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Title: History of the Plague in London
Author: Defoe, Daniel, 1661-1731
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Copyright, 1894, by

M. 2




The father of Daniel Defoe was a butcher in the parish of St. Giles's,
Cripplegate, London. In this parish, probably, Daniel Defoe was born in
1661, the year after the restoration of Charles II. The boy's parents
wished him to become a dissenting minister, and so intrusted his
education to a Mr. Morton who kept an academy for the training of
nonconformist divines. How long Defoe staid at this school is not known.
He seems to think himself that he staid there long enough to become a
good scholar; for he declares that the pupils were "made masters of the
English tongue, and more of them excelled in that particular than of any
school at that time." If this statement be true, we can only say that
the other schools must have been very bad indeed. Defoe never acquired a
really good style, and can in no true sense be called a "master of the
English tongue."

Nature had gifted Defoe with untiring energy, a keen taste for public
affairs, and a special aptitude for chicanery and intrigue. These were
not qualities likely to advance him in the ministry, and he wisely
refused to adopt that profession. With a young man's love for adventure
and a dissenter's hatred for Roman Catholicism, he took part in the Duke
of Monmouth's rebellion (1685) against James II. More fortunate than
three of his fellow students, who were executed for their share in this
affair, Defoe escaped the hue and cry that followed the battle of
Sedgemoor, and after some months' concealment set up as a wholesale
merchant in Cornhill. When James II. was deposed in 1688, and the
Protestant William of Orange elected to the English throne, Defoe
hastened to give in his allegiance to the new dynasty. In 1691 he
published his first pamphlet, "A New Discovery of an Old Intrigue, a
Satire leveled at Treachery and Ambition." This is written in miserable
doggerel verse. That Defoe should have mistaken it for poetry, and
should have prided himself upon it accordingly, is only a proof of how
incompetent an author is to pass judgment upon what is good and what is
bad in his own work.

In 1692 Defoe failed in business, probably from too much attention to
politics, which were now beginning to engross more and more of his time
and thoughts. His political attitude is clearly defined in the title of
his next pamphlet, "The Englishman's Choice and True Interest: in the
Vigorous Prosecution of the War against France, and serving K. William
and Q. Mary, and acknowledging their Right." "K. William" was too astute
a manager to neglect a writer who showed the capacity to become a
dangerous opponent. Defoe was accordingly given the place of accountant
to the commissioners of the glass duty (1694). From this time until
William's death (1702), he had no more loyal and active servant than
Defoe. Innumerable pamphlets bear tribute to his devotion to the King
and his policy,--pamphlets written in an easy, swinging, good-natured
style, with little imagination and less passion; pamphlets whose
principal arguments are based upon a reasonable self-interest, and for
the comprehension of which no more intellectual power is called for than
Providence has doled out to the average citizen. Had Defoe lived in the
nineteenth century, instead of in the seventeenth, he would have
commanded a princely salary as writer for the Sunday newspaper, and as
composer of campaign documents and of speeches for members of the House
of Representatives.

In 1701 Defoe published his "True-born Englishman," a satire upon the
English people for their stupid opposition to the continental policy of
the King. This is the only metrical composition of prolific Daniel that
has any pretensions to be called a poem. It contains some lines not
unworthy to rank with those of Dryden at his second-best. For instance,
the opening:--

    "Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
    The Devil always builds a chapel there;
    And 'twill be found upon examination
    The latter has the largest congregation."

Or, again, this keen and spirited description of the origin of the
English race:--

    "These are the heroes that despise the Dutch,
    And rail at newcome foreigners so much,
    Forgetting that themselves are all derived
    From the most scoundrel race that ever lived;
    A horrid crowd of rambling thieves and drones,
    Who ransacked kingdoms and dispeopled towns:
    The Pict and painted Briton, treach'rous Scot
    By hunger, theft, and rapine hither brought;
    Norwegian pirates, buccaneering Danes,
    Whose red-haired offspring everywhere remains:
    Who, joined with Norman French, compound the breed
    From whence your true-born Englishmen proceed."

Strange to say, the English people were so pleased with this humorous
sketch of themselves, that they bought eighty thousand copies of the
work. Not often is a truth teller so rewarded.

Not unnaturally elated by the success of this experiment, the next year
Defoe came out with his famous "Shortest Way with the Dissenters," a
satire upon those furious High Churchmen and Tories, who would devour
the dissenters tooth and nail. Unfortunately, the author had
overestimated the capacity of the average Tory to see through a stone
wall. The irony was mistaken for sincerity, and quoted approvingly by
those whom it was intended to satirize. When the truth dawned through
the obscuration of the Tories' intellect, they were naturally enraged.
They had influence enough to have Defoe arrested, and confined in
Newgate for some eighteen months. He was also compelled to stand in the
pillory for three days; but it is not true that his ears were cropped,
as Pope intimates in his

    "Earless on high stood unabashed Defoe."

What are the exact terms Defoe made with the ministry, and on exactly
what conditions he was released from Newgate, have not been ascertained.
It is certain he never ceased to write, even while in prison, both
anonymously and under his own name. For some years, in addition to
pamphlet after pamphlet, he published a newspaper which he called the
"Review,"[1] in which he generally sided with the moderate Whigs,
advocated earnestly the union with Scotland, and gave the English people
a vast deal of good advice upon foreign policy and domestic trade. There
is no doubt that during this time he was in the secret service of the
government. When the Tories displaced the Whigs in 1710, he managed to
keep his post, and took his "Review" over to the support of the new
masters, justifying his turncoating by a disingenuous plea of preferring
country to party. His pamphleteering pen was now as active in the
service of the Tory prime minister Harley as it had been in that of the
Whig Godolphin. The party of the latter rightly regarded him as a
traitor to their cause, and secured an order from the Court of Queen's
Bench, directing the attorney-general to prosecute Defoe for certain
pamphlets, which they declared were directed against the Hanoverian
succession. Before the trial took place, Harley, at whose instigation
the pamphlets had been written, secured his henchman a royal pardon.

When the Tories fell from power at the death of Queen Anne (1714), and
the Whigs again obtained possession of the government, only one of two
courses was open to Defoe: he must either retire permanently from
politics, or again change sides. He unhesitatingly chose the latter. But
his political reputation had now sunk so low, that no party could afford
the disgrace of his open support. He was accordingly employed as a
literary and political spy, ostensibly opposing the government, worming
himself into the confidence of Tory editors and politicians, using his
influence as an editorial writer to suppress items obnoxious to the
government, and suggesting the timely prosecution of such critics as he
could not control. He was able to play this double part for eight years,
until his treachery was discovered by one Mist, whose "Journal" Defoe
had, in his own words, "disabled and enervated, so as to do no mischief,
or give any offense to the government." Mist hastened to disclose
Defoe's real character to his fellow newspaper proprietors; and in 1726
we find the good Daniel sorrowfully complaining, "I had not published my
project in this pamphlet, could I have got it inserted in any of the
journals without feeing the journalists or publishers.... I have not
only had the mortification to find what I sent rejected, but to lose my
originals, not having taken copies of what I wrote."[2] Heavy-footed
justice had at last overtaken the arch liar of his age.

Of the two hundred and fifty odd books and pamphlets written by Defoe,
it may fairly be said that only two--"Robinson Crusoe" and the "History
of the Plague in London"--are read by any but the special students of
eighteenth-century literature. The latter will be discussed in another
part of this Introduction. Of the former it may be asserted, that it
arose naturally out of the circumstances of Defoe's trade as a
journalist. So long as the papers would take his articles, nobody of
distinction could die without Defoe's rushing out with a biography of
him. In these biographies, when facts were scanty, Defoe supplied them
from his imagination, attributing to his hero such sentiments as he
thought the average Londoner could understand, and describing his
appearance with that minute fidelity of which only an eyewitness is
supposed to be capable. Long practice in this kind of composition made
Defoe an adept in the art of "lying like truth." When, therefore, the
actual and extraordinary adventures of Alexander Selkirk came under his
notice, nothing was more natural and more profitable for Defoe than to
seize upon this material, and work it up, just as he worked up the lives
of Jack Sheppard the highwayman, and of Avery the king of the pirates.
It is interesting to notice also that the date of publication of
"Robinson Crusoe" (1719) corresponds with a time at which Defoe was
playing the desperate and dangerous game of a political spy. A single
false move might bring him a stab in the dark, or might land him in the
hulks for transportation to some tropical island, where he might have
abundant need for the exercise of those mental resources that interest
us so much in Crusoe. The secret of Defoe's life at this time was known
only to himself and to the minister that paid him. He was almost as much
alone in London as was Crusoe on his desert island.

The success which Defoe scored in "Robinson Crusoe" he never repeated.
His entire lack of artistic conscience is shown by his adding a dull
second part to "Robinson Crusoe," and a duller series of serious
reflections such as might have passed through Crusoe's mind during his
island captivity. Of even the best of Defoe's other novels,--"Moll
Flanders," "Roxana," "Captain Singleton,"--the writer must confess that
his judgment coincides with that of Mr. Leslie Stephen, who finds two
thirds of them "deadly dull," and the treatment such as "cannot raise
[the story] above a very moderate level."[3]

The closing scenes of Defoe's life were not cheerful. He appears to have
lost most of the fortune he acquired from his numerous writings and
scarcely less numerous speculations. For the two years immediately
preceding his death, he lived in concealment away from his home, though
why he fled, and from what danger, is not definitely known. He died in a
lodging in Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields, on April 26, 1731.

The only description we have of Defoe's personal appearance is an
advertisement published in 1703, when he was in hiding to avoid arrest
for his "Shortest Way with the Dissenters:"--

"He is a middle-aged, spare man, about forty years old, of a brown
complexion, and dark-brown colored hair, but wears a wig; a hooked nose,
a sharp chin, gray eyes, and a large mole near his mouth."

In the years 1720-21 the plague, which had not visited Western Europe
for fifty-five years, broke out with great violence in Marseilles. About
fifty thousand people died of the disease in that city, and great alarm
was felt in London lest the infection should reach England. Here was a
journalistic chance that so experienced a newspaper man as Defoe could
not let slip. Accordingly, on the 17th of March, 1722, appeared his
"Journal of the Plague Year: Being Observations or Memorials of the most
Remarkable Occurrences, as well Publick as Private, which happened in
London during the Last Great Visitation in 1665. Written by a Citizen
who continued all the while in London. Never made public before." The
story is told with such an air of veracity, the little circumstantial
details are introduced with such apparent artlessness, the grotesque
incidents are described with such animation, (and relish!) the horror
borne in upon the mind of the narrator is so apparently genuine, that we
can easily understand how almost everybody not in the secret of the
authorship believed he had here an authentic "Journal," written by one
who had actually beheld the scenes he describes. Indeed, we know that
twenty-three years after the "Journal" was published, this impression
still prevailed; for Defoe is gravely quoted as an authority in "A
Discourse on the Plague; by Richard Mead, Fellow of the College of
Physicians and of the Royal Society, and Physician to his Majesty. 9th
Edition. London, 1744." Though Defoe, like his admiring critic Mr.
Saintsbury, had but small sense of humor, even he must have felt tickled
in his grave at this ponderous scientific tribute to his skill in the
art of realistic description.

If we inquire further into the secret of Defoe's success in the "History
of the Plague," we shall find that it consists largely in his vision,
or power of seeing clearly and accurately what he describes, before he
attempts to put this description on paper. As Defoe was but four years
old at the time of the Great Plague, his personal recollection of its
effects must have been of the dimmest; but during the years of childhood
(the most imaginative of life) he must often have conversed with persons
who had been through the plague, possibly with those who had recovered
from it themselves. He must often have visited localities ravaged by the
plague, and spared by the Great Fire of 1666; he must often have gazed
in childish horror at those awful mounds beneath which hundreds of human
bodies lay huddled together,--rich and poor, high and low, scoundrel and
saint,--sharing one common bed at last. His retentive memory must have
stored away at least the outline of those hideous images, so effectively
recombined many years later by means of his powerful though limited

       *       *       *       *       *

Defoe had the ability to become a good scholar, and to acquire the
elements of a good English style; but it is certain he never did. He
never had time, or rather he never took time, preferring invariably
quantity to quality. What work of his has survived till to-day is read,
not for its style, but in spite of its style. His syntax is loose and
unscholarly; his vocabulary is copious, but often inaccurate; many of
his sentences ramble on interminably, lacking unity, precision, and
balance. Figures of speech he seldom abuses because he seldom uses; his
imagination, as noticed before, being extremely limited in range. That
Defoe, in spite of these defects, should succeed in interesting us in
his "Plague," is a remarkable tribute to his peculiar ability as
described in the preceding paragraph.

In the course of the Notes, the editor has indicated such corrections
as are necessary to prevent the student from thinking that in reading
Defoe he is drinking from a "well of English undefiled." The art of
writing an English prose at once scholarly, clear-cut, and vigorous, was
well understood by Defoe's great contemporaries, Dryden, Swift, and
Congreve; it does not seem to have occurred to Defoe that he could learn
anything from their practice. He has his reward. "Robinson Crusoe" may
continue to hold the child and the kitchen wench; but the "Essay on
Dramatic Poesy," "The Battle of the Books," and "Love for Love," are for
the men and women of culture.

       *       *       *       *       *

The standard Life of Defoe is by William Lee (London, J.C. Hotten,
1869). William Minto, in the "English Men of Letters Series," has an
excellent short biography of Defoe. For criticism, the only good
estimate I am acquainted with is by Leslie Stephen, in "Hours in a
Library, First Series." The nature of the article on Defoe in the
"Britannica" may be indicated by noticing that the writer (Saintsbury)
seriously compares Defoe with Carlyle as a descriptive writer. It would
be consoling to think that this is intended as a joke.

Those who wish to know more about the plague than Defoe tells them
should consult Besant's "London," pp. 376-394 (New York, Harpers).
Besant refers to two pamphlets, "The Wonderful Year" and "Vox
Civitatis," which he thinks Defoe must have used in writing his book.


[1] At first, a weekly; with the fifth number, a bi-weekly; after the
first year, a tri-weekly.

[2] Preface to his pamphlet entitled Street Robberies.

[3] For a very different estimate, see Saintsbury's Selections from
Defoe's Minor Novels.


It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that I, among
the rest of my neighbors, 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.[4]

We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days, to
spread rumors and reports of things, and to improve them by the
invention of men, as I have lived to see practiced since. But
such things as those 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 counsels[5]
were held about ways to prevent its coming over; but all was
kept very private. Hence it was that this rumor 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 Longacre, or rather
at the upper end of Drury Lane.[6] The family they were in endeavored
to conceal it as much as possible; but, as it had gotten
some vent in the discourse of the neighborhood, the secretaries
of state[7] 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[8] 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,[9] and he also returned them[10] to the hall; and
it was printed in the weekly bill of mortality in the usual manner,


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,[11] were[12] 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:--

    Dec. 27 to Jan. 3,  St. Giles's      16
                        St. Andrew's     17
    Jan. 3 to Jan. 10,  St. Giles's      12
                        St. Andrew's     25
    Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, St. Giles's      18
                        St. Andrew's     18
    Jan. 17 to Jan. 24, St. Giles's      23
                        St. Andrew's     16
    Jan. 24 to Jan. 31, St. Giles's      24
                        St. Andrew's     15
    Jan. 31 to Feb. 7,  St. Giles's      21
                        St. Andrew's     23
    Feb. 7 to Feb. 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's, 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:--

    Dec. 20 to Dec. 27, St. Bride's       0
                        St. James's       8
    Dec. 27 to Jan. 3,  St. Bride's       6
                        St. James's       9
    Jan. 3 to Jan. 10,  St. Bride's      11
                        St. James's       7
    Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, St. Bride's      12
                        St. James's       9
    Jan. 17 to Jan. 24, St. Bride's       9
                        St. James's      15
    Jan. 24 to Jan. 31, St. Bride's       8
                        St. James's      12
    Jan. 31 to Feb. 7,  St. Bride's      13
                        St. James's       5
    Feb. 7 to Feb. 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 two hundred and forty, or thereabouts, to three hundred. The
last was esteemed a pretty high bill; but after this we found the bills
successively increasing, as follows:--

                          Buried.   Increased.
    Dec. 20 to Dec. 27      291         0
    Dec. 27 to Jan. 3       349        58
    Jan. 3 to Jan. 10       394        45
    Jan. 10 to Jan. 17      415        21
    Jan. 17 to Jan. 24      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 1656.

However, all this went off again; and the weather proving cold, and the
frost, which began in December, still continuing very severe, even till
near the end of February, attended with sharp though moderate winds, the
bills decreased again, and the city grew healthy; and everybody began to
look upon the danger as good as over, only that still the burials in St.
Giles's continued high. From the beginning of April, especially, they
stood at twenty-five each week, till the week from the 18th to the 25th,
when there was[13] 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

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's-Danes; and, to the great affliction of the city, one died
within the walls, in the parish of St. Mary-Wool-Church, that is to say,
in Bearbinder Lane, near Stocks Market: in all, there 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 Longacre, 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;[14] and St. Andrew's buried but fifteen, which was very low.
It is 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 three hundred and
forty-seven; and the week above mentioned, but three hundred and
forty-three. 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[15] 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's it was gotten into
several streets, and several families lay all sick together; and
accordingly, in the weekly bill for the next week, the thing began to
show itself. There was indeed but fourteen set down of the plague, but
this was all knavery and collusion; for 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[16] not increased above thirty-two, and the whole
bill being but three hundred and eighty-five, yet there was[17] 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

The next bill was from the 23d 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 the
peace, and at the lord mayor's[18] 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

But those were trifling things to what followed immediately after. For
now the weather set in hot; and from the first week in June, the
infection spread in a dreadful manner, and the bills rise[19] 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 neighbors
shunning and refusing to converse with them, and also to prevent
authority shutting up their houses, which, though it was not yet
practiced, yet was threatened; and people were extremely terrified at
the thoughts of it.

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

Till this week the city continued free, there having never any died
except that one Frenchman, who[20] 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
Whitechapel 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 neighborhood
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 Whitechapel; that is to say, the Broad
Street where I lived. Indeed, nothing was to be seen but wagons and
carts, with goods, women, servants, children, etc.; coaches filled with
people of the better sort, and horsemen attending them, and all hurrying
away; then empty wagons and carts appeared, and spare horses with
servants, who it was apparent were returning, or sent from the country
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 traveling, as any one 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 was
such pressing and crowding there to get passes and certificates of
health for such as traveled 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 months
of May and June; and the more because it was rumored that an order of
the government was to be issued out, to place turnpikes[21] and barriers
on the road to prevent people's traveling; 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 rumors 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
neighbors did. I have set this particular down so fully, because I know
not but it may be of moment to those who come after me, if they come to
be brought to the same distress and to the same manner of making their
choice; and therefore I desire this account may pass with them rather
for a direction to themselves to act by than a history of my actings,
seeing it may not be of one farthing value to them to note what became
of me.

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

The first consideration was of great moment to me. My trade was a
saddler, and as my dealings were chiefly not by a shop or chance trade,
but among the merchants trading to the English colonies in America, so
my effects lay very much in the hands of such. I was a single man, it is
true; but I had a family of servants, who[22] 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 the three words, the same that was given in another case[23] 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[24] 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[25] which had not been many years past: and I must needs say,
that, speaking of second causes, had most of the people that traveled
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 who[26] 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.

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 believed to
be divine, it was a kind of flying from God, and that he could cause his
justice to overtake me when and where he thought fit.[27]

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 same time I had my health and
limbs, and other servants, and might with ease travel a day or two on
foot, and, having a good certificate of being in perfect health, might
either hire a horse, or take post on the road, as I thought fit.

Then he proceeded to tell me of the mischievous consequences which
attend the presumption of the Turks and Mohammedans 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[28] 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 who[29] to intrust 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 by and

In the retirement of this evening I endeavored 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 call a direction to stay, I ought
to suppose it contained a promise of being preserved, if I obeyed.

This lay close to me;[30] and my mind seemed more and more encouraged to
stay than ever, and supported with a secret satisfaction that I should
be kept.[31] Add to this, that turning over the Bible which lay before
me, and while my thoughts were more than ordinary serious upon the
question, I cried out, "Well, I know not what to do, Lord direct me!"
and the like. And at that juncture I happened to stop turning over the
book at the Ninety-first Psalm, and, casting my eye on the second verse,
I read 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," etc.

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,[32] 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
intrust 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,[33] and afterwards fetched around 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
symptoms 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's, St. Andrew's, Holborn, and towards Westminster, began now to
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 indifferent healthy still. Nor was it
got then very much over the water into Southwark; for though there died
that week twelve hundred and sixty-eight of all distempers, whereof it
might be supposed above nine hundred 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's-in-the-Fields alone, there died four hundred and

But we perceived the infection kept chiefly in the outparishes, 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
Clerkenwell, Cripplegate, Shoreditch, and Bishopsgate; which last two
parishes joining to Aldgate, Whitechapel, 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 four
hundred of the plague in the two parishes of St. Martin's and St.
Giles-in-the-Fields[34] only, there died in the parish of Aldgate but
four, in the parish of Whitechapel three, in the parish of Stepney but

Likewise in the next week (from the 11th of July to the 18th), when the
week's bill was seventeen hundred and sixty-one, 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 Clerkenwell; so that by the second
week in August, Cripplegate Parish alone buried eight hundred and
eighty-six, and Clerkenwell one hundred and fifty-five. Of the first,
eight hundred and fifty might well be reckoned to die of the plague; and
of the last, the bill itself said one hundred and forty-five were of the

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 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 practiced in the town as openly as ever: I will not say quite as
frequently, because the number of people were[35] 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[35] 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[36] 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 judgment 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 part 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,[37] indeed; for nobody put on black, or made a
formal dress of mourning for their nearest friends: but the voice of
mourning was truly heard in the streets. The shrieks of women and
children at the windows and doors of their houses, where their nearest
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 hour.

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 see[38] 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[39] other, because, as I suppose,
they would not mingle with anybody that came out of houses, or meet with
smells and scents from houses, that might be infected.

The inns of court were all shut up, nor were very many of the lawyers in
the Temple,[40] 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 dependencies; 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, abstractedly so called,[41] 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 or 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 persons as were unincumbered with
trades and business. But of the rest, the generality staid, and seemed
to abide the worst; so that in the place we call 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
staid, 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 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[42]
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 soldiers set up trades here, and abundance of
families settled here. Again: the court brought with it a great flux of
pride and new fashions; all people were gay and luxurious, and the joy
of the restoration had brought a vast many families to London.[43]

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 Aceldama,[44] 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[45] part of
the other sex (whom I could almost call old women too), remarked,
especially afterward, though not till both those judgments 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 color, and its motion very heavy, solemn, and slow, but
that the comet before the fire was bright and sparkling, or, as others
said, flaming, and its motion swift and furious; and that, accordingly,
one foretold a heavy judgment, slow but severe, terrible, and
frightful, as was the plague, but the other foretold a stroke, sudden,
swift, and fiery, as was 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 perceivable.

I saw both these stars, and, I must confess, had had so much of the
common notion of such things in my head, that I was apt to look upon
them as the forerunners and warnings of God's judgments, and, especially
when 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

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.[46] 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,"[47] "Gadbury's
Astrological Predictions," "Poor Robin's Almanack,"[48] and the like;
also several pretended religious books,--one entitled "Come out of Her,
my People, lest ye be Partaker of her Plagues;"[49] 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[50] 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[51] 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 spoke to
him, but he would not enter into speech with me, or any one else, but
kept on his dismal cries continually.

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
vapor. 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 give
every day of what they have 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 endeavored 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 to me, looked me in the face, and fancied I
laughed, in which her imagination deceived her too, for I really did not
laugh, but was seriously reflecting how the poor people were terrified
by the force of their own imagination. However, she turned to me, called
me profane fellow and a scoffer, told me that it was a time of God's
anger, and dreadful judgments were approaching, and that despisers such
as I should wander and perish.

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[52] into Bishopsgate
churchyard, by a row of almshouses. 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
almshouses are on the left, and a dwarf wall with a palisade 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 the palisades into
the burying place, and as many people as the narrowness of the place
would admit to stop without hindering the passage of others; and he was
talking mighty 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 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 thus he came every day, making a strange hubbub,
considering it was 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 them vapors[53] in abundance,
and sent them away trembling and frightened, 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 people should come to be buried in
that churchyard, as indeed happened. But then 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.

Some endeavors 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 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 sunk
than lifted up the hearts of their hearers. Many of them, I doubt not,
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

One mischief always introduces another. These terrors and apprehensions
of the people led them to 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,[54] and
astrologers, to know their fortunes, or, as it is vulgarly expressed, to
have their fortunes told them, their nativities[55] 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 practiced, 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,[56] 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,[57] or of Merlin's[58] 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,[59] and a black cloak,
which was the habit those quack conjurers generally went in, was but
seen in the streets, the people would follow them[60] in crowds, and ask
them[60] questions as they went along.

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 those whom these false prophets flattered with hopes
that they should be kept 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 city.

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 judgment which hangs 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, even 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 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[61]
which, after the manner of the French court,[62] had been set up and
began to increase among us, were forbid to act;[63] 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,[64] merry-andrews,[64] puppet shows, ropedancers, and
such like doings, which had bewitched the common people, shut 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 diversions.

But even these 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 Savior 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 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
practicing 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 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 was 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 people to come to them for remedies, which was generally
set off with such flourishes as these; viz., "INFALLIBLE preventitive
pills against the plague;" "NEVER-FAILING preservatives against the
infection;" "SOVEREIGN cordials against the corruption of air;" "EXACT
regulations for the conduct of the body in case of infection;"
"Antipestilential 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 direction and
advice in the case of infection. These had specious titles also, such as

    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 practiced with great success in
      the late plague in this city, anno 1636, gives her advice
      only to the female sex. To be spoken with, etc.

    An experienced physician, who has long studied the doctrine of
      antidotes against all sorts of poison and infection, has,
      after forty years' practice, arrived at such skill as may,
      with God's blessing, direct persons how to prevent 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. It is sufficient
from these to apprise any one of the humor 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 subtlety 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 out
in the streets, this advertisement in capital letters; viz., "He gives
advice to the poor for nothing."

Abundance of 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 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 that 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 it was half a crown[65]). "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, but not my
physic!"--"Alas, sir," says she, "that is a snare laid for the poor
then, for you give them your advice for nothing; that is to say, you
advise them gratis to buy your physic for their money: so does every
shopkeeper 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; and I was told that some of them got five
pounds[66] a day by their physic.

But there was still another madness beyond all this, which may serve to
give an idea of the distracted humor of the poor people at that time,
and this was their following a worse sort of deceivers than any of
these; for these petty thieves only deluded them to pick their pockets
and get their money (in which their wickedness, whatever it was, lay
chiefly on the side of the deceiver's deceiving, not upon the deceived);
but, in this part I am going to mention, it lay chiefly in the people
deceived, or equally in both. And this was in wearing charms,
philters,[67] exorcisms,[68] amulets,[69] and I know not what
preparations to fortify the body against the plague, as if the plague
was not the hand of God, but a kind of a possession of an evil spirit,
and it was to be kept off with crossings,[70] signs of the zodiac,[71]
papers tied up with so many knots, and certain words or figures written
on them, as particularly the word "Abracadabra,"[72] formed in triangle
or pyramid; thus,--

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

Others had the Jesuits' mark in a cross:--

    I H

Others had nothing but this mark; thus,--


I might spend a great deal of my time in exclamations against the
follies, and indeed the wickednesses of those things, in a time of such
danger, in a matter of such consequence as this of a national infection;
but my memorandums of these things relate rather to take notice 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 plague being at hand was among them, and which may be said
to be from about Michaelmas,[74] 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 these
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 to relieve
themselves; but they ran about from one neighbor'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?"

I am supposing, now, the plague to have 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[75] by itself;
but as to the affair of health, it is proper to mention here my having
seen the foolish humor of the people in running after quacks,
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 the relief of the poor, I mean the
diseased poor, and in particular ordered the College of Physicians[76]
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.

It remains to be mentioned now what public measures were taken by the
magistrates for the general safety and to prevent the spreading of the
distemper when it 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 which 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 the peace for Middlesex,[77] by direction of the
secretary of state, had begun to shut up houses in the parishes of St.
Giles-in-the-Fields, St. Martin's, St. Clement's-Danes, etc., 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 as soon as 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, Whitechapel,
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 the houses was a method first taken, as I
understand, in the plague which happened in 1603, at the coming of King
James I. 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 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 of 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 pesthouse 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 infection.

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
follow: 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 authorize the giving
     of their directions as unto them for other present necessity should
     seem good in their discretions: it is now, upon special
     consideration, thought very expedient, for preventing and avoiding
     of infection of sickness (if it shall please Almighty God), that
     these officers following be appointed, and these orders hereafter
     duly observed.

     _Examiners to be appointed to 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 by the alderman, his deputy, and common council of every
     ward, by the name of examiners, to continue in that office for 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

     _The Examiner's Office._

     That these examiners be 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 and negligent, to give 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 o'clock at night, and the
     watchman by night until six in the morning.


     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 the 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 be 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 a shop or stall, or be
     employed as a laundress, or in any other common employment


     For better assistance of the searchers, forasmuch as there has 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 pesthouse, amongst whom the city and
     liberties to be quartered as they 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,[79] and kept only to this disease of the
     infection, it is ordered that every of the said chirurgeons shall
     have twelvepence a body searched by them, to be paid out of the
     goods of the party searched, if he be able, or otherwise by the

     _Nurse Keepers._

     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
     shall 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 botch, or purple, or swelling in any part of
     his body, or falleth otherwise dangerously sick without apparent
     cause of some other disease, shall give notice thereof to the
     examiner of health, within two hours after the said sign shall

     _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 die not, the house wherein he sickened shall be
     shut up for a month after the use of the due preservatives taken by
     the rest.

     _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 the examiner.

     _Shutting up of the House._

     If any person shall visit any man known to be infected of the
     plague, or entereth 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, etc._

     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 pesthouse or a tent, or unto some such house which the owner of
     the said house holdeth in his own hands, and occupieth by his own
     servants), and so as security be given to the said 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 do not after send thither the 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 the fear of some
     infection at first not appearing.

     _Burial of the Dead._

     That the burial of the dead by this visitation be at most
     convenient hours, always before sunrising, or after sunsetting,
     with the privity[80] of the churchwardens, or constable, and not
     otherwise; and that no neighbors 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 the 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 graves shall be at least six
     feet deep.

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

     _No Infected Stuff to be uttered._[81]

     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 public 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[82] do fortune,[83] 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 house.

     _Every Visited House to be watched._

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

     That precise order be taken that the searchers, chirurgeons,
     keepers, and buriers, are not to pass the streets without holding a
     red rod or wand of three foot 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[84] in any such business or attendance.


     That where several inmates 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 the health of that
     parish; or, in default thereof, the house whither she or they
     remove shall be shut up as is in case of visitation.

     _Hackney Coaches._

     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 pesthouse 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_[85] _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 vault or 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 be 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[86] or any other officer, and the owner punished
     according to the 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 about in every place about
     the city, being a great cause of the spreading of the infection,
     and will not be avoided[87] 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 law to be duly and severely executed upon them.


     That all plays, bear baitings,[88] games, singing of ballads,
     buckler play,[89] 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[90] of
     this city, and dinners in taverns, alehouses, and other places of
     public 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, alehouses, coffeehouses, and
     cellars, be severely looked unto as the common sin of the time, and
     greatest occasion of dispersing the plague. And that no company or
     person be suffered to remain or come into any tavern, alehouse, or
     coffeehouse, to drink, after nine of the clock in the evening,
     according to the ancient law and custom of this city, upon the
     penalties ordained by law.

     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 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, deputies, and common councilmen,
     in their several wards, may put in execution any other orders that
     by them, at their said meetings, shall be conceived and devised for
     the preservation of his Majesty's subjects from the infection.

                              Sir JOHN LAWRENCE,     Lord Mayor.
                              Sir GEORGE WATERMAN, }
                              Sir CHARLES DOE,     } Sheriffs.

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 "outparts" 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 this eastern part
of the town at least, nor begin to be violent till the beginning of
August. For example, the whole bill from the 11th to the 18th of July
was 1,761, yet there died but 71 of the plague in all those parishes we
call the Tower Hamlets; and they were as follows:--

    Aldgate,                 14                 {  34          {  65
    Stepney,                 33   The next      {  58   To     {  76
    Whitechapel,             21   week was      {  48   Aug. 1 {  79
    St. Kath. Tower.[91]      2   thus:         {   4   thus:  {   4
    Trin. Minories,[92]       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:--

    St. L.[93] Shoreditch    64   The next week {  84   To     { 110
    St. Bot.[94] Bishopsg.   65   prodigiously  { 105   Aug. 1 { 116
    St. Giles's Crippl.[95] 213   increased, as { 431   thus:  { 554
                            ---                   ---            ---
                            342                   620            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 pesthouse,
was[96] released.

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 the
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, who 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 Monday afternoon, when he heard a
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,
wrapped 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 you 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 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.[97] 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 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 this 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.

At another house, as I was informed, in the street next within Aldgate,
a whole family was shut up and locked in because the maidservant 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 pesthouse, 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 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 would perish either[98] 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 story
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[99] 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 plaster 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.

Not far from the same place they blowed 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 story 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.

In other cases, some had gardens and walls, or pales,[100] between them
and their neighbors, or yards and backhouses; and these, by friendship
and entreaties, would get leave to get over those walls or pales, and
so go out at their neighbors' 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 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[101] 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

On the other hand, when the plague at first seized a family, that is to
say, when any one body of the family had gone out, and unwarily or
otherwise catched[102] 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.

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 who 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.[103] 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 Throckmorton Street, whose house
looked into Drapers' 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 frightened 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 screeched 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.

I have by me a story of two brothers and their kinsman, who, being
single men, but that had staid[104] 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

One of them had been a soldier in the late wars,[105] and before that in
the Low Countries;[106] 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

The brother of this man was a seaman too, but somehow or other had been
hurt of[107] 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,[108] 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 staid 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[109] 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 Whitechapel.

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 two
hundred to four hundred 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[110] 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 eleven hundred and fourteen 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 Whitechapel, 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 four
hundred people buried in it. And I was not content to see it in the
daytime, 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 wrapped 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,[111] go in; for, depend upon it, it will be a
sermon to you, it may be, the best that ever you heard in your life. It
is 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[112] 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,[113] muffled up in a brown cloak, and making motions with
his hands, under his cloak, as if he was[114] 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[115] 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
desiring the buriers to let him alone, said he would only see the bodies
thrown in, and go away. So they left importuning him; but no sooner was
the cart turned round, and the bodies shot into the pit
promiscuously,--which was a 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 Pye[116] 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,[117] and candles in them, placed all night round the sides of
the pit upon the 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 wrapped up in linen sheets, some
in rugs, some little other than naked, or so loose that what covering
they had fell from them in the shooting out of the cart, and they fell
quite naked among the rest; but the matter was not much to them, or the
indecency much to any one else, seeing they were all dead, and were 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,[118]
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 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 behavior and practice
of nurses who attended the sick, and of their hastening on the fate of
those they attended 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 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,
towards the church. I stood a while, but I had no stomach[119] 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 Pye 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, behaving with all the reveling 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 neighbor, 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, taunting 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[120] 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 judgment 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
neighbor, 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

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 mind 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 at my calling the plague the hand of God, mocking, and even
laughing at the word "judgment," as if the providence of God had no
concern in the inflicting such a desolating stroke; and that the people
calling upon God, as they saw the carts carrying away the dead bodies,
was all 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
Judgment 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
judgment 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 club, 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 seems they had been checked, for their open insulting religion in
this manner, by several good people of every persuasion; and that[121]
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 clamor
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 contrary.[122]

These things 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 so 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 imminent 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 full
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 honor of God and the effects of their private
passions and resentment.

I remember a citizen, who, having broken out of his house in Aldersgate
Street or thereabout, went along the road to Islington. He attempted to
have gone[123] in at the Angel Inn, and after that at the White Horse,
two inns known still by the same signs, but was refused, after which he
came to the Pyed[124] 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

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 but 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
assured him again that they had no better. "Well," says he, "I must make
shift.[125] 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
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!" 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 it is probable, had she gone up with the ale, she had
found him dead in a few minutes after he had sat down upon the bed. The
alarm was great in the house, as any one 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 maidservant 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 nineteen 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[126] 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 neighbors 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 a thousand houses forsaken
of the inhabitants in the city and suburbs, including what was in the
outparishes 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 two hundred thousand people were fled and gone in
all.[127] 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 not in charge, and then, giving notice of the sick person
to the examiner, have a nurse or nurses appointed, and having 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.

I had in my family only an ancient woman that managed the house, a
maidservant, 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[128] which happened
everywhere as I went about the streets had filled my mind with a great
deal of horror, for fear of the distemper itself, which was indeed very
horrible in itself, and in some more than 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[129] 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 ourselves.

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, and 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 and 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
rosin[130] and pitch, brimstone and 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,[131] and the plague raged so violently among the butchers and
slaughterhouses 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 Whitechapel, where the greatest
part of the flesh meat was killed, were dreadfully visited, and that at
last 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[132] would not take it out of the
butcher's hand, but took it off the hooks themselves.[132] 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 for scents and perfumes in their hands, and
all the means that could be used were employed; 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 street suddenly,
without any warning: others, perhaps, had time to go to the next
bulk[133] or stall, or to any door or porch, and just sit down and die,
as I have said before.

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 neighbors 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 hand to take
them up upon handbarrows, 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 Whitechapel, in Spittlefields.
Note, those streets now called Spittlefields were then indeed open
fields; 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.[134]

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, yet 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 Token-House Yard in Lothbury, of a sudden a casement
violently opened just over my head, and a woman gave three frightful
screeches, and then cried, "O death, death, death!" in a most inimitable
tone, and which[135] struck me with horror, and[136] 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, "O 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 his name, though I
knew his name too; but that would be a hardship to the family, which is
now flourishing again.[137]

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,[138] raving and distracted, and
oftentimes laying violent hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out
at their windows, shooting themselves, etc.; 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[139] 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 plasters, 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 burned 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 watchmen or
other officers, and plunge themselves into the water wherever they found

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 indifferently 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,[140] 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[141] 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 executed 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 not 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 bedclothes 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 it is 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,[142] 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 who 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 proofs of the fact 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: (1) 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 Whitechapel, it had happened at St.
Giles's, or at Westminster, or Holborn, or that end of the town; if you
heard it at that end of the town, then it was done in Whitechapel, 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 whatsoever part you heard the story, the
particulars were always the same, especially that of laying a wet double
clout[143] on a dying man's face, and that of smothering a young
gentlewoman: so that it was apparent, at least to my judgment, that
there was more of tale than of truth in those things.

A neighbor 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 endeavor 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 slip
shoes, a white cap on his head, and, as the young man said, death in his

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 have been 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 five
hundred and fifty and upwards in a week, and then they could no more
bury in form[144] rich or poor.

I have mentioned above, that, notwithstanding this dreadful calamity,
yet that[145] 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 begone, 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 I 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 neighbors; that they had heard any one 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 four thousand 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 neighborhood, 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 footing 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 judgments,
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
neighborhood, 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, neighbors, 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 under-sexton of the parish of St.
Stephen, Coleman Street (by under-sexton 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 Keys
Court, Swan Alley, Bell Alley, White Horse Alley, and many more. Here
they went with a kind of handbarrow, and laid the dead bodies on, 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.[146]

He never used any preservative against the infection other than holding
garlic and rue[147] 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 or prudence. Scarce did they use
any caution, but ran into any business which they could get any
employment in, though it was the most hazardous; such was that of
tending the sick, watching houses shut up, carrying infected persons to
the pesthouse, 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 went 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, or 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 rung 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 neighbors.

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 Mountmill; 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 ain't dead, though, am I?" says the piper; which made them
laugh a little, though, as John said, they were heartily frightened at
first. So they helped the poor fellow down, and he went about his

I know the story goes, he set up[148] 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[149] 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 outparts for
want of room.

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 ribbon-weavers and other weavers, gold
and silver lacemakers, and gold and silver wire-drawers, seamstresses,
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

2. As merchandising was at a full stop (for very few ships ventured to
come up the river, and none at all went out[150]), so all the
extraordinary officers of the customs, likewise the watermen, carmen,
porters, and all the poor whose labor 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[151] turned out all the ordinary
workmen of that kind of business, such as bricklayers, masons,
carpenters, joiners, plasterers, painters, glaziers, smiths, plumbers,
and all the laborers 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, calkers,
ropemakers, dry coopers, sailmakers, anchor-smiths, 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, lighter-men, 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 staid; so that an innumerable multitude of
footmen, serving men, shopkeepers, journeymen, merchants' bookkeepers,
and such sort of people, and especially poor maidservants, 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
labor, 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 gently[152]
abated. Many, indeed, fled into the country; but, thousands of them
having staid 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.

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

And which,[153] 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 Diseases.  Of the Plague.
    Aug. 8 to Aug. 15          5,319            3,880
    Aug. 15 to Aug. 22         5,668            4,237
    Aug. 22 to Aug. 29         7,496            6,102
    Aug. 29 to Sept. 5         8,252            6,988
    Sept. 5 to Sept. 12        7,690            6,544
    Sept. 12 to Sept. 19       8,297            7,165
    Sept. 19 to Sept. 30       6,400            5,533
    Sept. 27 to Oct. 3         5,728            4,929
    Oct. 3 to Oct. 10          5,068            4,227
                              ------           ------
                              59,918           49,605

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[154] 50,000 of them, within a trifle, in two
months: I say 50,000, because as there wants 395 in the number above, so
there wants two days of two months in the account of time.[155]

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 one hundred and sixteen 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 such a nature as to allow them leisure to
take an exact tale[156] 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 have observed often that in the parishes
of Aldgate, Cripplegate, Whitechapel, 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 two thousand a week in those parishes.
And I saw it under the hand of one that made as strict an examination as
he could, that there really died a hundred thousand people of the plague
in it that one year; whereas, in the bills, the article of the plague
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 eyewitnesses, I do verily believe the
same; viz., that there died at least a hundred thousand of the plague
only, besides other distempers, and besides those which died in the
fields and highways and secret places, out of the compass[157] 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[158] places, almost anywhere, to creep into a bush or hedge, and

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 would
find the poor wretches lie[159] dead, and the food untouched. The number
of these miserable objects were[160] 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;[161] 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 form, as far as they could cast it, to cover
them, taking notice how the wind blew, and so come 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 without.

This indeed I had, in the main, only from the relation of others; for I
seldom walked into the fields,[162] 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[163]), 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 Whitechapel 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 nor
coach was seen in the streets from morning to evening, except some
country carts to bring roots and beans, or pease, 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
pesthouse 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 pesthouses; and sometimes people expired in them as they went along.

It is true, when the infection came to such a height as I have now
mentioned, there were very few physicians who cared to stir abroad to
sick houses, and very many of the most eminent of the faculty[164] 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 fifteen or seventeen
hundred 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 were beginning 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 one thousand a week for two weeks, though the
bills did not say so many; but it[165] 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. Whitechapel Parish was in the same condition,
and though much less than the parish I lived in, yet buried near six
hundred 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 neighbors 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 clear such houses where all the inhabitants were
dead, but that some of the bodies lay unburied till the neighboring
families were offended by 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[166] 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 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
those 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 judgment
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 out of pure zeal for the poor people, who went every evening
through the streets of Whitechapel, 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 hast 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 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 of the clergy 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 they would hear them.
And dissenters[167] 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 any difference at such a time as this was.

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 and carry a letter for my brother to the
posthouse; then it was, indeed, that I observed a profound silence in
the streets. When I came to the posthouse, 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 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 fetched
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 shillings, and some smooth
groats[168] and brass farthings.[169]

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 that 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 awhile 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 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, "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 hath 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 is 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?"--"O 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 is 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 it 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 money as a waterman? Does
anybody 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 has been 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,[170] and buy
there; then I go to single farmhouses 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 only now to call my wife, and hear how my little 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 had 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 judgment."

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

"Say'st 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 away 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 he 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 called 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 from 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 trusts 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[171] 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 frightened 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[172] and ship beer, and that
he had bought everything else almost for them. I asked him if there were
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 shores of Limehouse and Redriff, all the ships that could
have room rid[173] 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 as 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.[174]

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 Whitechapel, 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, he 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 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 in some places two or three such lines in the breadth of the
river, and this not only up 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 have been
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 on board 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 harbors and safe roads[175] 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 staid 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 Longacre, Drury Lane, etc.), 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
were but seventeen in all that end of the town. And all this while, even
so long as till there died about three thousand a week, yet had the
people in Redriff and in Wapping and Ratcliff, on both sides 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 resin and brimstone (which is much used by all trades relating
to shipping), would preserve them. Others argued it,[176] because
it[177] was in its extremest violence in Westminster and the parish of
St. Giles's and St. Andrew's, etc., and began to abate again before it
came among them, which was true, indeed, in part. For example:--

    Aug. 8 to Aug. 15,  St. Giles-in-the-Fields      242
       "         "      Cripplegate                  886
       "         "      Stepney                      197
       "         "      St. Mag.[178] Bermondsey      24
       "         "      Rotherhithe                    3
    Total this week                                4,030

    Aug. 15 to Aug. 22, St. Giles-in-the-Fields      175
       "         "      Cripplegate                  847
       "         "      Stepney                      273
       "         "      St. Mag. Bermondsey           36
       "         "      Rotherhithe                    2
    Total this week                                5,319

N.B.[179]--That it was observed that 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 were not ten people a
week that died of it in all that part of Stepney Parish which takes in
Limehouse, Ratcliff 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 the 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, Dulwich,[180] and Lusum, where
it seems nobody durst[181] 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 so 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 may be done safely;
and these often suffered, and were infected on board as much as on

As the richer sort got into ships, so the lower rank got into hoys,[182]
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 above bridge[183] 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!
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.

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 clothes, 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.

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 sunk 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 collar bone, 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.[184]

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[185] 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 parts 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 thereabouts.

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's 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 begone, 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 steams 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 endeavors were used also to destroy the mice and rats,
especially the latter, by laying rats-bane and other poisons for them;
and a prodigious multitude of them were also 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 sunk 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 were said to be brothers, the one an old soldier, but now a
biscuit baker; the other a lame sailor, but now a sailmaker; the third a
joiner. Says John the biscuit baker, 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? If you are, I don't know
     who will take you in; for people are so afraid of one another now,
     there is no getting a lodging anywhere.

     _Tho._ Why, the people where I lodge are good civil people, and
     have kindness 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.

     _Tho._ 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 that 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.

     _Tho._ We were both distracted we did not go away at first, when we
     might ha' traveled anywhere: there is 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.

     _Tho._ As to that, we might make shift. I have a little, though not
     much; but I tell you there is no stirring on the road. I know a
     couple of poor honest men in our street have attempted to travel;
     and at Barnet,[186] or Whetstone, or thereabout, 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 the law.

     _Tho._ You talk your old soldier's language, as if you were in the
     Low Countries[187] 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.

     _Tho._ 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 traveling wherever I will on the

     _Tho._ 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's else; for we can neither go away nor stay here. I am of
     the same mind with the lepers of Samaria.[188] If we stay here, we
     are sure to die. I mean especially as you and I are situated,
     without a dwelling house of our own, and without lodging in
     anybody's else. There is no lying in the street at such a time as
     this; we had as good[189] 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.

     _Tho._ 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

     _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.

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

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

     _Tho._ 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

     _Tho._ 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.

     _Tho._ 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 Ratcliff, and Limehouse and
Poplar, in short, Deptford and Greenwich, 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 Whitechapel Road, no,
not in any parish; and yet the weekly bill was that very week risen up
to 1,006.

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 2,785,
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 Ratcliff Highway, when the sailmaker came to his brother
John, express,[190] 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[191] begged
leave of his master, the biscuit baker, 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 endeavor 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 traveling north, that
we may not have the sun upon our faces, and beating upon 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 had 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
may 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[192] fall in, which made that easy; for his master who[193] he
worked for, having a ropewalk, 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 topgallant sail[194] 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 (who 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

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, blowed directly from the side of the city where
the plague was hottest. So, I say, leaving Stepney, they fetched a long
compass,[195] 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 higher
end of the town of Bow to Oldford, avoided any inquiry there, and
traveled on to Oldford. 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 rumor, 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 running 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. Sepulchre's, Clerkenwell, 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 5,361 people in the first three weeks in August, when at
the same time the parts about Wapping, Ratcliff, and Rotherhithe 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 cart did
more: for as I have said, that, in five parishes only, there died above
five thousand 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 twice as many in reality, there being no room to
believe that the account they gave was right, or that indeed they[196]
were, among such confusions as I saw them in, in any condition to keep
an exact account.

But to return to my travelers. Here they were only examined, and, as
they seemed rather coming from the country than from the city, they
found the people 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 favor of the
constable at Oldford 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 acceptation of London in the country, yet was
literally true, Wapping or Ratcliff being no part either of the city or

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 traveled on till they came into the
great north road, on the top of Stamford Hill.

By this time they began to 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 it 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 travelers 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 them, "Alas, alas!
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
were about thirteen of them in all, and some women among them. They
consulted together what they should do; and by their discourse, our
travelers soon found they were poor distressed people too, like
themselves, seeking shelter and safety; and besides, our travelers had
no need to be afraid of their coming up to disturb them, for as soon as
they heard the words, "Who comes there?" they 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 travelers 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 on 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, whose said name was Ford.

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

     _Rich._ 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 awhile, and we need not disturb you.

     _Rich._ 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 be but few!
     What may be our portion still, we know not, but hitherto we are

     _Rich._ 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.

     _Rich._ What part do you come from?

     _Ford._ We are most of us from Cripplegate Parish; only two or
     three of Clerkenwell Parish, but on the hither side.

     _Rich._ 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.

     _Rich._ 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 travelers observed that before
they went to sleep, an ancient man, who, it seems, was the father of one
of the women, went to prayer with all the company, recommending
themselves to the blessing and protection 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 travelers 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 travelers, only that they seemed to
be the better furnished for traveling, 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 travelers 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 travelers 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 inclosed fields, which they were loath to do
if they could help it.

Our three travelers, 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 traveled all together.

They had some difficulty in passing the ferry at the riverside, 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 travelers 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 traveled towards the forest; but when they came to
Walthamstow, the people of that town denied[197] 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 pretenses, 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[198] 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 the 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 baker, considering
awhile, "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
discolored 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
townsmen had made, and set a sentinel just by it with the real gun, the
only one they had, and who[199] 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 frightened; 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?"

     _Const._ Why don't you begone? 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?

     _Const._ We are not bound to tell you the 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.

     _Const._ We have a right to stop it up, and our own safety obliges
     us to it; besides, this is not the King's highway, it is 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 it is very unchristian
     and unjust in you to stop us.

     _Const._ 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.

     _Const._ 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.

     _Const._ We furnish you! What mean you by that?

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

     _Const._ You will be ill kept at our maintenance.

     _John._ If you stint us, we shall make ourselves the better

     _Const._ Why, you will not pretend to quarter upon us by force,
     will you?

     _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.

     _Const._ 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.

     _Const._ 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 can
     be so unmerciful.

     _Const._ Self-preservation obliges us.

     _John._ What! To shut up your compassion, in a case of such
     distress as this?

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

     _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.

     _Const._ If you will go another way, we will send you some

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

     _Const._ 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?

     _Const._ 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.

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

     _John._ No, no; you may depend on it.

     _Const._ 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 down.

     _John._ I answer for it, we will not.

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 marshes, and meet
them in the forest; which was all a sham, for they had no Captain
Richard or any such company.

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 so 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.

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,[200]--the other in two companies, but
all a little asunder,--and went towards Epping.[200]

The first night they encamped all in the forest, and not far off from
one another, but not setting up the tent for fear that should discover
them. On the other hand, Richard went to work with his ax 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, 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 endeavor 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 travelers,
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.[201] 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 the 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 a 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 rumor 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 the 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 the rents 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 loath 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 throughout 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 fields.

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 pretenses 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,[202] showing their arms, and talking in the
language of soldiers; and that several of them having gone away towards
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 desired 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 please 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 will 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 that 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
victualing house on 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 some distance, and always paid for very

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

These things, and a quiet, inoffensive behavior, began to get them the
good opinion of the country, and the 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
neighborhood 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 pease.

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 them frames 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 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 about. 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[203] 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 very well
thatched, and the sides and roof 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 the one side, and
Rumford and Brentwood on the other side, was also come 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 higglers,[204] and such
people as went to and from London with provisions.

If this was true, it was an evident contradiction to the 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[205]

It might be that they were preserved even beyond expectation, though not
to a miracle;[206] that abundance went and came and were not touched;
and that was much encouragement for 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 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 of
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 such things.
They were chiefly put to it[207] 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 bushels of wheat that was sent them, in parched corn,
as the Israelites of old did, without grinding or making bread of

At last they found means to carry their corn to a windmill near
Woodford, where they had it ground; and afterwards the biscuit baker
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 a hundred and twenty
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[209] because
they did not remove time[210] enough, that is to say, not till, by
openly conversing with other people, their neighbors, they had the
distemper upon them (or, as may be said, among them), and so carried it
about with 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 travelers 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 staid, 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[211] crave his assistance and advice.

This 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
who[212] 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

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 scrutinized sufficiently, and having been retired from all
conversation[213] 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[214] than
for having any signal of infection upon them, or upon any belonging to

With this certificate they removed, though with great reluctance; and,
John inclining not to go far from home, they removed 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 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[215] 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,
reaching near Rumford, and who, having no subsistence or habitation, not
only lived oddly,[216] 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 country,
robbed and plundered, and killed cattle, and the like; and others,
building huts and hovels by the roadside, begged, and that with an
importunity next door to demanding relief: so that the country 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 with 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[217] scarce habitable; and by 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 an old
oven, though both lying in ruins, yet they made them both fit for use;
and, raising additions, sheds, and lean-to's[218] 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 gentleman above favored 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 country 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 cold 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[219]
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[220] was increased to such a frightful
extremity as I have related, the middling people[221] 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 m I s E r Y!
    We Bo T H Sh a L L D y E,
                   W o E, W o E

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 is 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,[222] 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[223] 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 riversides 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
unloaded 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[224] till they[225] came for further orders; and if
they could not find them,[226] and the man would not consent to take
them[227] away, they[225] should cause them[227] 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
distemper 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 clamor very popular.

And yet more or less, maugre[228] 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[229] died among them. I
have heard the accounts of several, such as they were reckoned up, as

    Enfield                   32
    Hornsey                   58
    Newington                 17
    Tottenham                 42
    Edmonton                  19
    Barnet and Hadley         43
    St. Albans               121
    Watford                   45
    Uxbridge                 117
    Hertford                  90
    Ware                     160
    Hodsdon                   30
    Waltham Abbey             23
    Epping                    26
    Deptford                 623
    Greenwich                631
    Eltham and Lusum          85
    Croydon                   61
    Brentwood                 70
    Rumford                  109
    Barking            about 200
    Brandford                432
    Kingston                 122
    Staines                   82
    Chertsey                  18
    Windsor                  103
                    _cum aliis._[230]

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 rage and a
hatred against their own kind, as if there were 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 have been most observed[231] by him

Others placed it to the account of the corruption of human nature,
who[232] 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 quite a 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 harbored 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[233] were infected, they were not
only regardless of others, but even willing to infect them: neither of
which was really true, that is to say, in the colors they[234] 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 practiced 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, churchwardens, etc., 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 honor; viz., the
moderation which they used in the great and difficult work of shutting
up 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 in 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 of 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 authorized by the magistrate's
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 that,[235] 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 behavior, 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[236] 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 pesthouse 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 favor 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 a 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 authorized 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 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
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.[237] 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, nor whom they
were infected by.

A house in Whitechapel 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 griefs 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
visitor 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[238] ailments, only one a
violent cholic; until, 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 endeavored 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 judgment, 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 favor, it being very difficult to
get any man to accept of such an employment that was fit to be intrusted
with it.

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, as,
indeed, they began to do at first very much until they were 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 frightened, as he was a
rude fellow, and she run 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, as 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 frightened enough before; 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 were at supper. They began to rise up a
little surprised, not knowing what the matter was; but he bid them sit
still, he only come 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 to-morrow night." It is easy to believe, though not to
describe, the consternation they were all in. The women and the man's
daughters, which[239] were but little girls, were frightened 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
windows for help, as if they had been frightened out of their wits. The
master, more composed than they, though both frightened 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[240] 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 burned 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,[241] and washed their clothes, and the like. As to
the poor man, whether he lived or died, I do not remember.

It is most certain, that if, by the shutting up of houses, the sick had
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, run 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, frightened at the man, and afraid to touch him,
let him go on; upon which he ran down to the Still-Yard 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 Still Yard, landed, ran up the streets
to his own house, knocking at the door, went up the stairs, and into his
bed again; and[242] 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 in 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 hand to prevent it; and even when they 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. There was much of it
before the order for shutting up of houses was strictly put into
execution; for at first the watchmen were not so rigorous and severe as
they were afterwards 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 doors.

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
burnt 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 laid 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 burned 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 hurting 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 the 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 or
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 burthen 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 neighbors. 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 staid 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 neighbors 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 was 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 their 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

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

This often was the reason that, as I have said, we that were examiners
were not able to come at the knowledge of the infection being entered
into a house till it was too late to shut it up, and sometimes not till
the people that were left were all dead. In Petticoat Lane two houses
together were infected, and several people sick; but the distemper was
so well concealed, the examiner, who was my neighbor, 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 neighborhood, they appeared generally at a
time, and answered, that is, lied for one another, or got some of the
neighborhood 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, 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 the 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 family and servants, 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 up 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 thing put them

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 neighbors as to the 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 occasions, 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[243] the cruelty of being confined; but, for the removal of those
that were well, we thought it highly reasonable and just, for their own
sakes, they should be removed from the sick, and that, for other
people's safety, they should keep retired for a while, to see that they
were sound, and might not infect others; and we thought twenty or thirty
days enough for this.

Now, certainly, if houses had been provided on purpose for those that
were sound, to perform this demiquarantine 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 burnt with such violence that the citizens in despair gave
over their endeavors 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 excesses 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 Whitechapel,--I say, what could be more affecting
than to see this poor man come out into the open street, run, dancing
and singing, and making a thousand antic gestures, with five or six
women and children running after him, crying and calling upon him for
the Lord's sake to come back, and entreating the help of others to bring
him back, but all in vain, nobody daring to lay a hand upon him, or to
come near him?

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

No wonder the aspect of the city itself was frightful. The usual
concourse of the 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 the people. This they
made a loud clamor 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 caviled
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 neither for 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 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 last two weeks in
August, and in the first three weeks in September, generally died in two
or three days at the farthest, and many the very same day they were
taken. Whether the dog days[244] (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 three thousand 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

As to the suddenness of people dying at this time, more than before,
there were innumerable instances of it, and I could name several in my
neighborhood. 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 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.[245] 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 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 abandoned 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 sick or who
is sound." And so they ran desperately into any place or 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
who[246] 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 an act of
Parliament called the "Act of Uniformity,"[247] to preach in the
churches, nor did the church ministers in that case make any difficulty
in accepting their assistance; so that many of those whom they called
silent 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 close conversing with death, or with diseases that threaten death,
would scum off the gall from our tempers, remove the animosities among
us, and bring us to see with differing eyes than those which we 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 farther, than to closing: and who am I, that I should
think myself able to influence either one side or other? But this I may
repeat again, that it is 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 nor 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 extravagances 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 burned himself in bed; and how
another, by the insufferable torment he bore, danced and sung naked in
the streets, not knowing one ecstasy[248] 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 perfect idea of a more complicated distress?

I must acknowledge that this time was so 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 staid 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 close ten or twelve days more,
during which many dismal spectacles represented themselves in my
view,[249] out of my own windows, and in our own street, as that
particularly, from Harrow Alley, of the poor outrageous creature who
danced and sung in his agony; and many others there were. Scarce a day
or a 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

Sometimes heaps and throngs of people would burst out of the alley, most
of them women, making a dreadful clamor, 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,[250] 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 to 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 that it was all distraction
and the complaints of distressed and distempered people.

I believe it was everywhere thus at 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 streets, 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 dreams, 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[251] 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 forty thousands from the
22d of August to the 26th of September, being but five weeks. The
particulars of the bills are as follows: viz.,--

    Aug. 22 to Aug. 29        7,496
    Aug. 29 to Sept. 5        8,252
    Sept. 5 to Sept. 12       7,690
    Sept. 12 to Sept. 19      8,297
    Sept. 19 to Sept. 26      6,460

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 pitside, 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 by
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 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 magistrate 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 any 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, in the first three
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 sure 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 of the
parish in which I lived, and where as great a desolation was made, in
proportion to the number of the inhabitants, as was anywhere. I say, I
am sure that there were no dead bodies remained unburied; that is to
say, none that the proper officers knew of, none for want of people to
carry them off, and buriers to put them into the ground and cover them.
And this is sufficient to the argument; for what might lie in houses and
holes, as in Moses and Aaron Alley, is nothing, for it is most certain
they were buried as soon as they were found. As to the first article,
namely, of provisions, the scarcity or dearness, though I have mentioned
it before, and shall speak of it again, yet I must observe here.

1. The price of bread in particular was not much raised; for in the
beginning of the year, viz., in the first week in March, the penny
wheaten loaf was ten ounces and a half, and in the height of the
contagion it was to be had at nine ounces and a half, and never dearer,
no, not all that season; and about the beginning of November it was sold
at 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 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 pesthouses 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 pesthouse but where money was given, or security for money, either
at their introducing,[252] 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 for 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 one hundred and fifty-six
buried in all at the London pesthouse, and one hundred and fifty-nine at
that of Westminster.

By having more pesthouses, 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 pesthouses, as some proposed it
seems at that time as well as since, it[253] 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 pesthouses
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 observed. But that difficulty made it apparent that
they 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
occasions 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,[254] 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, wagons, 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.

The magistrates wisely caused the people to be encouraged, made very
good by-laws[255] for the regulating the citizens, keeping good order in
the streets, and making everything as eligible as possible to all sorts
of people.

In the first place, the lord mayor and the sheriffs,[256] the court of
aldermen, and a certain number of the common councilmen, 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 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, etc., 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 councilmen 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 reëstablished 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,[257] 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 nuisance or frightful object 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[258] of
bread, which was weekly appointed by my lord mayor, observed; and all
the bakers were obliged to keep their ovens 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 clear 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 burned, 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 outparts, 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's-Danes, St.
Martin's-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. Sepulchre's, St. James's, Clerkenwell, 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,
Whitechapel, 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 northeast suburbs, and in Southwark, almost
as if the plague had not been among us.

Even when the north and northwest suburbs were fully infected, viz.,
Cripplegate, Clerkenwell, Bishopsgate, and Shoreditch, yet still all the
rest were tolerably well. For example:--

From the 25th of July to the 1st of August the bill stood thus of all

    St. Giles's, Cripplegate               554
    St. Sepulchre's                        250
    Clerkenwell                            103
    Bishopsgate                            116
    Shoreditch                             110
    Stepney Parish                         127
    Aldgate                                 92
    Whitechapel                            104
    All the 97 parishes within the walls   228
    All the parishes in Southwark          205

So that, in short, there died more that week in the two parishes of
Cripplegate and St. Sepulchre's by forty-eight than 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 outstreets 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
northwest parishes, and the weight of the infection lay on the city and
the eastern suburbs, and the Southwark side, and this in a frightful

Then indeed the city began to look dismal, shops to be shut, and the
streets desolate. In the High Street, indeed, necessity made people stir
abroad on many occasions; and there would be in the middle of the day a
pretty many[259] 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:--

    St. Giles's, Cripplegate               456
    St. Giles-in-the-Fields                140
    Clerkenwell                             77
    St. Sepulchre's                        214
    St. Leonard, Shoreditch                183
    Stepney Parish                         716
    Aldgate                                629
    Whitechapel                            532
    In the 97 parishes within the walls  1,493
    In the 8 parishes on Southwark side  1,636

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:--

                                      Sept. 19-26.
    St. Giles's, Cripplegate               277
    St. Giles-in-the-Fields                119
    Clerkenwell                             76
    St. Sepulchre's                        193
    St. Leonard, Shoreditch                146
    Stepney Parish                         616
    Aldgate                                496
    Whitechapel                            346
    In the 97 parishes within the walls  1,268
    In the 8 parishes on Southwark side  1,390

                                     Sept. 26-Oct. 3.
    St. Giles's, Cripplegate               196
    St. Giles-in-the-Fields                 95
    Clerkenwell                             48
    St. Sepulchre's                        137
    St. Leonard, Shoreditch                128
    Stepney Parish                         674
    Aldgate                                372
    Whitechapel                            328
    In the 97 parishes within the walls  1,149
    In the 8 parishes on Southwark side  1,201

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, Whitechapel, 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[260]
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, etc., 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[261] 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 or tumors 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 the 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.[262] Again the first goes on exclaiming, "I
have come near no infection, or any infected person; I am sure it is in
the air; we draw in death when we breathe, and therefore it is 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,[263] they would say, if it pleased God to strike
them, it was all one whether they went abroad, or staid 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

I would be far from lessening the awe of the judgments of God, and the
reverence to his providence, which ought always to be on our minds on
such occasions as these. Doubtless the visitation 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 judgment 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 judgment, to go on in the ordinary course of natural causes, and he
is pleased to act by those natural causes as the ordinary means,
excepting and reserving to himself, nevertheless, a power to act in a
supernatural way when he sees occasion. Now it is 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 miracles.

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 first coming 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 Longacre 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 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 neighbor, 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, nor 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[264] 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
neighbor 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 have said above, especially
in the city, began to be overeasy on 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
neighbor. "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 neighbor said no more, being unwilling to surprise him.
But this made him more inquisitive, and, as his neighbor 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 neighbor 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 neighboring
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

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[265] 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 observation. 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
come into their harbors 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 farthest; 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[266] would
connive at their going privately abroad; nor would people be much afraid
of them afterwards, but rather think they were fortified the better,
having not been vulnerable when the enemy was in their 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, 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 carcasses 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[267] 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[268] 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 ahead, 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 apprehension 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, laboring poor, and among them chiefly those who, in a
case of 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 close
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[269] the thing, and made that be a propagation of the
distemper which was the best means to prevent it. And this, too, is
evident 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,[270] that when I speak of those people who were
really thus dangerous, I suppose them to be utterly ignorant of their
own condition; for if they really knew their circumstances to be such as
indeed they were, they must have been a kind of willful murderers 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
neighbors and families yet living, who showed the contrary to an
extreme. One man, the master of a family in my neighborhood, 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[271]
fully; but the next day it discovered itself, and he was taken very ill,
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 neighbors 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 tumors 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 was impossible to describe,
or indeed conceive.

This infecting and being infected without so much as its being known to
either person is evident from two sorts of cases which frequently
happened at that time; and there is hardly anybody living, who was in
London during the infection, but must have known several of the cases of
both sorts.

1. Fathers and mothers have gone about as if they had been well, and
have believed themselves to be so, till they have insensibly infected
and been the destruction of their whole families; which they would have
been far from doing if they had 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 infected 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 he

2. The other particular is, that many people, having been well to the
best of their own judgment, 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 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 carcasses, 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.[272]

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.[273]

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,[274] as they call it;
particularly that, if they had laid any eggs at that 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,[275] 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 it 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 20th, or thereabouts, 1664, and in or about Longacre: 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 22d of April, when there were 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[276] of days only, but a soixantine,[277]--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
22d 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 loath at first to have the neighbors
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 practiced 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[278] 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 favor to have their dead be
returned of other distempers, to prevent the shutting up their houses.
For example:--

    _Dead of other Diseases besides the Plague._

    From the 18th to the 25th of July     942
    To the 1st of August                1,004
    To the 8th                          1,213
    To the 15th                         1,439
    To the 22d                          1,331
    To the 29th                         1,394
    To the 5th of September             1,264
    To the 12th                         1,056
    To the 19th                         1,132
    To the 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. 1-8.   Aug. 8-15.   Aug. 15-22.  Aug. 22-29.

    Fever             314         353          348          383
    Spotted fever     174         190          166          165
    Surfeit            85          87           74           99
    Teeth              90         113          111          133
                      ---         ---          ---          ---
                      663         743          699          780

             Aug. 29-Sept. 5.  Sept. 5-12.  Sept. 12-19. Sept. 19-26.

    Fever             364         332          309          268
    Spotted Fever     157          97          101           65
    Surfeit            68          45           49           36
    Teeth             138         128          121          112
                      ---         ---          ---          ---
                      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,[279] consumptions, vomitings, imposthumes,[280] gripes, and the
like, many of which were not doubted to be infected people; but as it
was of the utmost consequence to families not to be known to be
infected, if it was possible to avoid it, so they took all the measures
they could to have it not believed, and if any died in their houses, to
get them returned to the examiners, and by the searchers, as having died
of other distempers.

This, I say, will account for the long interval which, as I have said,
was between the dying of the first persons that were returned in the
bills 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
this 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 tell
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:[281] yet, if it were so, the argument is the stronger in
favor 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 with 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 women 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,[282] balsamics,[283] and a 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
meetinghouses 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[284] no longer than it[285] 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 mean time, 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 cloths 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[286] on, and his gloves in his hand,
his hat upon his head, and his hair combed,--of such we had not the
least apprehensions; and people conversed a great while freely,
especially with their neighbors 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 that thought
themselves entirely free were oftentimes the most fatal; and that it
came to be generally understood that people were sensible of it, and of
the reason of it,--then, I say, they began to be jealous of everybody;
and a vast number of people locked themselves up, so as not to come
abroad into any company at all, nor suffer any that had been abroad in
promiscuous company to come into their houses, or near them (at least
not so near them as to be within the reach of their breath, or of any
smell from them); and when they were obliged to converse at a distance
with strangers, they would always have preservatives in their mouths and
about their clothes, to repel and keep off the infection.

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

But it was impossible to beat anything into the heads of the poor. They
went on with the usual impetuosity of their tempers, full of outcries
and lamentations when taken, but madly careless of themselves,
foolhardy, and obstinate, while they were well. Where they could get
employment, they pushed into any kind of business, the most dangerous
and the most liable to infection; and if they were spoken to, their
answer would be, "I must trust to God for that. If I am taken, then I am
provided for, and there is an end of me;" and the like. Or thus, "Why,
what must I do? I cannot 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 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[287] among them (I mean the
laboring poor) while they were all well and getting money than there was
before; but[288] as lavish, as extravagant, and as thoughtless for
to-morrow as ever; so that when they came to be taken sick, they were
immediately in the utmost distress, as well for want as for sickness, as
well for lack of food as lack of health.

The 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 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
tumors, 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 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 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,[289] 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 the aldermen in the several wards and
precincts, and by the particular direction of the court and of the
justices respectively in the parts where they resided, over and above
the private charity distributed by pious hands in the manner I speak of;
and this continued for many weeks together.

I confess this is a very great sum; but if it be true that there was
distributed, in the parish of Cripplegate only, seventeen thousand eight
hundred pounds in one week to the relief of the poor, as I heard
reported, and which I really believe was true, the other may not be

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, clears 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[290] 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, 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 woolen 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 the 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 unload 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,[291] 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[292] and

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
were 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,[294] 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 waterside, 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 Whitechapel, and but two in
all 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 endeavor 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 rumor
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), 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 were five hundred thousand
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 neighbors; 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
there was a dreadful infection in London so many years ago, in which, as
above, there died twenty thousand in a week, etc., 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 twenty thousand 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[295] and Dutch, but especially the
last, made very great advantages of it, having all the market to
themselves, and even buying our manufactures in the 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 county, 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.[296]
For example, the towns of Colchester, Yarmouth, and Hull, on that
side[297] of England, exported to Holland and Hamburg the manufactures
of the adjacent counties for several months after the trade with London
was, as it were, entirely shut up. Likewise the cities of Bristol[298]
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 freshwater 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.

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 in 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

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
cornfactors[300] immediately to unlade and deliver the vessels laden
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 it
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
coal 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 distemper, 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 worst for heat, because the contagion was
nourished, and gained strength, in hot weather, and was, as it were,
propagated in heat.

Others said they granted that heat in the climate might propagate
infection, as sultry hot weather fills the air with vermin, and
nourishes innumerable numbers and kinds of venomous creatures, which
breed in our food, in the plants, and even in our bodies, by the very
stench of which infection may be propagated; also that heat in the air,
or heat of weather, as we ordinarily call it, makes bodies relax and
faint, exhausts the spirits, opens the pores, and makes us more apt to
receive infection or any evil influence, be it from noxious,
pestilential vapors, 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
quite a 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
sulphureous 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 of good fires kept our rooms sweet and wholesome, and I do
verily believe made our whole family so, more than would otherwise have

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 the Dutch at that time, the Dutch capers[301] 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[302] ordered lighters and other vessels, such as the
woodmongers (that is, the wharf keepers) or coal sellers furnished, to
go down and take out the coals as low as Deptford and Greenwich, and
some farther down.

Others delivered great quantities of coals in particular places where
the ships could come to the shore, as at Greenwich, Blackwall, and other
places, in vast heaps, as if to be kept for sale; but[303] were then
fetched away after the ships which brought them were gone; so that the
seamen had no communication with the river men, nor so much as came near
one another.[304]

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 exceedingly dear, even as high as
four pounds a chaldron;[305] 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 two hundred
chaldron 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 Queenhithe, and one
at the Three Cranes; one in Blackfriars, and one at the gate of
Bridewell; one at the corner of Leadenhall Street and Gracechurch; one
at the north and one at the south gate of the Royal Exchange; one at
Guildhall, 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 quarreled 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, and 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 Whitechapel Bars, was sold at four pounds 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 wants of the people; but this made the poor eat
them to excess, and this brought them into 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 outports; 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 Londoners' hands, was stopped at once,
the trade of the city being stopped.

All kinds of handicrafts in the city, etc., 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 of families whose living depended upon the labor of the
heads of those families. I say, this reduced them to extreme misery; and
I must confess it is for the honor 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, as 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[306] for all sorts 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 London.

It remains now that I should say something of the merciful part of this
terrible judgment. The last week in September, the plague being come to
its crisis, its fury began to assuage. I remember my friend Dr. Heath,
coming to see me the week before, told me he was sure 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 8,297 of all
diseases, I upbraided him with it, and asked him what he had made his
judgment from. His answer, however, was not so much to seek[307] 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

It is true, the plague was still at a frightful height, and the next
bill was no less than 6,460, and the next to that 5,720; 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
1,843, so that the number dead of the plague was but 2,665; and the next
week it decreased 1,413 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 is none of my particular business to
inquire; but I saw it apparently here), that, as upon the first sight 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 tumors
and carbuncles upon them that were running, and consequently contagious,
but eat 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 circumstance 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[308] with the sick people, and make them[309]
as anxious almost to avoid the infection 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[310] 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 the 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 shyness which they used to practice,
depending that the sickness would not reach them, or that, if it did,
they should not die.

The physicians opposed this thoughtless humor 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 passed; 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 of the people went so far, that the
ministers took notice to them of it, 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 rumor 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 a thousand to eighteen hundred a
week, yet the people flocked to town as if all had been well.

The consequence of this was, that the bills increased again four hundred
the very first week in November; and, if I might believe the physicians,
there were above three thousand fell sick that week, most of them
newcomers 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 into 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 maidservant. He had not been 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 wintry weather came on apace,
and the air was clear and cold, with some 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 that were heartily
thankful to that Sovereign Hand that had protected them in so dangerous
a time. It would be very uncharitable to judge otherwise in a city 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 places.

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 whimsey prevail among
people, that they run altogether promiscuously, sick and well. Not the
Mohammedans, who, prepossessed with the principle of predestination,
value[311] 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 a week, than there was[312] 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 except[313] 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

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[314] 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 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,[315] 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 of the outparishes 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,[316] 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 observations are
as follows:--

First, A piece of ground beyond Goswell Street, near Mountmill, 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[317] made a physic garden,[318] and, after[319] that,
has been built upon.

Second, 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.

Third, 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. Allhallows-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[320]
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[321] came at them, were carried to another part of the same ground,
and thrown altogether into a deep pit, dug on purpose, which now is to be
known[322] 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 meetinghouse,
which has been built there many years since; and the ground is
palisadoed[323] 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.

Fourth, 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

Fifth, 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, 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 outparishes 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[324] 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,[325]
had predicted the plague as a judgment, and run naked through the
streets, telling the people that it was come upon them to punish them
for their sins, had his own wife died[326] the very next day of the
plague, and was carried, one of the first, in the Quakers' dead cart to
their new burying ground.

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 upon 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 on 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;[327] but as the late act of indemnity[328] had lain asleep the
quarrel itself, so the government had recommended family and personal
peace, upon all occasions, to the whole nation.

But it[329] could not be obtained; and particularly after the ceasing
of the plague in London, when any one 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[330] 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[331] could expect no other but
that they[332] should immediately fall upon them[331] and harass them
with their penal laws; accept their[331] preaching while they[332] were
sick, and persecute them[331] as soon as they[332] were recovered again.
This even we that were of the Church thought was 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 favorably, 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.[333] 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 it is true, also, that a great many of them staid, 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 staid, and
their courage is to be commended and highly valued; but these were not
abundance. It cannot be said that they all staid, 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[334] 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[335] 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 staid, 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 will 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.[336] 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[337] away that had staid 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 they not rather to have been
humble and thankful if they were rendered more useful than their

I think it ought to be recorded to the honor 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 staid did to the
last degree; and several of these kinds did not only venture, but lost
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 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 headboroughs[338] in the two parishes of Stepney and Whitechapel;
but I could not carry my list on, for when the violent rage of the
distemper, in September, came upon us, it drove us out of all measure.
Men did then no more die by tale[339] and by number: they might put out
a weekly bill, and call them seven or eight thousand, or what they
pleased. It is 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 we may believe them, there was not many less buried
those first three weeks in September than twenty thousand per week.
However the others aver the truth of it, yet I rather choose to keep to
the public account. Seven or 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 in 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, headboroughs, lord mayor's and sheriff's men, 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 scarcely
possible it should be otherwise.

I have not said one word here about the physic or preparations that were
ordinarily made use of on this terrible occasion (I mean we that
frequently went abroad up and down the streets, 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 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 of
sound but in six bells; and that all these preparations shall[340] 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 judgment 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
antipestilential pill, is the best preparation that can be made; others
think that Venice treacle[341] is sufficient of itself to resist the
contagion; and I," says he, "think as both these think, viz., that the
first is good to take beforehand to prevent it, and the last, 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 mountebank, of which the town was so full, I
listened to none of them, and observed often since, with some wonder,
that for two years after the plague I scarcely ever heard one of them
about the 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 of 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 tumors, etc.,
which were broken and kept open by the direction 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 opinion 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 the sorer and severer strokes were yet
behind. Had they stopped there, or had they descended to particulars,
and told us that the city should be the next year 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 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 clamors 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 two and three hundred[342] 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 that we now call Newgate Market; but in
the middle of the street, which is now called Blow Bladder 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[343] meat.

It was in those shambles that two persons falling down dead as they were
buying meat, gave rise to a rumor 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 easily frighted again.

There was still a question among the learned, and[344] at first
perplexed the people a little; and that was, in what manner to purge the
houses and goods where the plague had been, and how to render them[345]
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, 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, burnt 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 their 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 burnt perfumes,
incense, benjamin,[346] resin, 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[347] 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
Holborn, 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 with fire, nor was it far off; for within nine
months more I saw it all lying in ashes, when, as some of our quaking
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, Whitechapel, Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Shoreditch, Cripplegate,
and St. Giles's, where the fire never came, and where the plague raced
with the greatest violence, remain still in the same condition they were
in before?

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.

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 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[348] 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[349] 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 circumstances 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 to 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,"[350]--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 week's bill decreased
1,843, 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 asked 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!" 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 numbers that were taken sick the week or
two before, besides those that died, was[351] 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 neighborhood but what was
infected, so, had it gone on, it would not have been long that there
would have been any more neighbors 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 thirty thousand people dead, and near
one hundred thousand 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, sunk 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 tumors were broke, or
the carbuncles went down and the inflammations round them changed color,
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 judgment 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 labor 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 extraordinarily
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! 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 let us give thanks to him, for 'tis all his own doing."
Human help and human skill were 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 behavior, 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 cloth wrapped 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."[352]

I can go no further 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 eyewitness of
myself. I shall conclude the account of this calamitous year, therefore,
with a coarse but a 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.



[4] It was popularly believed in London that the plague came from
Holland; but the sanitary (or rather unsanitary) conditions of London
itself were quite sufficient to account for the plague's originating
there. Andrew D. White tells us, that it is difficult to decide to-day
between Constantinople and New York as candidates for the distinction of
being the dirtiest city in the world.

[5] Incorrectly used for "councils."

[6] In April, 1663, the first Drury Lane Theater had been opened. The
present Drury Lane Theater (the fourth) stands on the same site.

[7] The King's ministers. At this time they held office during the
pleasure of the Crown, not, as now, during the pleasure of a
parliamentary majority.

[8] Gangrene spots (see text, pp. 197, 198).

[9] The local government of London at this time was chiefly in the hands
of the vestries of the different parishes. It is only of recent years
that the power of these vestries has been seriously curtailed, and
transferred to district councils.

[10] The report.

[11] Pronounced H[=o]´burn. {Transcriber's note: [=o] indicates o-macron}

[12] Was.

[13] Were.

[14] Outlying districts; so called because they enjoyed certain
municipal immunities, or liberties. Until recent years, a portion of
Philadelphia was known as the "Northern Liberties."

[15] Attempts to believe the evil lessened.

[16] Was.

[17] Were.

[18] The chief executive officer of the city of London still bears this

[19] One of the many instances in which Defoe mixes his tenses.

[20] Whom. We shall find many more instances of Defoe's misuse of this
form, as also of others (see Introduction, p. 15).

[21] Used almost in its original sense of a military barrier.

[22] Whom.

[23] See Matt, xxvii. 40; Mark xv. 30; Luke xxiii. 35.

[24] Denial.

[25] The civil war between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians,

[26] Whom.

[27] This argument is neatly introduced to account for the narrator's
staying in the city at all, when he could easily have escaped.

[28] Explained by the two following phrases.

[29] Whom.

[30] "Lay close to me," i.e., was constantly in my mind.

[31] Kept safe from the plague.

[32] "My times are in thy hand" (Ps. xxxi. 15).

[33] Dorking is about twenty miles southwest of London.

[34] Rather St. Martin's-in-the-Fields and St. Giles's.

[35] Was.

[36] Charles II. and his courtiers. The immunity of Oxford was doubtless
due to good drainage and general cleanliness.

[37] Eccl. xii. 5.

[38] Have seen.

[39] Nor. This misuse of "or" for "nor" is frequent with Defoe.

[40] The four inns of court in London which have the exclusive right of
calling to the bar, are the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple, Lincoln's
Inn, and Gray's Inn. The Temple is so called because it was once the
home of the Knights Templars.

[41] The city proper, i.e., the part within the walls, as distinguished
from that without.

[42] Were.

[43] The population of London at this time was probably about half a
million. It is now about six millions. (See Macaulay's History, chap.

[44] Acel´dama, the field of blood (see Matt. xxvii. 8).

[45] Phlegmatic hypochondriac is a contradiction in terms; for
"phlegmatic" means "impassive, self-restrained," while "hypochondriac"
means "morbidly anxious" (about one's health). Defoe's lack of
scholarship was a common jest among his more learned adversaries, such
as Swift, and Pope.

[46] It was in this very plague year that Newton formulated his theory
of gravitation. Incredible as it may seem, at this same date even such
men as Dryden held to a belief in astrology.

[47] William Lilly was the most famous astrologer and almanac maker of
the time. In Butler's Hudibras he is satirized under the name of

[48] Poor Robin's Almanack was first published in 1661 or 1662, and was
ascribed to Robert Herrick, the poet.

[49] See Rev. xviii. 4.

[50] Jonah iii. 4.

[51] Flavius Josephus, the author of the History of the Jewish Wars. He
is supposed to have died in the last decade of the first century A.D.

[52] So called because many Frenchmen lived there. In Westminster there
was another district with this same name.

[53] "Gave them vapors," i.e., put them into a state of nervous

[54] Soothsayers.

[55] In astrology, the scheme or figure of the heavens at the moment of
a person's birth. From this the astrologers pretended to foretell a
man's destiny.

[56] Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar of the thirteenth century, had a
knowledge of mechanics and optics far in advance of his age: hence he
was commonly regarded as a wizard. The brazen head which he manufactured
was supposed to assist him in his necromantic feats; it is so introduced
by Greene in his play of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1594).

[57] A fortune teller who lived in the reign of Henry VIII., and was
famous for her prophecies.

[58] The most celebrated magician of mediæval times (see Spenser's
Faërie Queene and Tennyson's Merlin and Vivien).

[59] Linen collar or ruff.

[60] Him.

[61] The interlude was originally a short, humorous play acted in the
midst of a morality play to relieve the tedium of that very tedious
performance. From the interlude was developed farce; and from farce,

[62] Charles II. and his courtiers, from their long exile in France,
brought back to England with them French fashions in literature and in

[63] To be acted.

[64] Buffoons, clowns.

[65] About 62½ cents.

[66] About twenty-five dollars; but the purchasing power of money was
then seven or eight times what it is now.

[67] Strictly speaking, this word means "love potions."

[68] Exorcism is the act of expelling evil spirits, or the formula used
in the act. Defoe's use of the word here is careless and inaccurate.

[69] Bits of metal, parchment, etc., worn as charms.

[70] Making the sign of the cross.

[71] Paper on which were marked the signs of the zodiac,--a superstition
from astrology.

[72] A meaningless word used in incantations. Originally the name of a
Syrian deity.

[73] Iesus Hominum Salvator ("Jesus, Savior of Men"). The order of the
Jesuits was founded by Ignatius de Loyola in 1534.

[74] The Feast of St. Michael, Sept. 29.

[75] This use of "to" for "of" is frequent with Defoe.

[76] The Royal College of Physicians was founded by Thomas Linacre,
physician to Henry VIII. Nearly every London physician of prominence is
a member.

[77] The city of London proper lies entirely in the county of Middlesex.

[78] Literally, "hand workers;" now contracted into "surgeons."

[79] Cares, duties.

[80] Consenting knowledge.

[81] Disposed of to the public, put in circulation.

[82] That is, by the disease.

[83] Happen.

[84] Engaged.

[85] Heaps of rubbish.

[86] A kind of parish constable.

[87] The writer seems to mean that the beggars are so importunate, there
is no avoiding them.

[88] Fights between dogs and bears. This was not declared a criminal
offense in England until 1835.

[89] Contests with sword and shield.

[90] The guilds or organizations of tradesmen, such as the goldsmiths,
the fishmongers, the merchant tailors.

[91] St. Katherine's by the Tower.

[92] Trinity (east of the) Minories. The Minories (a street running
north from the Tower) was so designated from an abbey of St. Clare nuns
called Minoresses. They took their name from that of the Franciscan
Order, Fratres Minores, or Lesser Brethren.

[93] St. Luke's.

[94] St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate.

[95] St. Giles's, Cripplegate.

[96] Were.

[97] Chemise.

[98] This word is misplaced; it should go before "perish."

[99] Before "having," supply "the master."

[100] Fences.

[101] From.

[102] This old form for "caught" is used frequently by Defoe.

[103] Came to grief.

[104] "Who, being," etc., i.e., who, although single men, had yet staid.

[105] The wars of the Commonwealth or of the Puritan Revolution,

[106] Holland and Belgium.

[107] "Hurt of," a common form of expression used in Defoe's time.

[108] Manager, economist. This meaning of "husband" is obsolete.

[109] A participial form of expression very common in Old English, the
"a" being a corruption of "in" or "on."

[110] Were.

[111] "'Name of God," i.e., in the name of God.

[112] Torches.

[113] "To and again," i.e., to and fro.

[114] Were.

[115] As if.

[116] Magpie.

[117] This word is from the same root as "lamp." The old form "lanthorn"
crept in from the custom of making the sides of a lantern of horn.

[118] Supply "be."

[119] Inclination.

[120] In expectation of the time when.

[121] Their being checked.

[122] This paragraph could hardly have been more clumsily expressed. It
will be found a useful exercise to rewrite it.

[123] "To have gone," i.e., to go.

[124] Spotted.

[125] "Make shift," i.e., endure it.

[126] Device, expedient.

[127] "In all" is evidently a repetition.

[128] Objects cannot very well happen. Defoe must mean, "the many dismal
sights I saw as I went about the streets."

[129] As.

[130] "Rosin" is a long-established misspelling for "resin." Resin
exudes from pine trees, and from it the oil of turpentine is separated
by distillation.

[131] As distinguished from fish meat.

[132] Defoe uses these pronouns in the wrong number, as in numerous
other instances.

[133] The projecting part of a building.

[134] Their miraculous preservation was wrought by their keeping in the
fresh air of the open fields. It seems curious that after this object
lesson the physicians persisted in their absurd policy of shutting up
infected houses, thus practically condemning to death their inmates.

[135] Used here for "this," as also in many other places.

[136] Supply "with."

[137] Such touches as this created a widespread and long-enduring belief
that Defoe's fictitious diary was an authentic history.

[138] "Running out," etc., i.e., losing their self-control.

[139] Idiocy. In modern English, "idiotism" is the same as "idiom."

[140] Gangrene, death of the soft tissues.

[141] Before "that" supply "we have been told."

[142] Hanging was at this time a common punishment for theft. In his
novel Moll Flanders, Defoe has a vivid picture of the mental and
physical sufferings of a woman who was sent to Newgate, and condemned to
death, for stealing two pieces of silk.

[143] Cloth, rag.

[144] They could no longer give them regular funerals, but had to bury
them promiscuously in pits.

[145] Evidently a repetition.

[146] In old and middle English two negatives did not make an
affirmative, as they do in modern English.

[147] It is now well known that rue has no qualities that are useful for
warding off contagion.

[148] "Set up," i.e., began to play upon.

[149] Constrained.

[150] Because they would have been refused admission to other ports.

[151] Matter. So used by Sheridan in The Rivals, act iii. sc. 2.

[152] Probably a misprint for "greatly."

[153] This.

[154] Are.

[155] He has really given two days more than two months.

[156] A count.

[157] Range, limits.

[158] Unknown.

[159] Lying.

[160] Was.

[161] Notice this skillful touch to give verisimilitude to the

[162] Country.

[163] "Without the bars," i.e., outside the old city limits.

[164] Profession.

[165] The plague.

[166] The legal meaning of "hamlet" in England is a village without a
church of its own: ecclesiastically, therefore, it belongs to the parish
of some other village.

[167] All Protestant sects other than the Established Church of England.

[168] A groat equals fourpence, about eight cents. It is not coined now.

[169] A farthing equals one quarter of a penny.

[170] About ten miles down the Thames.

[171] The _t_ is silent in this word.

[172] Hard-tack, pilot bread.

[173] Old form for "rode."

[174] See the last sentence of the next paragraph but one.

[175] Roadstead, an anchoring ground less sheltered than a harbor.

[176] Substitute "that they would not be visited."

[177] The plague.

[178] St. Margaret's.

[179] _Nota bene_, note well.

[180] Dul´ich. All these places are southward from London. Norwood is
six miles distant.

[181] Old form of "dared."

[182] Small vessels, generally schooner-rigged, used for carrying heavy
freight on rivers and harbors.

[183] London Bridge.

[184] This incident is so overdone, that it fails to be pathetic, and
rather excites our laughter.

[185] Supply "themselves."

[186] Barnet was about eleven miles north-northwest of London.

[187] Holland and Belgium.

[188] See Luke xvii. 11-19.

[189] Well.

[190] With speed, in haste.

[191] This word is misplaced. It should go immediately before "to

[192] Luck.

[193] Whom.

[194] A small sail set high upon the mast.

[195] "Fetched a long compass," i.e., went by a circuitous route.

[196] The officers.

[197] Refused.

[198] Nearly twenty miles northeast of London.

[199] He. This pleonastic use of a conjunction with the relative is
common among illiterate writers and speakers to-day.

[200] Waltham and Epping, towns two or three miles apart, at a distance
of ten or twelve miles almost directly north of London.

[201] Pollard trees are trees cut back nearly to the trunk, and so
caused to grow into a thick head (_poll_) of branches.

[202] Entertainment. In this sense, the plural, "quarters," is the
commoner form.

[203] Preparing.

[204] Peddlers.

[205] "Has been," an atrocious solecism for "were."

[206] To a miraculous extent.

[207] "Put to it," i.e., hard pressed.

[208] There are numerous references in the Hebrew Scriptures to parched
corn as an article of food (see, among others, Lev. xxiii. 14, Ruth ii.
14, 2 Sam. xvii. 28).

[209] Supply "(1)."

[210] Soon.

[211] Substitute "would."

[212] Whom.

[213] Familiar intercourse.

[214] Evidently a repetition.

[215] "For that," i.e., because.

[216] Singly.

[217] Supply "to be."

[218] Buildings the rafters of which lean against or rest upon the outer
wall of another building.

[219] Supply "of."

[220] The plague.

[221] "Middling people," i.e., people of the middle class.

[222] At the mouth of the Thames.

[223] Awnings.

[224] Two heavy timbers placed horizontally, the upper one of which can
be raised. When lowered, it is held in place by a padlock. Notches in
the timbers form holes, through which the prisoner's legs are thrust,
and held securely.

[225] The constables.

[226] The carters.

[227] The goods.

[228] In spite of, notwithstanding.

[229] Supply "who."

[230] "Cum aliis," i.e., with others. Most of the places mentioned in
this list are several miles distant from London: for example, Enfield is
ten miles northeast; Hadley, over fifty miles northeast; Hertford,
twenty miles north; Kingston, ten miles southwest; St. Albans, twenty
miles northwest; Uxbridge, fifteen miles west; Windsor, twenty miles
west; etc.

[231] Kindly regarded.

[232] Which.

[233] The citizens.

[234] Such statements.

[235] For "so that," substitute "so."

[236] How.

[237] It was not known in Defoe's time that minute disease germs may be
carried along by a current of air.

[238] Affected with scurvy.

[239] "Which," as applied to persons, is a good Old English idiom, and
was in common use as late as 1711 (see Spectator No. 78; and Matt. vi.
9, version of 1611).

[240] Flung to.

[241] Changed their garments.

[242] Supply "I heard."

[243] At.

[244] Various periods are assigned for the duration of the dog days:
perhaps July 3 to Aug. 11 is that most commonly accepted. The dog days
were so called because they coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius
or Canicula (the little dog).

[245] An inn with this title (and probably a picture of the brothers)
painted on its signboard.

[246] Whom.

[247] The Act of Uniformity was passed in 1661. It required all
municipal officers and all ministers to take the communion according to
the ritual of the Church of England, and to sign a document declaring
that arms must never be borne against the King. For refusing obedience
to this tyrannical measure, some two thousand Presbyterian ministers
were deprived of their livings.

[248] Madness, as in Hamlet, act iii. sc. 1.

[249] "Represented themselves," etc., i.e., presented themselves to my

[250] "Dead part of the night," i.e., from midnight to dawn. Compare,

 "In the dead waste and middle of the night."

 _Hamlet_, act i. sc 2.

[251] "Have been critical," etc., i.e., have claimed to have knowledge
enough to say.

[252] Being introduced.

[253] The plague.

[254] "First began" is a solecism common in the newspaper writing of

[255] Literally, laws of the _by_ (town). In modern usage, "by-law" is
used to designate a rule less general and less easily amended than a
constitutional provision.

[256] "Sheriff" is equivalent to _shire-reeve_ (magistrate of the county
or shire). London had, and still has, two sheriffs.

[257] Acted.

[258] The inspection, according to ordinance, of weights, measures, and

[259] "Pretty many," i.e., a fair number of.

[260] The officers.

[261] Were.

[262] "Falls to the serious part," i.e., begins to discourse on serious

[263] See note, p. 28. The Mohammedans are fatalists.
{Transcriber's note: The reference is to footnote 28.}

[264] A growth of osseous tissue uniting the extremities of fractured

[265] Disclosed.

[266] The officers.

[267] Leading principle.

[268] Defoe means, "can burn only a few houses." In the next line he
again misplaces "only."

[269] Put to confusion.

[270] Left out of consideration.

[271] The distemper.

[272] A means for discovering whether the person were infected or not.

[273] Defoe's ignorance of microscopes was not shared by Robert Hooke,
whose Micrographia (published in 1664) records numerous discoveries made
with that instrument.

[274] Roup is a kind of chicken's catarrh.

[275] Them, i.e., such experiments.

[276] From the Latin _quadraginta_ ("forty").

[277] From the Latin _sexaginta_ ("sixty").

[278] Kinds, species.

[279] Old age.

[280] Abscesses.

[281] Himself.

[282] The essential oils of lavender, cloves, and camphor, added to
acetic acid.

[283] In chemistry, balsams are vegetable juices consisting of resins
mixed with gums or volatile oils.

[284] Supply "they declined coming to public worship."

[285] This condition of affairs.

[286] Collar.

[287] Economy.

[288] Supply "they were."

[289] Action (obsolete in this sense). See this word as used in 2 Henry
IV., act iv. sc. 4.

[290] Which.

[291] Sailors' slang for "Archipelagoes."

[292] An important city in Asia Minor.

[293] A city in northern Syria, better known as Iskanderoon or
Alexandretta. The town was named in honor of Alexander the Great, the
Turkish form of Alexander being Iskander.

[294] Though called a kingdom, Algarve was nothing but a province of
Portugal. It is known now as Faro.

[295] The natives of Flanders, a mediæval countship now divided among
Holland, Belgium, and France.

[296] Colonies. In the reign of Charles II., the English colonies were
governed by a committee (of the Privy Council) known as the "Council of

[297] The east side.

[298] On the west side.

[299] See map of England for all these places. Feversham is in Kent,
forty-five miles southeast of London; Margate is on the Isle of Thanet,
eighty miles southeast.

[300] Commission merchants.

[301] Privateers. _Capers_ is a Dutch word.

[302] Supply "he."

[303] Supply "the coals."

[304] "One another," by a confusion of constructions, has been used here
for "them."

[305] By a statute of Charles II. a chaldron was fixed at 36 coal
bushels. In the United States, it is generally 26¼ hundredweight.

[306] Opening.

[307] "To seek," i.e., without judgment or knowledge.

[308] Mixing.

[309] Him.

[310] This unwary conduct.

[311] Think.

[312] Were.

[313] Accept.

[314] Personal chattels that had occasioned the death of a human being,
and were therefore given to God (_Deo_, "to God"; _dandum_, "a thing
given"); i.e., forfeited to the King, and by him distributed in alms.
This curious law of deodands was not abolished in England until 1846.

[315] The southern coast of the Mediterranean, from Egypt to the

[316] Censure.

[317] Afterward.

[318] "Physic garden," i.e., a garden for growing medicinal herbs.

[319] Since.

[320] Lord mayor of London, 1679-80, and for many years member of
Parliament for the city.

[321] The workmen.

[322] Recognized.

[323] Fenced.

[324] Members of the Society of Friends, a religious organization
founded by George Fox about 1650. William Penn was one of the early
members. The society condemns a paid ministry, the taking of oaths, and
the making of war.

[325] See p. 105, next to the last paragraph.

[326] Die. "Of the plague" should immediately follow "died."

[327] See Note 3, p. 26.
{Transcriber's note: the reference is to footnote 26.}

[328] The act of indemnity passed at the restoration of Charles II.
(1660). In spite of the King's promise of justice, the Parliamentarians
were largely despoiled of their property, and ten of those concerned in
the execution of Charles I. were put to death.

[329] Family and personal peace.

[330] The Established Church of England, nearly all of whose ministers
were Royalists. The Presbyterians were nearly all Republicans.

[331] The dissenting ministers.

[332] The Churchmen.

[333] Of.

[334] What we should call an assistant minister is still called a curate
in the Church of England.

[335] "I had not said this," etc., i.e., I would not have said this, but
would rather have chosen, etc.

[336] See Rev. vi. 8.

[337] Moved away (into the country).

[338] The duties of headboroughs differed little from those of the
constables. The title is now obsolete.

[339] Count.

[340] "Must." In this sense common in Chaucer. The past tense, "should,"
retains something of this force. Compare the German _sollen_.

[341] Otherwise known as _theriac_ (from the Greek [Greek: thêriakos],
"pertaining to a wild beast," since it was supposed to be an antidote
for poisonous bites). This medicine was compounded of sixty or seventy
drugs, and was mixed with honey.

[342] Supply "died."

[343] Supply "of."

[344] Substitute "which."

[345] Those.

[346] A corruption of "benzoin," a resinous juice obtained from a tree
that flourishes in Siam and the Malay Archipelago. When heated, it gives
off a pleasant odor. It is one of the ingredients used in court-plaster.

[347] This word should be omitted.

[348] The "press gang" was a naval detachment under the command of an
officer, empowered to seize men and carry them off for service on

[349] Off Lowestoft, in 1665. Though the Dutch were beaten, they made
good their retreat, and heavily defeated the English the next year in
the battle of The Downs.

[350] See Ps. lx. 11; cviii. 12.

[351] Were.

[352] See Exod. xiv., xv., and xvi. 1-3.

[353] "H.F." is of course fictitious.



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