me confess, that I saw it, which, indeed, if I had, I must have lied: But the Woman turning upon me, look’d in my Face, and fancied I laugh’d; in which her Imagination deceiv’d her too; for I really did not laugh, but was very seriously reflecting how the poor People were terrify’d, by the Force of their own Imagination. However, she turned from me, call’d me prophane Fellow, and a Scoffer; told me, that it was a time of God’s Anger, and dreadful Judgments were approaching; and that Despisers, such as I, should wander and perish.

[68] The People about her seem’d disgusted as well as she; and I found there was no perswading them, that I did not laugh at them; and that I should be rather mobb’d by them, than be able to undeceive them. So I left them; and this Appearance pass’d for as real, as the Blazing Star itself.


[78] It was indeed, a Time of very unhappy Breaches among us in matters of Religion: Innumerable Sects, and Divisions, and seperate Opinions prevail’d among the People; the Church of England was restor’d indeed with the Restoration of the Monarchy, about four Year before; but the Ministers and Preachers of the Presbyterians, and Independants, and of all the other Sorts of Professions, had begun to gather seperate Societies, and erect Altar against Altar, and all those had their Meetings for Worship apart, as they have but not so many then, the Dissenters being not thorowly form’d into a Body as they are since, and those Congregations which were thus gather’d together, were yet but few; and even those that were, the Government did not allow, but endeavour’d to suppress them, and shut up their Meetings.

[79] But the Visitation reconcil’d them again, at least for a Time, and many of the best and most valuable Ministers and Preachers of the Dissenters, were suffer’d to go into the Churches, where the Incumbents were fled away, as many were, not being able to stand it; and the People flockt without Distinction to hear them preach, not much inquiring who or what Opinion they were of: But after the Sickness was over, that Spirit of Charity abated, and every Church being again supply’d with their own Ministers, or others presented, where the Minister was dead, Things return’d to their old Channel again.

[80] One Mischief always introduces another: These Terrors and Apprehensions of the People, led them into a Thousand weak, foolish, and wicked Things, which, they wanted not a Sort of People really wicked, to encourage them to; and this was running about to Fortune-tellers, Cunning-men, and Astrologers, to know their Fortune, or, as ’tis vulgarly express’d, to have their Fortunes told them, their Nativities calculated, and the like; and this Folly, presently made the Town swarm with a wicked Generation of Pretenders to Magick, to the Black Art, as they call’d it, and I know not what; Nay, to a Thousand worse Dealings with the Devil, than they were really guilty of; and this Trade grew so open, and so generally practised, that it became common to have Signs and Inscriptions set up at Doors; here lives a Fortune-teller; here lives an Astrologer; here you may have your Nativity calculated, and the like; and Fryar Bacon’s Brazen-Head, which was the usual Sign of these Peoples Dwellings, was to be seen almost in every Street, or else the Sign of Mother Shipton, or of Merlin’s Head, and the like.

[81] With what blind, absurd and ridiculous Stuff, these Oracles of the Devil pleas’d and satisfy’d the People, I really know not; but certain it is, that innumerable Attendants crouded about their Doors every Day; and if but a grave Fellow in a Velvet Jacket, a Band, and a black Cloak, which was the Habit those Quack Conjurers generally went in, was but seen in the Streets, the People would follow them in Crowds, and ask them Questions, as they went along.

[82] I need not mention, what a horrid Delusion this was, or what it tended to; but there was no Remedy for it, till the Plague it self put an End to it all; and I suppose, clear’d the Town of most of those Calculators themselves. One Mischief was, that if the poor People ask’d these mock Astrologers, whether there would be a Plague or no? they all agreed in the general to answer, Yes, for that kept up their Trade; and had the People not been kept in a Fright about that, the Wizards would presently have been rendred useless, and their Craft had been at an end: But they always talked to them of such and such Influences of the Stars, of the Conjunctions of such and such Planets, which must necessarily bring Sickness and Distempers, and consequently the Plague: And some had the Assurance to tell them, the Plague was begun already, which was too true, tho’ they that said so, knew nothing of the Matter.

[83] The Ministers, to do them Justice, and Preachers of most Sorts, that were serious and understanding Persons, thundred against these, and other wicked Practises, and exposed the Folly as well as the Wickedness of them together; And the most sober and judicious People despis’d and abhor’d them; But it was impossible to make any Impression upon the midling People, and the working labouring Poor; their Fears were predominant over all their Passions; and they threw away their Money in a most distracted Manner upon those Whymsies. Maid-Servants especially and Men-Servants, were the chief of their Customers; and their Question generally was, after the first demand of, Will there be a Plague? I say, the next Question was, Oh, Sir! For the Lord’s Sake, what will become of me? Will my Mistress keep me, or will she turn me off? Will she stay here, or will she go into the Country? And if she goes into the Country, will she take me with her, or leave me here to be starv’d and undone? And the like of Men-Servants.

[84] The Truth is, the Case of poor Servants was very dismal, as I shall have occasion to mention again by and by; for it was apparent, a prodigious Number of them would be turn’d away, and it was so; and of them abundance perished; and particularly of those that these false Prophets had flattered with Hopes, that they should be continued in their Services, and carried with their Masters and Mistresses into the Country; and had not publick Charity provided for these poor Creatures, whose Number was exceeding great, and in all Cases of this Nature must be so, they would have been in the worst Condition of any People in the City.


[92] But to return to the people, whose Confusions fitted them to be impos’d upon by all Sorts of Pretenders, and by every Mountebank. There is no doubt, but these quacking Sort of Fellows rais’d great gains out of the miserable People; for we daily found, the Crouds that ran after them were infinitely greater, and their Doors were more thronged than those of Dr. Brooks, Dr. Upton, Dr. Hodges, Dr. Berwick, or any, tho’ the most famous Men of the Time: And I was told, that some of them got five Pound a Day by their Physick.

[93] But there was still another Madness beyond all this, which may serve to give an Idea of the distracted humour of the poor People at that Time; and this was their following a worse Sort of Deceivers than any of these; for these petty Thieves only deluded them to pick their Pockets, and get their Money; in which their Wickedness, whatever it was, lay chiefly on the Side of the Deceiver’s deceiving, not upon the Deceived: But in this Part I am going to mention, it lay chiefly in the People deceiv’d, or equally in both; and this was in wearing Charms, Philters, Exorcisms, Amulets, and I know not what Preparations, to fortify the Body with them against the Plague; as if the Plague was not the Hand of God, but a kind of a Possession of an evil Spirit; and that it was to be kept off with Crossings, Signs of the Zodiac, Papers tied up with so many Knots, and certain Words or Figures written on them, as particularly the Word Abracadabra, form’d in Triangle, or Pyramid thus:

A B R A C A D A B R A
A B R A C A D A B R
A B R A C A D A B
A B R A C A D A
A B R A C A D
A B R A C A
A B R A C
A B R A
A B R
A B
A

Others had the Jesuits Mark in a Cross.

I H
S

Others nothing but this Mark thus:

[type ornament]

[94] I might spend a great deal of Time in my Exclamations against the Follies, and indeed Wickedness of those things, in a Time of such Danger, in a matter of such Consequences as this, of a National Infection, But my Memorandums of these things relate rather to take notice only of the Fact, and mention that it was so: How the poor People found the Insufficiency of those things, and how many of them were afterwards carried away in the Dead-Carts, and thrown into the common Graves of every Parish, with these hellish Charms and Trumpery hanging about their Necks, remains to be spoken of as we go along.


[100] I shall not be supposed to lessen the Authority or Capacity of the Physicians, when, I say, that the Violence of the Distemper, when it came to its Extremity, was like the Fire the next Year; The Fire which consumed what the Plague could not touch, defy’d all the Application of Remedies; the Fire Engines were broken, the Buckets thrown away; and the Power of Man was baffled, and brought to an End; so the Plague defied all Medicines; the very Physicians were seized with it, with their Preservatives in their Mouths; and Men went about prescribing to others and telling them what to do, till the Tokens were upon them, and they dropt down dead, destroyed by that very Enemy, they directed others to oppose. This was the Case of several Physicians, even some of them the most eminent; and of several of the most skilful Surgeons; Abundance of Quacks too died, who had the Folly to trust to their own Medicines, which they must needs be conscious to themselves, were good for nothing; and who rather ought, like other Sorts of Thieves, to have run away, sensible of their Guilt, from the Justice that they could not but expect should punish them, as they knew they had deserved.

[101] Not that it is any Derogation from the Labour, or Application of the Physicians, to say, they fell in the common Calamity; nor is it so intended by me; it rather is to their Praise, that they ventured their Lives so far as even to lose them in the Service of Mankind; They endeavoured to do good, and to save the Lives of others; But we were not to expect, that the Physicians could stop God’s Judgments, or prevent a Distemper eminently armed from Heaven, from executing the Errand it was sent about.

[102] Doubtless, the Physicians assisted many by their Skill, and by their Prudence and Applications, to the saving of their Lives, and restoring their Health: But it is no lessening their Character, or their Skill, to say, they could not cure those that had the Tokens upon them, or those who were mortally infected before the Physicians were sent for, as was frequently the Case.

[103] It remains to mention now what publick Measures were taken by the Magistrates for the general Safety, and to prevent the spreading of the Distemper, when it first broke out: I shall have frequent Occasion to speak of the Prudence of the Magistrates, their Charity, the Vigilance for the Poor, and for preserving good Order; furnishing Provisions, and the like, when the Plague was encreased, as it afterwards was. But I am now upon the Order and Regulations they published for the Government of infected Families.

[104] I mention’d above shutting of Houses up; and it is needful to say something particularly to that; for this Part of the History of the Plague is very melancholy; but the most grievous Story must be told.


[111] This shutting up of houses was at first counted a very cruel and Unchristian Method, and the poor People so confin’d made bitter Lamentations: Complaints of the Severity of it, were also daily brought to my Lord Mayor, of Houses causelessly, (and some maliciously) shut up: I cannot say, but upon Enquiry, many that complained so loudly, were found in a Condition to be continued, and others again Inspection being made upon the sick Person, and the Sickness not appearing infectious, or if uncertain, yet, on his being content to be carried to the Pest-House, were released.

[112] It is true, that the locking up the Doors of Peoples Houses, and setting a Watchman there Night and Day, to prevent their stirring out, or any coming to them; when, perhaps, the sound People, in the Family, might have escaped, if they had been remov’d from the Sick, looked very hard and cruel; and many People perished in these miserable Confinements, which ’tis reasonable to believe, would not have been distemper’d if they had Liberty, tho’ the Plague was in the House; at which, people were very clamorous and uneasie at first, and several Violences were committed, and Injuries offered the Men, who were set to watch the Houses so shut up; also several People broke out by Force, in many Places, as I shall observe by and by: But it was a publick Good that justified the private Mischief; and there was no obtaining the least Mitigation, by any Application to Magistrates, or Government, at that Time, at least, not that I heard of. This put the People upon all Manner of Stratagem, in order, if possible, to get out, and it would fill a little Volume, to set down the Arts us’d by the People of such Houses, to shut the Eyes of the Watchmen, who were employ’d, to deceive them, and to escape, or break out from them; in which frequent Scurries, and Mischief happened; of which by it self.


[147] I went all the first Part of the Time freely about the Streets, tho’ not so freely as to run my self into apparent Danger, except when they dug the great Pit in the Church-Yard of our Parish of Algate; a terrible Pit it was, and I could not resist my Curiosity to go and see it; as near as I may judge, it was about 40 Foot in Length, and about 15 or 16 Foot broad; and at the Time I first looked at it, about nine Foot deep; but it was said, they dug it near 20 Foot deep afterwards, in one Part of it, till they could go no deeper for the Water: for they had it seems, dug several large Pits before this, for tho’ the Plague was long a-coming to our Parish, yet when it did come, there was no Parish in or about London, where it raged with such Violence as in the two Parishes of Algate and White-Chapel.

[148] I say they had dug several Pits in another Ground; when the Distemper began to spread in our Parish, and especially when the Dead-Carts began to go about, which was not in our Parish, till the beginning of August. Into these Pits they had put perhaps 50 or 60 Bodies each, then they made larger Holes, wherein they buried all that the Cart brought in a Week, which by the middle, to the End of August, came to, from 200 to 400 a Week; and they could not well dig them larger, because of the Order of the Magistrates, confining them to leave no Bodies within six Foot of the Surface; and the Water corning on, at about 17 or 18 Foot, they could not well, I say, Put more in one Pit; but now at the Beginning of September, the Plague raging in a dreadful Manner, and the Number of Burials in our Parish increasing to more than was ever buried in any Parish about London, of no larger Extent, they ordered this dreadful Gulph to be dug; for such it was rather than a Pit.

[149] They had supposed this Pit would have supply’d them for a Month or more, when they dug it, and some blam’d the Church-Wardens for suffering such a frightful Thing, telling them they were making Preparations to bury the whole Parish, and the like; but Time made it appear, the Church-Wardens knew the Condition of the Parish better than they did; for the Pit being finished the 4th of September, I think, they began to bury in it the 6th, and by the 20th, which was just: two Weeks, they had thrown into it 1114 Bodies, when they were obliged to fill it up, the Bodies being then come to lie within six Foot of the Surface: I doubt not but there may be some antient Persons alive in the Parish, who can justify the Fact of this, and are able to shew even in what Part of the Church-Yard the Pit lay, better than I can; the Mark of it also was many Years to be seen in the Church-Yard on the Surface lying in Length, parallel with the Passage which goes by the West Wall of the Church-Yard, out of Houndsditch, and turns East: again into White-Chappel, coming out near the three Nuns Inn.

[150] It was about the l0th of September, that my Curiosity led, or rather drove me to go and see this Pit again, when there had been near 400 People buried in it; and I not content to see it in the Day-time, as I had done before; for then there would have been nothing to have seen but the loose Earth; for all the Bodies that were thrown in, were immediately covered with Earth, by those they call’d the Buryers, which at other Times were call’d Bearers; but I resolv’d to go in the Night and see some of them thrown in. There was a strict Order to prevent People coming to those Pits, and that was only to prevent Infection: But after some Time, that Order was more necessary, for People that were Infected, and near their End, and dilirious also, would run to those Pits wrapt in Blankets, or Rugs, and throw themselves in, and as they said, bury themselves: I cannot say, that the Officers suffered any willingly to lie there: but I have heard, that in a great Pit in Finsbury, in the Parish of Cripplegate, it lying open then to the Fields, for it was not then wall’d about, [many] came and threw themselves in, and expired there, before they threw any Earth upon them; and that when they came to bury others, and found them there, they were quite dead, tho’ not cold.

[151] This may serve a little to describe the dreadful Condition of that Day, tho’ it is impossible to say any Thing that is able to give a true Idea of it to those who did not see it, other than this; that it was indeed very, very, very dreadful, and such as no Tongue can express.

[152] I got admittance into the Church-Yard by being acquainted with the Sexton, who attended, who tho’ he did not refuse me at all, yet earnestly perswaded me not to go; telling me very seriously, for he was a good religious and sensible Man, that it was, indeed, their Business and Duty to venture, and to run all Hazards; and that in it they might hope to be preserv’d; but that I had no apparent Call to it, but my own Curiosity, which, he said, he believ’d I would not pretend, was sufficient to justify my running that Hazard. I told him I had been press’d in my Mind to go, and that perhaps it might be an Instructing Sight, that might not be without its Uses. Nay, says the good Man, if you will venture upon that Score, ’Name of God go in; for depend upon it, ’twill be a Sermon to you, it may be, the best that ever you heard in your Life. ’Tis a speaking Sight, says he, and has a Voice with it, and a loud one, to call us all to Repentance; and with that he opened the Door and said, Go, if you will.

[153] His Discourse had shock’d my Resolution a little, and I stood wavering for a good while; but just at that Interval I saw two Links come over from the End of the Minories, and heard the Bell-man, and then appear’d a Dead-Cart, as they call’d it, coming over the Streets, so I could no longer resist my Desire of seeing it, and went in: There was no Body, as I could perceive at first, in the Church-Yard, or going into it, but the Buryers, and the Fellow that drove the Cart, or rather led the Horse and Cart, but when they came up, to the Pit, they saw a Man go to and again, mufled up in a brown Cloak, and making Motions with his Hands, under his Cloak, as if he was in a great Agony; and the Buriers immediately gathered about him, supposing he was one of those poor dilirious, or desperate Creatures, that used to pretend, as I have said, to bury themselves; he said nothing as he walk’d about, but two or three times groaned very deeply, and loud, and sighed as he would break his Heart.

[154] When the Buryers came up to him they soon found he was neither a Person infected and desperate, as I have observed above, or a Person distempered in Mind, but one oppress’d with a dreadful Weight of Grief indeed, having his Wife and several of his Children, all in the Cart, that was just come in with him, and he followed in an Agony and excess of Sorrow. He mourned heartily, as it was easy to see, but with a kind of Masculine Grief, that could not give it self Vent by Tears, and calmly desiring the Buriers to let him alone, said he would only see the Bodies thrown in, and go away, so they left importuning him; but no sooner was the Cart turned round and the Bodies shot into the Pit promiscuously, which was a Surprize to him, for he at least expected they would have been decently laid in, tho’ indeed he was afterwards convinced that was impracticable; I say, no sooner did he see the Sight, but he cry’d out aloud unable to contain himself; I could not hear what he said, but he went backward two or three Steps, and fell down in a Swoon: the Buryers ran to him and took him up, and in a little While he came to himself, and they led him away to the Pye-Tavern over-against the End of Houndsditch, where, it seems, the Man was known, and where they took care of him. He look’d into the Pit again, as he went away, but the Buriers had covered the Bodies so immediately with throwing in Earth, that tho’ there was Light enough, for there were Lantherns and Candles in them, plac’d all Night round the Sides of the Pit, upon the Heaps of Earth, seven or eight, or perhaps more, yet nothing could be seen.

[155] This was a mournful Scene indeed, and affected me almost as much as the rest; but the other was awful, and full of Terror, the Cart had in it sixteen or seventeen Bodies, some were wrapt in Linen Sheets, some in Rugs, some little other than naked, or so loose, that what Covering they had, fell from them, in the shooting out of the Cart, and they fell quite naked among the rest; but the Matter was not much to them, or the Indecency much to any one else, seeing they were all dead, and were huddled together into the common Grave of Mankind as we may call it, for here was no Difference made, but Poor and Rich went together; there was no other way of Burials, neither was it possible there should, for Coffins were not to be had for the prodigious Numbers that fell in such a Calamity as this.

[156] It was reported by way of Scandal upon the Buriers, that if any Corpse was delivered to them, decently wound up as we call’d it then, in a Winding Sheet Ty’d over the Head and Feet, which some did, and which was generally of good Linen; I say, it was reported, that the Buriers were so wicked as to strip them in the Cart, and carry them quite naked to the Ground: But as I can not easily credit any thing so vile among Christians, and at a Time so fill’d with Terrors, as that was, I can only relate it and leave it undetermined.


[160] It was by this Time one a-Clock in the Morning, and yet the poor Gentleman was there; the Truth was, the People of the House knowing him, had entertain’d him, and kept him there all the Night, notwithstanding the Danger of being infected, by him, tho’ it appear’d the Man was perfectly sound himself.

[161] It is with Regret, that I take Notice of this Tavern; the People were civil, mannerly, and an obliging Sort of Folks enough, and had till this Time kept their House open, and their Trade going on, tho’ not so very publickly as formerly; but there was a dreadful Set of Fellows that used their House, and who in the middle of all this Horror met there every Night, behaved with all the Revelling and roaring extravagances, as is usual for such People to do at other Times, and indeed to such an offensive Degree, that the very Master and Mistress of the House grew first asham’d and then terrify’d at them.

[162] They sat generally, in a Room next the Street, and as they always kept late Hours, so when the Dead-Cart came cross the Street End to go into Hounds-ditch, which was in View of the Tavern Windows; they would frequently open the Windows as soon as they heard the bell, and look out at them; and as they might often hear sad Lamentations of People in the Streets, or at their Windows, as the Carts went along, they would make their impudent Mocks and Jeers at them, especially if they heard the poor People call upon God to have Mercy upon them, as many would do at those Times in their ordinary passing along the Streets.

[163] These Gentlemen being something disturb’d with the Clutter of bringing the poor Gentleman into the House, as above, were first angry, and very high with the Master of the House, for suffering such a Fellow, as they call’d him, to be brought out of the Grave into their House; but being answered, that the Man was a Neighbour, and that he was sound, but overwhelmed with the Calamity of his Family, and the like, they turned their Anger into ridiculing the Man, and his Sorrow for his Wife and Children; taunted him with want of Courage to leap into the great Pit, and go to Heaven, as they jeeringly express’d it, along with them, adding some very profane, and even blasphemous Expressions.

[164] They were at this vile Work when I came back to the House, and as far as I could see, tho’ the Man sat still, mute and disconsolate, and their Affronts could not divert his Sorrow, yet he was both griev’d and offended at their Discourse: Upon this, I gently reprov’d them, being well enough acquainted with their Characters, and not unknown in Person to two of them.

[165] They immediately fell upon me with ill Language and Oaths; ask’d me what I did out of my Grave, at such a Time when so many honester Men were carried into the Church-Yard? and why I was not at Home saying my Prayers, against the Dead-Cart came for me? and the like.

[166] I was indeed astonished at the Impudence of the Men, tho’ not at all discomposed at their Treatment of me; however I kept my Temper; I told them, that tho’ I defy’d them, or any Man in the World to tax me with any Dishonesty, yet I acknowledg’d, that in this terrible Judgment of God, many better than I was swept away, and carried to their Grave: But to answer their Question directly, the Case was, that I was mercifully preserved by that great God, whose Name they had Blasphemed and taken in vain, by cursing and swearing in a dreadful Manner; and that I believed I was preserv’d in particular, among other Ends, of his Goodness, that I might reprove them for their audacious Boldness, in behaving in such a Manner, and in such an awful Time as this was, especially, for their Jeering and Mocking, at an honest Gentleman, and a Neighbour, for some of them knew him, who they saw was overwhelm’d with Sorrow, for the Breaches which it had pleas’d God to make upon his Family.

[167] I cannot call exactly to Mind the hellish abominable Rallery, which was the Return they made to that Talk of mine, being provoked, it seems, that I was not at all afraid to be free with them; nor if I could remember, would I fill my Account with any of the Words, the horrid Oaths, Curses, and vile Expressions, such, as at that time of the Day, even the worst and ordinariest People in the Street would not use; (for except such hardened Creatures as these, the most wicked wretches that could be found, had at that Time some Terror upon their Minds of the Hand of that Power which could thus, in a Moment destroy them.)

[168] But that which was the worst in all their devilish Language was, that they were not afraid to blaspheme God, and talk Atheistically; making a Jest at my calling the Plague the Hand of God, mocking, and even laughing at the Word Judgment, as if the Providence of God had no Concern in the inflicting such a desolating Stroke; and that the People calling upon God, as they saw the Carts carrying away the dead Bodies was all enthusiastick, absurd, and impertinent.

[169] I made them some Reply, such as I thought proper, but which I found was so far from putting a Checque to their horrid Way of speaking, that it made them rail the more so that I confess it fill’d me with Horror, and a kind of Rage, and I came away, as I told them, lest the Hand of that Judgment which had visited the whole City should glorify his Vengeance upon them, and all that were near them.

[170] They received all Reproof with the utmost Contempt, and made the greatest Mockery that was possible for them to do at me, giving me all the opprobrious insolent Scoffs that they could think of for preaching to them, as they call’d it, which indeed grieved me, rather than angred me; and I went away blessing God, however, in my Mind, that I had not spar’d them, tho’ they had insulted me so much.

[171] They continued this wretched Course, three or four Days after this, continually mocking and jeering at all that shew’d themselves religious, or serious, or that were any way touch’d with the Sence of the terrible Judgment of God upon us, and I was inform’d they flouted in the same Manner, at the good People, who, notwithstanding the Contagion, met at the Church, fasted, and prayed to God to remove his Hand from them.

[172] I say, they continued this dreadful Course three or four Days, I think it was no more, when one of them, particularly he who ask’d the poor Gentleman what he did out of his Grave? was struck from Heaven with the Plague, and died in a most deplorable Manner; and in a Word they were every one of them carried into the great Pit, which I have mentioned above, before it was quite fill’d up, which was not above a Fortnight or thereabout. These Men were guilty of many extravagances, such as one would think, Human Nature should have trembled at the Thoughts of, at such a Time of general Terror, as was then upon us; and particularly scoffing and mocking at every thing which they happened to see, that was religious among the People, especially at their thronging zealously to the Place of publick Worship, to implore Mercy from Heaven in such a Time of Distress; and this Tavern, where they held their Club, being within View of the Church Door, they had the more particular Occasion for their Atheistical profane Mirth.


[192] And here I may be able to make an Observation or two of my own, which may be of use hereafter to those, into whose Hands this may come, if they should ever see the like dreadful Visitation, (1.) The Infection generally came into the Houses of the Citizens, by the Means of their Servants, who, they were obliged to send up and down the Streets for Necessaries, that is to say, for Food or Physick, to Bake-houses, Brew-houses, Shops, &c., and who going necessarily thro’ the Streets into Shops, Markets, and the like, it was impossible, but that they should one way or other, meet with distempered people, who conveyed the fatal Breath into them, and they brought it Home to the Families, to which they belonged. (2.) It was a great Mistake, that such a great City as this had but one Pest-House; for had there been, instead of one Pest-House viz, beyond Bunhil-Fields; (where, at most, they could receive, perhaps, 200 or 300 People; I say, had there instead of that one been several Pest-houses, every one able to contain a thousand People without lying two in a Bed, or two Beds in a Room; and had every Master of a Family, as soon as any Servant especially, had been taken sick in his House, been obliged to send them to the next Pest-House, if they were willing, as many were, and had the Examiners done the like among the poor People, when any had been stricken with the Infection; I say, had this been done where the People were willing (not otherwise) and the Houses not been shut, I am perswaded, and was all the While of that Opinion, that not so many, by several Thousands, had died; for it was observed, and I could give several Instances within the Compass of my own Knowledge, where a Servant had been taken sick, and the Family had either Time to send them out or retire from the House, and leave the sick Person, as I have said above, they had all been preserved; whereas, when upon one, or more sickning in a Family, the House has been shut up, the whole Family have perished, and the Bearers been oblig’d to go in to fetch out the Dead Bodies, not being able to bring them to the Door; and at last none left to do it.

[193] (2.) This put it out of Question to me, that the Calamity was spread by Infection, that is to say, by some certain Steams, or Fumes, which the Physicians call Effluvia, by the Breath, or by the Sweat, or by the Stench of the Sores of the sick Persons, or some other way, perhaps, beyond even the Reach of the Physicians themselves, which Effluvia affected the Sound, who come within certain Distances of the Sick, immediately penetrating the Vital Parts of the said sound Persons, putting their Blood into an immediate ferment, and agitating their Spirits to that Degree which it was found they were agitated; and so those newly infected Persons communicated it in the same Manner to others; and this I shall give some Instances of, that cannot but convince those who seriously consider it; and I cannot but with some Wonder, find some People, now the Contagion is over, talk of its being an immediate Stroke from Heaven, without the Agency of Means, having Commission to strike this and that particular Person, and none other; which I look upon with Contempt, as the Effect of manifest Ignorance and Enthusiasm; likewise the Opinion of others, who talk of Infection being carried on by the Air only, by carrying with it vast Numbers of Insects, and invisible Creatures, who enter into the Body with the Breath, or even at the Pores with the Air, and there generate, or emit most acute Poisons, or poisonous Ovæ, or Eggs, which mingle themselves with the Blood, and so infect the Body; a Discourse full of learned Simplicity, and manifested to be so by universal Experience; but I shall say more to this Case in its Order.

[194] I must here take farther Notice that Nothing was more fatal to the Inhabitants of this City, than the Supine Negligence of the People themselves, who during the long Notice, or Warning they had of the Visitation, yet made no Provision for it, by laying in Store of Provisions, or of other Necessaries; by which they might have liv’d retir’d, and within their own Houses, as I have observed, others did, and who were in a great Measure preserv’d by that Caution; nor were they, after they were a little hardened to it so shye of conversing with one another, when actually infected, as they were at first, no tho’ they knew it.

[195] I acknowledge I was one of those thoughtless Ones, that had made so little Provision, that my Servants were obliged to go out of Doors to buy every Trifle by Penny and Half-penny, just as before it begun, even till my Experience shewing me the Folly, I began to be wiser so late that I had scarce Time to store my self sufficient for our common Subsistence for a Month.

[196] I had in Family only an antient Woman, that managed the House, a Maid-Servant, two Apprentices, and my self; and the Plague beginning to encrease about us, I had many sad Thoughts about what Course I should take, and how I should act; the many Dismal Objects, which happened everywhere as I went about the Streets, had fill’d my Mind with a great deal of Horror, for fear of the Distemper it self, which was indeed, very horrible in it self and in some more than in others; the swellings which were generally in the Neck, or Groin, when they grew hard, and would not break, grew so painful, that it was equal to the most exquisite Torture; and some not able to bear the Torment threw themselves out at Windows, or shot themselves, or otherwise made themselves away, and I saw several dismal Objects of that Kind: Others unable to contain themselves, vented their Pain by incessant Roarings, and such loud and lamentable Cries were to be heard as we walk’d along the Streets, that would Pierce the very Heart to think of, especially when it was to be considered, that the same dreadful Scourge might be expected every Moment to seize upon our selves.

[197] I cannot say, but that now I began to faint in my Resolutions, my Heart fail’d me very much, and sorely I repented of my Rashness: When I had been out, and met with such terrible Things as these I have talked of; I say, I repented my Rashness in venturing to abide in Town: I wish’d often, that I had not taken upon me to stay, but had gone away with my Brother and his Family.

[198] Terrified by those frightful Objects, I would retire Home sometimes, and resolve to go out no more, and perhaps I would keep those Resolutions for three or four Days, which Time I spent in the most serious Thankfulness for my Preservation, and the Preservation of my Family, and the constant Confession of my Sins, giving my self up to God every Day, and applying to him with Fasting, Humiliation, and Meditation: Such Intervals as I had, I employed in reading Books, and in writing down my Memorandums of what occurred to me every Day, and out of which, afterwards, I took most of this Work as it relates to my Observations without Doors: What I wrote of my private Meditations I reserve for private Use, and desire it may not be made publick on any Account whatever.

[199] I also wrote other Meditations upon Divine Subjects, such as occurred to me at that Time, and were profitable to my self, but not fit for any other View, and therefore I say no more of that.


[214] But, this is but one; it is scarce credible what dreadful Cases happened in particular Families every Day; People in the Rage of the Distemper, or in the Torment of their Swellings, which was indeed intollerable, running out of their own Government, raving and distracted, and oftentimes laying violent Hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out at their Windows, shooting themselves, &c. Mothers murthering their own Children, in their Lunacy, some dying of meer Grief, as a Passion, some of meer Fright and Surprize, without any Infection at all; others frighted into Idiotism, and foolish Distractions, some into dispair and Lunacy; others into mellancholy Madness.

[215] The Pain of the Swelling was in particular very violent, and to some intollerable; the Physicians and Surgeons may be said to have tortured many poor Creatures even to Death. The Swellings in some grew hard, and they apply’d violent drawing Plasters, or Pultices, to break them; and if these did not do, they cut and scarified them in a terrible Manner: In some, those Swellings were made hard, partly by the Force of the Distemper, and partly by their being too violently drawn, and were so hard, that no Instrument could cut them, and then they burnt them with Causticks, so that many died raving mad with the Torment; and some in the very Operation. In these Distresses, some for want of Help to hold them down in their Beds, or to look to them, laid Hands upon themselves, as above. Some broke out into the Streets, perhaps naked, and would run directly down to the River, if they were not stopt by the Watchmen, or other Officers, and plunge themselves into the Water, wherever they found it.

[216] It often pierc’d my very Soul to hear the Groans and Crys of those who were thus tormented, but of the Two, this was counted the most promising Particular in the whole Infection; for, if these Swellings could be brought to a Head, and to break and run, or as the Surgeons call it, to digest, the Patient generally recover’d; whereas those, who like the Gentlewoman’s Daughter, were Struck with Death at the Beginning, and had the Tokens come out upon them, often went about indifferent easy, till a little before they died, and some till the Moment they dropt down, as in Apoplexies and Epilepsies, is often the Case; such would be taken suddenly very sick, and would run to a Bench or Bulk, or any convenient Place that offer’d it self, or to their own Houses, if possible, as I mentioned before, and there sit down, grow faint and die. This kind of dying was much the same, as it was with those who die of common Mortifications, who die swooning, and as it were, go away in a Dream; such as died thus, had very little Notice of their being infected at all, till the Gangreen was spread thro’ their whole Body; nor could Physicians themselves, know certainly how it was with them, till they opened their Breasts, or other Parts of their Body, and saw the Tokens. We had at this Time a great many frightful Stories told us of Nurses and Watchmen, who looked after the dying People, that is to say, hir’d Nurses, who attended infected People, using them barbarously, starving them, smothering them, or by other wicked Means, hastening their End, that is to say, murthering of them: And Watchmen being set to guard Houses that were shut up, when there has been but one person left, and perhaps, that one lying sick, that they have broke in and murthered that Body, and immediately thrown them out into the Dead-Cart! and so they have gone scarce cold to the Grave.

[217] I cannot say, but that some such Murthers were committed, and I think two were sent to Prison for it, but died before they could be try’d; and I have heard that three others, at several Times, were excused for Murthers of that kind; but I must say I believe nothing of its being so common a Crime, as some have since been pleas’d to say, nor did it seem to be so rational, where the People were brought so low as not to be able to help themselves, for such seldom recovered, and there was no Temptation to commit a Murther, at least, none equal to the Fact, where they were sure Persons would die in so short a Time; and could not live.

[218] That there were a great many Robberies and wicked Practices committed even in this dreadful Time I do not deny; the Power of Avarice was so strong in some, that they would run any Hazard to steal and to plunder, and particularly in Houses where all the Families, or Inhabitants have been dead, and carried out, they would break in at all Hazards, and without Regard to the Danger of Infection, take even the Cloths off, of the dead Bodies, and the Bed-cloaths from others where they lay dead.


[269] If I may be allowed to give my Opinion, by what I saw with my Eyes, and heard from other People that were Eye Witnesses, I do verily believe the same, viz. that there died, at least, 100,000 of the Plague only, besides other Distempers, and besides those which died in the Fields, and High-ways, and secret Places, out of the Compass of the Communication, as it was called; and who were not put down in the Bills, tho’ they really belonged to the Body of the Inhabitants. It was known to us all, that abundance of poor dispairing Creatures, who had the Distemper upon them, and were grown stupid, or melancholly by their Misery, as many were, wandred away into the Fields, and Woods, and into secret uncouth Places, almost any where to creep into a Bush, or Hedge, and DIE.


[320] To introduce one, let me first mention, that one of the most deplorable Cases, in all the present Calamity, was, that of Women with Child; who when they came to the Hour of their Sorrows, and their Pains came upon them, cou’d neither have help of one Kind or another; neither Midwife or Neighbouring Women to come near them; most of the Midwives were dead; especially, of such as serv’d the Poor; and many, if not all the Midwives of Note were fled into the Country: So that it was next to impossible for a poor Woman that cou’d not pay an immoderate Price to get any Midwife to come to her, and if they did, those they cou’d get were generally unskilful and ignorant Creatures; and the Consequence of this was, that a most unusual and incredible Number of Women were reduc’d to the utmost distress. Some were deliver’d and spoil’d by the rashness and ignorance of those who pretended to lay them. Children without Number, were, I might say, murthered by the same, but a more justifiable ignorance, pretending they would save the Mother, whatever became of the Child; and many Times, both Mother and Child were lost in the same Manner; and especially, where the Mother had the Distemper, there no Body would come near them, and both sometimes perish’d: Sometimes the Mother has died of the Plague; and the Infant, it may be half born, or born but not parted from the Mother. Some died in the very Pains of their Travel, and not deliver’d at all; and so many were the Cases of this Kind, that it is hard to Judge of them.

[321] Something of it will appear in the unusual Numbers which are put into the Weekly Bills (tho’ I am far from allowing them to be able to give any Thing of a full Account under the Articles of

Child-Bed.
Abortive and Stilborn.
Chrisoms and Infants.

[322] Take the Weeks in which the Plague was most: violent, and compare them with the Weeks before the Distemper began, even in the same Year; For Example:




Child
bed.

Abort.
Stil
-born

|
Jan. 3 to Jan. 10
---
7
---
1
---
13

|
to 17
--- 8
--- 6
--- 11

|
to 24
--- 9
--- 5
--- 15

|
to 31
--- 3
--- 2
--- 9
From
|
Jan. 31 to Feb. 7
--- 3
--- 3
--- 8

|
to 14
--- 6
--- 2
--- 11

|
to 21
--- 5
--- 2
--- 13

|
to 28
--- 2
--- 2
--- 10

|
Feb.7 to March 7
--- 5
--- 1
--- 10


________________________________________________________________________




48

24

100




Child
bed.

Abort.
Stil
-born

|
Aug. 3 to Aug. 8
---
25
---
5
---
11

|
to 15
--- 23
--- 6
--- 8

|
to 22
--- 28
--- 4
--- 4

|
to 29
--- 40
--- 6
--- 10
From
|
Aug. 29 to Sept. 5
--- 38
--- 2
--- 11

|
to 12
--- 39
--- 23
--- 00

|
to 19
--- 42
--- 5
--- 17

|
to 26
--- 42
--- 6
--- 10

|
Sep.26 to Octob. 3
--- 14
--- 4
--- 9


________________________________________________________________________




291

61

80

[326] There is no Room to doubt, but the Misery of those that gave Suck, was in Proportion as great. Our Bills of Mortality cou’d give but little Light in this; yet, some it did, there were several more than usual starv’d at Nurse; but this was nothing: The Misery was, where they were (1st) starved for want of a Nurse, the Mother dying, and all the Family and the Infants found dead by them, meerly for want; and if I may speak my Opinion, I do believe, that many hundreds of Poor helpless Infants perish’d in this manner, (2dly) Not starv’d (but poison’d) by the Nurse, Nay even where the Mother has been Nurse, and having receiv’d the Infection, has poison’d, that is, infected the Infant with her Milk, even before they knew they were infected themselves; nay, and the Infant has dy’d in such a Case before the Mother. I cannot but remember to leave this Admonition upon Record, if ever such another dreadful Visitation should happen in this City; that all Women that are with Child or that give Suck should be gone, if they have any possible Means, out of the Place; because their Misery, if infected, will so much exceed all other Peoples.

[327] I could tell here dismal Stories of living Infants being found sucking the Breasts of their Mothers, or Nurses, after they have been dead of the Plague. Of a Mother, in the Parish where I liv’d, who having a Child that was not well, sent for an Apothecary to View the Child; and when he came, as the Relation goes, was giving the Child suck at her Breast, and to all Appearance, was her self very well: But when the Apothecary came close to her, he saw the Tokens upon that Breast, with which she was suckling the Child. He was surpriz’d enough to be sure; but not willing to fright the poor Woman too much, he desired she would give the Child into his Hand; so he takes the Child, and going to a Cradle in the Room lays it in, and opening its Cloths, found the Tokens upon the Child too, and both dy’d before he cou’d get Home, to send a preventative Medicine to the Father of the Child, to whom he had told their Condition; whether the Child infected the Nurse-Mother, or the Mother the Child was not certain, but the last most likely.

[328] Likewise of a Child brought home to the Parents from a Nurse that had dy’d of the Plague; yet, the tender Mother would not refuse to take in her Child, and lay’d it in her Bosom, by which she was infected, and dy’d with the Child in her Arms dead also.

[329] It would make the hardest Heart move at the Instances that were frequently found of tender Mothers, tending and watching with their dear Children, and even dying before them, and sometimes taking the Distemper from them, and dying when the Child, for whom the affectionate Heart had been sacrificed, has got over it and escap’d.


[335] Wherefore, were we ordered to kill all the Dogs and Cats: But because as they were domestick Animals, and are apt to run from House to House, and from Street to Street; so they are capable of carrying the Effluvia or Infectious Steams of Bodies infected, even in their Furrs and Hair; and therefore it was that in the beginning of the Infection, an Order was published by the Lord Mayor, and by the Magistrates, according to the Advice of the Physicians; that all the Dogs and Cats should be immediately killed, and an Officer was appointed for the Execution.

[336] It is incredible, if their Account is to be depended upon, what a prodigious Number of those Creatures were destroy’d: I think they talk’d of forty thousand Dogs, and five times as many Cats, few Houses being without a Cat, and some having several, and sometimes five or six in a House. All possible Endeavours were us’d also to destroy the Mice and Rats, especially the latter; by laying Rats-Bane, and other Poisons for them, and a prodigious multitude of them were also destroy’d.


[498] Another thing might render the Country more strict with respect to the Citizens, and especially with respect to the Poor; and this was what I hinted at before, namely, that there was a seeming propensity, or a wicked Inclination in those that were Infected to infect others.

[499] There have been great Debates among our Physicians, as to the Reason of this; some will have it to be in the Nature of the Disease, and that it impresses every one that is seiz’d upon by it, with a kind of a Rage, and a hatred against their own Kind, as if there was a malignity, not only in the Distemper to communicate it self, but in the very Nature of Man, prompting him with evil Will, or an evil Eye, that as they say in the Case of a mad Dog, who tho’ the gentlest Creature before of any of his Kind, yet then will fly upon and bite any one that comes next him, and those as soon as any, who had been most observ’d by him before.

[500] Others plac’d it to the Account of the Corruption of humane Nature, which cannot bear to see itself more miserable than others of its own Specie, and has a kind of involuntary Wish, that all Men were as unhappy, or in as bad a Condition as itself.

[501] Others say, it was only a kind of Desperation, not knowing or regarding what they did, and consequently unconcern’d at the Danger or Safety, not only of any Body near them, but even of themselves also. And indeed when Men are once come to a Condition to abandon themselves, and be unconcern’d for the Safety, or at the Danger of themselves, it cannot be so much wondered that they should be careless of the Safety of other People.

[502] But I choose to give this grave Debate a quite different turn, and answer it or resolve it all by saying, That I do not grant the Fact. On the contrary, I say, that the Thing is not really so, but that it was a general Complaint rais’d by the People inhabiting the out-lying Villages against the Citizens, to justify, or at least excuse those Hardships and Severities so much talk’d of, and in which Complaints, both Sides may be said to have injured one another; that is to say, the Citizens pressing to be received and harbour’d in time of Distress, and with the Plague upon them, complain of the Cruelty and Injustice of the Country People, in being refused Entrance, and forc’d back again with their Goods and Families; and the Inhabitants finding themselves so imposed upon, and the Citizens breaking in as it were upon them whether they would or no, complain, that when they were infected, they were not only regardless of others, but even willing to infect them; neither of which were really true, that is to say, in the Colours they were describ’d in.


[548] Here we may observe, and I hope it will not be amiss to take notice of it, that a near View of Death would soon reconcile Men of good Principles one to another, and that it is chiefly owing to our easy Scituation in Life, and our putting these Things far from us, that our Breaches are fomented, ill Blood continued, Prejudices, Breach of Charity and of Christian Union so much kept and so far carry’d on among us, as it is: Another Plague Year would reconcile all these Differences, a close conversing with Death, or with Diseases that threaten Death, would scum off the Gall from our Tempers, remove the Animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing Eyes, than those which we look’d on Things with before; as the People who had been used to join with the Church, were reconcil’d at this Time, with the admitting the Dissenters to preach to them: So the Dissenters, who with an uncommon Prejudice, had broken off from the Communion of the Church of England, were now content to come to their Parish-Churches, and to conform to the Worship which they did not approve of before; but as the Terror of the Infection abated, those Things all returned again to their less desirable Channel, and to the Course they were in before.

[549] I mention this but historically, I have no mind to enter into Arguments to move either, or both Sides to a more charitable Compliance one with another; I do not see that it is probable such a Discourse would be either suitable or successful; the Breaches seem rather to widen, and tend to a widening farther, than to closing, and who am I that I should think myself able to influence either one Side or other? But this I may repeat again, that ’tis evident Death will reconcile us all; on the other Side the Grave we shall be all Brethren again: In Heaven, whether, I hope we may come from all Parties and Perswasions, we shall find neither Prejudice or Scruple; there we shall be of one Principle and of one Opinion, why we cannot be content to go Hand in Hand to the Place where we shall join Heart and Hand without the least Hesitation, and with the most compleat Harmony and Affection; I say, why we cannot do so here I can say nothing to, neither shall I say any thing more of it, but that it remains to be lamented.


[590] Here also I ought to leave a farther Remark for the use of Posterity, concerning the Manner of Peoples infecting one another; namely, that it was not the sick People only, from whom the Plague was immediately receiv’d by others that were sound, but T H E   W E L L. To explain my self; by the sick People I mean those who were known to be sick, had taken their Beds, had been under Cure, or had Swellings and Tumours upon them, and the like; these every Body could beware of, they were either in their Beds, or in such Condition as cou’d not be conceal’d.

[591] By the Well, I mean such as had received the Contagion, and had it really upon them, and in their Blood, yet did not show the Consequences of it in their Countenances, nay even were not sensible of it themselves, as many were not for several Days: These breathed Death in every Place, and upon every Body who came near them; nay their very Cloaths retain’d the Infection, their Hands would infect the Things they touch’d, especially if they were warm and sweaty, and they were generally apt to sweat too.

[592] Now it was impossible to know these People, nor did they sometimes, as I have said, know themselves to be infected: These were the People that so often dropt down and fainted in the Streets; for oftentimes they would go about the Streets to the last, till on a sudden they would sweat, grow faint, sit down at a Door and die: It is true, finding themselves thus, they would struggle hard to get Home to their own Doors, or at other Times would be just able to go in to their Houses and die instantly; other Times they would go about till they had the very Tokens come out upon them, and yet not know it, and would die in an Hour or two after they came Home, but be well as long as they were Abroad: These were the dangerous People, these were the People of whom the well People ought to have been afraid; but then on the other Side it was impossible to know them.

[593] And this is the Reason why it is impossible in a Visitation to prevent the spreading of the Plague by the utmost human Vigilance, (viz.) that it is impossible to know the infected People from the sound; or that the infected People should perfectly know themselves: I knew a Man who conversed freely in London all the Season of the Plague in 1665, and kept about him an Antidote or Cordial, on purpose to take when he thought himself in any Danger, and he had such a Rule to know, or have Warning of the Danger by, as indeed I never met with before or since, how far it may be depended on I know not: He had a Wound in his Leg, and whenever he came among any People that were not sound, and the Infection began to affect him, he said he could know it by that Signal, (viz.) That his Wound in his Leg would smart, and look pale and white; so as soon as ever he felt it smart, it was time for him to withdraw, or to take care of himself, taking his Drink, which he always carried about him for that Purpose. Now it seems he found his Wound would smart many Times when he was in Company with such, who thought themselves to be sound, and who appear’d so to one another; but he would presently rise up, and say publickly, Friends, here is some Body in the Room that has the Plague, and so would immediately break up the Company. This was indeed a faithful Monitor to all People, that the Plague is not to be avoided by those that converse promiscuously in a Town infected, and People have it when they know it not, and that they likewise give it to others when they know not that they have it themselves; and in this Case, shutting up the WELL or removing the SICK will not do it, unless they can go back and shut up all those that the Sick had Convers’d with, even before they knew themselves to be sick, and none knows how far to carry that back, or where to stop; for none knows when, or where, or how they may have received the Infection, or from whom.

[594] This I take to be the Reason, which makes so many People talk of the Air being corrupted and infected, and that they need not be cautious of whom they converse with, for that the Contagion was in the Air. I have seen them in strange Agitations and Surprises on this Account, I have never come near any infected Body! says the disturbed Person, I have Convers’d with none, but sound healthy People, and yet I have gotten the Distemper! I am sure I am struck from Heaven, says another, and he falls to the serious Part; again the first goes on exclaiming, I have come near no Infection, or any infected Person, I am sure it is in the Air; We draw in Death when we breath, and therefore ’tis the Hand of God, there is no withstanding it; and this at last made many People, being hardened to the Danger, grow less concern’d at it, and less cautious towards the latter End of the Time, and when it was come to its height, than they were at first; then with a kind of a Turkish Predestinarianism, they would say, if it pleas’d God to strike them, it was all one whether they went Abroad or staid at Home, they cou’d not escape it, and therefore they went boldly about even into infected Houses, and infected Company; visited sick People, and in short, lay in the Beds with their Wives or Relations when they were infected; and what was the Consequence? But the same that is the Consequence in Turkey, and in those Countries where they do those Things; namely, that they were infected too, and died by Hundreds and Thousands.

[595] I would be far from lessening the Awe of the Judgments of God, and the Reverence to his Providence, which ought always to be on our Minds on such Occasions as these; doubtless the Visitation it self is a Stroke from Heaven upon a City, or Country, or Nation where it falls; a Messenger of his Vengeance, and a loud Call to that Nation, or Country, or City, to Humiliation and Repentance, according to that of the Prophet Jeremiah xviii. 7, 8. At what instant I shall speak concerning a Nation, and concerning a Kingdom to pluck up, and to pull down, and destroy it: If that Nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. Now to prompt due Impressions of the Awe of God on the Minds of Men on such Occasions, and not to lessen them it is that I have left those Minutes upon Record.

[596] I say, therefore I reflect upon no Man for putting the Reason of those Things upon the immediate Hand of God, and the Appointment and Direction of his Providence; nay, on the contrary, there were many wonderful Deliverances of Persons from Infection, and Deliverances of Persons when Infected, which intimate singular and remarkable Providence, in the particular Instances to which they refer, and I esteem my own Deliverance to be one next to miraculous, and do record it with Thankfulness.

[597] But when I am speaking of the Plague, as a Distemper arising from natural Causes, we must consider it as it was really propagated by natural Means, nor is it at all the less a Judgment for its being under the Conduct of humane Causes and Effects; for as the divine Power has form’d the whole Scheme of Nature, and maintains Nature in its Course; so the same Power thinks fit to let his own Actings with Men, whether of Mercy or Judgment, to go on in the ordinary Course of natural Causes, and he is pleased to act by those natural Causes as the ordinary Means; excepting and reserving to himself nevertheless a Power to act in a supernatural Way when he sees Occasion: now, ’tis evident, that in the Case of an Infection, there is no apparent extraordinary Occasion for supernatural Operation, but the ordinary Course of Things appears sufficiently arm’d, and made capable of all the Effects that Heaven usually directs by a Contagion. Among these Causes and Effects this of the secret Conveyance of Infection imperceptible, and unavoidable, is more than sufficient to execute the Fierceness of divine Vengeance, without putting it upon Supernaturals and Miracle.

[598] The acute penetrating Nature of the Disease it self was such, and the Infection was receiv’d so imperceptibly, that the most exact Caution could not secure us while in the Place: But I must be allowed to believe, and I have so many Examples fresh in my Memory, to convince me of it, that I think none can resist their Evidence; I say, I must be allowed to believe, that no one in this whole Nation ever receiv’d the Sickness or Infection, but who receiv’d it in the ordinary Way of Infection from some Body, or the Cloaths, or touch, or stench of some Body that was infected before.


[612] And here I must observe also, that the Plague, as I suppose all Distempers do, operated in a different Manner, on differing Constitutions; some were immediately overwhelm’d with it, and it came to violent Fevers, Vomitings, unsufferable Head-achs, Pains in the Back, and so up to Ravings and Ragings with those Pains: Others with Swellings and Tumours in the Neck or Groyn, or Arm-pits, which till they could be broke, put them into insufferable Agonies and Torment; while others, as I have observ’d, were silently infected, the Fever preying upon their Spirits insensibly, and they seeing little of it, till they fell into swooning, and faintings, and Death without pain.

[613] I am not Physician enough to enter into the particular Reasons and Manner of these differing Effects of one and the same Distemper, and of its differing Operation in several Bodies: nor is it my Business here to record the Observations, which I really made, because the Doctors themselves, have done that part much more effectually than I can do, and because my opinion may in some things differ from theirs: I am only relating what I know, or have heard, or believe of the particular Cases, and what fell within the Compass of my View, and the different Nature of the Infection, as it appeared in the particular Cases which I have related; but this may be added too, that tho’ the former Sort of those Cases, namely those openly visited, were the worst for themselves as to Pain, I mean those that had such Fevers, Vomitings, Head-achs, Pains and Swellings, because they died in such a dreadful Manner, yet the latter had the worst State of the Disease; for in the former they frequently recover’d, especially if the Swellings broke, but the latter was inevitable Death; no cure, no help cou’d be possible, nothing could follow but Death; and it was worse also to others, because as, above, it secretly, and unperceiv’d by others, or by themselves, communicated Death to those they convers’d with, the penetrating Poison insinuating it self into their Blood in a Manner, which itis impossible to describe, or indeed conceive.

[614] This infecting and being infected, without so much as its being known to either Person, is evident from two Sorts of Cases, which frequently happened at that Time; and there is hardly any Body living who was in London during the Infection, but must have known several of the Cases of both Sorts.


[637] This Misery of the Poor I had many Occasions to be an Eye-witness of, and sometimes also of the charitable Assistance that some pious People daily gave to such, sending them Relief and Supplies both of Food, Physick and other Help, as they found they wanted; and indeed it is a Debt of Justice due to the Temper of the People of that Day to take Notice here, that not only great Sums, very great Sums of Money were charitably sent to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen for the Assistance and Support of the poor distemper’d People; but abundance of private People daily distributed large Sums of Money for their Relief, and sent People about to enquire into the Condition of particular distressed and visited Families, and relieved them; nay some pious Ladies were so transported with Zeal in so good a Work, and so confident in the Protection of Providence in Discharge of the great Duty of Charity, that they went about in person distributing Alms to the Poor, and even visiting poor Families, tho’ sick and infected in their very Houses, appointing Nurses to attend those that wanted attending, and ordering Apothecaries and Surgeons, the first to supply them with Drugs or Plaisters, and such things as they wanted; and the last to lance and dress the Swellings and Tumours, where such were wanting; giving their Blessing to the Poor in substantial Relief to them, as well as hearty Prayers for them.

[638] I will not undertake to say, as some do, that none of these charitable People were suffered to fall under the Calamity itself; but this I may say, that I never knew any one of them that miscarried, which I mention for the Encouragement of others in case of the like Distress; and doubtless, if they that give to the Poor, lend to the Lord, and he will repay them; those that hazard their Lives to give to the Poor; and to comfort and assist the Poor in such a Misery as this, may hope to be protected in the Work.

[639] Nor was this Charity so extraordinary eminent only in a few; but, (for I cannot lightly quit this Point) the Charity of the rich as well in the City and Suburbs as from the Country, was so great, that in a Word, a prodigious Number of People, who must otherwise inevitably have perished for want as well as Sickness, were supported and subsisted by it; and tho’ I could never, nor I believe any one else come to a full Knowledge of what was so contributed, yet I do believe, that as I heard one say, that was a critical Observer of that Part, there was not only many Thousand Pounds contributed, but many hundred thousand Pounds, to the Relief of the Poor of this distressed afflicted City; nay one Man affirm’d to me, that he could reckon up about one hundred thousand Pounds a-Week, which was distributed by the Church Wardens at the several Parish Vestries, by the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen in the several Wards and Precincts, and by the particular Direction of the Court and of the Justices respectively in the parts where they resided; over and above the private Charity distributed by pious Hands in the manner I speak of, and this continued for many Weeks together.

[640] I confess this is a very great Sum; but if it be true, that there was distributed in the Parish of Cripplegate only, 17800 Pounds in one Week to the Relief of the Poor, as I heard reported, and which I really believe was true, the other may not be improbable.


[680] It remains now, that I should say something of the merciful Part of this terrible Judgment: The last Week in September, the Plague being come to its Crisis, its Fury began to asswage. I remember my Friend Doctor Heath coming to see me the Week before, told me, he was sure that the Violence of it would asswage in a few Days; but when I saw the weekly Bill of that Week, which was the highest of the whole Year, being 8297 of all Diseases, I upbraided him with it, and ask’d him, what he had made his Judgment from? His Answer, however, was not so much to seek, as I thought it would have been; look you, says he, by the Number which are at this Time sick and infected, there should have been twenty Thousand dead the last Week, instead of eight Thousand, if the inveterate mortal Contagion had been, as it was two Weeks ago; for then it ordinarily kill’d in two or three Days, now not under Eight or Ten; and then not above One in Five recovered; whereas I have observ’d, that now not above Two in Five miscarry; and observe it from me, the next Bill will decrease, and you will see many more People recover than used to do; for tho’ a vast Multitude are now every where infected, and as many every Day fall sick; yet there will not so many die as there did, for the Malignity of the Distemper is abated; adding, that he began now to hope, nay more than hope, that the Infection had pass’d its Crisis, and was going off; and accordingly so it was, for the next Week being, as I said, the last in September, the Bill decreased almost two Thousand.

[681] It is true, the Plague was still at a frightful Height, and the next Bill was no less than 6460, and the next to that 5720; but still my Friend’s Observation was just, and it did appear the People did recover faster, and more in Number, than they used to do; and indeed if it had not been so, what had been the Condition of the City of London? for according to my Friend there were not fewer than sixty Thousand People at that Time infected, whereof, as above, 20477 died, and near 40000 recovered; whereas had it been as it was before, Fifty thousand of that Number would very probably have died, if not more, and 50000 more would have sickned; for in a Word, the whole Mass of People began to sicken, and it look’d as if none would escape.

[682] But this Remark of my Friend’s appear’d more evident in a few Weeks more; for the Decrease went on, and another Week in October it decreas’d 1849. So that the Number dead of the Plague was but 2665, and the next Week it decreased 1413 more, and yet it was seen plainly, that there was abundance of People sick, nay abundance more than ordinary, and abundance fell sick every Day, but (as above) the Malignity of the Disease abated.


[693] I wish I cou’d say, that as the City had a new Face, so the Manners of the People had a new Appearance: I doubt not but there were many that retain’d a sincere Sense of their Deliverance, and that were heartily thankful to that sovereign Hand, that had protected them in so dangerous a Time; it would be very uncharitable to judge otherwise in a City of populous, and where the People were so devout, as they were here in the Time of the Visitation it self; but except what of this was to be found in particular Families, and Faces, it must be acknowledg’d that the general Practice of the People was just as it was before, and very little Difference was to be seen.

[694] Some indeed said Things were worse, that the Morals of the People declin’d from this very time; that the People harden’d by the Danger they had been in, like Seamen after a Storm is over, were more wicked and more stupid, more bold and hardened in their Vices and Immoralities than they were before; but I will not carry it so far neither: It would take up a History of no small Length, to give a Particular of all the Gradations, by which the Course of Things in this City came to be restor’d again, and to run in their own Channel as they did before.

[695] Some Parts of England were now infected as violently as London had been; the Cities of Norwich, Peterborough, Lincoln, Colchester, and other Places were now visited; and the Magistrates of London began to set Rules for our Conduct, as to corresponding with those Cities: It is true, we could not pretend to forbid their People coming to London, because it was impossible to know them assunder, so after many Consultations, the Lord Mayor, and Court of Aldermen were oblig’d to drop it: All they cou’d do, was to warn and caution the People, not to entertain in their Houses, or converse with any People who they knew came from such infected Places.

[696] But they might as well have talk’d to the Air, for the People of London thought themselves so Plague-free now, that they were past all Admonitions; they seem’d to depend upon it, that the Air was restor’d, and that the Air was like a Man that had had the Small Pox, not capable of being infected again; this reviv’d that Notion, that the Infection was all in the Air, that there was no such thing as Contagion from the sick People to the Sound; and so strongly did this Whimsy prevail among People, that they run all together promiscuously, sick and well; not the Mahometans, who, prepossess’d with the Principle of Predestination value nothing of Contagion, let it be in what it will, could be more obstinate than the People of London; they that were perfectly sound, and came out of the wholesome Air, as we call it, into the City, made nothing of going into the same Houses and Chambers, nay even into the same Beds, with those that had the Distemper upon them, and were not recovered.

[697] Some indeed paid for their audacious Boldness with the Price of their Lives; an infinite Number fell sick, and the Physicians had more Work than ever, only with this Difference, that more of their Patients recovered; that is to say, they generally recovered, but certainly there were more People infected, and fell sick now, when there did not die above a Thousand, or Twelve Hundred in a Week, than there was when there died Five or Six Thousand a Week; so entirely negligent were the People at that Time, in the great and dangerous Case of Health and Infection; and so ill were they able to take or accept of the Advice of those who cautioned them for their Good.


[701] The Distemper sweeping away such Multitudes, as I have observ’d, many, if not all the out Parishes were obliged to make new burying Grounds, besides that I have mention’d in Bunhil-Fields, some of which were continued, and remain in Use to this Day; but others were left off, and which, I confess, I mention with some Reflection, being converted into other Uses, or built upon afterwards, the dead Bodies were disturb’d, abus’d, dug up again, some even before the Flesh of them was perished from the Bones, and remov’d like Dung or Rubbish to other Places; some of those which came within the Reach of my Observation, are as follow.

[702] 1. A piece of Ground beyond Goswel Street, near Mount-Mill, being some of the Remains of the old Lines or Fortifications of the City, where Abundance were buried promiscuously from the Parishes of Aldersgate, Clerkenwell, and even out of the City. This Ground, as I take it, was since made a Physick Garden, and after that has been built upon.

[703] 2. A piece of Ground just over the Black Ditch, as it was then call’d, at the end of Holloway Lane, in Shoreditch Parish; it has been since made a Yard for keeping Hogs; and for other ordinary Uses, but is quite out of Use as a burying Ground.

[704] 3. The upper End of Hand-Alley in Bishopsgate-Street, which was then a green Field, and was taken in particularly for Bishopsgate Parish, tho’ many of the Carts out of the City brought their dead thither also, particularly out of the Parish of St. Allhallows on the Wall; this Place I cannot mention without much Regret, it was, as I remember, about two or three Year after the Plague was ceas’d that Sir Robert Clayton came to be possest of the Ground; it was reported, how true I know not, that it fell to the King for want of Heirs, all those who had any Right to it being carried off by the Pestilence, and that Sir Robert Clayton obtain’d a Grant of it from King Charles II. But however he came by it, certain it is, the Ground was let out to build on, or built upon by his Order: The first House built upon it was a large fair House still standing, which faces the Street, or Way, now called Hand-Alley, which, tho’ call’d an Alley, is as wide as a Street: The Houses in the same row with that House Northward, are built on the very same Ground where the poor People were buried, and the Bodies on opening the Ground for the Foundations, were dug up, some of them remaining so plain to be seen, that the Womens Sculls were distinguished by their long Hair, and of others, the Flesh was not quite perished; so that the People began to exclaim loudly against it, and some suggested that it might endanger a Return of the Contagion: After which the Bones and Bodies, as fast as they came at them, were carried to another part of the same Ground, and’ thrown all together into a deep Pit, dug on purpose, which now is to be known, in that it is not built on, but is a Passage to another House, at the upper End of Rose Alley, just against the Door of a Meeting-house, which has been built there many Years since; and the Ground is palisadoed off from the rest of the Passage, in a little square, there lye the Bones and Remains of near two thousand Bodies, carried by the Dead-Carts to their Grave in that one Year.

[705] 4. Besides this, there was a piece of Ground in Moor-fields, by the going into the Street which is now call’d Old Bethlem, which was enlarg’d much, tho’ not wholly taken in on the same occasion.

[706] N. B. The Author of this Journal, lyes buried in that very Ground, being at his own Desire, his Sister having been buried there a few Years before.

[707] 5. Stepney Parish, extending it self from the East part of London to the North, even to the very Edge of Shoreditch Church-yard, had a piece of Ground taken in to bury their Dead, close to the said Church-yard; and which for that very Reason was left open, and is since I suppose, taken into the same Church-yard; and they had also two other burying Places in Spittlefields, one where since a Chapel or Tabernacle has been built for ease to this great Parish, and another in Petticoat-lane.

[708] There were no less than Five other Grounds made use of for the Parish of Stepney at that time; one where now stands the Parish Church of St. Paul’s Shadwel, and the other, where now stands the Parish Church of St. John at Wapping, both which had not the Names of Parishes at that time, but were belonging to Stepney Parish.

[709] I cou’d name many more, but these coming within my particular Knowledge, the Circumstance I thought made it of Use to record them; from the whole, it may be observ’d, that they were oblig’d in this Time of Distress, to take in new burying Grounds in most of the out Parishes, for laying the prodigious Numbers of People which died in so short a Space of Time; but why Care was not taken to keep those Places separate from ordinary Uses, that so the Bodies might rest undisturb’d, that I cannot answer for, and must confess, I think it was wrong; who were to blame, I know not.


[752] I can go no farther here, I should be counted censorious, and perhaps unjust, if I should enter into the unpleasing Work of reflecting, whatever Cause there was for it, upon the Unthankfulness and Return of all manner of Wickedness among us, which I was much an Eye-Witness of my self; I shall conclude the Account of this calamitous Year therefore with a coarse but sincere Stanza of my own, which I plac’d at the End of my ordinary Memorandums, the same Year they were written:

A dreadful Plague in London was,
In the Year Sixty Five,
Which swept an Hundred Thousand Souls
Away; yet I alive!

H. F.

F I N I S.