A Journal of the Plague Year
Daniel Defoe

Part 4 out of 5

into, and how I have mentioned in their madness, when they were
alone, they did many desperate things, it was very strange there were
no more disasters of that kind.

It has been frequently asked me, and I cannot say that I ever knew
how to give a direct answer to it, how it came to pass that so many
infected people appeared abroad in the streets at the same time that
the houses which were infected were so vigilantly searched, and all of
them shut up and guarded as they were.

I confess I know not what answer to give to this, unless it be this:
that in so great and populous a city as this is it was impossible to
discover every house that was infected as soon as it was so, or to shut
up all the houses that were infected; so that people had the liberty of
going about the streets, even where they Pleased, unless they were
known to belong to such-and-such infected houses.

It is true that, as several physicians told my Lord Mayor, the fury of
the contagion was such at some particular times, and people sickened
so fast and died so soon, that it was impossible, and indeed to no
purpose, to go about to inquire who was sick and who was well, or to
shut them up with such exactness as the thing required, almost every
house in a whole street being infected, and in many places every
person in some of the houses; and that which was still worse, by the
time that the houses were known to be infected, most of the persons
infected would be stone dead, and the rest run away for fear of being
shut up; so that it was to very small purpose to call them infected
houses and shut them up, the infection having ravaged and taken its
leave of the house before it was really known that the family was any
way touched.

This might be sufficient to convince any reasonable person that as it
was not in the power of the magistrates or of any human methods of
policy, to prevent the spreading the infection, so that this way of
shutting up of houses was perfectly insufficient for that end. Indeed it
seemed to have no manner of public good in it, equal or
proportionable to the grievous burden that it was to the particular
families that were so shut up; and, as far as I was employed by the
public in directing that severity, I frequently found occasion to see
that it was incapable of answering the end. For example, as I was
desired, as a visitor or examiner, to inquire into the particulars of
several families which were infected, we scarce came to any house
where the plague had visibly appeared in the family but that some of
the family were fled and gone. The magistrates would resent this, and
charge the examiners with being remiss in their examination or
inspection. But by that means houses were long infected before it was
known. Now, as I was in this dangerous office but half the appointed
time, which was two months, it was long enough to inform myself that
we were no way capable of coming at the knowledge of the true state
of any family but by inquiring at the door or of the neighbours. As for
going into every house to search, that was a part no authority would
offer to impose on the inhabitants, or any citizen would undertake: for
it would have been exposing us to certain infection and death, and to
the ruin of our own families as well as of ourselves; nor would any
citizen of probity, and that could be depended upon, have stayed in the
town if they had been made liable to such a severity.

Seeing then that we could come at the certainty of things by no
method but that of inquiry of the neighbours or of the family, and on
that we could not justly depend, it was not possible but that the
uncertainty of this matter would remain as above.

It is true masters of families were bound by the order to give notice
to the examiner of the place wherein he lived, within two hours after
he should discover it, of any person being sick in his house (that is to
say, having signs of the infection)- but they found so many ways to
evade this and excuse their negligence that they seldom gave that
notice till they had taken measures to have every one escape out of the
house who had a mind to escape, whether they were sick or sound;
and while this was so, it is easy to see that the shutting up of houses
was no way to be depended upon as a sufficient method for putting a
stop to the infection because, as I have said elsewhere, many of those
that so went out of those infected houses had the plague really upon
them, though they might really think themselves sound. And some of
these were the people that walked the streets till they fell down dead,
not that they were suddenly struck with the distemper as with a
bullet that killed with the stroke, but that they really had the infection
in their blood long before; only, that as it preyed secretly on the vitals,
it appeared not till it seized the heart with a mortal power, and the
patient died in a moment, as with a sudden fainting or an apoplectic fit.

I know that some even of our physicians thought for a time that
those people that so died in the streets were seized but that moment
they fell, as if they had been touched by a stroke from heaven as men
are killed by a flash of lightning - but they found reason to alter their
opinion afterward; for upon examining the bodies of such after they
were dead, they always either had tokens upon them or other evident
proofs of the distemper having been longer upon them than they had
otherwise expected.

This often was the reason that, as I have said, we that were
examiners were not able to come at the knowledge of the infection
being entered into a house till it was too late to shut it up, and
sometimes not till the people that were left were all dead. In Petticoat
Lane two houses together were infected, and several people sick; but
the distemper was so well concealed, the examiner, who was my
neighbour, got no knowledge of it till notice was sent him that the
people were all dead, and that the carts should call there to fetch them
away. The two heads of the families concerted their measures, and so
ordered their matters as that when the examiner was in the
neighbourhood they appeared generally at a time, and answered, that
is, lied, for one another, or got some of the neighbourhood to say they
were all in health - and perhaps knew no better - till, death making it
impossible to keep it any longer as a secret, the dead-carts were called
in the night to both the houses t and so it became public. But when
the examiner ordered the constable to shut up the houses there was
nobody left in them but three people, two in one house and one in the
other, just dying, and a nurse in each house who acknowledged that
they had buried five before, that the houses had been infected nine or
ten days, and that for all the rest of the two families, which were
many, they were gone, some sick, some well, or whether sick or well
could not be known.

In like manner, at another house in the same lane, a man having his
family infected but very unwilling to be shut up, when he could
conceal it no longer, shut up himself; that is to say, he set the great red
cross upon his door with the words, 'Lord have mercy upon us', and so
deluded the examiner, who supposed it had been done by the
constable by order of the other examiner, for there were two
examiners to every district or precinct. By this means he had free
egress and regress into his house again. and out of it, as he pleased,
notwithstanding it was infected, till at length his stratagem was found
out; and then he, with the sound part of his servants and family, made
off and escaped, so they were not shut up at all.

These things made it very hard, if not impossible, as I have said, to
prevent the spreading of an infection by the shutting up of houses -
unless the people would think the shutting of their houses no
grievance, and be so willing to have it done as that they would give
notice duly and faithfully to the magistrates of their being infected as
soon as it was known by themselves; but as that cannot be expected
from them, and the examiners cannot be supposed, as above, to go
into their houses to visit and search, all the good of shutting up houses
will be defeated, and few houses will be shut up in time, except those
of the poor, who cannot conceal it, and of some people who will be
discovered by the terror and consternation which the things put them into.

I got myself discharged of the dangerous office I was in as soon as I
could get another admitted, whom I had obtained for a little money to
accept of it; and so, instead of serving the two months, which was
directed, I was not above three weeks in it; and a great while too,
considering it was in the month of August, at which time the
distemper began to rage with great violence at our end of the town.

In the execution of this office I could not refrain speaking my
opinion among my neighbours as to this shutting up the people in their
houses; in which we saw most evidently the severities that were used,
though grievous in themselves, had also this particular objection
against them: namely, that they did not answer the end, as I have said,
but that the distempered people went day by day about the streets; and
it was our united opinion that a method to have removed the sound
from the sick, in case of a particular house being visited, would have
been much more reasonable on many accounts, leaving nobody with
the sick persons but such as should on such occasion request to stay
and declare themselves content to be shut up with them

Our scheme for removing those that were sound from those that
were sick was only in such houses as were infected, and confining the
sick was no confinement; those that could not stir would not complain
while they were in their senses and while they had the power of
judging. Indeed, when they came to be delirious and light-headed,
then they would cry out of the cruelty of being confined; but for the
removal of those that were well, we thought it highly reasonable and
just, for their own sakes, they should be removed from the sick, and
that for other people's safety they should keep retired for a while, to
see that they were sound, and might not infect others; and we thought
twenty or thirty days enough for this.

Now, certainly, if houses had been provided on purpose for those
that were sound to perform this demi-quarantine in, they would have
much less reason to think themselves injured in such a restraint than
in being confined with infected people in the houses where they lived.

It is here, however, to be observed that after the funerals became so
many that people could not toll the bell, mourn or weep, or wear black
for one another, as they did before; no, nor so much as make coffins
for those that died; so after a while the fury of the infection appeared
to be so increased that, in short, they shut up no houses at all. It
seemed enough that all the remedies of that kind had been used till
they were found fruitless, and that the plague spread itself with an
irresistible fury; so that as the fire the succeeding year spread itself,
and burned with such violence that the citizens, in despair, gave over
their endeavours to extinguish it, so in the plague it came at last to
such violence that the people sat still looking at one another, and
seemed quite abandoned to despair; whole streets seemed to be
desolated, and not to be shut up only, but to be emptied of their
inhabitants; doors were left open, windows stood shattering with the
wind in empty houses for want of people to shut them. In a word,
people began to give up themselves to their fears and to think that all
regulations and methods were in vain, and that there was nothing to be
hoped for but an universal desolation; and it was even in the height of
this general despair that it Pleased God to stay His hand, and to
slacken the fury of the contagion in such a manner as was even
surprising, like its beginning, and demonstrated it to be His own
particular hand, and that above, if not without the agency of means, as
I shall take notice of in its proper place.

But I must still speak of the plague as in its height, raging even to
desolation, and the people under the most dreadful consternation,
even, as I have said, to despair. It is hardly credible to what excess
the passions of men carried them in this extremity of the distemper,
and this part, I think, was as moving as the rest. What could affect a
man in his full power of reflection, and what could make deeper
impressions on the soul, than to see a man almost naked, and got out
of his house, or perhaps out of his bed, into the street, come out of
Harrow Alley, a populous conjunction or collection of alleys, courts,
and passages in the Butcher Row in Whitechappel, - I say, what could
be more affecting than to see this poor man come out into the open
street, run dancing and singing and making a thousand antic gestures,
with five or six women and children running after him, crying and
calling upon him for the Lord's sake to come back, and entreating the
help of others to bring him back, but all in vain, nobody daring to lay
a hand upon him or to come near him?

This was a most grievous and afflicting thing to me, who saw it all
from my own windows; for all this while the poor afflicted man was,
as I observed it, even then in the utmost agony of pain, having (as they
said) two swellings upon him which could not be brought to break or
to suppurate; but, by laying strong caustics on them, the surgeons had,
it seems, hopes to break them - which caustics were then upon him,
burning his flesh as with a hot iron. I cannot say what became of this
poor man, but I think he continued roving about in that manner till he
fell down and died.

No wonder the aspect of the city itself was frightful. The usual
concourse of people in the streets, and which used to be supplied from
our end of the town, was abated. The Exchange was not kept shut,
indeed, but it was no more frequented. The fires were lost; they had
been almost extinguished for some days by a very smart and hasty
rain. But that was not all; some of the physicians insisted that they
were not only no benefit, but injurious to the health of people. This
they made a loud clamour about, and complained to the Lord Mayor
about it. On the other hand, others of the same faculty, and eminent
too, opposed them, and gave their reasons why the fires were, and
must be, useful to assuage the violence of the distemper. I cannot
give a full account of their arguments on both sides; only this I
remember, that they cavilled very much with one another. Some were
for fires, but that they must be made of wood and not coal, and of
particular sorts of wood too, such as fir in particular, or cedar, because
of the strong effluvia of turpentine; others were for coal and not wood,
because of the sulphur and bitumen; and others were for neither one
or other. Upon the whole, the Lord Mayor ordered no more fires, and
especially on this account, namely, that the plague was so fierce that
they saw evidently it defied all means, and rather seemed to increase
than decrease upon any application to check and abate it; and yet this
amazement of the magistrates proceeded rather from want of being
able to apply any means successfully than from any unwillingness
either to expose themselves or undertake the care and weight of
business; for, to do them justice, they neither spared their pains nor
their persons. But nothing answered; the infection raged, and the
people were now frighted and terrified to the last degree: so that, as I
may say, they gave themselves up, and, as I mentioned above,
abandoned themselves to their despair.

But let me observe here that, when I say the people abandoned
themselves to despair, I do not mean to what men call a religious
despair, or a despair of their eternal state, but I mean a despair of their
being able to escape the infection or to outlive the plague. which they
saw was so raging and so irresistible in its force that indeed few
people that were touched with it in its height, about August and
September, escaped; and, which is very particular, contrary to its
ordinary operation in June and July, and the beginning of August,
when, as I have observed, many were infected, and continued so many
days, and then went off after having had the poison in their blood a
long time; but now, on the contrary, most of the people who were
taken during the two last weeks in August and in the three first weeks
in September, generally died in two or three days at furthest, and
many the very same day they were taken; whether the dog-days, or, as
our astrologers pretended to express themselves, the influence of the
dog-star, had that malignant effect, or all those who had the seeds of
infection before in them brought it up to a maturity at that time
altogether, I know not; but this was the time when it was reported that
above 3000 people died in one night; and they that would have us
believe they more critically observed it pretend to say that they all
died within the space of two hours, viz., between the hours of one and
three in the morning.

As to the suddenness of people's dying at this time, more than
before, there were innumerable instances of it, and I could name
several in my neighbourhood. One family without the Bars, and not
far from me, were all seemingly well on the Monday, being ten in
family. That evening one maid and one apprentice were taken ill and
died the next morning - when the other apprentice and two children
were touched, whereof one died the same evening, and the other two
on Wednesday. In a word, by Saturday at noon the master, mistress,
four children, and four servants were all gone, and the house left
entirely empty, except an ancient woman who came in to take charge
of the goods for the master of the family's brother, who lived not far
off, and who had not been sick.

Many houses were then left desolate, all the people being carried
away dead, and especially in an alley farther on the same side beyond
the Bars, going in at the sign of Moses and Aaron, there were several
houses together which, they said, had not one person left alive in
them; and some that died last in several of those houses were left a
little too long before they were fetched out to be buried; the reason of
which was not, as some have written very untruly, that the living were
not sufficient to bury the dead, but that the mortality was so great in
the yard or alley that there was nobody left to give notice to the
buriers or sextons that there were any dead bodies there to be buried.
It was said, how true I know not, that some of those bodies were so
much corrupted and so rotten that it was with difficulty they were
carried; and as the carts could not come any nearer than to the Alley
Gate in the High Street, it was so much the more difficult to bring
them along; but I am not certain how many bodies were then left. I
am sure that ordinarily it was not so.

As I have mentioned how the people were brought into a condition
to despair of life and abandon themselves, so this very thing had a
strange effect among us for three or four weeks; that is, it made them
bold and venturous: they were no more shy of one another, or
restrained within doors, but went anywhere and everywhere, and
began to converse. One would say to another, 'I do not ask you how
you are, or say how I am; it is certain we shall all go; so 'tis no matter
who is all sick or who is sound'; and so they ran desperately into any
place or any company.

As it brought the people into public company, so it was surprising
how it brought them to crowd into the churches. They inquired no
more into whom they sat near to or far from, what offensive smells
they met with, or what condition the people seemed to be in; but,
looking upon themselves all as so many dead corpses, they came to
the churches without the least caution, and crowded together as if
their lives were of no consequence compared to the work which they
came about there. Indeed, the zeal which they showed in coming, and
the earnestness and affection they showed in their attention to what
they heard, made it manifest what a value people would all put upon
the worship of God if they thought every day they attended at the
church that it would be their last.

Nor was it without other strange effects, for it took away, all manner
of prejudice at or scruple about the person whom they found in the
pulpit when they came to the churches. It cannot be doubted but that
many of the ministers of the parish churches were cut off, among
others, in so common and dreadful a calamity; and others had not
courage enough to stand it, but removed into the country as they found
means for escape. As then some parish churches were quite vacant
and forsaken, the people made no scruple of desiring such Dissenters
as had been a few years before deprived of their livings by virtue of
the Act of Parliament called the Act of Uniformity to preach in the
churches; nor did the church ministers in that case make any difficulty
of accepting their assistance; so that many of those whom they called
silenced ministers had their mouths opened on this occasion and
preached publicly to the people.

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
situation 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 carried on
among us as it is. Another plague year would reconcile all these
differences; a dose 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 looked on things with before. As the people who had
been used to join with the Church were reconciled 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.

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 further, 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, whither I hope we may come from all parties and
persuasions, 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 complete harmony and
affection - I say, why we cannot do so here I can say nothing to,
neither shall I say anything more of it but that it remains to be lamented.

I could dwell a great while upon the calamities of this dreadful time,
and go on to describe the objects that appeared among us every day,
the dreadful extravagancies which the distraction of sick people drove
them into; how the streets began now to be fuller of frightful objects,
and families to be made even a terror to themselves. But after I have
told you, as I have above, that one man, being tied in his bed, and
finding no other way to deliver himself, set the bed on fire with his
candle, which unhappily stood within his reach, and burnt himself in
his bed; and how another, by the insufferable torment he bore, danced
and sung naked in the streets, not knowing one ecstasy from another; I
say, after I have mentioned these things, what can be added more?
What can be said to represent the misery of these times more lively to
the reader, or to give him a more perfect idea of a complicated distress?

I must acknowledge that this time was terrible, that I was sometimes
at the end of all my resolutions, and that I had not the courage that I
had at the beginning. As the extremity brought other people abroad, it
drove me home, and except having made my voyage down to
Blackwall and Greenwich, as I have related, which was an excursion,
I kept afterwards very much within doors, as I had for about a
fortnight before. I have said already that I repented several times that
I had ventured to stay in town, and had not gone away with my brother
and his family, but it was too late for that now; and after I had
retreated and stayed within doors a good while before my impatience
led me abroad, then they called me, as I have said, to an ugly and
dangerous office which brought me out again; but as that was expired
while the height of the distemper lasted, I retired again, and continued
dose ten or twelve days more, during which many dismal spectacles
represented themselves in my view out of my own windows and in our
own street - as that particularly from Harrow Alley, of the poor
outrageous creature which danced and sung in his agony; and many
others there were. Scarce a day or night passed over but some dismal
thing or other happened at the end of that Harrow Alley, which was a
place full of poor people, most of them belonging to the butchers or to
employments depending upon the butchery.

Sometimes heaps and throngs of people would burst out of the alley,
most of them women, making a dreadful clamour, mixed or
compounded of screeches, cryings, and calling one another, that we
could not conceive what to make of it. Almost all the dead part of the
night the dead-cart stood at the end of that alley, for if it went in it
could not well turn again, and could go in but a little way. There, I
say, it stood to receive dead bodies, and as the churchyard was but a
little way off, if it went away full it would soon be back again. It is
impossible to describe the most horrible cries and noise the poor
people would make at their bringing the dead bodies of their children
and friends out of the cart, and by the number one would have thought
there had been none left behind, or that there were people enough for
a small city living in those places. Several times they cried 'Murder',
sometimes 'Fire'; but it was easy to perceive it was all distraction, and
the complaints of distressed and distempered people.

I believe it was everywhere thus as that time, for the plague raged
for six or seven weeks beyond all that I have expressed, and came
even to such a height that, in the extremity, they began to break into
that excellent order of which I have spoken so much in behalf of the
magistrates; namely, that no dead bodies were seen in the street or
burials in the daytime: for there was a necessity in this extremity to
bear with its being otherwise for a little while.

One thing I cannot omit here, and indeed I thought it was extraordinary,
at least it seemed a remarkable hand of Divine justice: viz., that all
the predictors, astrologers, fortune-tellers, and what they called
cunning-men, conjurers, and the like: calculators of nativities
and dreamers of dream, and such people, were gone and vanished;
not one of them was to be found. I am verily persuaded that
a great number of them fell in the heat of the calamity,
having ventured to stay upon the prospect of getting great estates;
and indeed their gain was but too great for a time, through the madness
and folly of the people. But now they were silent; many of them went
to their long home, not able to foretell their own fate or to calculate
their own nativities. Some have been critical enough to say that
every one of them died. I dare not affirm that; but this I must own,
that I never heard of one of them that ever appeared after the
calamity was over.

But to return to my particular observations during this dreadful part
of the visitation. I am now come, as I have said, to the month of
September, which was the most dreadful of its kind, I believe, that
ever London saw; for, by all the accounts which I have seen of the
preceding visitations which have been in London, nothing has been
like it, the number in the weekly bill amounting to almost 40,000 from
the 22nd of August to the 26th of September, being but five weeks.
The particulars of the bills are as follows, viz. : -

From August the 22nd to the 29th 7496
" " 29th " 5th September 8252
" September the 5th " 12th 7690
" " 12th " 19th 8297
" " 19th " 26th 6460

This was a prodigious number of itself, but if I should add the
reasons which I have to believe that this account was deficient, and
how deficient it was, you would, with me, make no scruple to believe
that there died above ten thousand a week for all those weeks, one
week with another, and a proportion for several weeks both before
and after. The confusion among the people, especially within the city,
at that time, was inexpressible. The terror was so great at last that the
courage of the people appointed to carry away the dead began to fail
them; nay, several of them died, although they had the distemper
before and were recovered, and some of them dropped down when
they have been carrying the bodies even at the pit side, and just ready
to throw them in; and this confusion was greater in the city because
they had flattered themselves with hopes of escaping, and thought the
bitterness of death was past. One cart, they told us, going up
Shoreditch was forsaken of the drivers, or being left to one man to
drive, he died in the street; and the horses going on overthrew the cart,
and left the bodies, some thrown out here, some there, in a dismal
manner. Another cart was, it seems, found in the great pit in Finsbury
Fields, the driver being dead, or having been gone and abandoned it,
and the horses running too near it, the cart fell in and drew the horses
in also. It was suggested that the driver was thrown in with it and that
the cart fell upon him, by reason his whip was seen to be in the pit
among the bodies; but that, I suppose, could not be certain.

In our parish of Aldgate the dead-carts were several times, as I have
heard, found standing at the churchyard gate full of dead bodies, but
neither bellman or driver or any one else with it; neither in these or
many other cases did they know what bodies they had in their cart, for
sometimes they were let down with ropes out of balconies and out of
windows, and sometimes the bearers brought them to the cart,
sometimes other people; nor, as the men themselves said, did they
trouble themselves to keep any account of the numbers.

The vigilance of the magistrates was now put to the utmost trial -
and, it must be confessed, can never be enough acknowledged on this
occasion also; whatever expense or trouble they were at, two things
were never neglected in the city or suburbs either : -

(1) Provisions were always to be had in full plenty, and the price not
much raised neither, hardly worth speaking.

(2) No dead bodies lay unburied or uncovered; and if one walked
from one end of the city to another, no funeral or sign of it was to be
seen in the daytime, except a little, as I have said above, in the three
first weeks in September.

This last article perhaps will hardly be believed when some
accounts which others have published since that shall be seen,
wherein they say that the dead lay unburied, which I am assured was
utterly false; at least, if it had been anywhere so, it must have been in
houses where the living were gone from the dead (having found
means, as I have observed, to escape) and where no notice was given
to the officers. All which amounts to nothing at all in the case in
hand; for this I am positive in, having myself been employed a little in
the direction of that part in the parish in which I lived, and where as
great a desolation was made in proportion to the number of
inhabitants as was anywhere; I say, I am sure that there were no dead
bodies remained unburied; that is to say, none that the proper officers
knew of; none for want of people to carry them off, and buriers to put
them into the ground and cover them; and this is sufficient to the
argument; for what might lie in houses and holes, as in Moses and
Aaron Alley, is nothing; for it is most certain they were buried as soon
as they were found. As to the first article (namely, of provisions, the
scarcity or dearness), though I have mentioned it before and shall
speak of it again, yet I must observe here: -

(1) The price of bread in particular was not much raised; for in the
beginning of the year, viz., in the first week in March, the penny
wheaten loaf was ten ounces and a half; and in the height of the
contagion it was to be had at nine ounces and a half, and never dearer,
no, not all that season. And about the beginning of November it was
sold ten ounces and a half again; the like of which, I believe, was
never heard of in any city, under so dreadful a visitation, before.

(2) Neither was there (which I wondered much at) any want of
bakers or ovens kept open to supply the people with the bread; but this
was indeed alleged by some families, viz., that their maidservants,
going to the bakehouses with their dough to be baked, which was then
the custom, sometimes came home with the sickness (that is to say the
plague) upon them.

In all this dreadful visitation there were, as I have said before, but
two pest-houses made use of, viz., one in the fields beyond Old Street
and one in Westminster; neither was there any compulsion used in
carrying people thither. Indeed there was no need of compulsion in
the case, for there were thousands of poor distressed people who,
having no help or conveniences or supplies but of charity, would have
been very glad to have been carried thither and been taken care of;
which, indeed, was the only thing that I think was wanting in the
whole public management of the city, seeing nobody was here
allowed to be brought to the pest-house but where money was given,
or security for money, either at their introducing or upon their being
cured and sent out - for very many were sent out again whole; and
very good physicians were appointed to those places, so that many
people did very well there, of which I shall make mention again. The
principal sort of people sent thither were, as I have said, servants who
got the distemper by going of errands to fetch necessaries to the
families where they lived, and who in that case, if they came home
sick, were removed to preserve the rest of the house; and they were so
well looked after there in all the time of the visitation that there was
but 156 buried in all at the London pest-house, and 159 at that of

By having more pest-houses I am far from meaning a forcing all
people into such places. Had the shutting up of houses been omitted
and the sick hurried out of their dwellings to pest-houses, as some
proposed, it seems, at that time as well as since, it would certainly
have been much worse than it was. The very removing the sick would
have been a spreading of the infection, and the rather because that
removing could not effectually clear the house where the sick person
was of the distemper; and the rest of the family, being then left at
liberty, would certainly spread it among others.

The methods also in private families, which would have been
universally used to have concealed the distemper and to have
concealed the persons being sick, would have been such that the
distemper would sometimes have seized a whole family before any
visitors or examiners could have known of it. On the other hand, the
prodigious numbers which would have been sick at a time would have
exceeded all the capacity of public pest-houses to receive them, or of
public officers to discover and remove them.

This was well considered in those days, and I have heard them talk
of it often. The magistrates had enough to do to bring people to
submit to having their houses shut up, and many ways they deceived
the watchmen and got out, as I have observed. But that difficulty
made it apparent that they t would have found it impracticable to have
gone the other way to work, for they could never have forced the sick
people out of their beds and out of their dwellings. It must not have
been my Lord Mayor's officers, but an army of officers, that must have
attempted it; and tile people, on the other hand, would have been
enraged and desperate, and would have killed those that should have
offered to have meddled with them or with their children and
relations, whatever had befallen them for it; so that they would have
made the people, who, as it was, were in the most terrible distraction
imaginable, I say, they would have made them stark mad; whereas the
magistrates found it proper on several accounts to treat them with
lenity and compassion, and not with violence and terror, such as
dragging the sick out of their houses or obliging them to remove
themselves, would have been.

This leads me again to mention the time when the plague first
began; that is to say, when it became certain that it would spread over
the whole town, when, as I have said, the better sort of people first
took the alarm and began to hurry themselves out of town. It was
true, as I observed in its place, that the throng was so great, and the
coaches, horses, waggons, and carts were so many, driving and
dragging the people away, that it looked as if all the city was running
away; and had any regulations been published that had been terrifying
at that time, especially such as would pretend to dispose of the people
otherwise than they would dispose of themselves, it would have put
both the city and suburbs into the utmost confusion.

But the magistrates wisely caused the people to be encouraged,
made very good bye-laws for the regulating the citizens, keeping good
order in the streets, and making everything as eligible as possible to
all sorts of people.

In the first place, the Lord Mayor and the sheriffs, the Court of
Aldermen, and a certain number of the Common Council men, or
their deputies, came to a resolution and published it, viz., that they
would not quit the city themselves, but that they would be always at
hand for the preserving good order in every place and for the doing
justice on all occasions; as also for the distributing the public charity
to the poor; and, in a word, for the doing the duty and discharging the
trust reposed in them by the citizens to the utmost of their power.

In pursuance of these orders, the Lord Mayor, sheriffs, &c., held
councils every day, more or less, for making such dispositions as they
found needful for preserving the civil peace; and though they used the
people with all possible gentleness and clemency, yet all manner of
presumptuous rogues such as thieves, housebreakers, plunderers of the
dead or of the sick, were duly punished, and several declarations were
continually published by the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen
against such.

Also all constables and churchwardens were enjoined to stay in the
city upon severe penalties, or to depute such able and sufficient
housekeepers as the deputy aldermen or Common Council men of the
precinct should approve, and for whom they should give security; and
also security in case of mortality that they would forthwith constitute
other constables in their stead.

These things re-established the minds of the people very much,
especially in the first of their fright, when they talked of making so
universal a flight that the city would have been in danger of being
entirely deserted of its inhabitants except the poor, and the country of
being plundered and laid waste by the multitude. Nor were the
magistrates deficient in performing their part as boldly as they
promised it; for my Lord Mayor and the sheriffs were continually in
the streets and at places of the greatest danger, and though they did
not care for having too great a resort of people crowding about them,
yet in emergent cases they never denied the people access to them,
and heard with patience all their grievances and complaints. My Lord
Mayor had a low gallery built
on purpose in his hall, where he stood a little removed from the crowd
when any complaint came to be heard, that he might appear with as
much safety as possible.

Likewise the proper officers, called my Lord Mayor's officers,
constantly attended in their turns, as they were in waiting; and if any
of them were sick or infected, as some of them were, others were
instantly employed to fill up and officiate in their places till it was
known whether the other should live or die.

In like manner the sheriffs and aldermen did in their several stations
and wards, where they were placed by office, and the sheriff's officers
or sergeants were appointed to receive orders from the respective
aldermen in their turn, so that justice was executed in all cases
without interruption. In the next place, it was one of their particular
cares to see
the orders for the freedom of the markets observed, and in this part
either the Lord Mayor or one or both of the sheriffs were every
market-day on horseback to see their orders executed and to see that
the country people had all possible encouragement and freedom in
their coming to the markets and going back again, and that no
nuisances or frightful objects should be seen in the streets to terrify
them or make them unwilling to come. Also the bakers were taken
under particular order, and the Master of the Bakers' Company was,
with his court of assistants, directed to see the order of my Lord
Mayor for their regulation put in execution, and the due assize of
bread (which was weekly appointed by my Lord Mayor) observed; and
all the bakers were obliged to keep their oven going constantly, on
pain of losing the privileges of a freeman of the city of London.

By this means bread was always to be had in plenty, and as cheap as
usual, as I said above; and provisions were never wanting in the
markets, even to such a degree that I often wondered at it, and
reproached myself with being so timorous and cautious in stirring
abroad, when the country people came freely and boldly to market, as
if there had been no manner of infection in the city, or danger of
catching it.

It. was indeed one admirable piece of conduct in the said
magistrates that the streets were kept constantly dear and free from all
manner of frightful objects, dead bodies, or any such things as were
indecent or unpleasant - unless where anybody fell down suddenly or
died in the streets, as I have said above; and these were generally
covered with some cloth or blanket, or removed into the next
churchyard till night. All the needful works that carried terror with
them, that were both dismal and dangerous, were done in the night; if
any diseased bodies were removed, or dead bodies buried, or infected
clothes burnt, it was done in the night; and all the bodies which were
thrown into the great pits in the several churchyards or burying-
grounds, as has. been observed, were so removed in the night, and
everything was covered and closed before day. So that in the daytime
there was not the least signal of the calamity to be seen or heard of,
except what was to be observed from the emptiness of the streets, and
sometimes from the passionate outcries and lamentations of the
people, out at their windows, and from the numbers of houses and
shops shut up.

Nor was the silence and emptiness of the streets so much in the city
as in the out-parts, except just at one particular time when, as I have
mentioned, the plague came east and spread over all the city. It was
indeed a merciful disposition of God, that as the plague began at one
end of the town first (as has been observed at large) so it proceeded
progressively to other parts, and did not come on this way, or
eastward, till it had spent its fury in the West part of the town; and so,
as it came on one way, it abated another. For example, it began at St
Giles's and the Westminster end of the town, and it was in its height in
all that part by about the middle of July, viz., in St Giles-in-the-Fields,
St Andrew's, Holborn, St Clement Danes, St Martin-in-the-Fields, and
in Westminster. The latter end of July it decreased in those parishes;
and coming east, it increased prodigiously in Cripplegate, St
Sepulcher's, St James's, Clarkenwell, and St Bride's and Aldersgate.
While it was in all these parishes, the city and all the parishes of the
Southwark side of the water and all Stepney, Whitechappel, Aldgate,
Wapping, and Ratcliff, were very little touched; so that people went
about their business unconcerned, carried on their trades, kept open
their shops, and conversed freely with one another in all the city, the
east and north-east suburbs, and in Southwark, almost as if the plague
had not been among us.

Even when the north and north-west suburbs were fully infected,
viz., Cripplegate, Clarkenwell, Bishopsgate, and Shoreditch, yet still
all the rest were tolerably well. For example from 25th July to 1st
August the bill stood thus of all diseases: -

St Giles, Cripplegate 554
St Sepulchers 250
Clarkenwell 103
Bishopsgate 116
Shoreditch 110
Stepney parish 127
Aldgate 92
Whitechappel 104
All the ninety-seven parishes within the walls 228
All the parishes in Southwark 205
Total 1889

So that, in short, there died more that week in the two parishes of
Cripplegate and St Sepulcher by forty-eight than in all the city, all the
east suburbs, and all the Southwark parishes put together. This caused
the reputation of the city's health to continue all over England - and
especially in the counties and markets adjacent, from whence our
supply of provisions chiefly came even much longer than that health
itself continued; for when the people came into the streets from the
country by Shoreditch and Bishopsgate, or by Old Street and
Smithfield, they would see the out-streets empty and the houses and
shops shut, and the few people that were stirring there walk in the
middle of the streets. But when they came within the city, there
things looked better, and the markets and shops were open, and the
people walking about the streets as usual, though not quite so many;
and this continued till the latter end of August and the beginning of

But then the case altered quite; the distemper abated in the west and
north-west parishes, and the weight of the infection lay on the city and
the eastern suburbs, and the Southwark side, and this in a frightful
Then, indeed, the city began to look dismal, shops to be shut, and the
streets desolate. In the High Street, indeed, necessity made people stir
abroad on many occasions; and there would be in the middle of the
day a pretty many people, but in the mornings and evenings scarce any
to be seen, even there, no, not in Cornhill and Cheapside.

These observations of mine were abundantly confirmed by the
weekly bills of mortality for those weeks, an abstract of which, as they
respect the parishes which. I have mentioned and as they make the
calculations I speak of very evident, take as

The weekly bill, which makes out this decrease of the burials in the
west and north side of the city, stands thus - -

From the 12th of September to the 19th -
St Giles, Cripplegate 456
St Giles-in-the-Fields 140
Clarkenwell 77
St Sepulcher 214
St Leonard, Shoreditch 183
Stepney parish 716
Aldgate 623
Whitechappel 532
In the ninety-seven parishes within the walls 1493
In the eight parishes on Southwark side 1636
Total 6060

Here is a strange change of things indeed, and a sad change it was;
and had it held for two months more than it did, very few people
would have been left alive. But then such, I say, was the merciful
disposition of God that, when it was thus, the west and north part
which had been so dreadfully visited at first, grew, as you see, much
better; and as the people disappeared here, they began to look abroad
again there; and the next week or two altered it still more; that is,
more to the encouragement of tile other part of the town. For
example: -
From the 19th of September to the 26th -
St Giles, Cripplegate 277
St Giles-in-the-Fields 119
Clarkenwell 76
St Sepulchers 193
St Leonard, Shoreditch 146
Stepney parish 616
Aldgate 496
Whitechappel 346
In the ninety-seven parishes within the walls 1268
In the eight parishes on Southwark side 1390
Total 4927

From the 26th of September to the 3rd of October -
St Giles, Cripplegate 196
St Giles-in-the-Fields 95
Clarkenwell 48
St Sepulchers 137
St Leonard, Shoreditch 128
Stepney parish 674
Aldgate 372
Whitechappel 328
In the ninety-seven parishes within the walls 1149
In the eight parishes on Southwark side 1201
Total 4382

And now the misery of the city and of the said east and south parts
was complete indeed; for, as you see, the weight of the distemper lay
upon those parts, that is to say, the city, the eight parishes over the
river, with the parishes of Aldgate, Whitechappel, and Stepney; and
this was the time that the bills came up to such a monstrous height as
that I mentioned before, and that eight or nine, and, as I believe, ten or
twelve thousand a week, died; for it is my settled opinion that they
never could come at any just account of the numbers, for the reasons
which I have given already.

Nay, one of the most eminent physicians, who has since published
in Latin an account of those times, and of his observations says that in
one week there died twelve thousand people, and that particularly
there died four thousand in one night; though I do not remember that
there ever was any such particular night so remarkably fatal as that
such a number died in it. However, all this confirms what I have said
above of the uncertainty of the bills of mortality, &c., of which I shall
say more hereafter.

And here let me take leave to enter again, though it may seem a
repetition of circumstances, into a description of the miserable
condition of the city itself, and of those parts where I lived at this
particular time. The city and those other parts, notwithstanding the
great numbers of people that were gone into the country, was vastly
full of people; and perhaps the fuller because people had for a long
time a strong belief that the plague would not come into the city, nor
into Southwark, no, nor into Wapping or Ratcliff at all; nay, such was
the assurance of the people on that head that many removed from the
suburbs on the west and north sides, into those eastern and south sides
as for safety; and, as I verily believe, carried the plague amongst them
there perhaps sooner than they would otherwise have had it.

Here also I ought to leave a further remark for the use of posterity,
concerning the manner of people's infecting one another; namely, that
it was not the sick people only from whom the plague was
immediately received by others that were sound, but the well. To
explain myself: 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 everybody could beware
of; they were either in their beds or in such condition as could not
be concealed.

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 everybody who came near them; nay,
their very clothes retained the infection, their hands would infect the
things they touched, especially if they were warm and sweaty, and
they were generally apt to sweat too.

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 dropped 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 into 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.

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 appeared so to one another;
but he would presently rise up and say publicly, 'Friends, here is
somebody 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 conversed 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.

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
conversed 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 the air.
We draw in death when we breathe, 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 concerned 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 pleased God to strike them, it
was all one whether they went abroad or stayed at home; they could
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?

I would be far from lessening the awe of the judgements of God and
the reverence to His providence which ought always to be on our
minds on such occasions as these. Doubtless the visitation itself 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
to 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.

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.

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 judgement for its being under
the conduct of human causes and effects; for, as the Divine Power has
formed 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 judgement, 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 armed, 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.

The acute penetrating nature of the disease itself was such, and the
infection was received 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
received the sickness or infection but who received it in the ordinary
way of infection from somebody, or the clothes or touch or stench of
somebody that was infected before.

The manner of its coming first to London proves this also, viz., by
goods brought over from Holland, and brought thither from the
Levant; the first breaking of it out in a house in Long Acre where
those goods were carried and first opened; its spreading from that
house to other houses by the visible unwary conversing with those
who were sick; and the infecting the parish officers who were
employed about the persons dead, and the like. These are known
authorities for this great foundation point - that it went on and
proceeded from person to person and from house to house, and no
otherwise. In the first house that was infected there died four persons.
A neighbour, hearing the mistress of the first house was sick, went to
visit her, and went home and gave the distemper to her family, and
died, and all her household. A minister, called to pray with the first
sick person in the second house, was said to sicken immediately and
die with several more in his house. Then the physicians began to
consider, for they did not at first dream of a general contagion. But
the physicians being sent to inspect the bodies, they assured the
people that it was neither more or less than the plague, with all its
terrifying particulars, and that it threatened an universal infection, so
many people having already conversed with the sick or distempered,
and having, as might be supposed, received infection from them, that
it would be impossible to put a stop to it.

Here the opinion of the physicians agreed with my observation
afterwards, namely, that the danger was spreading insensibly, for the
sick could infect none but those that came within reach of the sick
person; but that one man who may have really received the infection
and knows it not, but goes abroad and about as a sound person, may
give the plague to a thousand people, and they to greater numbers in
proportion, and neither the person giving the infection or the persons
receiving it know anything of it, and perhaps not feel the effects of it
for several days after.

For example, many persons in the time of this visitation never
perceived that they were infected till they found to their unspeakable
surprise, the tokens come out upon them; after which they seldom
lived six hours; for those spots they called the tokens were really
gangrene spots, or mortified flesh in small knobs as broad as a little
silver penny, and hard as a piece of callus or horn; so that, when the
disease was come up to that length, there was nothing could follow
but certain death; and yet, as I said, they knew nothing of their being
infected, nor found themselves so much as out of order, till those
mortal marks were upon them. But everybody must allow that they
were infected in a high degree before, And must have been so some
time, and consequently their breath, their sweat, their very clothes,
were contagious for many days before.
This occasioned a vast variety of cases which physicians would have
much more opportunity to remember than I; but some came within
the compass of my observation or hearing, of which I shall name a few.

A certain citizen who had lived safe and untouched till the month of
September, when the weight of the distemper lay more in the city than
it had done before, was mighty cheerful, and something too bold (as I
think it was) in his talk of how secure he was, how cautious he had
been, and how he had never come near any sick body. Says another
citizen, a neighbour of his, to him one day, 'Do not be too confident,
Mr -; it is hard to say who is sick and who is well, for we see men
alive and well to outward appearance one hour, and dead the next.'
'That is true', says the first man, for he was not a man presumptuously
secure, but had escaped a long while - and men, as I said above,
especially in the city began to be over-easy upon that score. 'That is
true,' says he; 'I do not think myself secure, but I hope I have not been
in company with any person that there has been any danger in.' 'No?'
says his neighbour. 'Was not you at the Bull Head Tavern in
Gracechurch Street with Mr - the night before last?' 'Yes,' says the
first, 'I was; but there was nobody there that we had any reason to
think dangerous.' Upon which his neighbour said no more, being
unwilling to surprise him; but this made him more inquisitive, and as
his neighbour appeared backward, he was the more impatient, and in a
kind of warmth says he aloud, 'Why, he is not dead, is he?' Upon
which his neighbour still was silent, but cast up his eyes and said
something to himself; at which the first citizen turned pale, and said
no more but this, 'Then I am a dead man too', and went home
immediately and sent for a neighbouring apothecary to give him
something preventive, for he had not yet found himself ill; but the
apothecary, opening his breast, fetched a sigh, and said no more but
this, 'Look up to God'; and the man died in a few hours.

Now let any man judge from a case like this if it is possible for the
regulations of magistrates, either by shutting up the sick or removing
them, to stop an infection which spreads itself from man to man even
while they are perfectly well and insensible of its approach, and may
be so for many days.

It may be proper to ask here how long it may be supposed men
might have the seeds of the contagion in them before it discovered
itself in this fatal manner, and how long they might go about
seemingly whole, and yet be contagious to all those that came near
them. I believe the most experienced physicians cannot answer this
question directly any more than I can; and something an ordinary
observer may take notice of, which may pass their observations. The
opinion of physicians abroad seems to be that it may lie dormant in
the spirits or in the blood-vessels a very considerable time. Why else
do they exact a quarantine of those who came into their harbours and
ports from suspected places? Forty days is, one would think, too long
for nature to struggle with such an enemy as this, and not conquer it or
yield to it. But I could not think, by my own observation, that they
can be infected so as to be contagious to others above fifteen or
sixteen days at furthest; and on that score it was, that when a house
was shut up in the city and any one had died of the plague, but nobody
appeared to be ill in the family for sixteen or eighteen days after, they
were not so strict but that they would connive at their going privately
abroad; nor would people be much afraid of them afterward, but
rather think they were fortified the better, having not been vulnerable
when the enemy was in their own house; but we sometimes found it
had lain much longer concealed.

Upon the foot of all these observations I must say that though
Providence seemed to direct my conduct to be otherwise, yet it is my
opinion, and I must leave it as a prescription, viz., that the best physic
against the plague is to run away from it. I know people encourage
themselves by saying God is able to keep us in the midst of danger,
and able to overtake us when we think ourselves out of danger; and
this kept thousands in the town whose carcases went into the great pits
by cartloads, and who, if they had fled from the danger, had, I believe,
been safe from the disaster; at least 'tis probable they had been safe.

And were this very fundamental only duly considered by the people
on any future occasion of this or the like nature, I am persuaded it
would put them upon quite different measures for managing the
people from those that they took in 1665, or than any that have been
taken abroad that I have heard of. In a word, they would consider of
separating the people into smaller bodies, and removing them in time
farther from one another - and not let such a contagion as this, which
is indeed chiefly dangerous to collected bodies of people, find a
million of people in a body together, as was very near the case before,
and would certainly be the case if it should ever appear again.

The plague, like a great fire, if a few houses only are contiguous
where it happens, can only burn a few houses; or if it begins in a
single, or, as we call it, a lone house, can only burn that lone house
where it begins. But if it begins in a close-built town or city and gets
a head, there its fury increases: it rages over the whole place, and
consumes all it can reach.

I could propose many schemes on the foot of which the government
of this city, if ever they should be under the apprehensions of such
another enemy (God forbid they should), might ease themselves of the
greatest part of the dangerous people that belong to them; I mean such
as the begging, starving, labouring poor, and among them chiefly
those who, in case of a siege, are called the useless mouths; who being
then prudently and to their own advantage disposed of, and the
wealthy inhabitants disposing of themselves and of their servants and
children, the city and its adjacent parts would be so effectually
evacuated that there would not be above a tenth part of its people left
together for the disease to take hold upon. But suppose them to be a
fifth part, and that two hundred and fifty thousand people were left:
and if it did seize upon them, they would, by their living so much at
large, be much better prepared to defend themselves against the
infection, and be less liable to the effects of it than if the same number
of people lived dose together in one smaller city such as Dublin or
Amsterdam or the like.

It is true hundreds, yea, thousands of families fled away at this last
plague, but then of them, many fled too late, and not only died in their
flight, but carried the distemper with them into the countries where
they went and infected those whom they went among for safety;
which confounded the thing, and made that be a propagation of the
distemper which was the best means to prevent it; and this too is an
evidence of it, and brings me back to what I only hinted at before, but
must speak more fully to here, namely, that men went about
apparently well many days after they had the taint of the disease in
their vitals, and after their spirits were so seized as that they could
never escape it, and that all the while they did so they were dangerous
to others; I say, this proves that so it was; for such people infected the
very towns they went through, as well as the families they went
among; and it was by that means that almost all the great towns in
England had the distemper among them, more or less, and always they
would tell you such a Londoner or such a Londoner brought it down.

It must not be omitted that when I speak of those people who were
really thus dangerous, I suppose them to be utterly ignorant of their
own conditions; for if they really knew their circumstances to be such
as indeed they were, they must have been a kind of wilful murtherers
if they would have gone abroad among healthy people - and it would
have verified indeed the suggestion which I mentioned above, and
which I thought seemed untrue: viz., that the infected people were
utterly careless as to giving the infection to others, and rather forward
to do it than not; and I believe it was partly from this very thing that
they raised that suggestion, which I hope was not really true in fact.

I confess no particular case is sufficient to prove a general, but I
could name several people within the knowledge of some of their
neighbours and families yet living who showed the contrary to an
extreme. One man, a master of a family in my neighbourhood, having
had the distemper, he thought he had it given him by a poor workman
whom he employed, and whom he went to his house to see, or went
for some work that he wanted to have finished; and he had some
apprehensions even while he was at the poor workman's door, but did
not discover it fully; but the next day it discovered itself, and he was
taken very in, upon which he immediately caused himself to be
carried into an outbuilding which he had in his yard, and where there
was a chamber over a workhouse (the man being a brazier). Here he
lay, and here he died, and would be tended by none of his neighbours,
but by a nurse from abroad; and would not suffer his wife, nor
children, nor servants to come up into the room, lest they should be
infected - but sent them his blessing and prayers for them by the
nurse, who spoke it to them at a distance, and all this for fear of giving
them the distemper; and without which he knew, as they were kept up,
they could not have it.

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 overwhelmed with it, and it
came to violent fevers, vomitings, insufferable headaches, pains in the
back, and so up to ravings and ragings with those pains; others with
swellings and tumours in the neck or groin, or armpits, which till they
could be broke put them into insufferable agonies and torment; while
others, as I have observed, 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.
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 though 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,
headaches, 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 recovered, especially if the swellings broke;
but the latter was inevitable death; no cure, no hell), could be
possible, nothing could follow but death. And it was worse also to
others, because, as above, it secretly and unperceived by others or by
themselves, communicated death to those they conversed with, the
penetrating poison insinuating itself into their blood in a manner
which it is impossible to describe, or indeed conceive.

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 anybody living
who was in London during the infection but must have known several
of the cases of both sorts.

(1) Fathers and mothers have gone about as if they had been well,
and have believed themselves to be so, till they have insensibly
infected and been the destruction of their whole families, which they
would have been far from doing if they had the least apprehensions of
their being unsound and dangerous themselves. A family, whose story
I have heard, was thus infected by the father; and the distemper began
to appear upon some of them even before he found it upon himself.
But searching more narrowly, it appeared he had been affected some
time; and as soon as he found that his family had been poisoned by
himself he went distracted, and would have laid violent hands upon
himself, but was kept from that by those who looked to him, and in a
few days died.

(2) The other particular is, that many people having been well to the
best of their own judgement, or by the best observation which they
could make of themselves for several days, and only finding a decay
of appetite, or a light sickness upon their stomachs; nay, some whose
appetite has been strong, and even craving, and only a light pain in
their heads, have sent for physicians to know what ailed them, and
have been found, to their great surprise, at the brink of death: the
tokens upon them, or the plague grown up to an incurable height.

It was very sad to reflect how such a person as this last mentioned
above had been a walking destroyer perhaps for a week or a fortnight
before that; how he had ruined those that he would have hazarded his
life to save, and had been breathing death upon them, even perhaps in
his tender kissing and embracings of his own children. Yet thus
certainly it was, and often has been, and I could give many particular
cases where it has been so. If then the blow is thus insensibly striking
- if the arrow flies thus unseen, and cannot be discovered - to what
purpose are all the schemes for shutting up or removing the sick
people? Those schemes cannot take place but upon those that appear
to be sick, or to be infected; whereas there are among them at the
same time thousands of people who seem to be well, but are all that
while carrying death with them into all companies which they come into.

This frequently puzzled our physicians, and especially the
apothecaries and surgeons, who knew not how to discover the sick
from the sound; they all allowed that it was really so, that many
people had the plague in their very blood, and preying upon their
spirits, and were in themselves but walking putrefied carcases whose
breath was infectious and their sweat poison, and yet were as well to
look on as other people, and even knew it not themselves; I say, they
all allowed that it was really true in fact, but they knew not how to
propose a discovery.

My friend Dr Heath was of opinion that it might be known by the
smell of their breath; but then, as he said, who durst smell to that
breath for his information? since, to know it, he must draw the stench
of the plague up into his own brain, in order to distinguish the smell!
I have heard it was the opinion of others that it might be distinguished
by the party's breathing upon a piece of glass, where, the breath
condensing, there might living creatures be seen by a microscope, of
strange, monstrous, and frightful shapes, such as dragons, snakes,
serpents, and devils, horrible to behold. But this I very much question
the truth of, and we had no microscopes at that time, as I remember,
to make the experiment with.

It was the opinion also of another learned man, that the breath of
such a person would poison and instantly kill a bird; not only a small
bird, but even a cock or hen, and that, if it did not immediately kill the
latter, it would cause them to be roupy, as they call it; particularly that
if they had laid any eggs at any time, they would be all rotten. But
those are opinions which I never found supported by any experiments,
or heard of others that had seen it; so I leave them as I find them;
only with this remark, namely, that I think the probabilities are
very strong for them.

Some have proposed that such persons should breathe hard upon
warm water, and that they would leave an unusual scum upon it, or
upon several other things, especially such as are of a glutinous
substance and are apt to receive a scum and support it.

But from the whole I found that the nature of this contagion was
such that it was impossible to discover it at all, or to prevent its
spreading from one to another by any human skill.

Here was indeed one difficulty which I could never thoroughly get
over to this time, and which there is but one way of answering that I
know of, and it is this, viz., the first person that died of the plague was
on December 20, or thereabouts, 1664, and in or about long Acre;
whence the first person had the infection was generally said to be from
a parcel of silks imported from Holland, and first opened in that house.

But after this we heard no more of any person dying of the plague,
or of the distemper being in that place, till the 9th of February, which
was about seven weeks after, and then one more was buried out of the
same house. Then it was hushed, and we were perfectly easy as to the
public for a great while; for there were no more entered in the weekly
bill to be dead of the plague till the 22nd of April, when there was two
more buried, not out of the same house, but out of the same street;
and, as near as I can remember, it was out of the next house to the
first. This was nine weeks asunder, and after this we had no more till
a fortnight, and then it broke out in several streets and spread every
way. Now the question seems to lie thus: Where lay the seeds of the
infection all this while? How came it to stop so long, and not stop any
longer? Either the distemper did not come immediately by contagion
from body to body, or, if it did, then a body may be capable to
continue infected without the disease discovering itself many days,
nay, weeks together; even not a quarantine of days only, but
soixantine; not only forty days, but sixty days or longer.

It is true there was, as I observed at first, and is well known to many
yet living, a very cold winter and a long frost which continued three
months; and this, the doctors say, might check the infection; but then
the learned must allow me to say that if, according to their notion, the
disease was (as I may say) only frozen up, it would like a frozen river
have returned to its usual force and current when it thawed - whereas
the principal recess of this infection, which was from February to
April, was after the frost was broken and the weather mild and warm.

But there is another way of solving all this difficulty, which I think
my own remembrance of the thing will supply; and that is, the fact is
not granted - namely, that there died none in those long intervals, viz.,
from the 20th of December to the 9th of February, and from thence to
the 22nd of April. The weekly bills are the only evidence on the other
side, and those bills were not of credit enough, at least with me, to
support an hypothesis or determine a question of such importance as
this; for it was our received opinion at that time, and I believe upon
very good grounds, that the fraud lay in the parish officers, searchers,
and persons appointed to give account of the dead, and what diseases
they died of; and as people were very loth at first to have the
neighbours believe their houses were infected, so they gave money to
procure, or otherwise procured, the dead persons to be returned as
dying of other distempers; and this I know was practised afterwards in
many places, I believe I might say in all places where the distemper
came, as will be seen by the vast increase of the numbers placed in the
weekly bills under other articles of diseases during the time of the
infection. For example, in the months of July and August, when the
plague was coming on to its highest pitch, it was very ordinary to have
from a thousand to twelve hundred, nay, to almost fifteen hundred a
week of other distempers. Not that the numbers of those distempers
were really increased to such a degree, but the great number of
families and houses where really the infection was, obtained the
favour to have their dead be returned of other distempers, to prevent
the shutting up their houses. For example: -

Dead of other diseases beside the plague -
From the 18th July to the 25th 942
" 25th July " 1st August 1004
" 1st August " 8th 1213
" 8th " 15th 1439
" 15th " 22nd 1331
" 22nd " 29th 1394
" 29th " 5th September 1264
" 5th September to the 12th 1056
" 12th " 19th 1132
" 19th " 26th 927

Now it was not doubted but the greatest part of these, or a great part
of them, were dead of the plague, but the officers were prevailed with
to return them as above, and the numbers of some particular articles
of distempers discovered is as follows: -

Aug. Aug. Aug. Aug. Aug. Sept. Sept. Sept.
1 8 15 22 29 5 12 19
to 8 to 15 to 22 to 29 to Sept.5 to 12 to 19 to 26

Fever 314 353 348 383 364 332 309 268
Spotted 174 190 166 165 157 97 101 65
Surfeit 85 87 74 99 68 45 49 36
Teeth 90 113 111 133 138 128 121 112
--- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
663 743 699 780 727 602 580 481

There were several other articles which bore a proportion to these,
and which, it is easy to perceive, were increased on the same account,
as aged, consumptions, vomitings, imposthumes, gripes, and the like,
many of which were not doubted to be infected people; but as it was
of the utmost consequence to families not to be known to be infected,
if it was possible to avoid it, so they took all the measures they could
to have it not believed, and if any died in their houses, to get them
returned to the examiners, and by the searchers, as having died of
other distempers.

This, I say, will account for the long interval which, as I have said,
was between the dying of the first persons that were returned in the
bill to be dead of the plague and the time when the distemper spread
openly and could not be concealed.

Besides, the weekly bills themselves at that time evidently discover
the truth; for, while there was no mention of the plague, and no
increase after it had been mentioned, yet it was apparent that there
was an increase of those distempers which bordered nearest upon it;
for example, there were eight, twelve, seventeen of the spotted fever
in a week, when there were none, or but very few, of the plague;
whereas before, one, three, or four were the ordinary weekly numbers
of that distemper. Likewise, as I observed before, the burials
increased weekly in that particular parish and the parishes adjacent
more than in any other parish, although there were none set down of
the plague; all which tells us, that the infection was handed on, and
the succession of the distemper really preserved, though it seemed to
us at that time to be ceased, and to come again in a manner surprising.

It might be, also, that the infection might remain in other parts of
the same parcel of goods which at first it came in, and which might
not be perhaps opened, or at least not fully, or in the clothes of the
first infected person; for I cannot think that anybody could be seized
with the contagion in a fatal and mortal degree for nine weeks
together, and support his state of health so well as even not to
discover it to themselves; yet if it were so, the argument is the
stronger in favour of what I am saying: namely, that the infection is
retained in bodies apparently well, and conveyed from them to those
they converse with, while it is known to neither the one nor the other.

Great were the confusions at that time upon this very account, and
when people began to be convinced that the infection was received in
this surprising manner from persons apparently well, they began to be
exceeding shy and jealous of every one that came near them. Once,
on a public day, whether a Sabbath-day or not I do not remember, in
Aldgate Church, in a pew full of people, on a sudden one fancied she
smelt an ill smell. Immediately she fancies the plague was in the pew,
whispers her notion or suspicion to the next, then rises and goes out of
the pew. It immediately took with the next, and so to them all; and
every one of them, and of the two or three adjoining pews, got up and
went out of the church, nobody knowing what it was offended them,
or from whom.

This immediately filled everybody's mouths with one preparation or
other, such as the old woman directed, and some perhaps as
physicians directed, in order to prevent infection by the breath of
others; insomuch that if we came to go into a church when it was
anything full of people, there would be such a mixture of smells at the
entrance that it was much more strong, though perhaps not so
wholesome, than if you were going into an apothecary's or druggist's
shop. In a word, the whole church was like a smelling-bottle; in one
corner it was all perfumes; in another, aromatics, balsamics, and
variety of drugs and herbs; in another, salts and spirits, as every one
was furnished for their own preservation. Yet I observed that after
people were possessed, as I have said, with the belief, or rather
assurance, of the infection being thus carried on by persons apparently
in health, the churches and meeting-houses were much thinner of
people than at other times before that they used to be. For this is to be
said of the people of London, that during the whole time of the
pestilence the churches or meetings were never wholly shut up, nor
did the people decline coming out to the public worship of God,
except only in some parishes when the violence of the distemper was
more particularly in that parish at that time, and even then no longer
than it continued to be so.

Indeed nothing was more strange than to see with what courage the
people went to the public service of God, even at that time when they
were afraid to stir out of their own houses upon any other occasion;
this, I mean, before the time of desperation, which I have mentioned
already. This was a proof of the exceeding populousness of the city at
the time of the infection, notwithstanding the great numbers that were
gone into the country at the first alarm, and that fled out into the
forests and woods when they were further terrified with the
extraordinary increase of it. For when we came to see the crowds and
throngs of people which appeared on the Sabbath-days at the
churches, and especially in those parts of the town where the plague
was abated, or where it was not yet come to its height, it was amazing.
But of this I shall speak again presently. I return in the meantime to
the article of infecting one another at first, before people came to right
notions of the infection, and of infecting one another. People were
only shy of those that were really sick, a man with a cap upon his
head, or with clothes round his neck, which was the case of those that
had swellings there. Such was indeed frightful; but when we saw a
gentleman dressed, with his band on and his gloves in his hand, his
hat upon his head, and his hair combed, of such we bad not the least
apprehensions, and people conversed a great while freely, especially
with their neighbours and such as they knew. But when the
physicians assured us that the danger was as well from the sound (that
is, the seemingly sound) as the sick, and that those people who
thought themselves entirely free were oftentimes the most fatal, and
that it came to be generally understood that people were sensible of it,
and of the reason of it; then, I say, they began to be jealous of
everybody, and a vast number of people locked themselves up, so as
not to come abroad into any company at all, nor suffer any that had
been abroad in promiscuous company to come into their houses, or
near them - at least not so near them as to be within the reach of their
breath or of any smell from them; and when they were obliged to
converse at a distance with strangers, they would always have
preservatives in their mouths and about their clothes to repel and keep
off the infection.

It must be acknowledged that when people began to use these
cautions they were less exposed to danger, and the infection did not
break into such houses so furiously as it did into others before; and
thousands of families were preserved (speaking with due reserve to
the direction of Divine Providence) by that means.

But it was impossible to beat anything into the heads of the poor.
They went on with the usual impetuosity of their tempers, full of
outcries and lamentations when taken, but madly careless of
themselves, foolhardy and obstinate, while they were well. Where
they could get employment they pushed into any kind of business, the
most dangerous and the most liable to infection; and if they were
spoken to, their answer would be, 'I must trust to God for that; if I am
taken, then I am provided for, and there is an end of me', and the like.
Or thus, 'Why, what must I do? I can't starve. I had as good have the
plague as perish for want. I have no work; what could I do? I must do
this or beg.' Suppose it was burying the dead, or attending the sick, or
watching infected houses, which were all terrible hazards; but their
tale was generally the same. It is true, necessity was a very justifiable,
warrantable plea, and nothing could be better; but their way of talk
was much the same where the necessities were not the same. This
adventurous conduct of the poor was that which brought the plague
among them in a most furious manner; and this, joined to the distress
of their circumstances when taken, was the reason why they died so
by heaps; for I cannot say I could observe one jot of better husbandry
among them, I mean the labouring poor, while they were all well and
getting money than there was before, but as lavish, as extravagant, and
as thoughtless for tomorrow as ever; so that when they came to be
taken sick they were immediately in the utmost distress, as well for
want as for sickness, as well for lack of food as lack of health.

This misery of the poor I had many occasions to be an eyewitness
of, and sometimes also of the charitable assistance that some pious
people daily gave to such, sending them relief and supplies both of
food, physic, 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 distempered people, but abundance of private
people daily distributed large sums of money for their relief, and sent
people about to inquire 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, though 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
plasters, 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.

I will not undertake to say, as some do, that none of those 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.

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 though 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 affirmed to me that he could reckon up above one hundred
thousand pounds a week, which was distributed by the churchwardens
at the several parish vestries by the Lord Mayor and 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 bands in the
manner I speak of; and this continued for many weeks together.

I confess this is a very great sum; but if it be true that there was
distributed in the parish of Cripplegate only, 17,800 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.

It was doubtless to be reckoned among the many signal good
providences which attended this great city, and of which there were
many other worth recording, - I say, this was a very remarkable one,
that it pleased God thus to move the hearts of the people in all parts of
the kingdom so cheerfully to contribute to the relief and support of the
poor at London, the good consequences of which were felt many
ways, and particularly in preserving the lives and recovering the
health of so many thousands, and keeping so many thousands of
families from perishing and starving.

And now I am talking of the merciful disposition of Providence in
this time of calamity, I cannot but mention again, though I have
spoken several times of it already on other accounts, I mean that of
the progression of the distemper; how it began at one end of the town,
and proceeded gradually and slowly from one part to another, and like
a dark cloud that passes over our heads, which, as it thickens and
overcasts the air at one end, dears up at the other end; so, while the
plague went on raging from west to east, as it went forwards east, it
abated in the west, by which means those parts of the town which
were not seized, or who were left, and where it had spent its fury,
were (as it were) spared to help and assist the other; whereas, had the
distemper spread itself over the whole city and suburbs, at once,
raging in all places alike, as it has done since in some places abroad,
the whole body of the people must have been overwhelmed, and there
would have died twenty thousand a day, as they say there did at
Naples;, nor would the people have been able to have helped or
assisted one another.

For it must be observed that where the plague was in its full force,
there indeed the people were very miserable, and the consternation
was inexpressible. But a little before it reached even to that place, or
presently after it was gone, they were quite another sort of people; and
I cannot but acknowledge that there was too much of that common
temper of mankind to be found among us all at that time, namely, to
forget the deliverance when the danger is past. But I shall come to
speak of that part again.

It must not be forgot here to take some notice of the state of trade
during the time of this common calamity, and this with respect to
foreign trade, as also to our home trade.

As to foreign trade, there needs little to be said. The trading nations
of Europe were all afraid of us; no port of France, or Holland, or
Spain, or Italy would admit our ships or correspond with us; indeed
we stood on ill terms with the Dutch, and were in a furious war with
them, but though in a bad condition to fight abroad, who had such
dreadful enemies to struggle with at home.

Our merchants were accordingly at a full stop; their ships could go
nowhere - that is to say, to no place abroad; their manufactures and
merchandise - that is to say, of our growth - would not be touched
abroad. They were as much afraid of our goods as they were of our
people; and indeed they had reason: for our woollen manufactures are
as retentive of infection as human bodies, and if packed up by persons
infected, would receive the infection and be as dangerous to touch as
a man would be that was infected; and therefore, when any English
vessel arrived in foreign countries, if they did take the goods on shore,
they always caused the bales to be opened and aired in places
appointed for that purpose. But from London they would not suffer
them to come into port, much less to unlade their goods, upon any
terms whatever, and this strictness was especially used with them in
Spain and Italy. In Turkey and the islands of the Arches indeed, as
they are called, as well those belonging to the Turks as to the
Venetians, they were not so very rigid. In the first there was no
obstruction at all; and four ships which were then in the river loading
for Italy - that is, for Leghorn and Naples - being denied product, as
they call it, went on to Turkey, and were freely admitted to unlade
their cargo without any difficulty; only that when they arrived there,
some of their cargo was not fit for sale in that country; and other parts
of it being consigned to merchants at Leghorn, the captains of the
ships had no right nor any orders to dispose of the goods; so that great
inconveniences followed to the merchants. But this was nothing but
what the necessity of affairs required, and the merchants at Leghorn
and Naples having notice given them, sent again from thence to take
care of the effects which were particularly consigned to those ports,
and to bring back in other ships such as were improper for the markets
at Smyrna and Scanderoon.

The inconveniences in Spain and Portugal were still greater, for they
would by no means suffer our ships, especially those from London, to
come into any of their ports, much less to unlade. There was a report
that one of our ships having by stealth delivered her cargo, among
which was some bales of English cloth, cotton, kerseys, and such-like
goods, the Spaniards caused all the goods to be burned, and punished
the men with death who were concerned in carrying them on shore.
This, I believe, was in part true, though I do not affirm it; but it is not
at all unlikely, seeing the danger was really very great, the infection
being so violent in London.

I heard likewise that the plague was carried into those countries by
some of our ships, and particularly to the port of Faro in the kingdom
of Algarve, belonging to the King of Portugal, and that several persons
died of it there; but it was not confirmed.

On the other hand, though the Spaniards and Portuguese were so shy
of us, it is most certain that the plague (as has been said) keeping at
first much at that end of the town next Westminster, the
merchandising part of the town (such as the city and the water-side)
was perfectly sound till at least the beginning of July, and the ships in
the river till the beginning of August; for to the 1st of July there had
died but seven within the whole city, and but sixty within the liberties,
but one in all the parishes of Stepney, Aldgate, and Whitechappel, and
but two in the eight parishes of Southwark. But it was the same thing
abroad, for the bad news was gone over the whole world that the city
of London was infected with the plague, and there was no inquiring
there how the infection proceeded, or at which part of the town it was
begun or was reached to.

Besides, after it began to spread it increased so fast, and the bills
grew so high all on a sudden, that it was to no purpose to lessen the
report of it, or endeavour to make the people abroad think it better
than it was; the account which the weekly bills gave in was sufficient;
and that there died two thousand to three or-four thousand a week was
sufficient to alarm the whole trading part of the world; and the
following time, being so dreadful also in the very city itself, put the
whole world, I say, upon their guard against it.

You may be sure, also, that the report of these things lost nothing in
the carriage. The plague was itself very terrible, and the distress of
the people very great, as you may observe of what I have said. But the
rumour was infinitely greater, and it must not be wondered that our
friends abroad (as my brother's correspondents in particular were told
there, namely, in Portugal and Italy, where he chiefly traded) [said]
that in London there died twenty thousand in a week; that the dead
bodies lay unburied by heaps; that the living were not sufficient to
bury the dead or the sound to look after the sick; that all the kingdom
was infected likewise, so that it was an universal malady such as was
never heard of in those parts of the world; and they could hardly
believe us when we gave them an account how things really were, and
how there was not above one-tenth part of the people dead; that there
was 500,000, left that lived all the time in the town; that now the
people began to walk the streets again, and those who were fled to
return, there was no miss of the usual throng of people in the streets,
except as every family might miss their relations and neighbours, and
the like. I say they could not believe these things; and if inquiry were
now to be made in Naples, or in other cities on the coast of Italy, they
would tell you that there was a dreadful infection in London so many years ago,
in which, as above, there died twenty thousand in a week, &c., just as we have
had it reported in London that there was a plague in the city of Naples
in the year 1656, in which there died 20,000 people in a day, of which
I have had very good satisfaction that it was utterly false.

But these extravagant reports were very prejudicial to our trade, as
well as unjust and injurious in themselves, for it was a long time after
the plague was quite over before our trade could recover itself in those
parts of the world; and the Flemings and Dutch (but especially the
last) made very great advantages of it, having all the market to
themselves, and even buying our manufactures in several parts of
England where the plague was not, and carrying them to Holland and
Flanders, and from thence transporting them to Spain and to Italy as if
they had been of their own making.

But they were detected sometimes and punished: that is to say, their
goods confiscated and ships also; for if it was true that our
manufactures as well as our people were infected, and that it was
dangerous to touch or to open and receive the smell of them, then
those people ran the hazard by that clandestine trade not only of
carrying the contagion into their own country, but also of infecting the
nations to whom they traded with those goods; which, considering
how many lives might be lost in consequence of such an action, must
be a trade that no men of conscience could suffer themselves to be
concerned in.

I do not take upon me to say that any harm was done, I mean of that
kind, by those people. But I doubt I need not make any such proviso
in the case of our own country; for either by our people of London, or
by the commerce which made their conversing with all sorts of people
in every country and of every considerable town necessary, I say, by
this means the plague was first or last spread all over the kingdom, as
well in London as in all the cities and great towns, especially in the
trading manufacturing towns and seaports; so that, first or last, all the
considerable places in England were visited more or less, and the
kingdom of Ireland in some places, but not so universally. How it
fared with the people in Scotland I had no opportunity to inquire.

It is to be observed that while the plague continued so violent in
London, the outports, as they are called, enjoyed a very great trade,
especially to the adjacent countries and to our own plantations. For
example, the towns of Colchester, Yarmouth, and Hun, on that side of
England, exported to Holland and Hamburg the manufactures of the
adjacent countries for several months after the trade with London was,
as it were, entirely shut up; likewise the cities of Bristol and Exeter,
with the port of Plymouth, had the like advantage to Spain, to the
Canaries, to Guinea, and to the West Indies, and particularly to
Ireland; but as the plague spread itself every way after it had been in
London to such a degree as it was in August and September, so all or
most of those cities and towns were infected first or last; and then
trade was, as it were, under a general embargo or at a full stop - as I
shall observe further when I speak of our home trade.

One thing, however, must be observed: that as to ships coming in
from abroad (as many, you may be sure, did) some who were out in all
parts of the world a considerable while before, and some who when
they went out knew nothing of an infection, or at least of one so
terrible - these came up the river boldly, and delivered their cargoes as
they were obliged to do, except just in the two months of August and
September, when the weight of the infection lying, as I may say, all
below Bridge, nobody durst appear in business for a while. But as this
continued but for a few weeks, the homeward-bound ships, especially
such whose cargoes were not liable to spoil, came to an anchor for a
time short of the Pool,* or fresh-water part of the river, even as low as
the river Medway, where several of them ran in; and others lay at the
Nore, and in the Hope below Gravesend. So that by the latter end of
October there was a very great fleet of homeward-bound ships to
come up, such as the like had not been known for many years.
* That part of the river where the ships lie up when they come home is
called the Pool, and takes in all the river on both sides of the water,
from the Tower to Cuckold's Point and Limehouse. [Footnote in the original.]

Two particular trades were carried on by water-carriage all the
while of the infection, and that with little or no interruption, very
much to the advantage and comfort of the poor distressed people of
the city: and those were the coasting trade for corn and
the Newcastle trade for coals.

The first of these was particularly carried on by small vessels from
the port of Hull and other places on the Humber, by which great
quantities of corn were brought in from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
The other part of this corn-trade was from Lynn, in Norfolk, from
Wells and Burnham, and from Yarmouth, all in the same county; and
the third branch was from the river Medway, and from Milton,
Feversham, Margate, and Sandwich, and all the other little places and
ports round the coast of Kent and Essex.

There was also a very good trade from the coast of Suffolk with
corn, butter, and cheese; these vessels kept a constant course of trade,
and without interruption came up to that market known still by the
name of Bear Key, where they supplied the city plentifully with corn
when land-carriage began to fail, and when the people began to be
sick of coming from many places in the country.

This also was much of it owing to the prudence and conduct of the
Lord Mayor, who took such care to keep the masters and seamen from
danger when they came up, causing their corn to be bought off at any
time they wanted a market (which, however, was very seldom), and
causing the corn-factors immediately to unlade and deliver the vessels
loaden with corn, that they had very little occasion to come out of
their ships or vessels, the money being always carried on board to
them and put into a pail of vinegar before it was carried.

The second trade was that of coals from Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
without which the city would have been greatly distressed; for not in
the streets only, but in private houses and families, great quantities of
coals were then burnt, even all the summer long and when the weather
was hottest, which was done by the advice of the physicians. Some
indeed opposed it, and insisted that to keep the houses and rooms hot
was a means to propagate the temper, which was a fermentation and
heat already in the blood; that it was known to spread and increase in
hot weather and abate in cold; and therefore they alleged that all
contagious distempers are the worse for heat, because the contagion
was nourished and gained strength in hot weather, and was, as it were,
propagated in heat.

Others said they granted that heat in the climate might propagate
infection - as sultry, hot weather fills the air with vermin and
nourishes innumerable numbers and kinds of venomous creatures
which breed in our food, in the plants, and even in our bodies, by the
very stench of which infection may be propagated; also that heat in
the air, or heat of weather, as we ordinarily call it, makes bodies relax
and faint, exhausts the spirits, opens the pores, and makes us more apt
to receive infection, or any evil influence, be it from noxious
pestilential vapours or any other thing in the air; but that the heat of
fire, and especially of coal fires kept in our houses, or near us, had a
quite different operation; the heat being not of the same kind, but
quick and fierce, tending not to nourish but to consume and dissipate
all those noxious fumes which the other kind of heat rather exhaled
and stagnated than separated and burnt up. Besides, it was alleged
that the sulphurous and nitrous particles that are often found to be in
the coal, with that bituminous substance which burns, are all assisting
to clear and purge the air, and render it wholesome and safe to breathe
in after the noxious particles, as above, are dispersed and burnt up.

The latter opinion prevailed at that time, and, as I must confess, I
think with good reason; and the experience of the citizens confirmed
it, many houses which had constant fires kept in the rooms having
never been infected at all; and I must join my experience to it, for I
found the keeping good fires kept our rooms sweet and wholesome,
and I do verily believe made our whole family so, more than would
otherwise have been.

But I return to the coals as a trade. It was with no little difficulty
that this trade was kept open, and particularly because, as we were in an
open war with I the Dutch at that time, the Dutch capers at first took a
great many of our collier-ships, which made the rest cautious, and
made them to stay to come in fleets together. But after some time the
capers were either afraid to take them, or their masters, the States,
were afraid they should, and forbade them, lest the plague should be
among them, which made them fare the better.

For the security of those northern traders, the coal-ships were
ordered by my Lord Mayor not to come up into the Pool above a
certain number at a time, and ordered lighters and other vessels such
as the woodmongers (that is, the wharf-keepers or coal-sellers)
furnished, to go down and take out the coals as low as Deptford and
Greenwich, and some farther down.

Others delivered great quantities of coals in particular places where
the ships could come to the shore, as at Greenwich, Blackwall, and
other places, in vast heaps, as if to be kept for sale; but were then
fetched away after the ships which brought them were gone, so that
the seamen had no communication with the river-men, nor so much as
came near one another.

Yet all this caution could not effectually prevent the distemper
getting among the colliery: that is to say among the ships, by which a
great many seamen died of it; and that which was still worse was, that
they carried it down to Ipswich and Yarmouth, to Newcastle-upon-
Tyne, and other places on the coast - where, especially at Newcastle
and at Sunderland, it carried off a great
number of people.

The making so many fires, as above, did indeed consume an unusual
quantity of coals; and that upon one or two stops of the ships coming
up, whether by contrary weather or by the interruption of enemies I do
not remember, but the price of coals was exceeding dear, even as high
as 4 a chalder; but it soon abated when the ships came in, and as
afterwards they had a freer passage, the price was very reasonable all
the rest of that year.

The public fires which were made on these occasions, as I have
calculated it, must necessarily have cost the city about 200 chalders of
coals a week, if they had continued, which was indeed a very great quantity;
but as it was thought necessary, nothing was spared. However, as some of
the physicians cried them down, they were not kept alight above four or
five days. The fires were ordered thus: -

One at the Custom House, one at Billingsgate, one at Queenhith,
and one at the Three Cranes; one in Blackfriars, and one at the gate of
Bridewell; one at the corner of Leadenhal Street and Gracechurch;
one at the north and one at the south gate of the Royal Exchange; one
at Guild Hall, and one at Blackwell Hall gate; one at the Lord Mayor's
door in St Helen's, one at the west entrance into St Paul's, and one at
the entrance into Bow Church. I do not remember whether there was
any at the city gates, but one at the Bridge-foot there was, just by St
Magnus Church.

I know some have quarrelled since that at the experiment, and said
that there died the more people because of those fires; but I am
persuaded those that say so offer no evidence to prove it, neither can I
believe it on any account whatever.

It remains to give some account of the state of trade at home in
England during this dreadful time, and particularly as it relates to the
manufactures and the trade in the city. At the first breaking out of the
infection there was, as it is easy to suppose, a very great fright among
the people, and consequently a general stop of trade, except in
provisions and necessaries of life; and even in those things, as there
was a vast number of people fled and a very great number always sick,
besides the number which died, so there could not be above two-
thirds, if above one-half, of the consumption of provisions in the city
as used to be.

It pleased God to send a very plentiful year of corn and fruit, but not
of hay or grass - by which means bread was cheap, by reason of the
plenty of corn. Flesh was cheap, by reason of the scarcity of grass;
but butter and cheese were dear for the same reason, and hay in the
market just beyond Whitechappel Bars was sold at 4 pound per load.
But that affected not the poor. There was a most excessive plenty
of all sorts of fruit, such as apples, pears, plums, cherries, grapes,
and they were the cheaper because of the want of people; but this
made the poor eat them to excess, and this brought them into fluxes,
griping of the guts, surfeits, and the like, which often precipitated
them into the plague.


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