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Daniel Defoe

A Journal of the Plague Year, written by a citizen who continued all the while in London

The Plague is a disease that has a long and tragic history alongside humanity’s development of tightly-packed cities. A Journal of a Plague Year is a first-person narrative account of London’s last great plague outbreak in 1665, which killed an estimated 100,000 people in just 18 months.
Though written in the first-person perspective by Daniel Defoe, he was only 5 years old during the outbreak. The initials at the end of the work, “H. F.,” suggest that Journal is based on accounts of Defoe’s uncle, Henry Foe.
This highly readable short novel is fascinating not just as a historical account, but in its description of how people reacted to a deadly disease that they understood to be contagious, but yet had no cure for. Defoe derides quack doctors who killed more than they saved, and then themselves succumbed to plague. He tells of people turning to religion; of people driven mad by the death around them and raving in the streets; of people fleeing to the country, and of others barricading themselves in their homes. The ways people reacted in 1665 could be the very same ways people might have reacted today to a mysterious, deadly, and highly contagious outbreak.
337 printed pages

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Quotes

    Anders Frank Østergaard Pedersenhas quotedlast year
    It must not be for­got here that the city and sub­urbs were prodi­giously full of people at the time of this vis­it­a­tion, I mean at the time
    henrikjohnsen21912has quotedlast year
    And I know it so well, and in so many sev­eral cases, that I could give sev­eral re­la­tions of good, pi­ous, and re­li­gious people who, when they have had the dis­tem­per, have been so far from be­ing for­ward to in­fect oth­ers that they have for­bid their own fam­ily to come near them, in hopes of their be­ing pre­served, and have even died without see­ing their nearest re­la­tions lest they should be in­stru­mental to give them the dis­tem­per, and in­fect or en­danger them. If, then, there were cases wherein the in­fec­ted people were care­less of the in­jury they did to oth­ers, this was cer­tainly one of them, if not the chief, namely, when people who had the dis­tem­per had broken out from houses which were so shut up, and hav­ing been driven to ex­tremit­ies for pro­vi­sion or for en­ter­tain­ment, had en­deav­oured to con­ceal their con­di­tion, and have been thereby in­stru­mental in­vol­un­tar­ily to in­fect oth­ers who have been ig­nor­ant and un­wary.

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