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Title: The Black Death in the Fourteenth Century
Author: Hecker, I. F. C.
Language: English
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                              BLACK DEATH

                                IN THE

                          FOURTEENTH CENTURY,

                          FROM THE GERMAN OF

                        I. F. C. HECKER, M. D.

                       PHILADELPHIA AND ZURICK.

                             TRANSLATED BY

                        B. G. BABINGTON, M. D.

                    A. SCHLOSS, FOREIGN BOOKSELLER,
                             109, STRAND.



  TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE                              i

  PREFACE                                          ix

  CHAPTER I.--General Observations                  1

  CHAPTER II.--The Disease                          4

  CHAPTER III.--Causes--Spread                     28

  CHAPTER IV.--Mortality                           54

  CHAPTER V.--Moral Effects                        82

  CHAPTER VI.--Physicians                         128


           I.--The Ancient Song of the
                 Flagellants                      172

          II.--Trial of the Jews accused of
                 poisoning the Wells              181

         III.--Extracts from “A Boke or
                 Counseill against the Sweate


In reading Dr. Hecker’s account of the Black Death which destroyed so
large a portion of the human race in the fourteenth century, I was
struck, not only with the peculiarity of the Author’s views, but also
with the interesting nature of the facts which he has collected. Some
of these have never before been made generally known, while others
have passed out of mind, being effaced from our memories by subsequent
events of a similar kind, which, though really of less magnitude and
importance, have, in the perspective of time, appeared greater, because
they have occurred nearer to our own days.

Dreadful as was the pestilence here described, and in few countries
more so than in England, our modern historians only slightly allude to
its visitation:--Hume deems a single paragraph sufficient to devote to
its notice, and Henry and Rapin are equally brief.

It may not then be unacceptable to the medical, or even to the general
reader, to receive an authentic and somewhat detailed account of one of
the greatest natural calamities that ever afflicted the human race.

My chief motive, however, for translating this small work, and at
this particular period, has been a desire that, in the study of the
causes which have produced and propagated general pestilences, and of
the moral effects by which they have been followed, the most enlarged
views should be taken. The contagionist and the anti-contagionist may
each find ample support for his belief in particular cases; but in
the construction of a theory sufficiently comprehensive to explain
throughout the origin and dissemination of universal disease, we shall
not only perceive the insufficiency of either doctrine, taken singly,
but after admitting the combined influence of both, shall even then
find our views too narrow, and be compelled, in our endeavours to
explain the facts, to acknowledge the existence of unknown powers,
wholly unconnected either with communication by contact or atmospheric

I by no means wish it to be understood, that I have adopted the
author’s views respecting astral and telluric influences, the former of
which, at least, I had supposed to have been, with alchemy and magic,
long since consigned to oblivion; much less am I prepared to accede
to his notion, or rather an ancient notion derived from the East and
revived by him, of an organic life in the system of the universe. We
are constantly furnished with proofs, that that which affects life is
not itself alive; and whether we look to the earth for exhalations,
to the air for electrical phenomena, to the heavenly bodies for an
influence over our planet, or to all these causes combined, for the
formation of some unknown principle noxious to animal existence, still,
if we found our reasoning on ascertained facts, we can perceive
nothing throughout this vast field for physical research which is
not evidently governed by the laws of inert matter, nothing which
resembles the regular succession of birth, growth, decay, death, and
regeneration, observable in organized beings. To assume, therefore,
causes of whose existence we have no proof, in order to account for
effects which, after all, they do not explain, is making no real
advance in knowledge, and can scarcely be considered otherwise than an
indirect method of confessing our ignorance.

Still, however, I regard the author’s opinions, illustrated as they are
by a series of interesting facts diligently collected from authentic
sources, as, at least, worthy of examination before we reject them, and
valuable, as furnishing extensive data on which to build new theories.

I have another, perhaps I may be allowed to say a better, motive for
laying before my countrymen this narrative of the sufferings of past
ages,--that by comparing them with those of our own time, we may be
made the more sensible how lightly the chastening hand of Providence
has fallen on the present generation, and how much reason, therefore,
we have to feel grateful for the mercy shewn us.

The publication has, with this view, been purposely somewhat delayed,
in order that it might appear at a moment when it is to be presumed
that men’s thoughts will be especially directed to the approaching
hour of public thanksgiving, and when a knowledge of that which they
have escaped, as well as of that which they have suffered, may tend to
heighten their devotional feelings on that solemn occasion.

When we learn that, in the fourteenth century, one quarter, at least,
of the population of the old world was swept away in the short space of
four years, and that some countries, England among the rest, lost more
than double that proportion of their inhabitants in the course of a few
months, we may well congratulate ourselves that our visitation has not
been like theirs, and shall not justly merit ridicule, if we offer our
humble thanks to the “Creator and Preserver of all mankind” for our

Nor would it disgrace our feelings, if, in expiation of the abuse and
obloquy not long since so lavishly bestowed by the public, we should
entertain some slight sense of gratitude towards those members of
the community, who were engaged, at the risk of their lives and the
sacrifice of their personal interests, in endeavouring to arrest the
progress of the evil, and to mitigate the sufferings of their fellow

I have added, at the close of the Appendix, some extracts from a scarce
little work in black letter, called “A Boke or Counseill against the
Disease commonly called the Sweate or Sweatyng Sicknesse,” published by
Caius in 1552. This was written three years before his Latin treatise
on the same subject, and is so quaint, and, at the same time, so
illustrative of the opinions of his day, and even of those of the
fourteenth century, on the causes of universal diseases, that the
passages which I have quoted will not fail to afford some amusement as
well as instruction. If I have been tempted to reprint more of this
curious production than was necessary to my primary object, it has been
from a belief that it would be generally acceptable to the reader to
gather some particulars regarding the mode of living in the sixteenth
century, and to observe the author’s animadversions on the degeneracy
and credulity of the age in which he lived. His advice on the choice of
a medical attendant cannot be too strongly recommended, at least _by a
physician_; and his warning against quackery, particularly the quackery
of _painters_, who “scorne (_quære_ score?) you behind your backs with
their medicines, so filthy that I am ashamed to name them,” seems quite

In conclusion, I beg to acknowledge the obligation which I owe to my
friend Mr. H. E. Lloyd, whose intimate acquaintance with the German
language and literature will, I hope, be received as a sufficient
pledge that no very important errors remain in a translation which he
has kindly revised.


We here find an important page of the history of the world laid open
to our view. It treats of a convulsion of the human race, unequalled
in violence and extent. It speaks of incredible disasters, of despair
and unbridled demoniacal passions. It shews us the abyss of general
licentiousness, in consequence of an universal pestilence, which
extended from China to Iceland and Greenland.

The inducement to unveil this image of an age, long since gone by,
is evident. A new pestilence has attained almost an equal extent,
and though less formidable, has partly produced, partly indicated,
similar phenomena. Its causes and its diffusion over Asia and Europe,
call on us to take a comprehensive view of it, because it leads to an
insight into the organism of the world, in which the sum of organic
life is subject to the great powers of Nature. Now, human knowledge
is not yet sufficiently advanced, to discover the connexion between
the processes which occur above, and those which occur below, the
surface of the earth, or even fully to explore the laws of nature, an
acquaintance with which would be required, far less to apply them to
great phenomena, in which one spring sets a thousand others in motion.

On this side, therefore, such a point of view is not to be found, if
we would not lose ourselves in the wilderness of conjectures, of which
the world is already too full: but it may be found in the ample and
productive field of historical research.

History--that mirror of human life in all its bearings, offers, even
for general pestilences, an inexhaustible, though scarcely explored,
mine of facts; here too it asserts its dignity, as the philosophy of
reality delighting in truth.

It is conformable to its spirit to conceive general pestilences as
events affecting the whole world, to explain their occurrences by the
comparison of what is similar, by which the facts speak for themselves,
because they appear to have proceeded from the higher laws which govern
the progression of the existence of mankind. A cosmical origin and
convulsive excitement, productive of the most important consequences
among the nations subject to them, are the most striking features to
which history points in all general pestilences. The latter, however,
assume very different forms, as well in their attacks on the general
organism, as in their diffusion; and in this respect a development from
form to form, in the course of centuries, is manifest, so that the
history of the world is divided into grand periods in which positively
defined pestilences prevailed. As far as our chronicles extend, more or
less certain information can be obtained respecting them.

But this part of medical history, which has such a manifold and
powerful influence over the history of the world, is yet in its
infancy. For the honor of that science which should everywhere guide
the actions of mankind, we are induced to express a wish, that it may
find room to flourish amidst the rank vegetation with which the field
of German medical science is unhappily encumbered.




That Omnipotence which has called the world with all its living
creatures into one animated being, especially reveals himself in
the desolation of great pestilences. The powers of creation come
into violent collision; the sultry dryness of the atmosphere; the
subterraneous thunders; the mist of overflowing waters, are the
harbingers of destruction. Nature is not satisfied with the ordinary
alternations of life and death, and the Destroying Angel waves over man
and beast his flaming sword.

These revolutions are performed in vast cycles, which the spirit of
man, limited as it is, to a narrow circle of perception, is unable
to explore. They are, however, greater terrestrial events than any of
those which proceed from the discord, the distress or the passions of
nations. By annihilations they awaken new life; and when the tumult
above and below the earth is past, nature is renovated, and the
mind awakens from torpor and depression to the consciousness of an
intellectual existence.

Were it in any degree within the power of human research to draw up,
in a vivid and connected form, an historical sketch of such mighty
events, after the manner of the historians of wars and battles, and the
migrations of nations, we might then arrive at clear views with respect
to the mental development of the human race, and the ways of Providence
would be more plainly discernible. It would then be demonstrable, that
the mind of nations is deeply affected by the destructive conflict of
the powers of nature, and that great disasters lead to striking changes
in general civilization. For all that exists in man, whether good or
evil, is rendered conspicuous by the presence of great danger. His
inmost feelings are roused--the thought of self-preservation masters
his spirit--self denial is put to severe proof, and wherever darkness
and barbarism prevail, there the affrighted mortal flies to the idols
of his superstition, and all laws, human and divine, are criminally

In conformity with a general law of nature, such a state of excitement,
brings about a change, beneficial or detrimental, according to
circumstances, so that nations either attain a higher degree of moral
worth, or sink deeper in ignorance and vice. All this, however, takes
place upon a much grander scale than through the ordinary vicissitudes
of war and peace, or the rise and fall of empires, because the powers
of nature themselves produce plagues, and subjugate the human will,
which, in the contentions of nations, alone predominates.



The most memorable example of what has been advanced, is afforded
by a great pestilence of the fourteenth century, which desolated
Asia, Europe, and Africa, and of which the people yet preserve the
remembrance in gloomy traditions. It was an oriental plague, marked by
inflammatory boils and tumors of the glands, such as break out in no
other febrile disease. On account of these inflammatory boils, and from
the black spots, indicatory of a putrid decomposition, which appeared
upon the skin, it was called in Germany and in the northern kingdoms
of Europe, _the Black Death_, and in Italy, la Mortalega Grande, _the
Great Mortality_.[1]

  [1] La Mortalega Grande. _Matth. de Griffonibus._ Muratori. Script.
  rer. Italicar. T. XVIII. p. 167. D. They were called by others
  Angumalgia. _Andr. Gratiol._ Discorso di peste. Venet. 1576,
  4to. Swedish: _Diger-döden. Loccenii_ Histor. Suecan L. III. p.
  104.--Danish: _den sorte Dod. Pontan_. Rer. danicar Histor. L. VIII.
  p. 476.--Amstelod: 1631, fol. Icelandic: _Svatur Daudi_. Saabye,
  Tagebuch in Grönland. Introduction XVIII. _Mansa_, de Epidemiis
  maxime momorabilibus, quae in Dania grassatae sunt, &c. Part. I.
  p. 12. Havniae, 1831, 8.--In Westphalia the name of _de groete Doet_
  was prevalent. Meibom.

Few testimonies are presented to us respecting its symptoms and its
course, yet these are sufficient to throw light upon the form of the
malady, and they are worthy of credence, from their coincidence with
the signs of the same disease in modern times.

The imperial writer, Kantakusenos,[2] whose own son, Andronikus, died
of this plague in Constantinople, notices great imposthumes[3] of
the thighs and arms of those affected, which, when opened, afforded
relief by the discharge of an offensive matter. Buboes, which are the
infallible signs of the oriental plague, are thus plainly indicated,
for he makes separate mention of smaller boils on the arms and in the
face, as also in other parts of the body, and clearly distinguishes
these from the blisters,[4] which are no less produced by plague in all
its forms. In many cases, black spots[5] broke out all over the body,
either single, or united and confluent.

  [2] _Joann Cantacuzen_ Historiar, L. IV. c. 8. Ed. Paris, p. 730. 5.
  The ex-emperor has indeed copied some passages from Thucydides, as
  _Sprengel_ justly observes, (Appendix to the Geschichte der Medicin.
  Vol. 1. H. I. S. 73.) though this was most probably only for the
  sake of rounding a period. This is no detriment to his credibility,
  because his statements accord with the other accounts.

  [3] Αποσάσεις μεγάλαι.

  [4] Μελαίναι φλυχτίδες.

  [5] ὤσπερ σιγματα μέλανα.

These symptoms were not all found in every case. In many, one alone was
sufficient to cause death, while some patients recovered, contrary to
expectation, though afflicted with all. Symptoms of cephalic affection
were frequent; many patients became stupified and fell into a deep
sleep, losing also their speech from palsy of the tongue; others
remained sleepless and without rest. The fauces and tongue were black,
and as if suffused with blood; no beverage would assuage their burning
thirst, so that their sufferings continued without alleviation until
terminated by death, which many in their despair accelerated with their
own hands. Contagion was evident, for attendants caught the disease of
their relations and friends, and many houses in the capital were bereft
even of their last inhabitant. Thus far the ordinary circumstances only
of the oriental plague occurred. Still deeper sufferings, however,
were connected with this pestilence, such as have not been felt at
other times; the organs of respiration were seized with a putrid
inflammation; a violent pain in the chest attacked the patient; blood
was expectorated, and the breath diffused a pestiferous odour.

In the West, the following were the predominating symptoms on the
eruption of this disease.[6] An ardent fever, accompanied by an
evacuation of blood, proved fatal in the first three days. It appears
that buboes and inflammatory boils did not at first come out at all,
but that the disease, in the form of carbuncular (_anthraxartigen_)
affection of the lungs, effected the destruction of life before the
other symptoms were developed.

  [6] _Guidon de Cauliaco_ Chirurgia. Tract 11. c. 5. p. 113. Ed.
  Lugdun, 1572.

Thus did the plague rage in Avignon for six or eight weeks, and the
pestilential breath of the sick, who expectorated blood, caused a
terrible contagion far and near; for even the vicinity of those
who had fallen ill of plague was certain death;[7] so that parents
abandoned their infected children, and all the ties of kindred were
dissolved. After this period, buboes in the axilla and in the groin,
and inflammatory boils all over the body, made their appearance; but it
was not until seven months afterwards that some patients recovered with
matured buboes, as in the ordinary milder form of plague.

  [7] Et fuit tantae contagiositatis specialiter quae fuit cum
  sputo sanguinis, quod non solum morando, sed etiam inspiciendo
  unus recipiebat ab alio: intantum quod gentes moriebantur sine
  servitoribus, et sepeliebantur sine sacerdotibus, pater non visitabat
  filium, nec filius patrem: charitas erat mortua, spes prostrata.

Such is the report of the courageous Guy de Chauliac, who vindicated
the honor of medicine, by bidding defiance to danger; boldly and
constantly assisting the affected, and disdaining the excuse of
his colleagues, who held the Arabian notion, that medical aid was
unavailing, and that the contagion justified flight. He saw the plague
twice in Avignon, first in the year 1348, from January to August, and
then twelve years later, in the autumn, when it returned from Germany,
and for nine months spread general distress and terror. The first time
it raged chiefly among the poor, but in the year 1360, more among the
higher classes. It now also destroyed a great many children, whom it
had formerly spared, and but few women.

The like was seen in Egypt.[8] Here also inflammation of the lungs was
predominant, and destroyed quickly and infallibly, with burning heat
and expectoration of blood. Here too the breath of the sick spread a
deadly contagion, and human aid was as vain as it was destructive to
those who approached the infected.

  [8] _Deguignes_, Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des Moguls,
  &c. Tom. IV. Paris 1758. 4to. p. 226.

Boccacio, who was an eye-witness of its incredible fatality in
Florence, the seat of the revival of science, gives a more lively
description of the attack of the disease than his non-medical

  [9] Decameron Giorn. I. Introd.

It commenced here, not as in the East, with bleeding at the nose, a
sure sign of inevitable death; but there took place at the beginning,
both in men and women, tumours in the groin and in the axilla, varying
in circumference up to the size of an apple or an egg, and called
by the people, pest-boils (gavoccioli). Then there appeared similar
tumours indiscriminately over all parts of the body, and black or blue
spots came out on the arms or thighs, or on other parts, either single
and large, or small and thickly studded. These spots proved equally
fatal with the pest-boils, which had been from the first regarded as
a sure sign of death.[10] No power of medecine brought relief--almost
all died within the first three days, some sooner, some later, after
the appearance of these signs, and for the most part entirely without
fever[11] or other symptoms. The plague spread itself with the greater
fury, as it communicated from the sick to the healthy, like fire among
dry and oily fuel, and even contact with the clothes and other articles
which had been used by the infected, seemed to induce the disease. As
it advanced, not only men, but animals fell sick and shortly expired,
if they had touched things belonging to the diseased or dead. Thus
Boccacio himself saw two hogs on the rags of a person who had died of
plague, after staggering about for a short time, fall down dead, as
if they had taken poison. In other places, multitudes of dogs, cats,
fowls and other animals, fell victims to the contagion;[12] and it is
to be presumed that other epizootes among animals likewise took place,
although the ignorant writers of the fourteenth century are silent on
this point.

  [10] From this period black petechiæ have always been considered as
  fatal in the plague.

  [11] A very usual circumstance in plague epidemics.

  [12] _Auger de Biterris_, Vitae Romanor. pontificum, _Muratori_
  Scriptor. rer. Italic. Vol. III. Pt. II. p. 556.

In Germany there was a repetition in every respect of the same
phenomena. The infallible signs of the oriental bubo-plague with
its inevitable contagion were found there as everywhere else; but the
mortality was not nearly so great as in the other parts of Europe.[13]
The accounts do not all make mention of the spitting of blood, the
diagnostic symptom of this fatal pestilence; we are not, however,
thence to conclude that there was any considerable mitigation or
modification of the disease, for we must not only take into account
the defectiveness of the chronicles, but that isolated testimonies are
often contradicted by many others. Thus, the chronicles of Strasburg,
which only take notice of boils and glandular swellings in the axillæ
and groins,[14] are opposed by another account, according to which the
mortal spitting of blood was met with in Germany;[15] but this again is
rendered suspicious, as the narrator postpones the death of those who
were thus affected, to the sixth, and (even the) eighth day, whereas,
no other author sanctions so long a course of the disease; and even in
Strasburg, where a mitigation of the plague may, with most probability,
be assumed, since in the year 1349, only 16,000 people were carried
off, the generality expired by the third or fourth day.[16] In Austria,
and especially in Vienna, the plague was fully as malignant as any
where, so that the patients who had red spots and black boils, as well
as those afflicted with tumid glands, died about the third day;[17]
and lastly, very frequent sudden deaths occurred on the coasts of the
North Sea and in Westphalia, without any further development of the

  [13] Contin. altera Chronici _Guillelmi de Nangis_ in _d’Acher_,
  Spicilegium sive Collectio Veterum Scriptorum, &c. Ed. de la _Barre_,
  Tom. iii. p. 110.

  [14] “The people all died of boils and inflamed glands which appeared
  under the arms and in the groins.” _Jac. v. Königshoven_, the oldest
  chronicle of Alsace and Strasburg, and indeed of all Germany.
  Strasburg, 1698. 4. cap. 5, § 86. p. 301.

  [15] _Hainr. Rebdorff_, Annals, _Marq. Freher_. Germanicarum. rerum
  Scriptores. Francof, 1624. fol. p. 439.

  [16] _Königshoven_, in loc. cit.

  [17] Anonym. Leobiens. Chron. L. VI. in _Hier. Pez_, Scriptor.
  rer. Austriac. Lips. 1721. fol. Tom. 1, p. 970. The above named
  appearances are here called, _rote sprinkel_, _swarcze erhubenn_ und
  _druesz under den üchsen und ze den gemächten_.

  [18] _Ubb. Emmiie_ rer. Frisiacar. histor. L. XIV. p. 203. Lugd. Bat.
  1616. fol.

To France, this plague came in a northern direction from Avignon, and
was there more destructive than in Germany, so that in many places not
more than two in twenty of the inhabitants survived. Many were struck,
as if by lightning, and died on the spot, and this more frequently
among the young and strong than the old; patients with enlarged glands
in the axillæ and groins scarcely survived two or three days; and no
sooner did these fatal signs appear, than they bid adieu to the world,
and sought consolation only in the absolution which Pope Clement VI.
promised them in the hour of death.[19]

  [19] _Guillelmus de Nangis._

In England the malady appeared, as at Avignon, with spitting of blood,
and with the same fatality, so that the sick who were afflicted
either with this symptom or with vomiting of blood, died in some cases
immediately, in others within twelve hours, or at the latest, in two
days.[20] The inflammatory boils and buboes in the groins and axillæ
were recognised at once as prognosticating a fatal issue, and those
were past all hope of recovery in whom they arose in numbers all over
the body. It was not till towards the close of the plague that they
ventured to open, by incision, these hard and dry boils, when matter
flowed from them in small quantity, and thus, by compelling nature to
a critical suppuration, many patients were saved. Every spot which the
sick had touched, their breath, their clothes, spread the contagion;
and, as in all other places, the attendants and friends who were either
blind to their danger or heroically despised it, fell a sacrifice
to their sympathy. Even the eyes of the patient were considered as
sources of contagion,[21] which had the power of acting at a distance,
whether on account of their unwonted lustre or the distortion which
they always suffer in plague, or whether in conformity with an ancient
notion, according to which the sight was considered as the bearer of a
demoniacal enchantment. Flight from infected cities seldom availed the
fearful, for the germ of the disease adhered to them, and they fell
sick, remote from assistance, in the solitude of their country houses.

  [20] _Ant. Wood_, Historia et Antiquitates Universit. Oxoniens. Oxon.
  1764, fol. L. 1. p. 172.

  [21] _Mezeray_, Histoire de France, Paris, 1685. fol. T. 11 p. 418.

Thus did the plague spread over England with unexampled rapidity,
after it had first broken out in the county of Dorset, whence it
advanced through the counties of Devon and Somerset, to Bristol, and
thence reached Gloucester, Oxford and London. Probably few places
escaped, perhaps not any; for the annals of contemporaries report, that
throughout the land only a tenth part of the inhabitants remained

  [22] _Barnes_, who has given a lively picture of the black plague, in
  England, taken from the Registers of the 14th century, describes the
  external symptoms in the following terms: knobs or swellings in the
  groin or under the arm-pits, called kernels, biles, blains, blisters,
  pimples, wheals or plague-sores. The Hist. of Edw. III. Cambridge.
  1688. fol. p. 432.

From England the contagion was carried by a ship to Bergen, the capital
of Norway, where the plague then broke out in its most frightful form,
with vomiting of blood; and throughout the whole country, spared not
more than a third of the inhabitants. The sailors found no refuge in
their ships; and vessels were often seen driving about on the ocean and
drifting on shore, whose crews had perished to the last man.[23]

  [23] _Torfaeus_, Historia rerum Norvegicarum. Hafn. 1711. fol. L. ix.
  c. 8. p. 478. This author has followed _Pontanus_ (Rerum Danicar.
  Historia. Amstelod. 1631. fol.) who has given only a general account
  of the plague in Denmark, and nothing respecting its symptoms.

In Poland the infected were attacked with spitting of blood, and died
in a few days in such vast numbers, that, as it has been affirmed,
scarcely a fourth of the inhabitants were left.[24]

  [24] _Dlugoss_, S. Longini Histor. polonic. L. xii. Lips. 1711. fol.
  T. 1. p. 1086.

Finally, in Russia the plague appeared two years later than in Southern
Europe; yet here again, with the same symptoms as elsewhere. Russian
contemporaries have recorded that it began with rigor, heat, and
darting pain in the shoulders and back; that it was accompanied by
spitting of blood, and terminated fatally in two, or at most, three
days. It is not till the year 1360, that we find buboes mentioned as
occurring in the neck, in the axillæ and in the groins, which are
stated to have broken out when the spitting of blood had continued some
time. According to the experience of Western Europe, however, it cannot
be assumed that these symptoms did not appear at an earlier period.[25]

  [25] _W. M. Richter_, Geschichte der Medicin in Russland. Moskwa,
  1813. 8. p. 215. _Richter_ has taken his information on the black
  plague in Russia, from Authentic Russian MSS.

Thus much, from authentic sources, on the nature of the Black Death.
The descriptions which have been communicated contain, with a few
unimportant exceptions, all the symptoms of the oriental plague which
have been observed in more modern times. No doubt can obtain on this
point. The facts are placed clearly before our eyes. We must, however,
bear in mind, that this violent disease does not always appear in the
same form, and that while the essence of the poison which it produces,
and which is separated so abundantly from the body of the patient,
remains unchanged, it is proteiform in its varieties, from the almost
imperceptible vesicle, unaccompanied by fever, which exists for some
time before it extends its poison inwardly, and then excites fever and
buboes, to the fatal form in which carbuncular inflammations fall upon
the most important viscera.

Such was the form which the plague assumed in the 14th century, for
the accompanying chest affection which appeared in all the countries
whereof we have received any account, cannot, on a comparison with
similar and familiar symptoms, be considered as any other than the
inflammation of the lungs of modern medicine,[26] a disease which at
present only appears sporadically, and, owing to a putrid decomposition
of the fluids, is probably combined with hemorrhages from the vessels
of the lungs. Now, as every carbuncle, whether it be cutaneous or
internal, generates in abundance the matter of contagion which has
given rise to it, so, therefore, must the breath of the affected
have been poisonous in this plague, and on this account its power
of contagion wonderfully increased; wherefore the opinion appears
incontrovertible, that owing to the accumulated numbers of the
diseased, not only individual chambers and houses, but whole cities
were infected, which, moreover, in the middle ages, were, with few
exceptions, narrowly built, kept in a filthy state, and surrounded with
stagnant ditches.[27] Flight was, in consequence, of no avail to the
timid; for even though they had sedulously avoided all communication
with the diseased and the suspected, yet their clothes were saturated
with the pestiferous atmosphere, and every inspiration imparted to
them the seeds of the destructive malady, which, in the greater number
of cases, germinated with but too much fertility. Add to which, the
usual propagation of the plague through clothes, beds, and a thousand
other things to which the pestilential poison adheres,--a propagation,
which, from want of caution, must have been infinitely multiplied;
and since articles of this kind, removed from the access of air, not
only retain the matter of contagion for an indefinite period, but also
increase its activity and engender it like a living being, frightful
ill-consequences followed for many years after the first fury of the
pestilence was past.

  [26] Compare on this point, _Ballings_ treatise “Zur Diagnostik der
  Lungenerweichung.” Vol. XVI. ii. 3. p. 257 of lit. Annalen der ges.

  [27] It is expressly ascertained with respect to Avignon and Paris,
  that uncleanliness of the streets increased the plague considerably.
  _Raim. Chalin de Vinario._

The affection of the stomach, often mentioned in vague terms, and
occasionally as a vomiting of blood, was doubtless only a subordinate
symptom, even if it be admitted that actual hematemesis did occur. For
the difficulty of distinguishing a flow of blood from the stomach, from
a pulmonic expectoration of that fluid, is, to non-medical men, even in
common cases, not inconsiderable. How much greater then must it have
been in so terrible a disease, where assistants could not venture to
approach the sick without exposing themselves to certain death? Only
two medical descriptions of the malady have reached us, the one by the
brave _Guy de Chauliac_, the other by _Raymond Chalin de Vinario_, a
very experienced scholar, who was well versed in the learning of his
time. The former takes notice only of fatal coughing of blood; the
latter, besides this, notices epistaxis, hematuria and fluxes of blood
from the bowels, as symptoms of such decided and speedy mortality, that
those patients in whom they were observed, usually died on the same or
the following day.[28]

  [28] _De Peste_ Libri tres, opera _Jacobi Dalechampii_ in lucem
  editi. Lugdani, 1552. 16. p. 35. _Dalechamp_ has only improved the
  language of this work, adding nothing to it but a preface in the
  form of two letters. _Raymond Chalin de Vinario_ was contemporary
  with _Guy de Chauliac_ at Avignon. He enjoyed a high reputation,
  and was in very affluent circumstances. He often makes mention of
  cardinals and high officers of the papal court, whom he had treated;
  and it is even probable, though not certain, that he was physician
  to Clement VI. (1342--1352), Innocent VI. (1352--) and Urban the V.
  (1362--1370). He and _Guy de Chauliac_ never mention each other.

That a vomiting of blood may not, here and there, have taken
place, perhaps have been even prevalent in many places, is, from a
consideration of the nature of the disease, by no means to be denied;
for every putrid decomposition of the fluids, begets a tendency to
hemorrhages of all kinds. Here, however, it is a question of historical
certainty, which, after these doubts, is by no means established. Had
not so speedy a death followed the expectoration of blood, we should
certainly have received more detailed intelligence respecting other
hemorrhages; but the malady had no time to extend its effects further
over the extremities of the vessels. After its first fury, however,
was spent, the pestilence passed into the usual febrile form of the
oriental plague. Internal, carbuncular inflammations no longer took
place, and hemorrhages became phenomena, no more essential in this
than they are in any other febrile disorders. Chalin, who observed
not only the _great mortality_ of 1348, and the plague of 1360, but
also that of 1373 and 1382, speaks moreover of _affections of the
throat_, and describes the _black spots_ of plague patients more
satisfactorily than any of his cotemporaries. The former appeared but
in few cases, and consisted in carbuncular inflammation of the gullet,
with a difficulty of swallowing, even to suffocation, to which, in
some instances, was added inflammation of the ceruminous glands of
the ears, with tumours, producing great deformity. Such patients, as
well as others, were affected with expectoration of blood; but they
did not usually die before the sixth, and sometimes, even so late as
the fourteenth day.[29] The same occurrence, it is well known, is not
uncommon in other pestilences; as also blisters on the surface of the
body, in different places, in the vicinity of which, tumid glands and
inflammatory boils, surrounded by discoloured and black streaks,
arose, and thus indicated the reception of the poison. These streaked
spots were called, by an apt comparison, _the girdle_, and this
appearance was justly considered extremely dangerous.[30]

  [29] _Dalechamp_, p. 205--where, and at pp. 32–36, the
  plague-eruptions are mentioned in the usual indefinite terms:
  Exanthemata viridia, cærulea, nigra, rubra, lata, diffusa, velut
  signata punctis, &c.

  [30] “Pestilentis morbi gravissimum symptoma est, quod zonam vulgo
  nuncupant. Ea sic fit: Pustulæ nonnunquam per febres pestilentes
  fuscæ, nigræ, lividæ existunt, in partibus corporis a glandularum
  emissariis sejunctis, ut in femore, tibia, capite, brachio, humeris,
  quarum fervore et caliditate succi corporis attracti, glandulas
  in trajectione replent, et attollunt, unde bubones fiunt atque
  carbunculi. _Ab iis tanquam solidus quidam nervus in partem vicinam
  distentam ac veluti convulsione rigentem producitur, puta Brachium
  vel tibiam, nunc rubens, nunc fuscus, nunc obscurior, nunc virens,
  nunc Iridis colore, duos vel quatuor digitos latus._ Hujus summo, qua
  desinit in emissarium, plerumque tuberculum pestilens visitur, altero
  vero extremo, qua in propinquum membrum porrigitur, carbunculus. Hoc
  scilicet malum vulgus zonam cinctumve nominat, periculosum minus, cum
  hic tuberculo, illic carbunculo terminatur, quam si tuberculum in
  capite solum emineat.” p. 198.



An enquiry into the causes of the Black Death, will not be without
important results in the study of the plagues which have visited
the world, although it cannot advance beyond generalisation without
entering upon a field hitherto uncultivated, and, to this hour,
entirely unknown. Mighty revolutions in the organism of the earth, of
which we have credible information, had preceded it. From China to the
Atlantic, the foundations of the earth were shaken,--throughout Asia
and Europe the atmosphere was in commotion, and endangered, by its
baneful influence, both vegetable and animal life.

The series of these great events began in the year 1333, fifteen years
before the plague broke out in Europe: they first appeared in China.
Here a parching drought, accompanied by famine, commenced in the tract
of country watered by the rivers Kiang and Hoai. This was followed
by such violent torrents of rain, in and about Kingsai, at that time
the capital of the Empire, that, according to tradition, more than
400,000 people perished in the floods. Finally, the mountain Tsincheou
fell in, and vast clefts were formed in the earth. In the succeeding
year (1334), passing over fabulous traditions, the neighbourhood
of Canton was visited by inundations; whilst in Tche, after an
unexampled drought, a plague arose, which is said to have carried
off about 5,000,000 of people. A few months afterwards an earthquake
followed, at and near Kingsai; and subsequent to the falling in of the
mountains of Ki-ming-chan, a lake was formed of more than a hundred
leagues in circumference, where, again, thousands found their grave.
In Hou-kouang and Ho-nan, a drought prevailed for five months; and
innumerable swarms of locusts destroyed the vegetation; while famine
and pestilence, as usual, followed in their train. Connected accounts
of the condition of Europe before this great catastrophe, are not to be
expected from the writers of the fourteenth century. It is remarkable,
however, that simultaneously with a drought and renewed floods in
China, in 1336, many uncommon atmospheric phenomena, and in the winter,
frequent thunder storms, were observed in the north of France; and so
early as the eventful year of 1333, an eruption of Etna took place.[31]
According to the Chinese annals, about 4,000,000 of people perished by
famine in the neighbourhood of Kiang in 1337; and deluges, swarms of
locusts, and an earthquake which lasted six days, caused incredible
devastation. In the same year, the first swarms of locusts appeared in
Franconia, which were succeeded in the following year by myriads of
these insects. In 1338, Kingsai was visited by an earthquake of ten
days duration; at the same time France suffered from a failure in the
harvest; and thenceforth, till the year 1342, there was in China, a
constant succession of inundations, earthquakes, and famines. In the
same year great floods occurred in the vicinity of the Rhine and in
France, which could not be attributed to rain alone; for, everywhere,
even on the tops of mountains, springs were seen to burst forth, and
dry tracts were laid under water in an inexplicable manner. In the
following year, the mountain Hong-tchang, in China, fell in, and caused
a destructive deluge; and in Pien-tcheou and Leang-tcheou, after three
months’ rain, there followed unheard of inundations, which destroyed
seven cities. In Egypt and Syria, violent earthquakes took place; and
in China they became, from this time, more and more frequent; for
they recurred, in 1344, in Ven-tcheou, where the sea overflowed in
consequence; in 1345, in Ki-tcheou, and in both the following years
in Canton, with subterraneous thunder. Meanwhile, floods and famine
devastated various districts, until 1347, when the fury of the elements
subsided in China.[32]

  [31] V. Hoff. Geschichte der natürlichen Veränderungen der
  Erdoberfläche, T. II. p. 264. Gotha, 1824. This eruption was not
  succeeded by any other in the same century, either of Etna or of

  [32] Deguignes Loc. cit. p. 226, from Chinese sources.

The signs of terrestrial commotions commenced in Europe in the year
1348, after the intervening districts of country in Asia had probably
been visited in the same manner.

On the island of Cyprus, the plague from the East had already broken
out; when an earthquake shook the foundations of the island, and was
accompanied by so frightful a hurricane, that the inhabitants who had
slain their Mahometan slaves, in order that they might not themselves
be subjugated by them, fled in dismay, in all directions. The sea
overflowed--the ships were dashed to pieces on the rocks, and few
outlived the terrific event, whereby this fertile and blooming island
was converted into a desert. Before the earthquake, a pestiferous wind
spread so poisonous an odour, that many, being overpowered by it, fell
down suddenly and expired in dreadful agonies.[33]

  [33] Deguignes Loc. cit. p. 225.

This phenomenon is one of the rarest that has ever been observed, for
nothing is more constant than the composition of the air; and in no
respect has nature been more careful in the preservation of organic
life. Never have naturalists discovered in the atmosphere, foreign
elements, which, evident to the senses, and borne by the winds, spread
from land to land, carrying disease over whole portions of the earth,
as is recounted to have taken place in the year 1348. It is, therefore,
the more to be regretted, that in this extraordinary period, which,
owing to the low condition of science, was very deficient in accurate
observers, so little that can be depended on respecting those uncommon
occurrences in the air, should have been recorded. Yet, German accounts
say expressly, that a thick, stinking mist advanced from the East, and
spread itself over Italy;[34] and there could be no deception in so
palpable a phenomenon.[35] The credibility of unadorned traditions,
however little they may satisfy to physical research, can scarcely be
called in question when we consider the connexion of events; for just
at this time earthquakes were more general than they had been within
the range of history. In thousands of places chasms were formed, from
whence arose noxious vapours; and as at that time natural occurrences
were transformed into miracles, it was reported, that a fiery meteor,
which descended on the earth far in the East, had destroyed every
thing within a circumference of more than a hundred leagues, infecting
the air far and wide.[36] The consequences of innumerable floods
contributed to the same effect; vast river districts had been converted
into swamps; foul vapours arose every where, increased by the odour of
putrified locusts, which had never perhaps darkened the sun in thicker
swarms,[37] and of countless corpses, which even in the well-regulated
countries of Europe, they knew not how to remove quickly enough out of
the sight of the living. It is probable, therefore, that the atmosphere
contained foreign, and sensibly perceptible, admixtures to a great
extent, which, at least in the lower regions, could not be decomposed,
or rendered ineffective by separation.

  [34] There were also many locusts which had been blown into the sea
  by a hurricane, and afterwards cast dead upon the shore, and produced
  a noxious exhalation; and _a dense and awful fog was seen in the
  heavens, rising in the East, and descending upon Italy_. Mansfeld
  Chronicle, in _Cyriac Spangenberg_, chap. 287, fol. 336. Eisleben,
  1572. Compare _Staind._ Chron. (?) _by Schnurrer_. (“Ingens vapor
  magnitudine horribili boreali movens, regionem magno adspicientium
  terrore dilabitur”.) and _Ad. von Lebenwaldt_, Land-Stadt-und
  Hausarzney-Buch fol. p. 15. Nuremberg, 1695, who mentions a dark,
  thick mist which covered the earth. _Chalin_ expresses himself on
  this subject in the following terms:--Coelum ingravescit, _aër
  impurus sentitur: nubes crassae ac multae luminibus coeli obstruunt,
  immundus ac ignavus tepor hominum emollit corpora, exoriens sol
  pallescit_.” p. 50.

  [35] See Caius’ account of the causes of the sweating sickness, in
  the Appendix.--_Translator._

  [36] _Mezeray_ Histoire de France, Tom. II. 418. Paris, 1685. _V.
  Oudegheerst's Chroniques de Flandres. Antwerp, 1571, 4to. Chap.
  175, f. 297.

  [37] They spread in a direction from East to West, over most of the
  countries from which we have received intelligence. Anonym. Leobiens,
  Chron. Loc. cit.

Now, if we go back to the symptoms of the disease, the ardent
inflammation of the lungs points out, that the organs of respiration
yielded to the attack of an atmospheric poison--a poison, which (if
we admit the independent origin of the Black Plague at any one place
on the globe, which, under such extraordinary circumstances, it would
be difficult to doubt,) attacked the course of the circulation in as
hostile a manner as that which produces inflammation of the spleen and
other animal contagions that cause swelling and inflammation of the
lymphatic glands.

Pursuing the course of these grand revolutions further, we find notice
of an unexampled earthquake, which, on the 25th of January, 1348, shook
Greece, Italy and the neighbouring countries. Naples, Rome, Pisa,
Bologna, Padua, Venice and many other cities suffered considerably:
whole villages were swallowed up. Castles, houses and churches, were
overthrown, and hundreds of people were buried beneath their ruins.[38]
In Carinthia, thirty villages, together with all the churches, were
demolished; more than a thousand corpses were drawn out of the rubbish;
the city of Villach was so completely destroyed, that very few of
its inhabitants were saved; and when the earth ceased to tremble, it
was found that mountains had been moved from their positions, and
that many hamlets were left in ruins.[39] It is recorded, that during
this earthquake, the wine in the casks became turbid, a statement
which may be considered as furnishing a proof, that changes causing
a decomposition of the atmosphere had taken place; but if we had no
other information from which the excitement of conflicting powers of
nature during these commotions, might be inferred, yet scientific
observations in modern times have shewn, that the relation of the
atmosphere to the earth is changed by volcanic influences. Why then,
may we not, from this fact, draw retrospective inferences respecting
those extraordinary phenomena?

  [38] _Giov. Villani_ Istorie Fiorentine>, L. XII. chap. 121, 122. in
  Muratori T. XIII. pp. 1001, 1002. Compare Barnes Loc. cit. p. 430.

  [39] I. _Vitodaran._ Chronicon, in _Fuseli. Thesaurus_ Histor.
  Helvet. Tigur. 1735, fol. p. 84.

Independently of this, however, we know that during this earthquake,
the duration of which is stated by some to have been a week, and by
others, a fortnight, people experienced an unusual stupor and headache,
and that many fainted away.[40]

  [40] _Albert Argentiniens._ Chronic. in _Urstis_ Scriptor. rer.
  Germanic. Francof. 1585. fol. P. II. p. 147. Compare _Chalin._ Loc.

These destructive earthquakes extended as far as the neighbourhood
of Basle,[41] and recurred until the year 1360, throughout Germany,
France, Silesia, Poland, England and Denmark, and much further

  [41] _Petrach._ Opera. Basil 1554. fol. p. 210. _Barnes._ Loc. cit.

  [42] “Un tremblement de terre universel, mesme en France et aux pays
  septentrionaux, renversoit les villes toutes entières, déracinoit les
  arbres et les montagnes, et remplissoit les campagnes d’abysmes si
  profondes, qu’il semblait que l’enfer eût voulu engloutir le genre
  humain. _Mezeray_ Loc. cit. p. 418. _Barnes_ p. 431.

Great and extraordinary meteors appeared in many places, and were
regarded with superstitious horror. A pillar of fire, which on the
20th of December, 1348, remained for an hour at sun rise over the
pope’s palace in Avignon;[43] a fireball, which in August of the same
year was seen at sunset over Paris, and was distinguished from similar
phenomena, by its longer duration,[44] (not to mention other instances
mixed up with wonderful prophecies and omens), are recorded in the
chronicles of that age.

  [43] _Villani._ Loc. cit. c. 119. p. 1000.

  [44] _Guillelm de Nanges_, Cont. alt. Chron. Loc. cit. p. 109.

The order of the seasons seemed to be inverted,--rains, floods and
failures in crops were so general, that few places were exempt
from them; and though an historian of this century assures us, that
there was an abundance in the granaries and storehouses,[45] all his
contemporaries, with one voice, contradict him. The consequences of
failure in the crops were soon felt, especially in Italy and the
surrounding countries, where, in this year, a rain which continued for
four months, had destroyed the seed. In the larger cities, they were
compelled, in the spring of 1347, to have recourse to a distribution
of bread among the poor, particularly at Florence, where they erected
large bake-houses, from which, in April, ninety-four thousand loaves of
bread, each of twelve ounces in weight, were daily dispensed.[46] It is
plain, however, that humanity could only partially mitigate the general
distress, not altogether obviate it.

  [45] _Guillelm de Nanges_ Cont. alt. Chron. Loc. cit. p. 110.

  [46] _Villani._ Loc. cit. c. 72. p. 954.

Diseases, the invariable consequence of famine, broke out in the
country, as well as in cities; children died of hunger in their
mothers’ arms,--want, misery and despair, were general throughout

  [47] Anonym. Istorie Pistolesi, in _Muratori_, T. XI. p. 524. “Ne
  gli anni di Chr. 1346 et 1347, fu grandissima carestia in tutta la
  Christianità, in tanto, che molta genie moria di fame, e fu grande
  mortalità in ogni paese del mondo.”

Such are the events which took place before the eruption of the
Black Plague in Europe. Contemporaries have explained them after
their own manner, and have thus, like their posterity, under similar
circumstances, given a proof, that mortals possess neither senses nor
intellectual powers sufficiently acute to comprehend the phenomena
produced by the earth’s organism, much less scientifically to
understand their effects. Superstition, selfishness in a thousand
forms, the presumption of the schools, laid hold of unconnected
facts. They vainly thought to comprehend the whole in the individual,
and perceived not the universal spirit which, in intimate union with
the mighty powers of nature, animates the movements of all existence,
and permits not any phenomenon to originate from isolated causes. To
attempt, five centuries after that age of desolation, to point out the
causes of a cosmical commotion, which has never recurred to an equal
extent,--to indicate scientifically the influences which called forth
so terrific a poison in the bodies of men and animals, exceeds the
limits of human understanding. If we are even now unable, with all the
varied resources of an extended knowledge of nature, to define that
condition of the atmosphere by which pestilences are generated, still
less can we pretend to reason retrospectively from the nineteenth
to the fourteenth century; but if we take a general view of the
occurrences, that century will give us copious information, and, as
applicable to all succeeding times, of high importance.

In the progress of connected natural phenomena, from East to West,
that great law of nature is plainly revealed which has so often and
evidently manifested itself in the earth’s organism, as well as in
the state of nations dependent upon it. In the inmost depths of the
globe, that impulse was given in the year 1333, which in uninterrupted
succession for six-and-twenty years shook the surface of the earth,
even to the western shores of Europe. From the very beginning the air
partook of the terrestrial concussion, atmospherical waters overflowed
the land, or its plants and animals perished under the scorching heat.
The insect tribe was wonderfully called into life, as if animated
beings were destined to complete the destruction which astral and
telluric powers had begun. Thus did this dreadful work of nature
advance from year to year; it was a progressive infection of the
Zones which exerted a powerful influence both above and beneath the
surface of the earth; and after having been perceptible in slighter
indications, at the commencement of the terrestrial commotions in
China, convulsed the whole earth.

The nature of the first plague in China is unknown. We have no
certain intelligence of the disease, until it entered the western
countries of Asia. Here it shewed itself as the oriental plague with
inflammation of the lungs; in which form it probably also may have
begun in China, that is to say, as a malady which spreads, more than
any other, by contagion--a contagion, that, in ordinary pestilences,
requires immediate contact, and only under unfavorable circumstances
of rare occurrence is communicated by the mere approach to the sick.
The share which this cause had in the spreading of the plague over
the whole earth, was certainly very great: and the opinion that the
Black Death might have been excluded from Western Europe, by good
regulations, similar to those which are now in use, would have all the
support of modern experience; provided it could be proved that this
plague had been actually imported from the East; or that the oriental
plague in general, as often as it appears in Europe, always has its
origin in Asia or Egypt. Such a proof, however, cannot be produced
so as to enforce conviction; for it would involve the impossible
assumption, that either there is no essential difference in the degree
of civilization of the European nations, in the most ancient and in
modern times, or that detrimental circumstances, which have yielded
only to the civilization of human society and the regular cultivation
of countries, could not formerly have maintained the bubo-plague.

The plague was, however, known in Europe before nations were united
by the bonds of commerce and social intercourse;[48] hence there is
ground for supposing that it sprung up spontaneously, in consequence
of the rude manner of living and the uncultivated state of the earth;
influences which peculiarly favor the origin of severe diseases. Now,
we need not go back to the earlier centuries, for the 14th itself,
before it was half expired, was visited by five or six pestilences.[49]

  [48] According to _Papon_, its origin is quite lost in the obscurity
  of remote ages; and even before the Christian Era, we are able to
  trace many references to former pestilences. De la peste, ou époques
  mémorables de ce fléau, et les moyens de s’en préserver. T. II.
  Paris, An. VIII de la rép. 8.

  [49] 1301, in the South of France; 1311, in Italy; 1316, in Italy,
  Burgundy and Northern Europe; 1335, the locust years, in the middle
  of Europe; 1340, in upper Italy; 1342, in France; and 1347, in
  Marseilles and most of the larger islands of the Mediterranean. Ibid.
  T. II. p. 273.

If, therefore, we consider the peculiar property of the plague, that,
in countries which it has once visited, it remains for a long time
in a milder form, and that the epidemic influences of 1342, when it
had appeared for the last time, were particularly favorable to its
unperceived continuance, till 1348, we come to the notion, that in
this eventful year also, the germs of plague existed in Southern
Europe, which might be vivified by atmospherical deteriorations; and
that thus, at least in part, the Black Plague may have originated in
Europe itself. The corruption of the atmosphere came from the East; but
the disease itself came not upon the wings of the wind, but was only
excited and increased by the atmosphere where it had previously existed.

This source of the Black Plague was not, however, the only one; for,
far more powerful than the excitement of the latent elements of the
plague by atmospheric influences, was the effect of the contagion
communicated from one people to another, on the great roads, and
in the harbours of the Mediterranean. From China, the route of the
caravans lay to the north of the Caspian Sea, through Central Asia,
to Tauris. Here ships were ready to take the produce of the East to
Constantinople, the capital of commerce, and the medium of connexion
between Asia, Europe and Africa.[50] Other caravans went from India
to Asia Minor, and touched at the cities south of the Caspian Sea,
and lastly, from Bagdad, through Arabia to Egypt; also the maritime
communication on the Red Sea, from India to Arabia and Egypt, was
not inconsiderable. In all these directions contagion made its way;
and doubtless, Constantinople and the harbours of Asia Minor, are to
be regarded as the foci of infection; whence it radiated to the most
distant seaports and islands.

  [50] Compare _Deguignes._ Loc. cit. p. 288.

To Constantinople, the plague had been brought from the northern coast
of the Black Sea,[51] after it had depopulated the countries between
those routes of commerce; and appeared as early as 1347, in Cyprus,
Sicily, Marseilles and some of the seaports of Italy. The remaining
islands of the Mediterranean, particularly Sardinia, Corsica and
Majorca, were visited in succession. Foci of contagion existed also
in full activity along the whole southern coast of Europe; when, in
January 1348, the plague appeared in Avignon,[52] and in other cities
in the south of France and north of Italy, as well as in Spain.

  [51] According to the general Byzantine designation, “from the
  country of the hyperborean Scythians.” _Kantakuzen._ Loc. cit.

  [52] _Guid. Cauliac_, Loc. cit.

The precise days of its eruption in the individual towns, are no longer
to be ascertained; but it was not simultaneous: for in Florence, the
disease appeared in the beginning of April;[53] in Cesena, the 1st
of June;[54] and place after place was attacked throughout the whole
year; so that the plague, after it had passed through the whole of
France and Germany, where, however, it did not make its ravages until
the following year, did not break out till August, in England; where
it advanced so gradually, that a period of three months elapsed before
it reached London.[55] The Northern Kingdoms were attacked by it in
1349. Sweden, indeed, not until November of that year: almost two years
after its eruption in Avignon.[56] Poland received the plague in 1349,
probably from Germany,[57] if not from the northern countries; but in
Russia, it did not make its appearance until 1351, more than three
years after it had broken out in Constantinople. Instead of advancing
in a north-westerly direction from Tauris and from the Caspian Sea,
it had thus made the great circuit of the Black Sea, by way of
Constantinople, Southern and Central Europe, England, the Northern
Kingdoms and Poland, before it reached the Russian territories; a
phenomenon which has not again occurred with respect to more recent
pestilences originating in Asia.

  [53] _Matt. Villani_, Istorie, in _Muratori_, T. XIV. p. 14.

  [54] Annal. Caesenat, _Ibid._ p. 1179.

  [55] _Barnes._ Loc. cit.

  [56] _Olof Dalin’s_, Svea-Rikes Historie, III. vol. _Stockholm_,
  1747–61, 4. Vol. II. C. 12, p. 496.

  [57] _Dlugoss_, Histor. Polon. L. IX. p. 1086, T. I. _Lips_. 1711,

Whether any difference existed between the indigenous plague, excited
by the influence of the atmosphere, and that which was imported by
contagion, can no longer be ascertained from the facts; for the
contemporaries, who in general were not competent to make accurate
researches of this kind, have left no data on the subject. A milder
and a more malignant form certainly existed, and the former was
not always derived from the latter, as is to be supposed from this
circumstance--that the spitting of blood, the infallible diagnostic of
the latter, on the first breaking out of the plague, is not similarly
mentioned in all the reports; and it is therefore probable, that the
milder form belonged to the native plague,--the more malignant, to
that introduced by contagion. Contagion was, however, in itself, only
one of many causes which gave rise to the Black Plague.

This disease was a consequence of violent commotions in the earth’s
organism--if any disease of cosmical origin can be so considered. One
spring set a thousand others in motion for the annihilation of living
beings, transient or permanent, of mediate or immediate effect. The
most powerful of all was contagion; for in the most distant countries
which had scarcely yet heard the echo of the first concussion, the
people fell a sacrifice to organic poison,--the untimely offspring of
vital energies thrown into violent commotion.



We have no certain measure by which to estimate the ravages of the
Black Plague, if numerical statements were wanted, as in modern times.
Let us go back for a moment to the 14th century. The people were yet
but little civilized. The church had indeed subdued them; but they all
suffered from the ill-consequences of their original rudeness. The
dominion of the law was not yet confirmed. Sovereigns had everywhere
to combat powerful enemies to internal tranquillity and security.
The cities were fortresses for their own defence. Marauders encamped
on the roads--The husbandman was a feodal slave, without possessions
of his own.--Rudeness was general--Humanity, as yet unknown to the
people.--Witches and heretics were burned alive.--Gentle rulers were
contemned as weak;--wild passions, severity and cruelty, everywhere
predominated.--Human life was little regarded.--Governments concerned
not themselves about the numbers of their subjects, for whose welfare
it was incumbent on them to provide. Thus, the first requisite for
estimating the loss of human life, namely, a knowledge of the amount of
the population, is altogether wanting; and, moreover, the traditional
statements of the amount of this loss, are so vague, that from this
source likewise, there is only room for probable conjecture.

Kairo lost daily, when the plague was raging with its greatest
violence, from 10 to 15,000; being as many as, in modern times, great
plagues have carried off during their whole course. In China, more than
thirteen millions are said to have died; and this is in correspondence
with the certainly exaggerated accounts from the rest of Asia. India
was depopulated. Tartary, the Tartar Kingdom of Kaptschak, Mesapotamia,
Syria, Armenia, were covered with dead bodies--the Kurds fled in vain
to the mountains. In Caramania and Caesarea, none were left alive. On
the roads,--in the camps,--in the caravansaries,--unburied bodies alone
were seen; and a few cities only (Arabian historians name, Maara el
nooman, Schisur and Harem) remained, in an unaccountable manner, free.
In Aleppo, 500 died daily; 22,000 people, and most of the animals,
were carried off in Gaza, within six weeks. Cyprus lost almost all
its inhabitants;[58] and ships without crews were often seen in the
Mediterranean; as afterwards in the North Sea, driving about, and
spreading the plague wherever they went on shore.[59] It was reported
to Pope Clement, at Avignon, that throughout the East, probably with
the exception of China, 23,840,000 people had fallen victims to the
plague.[60] Considering the occurrences of the 14th and 15th centuries,
we might, on first view, suspect the accuracy of this statement. How
(it might be asked) could such great wars have been carried on--such
powerful efforts have been made; how could the Greek empire, only a
hundred years later, have been overthrown, if the people really had
been so utterly destroyed?

  [58] _Deguignes_, Loc. cit. p. 223, f.

  [59] _Matt. Villani_, Istoria, Loc. cit. p. 13.

  [60] _Knighton_, in _Barnes_, Loc. cit. p. 434.

This account is nevertheless rendered credible by the ascertained fact,
that the palaces of princes are less accessible to contagious diseases,
than the dwellings of the multitude; and that in places of importance,
the influx from those districts which have suffered least, soon repairs
even the heaviest losses. We must remember also, that we do not gather
much from mere numbers without an intimate knowledge of the state of
Society. We will, therefore, confine ourselves to exhibiting some of
the more credible accounts relative to European cities.

    In Florence there died of the
      Black Plague                  60,000[61]
    In Venice                      100,000[62]
    In Marseilles, in one month     16,000[63]
    In Siena                        70,000[64]
    In Paris                        50,000[65]
    In St. Denys                    14,000[66]
    In Avignon                      60,000[67]
    In Strasburg                    16,000[68]
    In Lübeck                        9,000[69]
    In Basle                        14,000
    In Erfurt, at least             16,000
    In Weimar                        5,000[70]
    In Limburg                       2,500[71]
    In London, at least            100,000[72]
    In Norwich                      51,100[73]

To which may be added--

    Franciscan Friars in Germany   124,434[74]
    Minorites in Italy              30,000[75]

  [61] _Jno. Trithem_ Annal. Hirsaugiens. Monast. St. Gall. Hirsaug.
  1690. fol. 1. T. II. p. 296. According to _Boccacio_, Loc. cit.
  100,000; according to _Matt. Villani_, Loc. cit. p. 14. three out of

  [62] _Odoric Raynald_ Annal. ecclesiastic. Colon. Agripp. 1691. fol.
  Vol. XVI. p. 280.

  [63] _Vitoduran_ Chronic, in _Füssli_. Loc. cit.

  [64] _Tromby_, Storia de _S. Brunone_ e dell’ ordine Cartusiano.
  Vol. VI. L. VIII. p. 235. Napol. 1777. fol.

  [65] _Barnes_ p. 435.

  [66] Ditto.

  [67] _Baluz._ Vitae Papar. Avenionens. Paris 1693–4. Vol. I. p. 316.
  According to _Rebdorf_ in _Freher_. Loc. cit. at the worst period,
  500 daily.

  [68] _Königshoven._ Loc. cit.

  [69] According to _Reimer Kork_, from Easter to Michaelmas 1350, 80
  to 90,000; among whom were eleven members of the senate, and bishop
  John IV. Vid. _John Rud. Becker_, Circumstantial History of the
  Imper. and free city of Lübeck. Lübeck: 1782, 84, 1805. 3 Vols. 4.
  Vol. I. p. 269. 71. Although Lübeck was then in its most flourishing
  state, yet this account, which agrees with that of _Paul Lange_, is
  certainly exaggerated. (Chronic. Citizense, in _I. Pistorius_, Rerum
  Germanic. Scriptores aliquot insignes, cur. _Struve_ Ratisb. 1626.
  fol. p. 1214.) We have, therefore, chosen the lower estimate of an
  anonym. writer. Chronic. Sclavic. by _Erpold Lindenbrog_. Scriptores
  rerum Germanic. Septentrional, vicinorumque populor. diversi,
  Francof. 1630. fol. p. 225, and _Spangenberg_. Loc. cit. with whom
  again the assurance of the two authors, that on the 10th August,
  1350, 15 or 1700, (according to _Becker_ 2500) persons had died, does
  not coincide. See Chronik des Franciskaner Lesemeisters _Detmar_,
  nach der Urschrift und mit Ergänzugen aus anderen Chroniken,
  published by I. H. Grautoff. Hamburg: 1829,--30. 8. P. I. p. 269.
  App. 471.

  [70] _Förstemann_, Versuch einer Geschichte der christlichen
  Geisslergesellschaften, in _Staudlins_ und _Izschirner’s_, Archiv für
  alte und neue Kirchengeschichte, Vol. III. 1817.

  [71] Limburg. Chronicle, pub. by _C. D. Vogel_. Marburg: 1828. 8vo.
  p. 14.

  [72] _Barnes._ Loc. cit.

  [73] Ibid.

  [74] _Spangenberg._ fol. 339. A. Grawsam Sterben vieler faulen
  Troppfen. Many lazy monks died a cruel death.

  [75] _Vitoduran._ Loc. cit.

This short catalogue might, by a laborious and uncertain calculation,
deduced from other sources, be easily further multiplied, but would
still fail to give a true picture of the depopulation which took
place. Lübeck, at that time the Venice of the North, which could no
longer contain the multitudes that flocked to it, was thrown into
such consternation on the eruption of the plague, that the citizens
destroyed themselves as if in frenzy.

Merchants whose earnings and possessions were unbounded, coldly and
willingly renounced their earthly goods. They carried their treasures
to monasteries and churches, and laid them at the foot of the altar;
but gold had no charms for the monks, for it brought them death. They
shut their gates; yet, still it was cast to them over the convent
walls. People would brook no impediment to the last pious work to
which they were driven by despair. When the plague ceased, men thought
they were still wandering among the dead, so appalling was the livid
aspect of the survivors, in consequence of the anxiety they had
undergone, and the unavoidable infection of the air.[76] Many other
cities probably presented a similar appearance; and it is ascertained
that a great number of small country towns and villages which have been
estimated, and not too highly, at 200,000,[77] were bereft of all their

  [76] _Becker_, Loc. cit.

  [77] _Hainr. Rebdorf._ P. 630.

In many places in France not more than two out of twenty of the
inhabitants were left alive,[78] and the capital felt the fury of the
plague, alike in the palace and the cot.

  [78] _Guillelm de Nang._ Loc. cit.

Two queens,[79] one bishop,[80] and great numbers of other
distinguished persons, fell a sacrifice to it, and more than 500 a
day died in the Hôtel-Dieu, under the faithful care of the sisters of
charity, whose disinterested courage, in this age of horror, displayed
the most beautiful traits of human virtue. For although they lost their
lives, evidently from contagion, and their numbers were several times
renewed, there was still no want of fresh candidates, who, strangers to
the unchristian fear of death, piously devoted themselves to their holy

  [79] _Johanna_, queen of Navarre, daughter of _Louis X._, and
  _Johanna_ of Burgundy, wife of king _Philip_ de Valois.

  [80] _Fulco de Chanar._

The church-yards were soon unable to contain the dead,[81] and many
houses, left without inhabitants, fell to ruins.

  [81] _Mich. Felibien_, Histoire de la ville de Paris. Liv. XII.
  Vol. II. p. 601, Paris: 1725. fol. Comp. _Guillelm de Nangis_. Loc.
  cit, and _Daniel_ Histoire de France, Tom. II. p. 484. Amsterd. 1720.

In Avignon, the pope found it necessary to consecrate the Rhone,
that bodies might be thrown into the river without delay, as the
church-yards would no longer hold them;[82] so likewise, in all
populous cities, extraordinary measures were adopted, in order
speedily to dispose of the dead. In Vienna, where for some time
1200 inhabitants died daily,[83] the interment of corpses in the
church-yards and within the churches, was forthwith prohibited; and
the dead were then arranged in layers, by thousands, in six large pits
outside the city,[84] as had already been done in Cairo and Paris.
Yet, still many were secretly buried; for at all times, the people are
attached to the consecrated cemeteries of their dead, and will not
renounce the customary mode of interment.

  [82] _Torfaeus._ Loc. cit.

  [83] According to another account, 960. Chronic. Salisburg, in _Pez._
  Loc. cit. T. I. p. 412.

  [84] According to an anonymous Chronicler, each of these pits is said
  to have contained 40,000; this, however, we are to understand as
  only in round numbers. Anonym. Leobiens, in Pez. p. 970. According
  to this writer, above seventy persons died in some houses, and many
  were entirely deserted, and at St. Stephen’s alone, fifty-four
  ecclesiastics were cut off.

In many places, it was rumoured that plague patients were buried
alive,[85] as may sometimes happen through senseless alarm and
indecent haste; and thus the horror of the distressed people was every
where increased. In Erfurt, after the church-yards were filled, 12,000
corpses were thrown into eleven great pits; and the like might, more
or less exactly, be stated with respect to all the larger cities.[86]
Funeral ceremonies, the last consolation of the survivors, were every
where impracticable.

  [85] _Auger. de Biterris_ in _Muratori_. Vol. III. P. II. p. 556. In
  _Gobelin Person_, the same is said of Paderborn, in _Henr. Meibom._
  Rer. Germanic. Script. T. I. p. 286. Helmstadt: 1688. fol.

  [86] _Spangenberg._ Loc. cit. chap. 287, fol. 336–7.

In all Germany, according to a probable calculation, there seem to have
died only 1,244,434[87] inhabitants; this country, however, was more
spared than others: Italy, on the contrary, was most severely visited.
It is said to have lost half its inhabitants;[88] and this account is
rendered credible from the immense losses of individual cities and
provinces: for in Sardinia and Corsica, according to the account of
the distinguished Florentine, John Villani, who was himself carried
off by the Black Plague,[89] scarcely a third part of the population
remained alive; and it is related of the Venetians, that they engaged
ships at a high rate to retreat to the islands; so that after the
plague had carried off three fourths of her inhabitants, that proud
city was left forlorn and desolate.[90] In Padua, after the cessation
of the plague, two thirds of the inhabitants were wanting; and in
Florence it was prohibited to publish the numbers of the dead, and to
toll the bells at their funerals, in order that the living might not
abandon themselves to despair.[91]

  [87] _Barnes._ 435.

  [88] _Trithem._ Annal. Hirsaug. Loc. cit.

  [89] Loc. cit. L. XII. c. 99. p. 977.

  [90] Chronic. Claustro-Neuburg. in _Pez._ Vol. I. p. 490. Comp.
  _Barnes_ p. 435. _Raynald_ Histor. ecclesiastic Loc. cit. According
  to this, a runaway Venetian is said to have brought the plague to

  [91] _Giov. Villani_, L. XII. c. 83, p. 964.

We have more exact accounts of England; most of the great cities
suffered incredible losses; above all, Yarmouth, in which, 7052 died:
Bristol, Oxford, Norwich, Leicester, York and London where, in one
burial ground alone, there were interred upwards of 50,000 corpses,
arranged in layers, in large pits.[92] It is said, that in the whole
country, scarcely a tenth part remained alive;[93] but this estimate
is evidently too high. Smaller losses were sufficient to cause those
convulsions, whose consequences were felt for some centuries, in a
false impulse given to civil life, and whose indirect influence,
unknown to the English, has, perhaps, extended even to modern times.

  [92] _Barnes_, p. 436.

  [93] _Wood_, Loc. cit.

Morals were deteriorated every where, and the service of God was, in
a great measure, laid aside; for, in many places, the churches were
deserted, being bereft of their priests. The instruction of the people
was impeded;[94] covetousness became general; and when tranquility
was restored, the great increase of lawyers was astonishing, to whom
the endless disputes regarding inheritances, offered a rich harvest.
The want of priests too, throughout the country, operated very
detrimentally upon the people (the lower classes being most exposed
to the ravages of the plague, whilst the houses of the nobility
were, in proportion, much more spared) and it was no compensation
that whole bands of ignorant laymen, who had lost their wives during
the pestilence, crowded into the monastic orders, that they might
participate in the respectability of the priesthood, and in the rich
heritages which fell in to the church from all quarters. The sittings
of Parliament, of the King’s Bench, and of most of the other courts,
were suspended as long as the malady raged. The laws of peace availed
not during the dominion of death. Pope Clement took advantage of this
state of disorder, to adjust the bloody quarrel between Edward III.
and Philip VI.; yet he only succeeded during the period that the
plague commanded peace. Philip’s death (1350) annulled all treaties;
and it is related, that Edward, with other troops indeed, but with
the same leaders and knights, again took the field. Ireland was much
less heavily visited than England. The disease seems to have scarcely
reached the mountainous districts of that kingdom; and Scotland
too would, perhaps, have remained free, had not the Scots availed
themselves of the discomfiture of the English, to make an irruption
into their territory, which terminated in the destruction of their
army, by the plague and by the sword, and the extension of the
pestilence, through those who escaped, over the whole country.

  [94] _Wood_ says, that before the plague, there were 13,000 students
  at Oxford; a number, which may, in some degree, enable us to form an
  estimate of the state of education in England at that time, if we
  consider that the universities were, in the middle ages, frequented
  by younger students, who in modern times do not quit school till
  their 18th year.

At the commencement, there was in England a superabundance of all
the necessaries of life; but the plague, which seemed then to be the
sole disease, was soon accompanied by a fatal murrain among cattle.
Wandering about without herdsmen, they fell by thousands; and, as
has likewise been observed in Africa, the birds and beasts of prey
are said not to have touched them. Of what nature this murrain may
have been, can no more be determined, than whether it originated from
communication with plague patients, or from other causes; but thus much
is certain, that it did not break out until after the commencement of
the Black Death. In consequence of this murrain, and the impossibility
of removing the corn from the fields, there was every where a great
rise in the price of food, which to many was inexplicable, because the
harvest had been plentiful; by others it was attributed to the wicked
designs of the labourers and dealers; but it had its foundation in
the actual deficiency, arising from circumstances by which individual
classes at all times endeavour to profit. For a whole year, until
it terminated in August, 1349, the Black Plague prevailed in this
beautiful island, and every where poisoned the springs of comfort and

  [95] _Barnes_ and _Wood_. Loc. cit.

In other countries, it generally lasted only half a year, but returned
frequently in individual places; on which account, some, without
sufficient proof, assigned to it a period of seven years.[96]

  [96] _Gobelin Person_, in _Meibom_. Loc. cit.

Spain was uninteruptedly ravaged by the Black Plague till after the
year 1350, to which the frequent internal feuds and the wars with the
Moors not a little contributed. Alphonso XI., whose passion for war
carried him too far, died of it at the siege of Gibraltar, on the 26th
of March, 1350. He was the only king in Europe who fell a sacrifice to
it; but even before this period, inumerable families had been thrown
into affliction.[97] The mortality seems otherwise to have been smaller
in Spain than in Italy, and about as considerable as in France.

  [97] _Juan de Mariana._ Historia General de España. Illustrated
  by Don _José Sabau y Blanco_. Tom. IX. Madrid: 1819, 8vo. Libro
  XVI. p. 225. Don _Diego Ortiz de Zuñiga_, Annales ecclesiasticos y
  seculares de Sevilla. Madrid: 1795, 4to. T. II. p. 121. Don _Juan de
  Ferreras_, Historia de España. Madrid: 1721. T. VII. p. 353.

The whole period during which the Black Plague raged with destructive
violence in Europe, was, with the exception of Russia, from the year
1347 to 1350. The plagues, which in the sequel often returned until
the year 1383,[98] we do not consider as belonging to “the Great
Mortality.” They were rather common pestilences, without inflammation
of the lungs, such as in former times, and in the following centuries,
were excited by the matter of contagion everywhere existing, and which,
on every favorable occasion, gained ground anew, as is usually the case
with this frightful disease.

  [98] _Gobelin Person._ Loc. cit. _V. Chalin_, p. 53.

The concourse of large bodies of people was especially dangerous; and
thus, the premature celebration of the Jubilee, to which Clement VI.
cited the faithful to Rome, (1350), during the great epidemic, caused a
new eruption of the plague, from which it is said, that scarcely one in
an hundred of the pilgrims escaped.[99]

  [99] _Guillelm de Nangis._ Loc. cit.

Italy was, in consequence, depopulated anew; and those who returned,
spread poison and corruption of morals in all directions.[100] It is,
therefore, the less apparent, how that Pope, who was in general so
wise and considerate, and who knew how to pursue the path of reason and
humanity, under the most difficult circumstances, should have been led
to adopt a measure so injurious; since he, himself, was so convinced of
the salutary effect of seclusion, that during the plague in Avignon, he
kept up constant fires, and suffered no one to approach him;[101] and,
in other respects, gave such orders as averted, or alleviated, much

  [100] _Spangenberg._ fol. 337. b. Limburg. Chronic. p. 20. “Und die
  auch von Rom kamen, wurden eines Theils böser als sie vor gewesen

  [101] _Guillelm de Nangis._ Loc. cit. and many others.

The changes which occurred about this period in the north of Europe,
are sufficiently memorable to claim a few moments attention. In Sweden,
two princes died--Häken and Knut, half-brothers of King Magnus; and
in Westgothland alone, 466 priests.[102] The inhabitants of Iceland
and Greenland, found in the coldness of their inhospitable climate, no
protection against the southern enemy who had penetrated to them from
happier countries. The plague caused great havoc among them. Nature
made no allowance for their constant warfare with the elements, and
the parsimony with which she had meted out to them the enjoyments of
life.[103] In Denmark and Norway, however, people were so occupied with
their own misery, that the accustomed voyages to Greenland ceased.
Towering ice-bergs formed at the same time on the coast of East
Greenland, in consequence of the general concussion of the earth’s
organism; and no mortal, from that time forward, has ever seen that
shore or its inhabitants.[104]

  [102] _Dalin’s_ Svea Rikes Historie, Vol. II. c. xii. p. 496.

  [103] _Saabye._ Tagebuch in Grönland. Einleit. XVIII.--_Torfaei_
  Histor. Norveg. Tom. IV. L. IX, c. viii. p. 478–79. _F. G. Mansa_,
  De epidemiis maxime memorabilibus quæ in Dania Grassatæ sunt, et de
  Medicinæ statu. Partic. I. Havn. 1831, 8vo. p. 12.

  [104] _Torfaei_ Groenlandia antiqua, s. veteris Groenlandiæ
  descriptio. Havniæ, 1715, 8vo. p. 23--_Potan._ Rer. danicar. Histor.
  Amstelod. 1631, fol. L. VII. p. 476.

It has been observed above, that in Russia, the Black Plague did
not break out until 1351, after it had already passed through the
south and north of Europe. In this country also, the mortality was
extraordinarily great; and the same scenes of affliction and despair
were exhibited, as had occurred in those nations which had already
passed the ordeal. The same mode of burial--the same horrible certainty
of death--the same torpor and depression of spirits. The wealthy
abandoned their treasures, and gave their villages and estates to the
churches and monasteries; this being, according to the notions of the
age, the surest way of securing the favor of Heaven and the forgiveness
of past sins. In Russia too, the voice of nature was silenced by fear
and horror. In the hour of danger, fathers and mothers deserted their
children, and children their parents.[105]

  [105] _Richter_, Loc. cit.

Of all the estimates of the number of lives lost in Europe, the most
probable is, that altogether, a fourth part of the inhabitants were
carried off. Now, if Europe at present contain 210,000,000 inhabitants,
the population, not to take a higher estimate, which might easily be
justified, amounted to at least 105,000,000, in the 16th century.

It may, therefore, be assumed, without exaggeration, that Europe lost
during the Black Death, 25,000,000 of inhabitants.

That her nations could so quickly overcome such a fearful concussion
in their external circumstances, and, in general, without retrogading
more than they actually did, could so develope their energies in the
following century, is a most convincing proof of the indestructibility
of human society as a whole. To assume, however, that it did not
suffer any essential change internally, because in appearance every
thing remained as before, is inconsistent with a just view of cause
and effect. Many historians seem to have adopted such an opinion;
accustomed, as usual, to judge of the moral condition of the people
solely according to the vicissitudes of earthly power, the events
of battles, and the influence of religion, but to pass over with
indifference, the great phenomena of nature, which modify, not only the
surface of the earth, but also the human mind. Hence, most of them have
touched but superficially on the “great mortality” of the 14th century.
We, for our parts are convinced, that in the history of the world, the
Black Death is one of the most important events which have prepared the
way for the present state of Europe.

He who studies the human mind with attention, and forms a deliberate
judgment on the intellectual powers which set people and states in
motion, may, perhaps, find some proofs of this assertion in the
following observations:--at that time, the advancement of the hierarchy
was, in most countries, extraordinary; for the church acquired
treasures and large properties in land, even to a greater extent than
after the crusades; but experience has demonstrated, that such a state
of things is ruinous to the people, and causes them to retrograde, as
was evinced on this occasion.

After the cessation of the Black Plague, a greater fertility in
women was everywhere remarkable--a grand phenomenon, which, from its
occurrence after every destructive pestilence, proves to conviction,
if any occurrence can do so, the prevalence of a higher power in the
direction of general organic life. Marriages were, almost without
exception, prolific; and double and treble births were more frequent
than at other times; under which head, we should remember the strange
remark, that after the “great mortality” the children were said to have
got fewer teeth than before; at which, contemporaries were mightily
shocked, and even later writers have felt surprise.

If we examine the grounds of this oft-repeated assertion, we shall
find that they were astonished, to see children cut twenty, or at
most, twenty-two teeth, under the supposition that a greater number had
formerly fallen to their share.[106] Some writers of authority, as,
for example, the physician Savonarola,[107] at Ferrara, who probably
looked for twenty-eight teeth in children, published their opinions on
this subject. Others copied from them, without seeing for themselves,
as often happens in other matters which are equally evident; and thus
the world believed in the miracle of an imperfection in the human body
which had been caused by the Black Plague.

  [106] We may take this view of the subject from _Guillelm de Nangis_
  and _Barnes_, if we read them _with attention_. _Olof Dalin_, Loc.

  [107] Practica de aegritudinibus a capite usque ad pedes, Papiae,
  1486, fol. Tract, VI. c. vii.

The people gradually consoled themselves after the sufferings which
they had undergone; the dead were lamented and forgotten; and in
the stirring vicissitudes of existence, the world belonged to the

  [108] “Darnach, da das Sterben, die Geiselfarth, Römerfarth,
  Judenschlacht, als vorgeschrieben steht, ein End hatte, da hub die
  Welt wieder an zu leben und fröhlich zu seyn, und machten die Männer
  neue Kleidung.” Limburg Chronik, p. 26. After this when, as was
  stated before, the mortality, the processions of the Flagellants, the
  expeditions to Rome, and the massacre of the Jews, were at an end,
  the world begun to revive and be joyful, and the people put on new



The mental shock sustained by all nations during the prevalence of the
Black Plague, is without parallel and beyond description. In the eyes
of the timorous, danger was the certain harbinger of death; many fell
victims to fear, on the first appearance of the distemper,[109] and
the most stout hearted lost their confidence. Thus, after reliance on
the future had died away, the spiritual union which binds man to his
family and his fellow creatures, was gradually dissolved. The pious
closed their accounts with the world,--eternity presented itself to
their view,--their only remaining desire, was for a participation in
the consolations of religion, because to them death was disarmed of its

  [109] _Chalin_, Loc. cit. p. 92. _Detmar’s_ Lübeck Chronicle, T. I.
  p. 401.

Repentance seized the transgressor, admonishing him to consecrate his
remaining hours to the exercise of Christian virtues. All minds were
directed to the contemplation of futurity; and children, who manifest
the more elevated feelings of the soul without alloy, were frequently
seen, while labouring under the plague, breathing out their spirit with
prayer and songs of thanksgiving.[110]

  [110] Chronic. _Ditmari_, Episcop. Mersepurg, Francof. 1580, fol.
  p. 358.----“_Spangenberg_, p. 338. The lamentation was pitiful;
  and the only remaining solace, was the prevalent anxiety, inspired
  by the danger, to prepare for a glorious departure; no other hope
  remained--death appeared inevitable. Many were hence induced to
  search into their own hearts, to turn to God, and to abandon their
  wicked courses: parents warned their children, and instructed them
  how to pray, and to submit to the ways of Providence: neighbours
  mutually admonished each other; none could reckon on a single hour’s
  respite. Many persons, and even young children, were seen bidding
  farewell to the world; some with prayer, others with praises on their

An awful sense of contrition seized Christians of every communion; they
resolved to forsake their vices--to make restitution for past offences,
before they were summoned hence--to seek reconciliation with their
Maker, and to avert, by self-chastisement, the punishment due to their
former sins. Human nature would be exalted, could the countless noble
actions, which, in times of most imminent danger, were performed in
secret, be recorded for the instruction of future generations. They,
however, have no influence on the course of worldly events. They are
known only to silent eye-witnesses, and soon fall into oblivion. But
hypocrisy, illusion and bigotry, stalk abroad undaunted; they desecrate
what is noble--they pervert what is divine, to the unholy purposes
of selfishness; which hurries along every good feeling in the false
excitement of the age. Thus it was in the years of this plague. In the
14th century, the monastic system was still in its full vigour,--the
power of the ecclesiastical orders and brotherhoods, was revered by the
people, and the hierarchy was still formidable to the temporal power.
It was, therefore, in the natural constitution of society that bigotted
zeal, which in such times makes a shew of public acts of penance,
should avail itself of the semblance of religion. But this took place
in such a manner, that unbridled, self-willed penitence, degenerated
into luke-warmness, renounced obedience to the hierarchy, and prepared
a fearful opposition to the church, paralysed by antiquated forms.

While all countries were filled with lamentations and woe, there
first arose in Hungary,[111] and afterwards in Germany, the
Brotherhood of the Flagellants, called also the Brethren of the
Cross, or Cross-bearers, who took upon themselves the repentance of
the people, for the sins they had committed, and offered prayers and
supplications for the averting of this plague. This Order consisted
chiefly of persons of the lower class, who were either actuated by
sincere contrition, or, who joyfully availed themselves of this pretext
for idleness, and were hurried along with the tide of distracting
frenzy. But, as these brotherhoods gained in repute, and were
welcomed by the people with veneration and enthusiasm, many nobles
and ecclesiastics ranged themselves under their standard; and their
bands were not unfrequently augmented by children, honourable women
and nuns; so powerfully were minds of the most opposite temperaments
enslaved by this infatuation.[112] They marched through the cities,
in well-organized processions, with leaders and singers; their heads
covered as far as the eyes; their look fixed on the ground, accompanied
by every token of the deepest contrition and mourning. They were
robed in sombre garments, with red crosses on the breast, back, and
cap, and bore triple scourges, tied in three or four knots, in which
points of iron were fixed. Tapers and magnificent banners of velvet
and cloth of gold, were carried before them; wherever they made
their appearance, they were welcomed by the ringing of the bells; and
the people flocked from all quarters, to listen to their hymns and
to witness their penance, with devotion and tears. In the year 1349,
two hundred Flagellants first entered Strasburg, where they were
received with great joy, and hospitably lodged by the citizens. Above
a thousand joined the brotherhood, which now assumed the appearance of
a wandering tribe, and separated into two bodies, for the purpose of
journeying to the north and to the south. For more than half a year,
new parties arrived weekly; and, on each arrival, adults and children
left their families to accompany them; till, at length, their sanctity
was questioned, and the doors of houses and churches were closed
against them.[113] At Spires, two hundred boys, of twelve years of age
and under, constituted themselves into a Brotherhood of the Cross,
in imitation of the children, who, about a hundred years before, had
united, at the instigation of some fanatic monks, for the purpose of
recovering the Holy Sepulchre. All the inhabitants of this town, were
carried away by the illusion; they conducted the strangers to their
houses with songs of thanksgiving, to regale them for the night. The
women embroidered banners for them, and all were anxious to augment
their pomp; and at every succeeding pilgrimage, their influence and
reputation increased.[114] It was not merely some individual parts of
the country that fostered them: all Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bohemia,
Silesia, and Flanders, did homage to the mania; and they at length
became as formidable to the secular, as they were to the ecclesiastical
power. The influence of this fanaticism, was great and threatening;
resembling the excitement which called all the inhabitants of Europe
into the deserts of Syria and Palestine, about two hundred and fifty
years before. The appearance, in itself, was not novel. As far back
as the 11th century, many believers, in Asia and Southern Europe,
afflicted themselves with the punishment of flagellation. Dominicus
Loricatus, a monk of St. Croce d’Avellano, is mentioned as the master
and model of this species of mortification of the flesh; which,
according to the primitive notions of the Asiatic Anchorites, was
deemed eminently Christian. The author of the solemn processions of the
Flagellants, is said to have been St. Anthony; for even in his time
(1231), this kind of penance was so much in vogue, that it is recorded
as an eventful circumstance in the history of the world. In 1260, the
Flagellants appeared in Italy as _Devoti_. “When the land was polluted
by vices and crimes,[115] an unexampled spirit of remorse suddenly
seized the minds of the Italians. The fear of Christ fell upon all:
noble and ignoble, old and young, and even children of five years of
age, marched through the streets with no covering but a scarf round
the waist. They each carried a scourge of leathern thongs, which they
applied to their limbs, amid sighs and tears, with such violence,
that the blood flowed from the wounds. Not only during the day, but
even by night, and in the severest winter, they traversed the cities
with burning torches and banners, in thousands and tens of thousands,
headed by their priests, and prostrated themselves before the altars.
They proceeded in the same manner in the villages; and the woods and
mountains resounded with the voices of those whose cries were raised to
God. The melancholy chaunt of the penitent alone, was heard. Enemies
were reconciled; men and women vied with each other in splendid
works of charity, as if they dreaded, that Divine Omnipotence would
pronounce on them the doom of annihilation.”

  [111] _Torfaei_ Hist. rer. Norvegic, L. IX. c. viii, p. 478. (Havn.
  1711, fol.) _Die Cronica van der hilliger stat van Coellen, off dat
  tzytboich_, Coellen, 1499, fol. p. 263. “_In dem vurss jair erhoiff
  sich eyn alzo wunderlich nuwe Geselschaft in Ungarien._” &c. The
  Chronicle of the holy city of Cologne, 1499. In this same year, a
  very remarkable Society was formed in Hungary.

  [112] _Albert. Argentinens._ Chronic, p. 149, in _Chr. Urstisius._
  Germaniae historicorum illustrium Tomus unus. Francof. 1585,
  fol.--_Guillelm de Nang._ Loc. cit.--See also the Saxon Chronicle, by
  _Mattheus Dresseren_, Physician and Professor at Leipsig, Wittenberg,
  1596, fol. p. 340; the above-named Limburg Chronicle, and the
  Germaniae Chronicon, on the origin, name, commerce, &c., of all the
  Teutonic Nations of Germany: by _Seb. Francken_, of Wörd. Tubingen,
  1534, fol. p. 201.

  [113] _Königshoven_, Elsassische und Strassburgische Chronicke. Loc
  cit. p. 297.

  [114] _Albert Argentin._ Loc. cit. They never remained longer than
  one night at any place.

  [115] Words of _Monachus Paduanus_, quoted in Förstemann’s Treatise,
  which is the best upon this subject.--See p. 60.

The pilgrimages of the Flagellants extended throughout all the
provinces of Southern Germany, as far as Saxony, Bohemia and
Poland, and even further; but at length, the priests resisted this
dangerous fanaticism, without being able to extirpate the illusion,
which was advantageous to the hierarchy, as long as it submitted to
its sway. Regnier, a hermit of Perugia, is recorded as a fanatic
preacher of penitence, with whom the extravagance originated.[116]
In the year 1296, there was a great procession of the Flagellants in
Strasburg;[117] and in 1334, fourteen years before the great mortality,
the sermon of Venturinus, a Dominican friar, of Bergamo, induced above
10,000 persons to undertake a new pilgrimage. They scourged themselves
in the churches, and were entertained in the market-places, at the
public expense. At Rome, Venturinus was derided, and banished by the
Pope to the mountains of Ricondona. He patiently endured all--went to
the Holy Land, and died at Smyrna, 1346.[118] Hence we see that this
fanaticism was a mania of the middle ages, which, in the year 1349,
on so fearful an occasion, and while still so fresh in remembrance,
needed no new founder; of whom, indeed, all the records are silent.
It probably arose in many places at the same time; for the terror of
death, which pervaded all nations and suddenly set such powerful
impulses in motion, might easily conjure up the fanaticism of
exaggerated and overpowering repentance.

  [116] _Schnurrer_, Chronicle of the Plagues, T. I. p. 291.

  [117] Königshoven. Loc. cit.

  [118] _Förstemann_, Loc. cit. The pilgrimages of the Flagellants of
  the year 1349, were not the last. Later in the 14th century, this
  fanaticism still manifested itself several times, though never to so
  great an extent: in the 15th century, it was deemed necessary, in
  several parts of Germany, to extirpate them by fire and sword;--and
  in the year 1710, processions of the Cross-bearers were still seen
  in Italy. How deep this mania had taken root, is proved by the
  deposition of a citizen of Nordhäusen (1446): that his wife, in the
  belief of performing a Christian act, wanted to scourge her children,
  as soon as they were baptized.

The manner and proceedings of the Flagellants of the 13th and 14th
centuries, exactly resemble each other. But, if during the Black
Plague, simple credulity came to their aid, which seized, as a
consolation, the grossest delusion of religious enthusiasm, yet it is
evident that the leaders must have been intimately united, and have
exercised the power of a secret association. Besides, the rude band
was generally under the controul of men of learning, some of whom at
least, certainly had other objects in view, independent of those which
ostensibly appeared. Whoever was desirous of joining the brotherhood,
was bound to remain in it thirty-four days, and to have four-pence per
day at his own disposal, so that he might not be burthensome to any
one; if married, he was obliged to have the sanction of his wife, and
give the assurance that he was reconciled to all men. The Brothers
of the Cross, were not permitted to seek for free quarters, or even
to enter a house without having been invited; they were forbidden to
converse with females; and if they transgressed these rules, or acted
without precaution, they were obliged to confess to the Superior, who
sentenced them to several lashes of the scourge, by way of penance.
Ecclesiastics had not, as such, any pre-eminence among them; according
to their original law, which, however, was often transgressed, they
could not become Masters, or take part in the _Secret Councils_.
Penance was performed twice every day: in the morning and evening, they
went abroad in pairs, singing psalms, amid the ringing of the bells;
and when they arrived at the place of flagellation, they stripped the
upper part of their bodies and put off their shoes, keeping on only a
linen dress, reaching from the waist to the ancles. They then lay down
in a large circle, in different positions, according to the nature of
their crime: the adulterer with his face to the ground; the perjurer
on one side, holding up three of his fingers, &c., and were then
castigated, some more and some less, by the Master, who ordered them to
rise in the words of a prescribed form.[119] Upon this, they scourged
themselves, amid the singing of psalms and loud supplications for
the averting of the plague, with genuflexions, and other ceremonies,
of which contemporary writers give various accounts; and at the same
time constantly boasted of their penance, that the blood of their
wounds was mingled with that of the Saviour.[120] One of them, in
conclusion, stood up to read a letter, which it was pretended an angel
had brought from heaven, to St. Peter’s church, at Jerusalem, stating
that Christ, who was sore displeased at the sins of man, had granted at
the intercession of the Holy Virgin and of the angels, that all who
should wander about for thirty-four days and scourge themselves, should
be partakers of the Divine grace.[121] This scene caused as great a
commotion among the believers as the finding of the holy spear once did
at Antioch; and if any among the clergy enquired who had sealed the
letter? he was boldly answered, the same who had sealed the Gospel!

  [119] _Königshoven_, p. 298:

    “_Stant uf durch der reinen Martel ere;
    Und hüte dich vor der Sünden mere._”

  [120] _Guill. de Nang._ Loc. cit.

  [121] _Albert Argentinens._ Loc. cit.

All this had so powerful an effect, that the church was in considerable
danger; for the Flagellants gained more credit than the priests, from
whom they so entirely withdrew themselves, that they even absolved
each other. Besides, they everywhere took possession of the churches,
and their new songs, which went from mouth to mouth, operated strongly
on the minds of the people. Great enthusiasm and originally pious
feelings, are clearly distinguishable in these hymns, and especially
in the chief psalm of the Cross-bearers, which is still extant, and
which was sung all over Germany, in different dialects, and is probably
of a more ancient date.[122] Degeneracy, however, soon crept in; crimes
were everywhere committed; and there was no energetic man capable
of directing the individual excitement to purer objects, even had an
effectual resistance to the tottering church been at that early period
seasonable, and had it been possible to restrain the fanaticism.
The Flagellants sometimes undertook to make trial of their power of
working miracles; as in Strasburg, where they attempted, in their own
circle, to resuscitate a dead child: they however failed, and their
unskilfulness did them much harm, though they succeeded here and there
in maintaining some confidence in their holy calling, by pretending to
have the power of casting out evil spirits.[123]

  [122] We meet with fragments of different lengths in the Chronicles
  of the times, but the only entire MS. which we possess, is in the
  valuable Library of President von Meusebach. Massmann has had this
  printed, accompanied by a translation, entitled _Erläuterungen zum
  Wessobrunner Gebet des 8^{ten} Jahrhunderts. Nebst_ ZWEIEN _noch
  “Elucidation of the Wessobrunn Prayer of the 8th century, together
  with two unpublished Hymns of the 14th century.” We shall subjoin
  it at the end of this Treatise, as a striking document of the age.
  The Limburg Chronicle asserts, indeed, that it was not composed till
  that time, although a part, if not the whole, of it, was sung in
  the procession of the Flagellants, in 1260.--See, Incerti auctoris
  Chronicon rerum per Austriam Vicinasque regiones gestarum inde ab
  anno 1025, usque ad annum 1282, Munich, 1827–8, p. 9.

  [123] _Trithem._ Annal. Hirsaugiens, T. II. p. 206.

The Brotherhood of the Cross announced that the pilgrimage of the
Flagellants was to continue for a space of thirty-four years; and
many of the Masters had, doubtless, determined to form a lasting
league against the church; but they had gone too far. Already, in the
same year, the general indignation set bounds to their intrigues;
so that the strict measures adopted by the Emperor Charles IV. and
Pope Clement,[124] who, throughout the whole of this fearful period,
manifested prudence and noble-mindedness, and conducted himself in
a manner every way worthy of his high station, were easily put into

  [124] He issued a bull against them, Oct. 20, 1349. _Raynald._
  _Trithem._ Loc. cit.

  [125] But as they at last ceased to excite astonishment, were no
  longer welcomed by the ringing of bells, and were not received with
  veneration, as before, they vanished as human imaginations are wont
  to do. Saxon Chronicle, by _Matt. Dresseren_. Wittenberg, 1596, fol.
  p. 340–341.

The Sorbonne, at Paris, and the Emperor Charles, had already applied
to the Holy See, for assistance against these formidable and heretical
excesses, which had well nigh destroyed the influence of the clergy in
every place; when a hundred of the Brotherhood of the Cross arrived
at Avignon from Basle, and desired admission. The Pope, regardless
of the intercession of several cardinals, interdicted their public
penance, which he had not authorized; and, on pain of excommunication,
prohibited throughout Christendom the continuance of these
pilgrimages.[126] Philip VI., supported by the condemnatory judgment
of the Sorbonne, forbid their reception in France.[127] Manfred, King
of Sicily, at the same time threatened them with punishment by death:
and in the East, they were withstood by several bishops, among whom was
Janussius, of Gnesen,[128] and Preczlaw, of Breslaw, who condemned to
death one of their Masters, formerly a deacon; and, in conformity with
the barbarity of the times, had him publicly burnt.[129] In Westphalia,
where so shortly before, they had venerated the Brothers of the Cross,
they now persecuted them with relentless severity;[130] and in the
Mark, as well as in all the other countries of Germany, they pursued
them, as if they had been the authors of every misfortune.[131]

  [126] _Albert Argentinens._ Loc. cit.

  [127] _Guillelm de Nangis._

  [128] _Ditmar._ Loc. cit.

  [129] _Klose_ of _Breslaw’s_ Documental History and Description, 8vo.
  Vol. II. p. 190. Breslaw, 1781.

  [130] Limburg Chronicle, p. 17.

  [131] _Kehrberg’s_ Description of Königsberg, _i. e._ Neumark, 1724,
  4to. p. 240.

The processions of the Brotherhood of the Cross, undoubtedly promoted
the spreading of the plague; and it is evident, that the gloomy
fanaticism which gave rise to them, would infuse a new poison into the
already desponding minds of the people.

Still, however, all this was within the bounds of barbarous enthusiasm;
but horrible were the persecutions of the Jews, which were committed
in most countries, with even greater exasperation than in the 12th
century, during the first Crusades. In every destructive pestilence,
the common people at first attribute the mortality to poison. No
instruction avails; the supposed testimony of their eyesight, is to
them a proof, and they authoritatively demand the victims of their
rage. On whom then was it so likely to fall, as on the Jews, the
usurers and the strangers who lived at enmity with the Christians? They
were everywhere suspected of having poisoned the wells or infected the
air.[132] They alone were considered as having brought this fearful
mortality among the Christians.[133] They were, in consequence,
pursued with merciless cruelty; and either indiscriminately given up
to the fury of the populace, or sentenced by sanguinary tribunals,
which, with all the forms of law, ordered them to be burnt alive. In
times like these, much is indeed said of guilt and innocence; but
hatred and revenge bear down all discrimination, and the smallest
probability, magnifies suspicion into certainty. These bloody scenes,
which disgraced Europe in the 14th century, are a counterpart to a
similar mania of the age, which was manifested in the persecutions of
witches and sorcerers; and, like these, they prove, that enthusiasm,
associated with hatred, and leagued with the baser passions, may work
more powerfully upon whole nations, than religion and legal order; nay,
that it even knows how to profit by the authority of both, in order the
more surely to satiate with blood, the sword of long suppressed revenge.

  [132] So says the Polish historian _Dlugoss_, Loc. cit., while most
  of his contemporaries, mention only the poisoning of the wells. It is
  evident, that in the state of their feelings, it mattered little to
  them to add another still more formidable accusation.

  [133] In those places where no Jews resided, as in Leipsig,
  Magdeburg, Brieg, Frankenstein, &c. the grave-diggers were accused
  of the crime.--V. _Möhsen’s_ History of the Sciences in the March of
  Brandenburg, T. II. p. 265.

The persecution of the Jews, commenced in September and October,
1348,[134] at Chillon, on the Lake of Geneva, where the first criminal
proceedings were instituted against them, after they had long before
been accused by the people of poisoning the wells; similar scenes
followed in Bern and Freyburg, in January, 1349. Under the influence of
excruciating suffering, the tortured Jews confessed themselves guilty
of the crime imputed to them; and it being affirmed that poison had in
fact been found in a well at Zoffingen, this was deemed a sufficient
proof to convince the world; and the persecution of the abhorred
culprits, thus appeared justifiable. Now, though we can take as little
exception at these proceedings, as at the multifarious confessions of
witches, because the interrogatories of the fanatic and sanguinary
tribunals, were so complicated, that by means of the rack, the required
answer must inevitably be obtained; and it is besides conformable
to human nature, that crimes which are in every body’s mouth, may,
in the end, be actually committed by some, either from wantonness,
revenge, or desperate exasperation: yet crimes and accusations, are,
under circumstances like these, merely the offspring of a revengeful,
frenzied, spirit in the people; and the accusers, according to the
fundamental principles of morality, which are the same in every age,
are the more guilty transgressors.

  [134] See the original proceedings, in the Appendix.

Already in the autumn of 1348, a dreadful panic, caused by the
supposed poisoning, seized all nations; and in Germany especially,
the springs and wells were built over, that nobody might drink of
them, or employ the water for culinary purposes; and for a long time,
the inhabitants of numerous towns and villages, used only river and
rain water.[135] The city gates were also guarded with the greatest
caution,--only confidential persons were admitted; and if medicine,
or any other article, which might be supposed to be poisonous, was
found in the possession of a stranger,--and it was natural that some
should have these things by them for their private use,--they were
forced to swallow a portion of it.[136] By this trying state of
privation, distrust and suspicion, the hatred against the supposed
poisoners, became greatly increased, and often broke out in popular
commotions, which only served still further to infuriate the wildest
passions. The noble and the mean, fearlessly bound themselves by an
oath, to extirpate the Jews by fire and sword, and to snatch them from
their protectors, of whom the number was so small, that throughout
all Germany, but few places can be mentioned where these unfortunate
people were not regarded as outlaws--martyred and burnt.[137] Solemn
summonses were issued from Bern to the towns of Basle, Freyburg in
the Breisgau, and Strasburg, to pursue the Jews as poisoners. The
Burgomasters and Senators, indeed, opposed this requisition; but in
Basle the populace obliged them to bind themselves by an oath, to
burn the Jews, and to forbid persons of that community from entering
their city, for the space of two hundred years. Upon this, all the
Jews in Basle, whose number could not have been inconsiderable, were
enclosed in a wooden building, constructed for the purpose, and burnt
together with it, upon the mere outcry of the people, without sentence
or trial, which indeed would have availed them nothing. Soon after,
the same thing took place at Freyburg. A regular Diet was held at
Bennefeld, in Alsace, where the bishops, lords and barons, as also
deputies of the counts (_query_ counties?) and towns, consulted how
they should proceed with regard to the Jews; and when the deputies of
Strasburg--not indeed the bishop of this town, who proved himself a
violent fanatic--spoke in favor of the persecuted, as nothing criminal
was substantiated against them; a great outcry was raised, and it was
vehemently asked, why, if so, they had covered their wells and removed
their buckets? A sanguinary decree was resolved upon, of which the
populace, who obeyed the call of the nobles and superior clergy, became
but the too willing executioners.[138] Wherever the Jews were not
burnt, they were at least banished; and so being compelled to wander
about, they fell into the hands of the country people, who without
humanity, and regardless of all laws, persecuted them with fire and
sword. At Spires, the Jews, driven to despair, assembled in their own
habitations, which they set on fire, and thus consumed themselves
with their families. The few that remained, were forced to submit to
baptism; while the dead bodies of the murdered, which lay about the
streets, were put into empty wine casks, and rolled into the Rhine,
lest they should infect the air. The mob was forbidden to enter the
ruins of the habitations that were burnt in the Jewish quarter; for the
senate itself caused search to be made for the treasure, which is said
to have been very considerable. At Strasburg, two thousand Jews were
burnt alive in their own burial ground, where a large scaffold had been
erected: a few who promised to embrace Christianity, were spared, and
their children taken from the pile. The youth and beauty of several
females also excited some commiseration; and they were snatched from
death against their will: many, however, who forcibly made their escape
from the flames, were murdered in the streets.

  [135] _Hermanni Gygantis_ Flores temporum, sive Chronicon
  Universale--_Ed. Meuschen._ Lugdun, Bat. 1743. 4to. p. 139. Hermann,
  a Franciscan monk of Franconia, who wrote in the year 1349, was an
  eye-witness of the most revolting scenes of vengeance, throughout all

  [136] _Guid. Cauliac._ Loc. cit.

  [137] _Hermann._ Loc. cit.

  [138] _Albert Argentin._--_Königshoven_, Loc. cit.

The senate ordered all pledges and bonds to be returned to the
debtors, and divided the money among the work-people.[139] Many,
however, refused to accept the base price of blood, and, indignant
at the scenes of blood-thirsty avarice, which made the infuriated
multitude forget[140] that the plague was raging around them, presented
it to monastaries, in conformity with the advice of their confessors.
In all the countries on the Rhine, these cruelties continued to be
perpetrated during the succeeding months; and after quiet was in some
degree restored, the people thought to render an acceptable service
to God, by taking the bricks of the destroyed dwellings, and the
tombstones of the Jews, to repair churches and to erect belfreys.[141]

  [139] _Dies was ouch die Vergift, die die Juden döttete._ “This is
  also the poison that killed the Jews,” observes _Königshoven_, which
  he illustrates by saying, that their increase in Germany was very
  great, and their mode of gaining a livelihood, which, however, was
  the only resource left them, had engendered ill-will against them in
  all quarters.

  [140] Many wealthy Jews, for example, were, on their way to the
  stake, stripped of their garments, for the sake of the gold coin that
  was sewed in them.--_Albert Argentinens._

  [141] Vide preceding note.

In Mayence alone, 12,000 Jews are said to have been put to a cruel
death. The Flagellants entered that place in August; the Jews, on
this occasion, fell out with the Christians, and killed several; but
when they saw their inability to withstand the increasing superiority
of their enemies, and that nothing could save them from destruction,
they consumed themselves and their families, by setting fire to their
dwellings. Thus also, in other places, the entry of the Flagellants
gave rise to scenes of slaughter; and as thirst for blood was
everywhere combined with an unbridled spirit of proselytism, a fanatic
zeal arose among the Jews, to perish as martyrs to their ancient
religion. And how was it possible, that they could from the heart
embrace Christianity, when its precepts were never more outrageously
violated? At Eslingen, the whole Jewish community burned themselves
in their synagogue;[142] and mothers were often seen throwing their
children on the pile, to prevent their being baptised, and then
precipitating themselves into the flames.[143] In short, whatever
deeds, fanaticism, revenge, avarice and desperation, in fearful
combination, could instigate mankind to perform,--and where in such a
case is the limit?--were executed in the year 1349, throughout Germany,
Italy and France, with impunity, and in the eyes of all the world.
It seemed as if the plague gave rise to scandalous acts and frantic
tumults, not to mourning and grief: and the greater part of those who,
by their education and rank, were called upon to raise the voice of
reason, themselves led on the savage mob to murder and to plunder.
Almost all the Jews who saved their lives by baptism, were afterwards
burnt at different times; for they continued to be accused of poisoning
the water and the air. Christians also, whom philanthropy or gain had
induced to offer them protection, were put on the rack and executed
with them.[144] Many Jews who had embraced Christianity, repented of
their apostacy,--and, returning to their former faith, sealed it with
their death.[145]

  [142] _Spangenberg._ Loc. cit.

  [143] _Guillelm. de Nangis._--_Dlugoss._ Loc. cit.

  [144] _Albert. Argentinens._

  [145] _Spangenberg_ describes a similar scene which took place at

The humanity and prudence of Clement VI., must, on this occasion, also
be mentioned to his honor; but even the highest ecclesiastical power
was insufficient to restrain the unbridled fury of the people. He
not only protected the Jews at Avignon, as far as lay in his power,
but also issued two bulls, in which he declared them innocent; and
admonished all Christians, though without success, to cease from
such groundless persecutions.[146] The Emperor Charles IV. was also
favourable to them, and sought to avert their destruction, wherever
he could; but he dared not draw the sword of justice, and even found
himself obliged to yield to the selfishness of the Bohemian nobles,
who were unwilling to forego so favorable an opportunity of releasing
themselves from their Jewish creditors, under favor of an imperial
mandate.[147] Duke Albert of Austria burned and pillaged those of his
cities, which had persecuted the Jews,--a vain and inhuman proceeding,
which, moreover, is not exempt from the suspicion of covetousness; yet
he was unable, in his own fortress of Kyberg, to protect some hundreds
of Jews, who had been received there, from being barbarously burnt by
the inhabitants.[148] Several other princes and counts, among whom
was Ruprecht von der Pfalz, took the Jews under their protection, on
the payment of large sums: in consequence of which they were called
“Jew-masters,” and were in danger of being attacked by the populace
and by their powerful neighbours.[149] These persecuted and ill-used
people, except indeed where humane individuals took compassion on them
at their own peril, or when they could command riches to purchase
protection, had no place of refuge left but the distant country of
Lithuania, where Boleslav V., Duke of Poland (1227–1279), had before
granted them liberty of conscience; and King Casimir the Great
(1333–1370), yielding to the entreaties of Esther, a favourite Jewess,
received them, and granted them further protection:[150] on which
account, that country is still inhabited by a great number of Jews,
who by their secluded habits, have, more than any people in Europe,
retained the manners of the middle ages.

  [146] _Guillelm de Nang._--_Raynald._

  [147] Histor. Landgrav. _Thuring._ in _Pistor._ Loc. cit. Vol. I.
  p. 948.

  [148] Anonym. _Leobiens_, in _Pez_. Loc. cit.

  [149] _Spangenberg._ In the county of Mark, the Jews were no better
  off than in the rest of Germany. Margrave _Ludwig_, the Roman, even
  countenanced their persecutions, of which _Kehrberg_, Loc. cit.
  241, gives the following official account: Coram cunctis Christi
  fidelibus praesentia percepturis, ego _Johannes_ dictus _de Wedel_
  Advocatus, inclyti Principis Domini, _Ludovici_, Marchionis, publice
  profiteor et recognosco, quod nomine Domini mei civitaten Königsberg
  visitavi et intravi, et ex parte Domini Marchionis Consulibus ejusdem
  civitatis in adjutorium mihi assumtis, _Judaeos inibi morantes igne
  cremavi_, bonaque omnia eorundem Judaeorum ex parte Domini mei
  totaliter usurpavi et assumsi. In cujus testimonum praesentibus meum
  sigillum appendi. Datum A. D. 1351. in Vigilia S. Matthaei Apostoli.

  [150] _Basnage_ Histoire des Juifs. A la Haye, 1716. 8vo. T. IX. Pt.
  II. Liv. IX. ch. 23. §. 12–24. p. 664–679. This valuable work gives
  an interesting account of the state of the Jews of the middle ages.
  Compare _J. M. Jost’s_ History of the Israelites from the time of the
  Maccabees to the present day. T. VII. Berlin, 1827. 8vo. p. 8–262.

But to return to the fearful accusations against the Jews: it was
reported in all Europe, that they were in connection with secret
superiors in Toledo, to whose decrees they were subject, and from
whom they had received commands respecting the coining of base money,
poisoning, the murder of Christian children, &c.;[151] that they
received the poison by sea from remote parts, and also prepared it
themselves from spiders, owls and other venomous animals; but, in order
that their secret might not be discovered, that it was known only to
their Rabbis and rich men.[152] Apparently there were but few who did
not consider this extravagant accusation well founded; indeed, in many
writings of the 14th century, we find great acrimony with regard to
the suspected poison-mixers, which plainly demonstrates the prejudice
existing against them. Unhappily, after the confessions of the first
victims in Switzerland, the rack extorted similar ones in various
places. Some even acknowledged having received poisonous powder in
bags, and injunctions from Toledo, by secret messengers. Bags of
this description, were also often found in wells, though it was not
unfrequently discovered that the Christians themselves had thrown them
in; probably to give occasion to murder and pillage; similar instances
of which may be found in the persecutions of the witches.[153]

  [151] _Albert Argentinens._

  [152] _Hermann. Gygas._ Loc. cit.

  [153] On this subject see _Königshoven_, who has preserved very
  valuable original proceedings. The most important are, the criminal
  examinations of ten Jews, at Chillon, on the Lake of Geneva, held in
  September and October, 1348.--V. Appendix. They produced the most
  strange confessions, and sanctioned, by the false name of justice,
  the blood-thirsty fanaticism which lighted the funeral piles. Copies
  of these proceedings were sent to Bern and Strasburg, where they
  gave rise to the first persecutions against the Jews.--V. also the
  original Document of the offensive and defensive Alliance between
  _Berthold von Götz_, Bishop of Strasburg, and many powerful lords and
  nobles, in favor of the city of Strasburg, against Charles IV. The
  latter saw himself compelled, in consequence, to grant to that city
  an amnesty for the Jewish persecutions, which in our days would be
  deemed disgraceful to an imperial crown. Not to mention many other
  documents, which no less clearly shew the spirit of the 14th century,
  p. 1021. f.

This picture needs no additions. A lively image of the Black Plague,
and of the moral evil which followed in its train, will vividly
represent itself to him who is acquainted with nature and the
constitution of society. Almost the only credible accounts of the
manner of living, and of the ruin which occurred in private life,
during this pestilence, are from Italy; and these may enable us to form
a just estimate of the general state of families in Europe, taking into
consideration what is peculiar in the manners of each country.

“When the evil had become universal,” (speaking of Florence) “the
hearts of all the inhabitants were closed to feelings of humanity.
They fled from the sick and all that belonged to them, hoping by these
means to save themselves. Others shut themselves up in their houses,
with their wives, their children and households, living on the most
costly food, but carefully avoiding all excess. None were allowed
access to them; no intelligence of death or sickness was permitted
to reach their ear; and they spent their time in singing and music,
and other pastimes. Others, on the contrary, considered eating and
drinking to excess, amusements of all descriptions, the indulgence of
every gratification, and an indifference to what was passing around
them, as the best medicine, and acted accordingly. They wandered day
and night, from one tavern to another, and feasted without moderation
or bounds. In this way they endeavoured to avoid all contact with the
sick, and abandoned their houses and property to chance, like men whose
death-knell had already tolled.

Amid this general lamentation and woe, the influence and authority
of every law, human and divine, vanished. Most of those who were in
office, had been carried off by the plague, or lay sick, or had lost
so many members of their families, that they were unable to attend
to their duties; so that thenceforth every one acted as he thought
proper. Others, in their mode of living, chose a middle course.
They ate and drank what they pleased, and walked abroad, carrying
odoriferous flowers, herbs or spices, which they smelt to from time
to time, in order to invigorate the brain, and to avert the baneful
influence of the air, infected by the sick, and by the innumerable
corpses of those who had died of the plague. Others carried their
precaution still further, and thought the surest way to escape death
was by flight. They therefore left the city; women as well men
abandoning their dwellings and their relations, and retiring into the
country. But of these also, many were carried off, most of them alone
and deserted by all the world, themselves having previously set the
example. Thus it was, that one citizen fled from another--a neighbour
from his neighbours--a relation from his relations;--and in the end,
so completely had terror extinguished every kindlier feeling, that
the brother forsook the brother--the sister the sister--the wife her
husband; and at last, even the parent his own offspring, and abandoned
them, unvisited and unsoothed, to their fate. Those, therefore, that
stood in need of assistance fell a prey to greedy attendants; who
for an exorbitant recompence, merely handed the sick their food and
medicine, remained with them in their last moments, and then, not
unfrequently, became themselves victims to their avarice and lived not
to enjoy their extorted gain. Propriety and decorum were extinguished
among the helpless sick. Females of rank seemed to forget their natural
bashfulness, and committed the care of their persons, indiscriminately,
to men and women of the lowest order. No longer were women, relatives
or friends, found in the house of mourning, to share the grief of
the survivors--no longer was the corpse accompanied to the grave by
neighbours and a numerous train of priests, carrying wax tapers and
singing psalms, nor was it borne along by other citizens of equal rank.
Many breathed their last without a friend to sooth their dying pillow;
and few indeed were they who departed amid the lamentations and tears
of their friends and kindred. Instead of sorrow and mourning, appeared
indifference, frivolity and mirth; this being considered, especially
by the females, as conducive to health. Seldom was the body followed
by even ten or twelve attendants; and instead of the usual bearers and
sextons, mercenaries of the lowest of the populace undertook the office
for the sake of gain; and accompanied by only a few priests, and often
without a single taper, it was borne to the very nearest church, and
lowered into the first grave that was not already too full to receive
it. Among the middling classes, and especially among the poor, the
misery was still greater. Poverty or negligence induced most of these
to remain in their dwellings, or in the immediate neighbourhood; and
thus they fell by thousands; and many ended their lives in the streets,
by day and by night. The stench of putrefying corpses was often the
first indication to their neighbours that more deaths had occurred. The
survivors, to preserve themselves from infection, generally had the
bodies taken out of the houses, and laid before the doors; where the
early morn found them in heaps, exposed to the affrighted gaze of the
passing stranger. It was no longer possible to have a bier for every
corpse,--three or four were generally laid together--husband and wife,
father and mother, with two or three children, were frequently borne
to the grave on the same bier; and it often happened that two priests
would accompany a coffin, bearing the cross before it, and be joined on
the way by several other funerals; so that instead of one, there were
five or six bodies for interment.”

Thus far Boccacio. On the conduct of the priests, another contemporary
observes:[154] “In large and small towns, they had withdrawn themselves
through fear, leaving the performance of ecclesiastical duties to the
few who were found courageous and faithful enough to undertake them.”
But we ought not on that account to throw more blame on them than on
others; for we find proofs of the same timidity and heartlessness in
every class. During the prevalence of the Black Plague, the charitable
orders conducted themselves admirably, and did as much good as can be
done by individual bodies, in times of great misery and destruction;
when compassion, courage, and the nobler feelings, are found but in
the few,--while cowardice, selfishness and ill-will, with the baser
passions in their train--assert the supremacy. In place of virtue which
had been driven from the earth, wickedness everywhere reared her
rebellious standard, and succeeding generations were consigned to the
dominion of her baleful tyranny.

  [154] _Guillelm de Nangis._ p. 110.



If we now turn to the medical talent which encountered the “Great
Mortality,” the middle ages must stand excused, since even the
moderns are of opinion that the art of medicine is not able to cope
with the Oriental plague, and can afford deliverance from it only
under particularly favorable circumstances.[155] We must bear in mind
also, that human science and art, appear particularly weak in great
pestilences, because they have to contend with the powers of nature, of
which they have no knowledge; and which, if they had been, or could be
comprehended in their collective effects, would remain uncontrollable
by them, principally on account of the disordered condition of human
society. Moreover, every new plague has its peculiarities, which are
the less easily discovered on first view, because, during its ravages,
fear and consternation humble the proud spirit.

  [155] “Curationem omnem respuit pestis confirmata.”--_Chalin_, p. 33.

The physicians of the 14th century, during the Black Death, did what
human intellect could do in the actual condition of the healing art;
and their knowledge of the disease was by no means despicable. They,
like the rest of mankind, have indulged in prejudices, and defended
them, perhaps, with too much obstinacy: some of these, however, were
founded in the mode of thinking of the age, and passed current in those
days, as established truths: others continue to exist to the present

Their successors in the 19th century, ought not therefore to vaunt
too highly the pre-eminence of their knowledge, for they too will be
subjected to the severe judgment of posterity--they too, will, with
reason, be accused of human weakness and want of foresight.

The medical faculty of Paris, the most celebrated of the 14th century,
were commissioned to deliver their opinion on the causes of the Black
Plague, together with some appropriate regulations with regard to
living, during its prevalence. This document is sufficiently remarkable
to find a place here.

“We, the Members of the College of Physicians, of Paris, have, after
mature consideration and consultation on the present mortality,
collected the advice of our old masters in the art, and intend to make
known the causes of this pestilence, more clearly than could be done
according to the rules and principles of astrology and natural science;
we, therefore, declare as follows:--

“It is known that in India, and the vicinity of the Great Sea, the
constellations which combated the rays of the sun, and the warmth of
the heavenly fire, exerted their power especially against that sea, and
struggled violently with its waters. Hence, vapours often originate
which envelope the sun, and convert his light into darkness. These
vapours alternately rose and fell for twenty-eight days; but at last,
sun and fire acted so powerfully upon the sea, that they attracted a
great portion of it to themselves, and the waters of the ocean arose
in the form of vapour; thereby the waters were in some parts, so
corrupted, that the fish which they contained, died. These corrupted
waters, however, the heat of the sun could not consume, neither could
other wholesome water, hail or snow, and dew, originate therefrom. On
the contrary, this vapour spread itself through the air in many places
on the earth, and enveloped them in fog.

“Such was the case all over Arabia, in a part of India; in Crete; in
the plains and valleys of Macedonia; in Hungary; Albania and Sicily.
Should the same thing occur in Sardinia, not a man will be left alive;
and the like will continue, so long as the sun remains in the sign
of Leo, on all the islands and adjoining countries to which this
corrupted sea-wind extends, or has already extended from India. If the
inhabitants of those parts do not employ and adhere to the following,
or similar means and precepts, we announce to them inevitable
death--except the grace of Christ preserve their lives.

“We are of opinion, that the constellations, with the aid of Nature,
strive, by virtue of their divine might, to protect and heal the human
race; and to this end, in union with the rays of the sun, acting
through the power of fire, endeavour to break through the mist.
Accordingly, within the next ten days, and until the 17th of the
ensuing month of July, this mist will be converted into a stinking
deleterious rain, whereby the air will be much purified. Now, as soon
as this rain announces itself, by thunder or hail, every one of you
should protect himself from the air; and, as well before as after the
rain, kindle a large fire of vine-wood, green laurel, or other green
wood; wormwood and chamomile should also be burnt in great quantity in
the market places, in other densely inhabited localities, and in the
houses. Until the earth is again completely dry, and for three days
afterwards, no one ought to go abroad in the fields. During this time
the diet should be simple, and people should be cautious in avoiding
exposure in the cool of the evening, at night, and in the morning.
Poultry and water-fowl, young pork, old beef, and fat meat, in general,
should not be eaten; but on the contrary, meat of a proper age, of
a warm and dry nature, by no means, however, heating and exciting.
Broth should be taken, seasoned with ground pepper, ginger and cloves,
especially by those who are accustomed to live temperately, and
are yet choice in their diet. Sleep in the day-time is detrimental;
it should be taken at night until sun-rise, or somewhat longer. At
breakfast, one should drink little; supper should be taken an hour
before sun-set, when more may be drunk than in the morning. Clear
light wine, mixed with a fifth or sixth part of water, should be used
as a beverage. Dried or fresh fruits with wine are not injurious; but
highly so without it. Beet-root and other vegetables, whether eaten
pickled or fresh, are hurtful; on the contrary, spicy pot-herbs, as
sage or rosemary, are wholesome. Cold, moist, watery food is, in
general, prejudicial. Going out at night, and even until three o’clock
in the morning, is dangerous, on account of the dew. Only small
river fish should be used. Too much exercise is hurtful. The body
should be kept warmer than usual, and thus protected from moisture
and cold. Rain-water must not be employed in cooking, and every one
should guard against exposure to wet weather. If it rain, a little
fine treacle should be taken after dinner. Fat people should not sit
in the sunshine. Good clear wine should be selected and drunk often,
but in small quantities, by day. Olive oil, as an article of food,
is fatal. Equally injurious are fasting or excessive abstemiousness,
anxiety of mind, anger, and excessive drinking. Young people, in autumn
especially, must abstain from all these things, if they do not wish to
run a risk of dying of dysentery. In order to keep the body properly
open, an enema, or some other simple means, should be employed, when
necessary. Bathing is injurious. Men must preserve chastity as they
value their lives. Every one should impress this on his recollection,
but especially those who reside on the coast, or upon an island into
which the noxious wind has penetrated.”[156]

  [156] _Jacob._ _Francischini de Ambrosiis._ In the Appendix to the
  Istorie Pistolesi. _Muratori_, Tom. XI. p. 528.

On what occasion these strange precepts were delivered can no longer
be ascertained, even if it were an object to know it. It must be
acknowledged, however, that they do not redound to the credit either
of the faculty of Paris, or of the 14th century in general. This
famous faculty found themselves under the painful necessity of being
wise at command, and of firing a point blank shot of erudition at an
enemy who enveloped himself in a dark mist, of the nature of which
they had no conception. In concealing their ignorance by authoritative
assertions, they suffered themselves, therefore, to be misled; and
while endeavouring to appear to the world with eclat, only betrayed to
the intelligent their lamentable weakness. Now some might suppose, that
in the condition of the sciences in the 14th century, no intelligent
physicians existed; but this is altogether at variance with the laws
of human advancement, and is contradicted by history. The real
knowledge of an age, is only shown in the archives of its literature.
Men of talent here alone deposit the results of their experience and
reflection, without vanity or a selfish object:--here alone the genius
of truth speaks audibly. There is no ground for believing that, in the
14th century, men of this kind were publicly questioned regarding their
views; and it is, therefore, the more necessary that impartial history
should take up their cause and do justice to their merits.

The first notice on this subject is due to a very celebrated teacher
in Perugia, Gentilis of Foligno, who, on the 18th of June, 1348,
fell a sacrifice to the plague, in the faithful discharge of his
duty.[157] Attached to Arabian doctrines, and to the universally
respected Galen, he, in common with all his contemporaries, believed
in a putrid corruption of the blood in the lungs and in the heart,
which was occasioned by the pestilential atmosphere, and was forthwith
communicated to the whole body. He thought, therefore, that everything
depended upon a sufficient purification of the air, by means of large
blazing fires of odoriferous wood, in the vicinity of the healthy, as
well as of the sick, and also upon an appropriate manner of living;
so that the putridity might not overpower the diseased. In conformity
with notions derived from the ancients, he depended upon bleeding
and purging, at the commencement of the attack, for the purpose of
purification; ordered the healthy to wash themselves frequently with
vinegar or wine, to sprinkle their dwellings with vinegar, and to
smell often to camphor, or other volatile substances. Hereupon he
gave, after the Arabian fashion, detailed rules, with an abundance of
different medicines, of whose healing powers wonderful things were
believed. He laid little stress upon super-lunar influences, so far as
respected the malady itself; on which account, he did not enter into
the great controversies of the astrologers, but always kept in view,
as an object of medical attention, the corruption of the blood in the
lungs and heart. He believed in a progressive infection from country
to country, according to the notions of the present day; and the
contagious power of the disease, even in the vicinity of those affected
by plague, was, in his opinion, beyond all doubt.[158] On this point,
intelligent contemporaries were all agreed; and in truth, it required
no great genius to be convinced of so palpable a fact. Besides,
correct notions of contagion have descended from remote antiquity, and
were maintained unchanged in the 14th century.[159] So far back as
the age of Plato, a knowledge of the contagious power of malignant
inflammations of the eye, of which also no physician of the middle ages
entertained a doubt,[160] was general among the people;[161] yet, in
modern times, surgeons have filled volumes with partial controversies
on this subject. The whole language of antiquity has adapted itself to
the notions of the people, respecting the contagion of pestilential
diseases; and their terms were, beyond comparison, more expressive than
those in use among the moderns.[162]

  [157] _Gentilis de Fulgineo_, Consilia. De Peste cons. I. II. fol.
  76. 77. Venet. 1514. fol.

  [158] “Venenosa putredo circa partes cordis et pulmonis de quibus
  exeunte venenoso vapore, periculum est in vicinitatibus.” Cons. I.
  fol. 76, a.

  [159] _Dr. Maclean’s_ notion that the doctrine of contagion was first
  promulgated in the year 1547, by Pope Paul III. &c., thus falls to
  the ground, together with all the arguments founded on it.--See
  _Maclean_ on Epid. and Pestilent. Diseases, 8vo. 1817, Pt. II. Book
  II. ch. 3. 4.--_Transl. note._

  [160] Lippitudo contagione spectantium oculos afficit.--_Chalin de
  Vinario_, p. 149.

  [161] See the Author’s Geschichte der Heilkunde, Vol. II. P. III.

  [162] Compare _Marx_, Origines contagii. Caroliruh. et Bad. 1824. 8.

Arrangements for the protection of the healthy against contagious
diseases, the necessity of which is shewn from these notions, were
regarded by the ancients as useful; and by many, whose circumstances
permitted it, were carried into effect in their houses. Even a total
separation of the sick from the healthy, that indispensable means of
protection against infection by contact, was proposed by physicians
of the 2nd century after Christ, in order to check the spreading of
leprosy. But it was decidedly opposed, because, as it was alleged,
the healing art ought not to be guilty of such harshness.[163] This
mildness of the ancients, in whose manner of thinking inhumanity was
so often and so undisguisedly conspicuous, might excite surprise, if
it were anything more than apparent. The true ground of the neglect of
public protection against pestilential diseases, lay in the general
notion and constitution of human society,--it lay in the disregard of
human life, of which the great nations of antiquity have given proofs
in every page of their history. Let it not be supposed that they wanted
knowledge respecting the propagation of contagious diseases. On the
contrary, they were as well informed on this subject as the moderns;
but this was shewn where individual property, not where human life,
on the grand scale, was to be protected. Hence the ancients made a
general practice of arresting the progress of murrains among cattle,
by a separation of the diseased from the healthy. Their herds alone
enjoyed that protection which they held it impracticable to extend
to human society, because they had no wish to do so.[164] That the
governments in the 14th century, were not yet so far advanced, as
to put into practice general regulations for checking the plague,
needs no especial proof. Physicians could, therefore, only advise
public purifications of the air by means of large fires, as had often
been practised in ancient times; and they were obliged to leave it
to individual families, either to seek safety in flight, or to shut
themselves up in their dwellings,[165] a method which answers in common
plagues, but which here afforded no complete security, because such was
the fury of the disease when it was at its height, that the atmosphere
of whole cities was penetrated by the infection.

  [163] _Cael. Aurelian._ Chron. L. IV. c. l. p. 497. _Ed. Amman._ “Sed
  hi ægrotantem destituendum magis imperant, quam curandum, quod a se
  alienum humanitas approbat medicinæ.”

  [164] _Geschichte der Heilkunde_, Vol. II. p. 248.

  [165] _Chalin_ assures us expressly, that many nunneries, by closing
  their gates, remained free from the contagion. It is worthy of
  note, and quite in conformity with the prevailing notions, that the
  continuance in a thick, moist atmosphere, was generally esteemed
  more advantageous and conservative, on account of its being more
  impenetrable to the astral influence, inasmuch as the inferior cause
  kept off the superior.--_Chalin_, p. 48.

Of the astral influence which was considered to have originated the
“Great Mortality,” physicians and learned men were as completely
convinced as of the fact of its reality. A grand conjunction of the
three superior planets, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, in the sign of
Aquarius, which took place according to Guy de Chauliac, on the 24th
of March, 1345, was generally received as its principal cause. In
fixing the day, this physician, who was deeply versed in astrology,
did not agree with others; whereupon there arose various disputations,
of weight in that age, but of none in ours; people, however, agreed
in this--that conjunctions of the planets infallibly prognosticated
great events; great revolutions of kingdoms, new prophets, destructive
plagues, and other occurrences which bring distress and horror on
mankind. No medical author of the 14th and 15th century, omits an
opportunity of representing them as among the general prognostics of
great plagues; nor can we, for our parts, regard the astrology of
the middle ages, as a mere offspring of superstition. It has not
only, in common with all ideas which inspire and guide mankind, a
high historical importance, entirely independent of its error or
truth--for the influence of both is equally powerful--but there are
also contained in it, as in alchymy, grand thoughts of antiquity, of
which modern natural philosophy is so little ashamed that she claims
them as her property. Foremost among these, is the idea of the general
life which diffuses itself throughout the whole universe, expressed by
the greatest Greek sages, and transmitted to the middle ages, through
the new Platonic natural philosophy. To this impression of an universal
organism, the assumption of a reciprocal influence of terrestrial
bodies could not be foreign,[166] nor did this cease to correspond with
a higher view of nature, until astrologers overstepped the limits of
human knowledge with frivolous and mystical calculations.

  [166] This was called _Affluxus_, or _Forma specifica_, and was
  compared to the effect of a magnet on iron, and of amber on
  chaff.--_Chalin de Vinario_, p. 23.

Guy de Chauliac, considers the influence of the conjunction, which was
held to be all-potent, as the chief general cause of the Black Plague;
the diseased state of bodies, the corruption of the fluids, debility,
obstruction, and so forth, as the especial subordinate causes.[167]
By these, according to his opinion, the quality of the air, and of
the other elements, was so altered, that they set poisonous fluids
in motion towards the inward parts of the body, in the same manner
as the magnet attracts iron; whence there arose in the commencement
fever and the spitting of blood; afterwards, however, a deposition
in the form of glandular swellings and inflammatory boils. Herein
the notion of an epidemic constitution was set forth, clearly and
conformably, to the spirit of the age. Of contagion, Guy de Chauliac
was completely convinced. He sought to protect himself against it by
the usual means;[168] and it was probably he who advised Pope Clement
VI. to shut himself up while the plague lasted. The preservation of
this pope’s life, however, was most beneficial to the city of Avignon,
for he loaded the poor with judicious acts of kindness,--took care to
have proper attendants provided, and paid physicians himself to afford
assistance wherever human aid could avail; an advantage which, perhaps,
no other city enjoyed.[169] Nor was the treatment of plague patients
in Avignon by any means objectionable; for, after the usual depletions
by bleeding and aperients, where circumstances required them, they
endeavoured to bring the buboes to suppuration; they made incisions
into the inflammatory boils, or burned them with a red-hot iron, a
practice which at all times proves salutary, and in the Black Plague
saved many lives. In this city, the Jews, who lived in a state of the
greatest filth, were most severely visited, as also the Spaniards, whom
Chalin accuses of great intemperance.[170]

  [167] Causa universalis agens--causa particularis patiens. To this
  correspond, in _Chalin_, the expressions Causa superior et inferior.

  [168] Purging with alöetic pills; bleeding; purification of the air
  by means of large fires; the use of treacle; frequent smelling to
  volatile substances, of which certain “poma,” were prepared; the
  internal use of Armenian bole,--a plague-remedy derived from the
  Arabians, and, throughout the middle ages, much in vogue, and very
  improperly used; and the employment of acescent food, in order to
  resist putridity. _Guy de Chauliac_ appears to have recommended
  flight to many. Loc. citat. p. 115. Compare _Chalin_, L. II. who
  gives most excellent precepts on this subject.

  [169] _Auger. de Biterris._ Loc. cit.

  [170] L. I. c. 4. p. 39.

Still more distinct notions on the causes of the plague were stated to
his contemporaries in the 14th century, by Galeazzo di Santa Sofia, a
learned man, a native of Padua, who likewise treated plague-patients
at Vienna,[171] though in what year is undetermined. He distinguishes
carefully _pestilence_ from _epidemie_ and _endemie_. The common
notion of the two first accords exactly with that of an epidemic
constitution, for both consist, according to him, in an unknown change
or corruption of the air; with this difference, that _pestilence_
calls forth diseases of different kinds; _epidemie_, on the contrary,
always the same disease. As an example of an _epidemie_, he adduces
a cough (influenza) which was observed in all climates at the same
time, without perceptible cause; but he recognized the approach
of a _pestilence_, independently of unusual natural phenomena, by
the more frequent occurrence of various kinds of fever, to which
the modern physicians would assign a nervous and putrid character.
The _endemie_ originates, according to him, only in local telluric
changes--in deleterious influences which develope themselves in the
earth and in the water, without a corruption of the air. These notions
were variously jumbled together in his time, like everything which
human understanding separates by too fine a line of limitation.
The estimation of cosmical influences, however, in the _epidemie_
and _pestilence_, is well worthy of commendation; and Santa Sofia,
in this respect, not only agrees with the most intelligent persons
of the 14th and 15th centuries, but he has also promulgated an
opinion which must, even now, serve as a foundation for our scarcely
commenced investigations into cosmical influences.[172] _Pestilence_
and _epidemie_, consist, not in alterations of the four primary
qualities,[173] but in a corruption of the air, powerful, though quite
immaterial, and not cognoscible by the senses: (corruptio aëris non
substantialis, sed qualitativa) in a disproportion of the imponderables
in the atmosphere, as it would be expressed by the moderns.[174] The
causes of the _pestilence_ and _epidemie_ are, first of all, astral
influences, especially on occasion of planetary conjunctions; then
extensive putrefaction of animal and vegetable bodies, and terrestrial
corruptions (corruptio in terra); to which also, bad diet and want may
contribute. Santa Sofia considers the putrefaction of locusts, that had
perished in the sea, and were again thrown up, combined with astral and
terrestrial influences, as the cause of the pestilence in the eventful
year of the “Great Mortality.”

  [171] Fol. 32. a. a. O.

  [172] _Galeacii de Sancta Sophia_, Liber de Febribus. Venet. 1514,
  fol. (Printed together with _Guilelmus Brixiensis_, _Marsilius de
  Sancta Sophia_, _Ricardus Parisiensis_. fol. 29. seq.)

  [173] Warmth, cold, dryness and moisture.

  [174] The talented _Chalin_ entertains the same conviction, “Obscurum
  interdum esse vitium aëris, sub pestis initia et menses primos, hoc
  est argumento: _quod cum nec odore tetro gravis, nec turpi colore
  fœdatus fuerit, sed purus, tenuis, frigidus, qualis in montosis et
  asperis locis esse solet, et tranquillus, vehementissima sit tamen
  pestilentia infestaque_, etc.” p. 28. The most recent observers of
  malaria have stated nothing more than this.

All the fevers which were called forth by the _pestilence_, are,
according to him, of the putrid kind; for they originate principally
from putridity of the heart’s blood, which inevitably follows the
inhalation of infected air. The Oriental Plague is, sometimes, but by
no means always, occasioned by _pestilence_ (?), which imparts to it
a character (qualitas occulta) hostile to human nature. It originates
frequently from other causes, among which, this physician was aware
that contagion was to be reckoned; and it deserves to be remarked, that
he held epidemic small-pox and measles to be infallible forerunners of
the plague, as do the physicians and people of the East[175] at the
present day.

  [175] Compare _Enr. di Wolmar_, Abhandlung über die Pest. Berlin,
  1827. 8vo.

In the exposition of his therapeutical views of the plague, a clearness
of intellect is again shewn by Santa Sofia, which reflects credit on
the age. It seemed to him to depend, 1st, on an evacuation of putrid
matters, by purgatives and bleeding: yet he did not sanction the
employment of these means indiscriminately, and without consideration;
least of all where the condition of the blood was healthy. He also
declared himself decidedly against bleeding ad deliquium (venæ sectio
eradicativa). 2d, Strengthening of the heart and prevention of
putrescence. 3d, Appropriate regimen. 4th, Improvement of the air.
5th, Appropriate treatment of tumid glands and inflammatory boils,
with emollient, or even stimulating poultices (mustard, lily-bulbs),
as well as with red-hot gold and iron. Lastly, 6th, Attention to
prominent symptoms. The stores of the Arabian pharmacy, which he
brought into action to meet all these indications, were indeed very
considerable; it is to be observed, however, that, for the most part,
gentle means were accumulated, which in case of abuse, would do no
harm; for the character of the Arabian system of medicine, whose
principles were everywhere followed at this time, was mildness and
caution. On this account too, we cannot believe that a very prolix
treatise by Marsigli di Santa Sofia,[176] a contemporary relative of
Galeazzo, on the prevention and treatment of plague, can have caused
much harm, although, perhaps, even in the 14th century, an agreeable
latitude and confident assertions respecting things which no mortal
has investigated, or which it is quite a matter of indifference to
distinguish, were considered as proofs of a valuable practical talent.

  [176] Tractatus de Febribus, fol. 48.

The agreement of contemporary and later writers, shews that the
published views of the most celebrated physicians of the 14th century,
were those generally adopted. Among these, Chalin de Vinario is
the most experienced. Though devoted to astrology, still more than
his distinguished contemporary, he acknowledges the great power of
terrestrial influences, and expresses himself very sensibly on the
indisputable doctrine of contagion, endeavouring thereby to apologize
for many surgeons and physicians of his time, who neglected their
duty.[177] He asserted boldly, and with truth, “_that all epidemic
diseases might become contagious,[178] and all fevers epidemic_,”
which attentive observers of all subsequent ages have confirmed.

  [177] De Peste Liber, pura latinitate donatus a _Jacobo Dalechampio_,
  Lugdun. 1552. 16. p. 40. 188. “Longe tamen plurimi congressu eorum
  qui fuerunt in locis pestilentibus periclitantur et gravissime,
  quoniam e causa duplici, nempe et aëris vitio, et eorum qui versantur
  nobiscum, vitio. _Hoc itaque modo fit, ut unius accessu in totam modo
  familiam, modo civitatem, modo villam, pestis invehatur._” Compare
  p. 20, “Solæ privatorum aedes pestem sentiunt, _si adeat qui in
  pestilenti loco versatus est_.”--“Nobis proximi ipsi sumus, nemoque
  est tanta occœcatus amentia, qui de sua salute potius quam aliorum
  sollicitus non sit, maxime in contagione tam cita et rapida.” Rather
  a loose principle, which might greatly encourage low sentiments, and
  much endanger the honor of the medical profession, but which, in
  _Chalin_, who was aware of the impossibility of avoiding contagion in
  uncleanly dwellings, is so far excusable, that he did not apply it to

  [178] Morbos omnes pestilentes contagiosos, audacter ego equidem
  pronuntio et assevero, p. 149.

He delivered his sentiments on blood-letting with sagacity, as an
experienced physician; yet he was unable, as may be imagined, to
moderate the desire for bleeding shewn by the ignorant monks. He was
averse to draw blood from the veins of patients under fourteen years
of age; but counteracted inflammatory excitement in them by cupping;
and endeavoured to moderate the inflammation of the tumid glands by
leeches.[179] Most of those who were bled, died; he therefore reserved
this remedy for the plethoric; especially for the papal courtiers,
and the hypocritical priests, whom he saw gratifying their sensual
desires, and imitating Epicurus, whilst they pompously pretended to
follow Christ.[180] He recommended burning the boils with a red-hot
iron, only in the plague without fever, which occurred in single
cases;[181] and was always ready to correct those over-hasty surgeons,
who, with fire and violent remedies, did irremediable injury to their
patients,[182] Michael Savonarola, professor in Ferrara (1462),
reasoning on the susceptibility of the human frame to the influence of
pestilential infection, as the cause of such various modifications of
disease, expresses himself as a modern physician would on this point;
and an adoption of the principle of contagion, was the foundation of
his definition of the plague.[183] No less worthy of observation are
the views of the celebrated Valescus of Taranta, who, during the final
visitation of the Black Death, in 1382, practised as a physician at
Montpellier, and handed down to posterity what has been repeated in
innumerable treatises on plague, which were written during the 15th and
16th centuries.[184]

  [179] Vide preceding note, p. 162. 163.

  [180] Ibid. p. 97. 166. “Qualis (vita) esse solet eorum, qui
  sacerdotiorum et cultus divini prætextu, genio plus satis indulgent
  et obsequuntur, ac Christum speciosis titulis ementientes, Epicurum
  imitantur.” Certainly a remarkable freedom of sentiment for the 14th

  [181] Ibid. p. 183. 151.

  [182] Ibid. p. 159. 189.

  [183] Canonica de Febribus, ad Raynerium Siculum, 1487, s. l.,
  cap. 10, sine pag. “Febris pestilentialis est febris contagiosa ex
  ebullitione putrefactiva in altero quatuor humorum cordi propinquorum

  [184] _Valesci de Tharanta_, Philonium. Lugdani, 1535. 8. L. VII.,
  c. 18., fol. 401., b. seq.--Compare _Astruc_, Mémoires pour servir à
  l’Histoire de la Faculté de Médicine de Montpellier, Paris, 1767. 4.
  p. 208.

Of all these notions and views regarding the plague, whose development
we have represented, there are two especially, which are prominent in
historical importance:--1st, The opinion of learned physicians, that
the _pestilence_, or epidemic constitution, is the _parent of various
kinds of disease_; that the plague sometimes, indeed, but by no means
always, originates from it: that, to speak in the language of the
moderns, _the pestilence_ bears the same relation to contagion, that a
predisposing cause does to an occasional cause: and 2dly, the universal
conviction of the contagious power of that disease.

Contagion gradually attracted more notice: it was thought that in it,
the most powerful occasional cause might be avoided; the possibility of
protecting whole cities by separation, became gradually more evident;
and so horrifying was the recollection of the eventful year of the
“_Great Mortality_,” that before the close of the 14th century, ere
the ill effects of the Black Plague had ceased, nations endeavoured to
guard against the return of this enemy, by an earnest and effectual

The first regulation which was issued for this purpose, originated
with Viscount Bernabo, and is dated the 17th Jan. 1374. “Every plague
patient was to be taken out of the city into the fields, there to
die or to recover. Those who attended upon a plague patient, were
to remain apart for ten days, before they again associated with any
body. The priests were to examine the diseased, and point out to
special commissioners, the persons infected; under punishment of
the confiscation of their goods, and of being burned alive. Whoever
imported the plague, the state condemned his goods to confiscation.
Finally, none except those who were appointed for that purpose, were to
attend plague-patients, under penalty of death and confiscation.[185]

  [185] Chronicon Regiense, _Muratori_, Tom. XVIII. p. 82.

These orders, in correspondence with the spirit of the 14th century,
are sufficiently decided to indicate a recollection of the good effects
of confinement, and of keeping at a distance those suspected of having
plague. It was said that Milan itself, by a rigorous barricado of
three houses in which the plague had broken out, maintained itself
free from the “_Great Mortality_,” for a considerable time;[186] and
examples of the preservation of individual families, by means of a
strict separation, were certainly very frequent. That these orders must
have caused universal affliction from their uncommon severity, as we
know to have been especially the case in the city of Reggio, may be
easily conceived; but Bernabo did not suffer himself to be frightened
from his purpose--on the contrary, when the plague returned in the
year 1383, he forbad the admission of people from infected places into
his territories, on pain of death.[187] We have now, it is true, no
account how far he succeeded; yet it is to be supposed that he arrested
the disease, for it had long lost the property of the Black Death, to
spread abroad in the air the contagious matter which proceeded from the
lungs, charged with putridity, and to taint the atmosphere of whole
cities by the vast numbers of the sick. Now that it had resumed its
milder form, so that it infected only by contact, it admitted being
confined within individual dwellings, as easily as in modern times.

  [186] _Adr. Chenot_, Hinterlassene Abhandlungen über die ärztlichen
  und politischen Anstalten bei der Pestseuche, Wien, 1798, 8vo.
  p. 146. From this period it was common in the middle ages to
  barricade the doors and windows of houses infected with plague, and
  to suffer the inhabitants to perish without mercy.--_S. Möhsen_, Loc.

  [187] Chron. Reg. Loc. cit.

Bernabo’s example was imitated; nor was there any century more
appropriate for recommending to governments strong regulations against
the plague, than the 14th; for when it broke out in Italy, in the year
1399, and still demanded new victims, it was for the 16th time; without
reckoning frequent visitations of measles and small-pox. In this same
year, Viscount John, in milder terms than his predecessor, ordered that
no stranger should be admitted from infected places, and that the city
gates should be strictly guarded. Infected houses were to be ventilated
for at least eight or ten days, and purified from noxious vapours
by fires, and by fumigations with balsamic and aromatic substances.
Straw, rags, and the like, were to be burned; and the bedsteads which
had been used, set out for four days in the rain or the sunshine, so
that, by means of the one or the other, the morbific vapour might be
destroyed. No one was to venture to make use of clothes or beds out of
infected dwellings, unless they had been previously washed and dried
either at the fire or in the sun. People were, likewise, to avoid,
as long as possible, occupying houses which had been frequented by

  [188] _Muratori_, Tom. XVI., p.560.--Compare _Chenot_, loc. cit.
  p. 146.

We cannot precisely perceive in these an advance towards general
regulations; and perhaps people were convinced of the insurmountable
impediments which opposed the separation of open inland countries,
where bodies of people connected together could not be brought, even
by the most obdurate severity, to renounce the habit of a profitable

Doubtless it is Nature which has done the most to banish the Oriental
plague from western Europe, where the increasing cultivation of the
earth, and the advancing order in civilized society, prevented it from
remaining domesticated; which it most probably had been in the more
ancient times.

In the fifteenth century, during which it broke out seventeen times
in different places in Europe[189], it was of the more consequence
to oppose a barrier to its entrance from Asia, Africa, and Greece
(which had become Turkish); for it would have been difficult for
it to maintain itself indigenously any longer. Among the southern
commercial states, however, which were called on to make the greatest
exertions to this end, it was principally Venice, formerly so severely
attacked by the black plague, that put the necessary restraint upon
the perilous profits of the merchant. Until towards the end of the
fifteenth century, the very considerable intercourse with the East was
free and unimpeded. Ships of commercial cities had often brought over
the plague: nay, the former irruption of the _great mortality_ itself
had been occasioned by navigators. For, as in the latter end of Autumn,
1347, four ships full of plague-patients returned from the Levant to
Genoa, the disease spread itself there with astonishing rapidity. On
this account, in the following year, the Genoese forbid the entrance of
suspected ships into their port. These sailed to Pisa and other cities
on the coast, where already Nature had made such mighty preparations
for the reception of the Black Plague, and what we have already
described took place in consequence.[190]

  [189] _Papon_, loc. cit.

  [190] _Chenot_, p. 145.

In the year 1485, when, among the cities of northern Italy, Milan
especially felt the scourge of the plague, a special council of health,
consisting of three nobles, was established at Venice, who probably
tried every thing in their power to prevent the entrance of this
disease, and gradually called into activity all those regulations
which have served in later times as a pattern for the other southern
states of Europe. Their endeavours were, however, not crowned with
complete success; on which account their powers were increased, in the
year 1504, by granting them the right of life and death over those who
violated the regulations.[191] Bills of health were probably first
introduced in the year 1527, during a fatal plague[192] which visited
Italy for five years (1525–30), and called forth redoubled caution.

  [191] _Le Bret_, Staatsgeschichte der Republik Venedig. Riga, 1775.
  4, Part II., Div. 2, p. 752.

  [192] _Zagata_, Cronica di Verona, 1744. 4, III., p.93.

The first lazarettos were established upon islands at some distance
from the city, seemingly as early as the year 1485. Here all strangers
coming from places where the existence of plague was suspected were
detained. If it appeared in the city itself, the sick were despatched
with their families to what was called the Old Lazaretto, were there
furnished with provisions and medicines, and, when they were cured,
were detained, together with all those who had had intercourse with
them, still forty days longer in the New Lazaretto, situated on another
island. All these regulations were every year improved, and their
needful rigour was increased, so that from the year 1585 onwards no
appeal was allowed from the sentence of the Council of Health; and
the other commercial nations gradually came to the support of the
Venetians, by adopting corresponding regulations.[193] Bills of health,
however, were not general until the year 1665.[194]

  [193] _Le Bret_, loc. cit. Compare Hamburger Remarquen of the year
  1700, p. 282 and 305.

  [194] Göttinger gelehrte Anzeigen, 1772, p. 22.

The appointment of a forty days’ detention, whence quarantines derive
their name, was not dictated by caprice, but probably had a medical
origin, which is derivable in part from the doctrine of critical
days; for the fortieth day, according to the most ancient notions,
has been always regarded as the last of ardent diseases, and the
limit of separation between these and those which are chronic. It was
the custom to subject lying-in women for forty days to a more exact
superintendance. There was a good deal also said in medical works of
forty day epochs in the formation of the fœtus, not to mention that
the alchymists expected more durable revolutions in forty days, which
period they called the philosophical month.

This period being generally held to prevail in natural processes, it
appeared reasonable to assume and legally to establish it as that
required for the development of latent principles of contagion, since
public regulations cannot dispense with decisions of this kind, even
though they should not be wholly justified by the nature of the case.
Great stress has likewise been laid on theological and legal grounds
which were certainly of greater weight in the fifteenth century than
in more modern times.[195]

  [195] The forty days’ duration of the Flood, the forty days’
  sojourn of Moses on Mount Sinai, our Saviour’s fast for the same
  length of time in the wilderness; lastly, what is called the Saxon
  term (Sächsische Frist,) which lasts for forty days, &c. Compare
  _G. W. Wedel_. Centuria Exercitationum Medico-philologicarum. _De
  Quadragesima Medica._ Jenae, 1701. 4, Dec. IV., p. 16.

On this matter, however, we cannot decide, since our only object here
is to point out the origin of a political means of protection against a
disease, which has been the greatest impediment to civilization within
the memory of man; a means, that, like Jenner’s vaccine after the
small-pox had ravaged Europe for twelve hundred years, has diminished
the check which mortality puts on the progress of civilization, and
thus given to the life and manners of the nations of this part of the
world a new direction, the result of which we cannot foretel.



Das alte Geisslerlied


    Sve siner sele wille pleghen
    De sal gelden unde weder geuen
    So wert siner sele raed
    Des help uns leue herre goed
      Nu tredet here we botsen wille             5
    Vle wi io de hetsen helle
    Lucifer is en bose geselle
    Sven her hauet
    Mit peke he en lauet
    Datz vle wi ef wir hauen sin                10
    Des help uns maria koninghin
    Das wir dines kindes hulde win
      Jesus crist de wart ge vanghen
    An en cruce wart he ge hanghen
    Dat cruce wart des blodes rod               15
    Wer klaghen sin marter unde sin dod
    Sunder war mide wilt tu mi lonen
    Dre negele unde en dornet crone
    Das cruce vrone en sper en stich
    Sunder datz leyd ich dor dich               20
    Was wltu nu liden dor mich
    So rope wir herre mit luden done
    Unsen denst den nem to lone
    Be hode uns vor der helle nod
    Des bidde wi dich dor dinen dod             25
    Dor god vor gete wi unse blot
    Dat is uns tho den suden guot
      Maria muoter koninginghe
    Dor dines leuen kindes minne
    Al unse nod si dir ghe klaghet              30
    Des help uns moter maghet reyne.
    De erde beuet och kleuen de steyne
    Lebe hertze du salt weyne
    Wir wenen trene mit den oghen
    Unde hebben des so guden louen              35
    Mit unsen sinnen unde mit hertzen
    Dor uns leyd crist vil manighen smertzen
      Nu slaed w sere
    Dor cristus ere.
    Dor god nu latet de sunde mere              40
    Dor god nu latet de sunde varen
    Se wil sich god ouer uns en barmen
      Maria stund in grotzen noden
    Do se ire leue kint sa doden
    En svert dor ire sele snet                  45
    Sunder dat la di wesen led
      In korter vrist
    God tornich ist
    Jesus wart gelauet mid gallen
    Des sole wi an en cruce vallen              50
    Er heuet uch mit uwen armen
    Dat sic god ouer uns en barme
    Jesus dorch dine namen dry
    Nu make uns hir van sunde vry
    Jesus dor dine wnden rod                    55
    Be hod uns vor den gehen dod
    Dat he sende sinen geist
    Und uns dat kortelike leist
      De vrowe unde man ir e tobreken
    Dat wil god selven an en wreken             60
    Sveuel pik und och de galle
    Dat gutet de duuel in se alle
    Vor war sint se des duuels spot
    Dor vor behode uns herre god
    De e de ist en reyne leuen                  65
    De had uns god selven gheuen
      Ich rade uch vrowen unde mannen
    Dor god gy solen houard annen
    Des biddet uch de arme sele
    Dorch god nu latet houard mere              70
    Dor god nu latet houard varen
    So wil sich god ouer uns en barmen
      Cristus rep in hemelrike
    Sinen engelen al gelike
    De cristenheit wil mi ent wichen            75
    Des wil lan och se vor gaen
    Maria bat ire kint so sere
    Lene kint la se di boten
    Dat wil ich sceppen dat se moten
    Bekeren sich.                               80
    Des bidde ich dich
      Gi logenere
    Gy meynen ed sverer
    Gi bichten reyne und lan de sunde uch ruwen
    So wil sich god in uch vor nuwen            85
    Owe du arme wokerere
    Du bringest en lod up en punt
    Dat senket din an der helle grunt
      Ir morder und ir straten rouere
    Ir sint dem leuen gode un mere              90
    Ir ne wilt uch ouer nemende barmen
    Des sin gy eweliken vor loren
      Were dusse bote nicht ge worden
    De cristenheit wer gar vorsunden
    De leyde duuel had se ge bunden             95
    Maria had lost unsen bant
      Sunder ich saghe di leue mere
    Sunte peter is portenere
    Wende dich an en he letset dich in
    He bringhet dich vor de koninghin          100
      Leue herre sunte Michahel
    Du bist en plegher aller sel
    Be hode uns vor der helle nod
    Dat do dor dines sceppers dod

The Ancient Song of the Flagellants



    Whoe’er to save his soul is fain,
    Must pay and render back again.
    His safety so shall he consult:
    Help us, good Lord, to this result.
    Ye that repent your crimes, draw nigh.       5
    From the burning hell we fly,
    From Satan’s wicked company.
    Whom he leads
    With pitch he feeds.
    If we be wise we this shall flee.           10
    Maria! Queen! we trust in thee,
    To move thy Son to sympathy.
    Jesus Christ was captive led,
    And to the cross was riveted.
    The cross was reddened with his gore        15
    And we his martyrdom deplore.
    “Sinner, canst thou to me atone,
    “Three pointed nails, a thorny crown,
    “The holy cross, a spear, a wound,
    “These are the cruel pangs I found.         20
    “What wilt thou, sinner, bear for me?”
    Lord, with loud voice we answer thee,
    Accept our service in return,
    And save us lest in hell we burn.
    We, through thy death, to thee have sued.   25
    For God in heaven we shed our blood:
    This for our sins will work to good.
    Blessed Maria! Mother! Queen!
    Through thy loved Son’s redeeming mean
    Be all our wants to thee pourtrayed.        30
    Aid us, Mother! spotless Maid!
    Trembles the earth, the rocks are rent,[196]
    Fond heart of mine, thou must relent.
    Tears from our sorrowing eyes we weep;
    Therefore so firm our faith we keep         35
    With all our hearts--with all our senses.
    Christ bore his pangs for our offences.
    Ply well the scourge for Jesus’ sake,
    And God through Christ your sins shall take.
    For love of God abandon sin,                40
    To mend your vicious lives begin,
    So shall we his mercy win.
    Direful was Maria’s pain
    When she beheld her dear One slain,
    Pierced was her soul as with a dart:        45
    Sinner, let this affect thy heart.
    The time draws near
    When God in anger shall appear.
    Jesus was refreshed with gall:
    Prostrate crosswise let us fall,            50
    Then with uplifted arms arise,
    That God with us may sympathise.
    Jesus, by thy titles three,[197]
    From our bondage set us free.
    Jesus, by thy precious blood,               55
    Save us from the fiery flood.
    Lord, our helplessness defend,
    And to our aid thy spirit send.
    If man and wife their vows should break
    God will on such his vengeance wreak.       60
    Brimstone and pitch, and mingled gall,
    Satan pours on such sinners all.
    Truly, the devil’s scorn are they:
    Therefore, O Lord, thine aid we pray.
    Wedlock’s an honorable tie                  65
    Which God himself doth sanctify.
    By this warning, man, abide,
    God shall surely punish pride.
    Let your precious soul entreat you,
    Lay down pride lest vengeance meet you.     70
    I do beseech ye, pride forsake,
    So God on us shall pity take.
    Christ in heaven, where he commands,
    Thus addressed his angel bands:--
    “Christendom dishonors me,                  75
    “Therefore her ruin I decree.”
    Then Mary thus implored her son:--
    “Penance to thee, loved Child, be done;
    “That she repent be mine the care;
    Stay then thy wrath, and hear my prayer.    80
              Ye liars!
    Ye that break your sacrament,
    Shrive ye throughly and repent.
    Your heinous sins sincerely rue,
    So shall the Lord your hearts renew.        85
      Woe! usurer, though thy wealth abound,
    For every ounce thou mak’st a pound
    Shall sink thee to the hell profound.
    Ye murd’rers, and ye robbers all,
    The wrath of God on you shall fall.         90
    Mercy ye ne’er to others shew,
    None shall ye find; but endless woe.
    Had it not been for our contrition,
    All Christendom had met perdition.
    Satan had bound her in his chain;           95
    Mary hath loosed her bonds again.
    Glad news I bring thee, sinful mortal,
    In heaven Saint Peter keeps the portal,
    Apply to him with suppliant mien,
    He bringeth thee before thy Queen.         100
    Benignant Michael, blessed saint,
    Guardian of souls, receive our plaint.
    Through thy Almighty Maker’s death,
    Preserve us from the hell beneath.

  [196] We hence perceive with what feelings subterraneous thunders
  were regarded by the people.

  [197] For the sake of thy Trinity.


Examination of the Jews accused of poisoning the Wells.[198]

  [198] An appearance of justice having been given to all later
  persecutions by these proceedings, they deserve to be recorded as
  important historical documents. The original is in Latin, but we have
  preferred the German translation in Königshoven’s Chronicle, p. 1029.

    _Answer from the Castellan of Chillon to the City of Strasburg,
    together with a Copy of the Inquisition and Confession of several
    Jews confined in the Castle of Chillon on suspicion of poison. Anno

To the Honorable the Mayor, Senate and Citizens of the City of
Strasburg, the Castellan of Chillon, Deputy of the Bailiff of Chablais,
sendeth greeting with all due submission and respect.

Understanding that you desire to be made acquainted with the confession
of the Jews, and the proofs brought forward against them, I certify, by
these presents, to you, and each of you that desires to be informed,
that they of Berne have had a copy of the inquisition and confession
of the Jews who lately resided in the places specified, and who were
accused of putting poison into the wells and several other places: as
also the most conclusive evidence of the truth of the charge preferred
against them. Many Jews were put to the question, others being excused
from it, because they confessed, and were brought to trial and burnt.
Several Christians, also, who had poïson given them by the Jews for
the purpose of destroying the Christians, were put on the wheel and
tortured. This burning of the Jews and torturing of the said Christians
took place in many parts of the county of Savoy.

    Fare you well.”

    _The Confession made on the 15th day of September, in the year
    of our Lord 1348, in the Castle of Chillon, by the Jews arrested
    in Neustadt, on the Charge of Poisoning the Wells, Springs and
    other places; also Food &c., with the Design of destroying and
    extirpating all Christians._

I. Balavignus, a Jewish physician, inhabitant of Thonon, was arrested
at Chillon in consequence of being found in the neighbourhood. He was
put for a short time to the rack, and, on being taken down, confessed,
after much hesitation, that, about ten weeks before, the Rabbi Jacob
of Toledo, who because of a citation, had resided at Chamberi since
Easter, sent him, by a Jewish boy, some poison in the mummy of an
egg: it was a powder sewed up in a thin leathern pouch accompanied by
a letter, commanding him, on penalty of excommunication, and by his
required obedience to the law, to throw this poison into the larger
and more frequented wells of the town of Thonon, to poison those
who drew water there. He was further enjoined not to communicate
the circumstance to any person whatever, under the same penalty. In
conformity with this command of the Jewish rabbis and doctors of the
law, he, Balavignus, distributed the poison in several places, and
acknowledged having one evening placed a certain portion under a stone
in a spring on the shore at Thonon. He further confessed that the said
boy brought various letters of a similar import, addressed to others
of his nation, and particularly specified some directed severally to
Mossoiet, Banditon, and Samoleto of Neustadt; to Musseo Abramo and
Aquetus of Montreantz, Jews residing at Thurn in Vivey; to Benetonus
and his son at St. Moritz; to Vivianus Jacobus, Aquetus and Sonetus,
Jews at Aquani. Several letters of a like nature were sent to Abram
and Musset, Jews at Moncheoli; and the boy told him that he had taken
many others to different and distant places, but he did not recollect
to whom they were addressed. Balavignus further confessed that, after
having put the poison into the spring at Thonon, he had positively
forbidden his wife and children to drink the water, but had not
thought fit to assign a reason. He avowed the truth of this statement,
and, in the presence of several credible witnesses, swore by his Law,
and the Five Books of Moses to every item of his deposition.

On the day following, Balavignus, voluntarily and without torture,
ratified the above confession verbatim before many persons of
character, and, of his own accord, acknowledged that, on returning one
day from Tour near Vivey, he had thrown into a well below Mustruez,
namely that of La Conerayde, a quantity of the poison tied up in a rag,
given to him for the purpose by Aquetus of Montreantz, an inhabitant of
the said Tour: that he had acquainted Manssiono, and his son Delosaz,
residents of Neustadt, with the circumstance of his having done so, and
advertised them not to drink of the water. He described the colour of
the poison as being red and black.

On the nineteenth day of September, the above-named Balavignus
confessed, without torture, that about three weeks after Whitsuntide,
a Jew named Mussus told him that he had thrown poison into the well
in the custom-house of that place, the property of the Borneller
family; and that he no longer drank the water of this well, but that
of the lake. He further deposed that Mussus informed him that he had
also laid some of the poison under the stones in the custom-house at
Chillon. Search was accordingly made in this well, and the poison
found: some of it was given to a Jew by way of trial, and he died
in consequence. He also stated that the rabbis had ordered him and
other Jews to refrain from drinking of the water for nine days after
the poison was infused into it; and, immediately on having poisoned
the waters, he communicated the circumstance to the other Jews. He,
Balavignus, confessed that about two months previously, being at Evian,
he had some conversation on the subject with a Jew called Jacob, and,
among other things, asked him whether he also had received writings
and poison, and was answered in the affirmative; he then questioned
him whether he had obeyed the command, and Jacob replied that he had
not, but had given the poison to Savetus, a Jew, who had thrown it
into the Well de Morer at Evian. Jacob also desired him, Balavignus,
to execute the command imposed on him with due caution. He confessed
that Aquetus of Montreantz had informed him that he had thrown some of
the poison into the well above Tour, the water of which he sometimes
drank. He confessed that Samolet had told him that he had laid the
poison which he had received in a well, which, however, he refused to
name to him. Balavignus, as a physician, further deposed that a person
infected by such poison coming in contact with another while in a state
of perspiration, infection would be the almost inevitable result; as
might also happen from the breath of an infected person. This fact
he believed to be correct, and was confirmed in his opinion by the
attestation of many experienced physicians. He also declared that none
of his community could exculpate themselves from this accusation, as
the plot was communicated to all; and that all were guilty of the above
charges. Balavignus was conveyed over the lake from Chillon to Clarens,
to point out the well into which he confessed having thrown the powder.
On landing, he was conducted to the spot; and, having seen the well,
acknowledged that to be the place, saying, “This is the well into which
I put the poison.” The well was examined in his presence, and the linen
cloth in which the poison had been wrapped was found in the waste-pipe
by a notary-public named Heinrich Gerhard, in the presence of many
persons, and was shewn to the said Jew. He acknowledged this to be the
linen which had contained the poison, which he described as being of
two colours, red and black, but said that he had thrown it into the
open well. The linen cloth was taken away and is preserved.

Balavignus, in conclusion, attests the truth of all and every thing
as above related. He believes this poison to contain a portion of the
basilisk, because he had heard, and felt assured, that the above poison
could not be prepared without it.

II. Banditono, a Jew of Neustadt, was, on the fifteenth day of
September, subjected for a short time to the torture. After a long
interval, he confessed having cast a quantity of poison, about the size
of a large nut, given him by Musseus, a Jew, at Tour near Vivey, into
the well of Carutet, in order to poison those who drank of it.

The following day, Banditono, voluntarily and without torture, attested
the truth of the aforesaid deposition; and also confessed that the
Rabbi Jacob von Pasche, who came from Toledo and had settled at
Chamberi, sent him, at Pilliex, by a Jewish servant, some poison about
the size of a large nut, together with a letter, directing him to throw
the powder into the wells on pain of excommunication. He had therefore
thrown the poison, which was sewn up in a leathern bag, into the well
of Cercliti de Roch; further, also, that he saw many other letters in
the hands of the servant addressed to different Jews; that he had also
seen the said servant deliver one, on the outside of the upper gate, to
Samuletus, the Jew, at Neustadt. He stated, also, that the Jew Massolet
had informed him that he had put poison into the well near the bridge
at Vivey.

III. The said Manssiono, Jew of Neustadt, was put upon the rack on
the fifteenth day of the same month, but refused to admit the above
charge, protesting his entire ignorance of the whole matter; but the
day following, he, voluntarily and without any torture, confessed,
in the presence of many persons, that he came from Mancheolo one day
in last Whitsunweek, in company with a Jew named Provenzal, and, on
reaching the well of Chabloz Crüez between Vyona and Mura, the latter
said, “You must put some of the poison which I will give you into that
well, or woe betide you!” He therefore took a portion of the powder
about the bigness of a nut, and did as he was directed. He believed
that the Jews in the neighbourhood of Evian had convened a council
among themselves relative to this plot, before Whitsuntide. He further
said that Balavignus had informed him of his having poisoned the Well
de la Conerayde below Mustruez. He also affirmed his conviction of the
culpability of the Jews in this affair, stating that they were fully
acquainted with all the particulars, and guilty of the alleged crime.

On the third day of the October following, Manssiono was brought before
the commissioners, and did not in the least vary from his former
deposition, or deny having put the poison into the said wells.

The above-named Jews, prior to their execution, solemnly swore by
their Law to the truth of their several depositions, and declared that
all Jews whatsoever, from seven years old and upwards, could not be
exempted from the charge of guilt, as all of them were acquainted with
the plot, and more or less participators in the crime.

[_The seven other examinations scarcely differ from the above, except
in the names of the accused, and afford but little variety. We will,
therefore, only add a characteristic passage at the conclusion of this
document. The whole speaks for itself._]

There still remain numerous proofs and accusations against the
above-mentioned Jews: also against Jews and Christians in different
parts of the county of Savoy, who have already received the punishment
due to their heinous crime; which, however, I have not at hand, and
cannot therefore send you. I must add that all the Jews of Neustadt
were burnt according to the just sentence of the law. At Augst, I was
present when three Christians were flayed on account of being accessory
to the plot of poisoning. Very many Christians were arrested for this
crime in various places in this country, especially at Evian, Gebenne,
Krusilien and Hochstett, who, at last and in their dying moments, were
brought to confess and acknowledge that they had received the poison
from the Jews. Of these Christians some have been quartered; others
flayed and afterwards hanged. Certain commissioners have been appointed
by the magistrates to enforce judgment against all the Jews; and I
believe that none will escape.


Extracts from “A Boke or Counseill against the Disease commonly called
the Sweate or Sweatyng Sicknesse,” made by John Caius, Doctour in
Phisicke.-- Emprinted at London. A. D. 1552.

“Hetherto I haue shewed the beginning, name, nature & signes of this
disease: now I will declare the causes, which be ii: infection, &
impure spirites in bodies corrupt by repletion. Infection, by th’aire
receiuing euel qualities, distempring not only y^e hete, but the hole
substance thereof, in putrifieng the same, & that generally ii waies.
By the time of the yere vnnatural, and by the nature and site of the
soile & region . whereunto maye be put the particular accidentes of
this same. By the time of the yeare vnnaturall, as if winter be hot &
drie, somer hot & moist (a fit time for sweates) the spring colde and
drye, the fall hot & moist. To this mai be ioyned the euel disposition
by constellation, whiche hath a great power & dominion in al erthly
thinges. By the site & nature of the soile & region, many wayes. First
and specially, by euel mistes & exhalations drawen out of the grounde
by the sunne in the heate of the yeare, as chanced among the Grekes in
the siege of Troy, whereby died firste dogges & mules, after, men in
great numbre: & here also in England in this M.D.L.I. yeare, the cause
of this pestilent sweate, but of dyuers nature. Whiche miste in the
countrie wher it began, was sene flie from toune to toune, with suche a
stincke in morninges & euenings, that men could scarcely abide it. Then
by dampes out of the earth, as out of Galenes Barathrum, or the poetes
auernum, or aornum, the dampes wherof be such, that thei kil y^e birdes
flieng ouer them. Of like dampes, I heard in the north country in cole
pits, wherby the laboring men be streight killed, except before the
houre of coming therof (which thei know by y^e flame of their candle)
thei auoid the ground. Thirdly by putrefaction or rot in groundes aftre
great flouddes, in carions & in dead men. After great fluddes, as
happened in y^e time of Gallien the Emperor at Rome, in Achaia & Libia,
wher the seas sodeinly did ouerflow y^e cities nigh to y^e same. And in
the XI yeare of Pelagius, when al the flouddes throughe al Italye didde
rage, but chieflye Tibris at Rome, whiche in many places was as highe
as the walles of the citie.

In carions or dead bodies, as fortuned here in Englande upon the sea
banckes in the tyme of King Alured or Alfrede (as some Chroniclers
write) but in the time of Ethelred after Sabellicus, by occasion of
drowned Locustes cast up by the Sea, which by a wynde were driuen
oute of Fraunce thether. This locust is a flie in bignes of a manne’s
thumbe, in colour broune, in shape somewhat like a greshopper, hauing
VI fiete, so many wynges, two tiethe, & an hedde like a horse, and
therfore called in Italy Caualleto, where ouer y^e citie of Padoa, in
the yere M.D.XIII. (as I remembre,) I, with manye more did see a swarme
of theim, whose passage ouer the citie, did laste two hours, in breadth
inestimable to euery man there. Here by example to note infection
by deadde menne in Warres . either in rotting aboue the ground, as
chaunced in Athenes by theim of Ethiopia, or else in beyng buried
ouerly as happened at Bulloigne, in the yere M.D.XIV. the yeare aftre
King Henrye theight had conquered the same, or by long continuance of
an hoste in one place, it is more playne by dayly experience, then it
neadeth to be shewed.

Therefore I wil now go to the fourth especial cause of infection, the
pent aier, breaking out of the ground in yearthquakes, as chaunced at
Venice in the firste yeare of Andrea Dandulo, then Duke, the XXIV day
of Januarye, and XX hour after their computacion. By which infection
mani died, & many wer borne before their time. The V cause is close
& unstirred aire & therfore putrified or currupt, out of old welles,
holes in y^e ground made for grain, wherof many I did se in & about
Pesaro in Italy, by opening them aftre a great space, as both those
countrimen do confesse & also by example is declared, for y^t manye
in opening them unwarely be killed. Out of caues and tombes also, as
chaunced first in the country of Babilonia, proceding aftre into
Grece, and so to Rome, by occasion that y^e souldiers of themperour
Marcus Antoninus, upon hope of money, brake up a golden coffine of
Auidius Cassius, spieng a little hole therin, in the temple of Apollo
in Seleucia, as Ammianus Marcellinus writeth. To these mai be ioyned
the particular causes of infection, which I cal the accidentes of the
place, augmenting the same. As nigh to dwelling places, merishe & muddy
groundes, puddles or donghilles, sinckes or canales, easing places or
carions, deadde ditches or rotten groundes, close aier in houses or
ualleis, with such like. Thus muche for the firste cause.

The second cause of this Englyshe Ephemera, I said were thimpure
spirites in bodies corupt by repletion. Repletion I cal here, abundance
of humores euel & maliciouse, from long time by little and little
gathered by euel diete, remaining in the bodye, coming either by to
moche meate, or by euel meate in qualitie, as infected frutes, meates
of euel juse or nutriment: or both ioyntly. To such spirites when the
aire infective cometh consonant, then be thei distempered, corrupted,
sore handled, & oppressed, then nature is forced & the disease
engendred. But while I doe declare these impure spirites to be one
cause, I must remoue your myndes from spirites to humours, for that
the spirites be fedde of the finest partes therof, & aftre bringe you
againe to spirites where I toke you. And for so muche as I haue not yet
forgotten to whome I write, in this declaration I will leaue apart al
learned & subtil reasons, as here void & vnmiete & only vse suche as
be most euident to whom I write, & easiest to be understanden of the
same: and at ones therwith shew also why it haunteth us Englishmen more
then other nations. Therfore I passe ouer the vngentle sauoure or smell
of the sweate, grosenes, colour, and other qualities of the same, the
quantitie, the daunger in stopping, the maner in coming furthe redily,
or hardly, hot or cold, the notes in the excrementes, the state longer
or sorer, with suche others, which mai be tokens of corrupt humours &
spirites, & onli wil stand vpon III reasons declaring y^e same swet by
gret repletion to be in vs not otherwise for al y^e euel aire apt to
this disease, more then other nations. For as heraftre I wil shew, &
Galen confirmeth, our bodies cannot suffre any thing or hurt by corrupt
& infectiue causes, except ther be in them a certein mater prepared apt
& like to receiue it, els if one were sick, al shuld be sick, if in
this countri, in al countries wher the infection came, which thing we
se doth not chance. For touching the first reason, we se this sweting
sicknes or pestilent Ephemera to be oft in England, but neuer entreth
Scotland, (except the borders) albeit thei both be joinctly within the
compas of on sea. The same beginning here, hath assailed Brabant & the
costes nigh to it, but neuer passed Germany, where ones it was in like
facion as here, with great mortalitie, in the yere M.D.XXIX. Cause
wherof none other there is naturall, then the euell diet of these thre
countryes whiche destroy more meates and drynckes withoute al ordre,
conuenient time, reason, or necessitie, then either Scotlande, or
all other countries vnder the sunne, to the greate annoiance of their
owne bodies and wittes, hinderance of theim which haue nede, and great
dearth and scarcitie in their common welthes. Wherfore if Esculapius
the inuentour of Phisike, y^e sauer of men from death, & restorer to
life, should returne again into this world, he could not saue these
sortes of men, hauing so moche sweatyng stuffe, so many euill humoures
laid by in store, from this displeasante, feareful, & pestilent
disease: except thei would learne a new lession, & folowe a new trade.
For otherwise, neither the auoidyng of this countrie (the seconde
reason) nor fleying into others, (a commune refuge in other diseases)
wyll preserue us Englishe men, as in this laste sweate is by experience
well proued in Cales, Antwerpe, and other places of Brabant, wher only
our contrimen ware sicke and none others, except one or ii. others of
thenglishe diete, which is also to be noted. (Fol. 13 to 17.)

       *       *       *       *       *

The thirde and laste reason is, y^t they which had thys sweat sore
with perille or death, were either men of welthe, ease & welfare, or
of the poorer sorte such as wer idle persones, good ale drinkers, and
Tavern-haunters. For these, by y^e great welfare of the one sorte,
and large drinkyng of thother, heped up in their bodies moche euill
matter: by their ease and idlenes, coulde not waste and consume it. A
confirmacion of this is, that the laborouse and thinne dieted people,
either had it not, because they dyd eate but litle to make the matter:
or with no greate grefe and danger, because they laboured out moche
therof. Wherefore upon small cause, necessarily must folowe a small
effecte. All these reasones go to this ende, that persones of all
countries of moderate and good diete, escape thys Englishe Ephemera,
and those be onely vexed therewith, whiche be of immoderate and euill
diete. But why? for the euill humores and corrupte aier alone? No . for
then the pestilence and not the swet should rise. For what then? for
y^e impure spirites corrupte in theimselues and by the infectiue aier.
Why so? for that of impure and corrupte humores, whether thei be blode
or others, can rise none other then impure spirites. For euery thynge
is such as that wherof it commeth. Now, that of the beste and fineste
of the blode, yea in corrupte bodies (whyche beste is nought) these
spirites be ingendred and fedde I before expressed. Therfor who wyl
haue them pure and cleane, and himselfe free from sweat, muste kepe a
pure and cleane diete, and then he shall be sure. (Fol. 20 to 21.)

       *       *       *       *       *

Who that lustethe to lyue in quiete suretie, out of the sodaine danger
of this Englishe Ephemera, he aboue all thynges, of litle and good
muste eate & spare not; the last parte wherof wyl please well (I doubt
not) us Englishe men: the firste I thinke neuer a deale. Yet it must
please theim that intende to lyue without the reche of this disease.
So doyng they shall easely escape it. For of that is good, can be
engendred no euill: of that is litle, can be gathered no great store.
Therfore helthful must he nedes be and free from this disease, that
vsethe this kinde of liuynge and maner in dietynge. An example hereof
may the wise man Socrates be, which by this sorte of diete escaped a
sore pestilence in Athenes, neuer fleynge ne kepyng close him selfe
from the same. Truly who will lyue accordynge to nature and not to
lust, may with this diete be well contented. For nature is pleased
with a litle, nor seketh other then that the mind voide of cares and
feares may be in quiete merily, and the body voide of grefe, maye be in
life swetly, as Lucretius writeth. Here at large to ronne out vntill
my breth wer spent, as vpon a common place, against y^e intemperance
or excessive diete of Englande, thincommodities & displeasures of the
same many waies: and contrarie, in commendation of meane diete and
temperance (called of Plato sophrosyne, for that it conserueth wisdome)
and the thousande commodities thereof, both for helthe, welthe, witte
and longe life, well I might, & lose my laboure: such be our Englishe
facions rather then reasones. But for that I purpose neither to wright
a longe worke but a shorte counseill, nor to wery the reders with
that they luste not to here, I will lette that passe, and moue them
that desire further to knowe my mynde therin, to remember that I sayd
before, of litle & good eate and spare not, wherby they shall easely
perceiue my meanyng. I therefore go furth with my diete, wherin my
counseill is, that the meates be helthfull, and holsomly kylled, swetly
saued, and wel prepared in rostyng, sethyng, baking, & so furth. The
bread of swet corne, wel leuened, & so baked. The drinke of swete
malte and good water kyndly brued, without other drosse now a daies
used. No wine in all the tyme of sweatyng, excepte to suche whose
sicknese require it for medicin, for fere of inflamynge & openynge,
nor except y^e halfe be wel soden water. In other tymes old, pure &
smal. Wishing for the better execution hereof & ouersight of good and
helthsome victalles, ther wer appointed certein masters of helth in
euery citie and toune, as there is in Italie, whiche for the good order
in all thynges, maye be in al places an example. The meates I would to
be veale, muttone, kidde, olde lambe, chikyn, capone, henne, cocke,
pertriche, phesane, felfare, smal birdes, pigeon, yong pecockes, whose
fleshe by a certeine natural & secrete propertie neuer putrefie, as
hath bene proued. Conies, porke of meane age, neither fatte nor leane,
the skynne taken awaye, roste & eaten colde. Tartes of prunes, gelies
of veale & capone. Yong befe in this case a little poudered is not to
be dispraised, nor new egges & good milke. Butter in a mornyng with
sage and rewe fastynge in the sweatynge time is a good preseruatiue,
beside that it nourisheth. Crabbes, crauesses, picrel, perche ruffe,
gogion, lampreis out of grauelly riuers, smeltes, dace, barbell,
gornerd, whityng, soles, flunders, plaice, millers thumbes, minues w^h
such others, sodde in water & vinegre w^h rosemary, time, sage, & hole
maces, & serued hote. Yea swete salte fishe & linge, for the saltes
sake wastynge y^e humores therof, which in many freshe fishes remaine,
maye be allowed well watered to them that haue non other & wel lyke it.
Nor all fishes, no more then al fleshes be so euill as they be taken
for: as is wel declared in physik, & approued by the olde and wise
romaines moche in their fisshes, lusty chartusianes neuer in fleshes,
& helthful poore people more in fishe than fleshe. But we are nowe a
daies so vnwisely fine, and womanly delicate, that we may in no wise
touch a fisshe. The olde manly hardnes, stoute courage, and peinfulnes
of Englande is vtterly driuen awaye, in the stede wherof, men now a
daies receiue womanlines & become nice, not able to withstande a blaste
of wynde, or resiste a poore fisshe. And children be so brought up,
that if they be not all daie by the fire with a toste and butire, and
in their furres, they be streight sicke.

Sauces to metes I appoint firste aboue all thynges good appetite,
and next Oliues, capers, juse of lemones, Barberies, Pomegranetes,
Orenges and Sorel, veriuse & vineigre, iuse of unripe Grapes, thepes
or Goseberies. After mete, quinces, or marmalade, Pomgranates, Orenges
sliced eaten with Suger, Succate of the pilles or barkes therof, and of
pomecitres, olde apples and peres, Brunes, Reisons Dates and Nuttes.
Figges also, so they be taken before diner, els no frutes of that yere,
nor rawe herbes or rotes in sallattes, for that in suche times they be
suspected to be partakers also of the enfected aire. (Fol. 21 to 24.)

       *       *       *       *       *

I remytte you to the discretion of a learned manne in phisike, who maye
judge what is to be done, & how, according to the present estate of
youre bodies, nature, custome, & proprety, age, strength, delyghte &
qualitie, tyme of the yeare, with other circumstaunces, & thereafter to
geue the quantitie, & make diuersitie of hys medicine. Otherwise loke
not to receiue by this boke that good which I entend, but that euel
which by your owne foly you vndiscretelye bring. For good counseil may
be abused. And for me to write of euery particular estate and case,
whiche be so manye as there be menne, were so great almost a busines,
as to numbre the sandes in the sea. Therefore seke you out a good
Phisicien and knowen to haue skille, and at the leaste be so good to
your bodies, as you are to your hosen or shoes, for the wel making or
mending wherof, I doubte not but you wil diligently searche out who
is knowen to be the best hosier or shoemaker in the place where you
dwelle: and flie the vnlearned as a pestilence in a comune wealth.
As simple women, carpenters, pewterers, brasiers, sopeballesellers,
pulters, hostellers, painters, apotecaries (otherwise then for their
drogges.) auaunters themselues to come from Pole, Constantinople,
Italie, Almaine, Spaine, Fraunce, Grece and Turkie, Jude, Egipt or
Jury: from y^e seruice of Emperoures, kinges & quienes, promising
helpe of al diseases, yea vncurable, with one or twoo drinckes, by
waters sixe monethes in continualle distillinge, by Aurum potabile,
or quintessence, by drynckes of great and hygh prices, as though thei
were made of the sunne, moone, or sterres, by blessynges and Blowinges,
Hipocriticalle prayenges, and foolysh smokynges of shirtes Smockes
and kerchieffes, wyth suche others theire phantasies, and mockeryes,
meaninge nothinge els but to abuse your light belieue, and scorne you
behind your backes with their medicines (so filthie, that I am ashamed
to name them) for your single wit and simple belief, in trusting them
most, whiche you know not at al, and understand least: like to them
whiche thinke, farre foules haue faire fethers, althoughe thei be neuer
so euel fauoured & foule: as thoughe there coulde not be so conning an
Englishman, as a foolish running stranger, (of others I speake not)
or so perfect helth by honest learning, as by deceiptfull ignorance.
For in the erroure of these vnlearned reasteth the losse of youre
honest estimation, diere bloudde, precious spirites, and swiete lyfe,
the thyng of most estimation and price in this worlde, next vnto the
immortal soule.

For consuming of euel matter within, and for making our bodies lustye,
galiard, & helthful, I do not a litle commende exercise, whiche in vs
Englishe men I allowe quick, and liuishe: as to runne after houndes
and haukes, to shote, wrastle, play at Tennes and weapons, tosse the
winde balle, skirmishe at base (an exercise for a gentlemanne, muche
vsed among the Italianes) and vaughting vpon an horse. Bowling, a good
exercise for women: castinge of the barre and camping, I accompt rather
a laming of legges, then an exercise. Yet I vtterly reproue theim not,
if the hurt may be auoyded. For these a conueniente tyme is, before
meate: due measure, reasonable sweatinge, in al times of the year,
sauing in the sweatinge tyme. In the whiche I allow rather quietnesse
then exercise, for opening the body, in suche persons specially as be
liberally & freely brought up. Others, except sitting artificers, haue
theire exercises by daily labours in their occupations, to whom nothing
niedeth but solace onely, a thing conuenient for euery bodye that
lusteth to live in helth. For els as non other thing, so not healthe
canne be longe durable.

Thus I speake of solace, that I meane not Idlenesse, wisshing alwayes
no man to be idle, but to be occupied in some honest kinde of thing
necessary in a common welth. For I accompt them not worthie meate and
drink in a commonwelth, y^t be not good for some purpose or seruice
therin, but take them rather as burdennes vnprofitable and heauye to
the yearth, men borne to fille a numbre only, and wast the frutes which
therthe doeth geue, willing soner to fiede the Lacedemonians old &
croked asse, whiche labored for the liuing so long as it coulde for
age, then suche an idle Englisshe manne. If the honestye and profite
of honeste labour and exercise, conseruation of healthe, preseruation
from sickenesse, maintenaunce of lyfe, advauncement, safety from
shamefull deathes, defence from beggerye, dyspleasures by idlenesse,
shamefulle diseases by the same, hatefulle vices, and punishmente
of the immortalle soule canne not moue vs to reasonable laboure and
exercise, and to be profitable membres of the commune welthe, let at
the least shame moue vs, seyng that other country menne, of nought, by
their owne witte, diligence, labour and actiuitie, can picke oute of
a cast bone, a wrethen strawe, a lyghte fether, or an hard stone, an
honeste lyuinge: Nor ye shall euer heare theym say, alas master, I haue
non occupacion, I must either begge or steale. For they can finde other
meanes betwene these two. And for so muche as in the case that nowe is,
miserable persons are to be relieued in a common welth, I would wisshe
for not fauouring the idle, the discretion of Marc. Cicero the romaine
were vsed in healping them: who wolde compassion should be shewed vpon
them whome necessitie compelled to do or make a faute: & no compassion
vpon them, in whome a faulte made necessitie. A faulte maketh
necessitie, in this case of begging, in them, whyche might laboure and
serve & wil not for idlenes; and therefore not to be pitied, but rather
to be punished. Necessitie maketh a fault in them, whiche wold labor
and serue, but cannot for age, impotency, or sickenes, and therefore
to be pitied and relieued. But to auoyde punishmente and to shew the
waye to amendmente, I woulde again wishe, y^t for so much as we be so
euel disposed of ourselfes to our own profites and comodities without
help, this old law were renued, which forbiddeth the nedy & impotent
parentes, to be releued of those their welthi chyldren, that by theym
or theire meanes were not broughte vppe, eyther in good learning and
Science, or honeste occupation. For so is a man withoute science, as a
realme withoute a kyng. (Fol. 27 to 30.)

       *       *       *       *       *

Al these thinges duely obserued, and well executed, whiche before I
haue for preseruation mencioned, if more ouer we can sette aparte al
affections, as fretting cares and thoughtes, dolefull or sorowfull
imaginations, vaine feares, folysh loues, gnawing hates, and geue oure
selues to lyue quietly, frendlie & merily one with an outher, as men
were wont to do in the old world, when this Countrie was called merye
Englande, and euery man to medle in his own matters, thinking theim
sufficient, as thei do in Italie, and auoyde malyce and dissencion, the
destruction of commune wealthes, and priuate houses: I doubte not but
we shall preserue our selues, both from this sweatinge syckenesse, and
other diseases also not here purposed to be spoken of. (Fol. 31.)


_Wertheimer. Printer, Leman-st. Goodman’s-fields._

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