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´╗┐Title: A Journal of the Plague Year, written by a citizen who continued all the while in London
Author: Defoe, Daniel, 1661-1731
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Journal of the Plague Year, written by a citizen who continued all the while in London" ***


By Daniel Defoe

     being observations or memorials
     of the most remarkable occurrences,
     as well public as private, which happened in
     London during the last great visitation in 1665.
     Written by a Citizen who continued
     all the while in London.
     Never made public before

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

We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread
rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of
men, as I have lived to see practised since. But such things as these
were gathered from the letters of merchants and others who corresponded
abroad, and from them was handed about by word of mouth only; so that
things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now.
But it seems that the Government had a true account of it, and several
councils were held about ways to prevent its coming over; but all was
kept very private. Hence it was that this rumour died off again, and
people began to forget it as a thing we were very little concerned in,
and that we hoped was not true; till the latter end of November or the
beginning of December 1664 when two men, said to be Frenchmen, died of
the plague in Long Acre, or rather at the upper end of Drury Lane. The
family they were in endeavoured to conceal it as much as possible, but
as it had gotten some vent in the discourse of the neighbourhood, the
Secretaries of State got knowledge of it; and concerning themselves to
inquire about it, in order to be certain of the truth, two physicians
and a surgeon were ordered to go to the house and make inspection.
This they did; and finding evident tokens of the sickness upon both the
bodies that were dead, they gave their opinions publicly that they died
of the plague. Whereupon it was given in to the parish clerk, and he
also returned them to the Hall; and it was printed in the weekly bill of
mortality in the usual manner, thus--

     Plague, 2. Parishes infected, 1.

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

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

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

     From December 27 to January 3  { St Giles's      16
     "                              { St Andrew's     17

     "     January 3  "    "    10  { St Giles's      12
     "                              { St Andrew's     25

     "     January 10 "    "    17  { St Giles's      18
     "                              { St Andrew's     28

     "     January 17 "    "    24  { St Giles's      23
     "                              { St Andrew's     16

     "     January 24 "    "    31  { St Giles's      24
     "                              { St Andrew's     15

     "     January 30 " February 7  { St Giles's      21
     "                              { St Andrew's     23

     "     February 7 "     "   14  { St Giles's      24

Whereof one of the plague.

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

     From December 20 to December 27  { St Bride's     0
     "                                { St James's     8

     "    December 27 to January   3  { St Bride's     6
     "                                { St James's     9

     "    January  3  "    "      10  { St Bride's    11
     "                                { St James's     7

     "    January 10  "    "      17  { St Bride's    12
     "                                { St James's     9

     "    January 17  "    "      24  { St Bride's     9
     "                                { St James's    15

     "    January 24  "    "      31  { St Bride's     8
     "                                { St James's    12

     "    January 31  " February   7  { St Bride's    13
     "                                { St James's     5

     "    February 7  "    "      14  { St Bride's     12
     "                                { St James's     6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had an elder brother at the same time in London, and not many years
before come over from Portugal: and advising with him, his answer was
in three words, the same that was given in another case quite different,
viz., 'Master, save thyself.' In a word, he was for my retiring into the
country, as he resolved to do himself with his family; telling me what
he had, it seems, heard abroad, that the best preparation for the plague
was to run away from it. As to my argument of losing my trade, my goods,
or debts, he quite confuted me. He told me the same thing which I argued
for my staying, viz., that I would trust God with my safety and health,
was the strongest repulse to my pretensions of losing my trade and my
goods; 'for', says he, 'is it not as reasonable that you should trust
God with the chance or risk of losing your trade, as that you should
stay in so eminent a point of danger, and trust Him with your life?'

I could not argue that I was in any strait as to a place where to go,
having several friends and relations in Northamptonshire, whence our
family first came from; and particularly, I had an only sister in
Lincolnshire, very willing to receive and entertain me.

My brother, who had already sent his wife and two children into
Bedfordshire, and resolved to follow them, pressed my going very
earnestly; and I had once resolved to comply with his desires, but at
that time could get no horse; for though it is true all the people did
not go out of the city of London, yet I may venture to say that in a
manner all the horses did; for there was hardly a horse to be bought
or hired in the whole city for some weeks. Once I resolved to travel
on foot with one servant, and, as many did, lie at no inn, but carry a
soldier's tent with us, and so lie in the fields, the weather being
very warm, and no danger from taking cold. I say, as many did, because
several did so at last, especially those who had been in the armies in
the war which had not been many years past; and I must needs say that,
speaking of second causes, had most of the people that travelled done
so, the plague had not been carried into so many country towns and
houses as it was, to the great damage, and indeed to the ruin, of
abundance of people.

But then my servant, whom I had intended to take down with me, deceived
me; and being frighted at the increase of the distemper, and not knowing
when I should go, he took other measures, and left me, so I was put off
for that time; and, one way or other, I always found that to appoint
to go away was always crossed by some accident or other, so as to
disappoint and put it off again; and this brings in a story which
otherwise might be thought a needless digression, viz., about these
disappointments being from Heaven.

I mention this story also as the best method I can advise any person to
take in such a case, especially if he be one that makes conscience of
his duty, and would be directed what to do in it, namely, that he should
keep his eye upon the particular providences which occur at that time,
and look upon them complexly, as they regard one another, and as all
together regard the question before him: and then, I think, he may
safely take them for intimations from Heaven of what is his unquestioned
duty to do in such a case; I mean as to going away from or staying in
the place where we dwell, when visited with an infectious distemper.

It came very warmly into my mind one morning, as I was musing on this
particular thing, that as nothing attended us without the direction or
permission of Divine Power, so these disappointments must have something
in them extraordinary; and I ought to consider whether it did not
evidently point out, or intimate to me, that it was the will of Heaven I
should not go. It immediately followed in my thoughts, that if it really
was from God that I should stay, He was able effectually to preserve
me in the midst of all the death and danger that would surround me; and
that if I attempted to secure myself by fleeing from my habitation, and
acted contrary to these intimations, which I believe to be Divine, it
was a kind of flying from God, and that He could cause His justice to
overtake me when and where He thought fit.

These thoughts quite turned my resolutions again, and when I came to
discourse with my brother again I told him that I inclined to stay and
take my lot in that station in which God had placed me, and that it
seemed to be made more especially my duty, on the account of what I have

My brother, though a very religious man himself, laughed at all I had
suggested about its being an intimation from Heaven, and told me several
stories of such foolhardy people, as he called them, as I was; that I
ought indeed to submit to it as a work of Heaven if I had been any way
disabled by distempers or diseases, and that then not being able to go,
I ought to acquiesce in the direction of Him, who, having been my Maker,
had an undisputed right of sovereignty in disposing of me, and that
then there had been no difficulty to determine which was the call of His
providence and which was not; but that I should take it as an intimation
from Heaven that I should not go out of town, only because I could not
hire a horse to go, or my fellow was run away that was to attend me,
was ridiculous, since at the time I had my health and limbs, and other
servants, and might with ease travel a day or two on foot, and having a
good certificate of being in perfect health, might either hire a horse
or take post on the road, as I thought fit.

Then he proceeded to tell me of the mischievous consequences which
attended the presumption of the Turks and Mahometans in Asia and in
other places where he had been (for my brother, being a merchant, was
a few years before, as I have already observed, returned from abroad,
coming last from Lisbon), and how, presuming upon their professed
predestinating notions, and of every man's end being predetermined and
unalterably beforehand decreed, they would go unconcerned into infected
places and converse with infected persons, by which means they died at
the rate of ten or fifteen thousand a week, whereas the Europeans or
Christian merchants, who kept themselves retired and reserved, generally
escaped the contagion.

Upon these arguments my brother changed my resolutions again, and I
began to resolve to go, and accordingly made all things ready; for, in
short, the infection increased round me, and the bills were risen to
almost seven hundred a week, and my brother told me he would venture to
stay no longer. I desired him to let me consider of it but till the next
day, and I would resolve: and as I had already prepared everything as
well as I could as to MY business, and whom to entrust my affairs with,
I had little to do but to resolve.

I went home that evening greatly oppressed in my mind, irresolute, and
not knowing what to do. I had set the evening wholly--apart to consider
seriously about it, and was all alone; for already people had, as it
were by a general consent, taken up the custom of not going out of
doors after sunset; the reasons I shall have occasion to say more of

In the retirement of this evening I endeavoured to resolve, first, what
was my duty to do, and I stated the arguments with which my brother had
pressed me to go into the country, and I set, against them the strong
impressions which I had on my mind for staying; the visible call I
seemed to have from the particular circumstance of my calling, and the
care due from me for the preservation of my effects, which were, as I
might say, my estate; also the intimations which I thought I had from
Heaven, that to me signified a kind of direction to venture; and it
occurred to me that if I had what I might call a direction to stay, I
ought to suppose it contained a promise of being preserved if I obeyed.

This lay close to me, and my mind seemed more and more encouraged to
stay than ever, and supported with a secret satisfaction that I should
be kept. Add to this, that, turning over the Bible which lay before
me, and while my thoughts were more than ordinarily serious upon the
question, I cried out, 'Well, I know not what to do; Lord, direct me I'
and the like; and at that juncture I happened to stop turning over the
book at the gist Psalm, and casting my eye on the second verse, I read
on to the seventh verse exclusive, and after that included the tenth,
as follows: 'I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my
God, in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare
of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with
His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall
be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by
night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that
walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A
thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but
it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and
see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which
is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil
befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling,' &C.

I scarce need tell the reader that from that moment I resolved that I
would stay in the town, and casting myself entirely upon the goodness
and protection of the Almighty, would not seek any other shelter
whatever; and that, as my times were in His hands, He was as able to
keep me in a time of the infection as in a time of health; and if He did
not think fit to deliver me, still I was in His hands, and it was meet
He should do with me as should seem good to Him.

With this resolution I went to bed; and I was further confirmed in it
the next day by the woman being taken ill with whom I had intended to
entrust my house and all my affairs. But I had a further obligation laid
on me on the same side, for the next day I found myself very much out
of order also, so that if I would have gone away, I could not, and I
continued ill three or four days, and this entirely determined my stay;
so I took my leave of my brother, who went away to Dorking, in
Surrey, and afterwards fetched a round farther into Buckinghamshire or
Bedfordshire, to a retreat he had found out there for his family.

It was a very ill time to be sick in, for if any one complained, it was
immediately said he had the plague; and though I had indeed no symptom
of that distemper, yet being very ill, both in my head and in my
stomach, I was not without apprehension that I really was infected;
but in about three days I grew better; the third night I rested well,
sweated a little, and was much refreshed. The apprehensions of its being
the infection went also quite away with my illness, and I went about my
business as usual.

These things, however, put off all my thoughts of going into the
country; and my brother also being gone, I had no more debate either
with him or with myself on that subject.

It was now mid-July, and the plague, which had chiefly raged at the
other end of the town, and, as I said before, in the parishes of St
Giles, St Andrew's, Holborn, and towards Westminster, began to now come
eastward towards the part where I lived. It was to be observed, indeed,
that it did not come straight on towards us; for the city, that is to
say, within the walls, was indifferently healthy still; nor was it got
then very much over the water into Southwark; for though there died that
week 1268 of all distempers, whereof it might be supposed above 600 died
of the plague, yet there was but twenty-eight in the whole city, within
the walls, and but nineteen in Southwark, Lambeth parish included;
whereas in the parishes of St Giles and St Martin-in-the-Fields alone
there died 421.

But we perceived the infection kept chiefly in the out-parishes, which
being very populous, and fuller also of poor, the distemper found
more to prey upon than in the city, as I shall observe afterwards. We
perceived, I say, the distemper to draw our way, viz., by the parishes
of Clarkenwell, Cripplegate, Shoreditch, and Bishopsgate; which last two
parishes joining to Aldgate, Whitechappel, and Stepney, the infection
came at length to spread its utmost rage and violence in those parts,
even when it abated at the western parishes where it began.

It was very strange to observe that in this particular week, from the
4th to the 11th of July, when, as I have observed, there died near
400 of the plague in the two parishes of St Martin and St
Giles-in-the-Fields only, there died in the parish of Aldgate but four,
in the parish of Whitechappel three, in the parish of Stepney but one.

Likewise in the next week, from the 11th of July to the 18th, when the
week's bill was 1761, yet there died no more of the plague, on the whole
Southwark side of the water, than sixteen. But this face of things soon
changed, and it began to thicken in Cripplegate parish especially, and
in Clarkenwell; so that by the second week in August, Cripplegate parish
alone buried 886, and Clarkenwell 155. Of the first, 850 might well be
reckoned to die of the plague; and of the last, the bill itself said 145
were of the plague.

During the month of July, and while, as I have observed, our part of
the town seemed to be spared in comparison of the west part, I went
ordinarily about the streets, as my business required, and particularly
went generally once in a day, or in two days, into the city, to my
brother's house, which he had given me charge of, and to see if it was
safe; and having the key in my pocket, I used to go into the house,
and over most of the rooms, to see that all was well; for though it be
something wonderful to tell, that any should have hearts so hardened in
the midst of such a calamity as to rob and steal, yet certain it is that
all sorts of villainies, and even levities and debaucheries, were
then practised in the town as openly as ever--I will not say quite as
frequently, because the numbers of people were many ways lessened.

But the city itself began now to be visited too, I mean within the
walls; but the number of people there were indeed extremely lessened
by so great a multitude having been gone into the country; and even all
this month of July they continued to flee, though not in such multitudes
as formerly. In August, indeed, they fled in such a manner that I began
to think there would be really none but magistrates and servants left in
the city.

As they fled now out of the city, so I should observe that the Court
removed early, viz., in the month of June, and went to Oxford, where it
pleased God to preserve them; and the distemper did not, as I heard
of, so much as touch them, for which I cannot say that I ever saw
they showed any great token of thankfulness, and hardly anything of
reformation, though they did not want being told that their crying vices
might without breach of charity be said to have gone far in bringing
that terrible judgement upon the whole nation.

The face of London was--now indeed strangely altered: I mean the whole
mass of buildings, city, liberties, suburbs, Westminster, Southwark, and
altogether; for as to the particular part called the city, or within
the walls, that was not yet much infected. But in the whole the face of
things, I say, was much altered; sorrow and sadness sat upon every face;
and though some parts were not yet overwhelmed, yet all looked deeply
concerned; and, as we saw it apparently coming on, so every one looked
on himself and his family as in the utmost danger. Were it possible to
represent those times exactly to those that did not see them, and give
the reader due ideas of the horror 'that everywhere presented itself, it
must make just impressions upon their minds and fill them with surprise.
London might well be said to be all in tears; the mourners did not go
about the streets indeed, for nobody put on black or made a formal dress
of mourning for their nearest friends; but the voice of mourners was
truly heard in the streets. The shrieks of women and children at the
windows and doors of their houses, where their dearest relations were
perhaps dying, or just dead, were so frequent to be heard as we passed
the streets, that it was enough to pierce the stoutest heart in the
world to hear them. Tears and lamentations were seen almost in every
house, especially in the first part of the visitation; for towards the
latter end men's hearts were hardened, and death was so always before
their eyes, that they did not so much concern themselves for the loss
of their friends, expecting that themselves should be summoned the next

Business led me out sometimes to the other end of the town, even when
the sickness was chiefly there; and as the thing was new to me, as
well as to everybody else, it was a most surprising thing to see those
streets which were usually so thronged now grown desolate, and so few
people to be seen in them, that if I had been a stranger and at a loss
for my way, I might sometimes have gone the length of a whole street (I
mean of the by-streets), and seen nobody to direct me except watchmen
set at the doors of such houses as were shut up, of which I shall speak

One day, being at that part of the town on some special business,
curiosity led me to observe things more than usually, and indeed I
walked a great way where I had no business. I went up Holborn, and there
the street was full of people, but they walked in the middle of the
great street, neither on one side or other, because, as I suppose, they
would not mingle with anybody that came out of houses, or meet with
smells and scent from houses that might be infected.

The Inns of Court were all shut up; nor were very many of the lawyers in
the Temple, or Lincoln's Inn, or Gray's Inn, to be seen there. Everybody
was at peace; there was no occasion for lawyers; besides, it being in
the time of the vacation too, they were generally gone into the country.
Whole rows of houses in some places were shut close up, the inhabitants
all fled, and only a watchman or two left.

When I speak of rows of houses being shut up, I do not mean shut up by
the magistrates, but that great numbers of persons followed the Court,
by the necessity of their employments and other dependences; and as
others retired, really frighted with the distemper, it was a mere
desolating of some of the streets. But the fright was not yet near
so great in the city, abstractly so called, and particularly because,
though they were at first in a most inexpressible consternation, yet as
I have observed that the distemper intermitted often at first, so they
were, as it were, alarmed and unalarmed again, and this several times,
till it began to be familiar to them; and that even when it appeared
violent, yet seeing it did not presently spread into the city, or the
east and south parts, the people began to take courage, and to be, as
I may say, a little hardened. It is true a vast many people fled, as I
have observed, yet they were chiefly from the west end of the town,
and from that we call the heart of the city: that is to say, among the
wealthiest of the people, and such people as were unencumbered with
trades and business. But of the rest, the generality stayed, and seemed
to abide the worst; so that in the place we calf the Liberties, and
in the suburbs, in Southwark, and in the east part, such as Wapping,
Ratcliff, Stepney, Rotherhithe, and the like, the people generally
stayed, except here and there a few wealthy families, who, as above, did
not depend upon their business.

It must not be forgot here that the city and suburbs were prodigiously
full of people at the time of this visitation, I mean at the time that
it began; for though I have lived to see a further increase, and mighty
throngs of people settling in London more than ever, yet we had always a
notion that the numbers of people which, the wars being over, the armies
disbanded, and the royal family and the monarchy being restored, had
flocked to London to settle in business, or to depend upon and attend
the Court for rewards of services, preferments, and the like, was such
that the town was computed to have in it above a hundred thousand people
more than ever it held before; nay, some took upon them to say it
had twice as many, because all the ruined families of the royal party
flocked hither. All the old soldiers set up trades here, and abundance
of families settled here. Again, the Court brought with them a
great flux of pride, and new fashions. All people were grown gay and
luxurious, and the joy of the Restoration had brought a vast many
families to London.

I often thought that as Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans when the
Jews were assembled together to celebrate the Passover--by which means
an incredible number of people were surprised there who would otherwise
have been in other countries--so the plague entered London when
an incredible increase of people had happened occasionally, by the
particular circumstances above-named. As this conflux of the people to
a youthful and gay Court made a great trade in the city, especially
in everything that belonged to fashion and finery, so it drew by
consequence a great number of workmen, manufacturers, and the like,
being mostly poor people who depended upon their labour. And I remember
in particular that in a representation to my Lord Mayor of the condition
of the poor, it was estimated that there were no less than an hundred
thousand riband-weavers in and about the city, the chiefest number of
whom lived then in the parishes of Shoreditch, Stepney, Whitechappel,
and Bishopsgate, that, namely, about Spitalfields; that is to say, as
Spitalfields was then, for it was not so large as now by one fifth part.

By this, however, the number of people in the whole may be judged of;
and, indeed, I often wondered that, after the prodigious numbers of
people that went away at first, there was yet so great a multitude left
as it appeared there was.

But I must go back again to the beginning of this surprising time. While
the fears of the people were young, they were increased strangely by
several odd accidents which, put altogether, it was really a wonder
the whole body of the people did not rise as one man and abandon their
dwellings, leaving the place as a space of ground designed by Heaven for
an Akeldama, doomed to be destroyed from the face of the earth, and that
all that would be found in it would perish with it. I shall name but a
few of these things; but sure they were so many, and so many wizards and
cunning people propagating them, that I have often wondered there was
any (women especially) left behind.

In the first place, a blazing star or comet appeared for several months
before the plague, as there did the year after another, a little before
the fire. The old women and the phlegmatic hypochondriac part of the
other sex, whom I could almost call old women too, remarked (especially
afterward, though not till both those judgements were over) that those
two comets passed directly over the city, and that so very near the
houses that it was plain they imported something peculiar to the city
alone; that the comet before the pestilence was of a faint, dull,
languid colour, and its motion very heavy, Solemn, and slow; but that
the comet before the fire was bright and sparkling, or, as others said,
flaming, and its motion swift and furious; and that, accordingly, one
foretold a heavy judgement, slow but severe, terrible and frightful,
as was the plague; but the other foretold a stroke, sudden, swift, and
fiery as the conflagration. Nay, so particular some people were, that as
they looked upon that comet preceding the fire, they fancied that they
not only saw it pass swiftly and fiercely, and could perceive the motion
with their eye, but even they heard it; that it made a rushing,
mighty noise, fierce and terrible, though at a distance, and but just

I saw both these stars, and, I must confess, had so much of the common
notion of such things in my head, that I was apt to look upon them as
the forerunners and warnings of God's judgements; and especially when,
after the plague had followed the first, I yet saw another of the like
kind, I could not but say God had not yet sufficiently scourged the

But I could not at the same time carry these things to the height
that others did, knowing, too, that natural causes are assigned by
the astronomers for such things, and that their motions and even their
revolutions are calculated, or pretended to be calculated, so that they
cannot be so perfectly called the forerunners or foretellers, much less
the procurers, of such events as pestilence, war, fire, and the like.

But let my thoughts and the thoughts of the philosophers be, or have
been, what they will, these things had a more than ordinary influence
upon the minds of the common people, and they had almost universal
melancholy apprehensions of some dreadful calamity and judgement coming
upon the city; and this principally from the sight of this comet, and
the little alarm that was given in December by two people dying at St
Giles's, as above.

The apprehensions of the people were likewise strangely increased by the
error of the times; in which, I think, the people, from what principle
I cannot imagine, were more addicted to prophecies and astrological
conjurations, dreams, and old wives' tales than ever they were before or
since. Whether this unhappy temper was originally raised by the
follies of some people who got money by it--that is to say, by printing
predictions and prognostications--I know not; but certain it is, books
frighted them terribly, such as Lilly's Almanack, Gadbury's Astrological
Predictions, Poor Robin's Almanack, and the like; also several pretended
religious books, one entitled, Come out of her, my People, lest you
be Partaker of her Plagues; another called, Fair Warning; another,
Britain's Remembrancer; and many such, all, or most part of which,
foretold, directly or covertly, the ruin of the city. Nay, some were
so enthusiastically bold as to run about the streets with their oral
predictions, pretending they were sent to preach to the city; and one in
particular, who, like Jonah to Nineveh, cried in the streets, 'Yet forty
days, and London shall be destroyed.' I will not be positive whether he
said yet forty days or yet a few days. Another ran about naked, except
a pair of drawers about his waist, crying day and night, like a man that
Josephus mentions, who cried, 'Woe to Jerusalem!' a little before the
destruction of that city. So this poor naked creature cried, 'Oh, the
great and the dreadful God!' and said no more, but repeated those words
continually, with a voice and countenance full of horror, a swift pace;
and nobody could ever find him to stop or rest, or take any sustenance,
at least that ever I could hear of. I met this poor creature several
times in the streets, and would have spoken to him, but he would not
enter into speech with me or any one else, but held on his dismal cries

These things terrified the people to the last degree, and especially
when two or three times, as I have mentioned already, they found one or
two in the bills dead of the plague at St Giles's.

Next to these public things were the dreams of old women, or, I should
say, the interpretation of old women upon other people's dreams; and
these put abundance of people even out of their wits. Some heard voices
warning them to be gone, for that there would be such a plague in
London, so that the living would not be able to bury the dead. Others
saw apparitions in the air; and I must be allowed to say of both, I hope
without breach of charity, that they heard voices that never spake, and
saw sights that never appeared; but the imagination of the people was
really turned wayward and possessed. And no wonder, if they who were
poring continually at the clouds saw shapes and figures, representations
and appearances, which had nothing in them but air, and vapour. Here
they told us they saw a flaming sword held in a hand coming out of
a cloud, with a point hanging directly over the city; there they saw
hearses and coffins in the air carrying to be buried; and there
again, heaps of dead bodies lying unburied, and the like, just as the
imagination of the poor terrified people furnished them with matter to
work upon. So hypochondriac fancies represent Ships, armies, battles in
the firmament; Till steady eyes the exhalations solve, And all to its
first matter, cloud, resolve.

I could fill this account with the strange relations such people gave
every day of what they had seen; and every one was so positive of their
having seen what they pretended to see, that there was no contradicting
them without breach of friendship, or being accounted rude and
unmannerly on the one hand, and profane and impenetrable on the other.
One time before the plague was begun (otherwise than as I have said in
St Giles's), I think it was in March, seeing a crowd of people in the
street, I joined with them to satisfy my curiosity, and found them all
staring up into the air to see what a woman told them appeared plain
to her, which was an angel clothed in white, with a fiery sword in his
hand, waving it or brandishing it over his head. She described every
part of the figure to the life, showed them the motion and the form,
and the poor people came into it so eagerly, and with so much readiness;
'Yes, I see it all plainly,' says one; 'there's the sword as plain as
can be.' Another saw the angel. One saw his very face, and cried out
what a glorious creature he was! One saw one thing, and one another.
I looked as earnestly as the rest, but perhaps not with so much
willingness to be imposed upon; and I said, indeed, that I could see
nothing but a white cloud, bright on one side by the shining of the sun
upon the other part. The woman endeavoured to show it me, but could not
make me confess that I saw it, which, indeed, if I had I must have
lied. But the woman, turning upon me, looked in my face, and fancied I
laughed, in which her imagination deceived her too, for I really did
not laugh, but was very seriously reflecting how the poor people were
terrified by the force of their own imagination. However, she turned
from me, called me profane fellow, and a scoffer; told me that it was a
time of God's anger, and dreadful judgements were approaching, and that
despisers such as I should wander and perish.

The people about her seemed disgusted as well as she; and I found there
was no persuading them that I did not laugh at them, and that I should
be rather mobbed by them than be able to undeceive them. So I left them;
and this appearance passed for as real as the blazing star itself.

Another encounter I had in the open day also; and this was in going
through a narrow passage from Petty France into Bishopsgate Churchyard,
by a row of alms-houses. There are two churchyards to Bishopsgate church
or parish; one we go over to pass from the place called Petty France
into Bishopsgate Street, coming out just by the church door; the other
is on the side of the narrow passage where the alms-houses are on the
left; and a dwarf-wall with a palisado on it on the right hand, and the
city wall on the other side more to the right.

In this narrow passage stands a man looking through between the
palisadoes into the burying-place, and as many people as the narrowness
of the passage would admit to stop, without hindering the passage of
others, and he was talking mightily eagerly to them, and pointing now
to one place, then to another, and affirming that he saw a ghost walking
upon such a gravestone there. He described the shape, the posture,
and the movement of it so exactly that it was the greatest matter of
amazement to him in the world that everybody did not see it as well
as he. On a sudden he would cry, 'There it is; now it comes this way.'
Then, 'Tis turned back'; till at length he persuaded the people into so
firm a belief of it, that one fancied he saw it, and another fancied he
saw it; and thus he came every day making a strange hubbub, considering
it was in so narrow a passage, till Bishopsgate clock struck eleven,
and then the ghost would seem to start, and, as if he were called away,
disappeared on a sudden.

I looked earnestly every way, and at the very moment that this man
directed, but could not see the least appearance of anything; but so
positive was this poor man, that he gave the people the vapours in
abundance, and sent them away trembling and frighted, till at length
few people that knew of it cared to go through that passage, and hardly
anybody by night on any account whatever.

This ghost, as the poor man affirmed, made signs to the houses, and
to the ground, and to the people, plainly intimating, or else they so
understanding it, that abundance of the people should come to be buried
in that churchyard, as indeed happened; but that he saw such aspects
I must acknowledge I never believed, nor could I see anything of it
myself, though I looked most earnestly to see it, if possible.

These things serve to show how far the people were really overcome with
delusions; and as they had a notion of the approach of a visitation, all
their predictions ran upon a most dreadful plague, which should lay the
whole city, and even the kingdom, waste, and should destroy almost all
the nation, both man and beast.

To this, as I said before, the astrologers added stories of the
conjunctions of planets in a malignant manner and with a mischievous
influence, one of which conjunctions was to happen, and did happen, in
October, and the other in November; and they filled the people's heads
with predictions on these signs of the heavens, intimating that those
conjunctions foretold drought, famine, and pestilence. In the two first
of them, however, they were entirely mistaken, for we had no droughty
season, but in the beginning of the year a hard frost, which lasted from
December almost to March, and after that moderate weather, rather warm
than hot, with refreshing winds, and, in short, very seasonable weather,
and also several very great rains.

Some endeavours were used to suppress the printing of such books as
terrified the people, and to frighten the dispersers of them, some of
whom were taken up; but nothing was done in it, as I am informed, the
Government being unwilling to exasperate the people, who were, as I may
say, all out of their wits already.

Neither can I acquit those ministers that in their sermons rather sank
than lifted up the hearts of their hearers. Many of them no doubt did it
for the strengthening the resolution of the people, and especially for
quickening them to repentance, but it certainly answered not their end,
at least not in proportion to the injury it did another way; and indeed,
as God Himself through the whole Scriptures rather draws to Him by
invitations and calls to turn to Him and live, than drives us by terror
and amazement, so I must confess I thought the ministers should have
done also, imitating our blessed Lord and Master in this, that His
whole Gospel is full of declarations from heaven of God's mercy, and His
readiness to receive penitents and forgive them, complaining, 'Ye will
not come unto Me that ye may have life', and that therefore His Gospel
is called the Gospel of Peace and the Gospel of Grace.

But we had some good men, and that of all persuasions and opinions,
whose discourses were full of terror, who spoke nothing but dismal
things; and as they brought the people together with a kind of
horror, sent them away in tears, prophesying nothing but evil tidings,
terrifying the people with the apprehensions of being utterly destroyed,
not guiding them, at least not enough, to cry to heaven for mercy.

It was, indeed, a time of very unhappy breaches among us in matters
of religion. Innumerable sects and divisions and separate opinions
prevailed among the people. The Church of England was restored, indeed,
with the restoration of the monarchy, about four years before; but the
ministers and preachers of the Presbyterians and Independents, and
of all the other sorts of professions, had begun to gather separate
societies and erect altar against altar, and all those had their
meetings for worship apart, as they have now, but not so many then, the
Dissenters being not thoroughly formed into a body as they are since;
and those congregations which were thus gathered together were yet
but few. And even those that were, the Government did not allow, but
endeavoured to suppress them and shut up their meetings.

But the visitation reconciled them again, at least for a time, and many
of the best and most valuable ministers and preachers of the Dissenters
were suffered to go into the churches where the incumbents were fled
away, as many were, not being able to stand it; and the people flocked
without distinction to hear them preach, not much inquiring who or what
opinion they were of. But after the sickness was over, that spirit of
charity abated; and every church being again supplied with their own
ministers, or others presented where the minister was dead, things
returned to their old channel again.

One mischief always introduces another. These terrors and apprehensions
of the people led them into a thousand weak, foolish, and wicked things,
which they wanted not a sort of people really wicked to encourage them
to: and this was running about to fortune-tellers, cunning-men, and
astrologers to know their fortune, or, as it is vulgarly expressed,
to have their fortunes told them, their nativities calculated, and
the like; and this folly presently made the town swarm with a wicked
generation of pretenders to magic, to the black art, as they called it,
and I know not what; nay, to a thousand worse dealings with the devil
than they were really guilty of. And this trade grew so open and so
generally practised that it became common to have signs and inscriptions
set up at doors: 'Here lives a fortune-teller', 'Here lives an
astrologer', 'Here you may have your nativity calculated', and the
like; and Friar Bacon's brazen-head, which was the usual sign of these
people's dwellings, was to be seen almost in every street, or else the
sign of Mother Shipton, or of Merlin's head, and the like.

With what blind, absurd, and ridiculous stuff these oracles of the devil
pleased and satisfied the people I really know not, but certain it is
that innumerable attendants crowded about their doors every day. And if
but a grave fellow in a velvet jacket, a band, and a black coat, which
was the habit those quack-conjurers generally went in, was but seen
in the streets the people would follow them in crowds, and ask them
questions as they went along.

I need not mention what a horrid delusion this was, or what it tended
to; but there was no remedy for it till the plague itself put an end to
it all--and, I suppose, cleared the town of most of those calculators
themselves. One mischief was, that if the poor people asked these mock
astrologers whether there would be a plague or no, they all agreed
in general to answer 'Yes', for that kept up their trade. And had the
people not been kept in a fright about that, the wizards would presently
have been rendered useless, and their craft had been at an end. But they
always talked to them of such-and-such influences of the stars, of the
conjunctions of such-and-such planets, which must necessarily bring
sickness and distempers, and consequently the plague. And some had the
assurance to tell them the plague was begun already, which was too true,
though they that said so knew nothing of the matter.

The ministers, to do them justice, and preachers of most sorts that were
serious and understanding persons, thundered against these and other
wicked practices, and exposed the folly as well as the wickedness of
them together, and the most sober and judicious people despised and
abhorred them. But it was impossible to make any impression upon
the middling people and the working labouring poor. Their fears were
predominant over all their passions, and they threw away their money in
a most distracted manner upon those whimsies. Maid-servants especially,
and men-servants, were the chief of their customers, and their question
generally was, after the first demand of 'Will there be a plague?' I
say, the next question was, 'Oh, sir I for the Lord's sake, what will
become of me? Will my mistress keep me, or will she turn me off? Will
she stay here, or will she go into the country? And if she goes into the
country, will she take me with her, or leave me here to be starved and
undone?' And the like of menservants.

The truth is, the case of poor servants was very dismal, as I shall have
occasion to mention again by-and-by, for it was apparent a prodigious
number of them would be turned away, and it was so. And of them
abundance perished, and particularly of those that these false prophets
had flattered with hopes that they should be continued in their
services, and carried with their masters and mistresses into the
country; and had not public charity provided for these poor creatures,
whose number was exceeding great and in all cases of this nature must
be so, they would have been in the worst condition of any people in the

These things agitated the minds of the common people for many months,
while the first apprehensions were upon them, and while the plague was
not, as I may say, yet broken out. But I must also not forget that the
more serious part of the inhabitants behaved after another manner. The
Government encouraged their devotion, and appointed public prayers and
days of fasting and humiliation, to make public confession of sin and
implore the mercy of God to avert the dreadful judgement which hung over
their heads; and it is not to be expressed with what alacrity the
people of all persuasions embraced the occasion; how they flocked to
the churches and meetings, and they were all so thronged that there was
often no coming near, no, not to the very doors of the largest churches.
Also there were daily prayers appointed morning and evening at several
churches, and days of private praying at other places; at all which
the people attended, I say, with an uncommon devotion. Several private
families also, as well of one opinion as of another, kept family fasts,
to which they admitted their near relations only. So that, in a word,
those people who were really serious and religious applied themselves
in a truly Christian manner to the proper work of repentance and
humiliation, as a Christian people ought to do.

Again, the public showed that they would bear their share in these
things; the very Court, which was then gay and luxurious, put on a face
of just concern for the public danger. All the plays and interludes
which, after the manner of the French Court, had been set up, and began
to increase among us, were forbid to act; the gaming-tables, public
dancing-rooms, and music-houses, which multiplied and began to debauch
the manners of the people, were shut up and suppressed; and the
jack-puddings, merry-andrews, puppet-shows, rope-dancers, and such-like
doings, which had bewitched the poor common people, shut up their shops,
finding indeed no trade; for the minds of the people were agitated with
other things, and a kind of sadness and horror at these things sat upon
the countenances even of the common people. Death was before their
eyes, and everybody began to think of their graves, not of mirth and

But even those wholesome reflections--which, rightly managed, would have
most happily led the people to fall upon their knees, make confession of
their sins, and look up to their merciful Saviour for pardon, imploring
His compassion on them in such a time of their distress, by which we
might have been as a second Nineveh--had a quite contrary extreme in
the common people, who, ignorant and stupid in their reflections as
they were brutishly wicked and thoughtless before, were now led by their
fright to extremes of folly; and, as I have said before, that they
ran to conjurers and witches, and all sorts of deceivers, to know what
should become of them (who fed their fears, and kept them always alarmed
and awake on purpose to delude them and pick their pockets), so they
were as mad upon their running after quacks and mountebanks, and every
practising old woman, for medicines and remedies; storing themselves
with such multitudes of pills, potions, and preservatives, as they
were called, that they not only spent their money but even poisoned
themselves beforehand for fear of the poison of the infection; and
prepared their bodies for the plague, instead of preserving them against
it. On the other hand it is incredible and scarce to be imagined, how
the posts of houses and corners of streets were plastered over with
doctors' bills and papers of ignorant fellows, quacking and tampering in
physic, and inviting the people to come to them for remedies, which
was generally set off with such flourishes as these, viz.: 'Infallible
preventive pills against the plague.' 'Neverfailing preservatives
against the infection.' 'Sovereign cordials against the corruption of
the air.' 'Exact regulations for the conduct of the body in case of an
infection.' 'Anti-pestilential pills.' 'Incomparable drink against the
plague, never found out before.' 'An universal remedy for the plague.'
'The only true plague water.' 'The royal antidote against all kinds of
infection';--and such a number more that I cannot reckon up; and if I
could, would fill a book of themselves to set them down.

Others set up bills to summon people to their lodgings for directions
and advice in the case of infection. These had specious titles also,
such as these:--

'An eminent High Dutch physician, newly come over from Holland, where he
resided during all the time of the great plague last year in Amsterdam,
and cured multitudes of people that actually had the plague upon them.'

'An Italian gentlewoman just arrived from Naples, having a choice secret
to prevent infection, which she found out by her great experience, and
did wonderful cures with it in the late plague there, wherein there died
20,000 in one day.'

'An ancient gentlewoman, having practised with great success in the late
plague in this city, anno 1636, gives her advice only to the female sex.
To be spoken with,' &c.

'An experienced physician, who has long studied the doctrine of
antidotes against all sorts of poison and infection, has, after forty
years' practice, arrived to such skill as may, with God's blessing,
direct persons how to prevent their being touched by any contagious
distemper whatsoever. He directs the poor gratis.'

I take notice of these by way of specimen. I could give you two or three
dozen of the like and yet have abundance left behind. 'Tis sufficient
from these to apprise any one of the humour of those times, and how
a set of thieves and pickpockets not only robbed and cheated the poor
people of their money, but poisoned their bodies with odious and fatal
preparations; some with mercury, and some with other things as bad,
perfectly remote from the thing pretended to, and rather hurtful than
serviceable to the body in case an infection followed.

I cannot omit a subtility of one of those quack operators, with which
he gulled the poor people to crowd about him, but did nothing for them
without money. He had, it seems, added to his bills, which he gave about
the streets, this advertisement in capital letters, viz., 'He gives
advice to the poor for nothing.'

Abundance of poor people came to him accordingly, to whom he made a
great many fine speeches, examined them of the state of their health and
of the constitution of their bodies, and told them many good things for
them to do, which were of no great moment. But the issue and conclusion
of all was, that he had a preparation which if they took such a quantity
of every morning, he would pawn his life they should never have the
plague; no, though they lived in the house with people that were
infected. This made the people all resolve to have it; but then the
price of that was so much, I think 'twas half-a-crown. 'But, sir,' says
one poor woman, 'I am a poor almswoman and am kept by the parish, and
your bills say you give the poor your help for nothing.' 'Ay, good
woman,' says the doctor, 'so I do, as I published there. I give my
advice to the poor for nothing, but not my physic.' 'Alas, sir!' says
she, 'that is a snare laid for the poor, then; for you give them advice
for nothing; that is to say, you advise them gratis, to buy your physic
for their money; so does every shop-keeper with his wares.' Here the
woman began to give him ill words, and stood at his door all that day,
telling her tale to all the people that came, till the doctor finding
she turned away his customers, was obliged to call her upstairs again,
and give her his box of physic for nothing, which perhaps, too, was good
for nothing when she had it.

But to return to the people, whose confusions fitted them to be imposed
upon by all sorts of pretenders and by every mountebank. There is no
doubt but these quacking sort of fellows raised great gains out of the
miserable people, for we daily found the crowds that ran after them were
infinitely greater, and their doors were more thronged than those of Dr
Brooks, Dr Upton, Dr Hodges, Dr Berwick, or any, though the most famous
men of the time. I And I was told that some of them got five pounds a
day by their physic.

But there was still another madness beyond all this, which may serve to
give an idea of the distracted humour of the poor people at that time:
and this was their following a worse sort of deceivers than any of
these; for these petty thieves only deluded them to pick their pockets
and get their money, in which their wickedness, whatever it was, lay
chiefly on the side of the deceivers, not upon the deceived. But in this
part I am going to mention, it lay chiefly in the people deceived, or
equally in both; and this was in wearing charms, philtres, exorcisms,
amulets, and I know not what preparations, to fortify the body with them
against the plague; as if the plague was not the hand of God, but a kind
of possession of an evil spirit, and that it was to be kept off with
crossings, signs of the zodiac, papers tied up with so many knots,
and certain words or figures written on them, as particularly the word
Abracadabra, formed in triangle or pyramid, thus:--

     ABRACADABR     Others had the Jesuits'
     ABRACADAB         mark in a cross:
     ABRACADA             I H
     ABRACAD               S.
     ABRAC          Others nothing but this
     ABRA               mark, thus:
     AB                   * *
     A                    {*}

I might spend a great deal of time in my exclamations against the
follies, and indeed the wickedness, of those things, in a time of
such danger, in a matter of such consequences as this, of a national
infection. But my memorandums of these things relate rather to take
notice only of the fact, and mention only that it was so. How the poor
people found the insufficiency of those things, and how many of them
were afterwards carried away in the dead-carts and thrown into the
common graves of every parish with these hellish charms and trumpery
hanging about their necks, remains to be spoken of as we go along.

All this was the effect of the hurry the people were in, after the first
notion of the plaque being at hand was among them, and which may be said
to be from about Michaelmas 1664, but more particularly after the two
men died in St Giles's in the beginning of December; and again, after
another alarm in February. For when the plague evidently spread itself,
they soon began to see the folly of trusting to those unperforming
creatures who had gulled them of their money; and then their fears
worked another way, namely, to amazement and stupidity, not knowing what
course to take or what to do either to help or relieve themselves. But
they ran about from one neighbour's house to another, and even in the
streets from one door to another, with repeated cries of, 'Lord, have
mercy upon us! What shall we do?'

Indeed, the poor people were to be pitied in one particular thing in
which they had little or no relief, and which I desire to mention with a
serious awe and reflection, which perhaps every one that reads this may
not relish; namely, that whereas death now began not, as we may say,
to hover over every one's head only, but to look into their houses and
chambers and stare in their faces. Though there might be some stupidity
and dulness of the mind (and there was so, a great deal), yet there was
a great deal of just alarm sounded into the very inmost soul, if I may
so say, of others. Many consciences were awakened; many hard hearts
melted into tears; many a penitent confession was made of crimes long
concealed. It would wound the soul of any Christian to have heard the
dying groans of many a despairing creature, and none durst come near to
comfort them. Many a robbery, many a murder, was then confessed aloud,
and nobody surviving to record the accounts of it. People might be
heard, even into the streets as we passed along, calling upon God for
mercy through Jesus Christ, and saying, 'I have been a thief, 'I have
been an adulterer', 'I have been a murderer', and the like, and none
durst stop to make the least inquiry into such things or to administer
comfort to the poor creatures that in the anguish both of soul and body
thus cried out. Some of the ministers did visit the sick at first
and for a little while, but it was not to be done. It would have been
present death to have gone into some houses. The very buriers of the
dead, who were the hardenedest creatures in town, were sometimes beaten
back and so terrified that they durst not go into houses where the whole
families were swept away together, and where the circumstances were more
particularly horrible, as some were; but this was, indeed, at the first
heat of the distemper.

Time inured them to it all, and they ventured everywhere afterwards
without hesitation, as I shall have occasion to mention at large

I am supposing now the plague to be begun, as I have said, and that the
magistrates began to take the condition of the people into their serious
consideration. What they did as to the regulation of the inhabitants and
of infected families, I shall speak to by itself; but as to the affair
of health, it is proper to mention it here that, having seen the foolish
humour of the people in running after quacks and mountebanks, wizards
and fortune-tellers, which they did as above, even to madness, the Lord
Mayor, a very sober and religious gentleman, appointed physicians
and surgeons for relief of the poor--I mean the diseased poor and in
particular ordered the College of Physicians to publish directions for
cheap remedies for the poor, in all the circumstances of the distemper.
This, indeed, was one of the most charitable and judicious things that
could be done at that time, for this drove the people from haunting
the doors of every disperser of bills, and from taking down blindly and
without consideration poison for physic and death instead of life.

This direction of the physicians was done by a consultation of the whole
College; and, as it was particularly calculated for the use of the poor
and for cheap medicines, it was made public, so that everybody might see
it, and copies were given gratis to all that desired it. But as it is
public, and to be seen on all occasions, I need not give the reader of
this the trouble of it.

I shall not be supposed to lessen the authority or capacity of the
physicians when I say that the violence of the distemper, when it came
to its extremity, was like the fire the next year. The fire, which
consumed what the plague could not touch, defied all the application of
remedies; the fire-engines were broken, the buckets thrown away, and the
power of man was baffled and brought to an end. So the Plague defied
all medicines; the very physicians were seized with it, with their
preservatives in their mouths; and men went about prescribing to others
and telling them what to do till the tokens were upon them, and they
dropped down dead, destroyed by that very enemy they directed others to
oppose. This was the case of several physicians, even some of them the
most eminent, and of several of the most skilful surgeons. Abundance
of quacks too died, who had the folly to trust to their own medicines,
which they must needs be conscious to themselves were good for nothing,
and who rather ought, like other sorts of thieves, to have run away,
sensible of their guilt, from the justice that they could not but expect
should punish them as they knew they had deserved.

Not that it is any derogation from the labour or application of the
physicians to say they fell in the common calamity; nor is it so
intended by me; it rather is to their praise that they ventured their
lives so far as even to lose them in the service of mankind. They
endeavoured to do good, and to save the lives of others. But we were not
to expect that the physicians could stop God's judgements, or prevent a
distemper eminently armed from heaven from executing the errand it was
sent about.

Doubtless, the physicians assisted many by their skill, and by their
prudence and applications, to the saving of their lives and restoring
their health. But it is not lessening their character or their skill,
to say they could not cure those that had the tokens upon them, or those
who were mortally infected before the physicians were sent for, as was
frequently the case.

It remains to mention now what public measures were taken by the
magistrates for the general safety, and to prevent the spreading of the
distemper, when it first broke out. I shall have frequent occasion to
speak of the prudence of the magistrates, their charity, their vigilance
for the poor, and for preserving good order, furnishing provisions, and
the like, when the plague was increased, as it afterwards was. But I am
now upon the order and regulations they published for the government of
infected families.

I mentioned above shutting of houses up; and it is needful to say
something particularly to that, for this part of the history of the
plague is very melancholy, but the most grievous story must be told.

About June the Lord Mayor of London and the Court of Aldermen, as I have
said, began more particularly to concern themselves for the regulation
of the city.

The justices of Peace for Middlesex, by direction of the Secretary
of State, had begun to shut up houses in the parishes of St
Giles-in-the-Fields, St Martin, St Clement Danes, &c., and it was with
good success; for in several streets where the plague broke out, upon
strict guarding the houses that were infected, and taking care to bury
those that died immediately after they were known to be dead, the plague
ceased in those streets. It was also observed that the plague decreased
sooner in those parishes after they had been visited to the full than it
did in the parishes of Bishopsgate, Shoreditch, Aldgate, Whitechappel,
Stepney, and others; the early care taken in that manner being a great
means to the putting a check to it.

This shutting up of houses was a method first taken, as I understand, in
the plague which happened in 1603, at the coming of King James the First
to the crown; and the power of shutting people up in their own houses
was granted by Act of Parliament, entitled, 'An Act for the charitable
Relief and Ordering of Persons infected with the Plague'; on which Act
of Parliament the Lord Mayor and aldermen of the city of London founded
the order they made at this time, and which took place the 1st of July
1665, when the numbers infected within the city were but few, the last
bill for the ninety-two parishes being but four; and some houses
having been shut up in the city, and some people being removed to the
pest-house beyond Bunhill Fields, in the way to Islington,--I say, by
these means, when there died near one thousand a week in the whole, the
number in the city was but twenty-eight, and the city was preserved
more healthy in proportion than any other place all the time of the

These orders of my Lord Mayor's were published, as I have said, the
latter end of June, and took place from the 1st of July, and were as
follows, viz.:--


'WHEREAS in the reign of our late Sovereign King James, of happy memory,
an Act was made for the charitable relief and ordering of persons
infected with the plague, whereby authority was given to justices of the
peace, mayors, bailiffs, and other head-officers to appoint within their
several limits examiners, searchers, watchmen, keepers, and buriers for
the persons and places infected, and to minister unto them oaths for the
performance of their offices. And the same statute did also authorise
the giving of other directions, as unto them for the present necessity
should seem good in their directions. It is now, upon special
consideration, thought very expedient for preventing and avoiding of
infection of sickness (if it shall so please Almighty God) that these
officers following be appointed, and these orders hereafter duly

Examiners to be appointed in every Parish.

'First, it is thought requisite, and so ordered, that in every parish
there be one, two, or more persons of good sort and credit chosen and
appointed by the alderman, his deputy, and common council of every ward,
by the name of examiners, to continue in that office the space of two
months at least. And if any fit person so appointed shall refuse to
undertake the same, the said parties so refusing to be committed to
prison until they shall conform themselves accordingly.

The Examiner's Office.

'That these examiners he sworn by the aldermen to inquire and learn from
time to time what houses in every parish be visited, and what persons be
sick, and of what diseases, as near as they can inform themselves; and
upon doubt in that case, to command restraint of access until it appear
what the disease shall prove. And if they find any person sick of the
infection, to give order to the constable that the house be shut up;
and if the constable shall be found remiss or negligent, to give present
notice thereof to the alderman of the ward.


'That to every infected house there be appointed two watchmen, one for
every day, and the other for the night; and that these watchmen have a
special care that no person go in or out of such infected houses whereof
they have the charge, upon pain of severe punishment. And the said
watchmen to do such further offices as the sick house shall need and
require: and if the watchman be sent upon any business, to lock up the
house and take the key with him; and the watchman by day to attend until
ten of the clock at night, and the watchman by night until six in the


'That there be a special care to appoint women searchers in every
parish, such as are of honest reputation, and of the best sort as can
be got in this kind; and these to be sworn to make due search and true
report to the utmost of their knowledge whether the persons whose bodies
they are appointed to search do die of the infection, or of what other
diseases, as near as they can. And that the physicians who shall be
appointed for cure and prevention of the infection do call before them
the said searchers who are, or shall be, appointed for the several
parishes under their respective cares, to the end they may consider
whether they are fitly qualified for that employment, and charge them
from time to time as they shall see cause, if they appear defective in
their duties.

'That no searcher during this time of visitation be permitted to use any
public work or employment, or keep any shop or stall, or be employed as
a laundress, or in any other common employment whatsoever.


'For better assistance of the searchers, forasmuch as there hath been
heretofore great abuse in misreporting the disease, to the further
spreading of the infection, it is therefore ordered that there be chosen
and appointed able and discreet chirurgeons, besides those that do
already belong to the pest-house, amongst whom the city and Liberties
to be quartered as the places lie most apt and convenient; and every
of these to have one quarter for his limit; and the said chirurgeons
in every of their limits to join with the searchers for the view of the
body, to the end there may be a true report made of the disease.

'And further, that the said chirurgeons shall visit and search such-like
persons as shall either send for them or be named and directed unto them
by the examiners of every parish, and inform themselves of the disease
of the said parties.

'And forasmuch as the said chirurgeons are to be sequestered from all
other cures, and kept only to this disease of the infection, it is
ordered that every of the said chirurgeons shall have twelve-pence
a body searched by them, to be paid out of the goods of the party
searched, if he be able, or otherwise by the parish.


'If any nurse-keeper shall remove herself out of any infected house
before twenty-eight days after the decease of any person dying of the
infection, the house to which the said nurse-keeper doth so remove
herself shall be shut up until the said twenty-eight days be expired.'


Notice to be given of the Sickness.

'The master of every house, as soon as any one in his house complaineth,
either of blotch or purple, or swelling in any part of his body, or
falleth otherwise dangerously sick, without apparent cause of some other
disease, shall give knowledge thereof to the examiner of health within
two hours after the said sign shall appear.

Sequestration of the Sick.

'As soon as any man shall be found by this examiner, chirurgeon,
or searcher to be sick of the plague, he shall the same night be
sequestered in the same house; and in case he be so sequestered, then
though he afterwards die not, the house wherein he sickened should be
shut up for a month, after the use of the due preservatives taken by the

Airing the Stuff.

'For sequestration of the goods and stuff of the infection, their
bedding and apparel and hangings of chambers must be well aired with
fire and such perfumes as are requisite within the infected house before
they be taken again to use. This to be done by the appointment of an

Shutting up of the House.

'If any person shall have visited any man known to be infected of the
plague, or entered willingly into any known infected house, being not
allowed, the house wherein he inhabiteth shall be shut up for certain
days by the examiner's direction.

None to be removed out of infected Houses, but, &C.

'Item, that none be removed out of the house where he falleth sick of
the infection into any other house in the city (except it be to the
pest-house or a tent, or unto some such house which the owner of the
said visited house holdeth in his own hands and occupieth by his own
servants); and so as security be given to the parish whither such remove
is made, that the attendance and charge about the said visited persons
shall be observed and charged in all the particularities before
expressed, without any cost of that parish to which any such remove
shall happen to be made, and this remove to be done by night. And it
shall be lawful to any person that hath two houses to remove either his
sound or his infected people to his spare house at his choice, so as,
if he send away first his sound, he not after send thither his sick, nor
again unto the sick the sound; and that the same which he sendeth be
for one week at the least shut up and secluded from company, for fear of
some infection at the first not appearing.

Burial of the Dead.

'That the burial of the dead by this visitation be at most convenient
hours, always either before sun-rising or after sun-setting, with the
privity of the churchwardens or constable, and not otherwise; and that
no neighbours nor friends be suffered to accompany the corpse to church,
or to enter the house visited, upon pain of having his house shut up or
be imprisoned.

'And that no corpse dying of infection shall be buried, or remain in
any church in time of common prayer, sermon, or lecture. And that no
children be suffered at time of burial of any corpse in any church,
churchyard, or burying-place to come near the corpse, coffin, or grave.
And that all the graves shall be at least six feet deep.

'And further, all public assemblies at other burials are to be foreborne
during the continuance of this visitation.

No infected Stuff to be uttered.

'That no clothes, stuff, bedding, or garments be suffered to be carried
or conveyed out of any infected houses, and that the criers and carriers
abroad of bedding or old apparel to be sold or pawned be utterly
prohibited and restrained, and no brokers of bedding or old apparel
be permitted to make any outward show, or hang forth on their stalls,
shop-boards, or windows, towards any street, lane, common way,
or passage, any old bedding or apparel to be sold, upon pain of
imprisonment. And if any broker or other person shall buy any bedding,
apparel, or other stuff out of any infected house within two months
after the infection hath been there, his house shall be shut up as
infected, and so shall continue shut up twenty days at the least.

No Person to be conveyed out of any infected House.

'If any person visited do fortune, by negligent looking unto, or by any
other means, to come or be conveyed from a place infected to any other
place, the parish from whence such party hath come or been conveyed,
upon notice thereof given, shall at their charge cause the said party so
visited and escaped to be carried and brought back again by night, and
the parties in this case offending to be punished at the direction of
the alderman of the ward, and the house of the receiver of such visited
person to be shut up for twenty days.

Every visited House to be marked.

'That every house visited be marked with a red cross of a foot long in
the middle of the door, evident to be seen, and with these usual printed
words, that is to say, "Lord, have mercy upon us," to be set close
over the same cross, there to continue until lawful opening of the same

Every visited House to be watched.

'That the constables see every house shut up, and to be attended with
watchmen, which may keep them in, and minister necessaries unto them at
their own charges, if they be able, or at the common charge, if they are
unable; the shutting up to be for the space of four weeks after all be

'That precise order to be taken that the searchers, chirurgeons,
keepers, and buriers are not to pass the streets without holding a red
rod or wand of three feet in length in their hands, open and evident to
be seen, and are not to go into any other house than into their own, or
into that whereunto they are directed or sent for; but to forbear and
abstain from company, especially when they have been lately used in any
such business or attendance.


'That where several inmate,-c are in one and the same house, and any
person in that house happens to be infected, no other person or family
of such house shall be suffered to remove him or themselves without a
certificate from the examiners of health of that parish; or in default
thereof, the house whither he or they so remove shall be shut up as in
case of visitation.


'That care be taken of hackney-coachmen, that they may not (as some of
them have been observed to do after carrying of infected persons to
the pest-house and other places) be admitted to common use till their
coaches be well aired, and have stood unemployed by the space of five or
six days after such service.'


The Streets to be kept Clean.

'First, it is thought necessary, and so ordered, that every householder
do cause the street to be daily prepared before his door, and so to keep
it clean swept all the week long.

That Rakers take it from out the Houses.

'That the sweeping and filth of houses be daily carried away by the
rakers, and that the raker shall give notice of his coming by the
blowing of a horn, as hitherto hath been done.

Laystalls to be made far off from the City.

'That the laystalls be removed as far as may be out of the city and
common passages, and that no nightman or other be suffered to empty a
vault into any garden near about the city.

Care to be had of unwholesome Fish or Flesh, and of musty Corn.

'That special care be taken that no stinking fish, or unwholesome flesh,
or musty corn, or other corrupt fruits of what sort soever, be suffered
to be sold about the city, or any part of the same.

'That the brewers and tippling-houses he looked unto for musty and
unwholesome casks.

'That no hogs, dogs, or cats, or tame pigeons, or conies, be suffered to
be kept within any part of the city, or any swine to be or stray in the
streets or lanes, but that such swine be impounded by the beadle or
any other officer, and the owner punished according to Act of Common
Council, and that the dogs be killed by the dog-killers appointed for
that purpose.'



'Forasmuch as nothing is more complained of than the multitude of rogues
and wandering beggars that swarm in every place about the city, being a
great cause of the spreading of the infection, and will not be avoided,
notwithstanding any orders that have been given to the contrary: It is
therefore now ordered, that such constables, and others whom this matter
may any way concern, take special care that no wandering beggars
be suffered in the streets of this city in any fashion or manner
whatsoever, upon the penalty provided by the law, to be duly and
severely executed upon them.


'That all plays, bear-baitings, games, singing of ballads, buckler-play,
or such-like causes of assemblies of people be utterly prohibited, and
the parties offending severely punished by every alderman in his ward.

Feasting prohibited.

'That all public feasting, and particularly by the companies of this
city, and dinners at taverns, ale-houses, and other places of common
entertainment, be forborne till further order and allowance; and that
the money thereby spared be preserved and employed for the benefit and
relief of the poor visited with the infection.


'That disorderly tippling in taverns, ale-houses, coffee-houses, and
cellars be severely looked unto, as the common sin of this time and
greatest occasion of dispersing the plague. And that no company or
person be suffered to remain or come into any tavern, ale-house, or
coffee-house to drink after nine of the clock in the evening, according
to the ancient law and custom of this city, upon the penalties ordained
in that behalf.

'And for the better execution of these orders, and such other rules and
directions as, upon further consideration, shall be found needful: It is
ordered and enjoined that the aldermen, deputies, and common councilmen
shall meet together weekly, once, twice, thrice or oftener (as cause
shall require), at some one general place accustomed in their respective
wards (being clear from infection of the plague), to consult how
the said orders may be duly put in execution; not intending that any
dwelling in or near places infected shall come to the said meeting while
their coming may be doubtful. And the said aldermen, and deputies, and
common councilmen in their several wards may put in execution any other
good orders that by them at their said meetings shall be conceived and
devised for preservation of his Majesty's subjects from the infection.




I need not say that these orders extended only to such places as were
within the Lord Mayor's jurisdiction, so it is requisite to observe that
the justices of Peace within those parishes and places as were called
the Hamlets and out-parts took the same method. As I remember, the
orders for shutting up of houses did not take Place so soon on our side,
because, as I said before, the plague did not reach to these eastern
parts of the town at least, nor begin to be very violent, till the
beginning of August. For example, the whole bill from the 11th to the
18th of July was 1761, yet there died but 71 of the plague in all those
parishes we call the Tower Hamlets, and they were as follows:--

     -                           The next week   And to the 1st
     -                             was thus:     of Aug. thus:
     Aldgate               14          34               65
     Stepney               33          58               76
     Whitechappel          21          48               79
     St Katherine, Tower    2           4                4
     Trinity, Minories      1           1                4
     -                    ---         ---              ---
     -                     71         145              228

It was indeed coming on amain, for the burials that same week were in
the next adjoining parishes thus:--

     -                                The next week
     -                                prodigiously    To the 1st of
     -                                increased, as:   Aug. thus:
     St Leonard's, Shoreditch      64       84          110
     St Botolph's, Bishopsgate     65      105          116
     St Giles's, Cripplegate      213      421          554
     -                            ---      ---          ---
     -                            342      610          780

This shutting up of houses was at first counted a very cruel and
unchristian method, and the poor people so confined made bitter
lamentations. Complaints of the severity of it were also daily brought
to my Lord Mayor, of houses causelessly (and some maliciously) shut up.
I cannot say; but upon inquiry many that complained so loudly were found
in a condition to be continued; and others again, inspection being made
upon the sick person, and the sickness not appearing infectious, or if
uncertain, yet on his being content to be carried to the pest-house,
were released.

It is true that the locking up the doors of people's houses, and setting
a watchman there night and day to prevent their stirring out or any
coming to them, when perhaps the sound people in the family might have
escaped if they had been removed from the sick, looked very hard and
cruel; and many people perished in these miserable confinements which,
'tis reasonable to believe, would not have been distempered if they had
had liberty, though the plague was in the house; at which the people
were very clamorous and uneasy at first, and several violences were
committed and injuries offered to the men who were set to watch the
houses so shut up; also several people broke out by force in many
places, as I shall observe by-and-by. But it was a public good that
justified the private mischief, and there was no obtaining the least
mitigation by any application to magistrates or government at that time,
at least not that I heard of. This put the people upon all manner of
stratagem in order, if possible, to get out; and it would fill a little
volume to set down the arts used by the people of such houses to shut
the eyes of the watchmen who were employed, to deceive them, and to
escape or break out from them, in which frequent scuffles and some
mischief happened; of which by itself.

As I went along Houndsditch one morning about eight o'clock there was
a great noise. It is true, indeed, there was not much crowd, because
people were not very free to gather together, or to stay long together
when they were there; nor did I stay long there. But the outcry was loud
enough to prompt my curiosity, and I called to one that looked out of a
window, and asked what was the matter.

A watchman, it seems, had been employed to keep his post at the door of
a house which was infected, or said to be infected, and was shut up. He
had been there all night for two nights together, as he told his story,
and the day-watchman had been there one day, and was now come to relieve
him. All this while no noise had been heard in the house, no light had
been seen; they called for nothing, sent him of no errands, which used
to be the chief business of the watchmen; neither had they given him any
disturbance, as he said, from the Monday afternoon, when he heard great
crying and screaming in the house, which, as he supposed, was occasioned
by some of the family dying just at that time. It seems, the night
before, the dead-cart, as it was called, had been stopped there, and a
servant-maid had been brought down to the door dead, and the buriers
or bearers, as they were called, put her into the cart, wrapt only in a
green rug, and carried her away.

The watchman had knocked at the door, it seems, when he heard that noise
and crying, as above, and nobody answered a great while; but at last one
looked out and said with an angry, quick tone, and yet a kind of crying
voice, or a voice of one that was crying, 'What d'ye want, that ye make
such a knocking?' He answered, 'I am the watchman! How do you do? What
is the matter?' The person answered, 'What is that to you? Stop the
dead-cart.' This, it seems, was about one o'clock. Soon after, as the
fellow said, he stopped the dead-cart, and then knocked again, but
nobody answered. He continued knocking, and the bellman called out
several times, 'Bring out your dead'; but nobody answered, till the man
that drove the cart, being called to other houses, would stay no longer,
and drove away.

The watchman knew not what to make of all this, so he let them alone
till the morning-man or day-watchman, as they called him, came to
relieve him. Giving him an account of the particulars, they knocked at
the door a great while, but nobody answered; and they observed that the
window or casement at which the person had looked out who had answered
before continued open, being up two pair of stairs.

Upon this the two men, to satisfy their curiosity, got a long ladder,
and one of them went up to the window and looked into the room, where
he saw a woman lying dead upon the floor in a dismal manner, having no
clothes on her but her shift. But though he called aloud, and putting
in his long staff, knocked hard on the floor, yet nobody stirred or
answered; neither could he hear any noise in the house.

He came down again upon this, and acquainted his fellow, who went up
also; and finding it just so, they resolved to acquaint either the Lord
Mayor or some other magistrate of it, but did not offer to go in at the
window. The magistrate, it seems, upon the information of the two men,
ordered the house to be broke open, a constable and other persons
being appointed to be present, that nothing might be plundered; and
accordingly it was so done, when nobody was found in the house but that
young woman, who having been infected and past recovery, the rest had
left her to die by herself, and were every one gone, having found some
way to delude the watchman, and to get open the door, or get out at some
back-door, or over the tops of the houses, so that he knew nothing of
it; and as to those cries and shrieks which he heard, it was supposed
they were the passionate cries of the family at the bitter parting,
which, to be sure, it was to them all, this being the sister to
the mistress of the family. The man of the house, his wife, several
children, and servants, being all gone and fled, whether sick or sound,
that I could never learn; nor, indeed, did I make much inquiry after it.

Many such escapes were made out of infected houses, as particularly when
the watchman was sent of some errand; for it was his business to go of
any errand that the family sent him of; that is to say, for necessaries,
such as food and physic; to fetch physicians, if they would come, or
surgeons, or nurses, or to order the dead-cart, and the like; but with
this condition, too, that when he went he was to lock up the outer door
of the house and take the key away with him, To evade this, and cheat
the watchmen, people got two or three keys made to their locks, or they
found ways to unscrew the locks such as were screwed on, and so take off
the lock, being in the inside of the house, and while they sent away the
watchman to the market, to the bakehouse, or for one trifle or another,
open the door and go out as often as they pleased. But this being found
out, the officers afterwards had orders to padlock up the doors on the
outside, and place bolts on them as they thought fit.

At another house, as I was informed, in the street next within Aldgate,
a whole family was shut up and locked in because the maid-servant was
taken sick. The master of the house had complained by his friends to the
next alderman and to the Lord Mayor, and had consented to have the maid
carried to the pest-house, but was refused; so the door was marked with
a red cross, a padlock on the outside, as above, and a watchman set to
keep the door, according to public order.

After the master of the house found there was no remedy, but that
he, his wife, and his children were to be locked up with this poor
distempered servant, he called to the watchman, and told him he must go
then and fetch a nurse for them to attend this poor girl, for that it
would be certain death to them all to oblige them to nurse her; and told
him plainly that if he would not do this, the maid must perish either of
the distemper or be starved for want of food, for he was resolved none
of his family should go near her; and she lay in the garret four storey
high, where she could not cry out, or call to anybody for help.

The watchman consented to that, and went and fetched a nurse, as he
was appointed, and brought her to them the same evening. During this
interval the master of the house took his opportunity to break a large
hole through his shop into a bulk or stall, where formerly a cobbler had
sat, before or under his shop-window; but the tenant, as may be supposed
at such a dismal time as that, was dead or removed, and so he had the
key in his own keeping. Having made his way into this stall, which he
could not have done if the man had been at the door, the noise he was
obliged to make being such as would have alarmed the watchman; I say,
having made his way into this stall, he sat still till the watchman
returned with the nurse, and all the next day also. But the night
following, having contrived to send the watchman of another trifling
errand, which, as I take it, was to an apothecary's for a plaister for
the maid, which he was to stay for the making up, or some other such
errand that might secure his staying some time; in that time he conveyed
himself and all his family out of the house, and left the nurse and the
watchman to bury the poor wench--that is, throw her into the cart--and
take care of the house.

I could give a great many such stories as these, diverting enough,
which in the long course of that dismal year I met with--that is, heard
of--and which are very certain to be true, or very near the truth; that
is to say, true in the general: for no man could at such a time learn
all the particulars. There was likewise violence used with the watchmen,
as was reported, in abundance of places; and I believe that from the
beginning of the visitation to the end, there was not less than eighteen
or twenty of them killed, or so wounded as to be taken up for dead,
which was supposed to be done by the people in the infected houses which
were shut up, and where they attempted to come out and were opposed.

Nor, indeed, could less be expected, for here were so many prisons in
the town as there were houses shut up; and as the people shut up or
imprisoned so were guilty of no crime, only shut up because miserable,
it was really the more intolerable to them.

It had also this difference, that every prison, as we may call it, had
but one jailer, and as he had the whole house to guard, and that many
houses were so situated as that they had several ways out, some more,
some less, and some into several streets, it was impossible for one man
so to guard all the passages as to prevent the escape of people made
desperate by the fright of their circumstances, by the resentment of
their usage, or by the raging of the distemper itself; so that they
would talk to the watchman on one side of the house, while the family
made their escape at another.

For example, in Coleman Street there are abundance of alleys, as appears
still. A house was shut up in that they call White's Alley; and this
house had a back-window, not a door, into a court which had a passage
into Bell Alley. A watchman was set by the constable at the door of
this house, and there he stood, or his comrade, night and day, while the
family went all away in the evening out at that window into the court,
and left the poor fellows warding and watching for near a fortnight.

Not far from the same place they blew up a watchman with gunpowder, and
burned the poor fellow dreadfully; and while he made hideous cries, and
nobody would venture to come near to help him, the whole family that
were able to stir got out at the windows one storey high, two that were
left sick calling out for help. Care was taken to give them nurses to
look after them, but the persons fled were never found, till after the
plague was abated they returned; but as nothing could be proved, so
nothing could be done to them.

It is to be considered, too, that as these were prisons without bars and
bolts, which our common prisons are furnished with, so the people let
themselves down out of their windows, even in the face of the watchman,
bringing swords or pistols in their hands, and threatening the poor
wretch to shoot him if he stirred or called for help.

In other cases, some had gardens, and walls or pales, between them and
their neighbours, or yards and back-houses; and these, by friendship and
entreaties, would get leave to get over those walls or pales, and so go
out at their neighbours' doors; or, by giving money to their servants,
get them to let them through in the night; so that in short, the
shutting up of houses was in no wise to be depended upon. Neither did
it answer the end at all, serving more to make the people desperate,
and drive them to such extremities as that they would break out at all

And that which was still worse, those that did thus break out spread the
infection farther by their wandering about with the distemper upon them,
in their desperate circumstances, than they would otherwise have
done; for whoever considers all the particulars in such cases must
acknowledge, and we cannot doubt but the severity of those confinements
made many people desperate, and made them run out of their houses at
all hazards, and with the plague visibly upon them, not knowing either
whither to go or what to do, or, indeed, what they did; and many that
did so were driven to dreadful exigencies and extremities, and perished
in the streets or fields for mere want, or dropped down by the raging
violence of the fever upon them. Others wandered into the country, and
went forward any way, as their desperation guided them, not knowing
whither they went or would go: till, faint and tired, and not getting
any relief, the houses and villages on the road refusing to admit them
to lodge whether infected or no, they have perished by the roadside or
gotten into barns and died there, none daring to come to them or relieve
them, though perhaps not infected, for nobody would believe them.

On the other hand, when the plague at first seized a family that is to
say, when any body of the family had gone out and unwarily or otherwise
catched the distemper and brought it home--it was certainly known by the
family before it was known to the officers, who, as you will see by
the order, were appointed to examine into the circumstances of all sick
persons when they heard of their being sick.

In this interval, between their being taken sick and the examiners
coming, the master of the house had leisure and liberty to remove
himself or all his family, if he knew whither to go, and many did so.
But the great disaster was that many did thus after they were really
infected themselves, and so carried the disease into the houses of those
who were so hospitable as to receive them; which, it must be confessed,
was very cruel and ungrateful.

And this was in part the reason of the general notion, or scandal
rather, which went about of the temper of people infected: namely,
that they did not take the least care or make any scruple of infecting
others, though I cannot say but there might be some truth in it too, but
not so general as was reported. What natural reason could be given for
so wicked a thing at a time when they might conclude themselves just
going to appear at the bar of Divine justice I know not. I am very well
satisfied that it cannot be reconciled to religion and principle any
more than it can be to generosity and Humanity, but I may speak of that

I am speaking now of people made desperate by the apprehensions of their
being shut up, and their breaking out by stratagem or force, either
before or after they were shut up, whose misery was not lessened when
they were out, but sadly increased. On the other hand, many that thus
got away had retreats to go to and other houses, where they locked
themselves up and kept hid till the plague was over; and many families,
foreseeing the approach of the distemper, laid up stores of provisions
sufficient for their whole families, and shut themselves up, and that so
entirely that they were neither seen or heard of till the infection was
quite ceased, and then came abroad sound and well. I might recollect
several such as these, and give you the particulars of their management;
for doubtless it was the most effectual secure step that could be taken
for such whose circumstances would not admit them to remove, or who had
not retreats abroad proper for the case; for in being thus shut up they
were as if they had been a hundred miles off. Nor do I remember that any
one of those families miscarried. Among these, several Dutch merchants
were particularly remarkable, who kept their houses like little
garrisons besieged suffering none to go in or out or come near them,
particularly one in a court in Throgmorton Street whose house looked
into Draper's Garden.

But I come back to the case of families infected and shut up by the
magistrates. The misery of those families is not to be expressed; and it
was generally in such houses that we heard the most dismal shrieks and
outcries of the poor people, terrified and even frighted to death by the
sight of the condition of their dearest relations, and by the terror of
being imprisoned as they were.

I remember, and while I am writing this story I think I hear the very
sound of it, a certain lady had an only daughter, a young maiden
about nineteen years old, and who was possessed of a very considerable
fortune. They were only lodgers in the house where they were. The young
woman, her mother, and the maid had been abroad on some occasion, I do
not remember what, for the house was not shut up; but about two hours
after they came home the young lady complained she was not well; in a
quarter of an hour more she vomited and had a violent pain in her head.
'Pray God', says her mother, in a terrible fright, 'my child has not the
distemper!' The pain in her head increasing, her mother ordered the bed
to be warmed, and resolved to put her to bed, and prepared to give her
things to sweat, which was the ordinary remedy to be taken when the
first apprehensions of the distemper began.

While the bed was airing the mother undressed the young woman, and
just as she was laid down in the bed, she, looking upon her body with
a candle, immediately discovered the fatal tokens on the inside of her
thighs. Her mother, not being able to contain herself, threw down her
candle and shrieked out in such a frightful manner that it was enough to
place horror upon the stoutest heart in the world; nor was it one scream
or one cry, but the fright having seized her spirits, she--fainted
first, then recovered, then ran all over the house, up the stairs and
down the stairs, like one distracted, and indeed really was distracted,
and continued screeching and crying out for several hours void of all
sense, or at least government of her senses, and, as I was told, never
came thoroughly to herself again. As to the young maiden, she was a dead
corpse from that moment, for the gangrene which occasions the spots had
spread [over] her whole body, and she died in less than two hours. But
still the mother continued crying out, not knowing anything more of her
child, several hours after she was dead. It is so long ago that I am
not certain, but I think the mother never recovered, but died in two or
three weeks after.

This was an extraordinary case, and I am therefore the more particular
in it, because I came so much to the knowledge of it; but there were
innumerable such-like cases, and it was seldom that the weekly bill came
in but there were two or three put in, 'frighted'; that is, that may
well be called frighted to death. But besides those who were so frighted
as to die upon the spot, there were great numbers frighted to other
extremes, some frighted out of their senses, some out of their memory,
and some out of their understanding. But I return to the shutting up of

As several people, I say, got out of their houses by stratagem after
they were shut UP, so others got out by bribing the watchmen, and giving
them money to let them go privately out in the night. I must confess I
thought it at that time the most innocent corruption or bribery that any
man could be guilty of, and therefore could not but pity the poor men,
and think it was hard when three of those watchmen were publicly whipped
through the streets for suffering people to go out of houses shut up.

But notwithstanding that severity, money prevailed with the poor men,
and many families found means to make sallies out, and escape that way
after they had been shut up; but these were generally such as had some
places to retire to; and though there was no easy passing the roads any
whither after the 1st of August, yet there were many ways of retreat,
and particularly, as I hinted, some got tents and set them up in the
fields, carrying beds or straw to lie on, and provisions to eat, and
so lived in them as hermits in a cell, for nobody would venture to come
near them; and several stories were told of such, some comical, some
tragical, some who lived like wandering pilgrims in the deserts, and
escaped by making themselves exiles in such a manner as is scarce to be
credited, and who yet enjoyed more liberty than was to be expected in
such cases.

I have by me a story of two brothers and their kinsman, who being single
men, but that had stayed in the city too long to get away, and indeed
not knowing where to go to have any retreat, nor having wherewith to
travel far, took a course for their own preservation, which though in
itself at first desperate, yet was so natural that it may be wondered
that no more did so at that time. They were but of mean condition, and
yet not so very poor as that they could not furnish themselves with some
little conveniences such as might serve to keep life and soul together;
and finding the distemper increasing in a terrible manner, they resolved
to shift as well as they could, and to be gone.

One of them had been a soldier in the late wars, and before that in the
Low Countries, and having been bred to no particular employment but his
arms, and besides being wounded, and not able to work very hard, had for
some time been employed at a baker's of sea-biscuit in Wapping.

The brother of this man was a seaman too, but somehow or other had been
hurt of one leg, that he could not go to sea, but had worked for his
living at a sailmaker's in Wapping, or thereabouts; and being a good
husband, had laid up some money, and was the richest of the three.

The third man was a joiner or carpenter by trade, a handy fellow, and he
had no wealth but his box or basket of tools, with the help of which he
could at any time get his living, such a time as this excepted, wherever
he went--and he lived near Shadwell.

They all lived in Stepney parish, which, as I have said, being the last
that was infected, or at least violently, they stayed there till they
evidently saw the plague was abating at the west part of the town, and
coming towards the east, where they lived.

The story of those three men, if the reader will be content to have me
give it in their own persons, without taking upon me to either vouch the
particulars or answer for any mistakes, I shall give as distinctly as I
can, believing the history will be a very good pattern for any poor man
to follow, in case the like public desolation should happen here; and if
there may be no such occasion, which God of His infinite mercy grant us,
still the story may have its uses so many ways as that it will, I hope,
never be said that the relating has been unprofitable.

I say all this previous to the history, having yet, for the present,
much more to say before I quit my own part.

I went all the first part of the time freely about the streets, though
not so freely as to run myself into apparent danger, except when they
dug the great pit in the churchyard of our parish of Aldgate. A terrible
pit it was, and I could not resist my curiosity to go and see it.
As near as I may judge, it was about forty feet in length, and about
fifteen or sixteen feet broad, and at the time I first looked at it,
about nine feet deep; but it was said they dug it near twenty feet
deep afterwards in one part of it, till they could go no deeper for the
water; for they had, it seems, dug several large pits before this. For
though the plague was long a-coming to our parish, yet, when it did
come, there was no parish in or about London where it raged with such
violence as in the two parishes of Aldgate and Whitechappel.

I say they had dug several pits in another ground, when the distemper
began to spread in our parish, and especially when the dead-carts began
to go about, which was not, in our parish, till the beginning of August.
Into these pits they had put perhaps fifty or sixty bodies each; then
they made larger holes wherein they buried all that the cart brought in
a week, which, by the middle to the end of August, came to from 200
to 400 a week; and they could not well dig them larger, because of the
order of the magistrates confining them to leave no bodies within six
feet of the surface; and the water coming on at about seventeen or
eighteen feet, they could not well, I say, put more in one pit. But now,
at the beginning of September, the plague raging in a dreadful manner,
and the number of burials in our parish increasing to more than was ever
buried in any parish about London of no larger extent, they ordered this
dreadful gulf to be dug--for such it was, rather than a pit.

They had supposed this pit would have supplied them for a month or more
when they dug it, and some blamed the churchwardens for suffering such a
frightful thing, telling them they were making preparations to bury the
whole parish, and the like; but time made it appear the churchwardens
knew the condition of the parish better than they did: for, the pit
being finished the 4th of September, I think, they began to bury in it
the 6th, and by the 20th, which was just two weeks, they had thrown into
it 1114 bodies when they were obliged to fill it up, the bodies being
then come to lie within six feet of the surface. I doubt not but there
may be some ancient persons alive in the parish who can justify the fact
of this, and are able to show even in what place of the churchyard the
pit lay better than I can. The mark of it also was many years to be
seen in the churchyard on the surface, lying in length parallel with
the passage which goes by the west wall of the churchyard out of
Houndsditch, and turns east again into Whitechappel, coming out near the
Three Nuns' Inn.

It was about the 10th of September that my curiosity led, or rather
drove, me to go and see this pit again, when there had been near 400
people buried in it; and I was not content to see it in the day-time, as
I had done before, for then there would have been nothing to have been
seen but the loose earth; for all the bodies that were thrown in were
immediately covered with earth by those they called the buriers, which
at other times were called bearers; but I resolved to go in the night
and see some of them thrown in.

There was a strict order to prevent people coming to those pits, and
that was only to prevent infection. But after some time that order was
more necessary, for people that were infected and near their end, and
delirious also, would run to those pits, wrapt in blankets or rugs, and
throw themselves in, and, as they said, bury themselves. I cannot say
that the officers suffered any willingly to lie there; but I have heard
that in a great pit in Finsbury, in the parish of Cripplegate, it lying
open then to the fields, for it was not then walled about, [many] came
and threw themselves in, and expired there, before they threw any earth
upon them; and that when they came to bury others and found them there,
they were quite dead, though not cold.

This may serve a little to describe the dreadful condition of that day,
though it is impossible to say anything that is able to give a true idea
of it to those who did not see it, other than this, that it was indeed
very, very, very dreadful, and such as no tongue can express.

I got admittance into the churchyard by being acquainted with the sexton
who attended; who, though he did not refuse me at all, yet earnestly
persuaded me not to go, telling me very seriously (for he was a good,
religious, and sensible man) that it was indeed their business and duty
to venture, and to run all hazards, and that in it they might hope to be
preserved; but that I had no apparent call to it but my own curiosity,
which, he said, he believed I would not pretend was sufficient to
justify my running that hazard. I told him I had been pressed in my mind
to go, and that perhaps it might be an instructing sight, that might not
be without its uses. 'Nay,' says the good man, 'if you will venture upon
that score, name of God go in; for, depend upon it, 'twill be a sermon
to you, it may be, the best that ever you heard in your life. 'Tis a
speaking sight,' says he, 'and has a voice with it, and a loud one, to
call us all to repentance'; and with that he opened the door and said,
'Go, if you will.'

His discourse had shocked my resolution a little, and I stood wavering
for a good while, but just at that interval I saw two links come over
from the end of the Minories, and heard the bellman, and then appeared
a dead-cart, as they called it, coming over the streets; so I could no
longer resist my desire of seeing it, and went in. There was nobody, as
I could perceive at first, in the churchyard, or going into it, but the
buriers and the fellow that drove the cart, or rather led the horse and
cart; but when they came up to the pit they saw a man go to and again,
muffled up in a brown Cloak, and making motions with his hands under his
cloak, as if he was in great agony, and the buriers immediately gathered
about him, supposing he was one of those poor delirious or desperate
creatures that used to pretend, as I have said, to bury themselves. He
said nothing as he walked about, but two or three times groaned very
deeply and loud, and sighed as he would break his heart.

When the buriers came up to him they soon found he was neither a
person infected and desperate, as I have observed above, or a person
distempered--in mind, but one oppressed with a dreadful weight of grief
indeed, having his wife and several of his children all in the cart that
was just come in with him, and he followed in an agony and excess of
sorrow. He mourned heartily, as it was easy to see, but with a kind of
masculine grief that could not give itself vent by tears; and calmly
defying the buriers to let him alone, said he would only see the bodies
thrown in and go away, so they left importuning him. But no sooner was
the cart turned round and the bodies shot into the pit promiscuously,
which was a surprise to him, for he at least expected they would have
been decently laid in, though indeed he was afterwards convinced that
was impracticable; I say, no sooner did he see the sight but he cried
out aloud, unable to contain himself. I could not hear what he said,
but he went backward two or three steps and fell down in a swoon. The
buriers ran to him and took him up, and in a little while he came to
himself, and they led him away to the Pie Tavern over against the end
of Houndsditch, where, it seems, the man was known, and where they
took care of him. He looked into the pit again as he went away, but the
buriers had covered the bodies so immediately with throwing in earth,
that though there was light enough, for there were lanterns, and candles
in them, placed all night round the sides of the pit, upon heaps of
earth, seven or eight, or perhaps more, yet nothing could be seen.

This was a mournful scene indeed, and affected me almost as much as the
rest; but the other was awful and full of terror. The cart had in it
sixteen or seventeen bodies; some were wrapt up in linen sheets, some in
rags, some little other than naked, or so loose that what covering they
had fell from them in the shooting out of the cart, and they fell
quite naked among the rest; but the matter was not much to them, or the
indecency much to any one else, seeing they were all dead, and were to
be huddled together into the common grave of mankind, as we may call it,
for here was no difference made, but poor and rich went together; there
was no other way of burials, neither was it possible there should, for
coffins were not to be had for the prodigious numbers that fell in such
a calamity as this.

It was reported by way of scandal upon the buriers, that if any corpse
was delivered to them decently wound up, as we called it then, in a
winding-sheet tied over the head and feet, which some did, and which was
generally of good linen; I say, it was reported that the buriers were
so wicked as to strip them in the cart and carry them quite naked to the
ground. But as I cannot easily credit anything so vile among Christians,
and at a time so filled with terrors as that was, I can only relate it
and leave it undetermined.

Innumerable stories also went about of the cruel behaviours and
practices of nurses who tended the sick, and of their hastening on the
fate of those they tended in their sickness. But I shall say more of
this in its place.

I was indeed shocked with this sight; it almost overwhelmed me, and
I went away with my heart most afflicted, and full of the afflicting
thoughts, such as I cannot describe just at my going out of the church,
and turning up the street towards my own house, I saw another cart with
links, and a bellman going before, coming out of Harrow Alley in the
Butcher Row, on the other side of the way, and being, as I perceived,
very full of dead bodies, it went directly over the street also toward
the church. I stood a while, but I had no stomach to go back again to
see the same dismal scene over again, so I went directly home, where I
could not but consider with thankfulness the risk I had run, believing I
had gotten no injury, as indeed I had not.

Here the poor unhappy gentleman's grief came into my head again, and
indeed I could not but shed tears in the reflection upon it, perhaps
more than he did himself; but his case lay so heavy upon my mind that
I could not prevail with myself, but that I must go out again into the
street, and go to the Pie Tavern, resolving to inquire what became of

It was by this time one o'clock in the morning, and yet the poor
gentleman was there. The truth was, the people of the house,
knowing him, had entertained him, and kept him there all the night,
notwithstanding the danger of being infected by him, though it appeared
the man was perfectly sound himself.

It is with regret that I take notice of this tavern. The people were
civil, mannerly, and an obliging sort of folks enough, and had till this
time kept their house open and their trade going on, though not so very
publicly as formerly: but there was a dreadful set of fellows that used
their house, and who, in the middle of all this horror, met there every
night, behaved with all the revelling and roaring extravagances as is
usual for such people to do at other times, and, indeed, to such an
offensive degree that the very master and mistress of the house grew
first ashamed and then terrified at them.

They sat generally in a room next the street, and as they always kept
late hours, so when the dead-cart came across the street-end to go
into Houndsditch, which was in view of the tavern windows, they would
frequently open the windows as soon as they heard the bell and look out
at them; and as they might often hear sad lamentations of people in the
streets or at their windows as the carts went along, they would make
their impudent mocks and jeers at them, especially if they heard the
poor people call upon God to have mercy upon them, as many would do at
those times in their ordinary passing along the streets.

These gentlemen, being something disturbed with the clutter of bringing
the poor gentleman into the house, as above, were first angry and very
high with the master of the house for suffering such a fellow, as they
called him, to be brought out of the grave into their house; but being
answered that the man was a neighbour, and that he was sound, but
overwhelmed with the calamity of his family, and the like, they turned
their anger into ridiculing the man and his sorrow for his wife and
children, taunted him with want of courage to leap into the great pit
and go to heaven, as they jeeringly expressed it, along with them,
adding some very profane and even blasphemous expressions.

They were at this vile work when I came back to the house, and, as far
as I could see, though the man sat still, mute and disconsolate, and
their affronts could not divert his sorrow, yet he was both grieved and
offended at their discourse. Upon this I gently reproved them, being
well enough acquainted with their characters, and not unknown in person
to two of them.

They immediately fell upon me with ill language and oaths, asked me
what I did out of my grave at such a time when so many honester men were
carried into the churchyard, and why I was not at home saying my prayers
against the dead-cart came for me, and the like.

I was indeed astonished at the impudence of the men, though not at all
discomposed at their treatment of me. However, I kept my temper. I told
them that though I defied them or any man in the world to tax me with
any dishonesty, yet I acknowledged that in this terrible judgement of
God many better than I were swept away and carried to their grave. But
to answer their question directly, the case was, that I was mercifully
preserved by that great God whose name they had blasphemed and taken in
vain by cursing and swearing in a dreadful manner, and that I believed
I was preserved in particular, among other ends of His goodness, that
I might reprove them for their audacious boldness in behaving in such
a manner and in such an awful time as this was, especially for their
jeering and mocking at an honest gentleman and a neighbour (for some
of them knew him), who, they saw, was overwhelmed with sorrow for the
breaches which it had pleased God to make upon his family.

I cannot call exactly to mind the hellish, abominable raillery which
was the return they made to that talk of mine: being provoked, it seems,
that I was not at all afraid to be free with them; nor, if I could
remember, would I fill my account with any of the words, the horrid
oaths, curses, and vile expressions, such as, at that time of the day,
even the worst and ordinariest people in the street would not use; for,
except such hardened creatures as these, the most wicked wretches that
could be found had at that time some terror upon their minds of the hand
of that Power which could thus in a moment destroy them.

But that which was the worst in all their devilish language was, that
they were not afraid to blaspheme God and talk atheistically, making
a jest of my calling the plague the hand of God; mocking, and even
laughing, at the word judgement, as if the providence of God had no
concern in the inflicting such a desolating stroke; and that the people
calling upon God as they saw the carts carrying away the dead bodies was
all enthusiastic, absurd, and impertinent.

I made them some reply, such as I thought proper, but which I found was
so far from putting a check to their horrid way of speaking that it made
them rail the more, so that I confess it filled me with horror and a
kind of rage, and I came away, as I told them, lest the hand of that
judgement which had visited the whole city should glorify His vengeance
upon them, and all that were near them.

They received all reproof with the utmost contempt, and made the
greatest mockery that was possible for them to do at me, giving me all
the opprobrious, insolent scoffs that they could think of for preaching
to them, as they called it, which indeed grieved me, rather than angered
me; and I went away, blessing God, however, in my mind that I had not
spared them, though they had insulted me so much.

They continued this wretched course three or four days after this,
continually mocking and jeering at all that showed themselves religious
or serious, or that were any way touched with the sense of the terrible
judgement of God upon us; and I was informed they flouted in the same
manner at the good people who, notwithstanding the contagion, met at the
church, fasted, and prayed to God to remove His hand from them.

I say, they continued this dreadful course three or four days--I think
it was no more--when one of them, particularly he who asked the poor
gentleman what he did out of his grave, was struck from Heaven with the
plague, and died in a most deplorable manner; and, in a word, they were
every one of them carried into the great pit which I have mentioned
above, before it was quite filled up, which was not above a fortnight or

These men were guilty of many extravagances, such as one would think
human nature should have trembled at the thoughts of at such a time
of general terror as was then upon us, and particularly scoffing and
mocking at everything which they happened to see that was religious
among the people, especially at their thronging zealously to the
place of public worship to implore mercy from Heaven in such a time of
distress; and this tavern where they held their dub being within view
of the church-door, they had the more particular occasion for their
atheistical profane mirth.

But this began to abate a little with them before the accident which I
have related happened, for the infection increased so violently at this
part of the town now, that people began to be afraid to come to the
church; at least such numbers did not resort thither as was usual. Many
of the clergymen likewise were dead, and others gone into the country;
for it really required a steady courage and a strong faith for a man not
only to venture being in town at such a time as this, but likewise to
venture to come to church and perform the office of a minister to
a congregation, of whom he had reason to believe many of them were
actually infected with the plague, and to do this every day, or twice a
day, as in some places was done.

It is true the people showed an extraordinary zeal in these religious
exercises, and as the church-doors were always open, people would go
in single at all times, whether the minister was officiating or no,
and locking themselves into separate pews, would be praying to God with
great fervency and devotion.

Others assembled at meeting-houses, every one as their different
opinions in such things guided, but all were promiscuously the subject
of these men's drollery, especially at the beginning of the visitation.

It seems they had been checked for their open insulting religion in this
manner by several good people of every persuasion, and that, and the
violent raging of the infection, I suppose, was the occasion that they
had abated much of their rudeness for some time before, and were only
roused by the spirit of ribaldry and atheism at the clamour which was
made when the gentleman was first brought in there, and perhaps were
agitated by the same devil, when I took upon me to reprove them; though
I did it at first with all the calmness, temper, and good manners that
I could, which for a while they insulted me the more for thinking it
had been in fear of their resentment, though afterwards they found the

I went home, indeed, grieved and afflicted in my mind at the abominable
wickedness of those men, not doubting, however, that they would be made
dreadful examples of God's justice; for I looked upon this dismal time
to be a particular season of Divine vengeance, and that God would on
this occasion single out the proper objects of His displeasure in a more
especial and remarkable manner than at another time; and that though
I did believe that many good people would, and did, fall in the common
calamity, and that it was no certain rule to judge of the eternal
state of any one by their being distinguished in such a time of general
destruction neither one way or other; yet, I say, it could not but seem
reasonable to believe that God would not think fit to spare by His mercy
such open declared enemies, that should insult His name and Being, defy
His vengeance, and mock at His worship and worshippers at such a time;
no, not though His mercy had thought fit to bear with and spare them at
other times; that this was a day of visitation, a day of God's anger,
and those words came into my thought, Jer. v. 9: 'Shall I not visit for
these things? saith the Lord: and shall not My soul be avenged of such a
nation as this?'

These things, I say, lay upon my mind, and I went home very much grieved
and oppressed with the horror of these men's wickedness, and to think
that anything could be so vile, so hardened, and notoriously wicked as
to insult God, and His servants, and His worship in such a manner, and
at such a time as this was, when He had, as it were, His sword drawn in
His hand on purpose to take vengeance not on them only, but on the whole

I had, indeed, been in some passion at first with them--though it was
really raised, not by any affront they had offered me personally, but
by the horror their blaspheming tongues filled me with. However, I was
doubtful in my thoughts whether the resentment I retained was not all
upon my own private account, for they had given me a great deal of ill
language too--I mean personally; but after some pause, and having a
weight of grief upon my mind, I retired myself as soon as I came home,
for I slept not that night; and giving God most humble thanks for
my preservation in the eminent danger I had been in, I set my mind
seriously and with the utmost earnestness to pray for those desperate
wretches, that God would pardon them, open their eyes, and effectually
humble them.

By this I not only did my duty, namely, to pray for those who
despitefully used me, but I fully tried my own heart, to my fun
satisfaction, that it was not filled with any spirit of resentment as
they had offended me in particular; and I humbly recommend the method
to all those that would know, or be certain, how to distinguish between
their zeal for the honour of God and the effects of their private
passions and resentment.

But I must go back here to the particular incidents which occur to my
thoughts of the time of the visitation, and particularly to the time of
their shutting up houses in the first part of their sickness; for before
the sickness was come to its height people had more room to make their
observations than they had afterward; but when it was in the extremity
there was no such thing as communication with one another, as before.

During the shutting up of houses, as I have said, some violence was
offered to the watchmen. As to soldiers, there were none to be found.
The few guards which the king then had, which were nothing like the
number entertained since, were dispersed, either at Oxford with the
Court, or in quarters in the remoter parts of the country, small
detachments excepted, who did duty at the Tower and at Whitehall, and
these but very few. Neither am I positive that there was any other guard
at the Tower than the warders, as they called them, who stand at the
gate with gowns and caps, the same as the yeomen of the guard, except
the ordinary gunners, who were twenty-four, and the officers appointed
to look after the magazine, who were called armourers. As to trained
bands, there was no possibility of raising any; neither, if the
Lieutenancy, either of London or Middlesex, had ordered the drums to
beat for the militia, would any of the companies, I believe, have drawn
together, whatever risk they had run.

This made the watchmen be the less regarded, and perhaps occasioned the
greater violence to be used against them. I mention it on this score to
observe that the setting watchmen thus to keep the people in was, first
of all, not effectual, but that the people broke out, whether by force
or by stratagem, even almost as often as they pleased; and, second, that
those that did thus break out were generally people infected who, in
their desperation, running about from one place to another, valued not
whom they injured: and which perhaps, as I have said, might give birth
to report that it was natural to the infected people to desire to infect
others, which report was really false.

And I know it so well, and in so many several cases, that I could give
several relations of good, pious, and religious people who, when they
have had the distemper, have been so far from being forward to infect
others that they have forbid their own family to come near them, in
hopes of their being preserved, and have even died without seeing their
nearest relations lest they should be instrumental to give them the
distemper, and infect or endanger them. If, then, there were cases
wherein the infected people were careless of the injury they did to
others, this was certainly one of them, if not the chief, namely, when
people who had the distemper had broken out from houses which were so
shut up, and having been driven to extremities for provision or for
entertainment, had endeavoured to conceal their condition, and have
been thereby instrumental involuntarily to infect others who have been
ignorant and unwary.

This is one of the reasons why I believed then, and do believe still,
that the shutting up houses thus by force, and restraining, or rather
imprisoning, people in their own houses, as I said above, was of little
or no service in the whole. Nay, I am of opinion it was rather hurtful,
having forced those desperate people to wander abroad with the plague
upon them, who would otherwise have died quietly in their beds.

I remember one citizen who, having thus broken out of his house in
Aldersgate Street or thereabout, went along the road to Islington; he
attempted to have gone in at the Angel Inn, and after that the White
Horse, two inns known still by the same signs, but was refused; after
which he came to the Pied Bull, an inn also still continuing the same
sign. He asked them for lodging for one night only, pretending to be
going into Lincolnshire, and assuring them of his being very sound and
free from the infection, which also at that time had not reached much
that way.

They told him they had no lodging that they could spare but one bed up
in the garret, and that they could spare that bed for one night, some
drovers being expected the next day with cattle; so, if he would accept
of that lodging, he might have it, which he did. So a servant was
sent up with a candle with him to show him the room. He was very well
dressed, and looked like a person not used to lie in a garret; and when
he came to the room he fetched a deep sigh, and said to the servant,
'I have seldom lain in such a lodging as this. 'However, the servant
assuring him again that they had no better, 'Well,' says he, 'I must
make shift; this is a dreadful time; but it is but for one night.' So he
sat down upon the bedside, and bade the maid, I think it was, fetch him
up a pint of warm ale. Accordingly the servant went for the ale, but
some hurry in the house, which perhaps employed her other ways, put it
out of her head, and she went up no more to him.

The next morning, seeing no appearance of the gentleman, somebody in the
house asked the servant that had showed him upstairs what was become of
him. She started. 'Alas I,' says she, 'I never thought more of him. He
bade me carry him some warm ale, but I forgot.' Upon which, not the
maid, but some other person was sent up to see after him, who, coming
into the room, found him stark dead and almost cold, stretched out
across the bed. His clothes were pulled off, his jaw fallen, his eyes
open in a most frightful posture, the rug of the bed being grasped hard
in one of his hands, so that it was plain he died soon after the maid
left him; and 'tis probable, had she gone up with the ale, she had found
him dead in a few minutes after he sat down upon the bed. The alarm was
great in the house, as anyone may suppose, they having been free from
the distemper till that disaster, which, bringing the infection to the
house, spread it immediately to other houses round about it. I do not
remember how many died in the house itself, but I think the maid-servant
who went up first with him fell presently ill by the fright, and several
others; for, whereas there died but two in Islington of the plague the
week before, there died seventeen the week after, whereof fourteen were
of the plague. This was in the week from the 11th of July to the 18th.

There was one shift that some families had, and that not a few, when
their houses happened to be infected, and that was this: the families
who, in the first breaking-out of the distemper, fled away into the
country and had retreats among their friends, generally found some or
other of their neighbours or relations to commit the charge of those
houses to for the safety of the goods and the like. Some houses were,
indeed, entirely locked up, the doors padlocked, the windows and doors
having deal boards nailed over them, and only the inspection of them
committed to the ordinary watchmen and parish officers; but these were
but few.

It was thought that there were not less than 10,000 houses forsaken
of the inhabitants in the city and suburbs, including what was in
the out-parishes and in Surrey, or the side of the water they called
Southwark. This was besides the numbers of lodgers, and of particular
persons who were fled out of other families; so that in all it was
computed that about 200,000 people were fled and gone. But of this I
shall speak again. But I mention it here on this account, namely, that
it was a rule with those who had thus two houses in their keeping or
care, that if anybody was taken sick in a family, before the master
of the family let the examiners or any other officer know of it, he
immediately would send all the rest of his family, whether children or
servants, as it fell out to be, to such other house which he had so in
charge, and then giving notice of the sick person to the examiner, have
a nurse or nurses appointed, and have another person to be shut up in
the house with them (which many for money would do), so to take charge
of the house in case the person should die.

This was, in many cases, the saving a whole family, who, if they had
been shut up with the sick person, would inevitably have perished. But,
on the other hand, this was another of the inconveniences of shutting up
houses; for the apprehensions and terror of being shut up made many run
away with the rest of the family, who, though it was not publicly known,
and they were not quite sick, had yet the distemper upon them; and who,
by having an uninterrupted liberty to go about, but being obliged still
to conceal their circumstances, or perhaps not knowing it themselves,
gave the distemper to others, and spread the infection in a dreadful
manner, as I shall explain further hereafter.

And here I may be able to make an observation or two of my own, which
may be of use hereafter to those into whose bands these may come, if
they should ever see the like dreadful visitation. (1) The infection
generally came into the houses of the citizens by the means of their
servants, whom they were obliged to send up and down the streets
for necessaries; that is to say, for food or physic, to bakehouses,
brew-houses, shops, &c.; and who going necessarily through the streets
into shops, markets, and the like, it was impossible but that they
should, one way or other, meet with distempered people, who conveyed
the fatal breath into them, and they brought it home to the families to
which they belonged. (2) It was a great mistake that such a great city
as this had but one pest-house; for had there been, instead of one
pest-house--viz., beyond Bunhill Fields, where, at most, they could
receive, perhaps, two hundred or three hundred people--I say, had there,
instead of that one, been several pest-houses, every one able to contain
a thousand people, without lying two in a bed, or two beds in a room;
and had every master of a family, as soon as any servant especially
had been taken sick in his house, been obliged to send them to the next
pest-house, if they were willing, as many were, and had the examiners
done the like among the poor people when any had been stricken with the
infection; I say, had this been done where the people were willing (not
otherwise), and the houses not been shut, I am persuaded, and was all
the while of that opinion, that not so many, by several thousands, had
died; for it was observed, and I could give several instances within the
compass of my own knowledge, where a servant had been taken sick, and
the family had either time to send him out or retire from the house
and leave the sick person, as I have said above, they had all been
preserved; whereas when, upon one or more sickening in a family, the
house has been shut up, the whole family have perished, and the bearers
been obliged to go in to fetch out the dead bodies, not being able to
bring them to the door, and at last none left to do it.

(3) This put it out of question to me, that the calamity was spread by
infection; that is to say, by some certain steams or fumes, which the
physicians call effluvia, by the breath, or by the sweat, or by the
stench of the sores of the sick persons, or some other way, perhaps,
beyond even the reach of the physicians themselves, which effluvia
affected the sound who came within certain distances of the sick,
immediately penetrating the vital parts of the said sound persons,
putting their blood into an immediate ferment, and agitating their
spirits to that degree which it was found they were agitated; and so
those newly infected persons communicated it in the same manner to
others. And this I shall give some instances of, that cannot but
convince those who seriously consider it; and I cannot but with some
wonder find some people, now the contagion is over, talk of its being
an immediate stroke from Heaven, without the agency of means, having
commission to strike this and that particular person, and none
other--which I look upon with contempt as the effect of manifest
ignorance and enthusiasm; likewise the opinion of others, who talk of
infection being carried on by the air only, by carrying with it vast
numbers of insects and invisible creatures, who enter into the body with
the breath, or even at the pores with the air, and there generate
or emit most acute poisons, or poisonous ovae or eggs, which mingle
themselves with the blood, and so infect the body: a discourse full of
learned simplicity, and manifested to be so by universal experience; but
I shall say more to this case in its order.

I must here take further notice that nothing was more fatal to the
inhabitants of this city than the supine negligence of the people
themselves, who, during the long notice or warning they had of the
visitation, made no provision for it by laying in store of provisions,
or of other necessaries, by which they might have lived retired and
within their own houses, as I have observed others did, and who were
in a great measure preserved by that caution; nor were they, after they
were a little hardened to it, so shy of conversing with one another,
when actually infected, as they were at first: no, though they knew it.

I acknowledge I was one of those thoughtless ones that had made so
little provision that my servants were obliged to go out of doors to buy
every trifle by penny and halfpenny, just as before it began, even till
my experience showing me the folly, I began to be wiser so late that I
had scarce time to store myself sufficient for our common subsistence
for a month.

I had in family only an ancient woman that managed the house, a
maid-servant, two apprentices, and myself; and the plague beginning to
increase about us, I had many sad thoughts about what course I should
take, and how I should act. The many dismal objects which happened
everywhere as I went about the streets, had filled my mind with a great
deal of horror for fear of the distemper, which was indeed very horrible
in itself, and in some more than in others. The swellings, which were
generally in the neck or groin, when they grew hard and would not break,
grew so painful that it was equal to the most exquisite torture; and
some, not able to bear the torment, threw themselves out at windows or
shot themselves, or otherwise made themselves away, and I saw several
dismal objects of that kind. Others, unable to contain themselves,
vented their pain by incessant roarings, and such loud and lamentable
cries were to be heard as we walked along the streets that would pierce
the very heart to think of, especially when it was to be considered that
the same dreadful scourge might be expected every moment to seize upon

I cannot say but that now I began to faint in my resolutions; my heart
failed me very much, and sorely I repented of my rashness. When I had
been out, and met with such terrible things as these I have talked of, I
say I repented my rashness in venturing to abide in town. I wished often
that I had not taken upon me to stay, but had gone away with my brother
and his family.

Terrified by those frightful objects, I would retire home sometimes and
resolve to go out no more; and perhaps I would keep those resolutions
for three or four days, which time I spent in the most serious
thankfulness for my preservation and the preservation of my family, and
the constant confession of my sins, giving myself up to God every day,
and applying to Him with fasting, humiliation, and meditation. Such
intervals as I had I employed in reading books and in writing down
my memorandums of what occurred to me every day, and out of which
afterwards I took most of this work, as it relates to my observations
without doors. What I wrote of my private meditations I reserve for
private use, and desire it may not be made public on any account

I also wrote other meditations upon divine subjects, such as occurred to
me at that time and were profitable to myself, but not fit for any other
view, and therefore I say no more of that.

I had a very good friend, a physician, whose name was Heath, whom I
frequently visited during this dismal time, and to whose advice I was
very much obliged for many things which he directed me to take, by way
of preventing the infection when I went out, as he found I frequently
did, and to hold in my mouth when I was in the streets. He also came
very often to see me, and as he was a good Christian as well as a good
physician, his agreeable conversation was a very great support to me in
the worst of this terrible time.

It was now the beginning of August, and the plague grew very violent and
terrible in the place where I lived, and Dr Heath coming to visit me,
and finding that I ventured so often out in the streets, earnestly
persuaded me to lock myself up and my family, and not to suffer any
of us to go out of doors; to keep all our windows fast, shutters and
curtains close, and never to open them; but first, to make a very strong
smoke in the room where the window or door was to be opened, with rozen
and pitch, brimstone or gunpowder and the like; and we did this for some
time; but as I had not laid in a store of provision for such a retreat,
it was impossible that we could keep within doors entirely. However, I
attempted, though it was so very late, to do something towards it; and
first, as I had convenience both for brewing and baking, I went and
bought two sacks of meal, and for several weeks, having an oven, we
baked all our own bread; also I bought malt, and brewed as much beer
as all the casks I had would hold, and which seemed enough to serve my
house for five or six weeks; also I laid in a quantity of salt butter
and Cheshire cheese; but I had no flesh-meat, and the plague raged so
violently among the butchers and slaughter-houses on the other side of
our street, where they are known to dwell in great numbers, that it was
not advisable so much as to go over the street among them.

And here I must observe again, that this necessity of going out of our
houses to buy provisions was in a great measure the ruin of the whole
city, for the people catched the distemper on these occasions one of
another, and even the provisions themselves were often tainted; at
least I have great reason to believe so; and therefore I cannot say
with satisfaction what I know is repeated with great assurance, that
the market-people and such as brought provisions to town were never
infected. I am certain the butchers of Whitechappel, where the greatest
part of the flesh-meat was killed, were dreadfully visited, and that at
least to such a degree that few of their shops were kept open, and those
that remained of them killed their meat at Mile End and that way, and
brought it to market upon horses.

However, the poor people could not lay up provisions, and there was
a necessity that they must go to market to buy, and others to send
servants or their children; and as this was a necessity which renewed
itself daily, it brought abundance of unsound people to the markets, and
a great many that went thither sound brought death home with them.

It is true people used all possible precaution. When any one bought a
joint of meat in the market they would not take it off the butcher's
hand, but took it off the hooks themselves. On the other hand, the
butcher would not touch the money, but have it put into a pot full of
vinegar, which he kept for that purpose. The buyer carried always small
money to make up any odd sum, that they might take no change. They
carried bottles of scents and perfumes in their hands, and all the means
that could be used were used, but then the poor could not do even these
things, and they went at all hazards.

Innumerable dismal stories we heard every day on this very account.
Sometimes a man or woman dropped down dead in the very markets, for many
people that had the plague upon them knew nothing of it till the inward
gangrene had affected their vitals, and they died in a few moments. This
caused that many died frequently in that manner in the streets suddenly,
without any warning; others perhaps had time to go to the next bulk or
stall, or to any door-porch, and just sit down and die, as I have said

These objects were so frequent in the streets that when the plague
came to be very raging on one side, there was scarce any passing by the
streets but that several dead bodies would be lying here and there upon
the ground. On the other hand, it is observable that though at first the
people would stop as they went along and call to the neighbours to come
out on such an occasion, yet afterward no notice was taken of them; but
that if at any time we found a corpse lying, go across the way and not
come near it; or, if in a narrow lane or passage, go back again and seek
some other way to go on the business we were upon; and in those cases
the corpse was always left till the officers had notice to come and take
them away, or till night, when the bearers attending the dead-cart would
take them up and carry them away. Nor did those undaunted creatures
who performed these offices fail to search their pockets, and sometimes
strip off their clothes if they were well dressed, as sometimes they
were, and carry off what they could get.

But to return to the markets. The butchers took that care that if any
person died in the market they had the officers always at band to take
them up upon hand-barrows and carry them to the next churchyard; and
this was so frequent that such were not entered in the weekly bill,
'Found dead in the streets or fields', as is the case now, but they went
into the general articles of the great distemper.

But now the fury of the distemper increased to such a degree that even
the markets were but very thinly furnished with provisions or frequented
with buyers compared to what they were before; and the Lord Mayor caused
the country people who brought provisions to be stopped in the streets
leading into the town, and to sit down there with their goods, where
they sold what they brought, and went immediately away; and this
encouraged the country people greatly-to do so, for they sold their
provisions at the very entrances into the town, and even in the fields,
as particularly in the fields beyond Whitechappel, in Spittlefields;
also in St George's Fields in Southwark, in Bunhill Fields, and in a
great field called Wood's Close, near Islington. Thither the Lord Mayor,
aldermen, and magistrates sent their officers and servants to buy for
their families, themselves keeping within doors as much as possible,
and the like did many other people; and after this method was taken the
country people came with great cheerfulness, and brought provisions of
all sorts, and very seldom got any harm, which, I suppose, added also to
that report of their being miraculously preserved.

As for my little family, having thus, as I have said, laid in a store
of bread, butter, cheese, and beer, I took my friend and physician's
advice, and locked myself up, and my family, and resolved to suffer
the hardship of living a few months without flesh-meat, rather than to
purchase it at the hazard of our lives.

But though I confined my family, I could not prevail upon my unsatisfied
curiosity to stay within entirely myself; and though I generally came
frighted and terrified home, vet I could not restrain; only that indeed
I did not do it so frequently as at first.

I had some little obligations, indeed, upon me to go to my brother's
house, which was in Coleman Street parish and which he had left to my
care, and I went at first every day, but afterwards only once or twice a

In these walks I had many dismal scenes before my eyes, as particularly
of persons falling dead in the streets, terrible shrieks and screechings
of women, who, in their agonies, would throw open their chamber windows
and cry out in a dismal, surprising manner. It is impossible to describe
the variety of postures in which the passions of the poor people would
express themselves.

Passing through Tokenhouse Yard, in Lothbury, of a sudden a casement
violently opened just over my head, and a woman gave three frightful
screeches, and then cried, 'Oh! death, death, death!' in a most
inimitable tone, and which struck me with horror and a chillness in my
very blood. There was nobody to be seen in the whole street, neither did
any other window open, for people had no curiosity now in any case, nor
could anybody help one another, so I went on to pass into Bell Alley.

Just in Bell Alley, on the right hand of the passage, there was a more
terrible cry than that, though it was not so directed out at the window;
but the whole family was in a terrible fright, and I could hear women
and children run screaming about the rooms like distracted, when a
garret-window opened and somebody from a window on the other side the
alley called and asked, 'What is the matter?' upon which, from the first
window, it was answered, 'Oh Lord, my old master has hanged himself!'
The other asked again, 'Is he quite dead?' and the first answered, 'Ay,
ay, quite dead; quite dead and cold!' This person was a merchant and a
deputy alderman, and very rich. I care not to mention the name, though I
knew his name too, but that would be an hardship to the family, which is
now flourishing again.

But this is but one; it is scarce credible what dreadful cases happened
in particular families every day. People in the rage of the distemper,
or in the torment of their swellings, which was indeed intolerable,
running out of their own government, raving and distracted, and
oftentimes laying violent hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out
at their windows, shooting themselves &c.; mothers murdering their
own children in their lunacy, some dying of mere grief as a passion,
some of mere fright and surprise without any infection at all, others
frighted into idiotism and foolish distractions, some into despair and
lunacy, others into melancholy madness.

The pain of the swelling was in particular very violent, and to some
intolerable; the physicians and surgeons may be said to have tortured
many poor creatures even to death. The swellings in some grew hard, and
they applied violent drawing-plaisters or poultices to break them, and
if these did not do they cut and scarified them in a terrible manner. In
some those swellings were made hard partly by the force of the distemper
and partly by their being too violently drawn, and were so hard that no
instrument could cut them, and then they burnt them with caustics,
so that many died raving mad with the torment, and some in the very
operation. In these distresses, some, for want of help to hold them down
in their beds, or to look to them, laid hands upon themselves as above.
Some broke out into the streets, perhaps naked, and would run directly
down to the river if they were not stopped by the watchman or other
officers, and plunge themselves into the water wherever they found it.

It often pierced my very soul to hear the groans and cries of those who
were thus tormented, but of the two this was counted the most promising
particular in the whole infection, for if these swellings could be
brought to a head, and to break and run, or, as the surgeons call it,
to digest, the patient generally recovered; whereas those who, like the
gentlewoman's daughter, were struck with death at the beginning, and had
the tokens come out upon them, often went about indifferent easy till a
little before they died, and some till the moment they dropped down,
as in apoplexies and epilepsies is often the case. Such would be taken
suddenly very sick, and would run to a bench or bulk, or any convenient
place that offered itself, or to their own houses if possible, as I
mentioned before, and there sit down, grow faint, and die. This kind
of dying was much the same as it was with those who die of common
mortifications, who die swooning, and, as it were, go away in a dream.
Such as died thus had very little notice of their being infected at
all till the gangrene was spread through their whole body; nor could
physicians themselves know certainly how it was with them till they
opened their breasts or other parts of their body and saw the tokens.

We had at this time a great many frightful stories told us of nurses and
watchmen who looked after the dying people; that is to say, hired nurses
who attended infected people, using them barbarously, starving them,
smothering them, or by other wicked means hastening their end, that is
to say, murdering of them; and watchmen, being set to guard houses that
were shut up when there has been but one person left, and perhaps that
one lying sick, that they have broke in and murdered that body, and
immediately thrown them out into the dead-cart! And so they have gone
scarce cold to the grave.

I cannot say but that some such murders were committed, and I think two
were sent to prison for it, but died before they could be tried; and I
have heard that three others, at several times, were excused for murders
of that kind; but I must say I believe nothing of its being so common a
crime as some have since been pleased to say, nor did it seem to be so
rational where the people were brought so low as not to be able to help
themselves, for such seldom recovered, and there was no temptation to
commit a murder, at least none equal to the fact, where they were sure
persons would die in so short a time, and could not live.

That there were a great many robberies and wicked practices committed
even in this dreadful time I do not deny. The power of avarice was so
strong in some that they would run any hazard to steal and to plunder;
and particularly in houses where all the families or inhabitants have
been dead and carried out, they would break in at all hazards, and
without regard to the danger of infection, take even the clothes off the
dead bodies and the bed-clothes from others where they lay dead.

This, I suppose, must be the case of a family in Houndsditch, where
a man and his daughter, the rest of the family being, as I suppose,
carried away before by the dead-cart, were found stark naked, one in one
chamber and one in another, lying dead on the floor, and the clothes
of the beds, from whence 'tis supposed they were rolled off by thieves,
stolen and carried quite away.

It is indeed to be observed that the women were in all this calamity
the most rash, fearless, and desperate creatures, and as there were vast
numbers that went about as nurses to tend those that were sick, they
committed a great many petty thieveries in the houses where they were
employed; and some of them were publicly whipped for it, when perhaps
they ought rather to have been hanged for examples, for numbers of
houses were robbed on these occasions, till at length the parish
officers were sent to recommend nurses to the sick, and always took
an account whom it was they sent, so as that they might call them to
account if the house had been abused where they were placed.

But these robberies extended chiefly to wearing-clothes, linen, and what
rings or money they could come at when the person died who was under
their care, but not to a general plunder of the houses; and I could give
you an account of one of these nurses, who, several years after, being
on her deathbed, confessed with the utmost horror the robberies she
had committed at the time of her being a nurse, and by which she had
enriched herself to a great degree. But as for murders, I do not find
that there was ever any proof of the facts in the manner as it has been
reported, except as above.

They did tell me, indeed, of a nurse in one place that laid a wet cloth
upon the face of a dying patient whom she tended, and so put an end to
his life, who was just expiring before; and another that smothered a
young woman she was looking to when she was in a fainting fit, and would
have come to herself; some that killed them by giving them one thing,
some another, and some starved them by giving them nothing at all. But
these stories had two marks of suspicion that always attended them,
which caused me always to slight them and to look on them as mere
stories that people continually frighted one another with. First, that
wherever it was that we heard it, they always placed the scene at the
farther end of the town, opposite or most remote from where you were to
hear it. If you heard it in Whitechappel, it had happened at St Giles's,
or at Westminster, or Holborn, or that end of the town. If you heard
of it at that end of the town, then it was done in Whitechappel, or the
Minories, or about Cripplegate parish. If you heard of it in the city,
why, then it happened in Southwark; and if you heard of it in Southwark,
then it was done in the city, and the like.

In the next place, of what part soever you heard the story, the
particulars were always the same, especially that of laying a wet double
clout on a dying man's face, and that of smothering a young gentlewoman;
so that it was apparent, at least to my judgement, that there was more
of tale than of truth in those things.

However, I cannot say but it had some effect upon the people, and
particularly that, as I said before, they grew more cautious whom they
took into their houses, and whom they trusted their lives with, and had
them always recommended if they could; and where they could not
find such, for they were not very plenty, they applied to the parish

But here again the misery of that time lay upon the poor who, being
infected, had neither food or physic, neither physician or apothecary
to assist them, or nurse to attend them. Many of those died calling for
help, and even for sustenance, out at their windows in a most miserable
and deplorable manner; but it must be added that whenever the cases of
such persons or families were represented to my Lord Mayor they always
were relieved.

It is true, in some houses where the people were not very poor, yet
where they had sent perhaps their wives and children away, and if they
had any servants they had been dismissed;--I say it is true that to
save the expenses, many such as these shut themselves in, and not having
help, died alone.

A neighbour and acquaintance of mine, having some money owing to
him from a shopkeeper in Whitecross Street or thereabouts, sent his
apprentice, a youth about eighteen years of age, to endeavour to get the
money. He came to the door, and finding it shut, knocked pretty hard;
and, as he thought, heard somebody answer within, but was not sure, so
he waited, and after some stay knocked again, and then a third time,
when he heard somebody coming downstairs.

At length the man of the house came to the door; he had on his breeches
or drawers, and a yellow flannel waistcoat, no stockings, a pair of
slipped-shoes, a white cap on his head, and, as the young man said,
'death in his face'.

When he opened the door, says he, 'What do you disturb me thus for?' The
boy, though a little surprised, replied, 'I come from such a one, and
my master sent me for the money which he says you know of.' 'Very well,
child,' returns the living ghost; 'call as you go by at Cripplegate
Church, and bid them ring the bell'; and with these words shut the door
again, and went up again, and died the same day; nay, perhaps the same
hour. This the young man told me himself, and I have reason to believe
it. This was while the plague was not come to a height. I think it was
in June, towards the latter end of the month; it must be before the
dead-carts came about, and while they used the ceremony of ringing the
bell for the dead, which was over for certain, in that parish at least,
before the month of July, for by the 25th of July there died 550 and
upwards in a week, and then they could no more bury in form, rich or

I have mentioned above that notwithstanding this dreadful calamity, yet
the numbers of thieves were abroad upon all occasions, where they had
found any prey, and that these were generally women. It was one morning
about eleven O'clock, I had walked out to my brother's house in Coleman
Street parish, as I often did, to see that all was safe.

My brother's house had a little court before it, and a brick wall and
a gate in it, and within that several warehouses where his goods of
several sorts lay. It happened that in one of these warehouses were
several packs of women's high-crowned hats, which came out of the
country and were, as I suppose, for exportation: whither, I know not.

I was surprised that when I came near my brother's door, which was in
a place they called Swan Alley, I met three or four women with
high-crowned hats on their heads; and, as I remembered afterwards, one,
if not more, had some hats likewise in their hands; but as I did not see
them come out at my brother's door, and not knowing that my brother
had any such goods in his warehouse, I did not offer to say anything to
them, but went across the way to shun meeting them, as was usual to do
at that time, for fear of the plague. But when I came nearer to the gate
I met another woman with more hats come out of the gate. 'What business,
mistress,' said I, 'have you had there?' 'There are more people there,'
said she; 'I have had no more business there than they.' I was hasty to
get to the gate then, and said no more to her, by which means she got
away. But just as I came to the gate, I saw two more coming across the
yard to come out with hats also on their heads and under their arms, at
which I threw the gate to behind me, which having a spring lock fastened
itself; and turning to the women, 'Forsooth,' said I, 'what are you
doing here?' and seized upon the hats, and took them from them. One of
them, who, I confess, did not look like a thief--'Indeed,' says she,
'we are wrong, but we were told they were goods that had no owner.
Be pleased to take them again; and look yonder, there are more such
customers as we.' She cried and looked pitifully, so I took the hats
from her and opened the gate, and bade them be gone, for I pitied the
women indeed; but when I looked towards the warehouse, as she directed,
there were six or seven more, all women, fitting themselves with hats as
unconcerned and quiet as if they had been at a hatter's shop buying for
their money.

I was surprised, not at the sight of so many thieves only, but at the
circumstances I was in; being now to thrust myself in among so many
people, who for some weeks had been so shy of myself that if I met
anybody in the street I would cross the way from them.

They were equally surprised, though on another account. They all told me
they were neighbours, that they had heard anyone might take them, that
they were nobody's goods, and the like. I talked big to them at first,
went back to the gate and took out the key, so that they were all my
prisoners, threatened to lock them all into the warehouse, and go and
fetch my Lord Mayor's officers for them.

They begged heartily, protested they found the gate open, and the
warehouse door open; and that it had no doubt been broken open by some
who expected to find goods of greater value: which indeed was reasonable
to believe, because the lock was broke, and a padlock that hung to the
door on the outside also loose, and not abundance of the hats carried

At length I considered that this was not a time to be cruel and
rigorous; and besides that, it would necessarily oblige me to go much
about, to have several people come to me, and I go to several whose
circumstances of health I knew nothing of; and that even at this time
the plague was so high as that there died 4000 a week; so that in
showing my resentment, or even in seeking justice for my brother's
goods, I might lose my own life; so I contented myself with taking the
names and places where some of them lived, who were really inhabitants
in the neighbourhood, and threatening that my brother should call them
to an account for it when he returned to his habitation.

Then I talked a little upon another foot with them, and asked them how
they could do such things as these in a time of such general calamity,
and, as it were, in the face of God's most dreadful judgements, when the
plague was at their very doors, and, it may be, in their very houses,
and they did not know but that the dead-cart might stop at their doors
in a few hours to carry them to their graves.

I could not perceive that my discourse made much impression upon
them all that while, till it happened that there came two men of the
neighbourhood, hearing of the disturbance, and knowing my brother,
for they had been both dependents upon his family, and they came to my
assistance. These being, as I said, neighbours, presently knew three of
the women and told me who they were and where they lived; and it seems
they had given me a true account of themselves before.

This brings these two men to a further remembrance. The name of one
was John Hayward, who was at that time undersexton of the parish of
St Stephen, Coleman Street. By undersexton was understood at that time
gravedigger and bearer of the dead. This man carried, or assisted to
carry, all the dead to their graves which were buried in that large
parish, and who were carried in form; and after that form of burying was
stopped, went with the dead-cart and the bell to fetch the dead bodies
from the houses where they lay, and fetched many of them out of the
chambers and houses; for the parish was, and is still, remarkable
particularly, above all the parishes in London, for a great number of
alleys and thoroughfares, very long, into which no carts could come,
and where they were obliged to go and fetch the bodies a very long way;
which alleys now remain to witness it, such as White's Alley, Cross Key
Court, Swan Alley, Bell Alley, White Horse Alley, and many more. Here
they went with a kind of hand-barrow and laid the dead bodies on it, and
carried them out to the carts; which work he performed and never had the
distemper at all, but lived about twenty years after it, and was sexton
of the parish to the time of his death. His wife at the same time was a
nurse to infected people, and tended many that died in the parish, being
for her honesty recommended by the parish officers; yet she never was
infected neither.

He never used any preservative against the infection, other than holding
garlic and rue in his mouth, and smoking tobacco. This I also had from
his own mouth. And his wife's remedy was washing her head in vinegar
and sprinkling her head-clothes so with vinegar as to keep them always
moist, and if the smell of any of those she waited on was more than
ordinary offensive, she snuffed vinegar up her nose and sprinkled
vinegar upon her head-clothes, and held a handkerchief wetted with
vinegar to her mouth.

It must be confessed that though the plague was chiefly among the poor,
yet were the poor the most venturous and fearless of it, and went about
their employment with a sort of brutal courage; I must call it so, for
it was founded neither on religion nor prudence; scarce did they use any
caution, but ran into any business which they could get employment in,
though it was the most hazardous. Such was that of tending the sick,
watching houses shut up, carrying infected persons to the pest-house,
and, which was still worse, carrying the dead away to their graves.

It was under this John Hayward's care, and within his bounds, that the
story of the piper, with which people have made themselves so merry,
happened, and he assured me that it was true. It is said that it was
a blind piper; but, as John told me, the fellow was not blind, but
an ignorant, weak, poor man, and usually walked his rounds about ten
o'clock at night and went piping along from door to door, and the people
usually took him in at public-houses where they knew him, and would give
him drink and victuals, and sometimes farthings; and he in return would
pipe and sing and talk simply, which diverted the people; and thus he
lived. It was but a very bad time for this diversion while things were
as I have told, yet the poor fellow went about as usual, but was almost
starved; and when anybody asked how he did he would answer, the dead
cart had not taken him yet, but that they had promised to call for him
next week.

It happened one night that this poor fellow, whether somebody had given
him too much drink or no--John Hayward said he had not drink in his
house, but that they had given him a little more victuals than ordinary
at a public-house in Coleman Street--and the poor fellow, having not
usually had a bellyful for perhaps not a good while, was laid all along
upon the top of a bulk or stall, and fast asleep, at a door in the
street near London Wall, towards Cripplegate-, and that upon the same
bulk or stall the people of some house, in the alley of which the house
was a corner, hearing a bell which they always rang before the cart
came, had laid a body really dead of the plague just by him, thinking,
too, that this poor fellow had been a dead body, as the other was, and
laid there by some of the neighbours.

Accordingly, when John Hayward with his bell and the cart came along,
finding two dead bodies lie upon the stall, they took them up with the
instrument they used and threw them into the cart, and, all this while
the piper slept soundly.

From hence they passed along and took in other dead bodies, till, as
honest John Hayward told me, they almost buried him alive in the cart;
yet all this while he slept soundly. At length the cart came to the
place where the bodies were to be thrown into the ground, which, as I do
remember, was at Mount Mill; and as the cart usually stopped some time
before they were ready to shoot out the melancholy load they had in it,
as soon as the cart stopped the fellow awaked and struggled a little to
get his head out from among the dead bodies, when, raising himself up
in the cart, he called out, 'Hey! where am I?' This frighted the
fellow that attended about the work; but after some pause John Hayward,
recovering himself, said, 'Lord, bless us! There's somebody in the cart
not quite dead!' So another called to him and said, 'Who are you?' The
fellow answered, 'I am the poor piper. Where am I?' 'Where are you?'
says Hayward. 'Why, you are in the dead-cart, and we are going to bury
you.' 'But I an't dead though, am I?' says the piper, which made them
laugh a little though, as John said, they were heartily frighted at
first; so they helped the poor fellow down, and he went about his

I know the story goes he set up his pipes in the cart and frighted the
bearers and others so that they ran away; but John Hayward did not tell
the story so, nor say anything of his piping at all; but that he was a
poor piper, and that he was carried away as above I am fully satisfied
of the truth of.

It is to be noted here that the dead-carts in the city were not confined
to particular parishes, but one cart went through several parishes,
according as the number of dead presented; nor were they tied to carry
the dead to their respective parishes, but many of the dead taken up in
the city were carried to the burying-ground in the out-parts for want of

I have already mentioned the surprise that this judgement was at first
among the people. I must be allowed to give some of my observations on
the more serious and religious part. Surely never city, at least of this
bulk and magnitude, was taken in a condition so perfectly unprepared
for such a dreadful visitation, whether I am to speak of the civil
preparations or religious. They were, indeed, as if they had had no
warning, no expectation, no apprehensions, and consequently the least
provision imaginable was made for it in a public way. For example, the
Lord Mayor and sheriffs had made no provision as magistrates for the
regulations which were to be observed. They had gone into no measures
for relief of the poor. The citizens had no public magazines or
storehouses for corn or meal for the subsistence of the poor, which
if they had provided themselves, as in such cases is done abroad, many
miserable families who were now reduced to the utmost distress would
have been relieved, and that in a better manner than now could be done.

The stock of the city's money I can say but little to. The Chamber of
London was said to be exceedingly rich, and it may be concluded that
they were so, by the vast of money issued from thence in the rebuilding
the public edifices after the fire of London, and in building new works,
such as, for the first part, the Guildhall, Blackwell Hall, part of
Leadenhall, half the Exchange, the Session House, the Compter, the
prisons of Ludgate, Newgate, &c., several of the wharfs and stairs
and landing-places on the river; all which were either burned down or
damaged by the great fire of London, the next year after the plague; and
of the second sort, the Monument, Fleet Ditch with its bridges, and
the Hospital of Bethlem or Bedlam, &c. But possibly the managers of the
city's credit at that time made more conscience of breaking in upon
the orphan's money to show charity to the distressed citizens than the
managers in the following years did to beautify the city and re-edify
the buildings; though, in the first case, the losers would have thought
their fortunes better bestowed, and the public faith of the city have
been less subjected to scandal and reproach.

It must be acknowledged that the absent citizens, who, though they were
fled for safety into the country, were yet greatly interested in
the welfare of those whom they left behind, forgot not to contribute
liberally to the relief of the poor, and large sums were also collected
among trading towns in the remotest parts of England; and, as I have
heard also, the nobility and the gentry in all parts of England took the
deplorable condition of the city into their consideration, and sent up
large sums of money in charity to the Lord Mayor and magistrates for
the relief of the poor. The king also, as I was told, ordered a thousand
pounds a week to be distributed in four parts: one quarter to the city
and liberty of Westminster; one quarter or part among the inhabitants
of the Southwark side of the water; one quarter to the liberty and
parts within of the city, exclusive of the city within the walls; and
one-fourth part to the suburbs in the county of Middlesex, and the
east and north parts of the city. But this latter I only speak of as a

Certain it is, the greatest part of the poor or families who formerly
lived by their labour, or by retail trade, lived now on charity; and had
there not been prodigious sums of money given by charitable, well-minded
Christians for the support of such, the city could never have subsisted.
There were, no question, accounts kept of their charity, and of the just
distribution of it by the magistrates. But as such multitudes of those
very officers died through whose hands it was distributed, and also
that, as I have been told, most of the accounts of those things were
lost in the great fire which happened in the very next year, and which
burnt even the chamberlain's office and many of their papers, so I could
never come at the particular account, which I used great endeavours to
have seen.

It may, however, be a direction in case of the approach of a like
visitation, which God keep the city from;--I say, it may be of use to
observe that by the care of the Lord Mayor and aldermen at that time
in distributing weekly great sums of money for relief of the poor, a
multitude of people who would otherwise have perished, were relieved,
and their lives preserved. And here let me enter into a brief state of
the case of the poor at that time, and what way apprehended from them,
from whence may be judged hereafter what may be expected if the like
distress should come upon the city.

At the beginning of the plague, when there was now no more hope but
that the whole city would be visited; when, as I have said, all that had
friends or estates in the country retired with their families; and when,
indeed, one would have thought the very city itself was running out of
the gates, and that there would be nobody left behind; you may be
sure from that hour all trade, except such as related to immediate
subsistence, was, as it were, at a full stop.

This is so lively a case, and contains in it so much of the real
condition of the people, that I think I cannot be too particular in it,
and therefore I descend to the several arrangements or classes of people
who fell into immediate distress upon this occasion. For example:

1. All master-workmen in manufactures, especially such as belonged to
ornament and the less necessary parts of the people's dress, clothes,
and furniture for houses, such as riband-weavers and other weavers, gold
and silver lace makers, and gold and silver wire drawers, sempstresses,
milliners, shoemakers, hatmakers, and glovemakers; also upholsterers,
joiners, cabinet-makers, looking-glass makers, and innumerable trades
which depend upon such as these;--I say, the master-workmen in such
stopped their work, dismissed their journeymen and workmen, and all
their dependents.

2. As merchandising was at a full stop, for very few ships ventured to
come up the river and none at all went out, so all the extraordinary
officers of the customs, likewise the watermen, carmen, porters, and
all the poor whose labour depended upon the merchants, were at once
dismissed and put out of business.

3. All the tradesmen usually employed in building or repairing of houses
were at a full stop, for the people were far from wanting to build
houses when so many thousand houses were at once stripped of their
inhabitants; so that this one article turned all the ordinary workmen
of that kind out of business, such as bricklayers, masons, carpenters,
joiners, plasterers, painters, glaziers, smiths, plumbers, and all the
labourers depending on such.

4. As navigation was at a stop, our ships neither coming in or going out
as before, so the seamen were all out of employment, and many of them in
the last and lowest degree of distress; and with the seamen were all
the several tradesmen and workmen belonging to and depending upon the
building and fitting out of ships, such as ship-carpenters, caulkers,
ropemakers, dry coopers, sailmakers, anchorsmiths, and other smiths;
blockmakers, carvers, gunsmiths, ship-chandlers, ship-carvers, and the
like. The masters of those perhaps might live upon their substance,
but the traders were universally at a stop, and consequently all their
workmen discharged. Add to these that the river was in a manner without
boats, and all or most part of the watermen, lightermen, boat-builders,
and lighter-builders in like manner idle and laid by.

5. All families retrenched their living as much as possible, as well
those that fled as those that stayed; so that an innumerable
multitude of footmen, serving-men, shopkeepers, journeymen, merchants'
bookkeepers, and such sort of people, and especially poor maid-servants,
were turned off, and left friendless and helpless, without employment
and without habitation, and this was really a dismal article.

I might be more particular as to this part, but it may suffice to
mention in general, all trades being stopped, employment ceased: the
labour, and by that the bread, of the poor were cut off; and at first
indeed the cries of the poor were most lamentable to hear, though by the
distribution of charity their misery that way was greatly abated. Many
indeed fled into the counties, but thousands of them having stayed in
London till nothing but desperation sent them away, death overtook them
on the road, and they served for no better than the messengers of death;
indeed, others carrying the infection along with them, spread it very
unhappily into the remotest parts of the kingdom.

Many of these were the miserable objects of despair which I have
mentioned before, and were removed by the destruction which followed.
These might be said to perish not by the infection itself but by the
consequence of it; indeed, namely, by hunger and distress and the want
of all things: being without lodging, without money, without friends,
without means to get their bread, or without anyone to give it them; for
many of them were without what we call legal settlements, and so
could not claim of the parishes, and all the support they had was by
application to the magistrates for relief, which relief was (to give
the magistrates their due) carefully and cheerfully administered as they
found it necessary, and those that stayed behind never felt the want and
distress of that kind which they felt who went away in the manner above

Let any one who is acquainted with what multitudes of people get their
daily bread in this city by their labour, whether artificers or
mere workmen--I say, let any man consider what must be the miserable
condition of this town if, on a sudden, they should be all turned out of
employment, that labour should cease, and wages for work be no more.

This was the case with us at that time; and had not the sums of money
contributed in charity by well-disposed people of every kind, as well
abroad as at home, been prodigiously great, it had not been in the power
of the Lord Mayor and sheriffs to have kept the public peace. Nor were
they without apprehensions, as it was, that desperation should push the
people upon tumults, and cause them to rifle the houses of rich men and
plunder the markets of provisions; in which case the country people,
who brought provisions very freely and boldly to town, would have been
terrified from coming any more, and the town would have sunk under an
unavoidable famine.

But the prudence of my Lord Mayor and the Court of Aldermen within the
city, and of the justices of peace in the out-parts, was such, and they
were supported with money from all parts so well, that the poor people
were kept quiet, and their wants everywhere relieved, as far as was
possible to be done.

Two things besides this contributed to prevent the mob doing any
mischief. One was, that really the rich themselves had not laid up
stores of provisions in their houses as indeed they ought to have
done, and which if they had been wise enough to have done, and locked
themselves entirely up, as some few did, they had perhaps escaped the
disease better. But as it appeared they had not, so the mob had no
notion of finding stores of provisions there if they had broken in as
it is plain they were sometimes very near doing, and which: if they bad,
they had finished the ruin of the whole city, for there were no regular
troops to have withstood them, nor could the trained bands have been
brought together to defend the city, no men being to be found to bear

But the vigilance of the Lord Mayor and such magistrates as could be had
(for some, even of the aldermen, were dead, and some absent) prevented
this; and they did it by the most kind and gentle methods they could
think of, as particularly by relieving the most desperate with money,
and putting others into business, and particularly that employment of
watching houses that were infected and shut up. And as the number
of these were very great (for it was said there was at one time ten
thousand houses shut up, and every house had two watchmen to guard
it, viz., one by night and the other by day), this gave opportunity to
employ a very great number of poor men at a time.

The women and servants that were turned off from their places were
likewise employed as nurses to tend the sick in all places, and this
took off a very great number of them.

And, which though a melancholy article in itself, yet was a deliverance
in its kind: namely, the plague, which raged in a dreadful manner from
the middle of August to the middle of October, carried off in that time
thirty or forty thousand of these very people which, had they been left,
would certainly have been an insufferable burden by their poverty; that
is to say, the whole city could not have supported the expense of them,
or have provided food for them; and they would in time have been even
driven to the necessity of plundering either the city itself or the
country adjacent, to have subsisted themselves, which would first or
last have put the whole nation, as well as the city, into the utmost
terror and confusion.

It was observable, then, that this calamity of the people made them very
humble; for now for about nine weeks together there died near a thousand
a day, one day with another, even by the account of the weekly bills,
which yet, I have reason to be assured, never gave a full account, by
many thousands; the confusion being such, and the carts working in the
dark when they carried the dead, that in some places no account at all
was kept, but they worked on, the clerks and sextons not attending for
weeks together, and not knowing what number they carried. This account
is verified by the following bills of mortality:--

     -                        Of all of the
     -                        Diseases.      Plague
     From August   8    to August 15          5319          3880
     "     "      15         "    22          5568          4237
     "     "      22         "    29          7496          6102
     "     "      29 to September  5          8252          6988
     "  September  5         "    12          7690          6544
     "     "      12         "    19          8297          7165
     "     "      19         "    26          6460          5533
     "     "      26 to October    3          5720          4979
     "   October   3         "    10          5068          4327
     -                                       -----         -----
     -                                      59,870        49,705

So that the gross of the people were carried off in these two months;
for, as the whole number which was brought in to die of the plague was
but 68,590, here is 50,000 of them, within a trifle, in two months; I
say 50,000, because, as there wants 295 in the number above, so there
wants two days of two months in the account of time.

Now when I say that the parish officers did not give in a full account,
or were not to be depended upon for their account, let any one but
consider how men could be exact in such a time of dreadful distress,
and when many of them were taken sick themselves and perhaps died in
the very time when their accounts were to be given in; I mean the parish
clerks, besides inferior officers; for though these poor men ventured
at all hazards, yet they were far from being exempt from the common
calamity, especially if it be true that the parish of Stepney had,
within the year, 116 sextons, gravediggers, and their assistants; that
is to say, bearers, bellmen, and drivers of carts for carrying off the
dead bodies.

Indeed the work was not of a nature to allow them leisure to take an
exact tale of the dead bodies, which were all huddled together in the
dark into a pit; which pit or trench no man could come nigh but at
the utmost peril. I observed often that in the parishes of Aldgate and
Cripplegate, Whitechappel and Stepney, there were five, six, seven,
and eight hundred in a week in the bills; whereas if we may believe the
opinion of those that lived in the city all the time as well as I, there
died sometimes 2000 a week in those parishes; and I saw it under the
hand of one that made as strict an examination into that part as he
could, that there really died an hundred thousand people of the plague
in that one year whereas in the bills, the articles of the plague, it
was but 68,590.

If I may be allowed to give my opinion, by what I saw with my eyes and
heard from other people that were eye-witnesses, I do verily believe the
same, viz., that there died at least 100,000 of the plague only, besides
other distempers and besides those which died in the fields and highways
and secret Places out of the compass of the communication, as it was
called, and who were not put down in the bills though they really
belonged to the body of the inhabitants. It was known to us all that
abundance of poor despairing creatures who had the distemper upon them,
and were grown stupid or melancholy by their misery, as many were,
wandered away into the fields and Woods, and into secret uncouth places
almost anywhere, to creep into a bush or hedge and die.

The inhabitants of the villages adjacent would, in pity, carry them food
and set it at a distance, that they might fetch it, if they were able;
and sometimes they were not able, and the next time they went they
should find the poor wretches lie dead and the food untouched. The
number of these miserable objects were many, and I know so many that
perished thus, and so exactly where, that I believe I could go to the
very place and dig their bones up still; for the country people would
go and dig a hole at a distance from them, and then with long poles,
and hooks at the end of them, drag the bodies into these pits, and then
throw the earth in from as far as they could cast it, to cover them,
taking notice how the wind blew, and so coming on that side which the
seamen call to windward, that the scent of the bodies might blow from
them; and thus great numbers went out of the world who were never known,
or any account of them taken, as well within the bills of mortality as

This, indeed, I had in the main only from the relation of others, for I
seldom walked into the fields, except towards Bethnal Green and Hackney,
or as hereafter. But when I did walk, I always saw a great many poor
wanderers at a distance; but I could know little of their cases, for
whether it were in the street or in the fields, if we had seen anybody
coming, it was a general method to walk away; yet I believe the account
is exactly true.

As this puts me upon mentioning my walking the streets and fields, I
cannot omit taking notice what a desolate place the city was at that
time. The great street I lived in (which is known to be one of the
broadest of all the streets of London, I mean of the suburbs as well as
the liberties) all the side where the butchers lived, especially without
the bars, was more like a green field than a paved street, and the
people generally went in the middle with the horses and carts. It is
true that the farthest end towards Whitechappel Church was not all
paved, but even the part that was paved was full of grass also; but this
need not seem strange, since the great streets within the city, such as
Leadenhall Street, Bishopsgate Street, Cornhill, and even the Exchange
itself, had grass growing in them in several places; neither cart or
coach were seen in the streets from morning to evening, except some
country carts to bring roots and beans, or peas, hay, and straw, to
the market, and those but very few compared to what was usual. As
for coaches, they were scarce used but to carry sick people to the
pest-house, and to other hospitals, and some few to carry physicians to
such places as they thought fit to venture to visit; for really coaches
were dangerous things, and people did not care to venture into them,
because they did not know who might have been carried in them last, and
sick, infected people were, as I have said, ordinarily carried in them
to the pest-houses, and sometimes people expired in them as they went

It is true, when the infection came to such a height as I have now
mentioned, there were very few physicians which cared to stir abroad to
sick houses, and very many of the most eminent of the faculty were dead,
as well as the surgeons also; for now it was indeed a dismal time,
and for about a month together, not taking any notice of the bills of
mortality, I believe there did not die less than 1500 or 1700 a day, one
day with another.

One of the worst days we had in the whole time, as I thought, was in the
beginning of September, when, indeed, good people began to think that
God was resolved to make a full end of the people in this miserable
city. This was at that time when the plague was fully come into the
eastern parishes. The parish of Aldgate, if I may give my opinion,
buried above a thousand a week for two weeks, though the bills did not
say so many;--but it surrounded me at so dismal a rate that there was
not a house in twenty uninfected in the Minories, in Houndsditch, and in
those parts of Aldgate parish about the Butcher Row and the alleys
over against me. I say, in those places death reigned in every corner.
Whitechappel parish was in the same condition, and though much less than
the parish I lived in, yet buried near 600 a week by the bills, and in
my opinion near twice as many. Whole families, and indeed whole streets
of families, were swept away together; insomuch that it was frequent
for neighbours to call to the bellman to go to such-and-such houses and
fetch out the people, for that they were all dead.

And, indeed, the work of removing the dead bodies by carts was now grown
so very odious and dangerous that it was complained of that the bearers
did not take care to dear such houses where all the inhabitants were
dead, but that sometimes the bodies lay several days unburied, till the
neighbouring families were offended with the stench, and consequently
infected; and this neglect of the officers was such that the
churchwardens and constables were summoned to look after it, and even
the justices of the Hamlets were obliged to venture their lives among
them to quicken and encourage them, for innumerable of the bearers died
of the distemper, infected by the bodies they were obliged to come so
near. And had it not been that the number of poor people who wanted
employment and wanted bread (as I have said before) was so great that
necessity drove them to undertake anything and venture anything, they
would never have found people to be employed. And then the bodies of
the dead would have lain above ground, and have perished and rotted in a
dreadful manner.

But the magistrates cannot be enough commended in this, that they kept
such good order for the burying of the dead, that as fast as any of
these they employed to carry off and bury the dead fell sick or died,
as was many times the case, they immediately supplied the places with
others, which, by reason of the great number of poor that was left
out of business, as above, was not hard to do. This occasioned, that
notwithstanding the infinite number of people which died and were sick,
almost all together, yet they were always cleared away and carried off
every night, so that it was never to be said of London that the living
were not able to bury the dead.

As the desolation was greater during those terrible times, so the
amazement of the people increased, and a thousand unaccountable things
they would do in the violence of their fright, as others did the same in
the agonies of their distemper, and this part was very affecting. Some
went roaring and crying and wringing their hands along the street; some
would go praying and lifting up their hands to heaven, calling upon
God for mercy. I cannot say, indeed, whether this was not in their
distraction, but, be it so, it was still an indication of a more serious
mind, when they had the use of their senses, and was much better, even
as it was, than the frightful yellings and cryings that every day, and
especially in the evenings, were heard in some streets. I suppose the
world has heard of the famous Solomon Eagle, an enthusiast. He, though
not infected at all but in his head, went about denouncing of judgement
upon the city in a frightful manner, sometimes quite naked, and with a
pan of burning charcoal on his head. What he said, or pretended, indeed
I could not learn.

I will not say whether that clergyman was distracted or not, or whether
he did it in pure zeal for the poor people, who went every evening
through the streets of Whitechappel, and, with his hands lifted up,
repeated that part of the Liturgy of the Church continually, 'Spare
us, good Lord; spare Thy people, whom Thou has redeemed with Thy most
precious blood.' I say, I cannot speak positively of these things,
because these were only the dismal objects which represented themselves
to me as I looked through my chamber windows (for I seldom opened
the casements), while I confined myself within doors during that most
violent raging of the pestilence; when, indeed, as I have said, many
began to think, and even to say, that there would none escape; and
indeed I began to think so too, and therefore kept within doors for
about a fortnight and never stirred out. But I could not hold it.
Besides, there were some people who, notwithstanding the danger, did not
omit publicly to attend the worship of God, even in the most dangerous
times; and though it is true that a great many clergymen did shut up
their churches, and fled, as other people did, for the safety of their
lives, yet all did not do so. Some ventured to officiate and to keep up
the assemblies of the people by constant prayers, and sometimes sermons
or brief exhortations to repentance and reformation, and this as long as
any would come to hear them. And Dissenters did the like also, and even
in the very churches where the parish ministers were either dead or
fled; nor was there any room for making difference at such a time as
this was.

It was indeed a lamentable thing to hear the miserable lamentations of
poor dying creatures calling out for ministers to comfort them and pray
with them, to counsel them and to direct them, calling out to God for
pardon and mercy, and confessing aloud their past sins. It would make
the stoutest heart bleed to hear how many warnings were then given by
dying penitents to others not to put off and delay their repentance to
the day of distress; that such a time of calamity as this was no time
for repentance, was no time to call upon God. I wish I could repeat the
very sound of those groans and of those exclamations that I heard
from some poor dying creatures when in the height of their agonies and
distress, and that I could make him that reads this hear, as I imagine I
now hear them, for the sound seems still to ring in my ears.

If I could but tell this part in such moving accents as should alarm the
very soul of the reader, I should rejoice that I recorded those things,
however short and imperfect.

It pleased God that I was still spared, and very hearty and sound in
health, but very impatient of being pent up within doors without air,
as I had been for fourteen days or thereabouts; and I could not
restrain myself, but I would go to carry a letter for my brother to the
post-house. Then it was indeed that I observed a profound silence in the
streets. When I came to the post-house, as I went to put in my letter
I saw a man stand in one corner of the yard and talking to another at
a window, and a third had opened a door belonging to the office. In the
middle of the yard lay a small leather purse with two keys hanging at
it, with money in it, but nobody would meddle with it. I asked how long
it had lain there; the man at the window said it had lain almost an
hour, but that they had not meddled with it, because they did not know
but the person who dropped it might come back to look for it. I had no
such need of money, nor was the sum so big that I had any inclination to
meddle with it, or to get the money at the hazard it might be attended
with; so I seemed to go away, when the man who had opened the door
said he would take it up, but so that if the right owner came for it he
should be sure to have it. So he went in and fetched a pail of water and
set it down hard by the purse, then went again and fetch some gunpowder,
and cast a good deal of powder upon the purse, and then made a train
from that which he had thrown loose upon the purse. The train reached
about two yards. After this he goes in a third time and fetches out a
pair of tongs red hot, and which he had prepared, I suppose, on purpose;
and first setting fire to the train of powder, that singed the purse and
also smoked the air sufficiently. But he was not content with that, but
he then takes up the purse with the tongs, holding it so long till the
tongs burnt through the purse, and then he shook the money out into the
pail of water, so he carried it in. The money, as I remember, was about
thirteen shilling and some smooth groats and brass farthings.

There might perhaps have been several poor people, as I have observed
above, that would have been hardy enough to have ventured for the sake
of the money; but you may easily see by what I have observed that the
few people who were spared were very careful of themselves at that time
when the distress was so exceeding great.

Much about the same time I walked out into the fields towards Bow; for
I had a great mind to see how things were managed in the river and among
the ships; and as I had some concern in shipping, I had a notion that it
had been one of the best ways of securing one's self from the infection
to have retired into a ship; and musing how to satisfy my curiosity in
that point, I turned away over the fields from Bow to Bromley, and down
to Blackwall to the stairs which are there for landing or taking water.

Here I saw a poor man walking on the bank, or sea-wall, as they call it,
by himself. I walked a while also about, seeing the houses all shut up.
At last I fell into some talk, at a distance, with this poor man; first
I asked him how people did thereabouts. 'Alas, sir!' says he, 'almost
desolate; all dead or sick. Here are very few families in this part, or
in that village' (pointing at Poplar), 'where half of them are not dead
already, and the rest sick.' Then he pointing to one house, 'There they
are all dead', said he, 'and the house stands open; nobody dares go into
it. A poor thief', says he, 'ventured in to steal something, but he
paid dear for his theft, for he was carried to the churchyard too last
night.' Then he pointed to several other houses. 'There', says he, 'they
are all dead, the man and his wife, and five children. There', says
he, 'they are shut up; you see a watchman at the door'; and so of other
houses. 'Why,' says I, 'what do you here all alone?' 'Why,' says he, 'I
am a poor, desolate man; it has pleased God I am not yet visited, though
my family is, and one of my children dead.' 'How do you mean, then,'
said I, 'that you are not visited?' 'Why,' says he, 'that's my house'
(pointing to a very little, low-boarded house), 'and there my poor wife
and two children live,' said he, 'if they may be said to live, for my
wife and one of the children are visited, but I do not come at them.'
And with that word I saw the tears run very plentifully down his face;
and so they did down mine too, I assure you.

'But,' said I, 'why do you not come at them? How can you abandon your
own flesh and blood?' 'Oh, sir,' says he, 'the Lord forbid! I do not
abandon them; I work for them as much as I am able; and, blessed be the
Lord, I keep them from want'; and with that I observed he lifted up his
eyes to heaven, with a countenance that presently told me I had happened
on a man that was no hypocrite, but a serious, religious, good man,
and his ejaculation was an expression of thankfulness that, in such
a condition as he was in, he should be able to say his family did not
want. 'Well,' says I, 'honest man, that is a great mercy as things go
now with the poor. But how do you live, then, and how are you kept from
the dreadful calamity that is now upon us all?' 'Why, sir,' says he, 'I
am a waterman, and there's my boat,' says he, 'and the boat serves me
for a house. I work in it in the day, and I sleep in it in the night;
and what I get I lay down upon that stone,' says he, showing me a broad
stone on the other side of the street, a good way from his house; 'and
then,' says he, 'I halloo, and call to them till I make them hear; and
they come and fetch it.'

'Well, friend,' says I, 'but how can you get any money as a waterman?
Does any body go by water these times?' 'Yes, sir,' says he, 'in the way
I am employed there does. Do you see there,' says he, 'five ships lie at
anchor' (pointing down the river a good way below the town), 'and do you
see', says he, 'eight or ten ships lie at the chain there, and at anchor
yonder?' (pointing above the town). 'All those ships have families on
board, of their merchants and owners, and such-like, who have locked
themselves up and live on board, close shut in, for fear of the
infection; and I tend on them to fetch things for them, carry letters,
and do what is absolutely necessary, that they may not be obliged to
come on shore; and every night I fasten my boat on board one of the
ship's boats, and there I sleep by myself, and, blessed be God, I am
preserved hitherto.'

'Well,' said I, 'friend, but will they let you come on board after you
have been on shore here, when this is such a terrible place, and so
infected as it is?'

'Why, as to that,' said he, 'I very seldom go up the ship-side, but
deliver what I bring to their boat, or lie by the side, and they hoist
it on board. If I did, I think they are in no danger from me, for I
never go into any house on shore, or touch anybody, no, not of my own
family; but I fetch provisions for them.'

'Nay,' says I, 'but that may be worse, for you must have those
provisions of somebody or other; and since all this part of the town is
so infected, it is dangerous so much as to speak with anybody, for the
village', said I, 'is, as it were, the beginning of London, though it be
at some distance from it.'

'That is true,' added he; 'but you do not understand me right; I do not
buy provisions for them here. I row up to Greenwich and buy fresh meat
there, and sometimes I row down the river to Woolwich and buy there;
then I go to single farm-houses on the Kentish side, where I am known,
and buy fowls and eggs and butter, and bring to the ships, as they
direct me, sometimes one, sometimes the other. I seldom come on shore
here, and I came now only to call on my wife and hear how my family do,
and give them a little money, which I received last night.'

'Poor man!' said I; 'and how much hast thou gotten for them?'

'I have gotten four shillings,' said he, 'which is a great sum, as
things go now with poor men; but they have given me a bag of bread too,
and a salt fish and some flesh; so all helps out.' 'Well,' said I, 'and
have you given it them yet?'

'No,' said he; 'but I have called, and my wife has answered that she
cannot come out yet, but in half-an-hour she hopes to come, and I am
waiting for her. Poor woman!' says he, 'she is brought sadly down. She
has a swelling, and it is broke, and I hope she will recover; but I fear
the child will die, but it is the Lord--'

Here he stopped, and wept very much.

'Well, honest friend,' said I, 'thou hast a sure Comforter, if thou hast
brought thyself to be resigned to the will of God; He is dealing with us
all in judgement.'

'Oh, sir!' says he, 'it is infinite mercy if any of us are spared, and
who am I to repine!'

'Sayest thou so?' said I, 'and how much less is my faith than thine?'
And here my heart smote me, suggesting how much better this poor man's
foundation was on which he stayed in the danger than mine; that he had
nowhere to fly; that he had a family to bind him to attendance, which
I had not; and mine was mere presumption, his a true dependence and a
courage resting on God; and yet that he used all possible caution for
his safety.

I turned a little way from the man while these thoughts engaged me, for,
indeed, I could no more refrain from tears than he.

At length, after some further talk, the poor woman opened the door and
called, 'Robert, Robert'. He answered, and bid her stay a few moments
and he would come; so he ran down the common stairs to his boat and
fetched up a sack, in which was the provisions he had brought from the
ships; and when he returned he hallooed again. Then he went to the
great stone which he showed me and emptied the sack, and laid all out,
everything by themselves, and then retired; and his wife came with a
little boy to fetch them away, and called and said such a captain had
sent such a thing, and such a captain such a thing, and at the end adds,
'God has sent it all; give thanks to Him.' When the poor woman had taken
up all, she was so weak she could not carry it at once in, though the
weight was not much neither; so she left the biscuit, which was in a
little bag, and left a little boy to watch it till she came again.

'Well, but', says I to him, 'did you leave her the four shillings too,
which you said was your week's pay?'

'Yes, yes,' says he; 'you shall hear her own it.' So he calls again,
'Rachel, Rachel,' which it seems was her name, 'did you take up the
money?' 'Yes,' said she. 'How much was it?' said he. 'Four shillings and
a groat,' said she. 'Well, well,' says he, 'the Lord keep you all'; and
so he turned to go away.

As I could not refrain contributing tears to this man's story, so
neither could I refrain my charity for his assistance. So I called him,
'Hark thee, friend,' said I, 'come hither, for I believe thou art in
health, that I may venture thee'; so I pulled out my hand, which was in
my pocket before, 'Here,' says I, 'go and call thy Rachel once more, and
give her a little more comfort from me. God will never forsake a family
that trust in Him as thou dost.' So I gave him four other shillings, and
bid him go lay them on the stone and call his wife.

I have not words to express the poor man's thankfulness, neither could
he express it himself but by tears running down his face. He called his
wife, and told her God had moved the heart of a stranger, upon hearing
their condition, to give them all that money, and a great deal more
such as that he said to her. The woman, too, made signs of the like
thankfulness, as well to Heaven as to me, and joyfully picked it up; and
I parted with no money all that year that I thought better bestowed.

I then asked the poor man if the distemper had not reached to Greenwich.
He said it had not till about a fortnight before; but that then he
feared it had, but that it was only at that end of the town which lay
south towards Deptford Bridge; that he went only to a butcher's shop and
a grocer's, where he generally bought such things as they sent him for,
but was very careful.

I asked him then how it came to pass that those people who had so shut
themselves up in the ships had not laid in sufficient stores of all
things necessary. He said some of them had--but, on the other hand, some
did not come on board till they were frighted into it and till it was
too dangerous for them to go to the proper people to lay in quantities
of things, and that he waited on two ships, which he showed me, that had
laid in little or nothing but biscuit bread and ship beer, and that he
had bought everything else almost for them. I asked him if there was any
more ships that had separated themselves as those had done. He told me
yes, all the way up from the point, right against Greenwich, to within
the shore of Limehouse and Redriff, all the ships that could have room
rid two and two in the middle of the stream, and that some of them had
several families on board. I asked him if the distemper had not reached
them. He said he believed it had not, except two or three ships whose
people had not been so watchful to keep the seamen from going on shore
as others had been, and he said it was a very fine sight to see how the
ships lay up the Pool.

When he said he was going over to Greenwich as soon as the tide began to
come in, I asked if he would let me go with him and bring me back, for
that I had a great mind to see how the ships were ranged, as he had told
me. He told me, if I would assure him on the word of a Christian and of
an honest man that I had not the distemper, he would. I assured him
that I had not; that it had pleased God to preserve me; that I lived in
Whitechappel, but was too impatient of being so long within doors, and
that I had ventured out so far for the refreshment of a little air, but
that none in my house had so much as been touched with it.

Well, sir,' says he, 'as your charity has been moved to pity me and my
poor family, sure you cannot have so little pity left as to put yourself
into my boat if you were not sound in health which would be nothing less
than killing me and ruining my whole family.' The poor man troubled me
so much when he spoke of his family with such a sensible concern and in
such an affectionate manner, that I could not satisfy myself at first
to go at all. I told him I would lay aside my curiosity rather than make
him uneasy, though I was sure, and very thankful for it, that I had
no more distemper upon me than the freshest man in the world. Well, he
would not have me put it off neither, but to let me see how confident
he was that I was just to him, now importuned me to go; so when the tide
came up to his boat I went in, and he carried me to Greenwich. While he
bought the things which he had in his charge to buy, I walked up to the
top of the hill under which the town stands, and on the east side of the
town, to get a prospect of the river. But it was a surprising sight to
see the number of ships which lay in rows, two and two, and some places
two or three such lines in the breadth of the river, and this not only
up quite to the town, between the houses which we call Ratcliff and
Redriff, which they name the Pool, but even down the whole river as far
as the head of Long Reach, which is as far as the hills give us leave to
see it.

I cannot guess at the number of ships, but I think there must be several
hundreds of sail; and I could not but applaud the contrivance: for
ten thousand people and more who attended ship affairs were certainly
sheltered here from the violence of the contagion, and lived very safe
and very easy.

I returned to my own dwelling very well satisfied with my day's journey,
and particularly with the poor man; also I rejoiced to see that such
little sanctuaries were provided for so many families in a time of such
desolation. I observed also that, as the violence of the plague had
increased, so the ships which had families on board removed and went
farther off, till, as I was told, some went quite away to sea, and put
into such harbours and safe roads on the north coast as they could best
come at.

But it was also true that all the people who thus left the land and
lived on board the ships were not entirely safe from the infection, for
many died and were thrown overboard into the river, some in coffins, and
some, as I heard, without coffins, whose bodies were seen sometimes to
drive up and down with the tide in the river.

But I believe I may venture to say that in those ships which were thus
infected it either happened where the people had recourse to them too
late, and did not fly to the ship till they had stayed too long on shore
and had the distemper upon them (though perhaps they might not perceive
it) and so the distemper did not come to them on board the ships, but
they really carried it with them; or it was in these ships where the
poor waterman said they had not had time to furnish themselves with
provisions, but were obliged to send often on shore to buy what they had
occasion for, or suffered boats to come to them from the shore. And so
the distemper was brought insensibly among them.

And here I cannot but take notice that the strange temper of the people
of London at that time contributed extremely to their own destruction.
The plague began, as I have observed, at the other end of the town,
namely, in Long Acre, Drury Lane, &c., and came on towards the city very
gradually and slowly. It was felt at first in December, then again in
February, then again in April, and always but a very little at a time;
then it stopped till May, and even the last week in May there was but
seventeen, and all at that end of the town; and all this while, even
so long as till there died above 3000 a week, yet had the people in
Redriff, and in Wapping and Ratcliff, on both sides of the river,
and almost all Southwark side, a mighty fancy that they should not be
visited, or at least that it would not be so violent among them. Some
people fancied the smell of the pitch and tar, and such other things
as oil and rosin and brimstone, which is so much used by all trades
relating to shipping, would preserve them. Others argued it, because it
was in its extreamest violence in Westminster and the parish of St
Giles and St Andrew, &c., and began to abate again before it came among
them--which was true indeed, in part. For example--

     From the 8th to the 15th August--
     -    St Giles-in-the-Fields               242
     -    Cripplegate                          886
     -    Stepney                              197
     -    St Margaret, Bermondsey               24
     -    Rotherhith                             3
     -    Total this week                     4030

     From the 15th to the 22nd August--
     -    St Giles-in-the-Fields               175
     -    Cripplegate                          847
     -    Stepney                              273
     -    St Margaret, Bermondsey               36
     -    Rotherhith                             2
     -    Total this week                     5319

N.B.--That it was observed the numbers mentioned in Stepney parish at
that time were generally all on that side where Stepney parish joined to
Shoreditch, which we now call Spittlefields, where the parish of Stepney
comes up to the very wall of Shoreditch Churchyard, and the plague at
this time was abated at St Giles-in-the-Fields, and raged most violently
in Cripplegate, Bishopsgate, and Shoreditch parishes; but there was not
ten people a week that died of it in all that part of Stepney parish
which takes in Limehouse, Ratdiff Highway, and which are now the
parishes of Shadwell and Wapping, even to St Katherine's by the Tower,
till after the whole month of August was expired. But they paid for it
afterwards, as I shall observe by-and-by.

This, I say, made the people of Redriff and Wapping, Ratcliff and
Limehouse, so secure, and flatter themselves so much with the plague's
going off without reaching them, that they took no care either to fly
into the country or shut themselves up. Nay, so far were they from
stirring that they rather received their friends and relations from
the city into their houses, and several from other places really took
sanctuary in that part of the town as a Place of safety, and as a place
which they thought God would pass over, and not visit as the rest was

And this was the reason that when it came upon--them they were more
surprised, more unprovided, and more at a loss what to do than they were
in other places; for when it came among them really and with violence,
as it did indeed in September and October, there was then no stirring
out into the country, nobody would suffer a stranger to come near them,
no, nor near the towns where they dwelt; and, as I have been told,
several that wandered into the country on Surrey side were found starved
to death in the woods and commons, that country being more open and more
woody than any other part so near London, especially about Norwood and
the parishes of Camberwell, Dullege, and Lusum, where, it seems, nobody
durst relieve the poor distressed people for fear of the infection.

This notion having, as I said, prevailed with the people in that part
of the town, was in part the occasion, as I said before, that they had
recourse to ships for their retreat; and where they did this early and
with prudence, furnishing themselves so with provisions that they had
no need to go on shore for supplies or suffer boats to come on board
to bring them,--I say, where they did so they had certainly the safest
retreat of any people whatsoever; but the distress was such that people
ran on board, in their fright, without bread to eat, and some into ships
that had no men on board to remove them farther off, or to take the boat
and go down the river to buy provisions where it might be done safely,
and these often suffered and were infected on board as much as on shore.

As the richer sort got into ships, so the lower rank got into hoys,
smacks, lighters, and fishing-boats; and many, especially watermen, lay
in their boats; but those made sad work of it, especially the latter,
for, going about for provision, and perhaps to get their subsistence,
the infection got in among them and made a fearful havoc; many of the
watermen died alone in their wherries as they rid at their roads, as
well as above bridge as below, and were not found sometimes till they
were not in condition for anybody to touch or come near them.

Indeed, the distress of the people at this seafaring end of the town was
very deplorable, and deserved the greatest commiseration. But, alas I
this was a time when every one's private safety lay so near them that
they had no room to pity the distresses of others; for every one had
death, as it were, at his door, and many even in their families, and
knew not what to do or whither to fly.

This, I say, took away all compassion; self-preservation, indeed,
appeared here to be the first law. For the children ran away from their
parents as they languished in the utmost distress. And in some places,
though not so frequent as the other, parents did the like to their
children; nay, some dreadful examples there were, and particularly two
in one week, of distressed mothers, raving and distracted, killing their
own children; one whereof was not far off from where I dwelt, the poor
lunatic creature not living herself long enough to be sensible of the
sin of what she had done, much less to be punished for it.

It is not, indeed, to be wondered at: for the danger of immediate death
to ourselves took away all bowels of love, all concern for one
another. I speak in general, for there were many instances of immovable
affection, pity, and duty in many, and some that came to my knowledge,
that is to say, by hearsay; for I shall not take upon me to vouch the
truth of the particulars.

To introduce one, let me first mention that one of the most deplorable
cases in all the present calamity was that of women with child, who,
when they came to the hour of their sorrows, and their pains come upon
them, could neither have help of one kind or another; neither midwife
or neighbouring women to come near them. Most of the midwives were dead,
especially of such as served the poor; and many, if not all the midwives
of note, were fled into the country; so that it was next to impossible
for a poor woman that could not pay an immoderate price to get any
midwife to come to her--and if they did, those they could get were
generally unskilful and ignorant creatures; and the consequence of this
was that a most unusual and incredible number of women were reduced to
the utmost distress. Some were delivered and spoiled by the rashness and
ignorance of those who pretended to lay them. Children without
number were, I might say, murdered by the same but a more justifiable
ignorance: pretending they would save the mother, whatever became of
the child; and many times both mother and child were lost in the same
manner; and especially where the mother had the distemper, there nobody
would come near them and both sometimes perished. Sometimes the mother
has died of the plague, and the infant, it may be, half born, or born
but not parted from the mother. Some died in the very pains of their
travail, and not delivered at all; and so many were the cases of this
kind that it is hard to judge of them.

Something of it will appear in the unusual numbers which are put into
the weekly bills (though I am far from allowing them to be able to give
anything of a full account) under the articles of--

     Abortive and Still-born.
     Christmas and Infants.

Take the weeks in which the plague was most violent, and compare them
with the weeks before the distemper began, even in the same year. For

     Child-bed. Abortive.  Still-born.
     From January 3 to January  10     7        1           13
     "     "   10       "       17     8        6           11
     "     "   17       "       24     9        5           15
     "     "   24       "       31     3        2            9
     "     "   31 to February    7     3        3            8
     " February 7        "      14     6        2           11
     "     "   14       "       21     5        2           13
     "     "   21       "       28     2        2           10
     "     "   28 to March       7     5        1           10
     -                               ---      ---         ----
     -                                48       24          100

     From August  1 to August    8    25        5           11
     "     "    8       "       15    23        6            8
     "     "   15       "       22    28        4            4
     "     "   22       "       29    40        6           10
     "     "   29 to September   5    38        2           11
     September  5       "       12    39       23          ...
     "     "   12       "       19    42        5           17
     "     "   19       "       26    42        6           10
     "     "   26 to October     3    14        4            9
     -                               ---       --          ---
     -                               291       61           80

To the disparity of these numbers it is to be considered and allowed
for, that according to our usual opinion who were then upon the spot,
there were not one-third of the people in the town during the months of
August and September as were in the months of January and February. In a
word, the usual number that used to die of these three articles, and, as
I hear, did die of them the year before, was thus:--

     1664.                               1665.
     Child-bed                   189     Child-bed                   625
     Abortive and still-born     458     Abortive and still-born     617
     -                          ----                                ----
     -                           647                                1242

This inequality, I say, is exceedingly augmented when the numbers of
people are considered. I pretend not to make any exact calculation of
the numbers of people which were at this time in the city, but I shall
make a probable conjecture at that part by-and-by. What I have said now
is to explain the misery of those poor creatures above; so that it might
well be said, as in the Scripture, Woe be to those who are with child,
and to those which give suck in that day. For, indeed, it was a woe to
them in particular.

I was not conversant in many particular families where these things
happened, but the outcries of the miserable were heard afar off. As to
those who were with child, we have seen some calculation made; 291 women
dead in child-bed in nine weeks, out of one-third part of the number
of whom there usually died in that time but eighty-four of the same
disaster. Let the reader calculate the proportion.

There is no room to doubt but the misery of those that gave suck was in
proportion as great. Our bills of mortality could give but little light
in this, yet some it did. There were several more than usual starved
at nurse, but this was nothing. The misery was where they were, first,
starved for want of a nurse, the mother dying and all the family and
the infants found dead by them, merely for want; and, if I may speak
my opinion, I do believe that many hundreds of poor helpless infants
perished in this manner. Secondly, not starved, but poisoned by the
nurse. Nay, even where the mother has been nurse, and having received
the infection, has poisoned, that is, infected the infant with her milk
even before they knew they were infected themselves; nay, and the infant
has died in such a case before the mother. I cannot but remember
to leave this admonition upon record, if ever such another dreadful
visitation should happen in this city, that all women that are with
child or that give suck should be gone, if they have any possible means,
out of the place, because their misery, if infected, will so much exceed
all other people's.

I could tell here dismal stories of living infants being found sucking
the breasts of their mothers, or nurses, after they have been dead of
the plague. Of a mother in the parish where I lived, who, having a child
that was not well, sent for an apothecary to view the child; and when he
came, as the relation goes, was giving the child suck at her breast, and
to all appearance was herself very well; but when the apothecary came
close to her he saw the tokens upon that breast with which she was
suckling the child. He was surprised enough, to be sure, but, not
willing to fright the poor woman too much, he desired she would give the
child into his hand; so he takes the child, and going to a cradle in
the room, lays it in, and opening its cloths, found the tokens upon the
child too, and both died before he could get home to send a preventive
medicine to the father of the child, to whom he had told their
condition. Whether the child infected the nurse-mother or the mother
the child was not certain, but the last most likely. Likewise of a child
brought home to the parents from a nurse that had died of the plague,
yet the tender mother would not refuse to take in her child, and laid it
in her bosom, by which she was infected; and died with the child in her
arms dead also.

It would make the hardest heart move at the instances that were
frequently found of tender mothers tending and watching with their dear
children, and even dying before them, and sometimes taking the distemper
from them and dying, when the child for whom the affectionate heart had
been sacrificed has got over it and escaped.

The like of a tradesman in East Smithfield, whose wife was big with
child of her first child, and fell in labour, having the plague upon
her. He could neither get midwife to assist her or nurse to tend her,
and two servants which he kept fled both from her. He ran from house to
house like one distracted, but could get no help; the utmost he could
get was, that a watchman, who attended at an infected house shut up,
promised to send a nurse in the morning. The poor man, with his heart
broke, went back, assisted his wife what he could, acted the part of the
midwife, brought the child dead into the world, and his wife in about
an hour died in his arms, where he held her dead body fast till
the morning, when the watchman came and brought the nurse as he had
promised; and coming up the stairs (for he had left the door open, or
only latched), they found the man sitting with his dead wife in his
arms, and so overwhelmed with grief that he died in a few hours after
without any sign of the infection upon him, but merely sunk under the
weight of his grief.

I have heard also of some who, on the death of their relations, have
grown stupid with the insupportable sorrow; and of one, in particular,
who was so absolutely overcome with the pressure upon his spirits that
by degrees his head sank into his body, so between his shoulders
that the crown of his head was very little seen above the bone of his
shoulders; and by degrees losing both voice and sense, his face,
looking forward, lay against his collarbone and could not be kept up any
otherwise, unless held up by the hands of other people; and the poor
man never came to himself again, but languished near a year in that
condition, and died. Nor was he ever once seen to lift up his eyes or to
look upon any particular object.

I cannot undertake to give any other than a summary of such passages
as these, because it was not possible to come at the particulars, where
sometimes the whole families where such things happened were carried off
by the distemper. But there were innumerable cases of this kind which
presented to the eye and the ear, even in passing along the streets, as
I have hinted above. Nor is it easy to give any story of this or that
family which there was not divers parallel stories to be met with of the
same kind.

But as I am now talking of the time when the plague raged at the
easternmost part of the town--how for a long time the people of those
parts had flattered themselves that they should escape, and how they
were surprised when it came upon them as it did; for, indeed, it came
upon them like an armed man when it did come;--I say, this brings
me back to the three poor men who wandered from Wapping, not knowing
whither to go or what to do, and whom I mentioned before; one a
biscuit-baker, one a sailmaker, and the other a joiner, all of Wapping,
or there-abouts.

The sleepiness and security of that part, as I have observed, was such
that they not only did not shift for themselves as others did, but they
boasted of being safe, and of safety being with them; and many people
fled out of the city, and out of the infected suburbs, to Wapping,
Ratcliff, Limehouse, Poplar, and such Places, as to Places of security;
and it is not at all unlikely that their doing this helped to bring the
plague that way faster than it might otherwise have come. For though I
am much for people flying away and emptying such a town as this upon the
first appearance of a like visitation, and that all people who have any
possible retreat should make use of it in time and be gone, yet I must
say, when all that will fly are gone, those that are left and must stand
it should stand stock-still where they are, and not shift from one end
of the town or one part of the town to the other; for that is the bane
and mischief of the whole, and they carry the plague from house to house
in their very clothes.

Wherefore were we ordered to kill all the dogs and cats, but because as
they were domestic animals, and are apt to run from house to house and
from street to street, so they are capable of carrying the effluvia or
infectious streams of bodies infected even in their furs and hair? And
therefore it was that, in the beginning of the infection, an order was
published by the Lord Mayor, and by the magistrates, according to
the advice of the physicians, that all the dogs and cats should be
immediately killed, and an officer was appointed for the execution.

It is incredible, if their account is to be depended upon, what a
prodigious number of those creatures were destroyed. I think they talked
of forty thousand dogs, and five times as many cats; few houses being
without a cat, some having several, sometimes five or six in a house.
All possible endeavours were used also to destroy the mice and rats,
especially the latter, by laying ratsbane and other poisons for them,
and a prodigious multitude of them were also destroyed.

I often reflected upon the unprovided condition that the whole body of
the people were in at the first coming of this calamity upon them, and
how it was for want of timely entering into measures and managements,
as well public as private, that all the confusions that followed were
brought upon us, and that such a prodigious number of people sank in
that disaster, which, if proper steps had been taken, might, Providence
concurring, have been avoided, and which, if posterity think fit, they
may take a caution and warning from. But I shall come to this part

I come back to my three men. Their story has a moral in every part of
it, and their whole conduct, and that of some whom they joined with, is
a pattern for all poor men to follow, or women either, if ever such a
time comes again; and if there was no other end in recording it, I think
this a very just one, whether my account be exactly according to fact or

Two of them are said to be brothers, the one an old soldier, but now a
biscuit-maker; the other a lame sailor, but now a sailmaker; the third
a joiner. Says John the biscuit-maker one day to Thomas his brother, the
sailmaker, 'Brother Tom, what will become of us? The plague grows hot in
the city, and increases this way. What shall we do?'

'Truly,' says Thomas, 'I am at a great loss what to do, for I find if it
comes down into Wapping I shall be turned out of my lodging.' And thus
they began to talk of it beforehand.

John. Turned out of your lodging, Tom I If you are, I don't know who
will take you in; for people are so afraid of one another now, there's
no getting a lodging anywhere.

Thomas. Why, the people where I lodge are good, civil people, and have
kindness enough for me too; but they say I go abroad every day to my
work, and it will be dangerous; and they talk of locking themselves up
and letting nobody come near them.

John. Why, they are in the right, to be sure, if they resolve to venture
staying in town.

Thomas. Nay, I might even resolve to stay within doors too, for,
except a suit of sails that my master has in hand, and which I am just
finishing, I am like to get no more work a great while. There's no trade
stirs now. Workmen and servants are turned off everywhere, so that I
might be glad to be locked up too; but I do not see they will be willing
to consent to that, any more than to the other.

John. Why, what will you do then, brother? And what shall I do? for I
am almost as bad as you. The people where I lodge are all gone into the
country but a maid, and she is to go next week, and to shut the house
quite up, so that I shall be turned adrift to the wide world before you,
and I am resolved to go away too, if I knew but where to go.

Thomas. We were both distracted we did not go away at first; then we
might have travelled anywhere. There's no stirring now; we shall
be starved if we pretend to go out of town. They won't let us have
victuals, no, not for our money, nor let us come into the towns, much
less into their houses.

John. And that which is almost as bad, I have but little money to help
myself with neither.

Thomas. As to that, we might make shift, I have a little, though not
much; but I tell you there's no stirring on the road. I know a couple of
poor honest men in our street have attempted to travel, and at Barnet,
or Whetstone, or thereabouts, the people offered to fire at them if they
pretended to go forward, so they are come back again quite discouraged.

John. I would have ventured their fire if I had been there. If I had
been denied food for my money they should have seen me take it before
their faces, and if I had tendered money for it they could not have
taken any course with me by law.

Thomas. You talk your old soldier's language, as if you were in the Low
Countries now, but this is a serious thing. The people have good reason
to keep anybody off that they are not satisfied are sound, at such a
time as this, and we must not plunder them.

John. No, brother, you mistake the case, and mistake me too. I would
plunder nobody; but for any town upon the road to deny me leave to pass
through the town in the open highway, and deny me provisions for my
money, is to say the town has a right to starve me to death, which
cannot be true.

Thomas. But they do not deny you liberty to go back again from whence
you came, and therefore they do not starve you.

John. But the next town behind me will, by the same rule, deny me leave
to go back, and so they do starve me between them. Besides, there is no
law to prohibit my travelling wherever I will on the road.

Thomas. But there will be so much difficulty in disputing with them at
every town on the road that it is not for poor men to do it or undertake
it, at such a time as this is especially.

John. Why, brother, our condition at this rate is worse than anybody
else's, for we can neither go away nor stay here. I am of the same mind
with the lepers of Samaria: 'If we stay here we are sure to die', I mean
especially as you and I are stated, without a dwelling-house of our own,
and without lodging in anybody else's. There is no lying in the street
at such a time as this; we had as good go into the dead-cart at once.
Therefore I say, if we stay here we are sure to die, and if we go away
we can but die; I am resolved to be gone.

Thomas. You will go away. Whither will you go, and what can you do? I
would as willingly go away as you, if I knew whither. But we have no
acquaintance, no friends. Here we were born, and here we must die.

John. Look you, Tom, the whole kingdom is my native country as well as
this town. You may as well say I must not go out of my house if it is
on fire as that I must not go out of the town I was born in when it is
infected with the plague. I was born in England, and have a right to
live in it if I can.

Thomas. But you know every vagrant person may by the laws of England be
taken up, and passed back to their last legal settlement.

John. But how shall they make me vagrant? I desire only to travel on,
upon my lawful occasions.

Thomas. What lawful occasions can we pretend to travel, or rather wander
upon? They will not be put off with words.

John. Is not flying to save our lives a lawful occasion? And do they not
all know that the fact is true? We cannot be said to dissemble.

Thomas. But suppose they let us pass, whither shall we go?

John. Anywhere, to save our lives; it is time enough to consider that
when we are got out of this town. If I am once out of this dreadful
place, I care not where I go.

Thomas. We shall be driven to great extremities. I know not what to
think of it.

John. Well, Tom, consider of it a little.

This was about the beginning of July; and though the plague was come
forward in the west and north parts of the town, yet all Wapping, as
I have observed before, and Redriff, and Ratdiff, and Limehouse, and
Poplar, in short, Deptford and Greenwich, all both sides of the river
from the Hermitage, and from over against it, quite down to Blackwall,
was entirely free; there had not one person died of the plague in all
Stepney parish, and not one on the south side of Whitechappel Road, no,
not in any parish; and yet the weekly bill was that very week risen up
to 1006.

It was a fortnight after this before the two brothers met again, and
then the case was a little altered, and the' plague was exceedingly
advanced and the number greatly increased; the bill was up at 2785, and
prodigiously increasing, though still both sides of the river, as below,
kept pretty well. But some began to die in Redriff, and about five or
six in Ratdiff Highway, when the sailmaker came to his brother John
express, and in some fright; for he was absolutely warned out of his
lodging, and had only a week to provide himself. His brother John was
in as bad a case, for he was quite out, and had only begged leave of
his master, the biscuit-maker, to lodge in an outhouse belonging to his
workhouse, where he only lay upon straw, with some biscuit-sacks, or
bread-sacks, as they called them, laid upon it, and some of the same
sacks to cover him.

Here they resolved (seeing all employment being at an end, and no work
or wages to be had), they would make the best of their way to get out of
the reach of the dreadful infection, and, being as good husbands as they
could, would endeavour to live upon what they had as long as it would
last, and then work for more if they could get work anywhere, of any
kind, let it be what it would.

While they were considering to put this resolution in practice in the
best manner they could, the third man, who was acquainted very well with
the sailmaker, came to know of the design, and got leave to be one of
the number; and thus they prepared to set out.

It happened that they had not an equal share of money; but as the
sailmaker, who had the best stock, was, besides his being lame, the most
unfit to expect to get anything by working in the country, so he was
content that what money they had should all go into one public stock, on
condition that whatever any one of them could gain more than another, it
should without any grudging be all added to the public stock.

They resolved to load themselves with as little baggage as possible
because they resolved at first to travel on foot, and to go a great
way that they might, if possible, be effectually safe; and a great many
consultations they had with themselves before they could agree about
what way they should travel, which they were so far from adjusting that
even to the morning they set out they were not resolved on it.

At last the seaman put in a hint that determined it. 'First,' says he,
'the weather is very hot, and therefore I am for travelling north, that
we may not have the sun upon our faces and beating on our breasts, which
will heat and suffocate us; and I have been told', says he, 'that it is
not good to overheat our blood at a time when, for aught we know, the
infection may be in the very air. In the next place,' says he, 'I am for
going the way that may be contrary to the wind, as it may blow when we
set out, that we may not have the wind blow the air of the city on our
backs as we go.' These two cautions were approved of, if it could be
brought so to hit that the wind might not be in the south when they set
out to go north.

John the baker, who bad been a soldier, then put in his opinion.
'First,' says he, 'we none of us expect to get any lodging on the road,
and it will be a little too hard to lie just in the open air. Though it
be warm weather, yet it may be wet and damp, and we have a double reason
to take care of our healths at such a time as this; and therefore,'
says he, 'you, brother Tom, that are a sailmaker, might easily make us a
little tent, and I will undertake to set it up every night, and take it
down, and a fig for all the inns in England; if we have a good tent over
our heads we shall do well enough.'

The joiner opposed this, and told them, let them leave that to him; he
would undertake to build them a house every night with his hatchet and
mallet, though he had no other tools, which should be fully to their
satisfaction, and as good as a tent.

The soldier and the joiner disputed that point some time, but at last
the soldier carried it for a tent. The only objection against it was,
that it must be carried with them, and that would increase their baggage
too much, the weather being hot; but the sailmaker had a piece of good
hap fell in which made that easy, for his master whom he worked for,
having a rope-walk as well as sailmaking trade, had a little, poor
horse that he made no use of then; and being willing to assist the three
honest men, he gave them the horse for the carrying their baggage; also
for a small matter of three days' work that his man did for him before
he went, he let him have an old top-gallant sail that was worn out,
but was sufficient and more than enough to make a very good tent. The
soldier showed how to shape it, and they soon by his direction made
their tent, and fitted it with poles or staves for the purpose; and thus
they were furnished for their journey, viz., three men, one tent, one
horse, one gun--for the soldier would not go without arms, for now he
said he was no more a biscuit-baker, but a trooper.

The joiner had a small bag of tools such as might be useful if he should
get any work abroad, as well for their subsistence as his own. What
money they had they brought all into one public stock, and thus they
began their journey. It seems that in the morning when they set out the
wind blew, as the sailor said, by his pocket-compass, at N.W. by W. So
they directed, or rather resolved to direct, their course N.W.

But then a difficulty came in their way, that, as they set out from the
hither end of Wapping, near the Hermitage, and that the plague was now
very violent, especially on the north side of the city, as in Shoreditch
and Cripplegate parish, they did not think it safe for them to go near
those parts; so they went away east through Ratcliff Highway as far as
Ratcliff Cross, and leaving Stepney Church still on their left hand,
being afraid to come up from Ratcliff Cross to Mile End, because they
must come just by the churchyard, and because the wind, that seemed to
blow more from the west, blew directly from the side of the city where
the plague was hottest. So, I say, leaving Stepney they fetched a long
compass, and going to Poplar and Bromley, came into the great road just
at Bow.

Here the watch placed upon Bow Bridge would have questioned them, but
they, crossing the road into a narrow way that turns out of the hither
end of the town of Bow to Old Ford, avoided any inquiry there, and
travelled to Old Ford. The constables everywhere were upon their guard
not so much, It seems, to stop people passing by as to stop them from
taking up their abode in their towns, and withal because of a report
that was newly raised at that time: and that, indeed, was not very
improbable, viz., that the poor people in London, being distressed and
starved for want of work, and by that means for want of bread, were up
in arms and had raised a tumult, and that they would come out to all the
towns round to plunder for bread. This, I say, was only a rumour, and
it was very well it was no more. But it was not so far off from being a
reality as it has been thought, for in a few weeks more the poor people
became so desperate by the calamity they suffered that they were with
great difficulty kept from g out into the fields and towns, and tearing
all in pieces wherever they came; and, as I have observed before,
nothing hindered them but that the plague raged so violently and fell in
upon them so furiously that they rather went to the grave by thousands
than into the fields in mobs by thousands; for, in the parts about the
parishes of St Sepulcher, Clarkenwell, Cripplegate, Bishopsgate, and
Shoreditch, which were the places where the mob began to threaten, the
distemper came on so furiously that there died in those few parishes
even then, before the plague was come to its height, no less than 5361
people in the first three weeks in August; when at the same time
the parts about Wapping, Radcliffe, and Rotherhith were, as before
described, hardly touched, or but very lightly; so that in a word
though, as I said before, the good management of the Lord Mayor and
justices did much to prevent the rage and desperation of the people
from breaking out in rabbles and tumults, and in short from the poor
plundering the rich,--I say, though they did much, the dead-carts did
more: for as I have said that in five parishes only there died above
5000 in twenty days, so there might be probably three times that number
sick all that time; for some recovered, and great numbers fell sick
every day and died afterwards. Besides, I must still be allowed to say
that if the bills of mortality said five thousand, I always believed it
was near twice as many in reality, there being no room to believe that
the account they gave was right, or that indeed they were among such
confusions as I saw them in, in any condition to keep an exact account.

But to return to my travellers. Here they were only examined, and as
they seemed rather coming from the country than from the city, they
found the people the easier with them; that they talked to them, let
them come into a public-house where the constable and his warders
were, and gave them drink and some victuals which greatly refreshed and
encouraged them; and here it came into their heads to say, when they
should be inquired of afterwards, not that they came from London, but
that they came out of Essex.

To forward this little fraud, they obtained so much favour of the
constable at Old Ford as to give them a certificate of their passing
from Essex through that village, and that they had not been at London;
which, though false in the common acceptance of London in the county,
yet was literally true, Wapping or Ratcliff being no part either of the
city or liberty.

This certificate directed to the next constable that was at Homerton,
one of the hamlets of the parish of Hackney, was so serviceable to
them that it procured them, not a free passage there only, but a
full certificate of health from a justice of the peace, who upon the
constable's application granted it without much difficulty; and thus
they passed through the long divided town of Hackney (for it lay then
in several separated hamlets), and travelled on till they came into the
great north road on the top of Stamford Hill.

By this time they began to be weary, and so in the back-road from
Hackney, a little before it opened into the said great road, they
resolved to set up their tent and encamp for the first night, which they
did accordingly, with this addition, that finding a barn, or a building
like a barn, and first searching as well as they could to be sure there
was nobody in it, they set up their tent, with the head of it against
the barn. This they did also because the wind blew that night very high,
and they were but young at such a way of lodging, as well as at the
managing their tent.

Here they went to sleep; but the joiner, a grave and sober man, and not
pleased with their lying at this loose rate the first night, could not
sleep, and resolved, after trying to sleep to no purpose, that he would
get out, and, taking the gun in his hand, stand sentinel and guard his
companions. So with the gun in his hand, he walked to and again before
the barn, for that stood in the field near the road, but within the
hedge. He had not been long upon the scout but he heard a noise of
people coming on, as if it had been a great number, and they came on,
as he thought, directly towards the barn. He did not presently awake his
companions; but in a few minutes more, their noise growing louder and
louder, the biscuit-baker called to him and asked him what was the
matter, and quickly started out too. The other, being the lame sailmaker
and most weary, lay still in the tent.

As they expected, so the people whom they had heard came on directly to
the barn, when one of our travellers challenged, like soldiers upon the
guard, with 'Who comes there?' The people did not answer immediately,
but one of them speaking to another that was behind him, 'Alas I alas I
we are all disappointed,' says he. 'Here are some people before us; the
barn is taken up.'

They all stopped upon that, as under some surprise, and it seems there
was about thirteen of them in all, and some women among them. They
consulted together what they should do, and by their discourse our
travellers soon found they were poor, distressed people too, like
themselves, seeking shelter and safety; and besides, our travellers had
no need to be afraid of their coming up to disturb them, for as soon as
they heard the words, 'Who comes there?' these could hear the women say,
as if frighted, 'Do not go near them. How do you know but they may have
the plague?' And when one of the men said, 'Let us but speak to them',
the women said, 'No, don't by any means. We have escaped thus far by the
goodness of God; do not let us run into danger now, we beseech you.'

Our travellers found by this that they were a good, sober sort of
people, and flying for their lives, as they were; and, as they were
encouraged by it, so John said to the joiner, his comrade, 'Let us
encourage them too as much as we can'; so he called to them, 'Hark ye,
good people,' says the joiner, 'we find by your talk that you are flying
from the same dreadful enemy as we are. Do not be afraid of us; we are
only three poor men of us. If you are free from the distemper you shall
not be hurt by us. We are not in the barn, but in a little tent here in
the outside, and we will remove for you; we can set up our tent again
immediately anywhere else'; and upon this a parley began between the
joiner, whose name was Richard, and one of their men, who said his name
was Ford.

Ford. And do you assure us that you are all sound men?

Richard. Nay, we are concerned to tell you of it, that you may not be
uneasy or think yourselves in danger; but you see we do not desire you
should put yourselves into any danger, and therefore I tell you that we
have not made use of the barn, so we will remove from it, that you may
be safe and we also.

Ford. That is very kind and charitable; but if we have reason to be
satisfied that you are sound and free from the visitation, why should we
make you remove now you are settled in your lodging, and, it may be,
are laid down to rest? We will go into the barn, if you please, to rest
ourselves a while, and we need not disturb you.

Richard. Well, but you are more than we are. I hope you will assure us
that you are all of you sound too, for the danger is as great from you
to us as from us to you.

Ford. Blessed be God that some do escape, though it is but few; what may
be our portion still we know not, but hitherto we are preserved.

Richard. What part of the town do you come from? Was the plague come to
the places where you lived?

Ford. Ay, ay, in a most frightful and terrible manner, or else we had
not fled away as we do; but we believe there will be very few left alive
behind us.

Richard. What part do you come from?

Ford. We are most of us of Cripplegate parish, only two or three of
Clerkenwell parish, but on the hither side.

Richard. How then was it that you came away no sooner?

Ford. We have been away some time, and kept together as well as we could
at the hither end of Islington, where we got leave to lie in an old
uninhabited house, and had some bedding and conveniences of our own that
we brought with us; but the plague is come up into Islington too, and
a house next door to our poor dwelling was infected and shut up; and we
are come away in a fright.

Richard. And what way are you going?

Ford. As our lot shall cast us; we know not whither, but God will guide
those that look up to Him.

They parleyed no further at that time, but came all up to the barn, and
with some difficulty got into it. There was nothing but hay in the barn,
but it was almost full of that, and they accommodated themselves as well
as they could, and went to rest; but our travellers observed that before
they went to sleep an ancient man who it seems was father of one of the
women, went to prayer with all the company, recommending themselves to
the blessing and direction of Providence, before they went to sleep.

It was soon day at that time of the year, and as Richard the joiner had
kept guard the first part of the night, so John the soldier relieved
him, and he had the post in the morning, and they began to be acquainted
with one another. It seems when they left Islington they intended to
have gone north, away to Highgate, but were stopped at Holloway, and
there they would not let them pass; so they crossed over the fields
and hills to the eastward, and came out at the Boarded River, and so
avoiding the towns, they left Hornsey on the left hand and Newington on
the right hand, and came into the great road about Stamford Hill on that
side, as the three travellers had done on the other side. And now they
had thoughts of going over the river in the marshes, and make forwards
to Epping Forest, where they hoped they should get leave to rest. It
seems they were not poor, at least not so poor as to be in want; at
least they had enough to subsist them moderately for two or three
months, when, as they said, they were in hopes the cold weather would
check the infection, or at least the violence of it would have spent
itself, and would abate, if it were only for want of people left alive
to be infected.

This was much the fate of our three travellers, only that they seemed to
be the better furnished for travelling, and had it in their view to go
farther off; for as to the first, they did not propose to go farther
than one day's journey, that so they might have intelligence every two
or three days how things were at London.

But here our travellers found themselves under an unexpected
inconvenience: namely that of their horse, for by means of the horse to
carry their baggage they were obliged to keep in the road, whereas the
people of this other band went over the fields or roads, path or no
path, way or no way, as they pleased; neither had they any occasion to
pass through any town, or come near any town, other than to buy such
things as they wanted for their necessary subsistence, and in that
indeed they were put to much difficulty; of which in its place.

But our three travellers were obliged to keep the road, or else they
must commit spoil, and do the country a great deal of damage in breaking
down fences and gates to go over enclosed fields, which they were loth
to do if they could help it.

Our three travellers, however, had a great mind to join themselves to
this company and take their lot with them; and after some discourse they
laid aside their first design which looked northward, and resolved to
follow the other into Essex; so in the morning they took up their tent
and loaded their horse, and away they travelled all together.

They had some difficulty in passing the ferry at the river-side, the
ferryman being afraid of them; but after some parley at a distance, the
ferryman was content to bring his boat to a place distant from the usual
ferry, and leave it there for them to take it; so putting themselves
over, he directed them to leave the boat, and he, having another boat,
said he would fetch it again, which it seems, however, he did not do for
above eight days.

Here, giving the ferryman money beforehand, they had a supply of
victuals and drink, which he brought and left in the boat for them; but
not without, as I said, having received the money beforehand. But now
our travellers were at a great loss and difficulty how to get the horse
over, the boat being small and not fit for it: and at last could not do
it without unloading the baggage and making him swim over.

From the river they travelled towards the forest, but when they came
to Walthamstow the people of that town denied to admit them, as was the
case everywhere. The constables and their watchmen kept them off at
a distance and parleyed with them. They gave the same account of
themselves as before, but these gave no credit to what they said, giving
it for a reason that two or three companies had already come that way
and made the like pretences, but that they had given several people the
distemper in the towns where they had passed; and had been afterwards
so hardly used by the country (though with justice, too, as they had
deserved) that about Brentwood, or that way, several of them perished
in the fields--whether of the plague or of mere want and distress they
could not tell.

This was a good reason indeed why the people of Walthamstow should be
very cautious, and why they should resolve not to entertain anybody that
they were not well satisfied of. But, as Richard the joiner and one of
the other men who parleyed with them told them, it was no reason why
they should block up the roads and refuse to let people pass through the
town, and who asked nothing of them but to go through the street; that
if their people were afraid of them, they might go into their houses and
shut their doors; they would neither show them civility nor incivility,
but go on about their business.

The constables and attendants, not to be persuaded by reason, continued
obstinate, and would hearken to nothing; so the two men that talked with
them went back to their fellows to consult what was to be done. It was
very discouraging in the whole, and they knew not what to do for a good
while; but at last John the soldier and biscuit-maker, considering a
while, 'Come,' says he, 'leave the rest of the parley to me.' He had not
appeared yet, so he sets the joiner, Richard, to work to cut some poles
out of the trees and shape them as like guns as he could, and in a
little time he had five or six fair muskets, which at a distance would
not be known; and about the part where the lock of a gun is he caused
them to wrap cloth and rags such as they had, as soldiers do in wet
weather to preserve the locks of their pieces from rust; the rest was
discoloured with clay or mud, such as they could get; and all this while
the rest of them sat under the trees by his direction, in two or three
bodies, where they made fires at a good distance from one another.

While this was doing he advanced himself and two or three with him,
and set up their tent in the lane within sight of the barrier which the
town's men had made, and set a sentinel just by it with the real gun,
the only one they had, and who walked to and fro with the gun on his
shoulder, so as that the people of the town might see them. Also, he
tied the horse to a gate in the hedge just by, and got some dry sticks
together and kindled a fire on the other side of the tent, so that the
people of the town could see the fire and the smoke, but could not see
what they were doing at it.

After the country people had looked upon them very earnestly a great
while, and, by all that they could see, could not but suppose that they
were a great many in company, they began to be uneasy, not for their
going away, but for staying where they were; and above all, perceiving
they had horses and arms, for they had seen one horse and one gun at
the tent, and they had seen others of them walk about the field on the
inside of the hedge by the side of the lane with their muskets, as they
took them to be, shouldered; I say, upon such a sight as this, you may
be assured they were alarmed and terribly frighted, and it seems they
went to a justice of the peace to know what they should do. What the
justice advised them to I know not, but towards the evening they called
from the barrier, as above, to the sentinel at the tent.

'What do you want?' says John.*

'Why, what do you intend to do?' says the constable. 'To do,' says John;
'what would you have us to do?' Constable. Why don't you be gone? What
do you stay there for?

John. Why do you stop us on the king's highway, and pretend to refuse us
leave to go on our way?

Constable. We are not bound to tell you our reason, though we did let
you know it was because of the plague.

John. We told you we were all sound and free from the plague, which we
were not bound to have satisfied you of, and yet you pretend to stop us
on the highway.

Constable. We have a right to stop it up, and our own safety obliges
us to it. Besides, this is not the king's highway; 'tis a way upon
sufferance. You see here is a gate, and if we do let people pass here,
we make them pay toll.

John. We have a right to seek our own safety as well as you, and you may
see we are flying for our lives: and 'tis very unchristian and unjust to
stop us.

Constable. You may go back from whence you came; we do not hinder you
from that.

John. No; it is a stronger enemy than you that keeps us from doing that,
or else we should not have come hither.

Constable. Well, you may go any other way, then.

John. No, no; I suppose you see we are able to send you going, and all
the people of your parish, and come through your town when we will; but
since you have stopped us here, we are content. You see we have encamped
here, and here we will live. We hope you will furnish us with victuals.

     *It seems John was in the tent, but hearing them call, he
     steps out, and taking the gun upon his shoulder, talked to
     them as if he had been the sentinel placed there upon the
     guard by some officer that was his superior. [Footnote in
     the original.]

Constable. We furnish you I What mean you by that?

John. Why, you would not have us starve, would you? If you stop us here,
you must keep us.

Constable. You will be ill kept at our maintenance.

John. If you stint us, we shall make ourselves the better allowance.

Constable. Why, you will not pretend to quarter upon us by force, will

John. We have offered no violence to you yet. Why do you seem to oblige
us to it? I am an old soldier, and cannot starve, and if you think that
we shall be obliged to go back for want of provisions, you are mistaken.

Constable. Since you threaten us, we shall take care to be strong enough
for you. I have orders to raise the county upon you.

John. It is you that threaten, not we. And since you are for mischief,
you cannot blame us if we do not give you time for it; we shall begin
our march in a few minutes.*

Constable. What is it you demand of us?

John. At first we desired nothing of you but leave to go through the
town; we should have offered no injury to any of you, neither would you
have had any injury or loss by us. We are not thieves, but poor people
in distress, and flying from the dreadful plague in London, which
devours thousands every week. We wonder how you could be so unmerciful!

Constable. Self-preservation obliges us.

John. What! To shut up your compassion in a case of such distress as

Constable. Well, if you will pass over the fields on your left hand, and
behind that part of the town, I will endeavour to have gates opened for

John. Our horsemen ** cannot pass with our baggage that way; it does not
lead into the road that we want to go, and why should you force us out
of the road? Besides, you have kept us here all day without any
provisions but such as we brought with us. I think you ought to send us
some provisions for our relief.

     * This frighted the constable and the people that were with
     him, that they immediately changed their note.

     ** They had but one horse among them.
     [Footnotes in the original.]

Constable. If you will go another way we will send you some provisions.

John. That is the way to have all the towns in the county stop up the
ways against us.

Constable. If they all furnish you with food, what will you be the
worse? I see you have tents; you want no lodging.

John. Well, what quantity of provisions will you send us?

Constable. How many are you?

John. Nay, we do not ask enough for all our company; we are in three
companies. If you will send us bread for twenty men and about six or
seven women for three days, and show us the way over the field you speak
of, we desire not to put your people into any fear for us; we will go
out of our way to oblige you, though we are as free from infection as
you are.*

Constable. And will you assure us that your other people shall offer us
no new disturbance?

John. No, no you may depend on it.

Constable. You must oblige yourself, too, that none of your people shall
come a step nearer than where the provisions we send you shall be set

John. I answer for it we will not.

Accordingly they sent to the place twenty loaves of bread and three or
four large pieces of good beef, and opened some gates, through which
they passed; but none of them had courage so much as to look out to see
them go, and, as it was evening, if they had looked they could not have
seen them as to know how few they were.

This was John the soldier's management. But this gave such an alarm to
the county, that had they really been two or three hundred the whole
county would have been raised upon them, and they would have been sent
to prison, or perhaps knocked on the head.

     * Here he called to one of his men, and bade him order
     Captain Richard and his people to march the lower way on the
     side of the marches, and meet them in the forest; which was
     all a sham, for they had no Captain Richard, or any such
     company. [Footnote in the original.]

They were soon made sensible of this, for two days afterwards they found
several parties of horsemen and footmen also about, in pursuit of three
companies of men, armed, as they said, with muskets, who were broke
out from London and had the plague upon them, and that were not only
spreading the distemper among the people, but plundering the country.

As they saw now the consequence of their case, they soon saw the danger
they were in; so they resolved by the advice also of the old soldier to
divide themselves again. John and his two comrades, with the horse,
went away, as if towards Waltham; the other in two companies, but all a
little asunder, and went towards Epping.

The first night they encamped all in the forest, and not far off of one
another, but not setting up the tent, lest that should discover them. On
the other hand, Richard went to work with his axe and his hatchet, and
cutting down branches of trees, he built three tents or hovels, in which
they all encamped with as much convenience as they could expect.

The provisions they had at Walthamstow served them very plentifully this
night; and as for the next, they left it to Providence. They had fared
so well with the old soldier's conduct that they now willingly made him
their leader, and the first of his conduct appeared to be very good. He
told them that they were now at a proper distance enough from London;
that as they need not be immediately beholden to the country for relief,
so they ought to be as careful the country did not infect them as that
they did not infect the country; that what little money they had, they
must be as frugal of as they could; that as he would not have them think
of offering the country any violence, so they must endeavour to make the
sense of their condition go as far with the country as it could. They
all referred themselves to his direction, so they left their three
houses standing, and the next day went away towards Epping. The captain
also (for so they now called him), and his two fellow-travellers, laid
aside their design of going to Waltham, and all went together.

When they came near Epping they halted, choosing out a proper place in
the open forest, not very near the highway, but not far out of it on
the north side, under a little cluster of low pollard-trees. Here they
pitched their little camp--which consisted of three large tents or huts
made of poles which their carpenter, and such as were his assistants,
cut down and fixed in the ground in a circle, binding all the small ends
together at the top and thickening the sides with boughs of trees and
bushes, so that they were completely close and warm. They had, besides
this, a little tent where the women lay by themselves, and a hut to put
the horse in.

It happened that the next day, or next but one, was market-day at
Epping, when Captain John and one of the other men went to market and
bought some provisions; that is to say, bread, and some mutton and beef;
and two of the women went separately, as if they had not belonged to
the rest, and bought more. John took the horse to bring it home, and
the sack which the carpenter carried his tools in, to put it in. The
carpenter went to work and made them benches and stools to sit on, such
as the wood he could get would afford, and a kind of table to dine on.

They were taken no notice of for two or three days, but after that
abundance of people ran out of the town to look at them, and all the
country was alarmed about them. The people at first seemed afraid to
come near them; and, on the other hand, they desired the people to keep
off, for there was a rumour that the plague was at Waltham, and that it
had been in Epping two or three days; so John called out to them not to
come to them, 'for,' says he, 'we are all whole and sound people here,
and we would not have you bring the plague among us, nor pretend we
brought it among you.'

After this the parish officers came up to them and parleyed with them
at a distance, and desired to know who they were, and by what authority
they pretended to fix their stand at that place. John answered very
frankly, they were poor distressed people from London who, foreseeing
the misery they should be reduced to if plague spread into the city,
had fled out in time for their lives, and, having no acquaintance or
relations to fly to, had first taken up at Islington; but, the plague
being come into that town, were fled farther; and as they supposed that
the people of Epping might have refused them coming into their town,
they had pitched their tents thus in the open field and in the forest,
being willing to bear all the hardships of such a disconsolate lodging
rather than have any one think or be afraid that they should receive
injury by them.

At first the Epping people talked roughly to them, and told them they
must remove; that this was no place for them; and that they pretended to
be sound and well, but that they might be infected with the plague for
aught they knew, and might infect the whole country, and they could not
suffer them there.

John argued very calmly with them a great while, and told them that
London was the place by which they--that is, the townsmen of Epping and
all the country round them--subsisted; to whom they sold the produce of
their lands, and out of whom they made their rent of their farms; and
to be so cruel to the inhabitants of London, or to any of those by whom
they gained so much, was very hard, and they would be loth to have it
remembered hereafter, and have it told how barbarous, how inhospitable,
and how unkind they were to the people of London when they fled from the
face of the most terrible enemy in the world; that it would be enough to
make the name of an Epping man hateful through all the city, and to have
the rabble stone them in the very streets whenever they came so much as
to market; that they were not yet secure from being visited themselves,
and that, as he heard, Waltham was already; that they would think it
very hard that when any of them fled for fear before they were touched,
they should be denied the liberty of lying so much as in the open

The Epping men told them again, that they, indeed, said they were sound
and free from the infection, but that they had no assurance of it; and
that it was reported that there had been a great rabble of people at
Walthamstow, who made such pretences of being sound as they did, but
that they threatened to plunder the town and force their way, whether
the parish officers would or no; that there were near two hundred
of them, and had arms and tents like Low Country soldiers; that they
extorted provisions from the town, by threatening them with living upon
them at free quarter, showing their arms, and talking in the language
of soldiers; and that several of them being gone away toward Rumford and
Brentwood, the country had been infected by them, and the plague spread
into both those large towns, so that the people durst not go to market
there as usual; that it was very likely they were some of that party;
and if so, they deserved to be sent to the county jail, and be secured
till they had made satisfaction for the damage they had done, and for
the terror and fright they had put the country into.

John answered that what other people had done was nothing to them; that
they assured them they were all of one company; that they had never been
more in number than they saw them at that time (which, by the way, was
very true); that they came out in two separate companies, but joined by
the way, their cases being the same; that they were ready to give what
account of themselves anybody could desire of them, and to give in their
names and places of abode, that so they might be called to an account
for any disorder that they might be guilty of; that the townsmen might
see they were content to live hardly, and only desired a little room to
breathe in on the forest where it was wholesome; for where it was not
they could not stay, and would decamp if they found it otherwise there.

'But,' said the townsmen, 'we have a great charge of poor upon our hands
already, and we must take care not to increase it; we suppose you can
give us no security against your being chargeable to our parish and to
the inhabitants, any more than you can of being dangerous to us as to
the infection.'

'Why, look you,' says John, 'as to being chargeable to you, we hope
we shall not. If you will relieve us with provisions for our present
necessity, we will be very thankful; as we all lived without charity
when we were at home, so we will oblige ourselves fully to repay you, if
God pleases to bring us back to our own families and houses in safety,
and to restore health to the people of London.

'As to our dying here: we assure you, if any of us die, we that survive
will bury them, and put you to no expense, except it should be that we
should all die; and then, indeed, the last man not being able to bury
himself, would put you to that single expense which I am persuaded',
says John, 'he would leave enough behind him to pay you for the expense

'On the other hand,' says John, 'if you shut up all bowels of
compassion, and not relieve us at all, we shall not extort anything by
violence or steal from any one; but when what little we have is spent,
if we perish for want, God's will be done.'

John wrought so upon the townsmen, by talking thus rationally and
smoothly to them, that they went away; and though they did not give any
consent to their staying there, yet they did not molest them; and
the poor people continued there three or four days longer without any
disturbance. In this time they had got some remote acquaintance with a
victualling-house at the outskirts of the town, to whom they called at
a distance to bring some little things that they wanted, and which they
caused to be set down at a distance, and always paid for very honestly.

During this time the younger people of the town came frequently pretty
near them, and would stand and look at them, and sometimes talk with
them at some space between; and particularly it was observed that the
first Sabbath-day the poor people kept retired, worshipped God together,
and were heard to sing psalms.

These things, and a quiet, inoffensive behaviour, began to get them the
good opinion of the country, and people began to pity them and speak
very well of them; the consequence of which was, that upon the occasion
of a very wet, rainy night, a certain gentleman who lived in the
neighbourhood sent them a little cart with twelve trusses or bundles of
straw, as well for them to lodge upon as to cover and thatch their huts
and to keep them dry. The minister of a parish not far off, not knowing
of the other, sent them also about two bushels of wheat and half a
bushel of white peas.

They were very thankful, to be sure, for this relief, and particularly
the straw was a--very great comfort to them; for though the ingenious
carpenter had made frames for them to lie in like troughs, and filled
them with leaves of trees, and such things as they could get, and had
cut all their tent-cloth out to make them coverlids, yet they lay damp
and hard and unwholesome till this straw came, which was to them like
feather-beds, and, as John said, more welcome than feather-beds would
have been at another time.

This gentleman and the minister having thus begun, and given an example
of charity to these wanderers, others quickly followed, and they
received every day some benevolence or other from the people, but
chiefly from the gentlemen who dwelt in the country round them. Some
sent them chairs, stools, tables, and such household things as they gave
notice they wanted; some sent them blankets, rugs, and coverlids, some
earthenware, and some kitchen ware for ordering their food.

Encouraged by this good usage, their carpenter in a few days built them
a large shed or house with rafters, and a roof in form, and an upper
floor, in which they lodged warm: for the weather began to be damp and
cold in the beginning of September. But this house, being well thatched,
and the sides and roof made very thick, kept out the cold well enough.
He made, also, an earthen wall at one end with a chimney in it, and
another of the company, with a vast deal of trouble and pains, made a
funnel to the chimney to carry out the smoke.

Here they lived comfortably, though coarsely, till the beginning of
September, when they had the bad news to hear, whether true or not,
that the plague, which was very hot at Waltham Abbey on one side and at
Rumford and Brentwood on the other side, was also coming to Epping, to
Woodford, and to most of the towns upon the Forest, and which, as they
said, was brought down among them chiefly by the higlers, and such
people as went to and from London with provisions.

If this was true, it was an evident contradiction to that report which
was afterwards spread all over England, but which, as I have said,
I cannot confirm of my own knowledge: namely, that the market-people
carrying provisions to the city never got the infection or carried it
back into the country; both which, I have been assured, has been false.

It might be that they were preserved even beyond expectation, though
not to a miracle, that abundance went and came and were not touched; and
that was much for the encouragement of the poor people of London, who
had been completely miserable if the people that brought provisions to
the markets had not been many times wonderfully preserved, or at least
more preserved than could be reasonably expected.

But now these new inmates began to be disturbed more effectually, for
the towns about them were really infected, and they began to be afraid
to trust one another so much as to go abroad for such things as they
wanted, and this pinched them very hard, for now they had little or
nothing but what the charitable gentlemen of the country supplied them
with. But, for their encouragement, it happened that other gentlemen in
the country who had not sent them anything before, began to hear of them
and supply them, and one sent them a large pig--that is to say, a porker
another two sheep, and another sent them a calf. In short, they had meat
enough, and sometimes had cheese and milk, and all such things. They
were chiefly put to it for bread, for when the gentlemen sent them corn
they had nowhere to bake it or to grind it. This made them eat the
first two bushel of wheat that was sent them in parched corn, as the
Israelites of old did, without grinding or making bread of it.

At last they found means to carry their corn to a windmill near
Woodford, where they had it ground, and afterwards the biscuit-maker
made a hearth so hollow and dry that he could bake biscuit-cakes
tolerably well; and thus they came into a condition to live without any
assistance or supplies from the towns; and it was well they did, for the
country was soon after fully infected, and about 120 were said to have
died of the distemper in the villages near them, which was a terrible
thing to them.

On this they called a new council, and now the towns had no need to
be afraid they should settle near them; but, on the contrary, several
families of the poorer sort of the inhabitants quitted their houses and
built huts in the forest after the same manner as they had done. But it
was observed that several of these poor people that had so removed
had the sickness even in their huts or booths; the reason of which was
plain, namely, not because they removed into the air, but, () because
they did not remove time enough; that is to say, not till, by openly
conversing with the other people their neighbours, they had the
distemper upon them, or (as may be said) among them, and so carried
it about them whither they went. Or (2) because they were not careful
enough, after they were safely removed out of the towns, not to come in
again and mingle with the diseased people.

But be it which of these it will, when our travellers began to perceive
that the plague was not only in the towns, but even in the tents and
huts on the forest near them, they began then not only to be afraid, but
to think of decamping and removing; for had they stayed they would have
been in manifest danger of their lives.

It is not to be wondered that they were greatly afflicted at being
obliged to quit the place where they had been so kindly received, and
where they had been treated with so much humanity and charity; but
necessity and the hazard of life, which they came out so far to
preserve, prevailed with them, and they saw no remedy. John, however,
thought of a remedy for their present misfortune: namely, that he would
first acquaint that gentleman who was their principal benefactor with
the distress they were in, and to crave his assistance and advice.

The good, charitable gentleman encouraged them to quit the Place for
fear they should be cut off from any retreat at all by the violence of
the distemper; but whither they should go, that he found very hard to
direct them to. At last John asked of him whether he, being a justice of
the peace, would give them certificates of health to other justices whom
they might come before; that so whatever might be their lot, they might
not be repulsed now they had been also so long from London. This his
worship immediately granted, and gave them proper letters of health, and
from thence they were at liberty to travel whither they pleased.

Accordingly they had a full certificate of health, intimating that they
had resided in a village in the county of Essex so long that, being
examined and scrutinised sufficiently, and having been retired from all
conversation for above forty days, without any appearance of sickness,
they were therefore certainly concluded to be sound men, and might be
safely entertained anywhere, having at last removed rather for fear of
the plague which was come into such a town, rather than for having any
signal of infection upon them, or upon any belonging to them.

With this certificate they removed, though with great reluctance; and
John inclining not to go far from home, they moved towards the marshes
on the side of Waltham. But here they found a man who, it seems, kept
a weir or stop upon the river, made to raise the water for the barges
which go up and down the river, and he terrified them with dismal
stories of the sickness having been spread into all the towns on the
river and near the river, on the side of Middlesex and Hertfordshire;
that is to say, into Waltham, Waltham Cross, Enfield, and Ware, and all
the towns on the road, that they were afraid to go that way; though it
seems the man imposed upon them, for that the thing was not really true.

However, it terrified them, and they resolved to move across the forest
towards Rumford and Brentwood; but they heard that there were numbers
of people fled out of London that way, who lay up and down in the
forest called Henalt Forest, reaching near Rumford, and who, having
no subsistence or habitation, not only lived oddly and suffered great
extremities in the woods and fields for want of relief, but were said
to be made so desperate by those extremities as that they offered many
violences to the county robbed and plundered, and killed cattle, and the
like; that others, building huts and hovels by the roadside, begged,
and that with an importunity next door to demanding relief; so that the
county was very uneasy, and had been obliged to take some of them up.

This in the first place intimated to them, that they would be sure to
find the charity and kindness of the county, which they had found here
where they were before, hardened and shut up against them; and that, on
the other hand, they would be questioned wherever they came, and would
be in danger of violence from others in like cases as themselves.

Upon all these considerations John, their captain, in all their names,
went back to their good friend and benefactor, who had relieved them
before, and laying their case truly before him, humbly asked his advice;
and he as kindly advised them to take up their old quarters again, or if
not, to remove but a little farther out of the road, and directed them
to a proper place for them; and as they really wanted some house rather
than huts to shelter them at that time of the year, it growing on
towards Michaelmas, they found an old decayed house which had been
formerly some cottage or little habitation but was so out of repair
as scarce habitable; and by the consent of a farmer to whose farm it
belonged, they got leave to make what use of it they could.

The ingenious joiner, and all the rest, by his directions went to work
with it, and in a very few days made it capable to shelter them all in
case of bad weather; and in which there was an old chimney and old oven,
though both lying in ruins; yet they made them both fit for use, and,
raising additions, sheds, and leantos on every side, they soon made the
house capable to hold them all.

They chiefly wanted boards to make window-shutters, floors, doors, and
several other things; but as the gentlemen above favoured them, and the
country was by that means made easy with them, and above all, that they
were known to be all sound and in good health, everybody helped them
with what they could spare.

Here they encamped for good and all, and resolved to remove no more.
They saw plainly how terribly alarmed that county was everywhere at
anybody that came from London, and that they should have no admittance
anywhere but with the utmost difficulty; at least no friendly reception
and assistance as they had received here.

Now, although they received great assistance and encouragement from the
country gentlemen and from the people round about them, yet they were
put to great straits: for the weather grew cold and wet in October and
November, and they had not been used to so much hardship; so that they
got colds in their limbs, and distempers, but never had the infection;
and thus about December they came home to the city again.

I give this story thus at large, principally to give an account what
became of the great numbers of people which immediately appeared in the
city as soon as the sickness abated; for, as I have said, great numbers
of those that were able and had retreats in the country fled to those
retreats. So, when it was increased to such a frightful extremity as I
have related, the middling people who had not friends fled to all parts
of the country where they could get shelter, as well those that had
money to relieve themselves as those that had not. Those that had money
always fled farthest, because they were able to subsist themselves; but
those who were empty suffered, as I have said, great hardships, and were
often driven by necessity to relieve their wants at the expense of the
country. By that means the country was made very uneasy at them, and
sometimes took them up; though even then they scarce knew what to do
with them, and were always very backward to punish them, but often, too,
they forced them from place to place till they were obliged to come back
again to London.

I have, since my knowing this story of John and his brother, inquired
and found that there were a great many of the poor disconsolate people,
as above, fled into the country every way; and some of them got little
sheds and barns and outhouses to live in, where they could obtain so
much kindness of the country, and especially where they had any the
least satisfactory account to give of themselves, and particularly that
they did not come out of London too late. But others, and that in great
numbers, built themselves little huts and retreats in the fields and
woods, and lived like hermits in holes and caves, or any place they
could find, and where, we may be sure, they suffered great extremities,
such that many of them were obliged to come back again whatever the
danger was; and so those little huts were often found empty, and the
country people supposed the inhabitants lay dead in them of the plague,
and would not go near them for fear--no, not in a great while; nor is it
unlikely but that some of the unhappy wanderers might die so all alone,
even sometimes for want of help, as particularly in one tent or hut was
found a man dead, and on the gate of a field just by was cut with his
knife in uneven letters the following words, by which it may be supposed
the other man escaped, or that, one dying first, the other buried him as
well as he could:--

     O mIsErY!
     We BoTH ShaLL DyE,
     WoE, WoE.

I have given an account already of what I found to have been the case
down the river among the seafaring men; how the ships lay in the offing,
as it's called, in rows or lines astern of one another, quite down from
the Pool as far as I could see. I have been told that they lay in the
same manner quite down the river as low as Gravesend, and some far
beyond: even everywhere or in every place where they could ride with
safety as to wind and weather; nor did I ever hear that the plague
reached to any of the people on board those ships--except such as lay
up in the Pool, or as high as Deptford Reach, although the people went
frequently on shore to the country towns and villages and farmers'
houses, to buy fresh provisions, fowls, pigs, calves, and the like for
their supply.

Likewise I found that the watermen on the river above the bridge found
means to convey themselves away up the river as far as they could go,
and that they had, many of them, their whole families in their boats,
covered with tilts and bales, as they call them, and furnished with
straw within for their lodging, and that they lay thus all along by the
shore in the marshes, some of them setting up little tents with their
sails, and so lying under them on shore in the day, and going into their
boats at night; and in this manner, as I have heard, the river-sides
were lined with boats and people as long as they had anything to subsist
on, or could get anything of the country; and indeed the country people,
as well Gentlemen as others, on these and all other occasions, were very
forward to relieve them--but they were by no means willing to receive
them into their towns and houses, and for that we cannot blame them.

There was one unhappy citizen within my knowledge who had been visited
in a dreadful manner, so that his wife and all his children were dead,
and himself and two servants only left, with an elderly woman, a near
relation, who had nursed those that were dead as well as she could. This
disconsolate man goes to a village near the town, though not within the
bills of mortality, and finding an empty house there, inquires out the
owner, and took the house. After a few days he got a cart and loaded
it with goods, and carries them down to the house; the people of the
village opposed his driving the cart along; but with some arguings and
some force, the men that drove the cart along got through the street up
to the door of the house. There the constable resisted them again,
and would not let them be brought in. The man caused the goods to be
unloaden and laid at the door, and sent the cart away; upon which
they carried the man before a justice of peace; that is to say, they
commanded him to go, which he did. The justice ordered him to cause the
cart to fetch away the goods again, which he refused to do; upon which
the justice ordered the constable to pursue the carters and fetch them
back, and make them reload the goods and carry them away, or to set them
in the stocks till they came for further orders; and if they could not
find them, nor the man would not consent to take them away, they should
cause them to be drawn with hooks from the house-door and burned in the
street. The poor distressed man upon this fetched the goods again, but
with grievous cries and lamentations at the hardship of his case. But
there was no remedy; self-preservation obliged the people to those
severities which they would not otherwise have been concerned in.
Whether this poor man lived or died I cannot tell, but it was reported
that he had the plague upon him at that time; and perhaps the people
might report that to justify their usage of him; but it was not unlikely
that either he or his goods, or both, were dangerous, when his whole
family had been dead of the distempers so little a while before.

I know that the inhabitants of the towns adjacent to London were much
blamed for cruelty to the poor people that ran from the contagion in
their distress, and many very severe things were done, as may be seen
from what has been said; but I cannot but say also that, where there was
room for charity and assistance to the people, without apparent danger
to themselves, they were willing enough to help and relieve them. But as
every town were indeed judges in their own case, so the poor people
who ran abroad in their extremities were often ill-used and driven back
again into the town; and this caused infinite exclamations and outcries
against the country towns, and made the clamour very popular.

And yet, more or less, maugre all the caution, there was not a town of
any note within ten (or, I believe, twenty) miles of the city but what
was more or less infected and had some died among them. I have heard the
accounts of several, such as they were reckoned up, as follows:--

     In Enfield           32          In Uxbridge        117
     "  Hornsey           58               "  Hertford    90
     "  Newington         17          "  Ware            160
     "  Tottenham         42          "  Hodsdon          30
     "  Edmonton          19          "  Waltham Abbey    23
     "  Barnet and Hadly  19          "  Epping           26
     "  St Albans        121          "  Deptford        623
     "  Watford           45          "  Greenwich       231
     "  Eltham and Lusum  85          "  Kingston        122
     "  Croydon           61          "  Stanes           82
     "  Brentwood         70          "  Chertsey         18
     "  Rumford          109          "  Windsor         103
     "  Barking Abbot    200
     "  Brentford        432                       Cum aliis.

Another thing might render the country more strict with respect to the
citizens, and especially with respect to the poor, and this was what
I hinted at before: namely, that there was a seeming propensity or a
wicked inclination in those that were infected to infect others.

There have been great debates among our physicians as to the reason of
this. Some will have it to be in the nature of the disease, and that it
impresses every one that is seized upon by it with a kind of a rage, and
a hatred against their own kind--as if there was a malignity not only
in the distemper to communicate itself, but in the very nature of man,
prompting him with evil will or an evil eye, that, as they say in the
case of a mad dog, who though the gentlest creature before of any of his
kind, yet then will fly upon and bite any one that comes next him, and
those as soon as any who had been most observed by him before.

Others placed it to the account of the corruption of human nature, who
cannot bear to see itself more miserable than others of its own species,
and has a kind of involuntary wish that all men were as unhappy or in as
bad a condition as itself.

Others say it was only a kind of desperation, not knowing or regarding
what they did, and consequently unconcerned at the danger or safety not
only of anybody near them, but even of themselves also. And indeed,
when men are once come to a condition to abandon themselves, and be
unconcerned for the safety or at the danger of themselves, it cannot
be so much wondered that they should be careless of the safety of other

But I choose to give this grave debate a quite different turn, and
answer it or resolve it all by saying that I do not grant the fact. On
the contrary, I say that the thing is not really so, but that it was a
general complaint raised by the people inhabiting the outlying villages
against the citizens to justify, or at least excuse, those hardships and
severities so much talked of, and in which complaints both sides may be
said to have injured one another; that is to say, the citizens pressing
to be received and harboured in time of distress, and with the plague
upon them, complain of the cruelty and injustice of the country people
in being refused entrance and forced back again with their goods and
families; and the inhabitants, finding themselves so imposed upon, and
the citizens breaking in as it were upon them whether they would or no,
complain that when they were infected they were not only regardless of
others, but even willing to infect them; neither of which were really
true--that is to say, in the colours they were described in.

It is true there is something to be said for the frequent alarms which
were given to the country of the resolution of the people of London to
come out by force, not only for relief, but to plunder and rob; that
they ran about the streets with the distemper upon them without any
control; and that no care was taken to shut up houses, and confine the
sick people from infecting others; whereas, to do the Londoners justice,
they never practised such things, except in such particular cases as I
have mentioned above, and such like. On the other hand, everything was
managed with so much care, and such excellent order was observed in the
whole city and suburbs by the care of the Lord Mayor and aldermen and
by the justices of the peace, church-wardens, &c., in the outparts,
that London may be a pattern to all the cities in the world for the good
government and the excellent order that was everywhere kept, even in
the time of the most violent infection, and when the people were in the
utmost consternation and distress. But of this I shall speak by itself.

One thing, it is to be observed, was owing principally to the prudence
of the magistrates, and ought to be mentioned to their honour: viz., the
moderation which they used in the great and difficult work of shutting
up of houses. It is true, as I have mentioned, that the shutting up of
houses was a great subject of discontent, and I may say indeed the only
subject of discontent among the people at that time; for the confining
the sound in the same house with the sick was counted very terrible, and
the complaints of people so confined were very grievous. They were heard
into the very streets, and they were sometimes such that called for
resentment, though oftener for compassion. They had no way to converse
with any of their friends but out at their windows, where they would
make such piteous lamentations as often moved the hearts of those they
talked with, and of others who, passing by, heard their story; and as
those complaints oftentimes reproached the severity, and sometimes the
insolence, of the watchmen placed at their doors, those watchmen would
answer saucily enough, and perhaps be apt to affront the people who
were in the street talking to the said families; for which, or for their
ill-treatment of the families, I think seven or eight of them in several
places were killed; I know not whether I should say murdered or not,
because I cannot enter into the particular cases. It is true the
watchmen were on their duty, and acting in the post where they were
placed by a lawful authority; and killing any public legal officer
in the execution of his office is always, in the language of the law,
called murder. But as they were not authorised by the magistrates'
instructions, or by the power they acted under, to be injurious or
abusive either to the people who were under their observation or to any
that concerned themselves for them; so when they did so, they might be
said to act themselves, not their office; to act as private persons,
not as persons employed; and consequently, if they brought mischief upon
themselves by such an undue behaviour, that mischief was upon their
own heads; and indeed they had so much the hearty curses of the people,
whether they deserved it or not, that whatever befell them nobody pitied
them, and everybody was apt to say they deserved it, whatever it was.
Nor do I remember that anybody was ever punished, at least to any
considerable degree, for whatever was done to the watchmen that guarded
their houses.

What variety of stratagems were used to escape and get out of houses
thus shut up, by which the watchmen were deceived or overpowered, and
that the people got away, I have taken notice of already, and shall
say no more to that. But I say the magistrates did moderate and ease
families upon many occasions in this case, and particularly in that of
taking away, or suffering to be removed, the sick persons out of such
houses when they were willing to be removed either to a pest-house or
other Places; and sometimes giving the well persons in the family so
shut up, leave to remove upon information given that they were well,
and that they would confine themselves in such houses where they went
so long as should be required of them. The concern, also, of the
magistrates for the supplying such poor families as were infected--I
say, supplying them with necessaries, as well physic as food--was very
great, and in which they did not content themselves with giving the
necessary orders to the officers appointed, but the aldermen in person,
and on horseback, frequently rode to such houses and caused the people
to be asked at their windows whether they were duly attended or not;
also, whether they wanted anything that was necessary, and if the
officers had constantly carried their messages and fetched them such
things as they wanted or not. And if they answered in the affirmative,
all was well; but if they complained that they were ill supplied, and
that the officer did not do his duty, or did not treat them civilly,
they (the officers) were generally removed, and others placed in their

It is true such complaint might be unjust, and if the officer had such
arguments to use as would convince the magistrate that he was right, and
that the people had injured him, he was continued and they reproved.
But this part could not well bear a particular inquiry, for the parties
could very ill be well heard and answered in the street from the
windows, as was the case then. The magistrates, therefore, generally
chose to favour the people and remove the man, as what seemed to be the
least wrong and of the least ill consequence; seeing if the watchman
was injured, yet they could easily make him amends by giving him another
post of the like nature; but if the family was injured, there was
no satisfaction could be made to them, the damage perhaps being
irreparable, as it concerned their lives.

A great variety of these cases frequently happened between the watchmen
and the poor people shut up, besides those I formerly mentioned about
escaping. Sometimes the watchmen were absent, sometimes drunk, sometimes
asleep when the people wanted them, and such never failed to be punished
severely, as indeed they deserved.

But after all that was or could be done in these cases, the shutting up
of houses, so as to confine those that were well with those that were
sick, had very great inconveniences in it, and some that were very
tragical, and which merited to have been considered if there had been
room for it. But it was authorised by a law, it had the public good in
view as the end chiefly aimed at, and all the private injuries that were
done by the putting it in execution must be put to the account of the
public benefit.

It is doubtful to this day whether, in the whole, it contributed
anything to the stop of the infection; and indeed I cannot say it did,
for nothing could run with greater fury and rage than the infection did
when it was in its chief violence, though the houses infected were shut
up as exactly and as effectually as it was possible. Certain it is that
if all the infected persons were effectually shut in, no sound person
could have been infected by them, because they could not have come near
them. But the case was this (and I shall only touch it here): namely,
that the infection was propagated insensibly, and by such persons as
were not visibly infected, who neither knew whom they infected or who
they were infected by.

A house in Whitechappel was shut up for the sake of one infected maid,
who had only spots, not the tokens come out upon her, and recovered; yet
these people obtained no liberty to stir, neither for air or exercise,
forty days. Want of breath, fear, anger, vexation, and all the other
gifts attending such an injurious treatment cast the mistress of the
family into a fever, and visitors came into the house and said it was
the plague, though the physicians declared it was not. However, the
family were obliged to begin their quarantine anew on the report of the
visitors or examiner, though their former quarantine wanted but a few
days of being finished. This oppressed them so with anger and grief,
and, as before, straitened them also so much as to room, and for want
of breathing and free air, that most of the family fell sick, one of
one distemper, one of another, chiefly scorbutic ailments; only one,
a violent colic; till, after several prolongings of their confinement,
some or other of those that came in with the visitors to inspect the
persons that were ill, in hopes of releasing them, brought the distemper
with them and infected the whole house; and all or most of them died,
not of the plague as really upon them before, but of the plague
that those people brought them, who should have been careful to have
protected them from it. And this was a thing which frequently happened,
and was indeed one of the worst consequences of shutting houses up.

I had about this time a little hardship put upon me, which I was at
first greatly afflicted at, and very much disturbed about though, as
it proved, it did not expose me to any disaster; and this was being
appointed by the alderman of Portsoken Ward one of the examiners of the
houses in the precinct where I lived. We had a large parish, and had no
less than eighteen examiners, as the order called us; the people called
us visitors. I endeavoured with all my might to be excused from such
an employment, and used many arguments with the alderman's deputy to be
excused; particularly I alleged that I was against shutting up houses at
all, and that it would be very hard to oblige me to be an instrument
in that which was against my judgement, and which I did verily believe
would not answer the end it was intended for; but all the abatement I
could get was only, that whereas the officer was appointed by my Lord
Mayor to continue two months, I should be obliged to hold it but three
weeks, on condition nevertheless that I could then get some other
sufficient housekeeper to serve the rest of the time for me--which was,
in short, but a very small favour, it being very difficult to get any
man to accept of such an employment, that was fit to be entrusted with

It is true that shutting up of houses had one effect, which I am
sensible was of moment, namely, it confined the distempered people, who
would otherwise have been both very troublesome and very dangerous in
their running about streets with the distemper upon them--which, when
they were delirious, they would have done in a most frightful manner,
and as indeed they began to do at first very much, till they were thus
restrained; nay, so very open they were that the poor would go about and
beg at people's doors, and say they had the plague upon them, and
beg rags for their sores, or both, or anything that delirious nature
happened to think of.

A poor, unhappy gentlewoman, a substantial citizen's wife, was (if the
story be true) murdered by one of these creatures in Aldersgate Street,
or that way. He was going along the street, raving mad to be sure, and
singing; the people only said he was drunk, but he himself said he
had the plague upon him, which it seems was true; and meeting this
gentlewoman, he would kiss her. She was terribly frighted, as he was
only a rude fellow, and she ran from him, but the street being very thin
of people, there was nobody near enough to help her. When she saw he
would overtake her, she turned and gave him a thrust so forcibly, he
being but weak, and pushed him down backward. But very unhappily, she
being so near, he caught hold of her and pulled her down also, and
getting up first, mastered her and kissed her; and which was worst of
all, when he had done, told her he had the plague, and why should not
she have it as well as he? She was frighted enough before, being also
young with child; but when she heard him say he had the plague, she
screamed out and fell down into a swoon, or in a fit, which, though she
recovered a little, yet killed her in a very few days; and I never heard
whether she had the plague or no.

Another infected person came and knocked at the door of a citizen's
house where they knew him very well; the servant let him in, and being
told the master of the house was above, he ran up and came into the
room to them as the whole family was at supper. They began to rise up,
a little surprised, not knowing what the matter was; but he bid them
sit still, he only came to take his leave of them. They asked him, 'Why,
Mr--, where are you going?' 'Going,' says he; 'I have got the sickness,
and shall die tomorrow night.' 'Tis easy to believe, though not to
describe, the consternation they were all in. The women and the man's
daughters, which were but little girls, were frighted almost to death
and got up, one running out at one door and one at another, some
downstairs and some upstairs, and getting together as well as they
could, locked themselves into their chambers and screamed out at the
window for help, as if they had been frighted out of their wits. The
master, more composed than they, though both frighted and provoked, was
going to lay hands on him and throw him downstairs, being in a passion;
but then, considering a little the condition of the man and the danger
of touching him, horror seized his mind, and he stood still like one
astonished. The poor distempered man all this while, being as well
diseased in his brain as in his body, stood still like one amazed. At
length he turns round: 'Ay!' says he, with all the seeming calmness
imaginable, 'is it so with you all? Are you all disturbed at me? Why,
then I'll e'en go home and die there.' And so he goes immediately
downstairs. The servant that had let him in goes down after him with a
candle, but was afraid to go past him and open the door, so he stood on
the stairs to see what he would do. The man went and opened the door,
and went out and flung the door after him. It was some while before the
family recovered the fright, but as no ill consequence attended, they
have had occasion since to speak of it (You may be sure) with great
satisfaction. Though the man was gone, it was some time--nay, as I
heard, some days before they recovered themselves of the hurry they were
in; nor did they go up and down the house with any assurance till they
had burnt a great variety of fumes and perfumes in all the rooms, and
made a great many smokes of pitch, of gunpowder, and of sulphur, all
separately shifted, and washed their clothes, and the like. As to the
poor man, whether he lived or died I don't remember.

It is most certain that, if by the shutting up of houses the sick bad
not been confined, multitudes who in the height of their fever were
delirious and distracted would have been continually running up and down
the streets; and even as it was a very great number did so, and offered
all sorts of violence to those they met, even just as a mad dog runs on
and bites at every one he meets; nor can I doubt but that, should one
of those infected, diseased creatures have bitten any man or woman while
the frenzy of the distemper was upon them, they, I mean the person so
wounded, would as certainly have been incurably infected as one that was
sick before, and had the tokens upon him.

I heard of one infected creature who, running out of his bed in his
shirt in the anguish and agony of his swellings, of which he had three
upon him, got his shoes on and went to put on his coat; but the nurse
resisting, and snatching the coat from him, he threw her down, ran over
her, ran downstairs and into the street, directly to the Thames in his
shirt; the nurse running after him, and calling to the watch to stop
him; but the watchman, frighted at the man, and afraid to touch him, let
him go on; upon which he ran down to the Stillyard stairs, threw away
his shirt, and plunged into the Thames, and, being a good swimmer, swam
quite over the river; and the tide being coming in, as they call it
(that is, running westward) he reached the land not till he came about
the Falcon stairs, where landing, and finding no people there, it being
in the night, he ran about the streets there, naked as he was, for a
good while, when, it being by that time high water, he takes the river
again, and swam back to the Stillyard, landed, ran up the streets again
to his own house, knocking at the door, went up the stairs and into his
bed again; and that this terrible experiment cured him of the plague,
that is to say, that the violent motion of his arms and legs stretched
the parts where the swellings he had upon him were, that is to say,
under his arms and his groin, and caused them to ripen and break; and
that the cold of the water abated the fever in his blood.

I have only to add that I do not relate this any more than some of the
other, as a fact within my own knowledge, so as that I can vouch
the truth of them, and especially that of the man being cured by the
extravagant adventure, which I confess I do not think very possible; but
it may serve to confirm the many desperate things which the distressed
people falling into deliriums, and what we call light-headedness, were
frequently run upon at that time, and how infinitely more such there
would have been if such people had not been confined by the shutting up
of houses; and this I take to be the best, if not the only good thing
which was performed by that severe method.

On the other hand, the complaints and the murmurings were very bitter
against the thing itself. It would pierce the hearts of all that came by
to hear the piteous cries of those infected people, who, being thus out
of their understandings by the violence of their pain or the heat of
their blood, were either shut in or perhaps tied in their beds and
chairs, to prevent their doing themselves hurt--and who would make
a dreadful outcry at their being confined, and at their being not
permitted to die at large, as they called it, and as they would have
done before.

This running of distempered people about the streets was very dismal,
and the magistrates did their utmost to prevent it; but as it was
generally in the night and always sudden when such attempts were made,
the officers could not be at band to prevent it; and even when any got
out in the day, the officers appointed did not care to meddle with them,
because, as they were all grievously infected, to be sure, when they
were come to that height, so they were more than ordinarily infectious,
and it was one of the most dangerous things that could be to touch them.
On the other hand, they generally ran on, not knowing what they did,
till they dropped down stark dead, or till they had exhausted their
spirits so as that they would fall and then die in perhaps half-an-hour
or an hour; and, which was most piteous to hear, they were sure to come
to themselves entirely in that half-hour or hour, and then to make most
grievous and piercing cries and lamentations in the deep, afflicting
sense of the condition they were in. This was much of it before the
order for shutting up of houses was strictly put in execution, for
at first the watchmen were not so vigorous and severe as they were
afterward in the keeping the people in; that is to say, before they were
(I mean some of them) severely punished for their neglect, failing in
their duty, and letting people who were under their care slip away, or
conniving at their going abroad, whether sick or well. But after they
saw the officers appointed to examine into their conduct were resolved
to have them do their duty or be punished for the omission, they were
more exact, and the people were strictly restrained; which was a thing
they took so ill and bore so impatiently that their discontents can
hardly be described. But there was an absolute necessity for it, that
must be confessed, unless some other measures had been timely entered
upon, and it was too late for that.

Had not this particular (of the sick being restrained as above) been our
case at that time, London would have been the most dreadful place that
ever was in the world; there would, for aught I know, have as many
people died in the streets as died in their houses; for when the
distemper was at its height it generally made them raving and delirious,
and when they were so they would never be persuaded to keep in their
beds but by force; and many who were not tied threw themselves out of
windows when they found they could not get leave to go out of their

It was for want of people conversing one with another, in this time of
calamity, that it was impossible any particular person could come at
the knowledge of all the extraordinary cases that occurred in different
families; and particularly I believe it was never known to this day how
many people in their deliriums drowned themselves in the Thames, and
in the river which runs from the marshes by Hackney, which we generally
called Ware River, or Hackney River. As to those which were set down in
the weekly bill, they were indeed few; nor could it be known of any of
those whether they drowned themselves by accident or not. But I believe
I might reckon up more who within the compass of my knowledge or
observation really drowned themselves in that year, than are put down
in the bill of all put together: for many of the bodies were never
found who yet were known to be lost; and the like in other methods of
self-destruction. There was also one man in or about Whitecross Street
burned himself to death in his bed; some said it was done by himself,
others that it was by the treachery of the nurse that attended him; but
that he had the plague upon him was agreed by all.

It was a merciful disposition of Providence also, and which I have many
times thought of at that time, that no fires, or no considerable ones
at least, happened in the city during that year, which, if it had been
otherwise, would have been very dreadful; and either the people must
have let them alone unquenched, or have come together in great crowds
and throngs, unconcerned at the danger of the infection, not concerned
at the houses they went into, at the goods they handled, or at the
persons or the people they came among. But so it was, that excepting
that in Cripplegate parish, and two or three little eruptions of fires,
which were presently extinguished, there was no disaster of that kind
happened in the whole year. They told us a story of a house in a place
called Swan Alley, passing from Goswell Street, near the end of Old
Street, into St John Street, that a family was infected there in so
terrible a manner that every one of the house died. The last person lay
dead on the floor, and, as it is supposed, had lain herself all along to
die just before the fire; the fire, it seems, had fallen from its place,
being of wood, and had taken hold of the boards and the joists they lay
on, and burnt as far as just to the body, but had not taken hold of the
dead body (though she had little more than her shift on) and had gone
out of itself, not burning the rest of the house, though it was a slight
timber house. How true this might be I do not determine, but the city
being to suffer severely the next year by fire, this year it felt very
little of that calamity.

Indeed, considering the deliriums which the agony threw people 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

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

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

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

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
     -                                             -----
     -                                            38,195

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

(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

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 Westminster.

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 the
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

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

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. 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 September.

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
manner. 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 follows.

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 the 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

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 help, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

But to come to matters of trade. First, foreign exportation being
stopped or at least very much interrupted and rendered difficult, a
general stop of all those manufactures followed of course which were
usually brought for exportation; and though sometimes merchants abroad
were importunate for goods, yet little was sent, the passages being so
generally stopped that the English ships would not be admitted, as is
said already, into their port.

This put a stop to the manufactures that were for exportation in most
parts of England, except in some out-ports; and even that was soon
stopped, for they all had the plague in their turn. But though this was
felt all over England, yet, what was still worse, all intercourse of
trade for home consumption of manufactures, especially those which
usually circulated through the Londoner's hands, was stopped at once,
the trade of the city being stopped.

All kinds of handicrafts in the city, &c., tradesmen and mechanics,
were, as I have said before, out of employ; and this occasioned the
putting-off and dismissing an innumerable number of journeymen and
workmen of all sorts, seeing nothing was done relating to such trades
but what might be said to be absolutely necessary.

This caused the multitude of single people in London to be unprovided
for, as also families whose living depended upon the labour of the heads
of those families; I say, this reduced them to extreme misery; and I
must confess it is for the honour of the city of London, and will be for
many ages, as long as this is to be spoken of, that they were able to
supply with charitable provision the wants of so many thousands of those
as afterwards fell sick and were distressed: so that it may be safely
averred that nobody perished for want, at least that the magistrates had
any notice given them of.

This stagnation of our manufacturing trade in the country would have
put the people there to much greater difficulties, but that the
master-workmen, clothiers and others, to the uttermost of their stocks
and strength, kept on making their goods to keep the poor at work,
believing that soon as the sickness should abate they would have a quick
demand in proportion to the decay of their trade at that time. But as
none but those masters that were rich could do thus, and that many were
poor and not able, the manufacturing trade in England suffered greatly,
and the poor were pinched all over England by the calamity of the city
of London only.

It is true that the next year made them full amends by another terrible
calamity upon the city; so that the city by one calamity impoverished
and weakened the country, and by another calamity, even terrible too
of its kind, enriched the country and made them again amends; for an
infinite quantity of household Stuff, wearing apparel, and other things,
besides whole warehouses filled with merchandise and manufactures such
as come from all parts of England, were consumed in the fire of London
the next year after this terrible visitation. It is incredible what a
trade this made all over the whole kingdom, to make good the want and to
supply that loss; so that, in short, all the manufacturing hands in the
nation were set on work, and were little enough for several years to
supply the market and answer the demands. All foreign markets also were
empty of our goods by the stop which had been occasioned by the plague,
and before an open trade was allowed again; and the prodigious demand at
home falling in, joined to make a quick vent for all sort of goods; so
that there never was known such a trade all over England for the time
as was in the first seven years after the plague, and after the fire of

It remains now that I should say something of the merciful part of this
terrible judgement. The last week in September, the plague being come
to its crisis, its fury began to assuage. I remember my friend Dr Heath,
coming to see me the week before, told me he was sure that the violence
of it would assuage in a few days; but when I saw the weekly bill of
that week, which was the highest of the whole year, being 8297 of all
diseases, I upbraided him with it, and asked him what he had made
his judgement from. His answer, however, was not so much to seek as I
thought it would have been. 'Look you,' says he, 'by the number which
are at this time sick and infected, there should have been twenty
thousand dead the last week instead of eight thousand, if the inveterate
mortal contagion had been as it was two weeks ago; for then it
ordinarily killed in two or three days, now not under eight or ten; and
then not above one in five recovered, whereas I have observed that now
not above two in five miscarry. And, observe it from me, the next bill
will decrease, and you will see many more people recover than used to
do; for though a vast multitude are now everywhere infected, and as many
every day fall sick, yet there will not so many die as there did, for
the malignity of the distemper is abated';--adding that he began now to
hope, nay, more than hope, that the infection had passed its crisis and
was going off; and accordingly so it was, for the next week being, as I
said, the last in September, the bill decreased almost two thousand.

It is true the plague was still at a frightful height, and the next bill
was no less than 6460, and the next to that, 5720; but still my friend's
observation was just, and it did appear the people did recover faster
and more in number than they used to do; and indeed, if it had not been
so, what had been the condition of the city of London? For, according
to my friend, there were not fewer than 60,000 people at that time
infected, whereof, as above, 20,477 died, and near 40,000 recovered;
whereas, had it been as it was before, 50,000 of that number would very
probably have died, if not more, and 50,000 more would have sickened;
for, in a word, the whole mass of people began to sicken, and it looked
as if none would escape.

But this remark of my friend's appeared more evident in a few weeks
more, for the decrease went on, and another week in October it decreased
1843, so that the number dead of the plague was but 2665; and the next
week it decreased 1413 more, and yet it was seen plainly that there
was abundance of people sick, nay, abundance more than ordinary, and
abundance fell sick every day but (as above) the malignity of the
disease abated.

Such is the precipitant disposition of our people (whether it is so
or not all over the world, that's none of my particular business to
inquire), but I saw it apparently here, that as upon the first fright
of the infection they shunned one another, and fled from one another's
houses and from the city with an unaccountable and, as I thought,
unnecessary fright, so now, upon this notion spreading, viz., that the
distemper was not so catching as formerly, and that if it was catched it
was not so mortal, and seeing abundance of people who really fell sick
recover again daily, they took to such a precipitant courage, and grew
so entirely regardless of themselves and of the infection, that they
made no more of the plague than of an ordinary fever, nor indeed so
much. They not only went boldly into company with those who had tumours
and carbuncles upon them that were running, and consequently contagious,
but ate and drank with them, nay, into their houses to visit them, and
even, as I was told, into their very chambers where they lay sick.

This I could not see rational. My friend Dr Heath allowed, and it was
plain to experience, that the distemper was as catching as ever, and as
many fell sick, but only he alleged that so many of those that fell sick
did not die; but I think that while many did die, and that at best
the distemper itself was very terrible, the sores and swellings very
tormenting, and the danger of death not left out of the circumstances of
sickness, though not so frequent as before; all those things, together
with the exceeding tediousness of the cure, the loathsomeness of the
disease, and many other articles, were enough to deter any man living
from a dangerous mixture with the sick people, and make them as anxious
almost to avoid the infections as before.

Nay, there was another thing which made the mere catching of the
distemper frightful, and that was the terrible burning of the caustics
which the surgeons laid on the swellings to bring them to break and to
run, without which the danger of death was very great, even to the last.
Also, the insufferable torment of the swellings, which, though it might
not make people raving and distracted, as they were before, and as I
have given several instances of already, yet they put the patient to
inexpressible torment; and those that fell into it, though they did
escape with life, yet they made bitter complaints of those that had told
them there was no danger, and sadly repented their rashness and folly in
venturing to run into the reach of it.

Nor did this unwary conduct of the people end here, for a great many
that thus cast off their cautions suffered more deeply still, and though
many escaped, yet many died; and at least it had this public mischief
attending it, that it made the decrease of burials slower than it would
otherwise have been. For as this notion ran like lightning through the
city, and people's heads were possessed with it, even as soon as the
first great decrease in the bills appeared, we found that the two
next bills did not decrease in proportion; the reason I take to be
the people's running so rashly into danger, giving up all their former
cautions and care, and all the shyness which they used to practise,
depending that the sickness would not reach them--or that if it did,
they should not die.

The physicians opposed this thoughtless humour of the people with all
their might, and gave out printed directions, spreading them all over
the city and suburbs, advising the people to continue reserved, and to
use still the utmost caution in their ordinary conduct, notwithstanding
the decrease of the distemper, terrifying them with the danger of
bringing a relapse upon the whole city, and telling them how such a
relapse might be more fatal and dangerous than the whole visitation that
had been already; with many arguments and reasons to explain and prove
that part to them, and which are too long to repeat here.

But it was all to no purpose; the audacious creatures were so possessed
with the first joy and so surprised with the satisfaction of seeing a
vast decrease in the weekly bills, that they were impenetrable by any
new terrors, and would not be persuaded but that the bitterness of death
was past; and it was to no more purpose to talk to them than to an
east wind; but they opened shops, went about streets, did business, and
conversed with anybody that came in their way to converse with, whether
with business or without, neither inquiring of their health or so much
as being apprehensive of any danger from them, though they knew them not
to be sound.

This imprudent, rash conduct cost a great many their lives who had with
great care and caution shut themselves up and kept retired, as it were,
from all mankind, and had by that means, under God's providence, been
preserved through all the heat of that infection.

This rash and foolish conduct, I say, of the people went so far that the
ministers took notice to them of it at last, and laid before them both
the folly and danger of it; and this checked it a little, so that they
grew more cautious. But it had another effect, which they could not
check; for as the first rumour had spread not over the city only, but
into the country, it had the like effect: and the people were so tired
with being so long from London, and so eager to come back, that they
flocked to town without fear or forecast, and began to show themselves
in the streets as if all the danger was over. It was indeed surprising
to see it, for though there died still from 1000 to 1800 a week, yet the
people flocked to town as if all had been well.

The consequence of this was, that the bills increased again 400 the very
first week in November; and if I might believe the physicians, there was
above 3000 fell sick that week, most of them new-comers, too.

One John Cock, a barber in St Martin's-le-Grand, was an eminent example
of this; I mean of the hasty return of the people when the plague was
abated. This John Cock had left the town with his whole family, and
locked up his house, and was gone in the country, as many others did;
and finding the plague so decreased in November that there died but 905
per week of all diseases, he ventured home again. He had in his family
ten persons; that is to say, himself and wife, five children, two
apprentices, and a maid-servant. He had not returned to his house above
a week, and began to open his shop and carry on his trade, but the
distemper broke out in his family, and within about five days they
all died, except one; that is to say, himself, his wife, all his five
children, and his two apprentices; and only the maid remained alive.

But the mercy of God was greater to the rest than we had reason to
expect; for the malignity (as I have said) of the distemper was spent,
the contagion was exhausted, and also the winter weather came on apace,
and the air was clear and cold, with sharp frosts; and this increasing
still, most of those that had fallen sick recovered, and the health
of the city began to return. There were indeed some returns of the
distemper even in the month of December, and the bills increased near a
hundred; but it went off again, and so in a short while things began to
return to their own channel. And wonderful it was to see how populous
the city was again all on a sudden, so that a stranger could not
miss the numbers that were lost. Neither was there any miss of the
inhabitants as to their dwellings--few or no empty houses were to be
seen, or if there were some, there was no want of tenants for them.

I wish I could say that as the city had a new face, so the manners of
the people had a new appearance. I doubt not but there were many that
retained a sincere sense of their deliverance, and were that heartily
thankful to that Sovereign Hand that had protected them in so dangerous
a time; it would be very uncharitable to judge otherwise in a city so
populous, and where the people were so devout as they were here in the
time of the visitation itself; but except what of this was to be found
in particular families and faces, it must be acknowledged that the
general practice of the people was just as it was before, and very
little difference was to be seen.

Some, indeed, said things were worse; that the morals of the people
declined from this very time; that the people, hardened by the danger
they had been in, like seamen after a storm is over, were more wicked
and more stupid, more bold and hardened, in their vices and immoralities
than they were before; but I will not carry it so far neither. It would
take up a history of no small length to give a particular of all
the gradations by which the course of things in this city came to be
restored again, and to run in their own channel as they did before.

Some parts of England were now infected as violently as London had been;
the cities of Norwich, Peterborough, Lincoln, Colchester, and other
places were now visited; and the magistrates of London began to set
rules for our conduct as to corresponding with those cities. It is true
we could not pretend to forbid their people coming to London, because it
was impossible to know them asunder; so, after many consultations, the
Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen were obliged to drop it. All they could
do was to warn and caution the people not to entertain in their houses
or converse with any people who they knew came from such infected

But they might as well have talked to the air, for the people of
London thought themselves so plague-free now that they were past all
admonitions; they seemed to depend upon it that the air was restored,
and that the air was like a man that had had the smallpox, not capable
of being infected again. This revived that notion that the infection was
all in the air, that there was no such thing as contagion from the
sick people to the sound; and so strongly did this whimsy prevail among
people that they ran all together promiscuously, sick and well. Not
the Mahometans, who, prepossessed with the principle of predestination,
value nothing of contagion, let it be in what it will, could be more
obstinate than the people of London; they that were perfectly sound,
and came out of the wholesome air, as we call it, into the city, made
nothing of going into the same houses and chambers, nay, even into the
same beds, with those that had the distemper upon them, and were not

Some, indeed, paid for their audacious boldness with the price of their
lives; an infinite number fell sick, and the physicians had more work
than ever, only with this difference, that more of their patients
recovered; that is to say, they generally recovered, but certainly there
were more people infected and fell sick now, when there did not die
above a thousand or twelve hundred in a week, than there was when there
died five or six thousand a week, so entirely negligent were the people
at that time in the great and dangerous case of health and infection,
and so ill were they able to take or accept of the advice of those who
cautioned them for their good.

The people being thus returned, as it were, in general, it was very
strange to find that in their inquiring after their friends, some whole
families were so entirely swept away that there was no remembrance of
them left, neither was anybody to be found to possess or show any title
to that little they had left; for in such cases what was to be found was
generally embezzled and purloined, some gone one way, some another.

It was said such abandoned effects came to the king, as the universal
heir; upon which we are told, and I suppose it was in part true, that
the king granted all such, as deodands, to the Lord Mayor and Court of
Aldermen of London, to be applied to the use of the poor, of whom there
were very many. For it is to be observed, that though the occasions of
relief and the objects of distress were very many more in the time of
the violence of the plague than now after all was over, yet the distress
of the poor was more now a great deal than it was then, because all
the sluices of general charity were now shut. People supposed the main
occasion to be over, and so stopped their hands; whereas particular
objects were still very moving, and the distress of those that were poor
was very great indeed.

Though the health of the city was now very much restored, yet foreign
trade did not begin to stir, neither would foreigners admit our
ships into their ports for a great while. As for the Dutch, the
misunderstandings between our court and them had broken out into a war
the year before, so that our trade that way was wholly interrupted; but
Spain and Portugal, Italy and Barbary, as also Hamburg and all the ports
in the Baltic, these were all shy of us a great while, and would not
restore trade with us for many months.

The distemper sweeping away such multitudes, as I have observed, many
if not all the out-parishes were obliged to make new burying-grounds,
besides that I have mentioned in Bunhill Fields, some of which were
continued, and remain in use to this day. But others were left off, and
(which I confess I mention with some reflection) being converted into
other uses or built upon afterwards, the dead bodies were disturbed,
abused, dug up again, some even before the flesh of them was perished
from the bones, and removed like dung or rubbish to other places. Some
of those which came within the reach of my observation are as follow:

(1) A piece of ground beyond Goswell Street, near Mount Mill, being some
of the remains of the old lines or fortifications of the city, where
abundance were buried promiscuously from the parishes of Aldersgate,
Clerkenwell, and even out of the city. This ground, as I take it, was
since made a physic garden, and after that has been built upon.

(2) A piece of ground just over the Black Ditch, as it was then called,
at the end of Holloway Lane, in Shoreditch parish. It has been since
made a yard for keeping hogs, and for other ordinary uses, but is quite
out of use as a burying-ground.

(3) The upper end of Hand Alley, in Bishopsgate Street, which was then
a green field, and was taken in particularly for Bishopsgate parish,
though many of the carts out of the city brought their dead thither
also, particularly out of the parish of St All-hallows on the Wall. This
place I cannot mention without much regret. It was, as I remember, about
two or three years after the plague was ceased that Sir Robert Clayton
came to be possessed of the ground. It was reported, how true I know
not, that it fell to the king for want of heirs, all those who had any
right to it being carried off by the pestilence, and that Sir Robert
Clayton obtained a grant of it from King Charles II. But however he came
by it, certain it is the ground was let out to build on, or built upon,
by his order. The first house built upon it was a large fair house,
still standing, which faces the street or way now called Hand Alley
which, though called an alley, is as wide as a street. The houses in
the same row with that house northward are built on the very same ground
where the poor people were buried, and the bodies, on opening the ground
for the foundations, were dug up, some of them remaining so plain to be
seen that the women's skulls were distinguished by their long hair, and
of others the flesh was not quite perished; so that the people began to
exclaim loudly against it, and some suggested that it might endanger a
return of the contagion; after which the bones and bodies, as fast as
they came at them, were carried to another part of the same ground and
thrown all together into a deep pit, dug on purpose, which now is to be
known in that it is not built on, but is a passage to another house at
the upper end of Rose Alley, just against the door of a meeting-house
which has been built there many years since; and the ground is
palisadoed off from the rest of the passage, in a little square; there
lie the bones and remains of near two thousand bodies, carried by the
dead carts to their grave in that one year.

(4) Besides this, there was a piece of ground in Moorfields; by the
going into the street which is now called Old Bethlem, which was
enlarged much, though not wholly taken in on the same occasion.

[N.B.--The author of this journal lies buried in that very ground,
being at his own desire, his sister having been buried there a few years

(5) Stepney parish, extending itself from the east part of London to the
north, even to the very edge of Shoreditch Churchyard, had a piece of
ground taken in to bury their dead close to the said churchyard, and
which for that very reason was left open, and is since, I suppose, taken
into the same churchyard. And they had also two other burying-places in
Spittlefields, one where since a chapel or tabernacle has been built for
ease to this great parish, and another in Petticoat Lane.

There were no less than five other grounds made use of for the parish of
Stepney at that time: one where now stands the parish church of St Paul,
Shadwell, and the other where now stands the parish church of St John's
at Wapping, both which had not the names of parishes at that time, but
were belonging to Stepney parish.

I could name many more, but these coming within my particular knowledge,
the circumstance, I thought, made it of use to record them. From
the whole, it may be observed that they were obliged in this time of
distress to take in new burying-grounds in most of the out-parishes for
laying the prodigious numbers of people which died in so short a space
of time; but why care was not taken to keep those places separate from
ordinary uses, that so the bodies might rest undisturbed, that I cannot
answer for, and must confess I think it was wrong. Who were to blame I
know not.

I should have mentioned that the Quakers had at that time also a
burying-ground set apart to their use, and which they still make use of;
and they had also a particular dead-cart to fetch their dead from their
houses; and the famous Solomon Eagle, who, as I mentioned before, had
predicted the plague as a judgement, and ran naked through the streets,
telling the people that it was come upon them to punish them for their
sins, had his own wife died the very next day of the plague, and was
carried, one of the first in the Quakers' dead-cart, to their new

I might have thronged this account with many more remarkable things
which occurred in the time of the infection, and particularly what
passed between the Lord Mayor and the Court, which was then at Oxford,
and what directions were from time to time received from the Government
for their conduct on this critical occasion. But really the Court
concerned themselves so little, and that little they did was of so small
import, that I do not see it of much moment to mention any part of
it here: except that of appointing a monthly fast in the city and the
sending the royal charity to the relief of the poor, both which I have
mentioned before.

Great was the reproach thrown on those physicians who left their
patients during the sickness, and now they came to town again nobody
cared to employ them. They were called deserters, and frequently bills
were set up upon their doors and written, 'Here is a doctor to be let',
so that several of those physicians were fain for a while to sit still
and look about them, or at least remove their dwellings, and set up in
new places and among new acquaintance. The like was the case with the
clergy, whom the people were indeed very abusive to, writing verses and
scandalous reflections upon them, setting upon the church-door, 'Here is
a pulpit to be let', or sometimes, 'to be sold', which was worse.

It was not the least of our misfortunes that with our infection, when it
ceased, there did not cease the spirit of strife and contention, slander
and reproach, which was really the great troubler of the nation's peace
before. It was said to be the remains of the old animosities, which had
so lately involved us all in blood and disorder. But as the late Act
of Indemnity had laid asleep the quarrel itself, so the Government had
recommended family and personal peace upon all occasions to the whole

But it could not be obtained; and particularly after the ceasing of the
plague in London, when any one that had seen the condition which the
people had been in, and how they caressed one another at that time,
promised to have more charity for the future, and to raise no more
reproaches; I say, any one that had seen them then would have thought
they would have come together with another spirit at last. But, I say,
it could not be obtained. The quarrel remained; the Church and the
Presbyterians were incompatible. As soon as the plague was removed,
the Dissenting ousted ministers who had supplied the pulpits which were
deserted by the incumbents retired; they could expect no other but that
they should immediately fall upon them and harass them with their penal
laws, accept their preaching while they were sick, and persecute them as
soon as they were recovered again; this even we that were of the Church
thought was very hard, and could by no means approve of it.

But it was the Government, and we could say nothing to hinder it; we
could only say it was not our doing, and we could not answer for it.

On the other hand, the Dissenters reproaching those ministers of the
Church with going away and deserting their charge, abandoning the people
in their danger, and when they had most need of comfort, and the like:
this we could by no means approve, for all men have not the same faith
and the same courage, and the Scripture commands us to judge the most
favourably and according to charity.

A plague is a formidable enemy, and is armed with terrors that every man
is not sufficiently fortified to resist or prepared to stand the shock
against. It is very certain that a great many of the clergy who were in
circumstances to do it withdrew and fled for the safety of their lives;
but 'tis true also that a great many of them stayed, and many of them
fell in the calamity and in the discharge of their duty.

It is true some of the Dissenting turned-out ministers stayed, and
their courage is to be commended and highly valued--but these were not
abundance; it cannot be said that they all stayed, and that none retired
into the country, any more than it can be said of the Church clergy
that they all went away. Neither did all those that went away go without
substituting curates and others in their places, to do the offices
needful and to visit the sick, as far as it was practicable; so that,
upon the whole, an allowance of charity might have been made on both
sides, and we should have considered that such a time as this of 1665 is
not to be paralleled in history, and that it is not the stoutest courage
that will always support men in such cases. I had not said this, but had
rather chosen to record the courage and religious zeal of those of both
sides, who did hazard themselves for the service of the poor people in
their distress, without remembering that any failed in their duty on
either side. But the want of temper among us has made the contrary
to this necessary: some that stayed not only boasting too much of
themselves, but reviling those that fled, branding them with cowardice,
deserting their flocks, and acting the part of the hireling, and the
like. I recommend it to the charity of all good people to look back and
reflect duly upon the terrors of the time, and whoever does so well see
that it is not an ordinary strength that could support it. It was not
like appearing in the head of an army or charging a body of horse in the
field, but it was charging Death itself on his pale horse; to stay was
indeed to die, and it could be esteemed nothing less, especially
as things appeared at the latter end of August and the beginning of
September, and as there was reason to expect them at that time; for no
man expected, and I dare say believed, that the distemper would take so
sudden a turn as it did, and fall immediately two thousand in a week,
when there was such a prodigious number of people sick at that time as
it was known there was; and then it was that many shifted away that had
stayed most of the time before.

Besides, if God gave strength to some more than to others, was it to
boast of their ability to abide the stroke, and upbraid those that had
not the same gift and support, or ought not they rather to have been
humble and thankful if they were rendered more useful than their

I think it ought to be recorded to the honour of such men, as well
clergy as physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, magistrates, and officers
of every kind, as also all useful people who ventured their lives in
discharge of their duty, as most certainly all such as stayed did to
the last degree; and several of all these kinds did not only venture but
lose their lives on that sad occasion.

I was once making a list of all such, I mean of all those professions
and employments who thus died, as I call it, in the way of their duty;
but it was impossible for a private man to come at a certainty in the
particulars. I only remember that there died sixteen clergymen, two
aldermen, five physicians, thirteen surgeons, within the city and
liberties before the beginning of September. But this being, as I said
before, the great crisis and extremity of the infection, it can be no
complete list. As to inferior people, I think there died six-and-forty
constables and head-boroughs in the two parishes of Stepney and
Whitechappel; but I could not carry my list oil, for when the violent
rage of the distemper in September came upon us, it drove us out of all
measures. Men did then no more die by tale and by number. They might
put out a weekly bill, and call them seven or eight thousand, or what
they pleased; 'tis certain they died by heaps, and were buried by heaps,
that is to say, without account. And if I might believe some people, who
were more abroad and more conversant with those things than I though I
was public enough for one that had no more business to do than I had,--I
say, if I may believe them, there was not many less buried those first
three weeks in September than 20,000 per week. However, the others aver
the truth of it; yet I rather choose to keep to the public account;
seven and eight thousand per week is enough to make good all that I have
said of the terror of those times;--and it is much to the satisfaction
of me that write, as well as those that read, to be able to say that
everything is set down with moderation, and rather within compass than
beyond it.

Upon all these accounts, I say, I could wish, when we were recovered,
our conduct had been more distinguished for charity and kindness in
remembrance of the past calamity, and not so much a valuing ourselves
upon our boldness in staying, as if all men were cowards that fly from
the hand of God, or that those who stay do not sometimes owe their
courage to their ignorance, and despising the hand of their Maker--which
is a criminal kind of desperation, and not a true courage.

I cannot but leave it upon record that the civil officers, such as
constables, head-boroughs, Lord Mayor's and sheriffs'-men, as also
parish officers, whose business it was to take charge of the poor, did
their duties in general with as much courage as any, and perhaps with
more, because their work was attended with more hazards, and lay more
among the poor, who were more subject to be infected, and in the most
pitiful plight when they were taken with the infection. But then it must
be added, too, that a great number of them died; indeed it was scarce
possible it should be otherwise.

I have not said one word here about the physic or preparations that we
ordinarily made use of on this terrible occasion--I mean we that went
frequently abroad and up down street, as I did; much of this was talked
of in the books and bills of our quack doctors, of whom I have
said enough already. It may, however, be added, that the College of
Physicians were daily publishing several preparations, which they had
considered of in the process of their practice, and which, being to be
had in print, I avoid repeating them for that reason.

One thing I could not help observing: what befell one of the quacks, who
published that he had a most excellent preservative against the plague,
which whoever kept about them should never be infected or liable to
infection. This man, who, we may reasonably suppose, did not go abroad
without some of this excellent preservative in his pocket, yet was taken
by the distemper, and carried off in two or three days.

I am not of the number of the physic-haters or physic-despisers; on the
contrary, I have often mentioned the regard I had to the dictates of
my particular friend Dr Heath; but yet I must acknowledge I made use of
little or nothing--except, as I have observed, to keep a preparation
of strong scent to have ready, in case I met with anything of offensive
smells or went too near any burying-place or dead body.

Neither did I do what I know some did: keep the spirits always high and
hot with cordials and wine and such things; and which, as I observed,
one learned physician used himself so much to as that he could not leave
them off when the infection was quite gone, and so became a sot for all
his life after.

I remember my friend the doctor used to say that there was a certain set
of drugs and preparations which were all certainly good and useful in
the case of an infection; out of which, or with which, physicians might
make an infinite variety of medicines, as the ringers of bells make
several hundred different rounds of music by the changing and order or
sound but in six bells, and that all these preparations shall be really
very good: 'Therefore,' said he, 'I do not wonder that so vast a throng
of medicines is offered in the present calamity, and almost every
physician prescribes or prepares a different thing, as his judgement or
experience guides him; but', says my friend, 'let all the prescriptions
of all the physicians in London be examined, and it will be found that
they are all compounded of the same things, with such variations only
as the particular fancy of the doctor leads him to; so that', says he,
'every man, judging a little of his own constitution and manner of his
living, and circumstances of his being infected, may direct his own
medicines out of the ordinary drugs and preparations. Only that', says
he, 'some recommend one thing as most sovereign, and some another.
Some', says he, 'think that pill. ruff., which is called itself the
anti-pestilential pill is the best preparation that can be made;
others think that Venice treacle is sufficient of itself to resist the
contagion; and I', says he, 'think as both these think, viz., that
the last is good to take beforehand to prevent it, and the first, if
touched, to expel it.' According to this opinion, I several times took
Venice treacle, and a sound sweat upon it, and thought myself as well
fortified against the infection as any one could be fortified by the
power of physic.

As for quackery and mountebanks, of which the town was so full, I
listened to none of them, and have observed often since, with some
wonder, that for two years after the plague I scarcely saw or heard of
one of them about town. Some fancied they were all swept away in the
infection to a man, and were for calling it a particular mark of
God's vengeance upon them for leading the poor people into the pit of
destruction, merely for the lucre of a little money they got by them;
but I cannot go that length neither. That abundance of them died is
certain--many of them came within the reach of my own knowledge--but
that all of them were swept off I much question. I believe rather they
fled into the country and tried their practices upon the people there,
who were in apprehension of the infection before it came among them.

This, however, is certain, not a man of them appeared for a great while
in or about London. There were, indeed, several doctors who published
bills recommending their several physical preparations for cleansing the
body, as they call it, after the plague, and needful, as they said, for
such people to take who had been visited and had been cured; whereas
I must own I believe that it was the opinion of the most eminent
physicians at that time that the plague was itself a sufficient purge,
and that those who escaped the infection needed no physic to cleanse
their bodies of any other things; the running sores, the tumours, &c.,
which were broke and kept open by the directions of the physicians,
having sufficiently cleansed them; and that all other distempers, and
causes of distempers, were effectually carried off that way; and as the
physicians gave this as their opinions wherever they came, the quacks
got little business.

There were, indeed, several little hurries which happened after the
decrease of the plague, and which, whether they were contrived to fright
and disorder the people, as some imagined, I cannot say, but sometimes
we were told the plague would return by such a time; and the famous
Solomon Eagle, the naked Quaker I have mentioned, prophesied evil
tidings every day; and several others telling us that London had not
been sufficiently scourged, and that sorer and severer strokes were yet
behind. Had they stopped there, or had they descended to particulars,
and told us that the city should the next year be destroyed by fire,
then, indeed, when we had seen it come to pass, we should not have been
to blame to have paid more than a common respect to their prophetic
spirits; at least we should have wondered at them, and have been more
serious in our inquiries after the meaning of it, and whence they had
the foreknowledge. But as they generally told us of a relapse into
the plague, we have had no concern since that about them; yet by those
frequent clamours, we were all kept with some kind of apprehensions
constantly upon us; and if any died suddenly, or if the spotted fevers
at any time increased, we were presently alarmed; much more if the
number of the plague increased, for to the end of the year there were
always between 200 and 300 of the plague. On any of these occasions, I
say, we were alarmed anew.

Those who remember the city of London before the fire must remember that
there was then no such place as we now call Newgate Market, but that
in the middle of the street which is now called Blowbladder Street, and
which had its name from the butchers, who used to kill and dress their
sheep there (and who, it seems, had a custom to blow up their meat with
pipes to make it look thicker and fatter than it was, and were punished
there for it by the Lord Mayor); I say, from the end of the street
towards Newgate there stood two long rows of shambles for the selling

It was in those shambles that two persons falling down dead, as they
were buying meat, gave rise to a rumour that the meat was all infected;
which, though it might affright the people, and spoiled the market for
two or three days, yet it appeared plainly afterwards that there was
nothing of truth in the suggestion. But nobody can account for the
possession of fear when it takes hold of the mind.

However, it Pleased God, by the continuing of the winter weather, so to
restore the health of the city that by February following we reckoned
the distemper quite ceased, and then we were not so easily frighted

There was still a question among the learned, and at first perplexed
the people a little: and that was in what manner to purge the house and
goods where the plague had been, and how to render them habitable again,
which had been left empty during the time of the plague. Abundance of
perfumes and preparations were prescribed by physicians, some of one
kind and some of another, in which the people who listened to them put
themselves to a great, and indeed, in my opinion, to an unnecessary
expense; and the poorer people, who only set open their windows night
and day, burned brimstone, pitch, and gunpowder, and such things in
their rooms, did as well as the best; nay, the eager people who, as I
said above, came home in haste and at all hazards, found little or
no inconvenience in their houses, nor in the goods, and did little or
nothing to them.

However, in general, prudent, cautious people did enter into some
measures for airing and sweetening their houses, and burned perfumes,
incense, benjamin, rozin, and sulphur in their rooms close shut up,
and then let the air carry it all out with a blast of gunpowder; others
caused large fires to be made all day and all night for several days and
nights; by the same token that two or three were pleased to set their
houses on fire, and so effectually sweetened them by burning them down
to the ground; as particularly one at Ratcliff, one in Holbourn, and one
at Westminster; besides two or three that were set on fire, but the
fire was happily got out again before it went far enough to burn down
the houses; and one citizen's servant, I think it was in Thames Street,
carried so much gunpowder into his master's house, for clearing it of
the infection, and managed it so foolishly, that he blew up part of the
roof of the house. But the time was not fully come that the city was to
be purged by fire, nor was it far off; for within nine months more I
saw it all lying in ashes; when, as some of our quacking philosophers
pretend, the seeds of the plague were entirely destroyed, and not
before; a notion too ridiculous to speak of here: since, had the seeds
of the plague remained in the houses, not to be destroyed but by fire,
how has it been that they have not since broken out, seeing all those
buildings in the suburbs and liberties, all in the great parishes of
Stepney, Whitechappel, Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Shoreditch, Cripplegate,
and St Giles, where the fire never came, and where the plague raged with
the greatest violence, remain still in the same condition they were in

But to leave these things just as I found them, it was certain that
those people who were more than ordinarily cautious of their health,
did take particular directions for what they called seasoning of their
houses, and abundance of costly things were consumed on that account
which I cannot but say not only seasoned those houses, as they desired,
but filled the air with very grateful and wholesome smells which
others had the share of the benefit of as well as those who were at the
expenses of them.

And yet after all, though the poor came to town very precipitantly, as
I have said, yet I must say the rich made no such haste. The men of
business, indeed, came up, but many of them did not bring their families
to town till the spring came on, and that they saw reason to depend upon
it that the plague would not return.

The Court, indeed, came up soon after Christmas, but the nobility
and gentry, except such as depended upon and had employment under the
administration, did not come so soon.

I should have taken notice here that, notwithstanding the violence of
the plague in London and in other places, yet it was very observable
that it was never on board the fleet; and yet for some time there was a
strange press in the river, and even in the streets, for seamen to man
the fleet. But it was in the beginning of the year, when the plague was
scarce begun, and not at all come down to that part of the city where
they usually press for seamen; and though a war with the Dutch was not
at all grateful to the people at that time, and the seamen went with
a kind of reluctancy into the service, and many complained of being
dragged into it by force, yet it proved in the event a happy violence to
several of them, who had probably perished in the general calamity, and
who, after the summer service was over, though they had cause to lament
the desolation of their families--who, when they came back, were many
of them in their graves--yet they had room to be thankful that they were
carried out of the reach of it, though so much against their wills.
We indeed had a hot war with the Dutch that year, and one very great
engagement at sea in which the Dutch were worsted, but we lost a great
many men and some ships. But, as I observed, the plague was not in the
fleet, and when they came to lay up the ships in the river the violent
part of it began to abate.

I would be glad if I could close the account of this melancholy year
with some particular examples historically; I mean of the thankfulness
to God, our preserver, for our being delivered from this dreadful
calamity. Certainly the circumstance of the deliverance, as well as the
terrible enemy we were delivered from, called upon the whole nation for
it. The circumstances of the deliverance were indeed very remarkable,
as I have in part mentioned already, and particularly the dreadful
condition which we were all in when we were to the surprise of the whole
town made joyful with the hope of a stop of the infection.

Nothing but the immediate finger of God, nothing but omnipotent power,
could have done it. The contagion despised all medicine; death raged in
every corner; and had it gone on as it did then, a few weeks more
would have cleared the town of all, and everything that had a soul. Men
everywhere began to despair; every heart failed them for fear; people
were made desperate through the anguish of their souls, and the terrors
of death sat in the very faces and countenances of the people.

In that very moment when we might very well say, 'Vain was the help of
man',--I say, in that very moment it pleased God, with a most agreeable
surprise, to cause the fury of it to abate, even of itself; and the
malignity declining, as I have said, though infinite numbers were sick,
yet fewer died, and the very first weeks' bill decreased 1843; a vast
number indeed!

It is impossible to express the change that appeared in the very
countenances of the people that Thursday morning when the weekly bill
came out. It might have been perceived in their countenances that a
secret surprise and smile of joy sat on everybody's face. They shook
one another by the hands in the streets, who would hardly go on the same
side of the way with one another before. Where the streets were not too
broad they would open their windows and call from one house to another,
and ask how they did, and if they had heard the good news that the
plague was abated. Some would return, when they said good news, and ask,
'What good news?' and when they answered that the plague was abated and
the bills decreased almost two thousand, they would cry out, 'God be
praised I' and would weep aloud for joy, telling them they had heard
nothing of it; and such was the joy of the people that it was, as it
were, life to them from the grave. I could almost set down as many
extravagant things done in the excess of their joy as of their grief;
but that would be to lessen the value of it.

I must confess myself to have been very much dejected just before this
happened; for the prodigious number that were taken sick the week or two
before, besides those that died, was such, and the lamentations were so
great everywhere, that a man must have seemed to have acted even against
his reason if he had so much as expected to escape; and as there was
hardly a house but mine in all my neighbourhood but was infected, so had
it gone on it would not have been long that there would have been
any more neighbours to be infected. Indeed it is hardly credible what
dreadful havoc the last three weeks had made, for if I might believe the
person whose calculations I always found very well grounded, there were
not less than 30,000 people dead and near 100.000 fallen sick in the
three weeks I speak of; for the number that sickened was surprising,
indeed it was astonishing, and those whose courage upheld them all the
time before, sank under it now.

In the middle of their distress, when the condition of the city of
London was so truly calamitous, just then it pleased God--as it were by
His immediate hand to disarm this enemy; the poison was taken out of the
sting. It was wonderful; even the physicians themselves were surprised
at it. Wherever they visited they found their patients better; either
they had sweated kindly, or the tumours were broke, or the carbuncles
went down and the inflammations round them changed colour, or the fever
was gone, or the violent headache was assuaged, or some good symptom
was in the case; so that in a few days everybody was recovering, whole
families that were infected and down, that had ministers praying with
them, and expected death every hour, were revived and healed, and none
died at all out of them.

Nor was this by any new medicine found out, or new method of cure
discovered, or by any experience in the operation which the physicians
or surgeons attained to; but it was evidently from the secret invisible
hand of Him that had at first sent this disease as a judgement upon us;
and let the atheistic part of mankind call my saying what they please,
it is no enthusiasm; it was acknowledged at that time by all mankind.
The disease was enervated and its malignity spent; and let it proceed
from whencesoever it will, let the philosophers search for reasons in
nature to account for it by, and labour as much as they will to lessen
the debt they owe to their Maker, those physicians who had the least
share of religion in them were obliged to acknowledge that it was all
supernatural, that it was extraordinary, and that no account could be
given of it.

If I should say that this is a visible summons to us all to
thankfulness, especially we that were under the terror of its increase,
perhaps it may be thought by some, after the sense of the thing was
over, an officious canting of religious things, preaching a sermon
instead of writing a history, making myself a teacher instead of giving
my observations of things; and this restrains me very much from going on
here as I might otherwise do. But if ten lepers Were healed, and but one
returned to give thanks, I desire to be as that one, and to be thankful
for myself.

Nor will I deny but there were abundance of people who, to all
appearance, were very thankful at that time; for their mouths were
stopped, even the mouths of those whose hearts were not extraordinary
long affected with it. But the impression was so strong at that time
that it could not be resisted; no, not by the worst of the people.

It was a common thing to meet people in the street that were strangers,
and that we knew nothing at all of, expressing their surprise. Going
one day through Aldgate, and a pretty many people being passing and
repassing, there comes a man out of the end of the Minories, and looking
a little up the street and down, he throws his hands abroad, 'Lord, what
an alteration is here I Why, last week I came along here, and hardly
anybody was to be seen.' Another man--I heard him--adds to his words,
''Tis all wonderful; 'tis all a dream.' 'Blessed be God,' says a third
man, and and let us give thanks to Him, for 'tis all His own doing, human
help and human skill was at an end.' These were all strangers to one
another. But such salutations as these were frequent in the street every
day; and in spite of a loose behaviour, the very common people went
along the streets giving God thanks for their deliverance.

It was now, as I said before, the people had cast off all apprehensions,
and that too fast; indeed we were no more afraid now to pass by a man
with a white cap upon his head, or with a doth wrapt round his neck, or
with his leg limping, occasioned by the sores in his groin, all which
were frightful to the last degree, but the week before. But now the
street was full of them, and these poor recovering creatures, give them
their due, appeared very sensible of their unexpected deliverance; and
I should wrong them very much if I should not acknowledge that I
believe many of them were really thankful. But I must own that, for the
generality of the people, it might too justly be said of them as was
said of the children of Israel after their being delivered from the host
of Pharaoh, when they passed the Red Sea, and looked back and saw the
Egyptians overwhelmed in the water: viz., that they sang His praise, but
they soon forgot His works.

I can go no farther here. I should be counted censorious, and perhaps
unjust, if I should enter into the unpleasing work of reflecting,
whatever cause there was for it, upon the unthankfulness and return of
all manner of wickedness among us, which I was so much an eye-witness of
myself. I shall conclude the account of this calamitous year therefore
with a coarse but sincere stanza of my own, which I placed at the end of
my ordinary memorandums the same year they were written:--

     A dreadful plague in London was
     In the year sixty-five,
     Which swept an hundred thousand souls
     Away; yet I alive!

     H. F.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Journal of the Plague Year, written by a citizen who continued all the while in London" ***

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