Read a journal of the plague year the 100 greatest books ever written by Daniel Defoe Online


A fictional Journal of a man living in London during the black death; Defoe's uncle live in London during the Plague, some believe this book was based off of his notes and personal writings. Written in old English slang appropriate of the fictional author social status, including spelling errors.This to order addition was printed on reproduction card stock similar to thatA fictional Journal of a man living in London during the black death; Defoe's uncle live in London during the Plague, some believe this book was based off of his notes and personal writings. Written in old English slang appropriate of the fictional author social status, including spelling errors.This to order addition was printed on reproduction card stock similar to that which it would have been printed on originally, mimicking the original font and punctuation. Illustrations by Signor Domenico Gnoli, of Rome....

Title : a journal of the plague year the 100 greatest books ever written
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ISBN : 7592453
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Number of Pages : 271 Pages
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a journal of the plague year the 100 greatest books ever written Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2019-01-26 12:15

    Who would have thought, in The Year of Our Lord 2014, that Ebola--with its controversial questions about voluntary and involuntary quarantine--would suddenly make this 350 year-old classic seem strangely relevant once more?Since writing is an expression of human character, what is true of one's character is true of one's writing as well. A person's strengths and weaknesses are often two sides of the same coin—the sympathetic character is often permissive, the assertive unreasonable, the ardent rash—and the same thing can be said of an author's beauties and his faults. A brief study of Daniel Defoe's book on the London plague of 1665-1666 illustrates this principle.Perhaps the most impressive thing about “A Journal of the Plague Year" is that it is an extraordinarily convincing account narrated by the voice of a mature, solid citizen—thoroughly respectable and reliable--who has personally witnessed the extraordinary and often horrific incidents he describes. Defoe, however, although did he live in London at the time, was born in 1660, and was therefore only five years old when the Hand of Death fell upon the city of London.Defoe creates a convincing persona by making his narrator a stolid burgher who fears his God, respects his fellow Londoners, and admires his city, an unimaginative man who above all reverences reliable testimony and verifiable facts. “Plague Year” is crammed with rolls of the dead and other helpful lists, as well as page upon page of city regulations governing the duties of citizens, the conduct of the inspectors, etc. Although there are many vivid glimpses of life during plague—crazed sufferers expiring in the streets, healthy families shut up in their houses by decree, diseased individuals defying city orders, open pits waiting for wagons stacked high with the dead—-these scenes are often obscured by heaps of accumulated detail, piles of haphazardly organized materials. The book, although impressive, is inelegant, its organizational principles unclear; it appears to be the work of a literate layman, not a professional writer. Paradoxically, it is precisely this impression of amateurishness that makes the voice—and therefore the work itself—so powerful and convincing a performance.As with “Robinson Crusoe,” so it is with “A Journal of the Plague Year”: I can never decide whether Defoe is merely an unsophisticated novelist, addicted to lists and repetitive details, or whether—like the poet satirists of his own 18th Century—he is a master at constructing personae that convince the reader with their sincerity and authority.Is the hobbling, inartful appearance of “Plague Year” a strength or is it a weakness? I for one think it's a toss up. Two sides of the same coin.

  • Henry Avila
    2019-01-17 13:22

    In the crowded , unhealthy, unclean, foul, pest dominated, filthy city of London, the Bubonic Plague breaks out, in 1665, no surprise, it has occurred before, in fact just a few years, previously, but this escalates, felling some say, 100,000 people, who never rise again. Daniel Defoe, the inventor of the English language novel (Robinson Crusoe, 1719), yet because of his earlier employment, was more a journalist than a novelist, writes a memoir of this catastrophe, almost sixty years later. The author was only five -years old at the time, but his Uncle Henry Foe ( Defoe added De, to make himself seem a gentleman, his father was a butcher), takes this eyewitness account, from this relative's journal, the narrator is only described as H.F. The inhabitants of the city, most of them flee for their lives, the rich first, King Charles the Second, to Oxford, others, to the nearby countryside, the poor survive in woods, old ruined shacks, in tents, even outside, the locals don't help at first, afraid to get sick too. Many refugees starve to death, others succumb to the unmerciful disease, the very brave stay in London, those who work for the city government, the least well off remain, too, nowhere to go, the hardest hit, and die some in the streets, their minds inflamed by illness, babbling words incomprehensible, before dropping to the ground. The Dead- Carts, to pick up the victims and bury them in deep holes, mass graves that are quickly covered, and another one dug , for the next batch. The narrator's brother, had urged him to get out of town like him, but H.F. had a store to run, a house to take care of with servants, warehouses of his goods, how could he? Still his sister would welcome him, she lived faraway in a different city. The curious, frightened man roams the streets, seeing the dead, everywhere, hearing unearthly screams from women, in their homes, windows opened, moans flowing from above, men in nightshirts cursing, groaning, others asking God to save them, why did he not leave? Whole families dying inside a house , fathers, mothers, children, servants, the stench, of the bodies spreading to passersby, they keep walking. People afraid to come near strangers they believe, are infected, by their polluted air, not knowing that diseased rats, and flees that bite them, and then the citizens of London, are the real killers. Pitiful beggars, abound, asking for help , houses are shut with the owners in them, either by the government, with the sick people inside, or healthy ones, who try to avoid the plague by hiding there. Vicious thieves break in, the empty homes, stealing all, not afraid of the danger, they are desperate, nothing to lose, thinking everybody is doomed. And the Dead-Carts continue to roll down the streets, the drivers throwing the deceased in, filling them to the top, until no more living humans are left?

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-01-24 19:08

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the labelEssay #62: A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), by Daniel DefoeThe story in a nutshell:Although not actually written until sixty years later (but more on that in a bit), Daniel Defoe's 1722 A Journal of the Plague Year is pretty much what it sounds like -- a purportedly true account of London's Great Plague of 1665, the last outbreak of the bubonic plague the city would ever see, supposedly written by an average middle-classer who decided to wait things out instead of fleeing to the countryside like so many others. As such, then, the book doesn't really have a three-act plot per se, but is more a rambling collection of observations, anecdotes, and actual hard data -- from an examination of the religious fervor that overtook the city during the worst months, to a detailed look at how home quarantines actually worked, to second-hand accounts of the equal amount of trouble awaiting poor peasants who tried living illegally in the rural wilds of England that year, to horror stories of people literally bursting into goo in the middle of public streets, or of cemetery workers who would literally die while on their way to mass graves with a cart full of corpses, leaving the city full of wandering teams of horses dragging dead bodies randomly to and fro. Although almost 300 years old by now, be warned that this is still not for the faint of heart!The argument for it being a classic:The case for this being a classic is a pretty simple one -- it is arguably the very first "historical novel" in human history, and in fact it was the centuries of passionate debate about whether this should be considered fact or fiction that even led to the term in the first place, and to this genre eventually becoming as popular as it now is. (For example, although not proven, it's widely believed that our narrator "H.F." is based on Defoe's relative Henry Foe, who actually was a young adult craftsman in London during the '65 plague, and who may or may not have left a detailed journal where Defoe culled many of these stories; and for another example, Defoe even went to the trouble of including slang terms and intentional misspellings from the 1660s that had fallen out of favor by the 1720s.) On top of this, though, say its fans, the book's simply one freaky nightmare of a read, a surprisingly plain-spoken and readable book (befitting the Enlightenment times when it was actually written) that has had an enormous impact on not only historical novels but the horror genre and post-apocalyptic fiction, and that has directly influenced everyone from Albert Camus to Cormac McCarthy to even Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (That movie's famous line "Bring out yer dead!" was lifted directly from this book.)The argument against:There seems to be two main arguments against The Plague Year being a classic, although admittedly both of them weak ones: first, that as a mere prototype of a genre that didn't acquire its main tropes until a century later, the book's digressive nature and outdated language is hard to read and follow; and second, that although this book may be good enough on its own, it's Defoe's much more famous and important Robinson Crusoe that should actually be considered the indisputable classic, in that that's the book widely considered to be the very first three-act novel in the history of the English language.My verdict:As I've said in this essay series before, I think to truly enjoy books that are this old, it's important to understand the context in which they were written, and to know what kinds of things were influencing both the author himself and the original audience he was writing for; and so in the case of The Plague Year, understanding this context makes the book much more fascinating than simply its writing quality may make it seem, and is crucial for understanding why I found this such a surprisingly fantastic read. Because, you see, Defoe was not only one of the first novelists in British history (a format he came to know and love during his travels in southern Europe as a businessman in the late 1600s), but he chose to use this format specifically to comment on the hottest, trendiest issues of the day, making him essentially the Michael Crichton of the Enlightenment; and it just so happens that just a year before this was written, the French city of Marseilles went through a major new outbreak of the bubonic plague, which inspired the British public and its newfound "journalism" industry to obsessively look back at their own plague of 56 years previous, and to examine all the ways that their society had profoundly changed since then.Now combine this with the Great London Fire just one year after this 1665 plague, a one-two knockout to the city that left it largely empty of people and burned to the ground, and was the very thing that transformed it in those years into the post-Medieval modern infrastructure we now know; when you take all these things into consideration, then, The Plague Year suddenly becomes not just a horror story and important precedent in the development of historical fiction, but indeed serves as no less than a grand epic look at the transformation of Britain in this 60-year period, from the last vestiges of the Middle Ages to the "Age of Science" of Defoe's own times. I mean, certainly a lot more of this book suddenly starts making a lot more sense when you assume that this was Defoe's actual goal; he goes on and on in it, for example, about the shamefully superstitious way that 1600s Londoners actually reacted to this plague (a common criticism among Enlightenment citizens about the generation before them), and also takes the trouble to point out all the faulty ways that people medically tried to deal with this plague, outdated hokum that had been disproven by the "modern" doctors of Defoe's own time, and one of the many sneakily brilliant things that Defoe gets away with by writing this in reality half a century after the events that it describes.I mean, don't get me wrong, the book just by itself is pretty great on its own; it's unusually easy to read compared to books written in the same time period, and really does have a kind of slasher-flick mentality that makes it still so engaging even three centuries later. But I have to admit, what makes it truly delightful is to imagine yourself as an average Enlightenment intellectual in the early 1700s yourself, to picture the ways that science and reason and philosophy were utterly transforming society at the time, literally wresting power away from the mysticism, fear and superstition that had mostly driven British life up to that point (because let's never forget, it actually took several additional centuries for the principles of the Renaissance to truly catch on in Britain, after it first became popular in southern Europe in the late 1400s); and then to imagine reading The Plague Year within such a context, the point not really to talk about plagues at all but rather to examine all the ways that British society had changed in the 60 years since, and to thank God that modern biological science was rapidly bringing an end to such plagues in the first place. When read in this spirit, it makes The Plague Year one of the most surprisingly great books in the entirety of this essay series so far, and it comes strongly recommended to those who can maintain this attitude themselves.Is it a classic? Yes(And don't forget that the first 33 essays in this series are now available in book form!)

  • F.R.
    2019-02-07 14:12

    One of the problems with reviewing the earliest authors of fiction is that they were writing at a time before the rules had been properly worked out. Novels took on the form we know and love because of these writer’s successes and because of their failures. It was up to them to forge the templates, and if a certain template didn’t work then they could try a new one with the next book.‘A Journal of the Plague year’ is a case in point. Although Defoe was alive at the time of plague, this is actually a fictional account written sixty years later – but one which relies heavily on anecdotal reportage. Defoe gives us a narrator to guide us through, but this man is just a cipher, a pair of eyes and ears to relate what he sees and hears. We know where he lives, what he does, how many servants he has and that he has a brother, but not much else about him. He is there to tell the tales Defoe heard, to describe scenes that Defoe saw (or at least had described to him by others). But the fact he has little definable character means there’s an odd vacuum at the centre, a distance that stops the reader fully empathising. It’s a decision few authors of a later vintage would have taken, if only because they’d learnt from this book’s mistake. In addition, as perhaps befits the first person account of a tradesman, the tale is not separated into chapters and rambles constantly down odd little cul-de-sacs. With the result that it can often be an irritating read.That’s not to say that there aren’t good things in this book: the descriptions of the mass graves and a populous so caught in madness they will proclaim their own sins in the middle of the road will certainly stay with me. But this is not the most accessible of fictional histories and is a book that really makes you work hard for the treasures it has.

  • Pantelis
    2019-02-05 20:05

    The Urtext of psychogeography

  • Philippe Malzieu
    2019-02-01 19:09

    It was the most Serge Gainsbourg's preferred book.Daniel defoe is not a only-one-book man (Robinson Crusoe).It is an aesthete book which one exchanges the name between friends. What is extraordinary, it is the realism of story. All descriptions are extraordinary. They agree elsewhere with what was described. As of the appearance of the signs, death occurred in a few hours.The plague is well known since the Middle Ages as an apocalyps. René Girard in "the scapegoat" says that people did not even dare to pronounce the name of it. We have forgotten that yhe last plague epidemy in occident was in France Marseilles 1925 !!!!!What is brilliant, it is that we live the epidemy in the middle of the population. His style is perfect, descriptions are a seizing naturalism. A masterpiece.

  • Alan
    2019-02-06 19:18

    I taught this a couple times (Soph Eng Lit survey), instead of Moll or Robinson (or, indeed, Pamela or pt of Tristram). Of course it's a historical reconstruction: Defoe was 5 in the Plague Year, a year before the Great Fire, and two before the Dutch sailed to Chatham, on the Bay of Thames, and captured the Royal Charles, its transom still featured in Rijksmuseum.I think those semesters AIDS featured in news. (Also useful for teaching Freshman Oedipus R, which begins in citywide mortality--to be cured by executing the cause, a man hated by the Gods bec NOT aborted/"exposed until death"). Hmmm… Might be a good approach. ( Was Harry Whittington hated by the gods, or the drunk who shot him at cocktail hour in TX? )

  • Kim
    2019-02-13 14:18

    A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel by Daniel Defoe, telling the story of the Great Plague in London in the year 1665. The book was first published in March 1722, 57 years after the event. A Journal of the Plague Year is an account, a "journal", of one man's experiences in the year 1665, in which the Great Plague struck the city of London. The book is told mostly in the order things happened, as far as I can tell anyway, though there are no chapters, it's just all one big story, which come to think of it, doesn't sound like a journal at all, at least not one of my journals. And now that I have come to think of it, it bugs me, no one writes a journal that isn't separated into days, weeks, or at least months I would think.Oh well, I'll try to move on from that now annoying detail to say that the book is written in the first person, told by a narrator who couldn't have been Defoe himself because Defoe was only five years old in 1665. Whoever the mysterious narrator is, he signs the book at the end with the initials H. F. and is probably based on the journals of Defoe's uncle, Henry Foe. At least that's what the introduction says, and I didn't go on a big Henry Foe search to see if it is true, at least not yet anyway. The book begins with H.F. telling us of the rumors that the plague may be coming back."It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard in ordinary discourse that the plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither, they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus. It mattered not from whence it came; but all agreed it was come into Holland again."It goes to show how little I know of the plague because I didn't think it "returned again" at all. I thought the plague swept through wherever it swept through and was gone forever. And I certainly didn't think anyone could get it more than once. However, it seems that not only does it return, but it returns over and over again. At least it did a long time ago. Which now has me wondering if it is possible that the bubonic plague is still around. Another thing I'll have to go look up. A few pages later it says:"This last bill was really frightful, being a higher number than had been known to have been buried in one week since the preceding visitation of 1656." So now as far as I can tell, we have the plague in 1656, 1663, 1664 and now again in 1665. That must have been terrifying, not knowing when it may come back. Oh, and although in the book we have all sorts of people believing all sorts of things as to how the plague started in the first place, it is now known that it was caused by fleas that come from rats. Figures, I hate rats. And mice, and fleas for that matter. And a whole lot of other bugs and rodents come to think of it. Oh, by the way, if you happen to look up the Great Plague you get a lot of pictures of fleas and rats. Wonderful, I'm not going to look it up anymore. There are lots of details in this book that I enjoyed, but I kept wishing I had a map of London in 1665 to see where all these places were. There are names of streets, names of churches, pubs, shops and parishes. Did you know there are 97 parishes in London? I didn't, but I do now. One of the things that puzzled me about people's behavior during this terrible time was how they would try to hide the fact that they or someone in their family had the disease:" it began to be suspected that the plague was among the people at that end of the town, and that many had died of it, though they had taken care to keep it as much from the knowledge of the public as possible."" The family they were in endeavoured to conceal it as much as possible, but as it had gotten some vent in the discourse of the neighbourhood,"It seems like the main reason people wanted to hide that they had the plague is because they didn't want to be "shut up" in their houses and so they did all sorts of things to break out when the house was shut up. The shutting up of houses is just what it sounds like, if someone in the house had the plague than the house was "shut up". It was locked and guarded, no one leaves, whether they have the plague or not. After all, they've been living for who knows how long with a plague victim, there is a good chance they already have the plague. So everyone in the house stays in the house. And because of this people were always either trying to hide the fact that someone in the house had the plague at all, or were thinking of ways to escape from the house. While I can see why the healthy people didn't want to be locked up in the same house as the sick people, I didn't understand why the sick people went to so much trouble to escape, and for that matter although I could understand how the healthy people felt I wouldn't have tried to escape. At least I hope I wouldn't have, for I would have been afraid of just what the authorities seemed to be afraid of, that I would give this horrible plague to someone else. So hopefully I would have locked myself in the house without any help from watchmen or other authorities.Which brings me to watchmen and other authorities. Now not only do we have infected people escaping and running through the street, we also have occupants of the infected house escaping into the streets, and then we have Examiners, they are appointed to go into houses and confirm there is plague, next there are the Watchmen, they are to keep the infected and exposed locked in their houses, Searchers are to search the bodies for plague, Chirurgeons (which is an odd name) are to assist the searchers, Nurse-keepers are obviously supposed to be taking care of the sick, all these positions are appointed and you must accept your position or go to jail. There are also Physicians who are treating the sick and Buriers who are burying the dead. With all these people running around the city, going in and out of plague victim's houses, I'm surprised more people didn't have the plague. And speaking of physicians (among others) reminded me of this quote mentioning not only physicians but quacks, as Defoe calls them:"So the Plague defied all medicines; the very physicians were seized with it, with their preservatives in their mouths; and men went about prescribing to others and telling them what to do till the tokens were upon them, and they dropped down dead, destroyed by that very enemy they directed others to oppose. This was the case of several physicians, even some of them the most eminent, and of several of the most skillful surgeons. Abundance of quacks too died, who had the folly to trust to their own medicines, which they must needs be conscious to themselves were good for nothing, and who rather ought, like other sorts of thieves, to have run away, sensible of their guilt, from the justice that they could not but expect should punish them as they knew they had deserved."Defoe does spend some time on quacks as he calls them telling us things like this:...."now led by their fright to extremes of folly; and, as I have said before, that they ran to conjurers and witches, and all sorts of deceivers, to know what should become of them (who fed their fears, and kept them always alarmed and awake on purpose to delude them and pick their pockets), so they were as mad upon their running after quacks and mountebanks, and every practicing old woman, for medicines and remedies; storing themselves with such multitudes of pills, potions, and preservatives, as they were called, that they not only spent their money but even poisoned themselves beforehand for fear of the poison of the infection; and prepared their bodies for the plague, instead of preserving them against it. On the other hand it is incredible and scarce to be imagined, how the posts of houses and corners of streets were plastered over with doctors' bills and papers of ignorant fellows, quacking and tampering in physic, and inviting the people to come to them for remedies, which was generally set off with such flourishes as these, viz.: 'Infallible preventive pills against the plague.' 'Neverfailing preservatives against the infection.' 'Sovereign cordials against the corruption of the air.' 'Exact regulations for the conduct of the body in case of an infection.' 'Anti-pestilential pills.' 'Incomparable drink against the plague, never found out before.' 'An universal remedy for the plague.' 'The only true plague water.' 'The royal antidote against all kinds of infection';—and such a number more that I cannot reckon up; and if I could, would fill a book of themselves to set them down"This I have to mention because of how strange it seems. According to Defoe the people were deceived into believing in wearing charms, amulets, and things like that to strengthen the body against the plague. Defoe says:"as if the plague was not the hand of God, but a kind of possession of an evil spirit, and that it was to be kept off with crossings, signs of the zodiac, papers tied up with so many knots, and certain words or figures written on them, as particularly the word Abracadabra, formed in triangle or pyramid, thus:— " ABRACADABRAABRACADABRABRACADABABRACADAABRACADABRACA ABRACABRAABR ABA I can't imagine why the word Abracadabra in the form of a triangle would be thought to cure anything, or who could have come up with such an idea in the first place. Of course, I'm not even sure Abracadabra is a real word. Defoe spends a lot of time telling or showing us bills of mortality, this is the bill of mortality published in December of 1664:"Plague, 2. Parishes infected, 1."And the bill of mortality released in August of 1665 says this:"From August the 22nd to the 29th Plague, 7496."At one point during the novel H.F. has spent two weeks inside his house and feels like he must go out for a walk. He walks out into the fields going towards the river, for he wanted to see how things were going on there. As he reaches the water he meets a poor man walking on the bank. Our narrator asks the man how the people in that area are doing and the replies: 'Alas, sir!' says he, 'almost desolate; all dead or sick. Here are very few families in this part, or in that village' (pointing at Poplar), 'where half of them are not dead already, and the rest sick.' Then he pointing to one house, 'There they are all dead', said he, 'and the house stands open; nobody dares go into it. A poor thief', says he, 'ventured in to steal something, but he paid dear for his theft, for he was carried to the churchyard too last night.' Then he pointed to several other houses. 'There', says he, 'they are all dead, the man and his wife, and five children."At this point H.F. asks him why he is in the area and he tells him that he is a poor, desolate man; and although he has not yet been infected, his family is, and one of his children dead.' He points to a little, low-boarded house saying that is where his poor wife and children live,'if they may be said to live, for my wife and one of the children are visited, but I do not come at them.' When the narrator asks how he could abandon his family the man tells him that he hasn't abandoned them but works for them as much as he is able and has been able to provide for them and keep them from want. When asked how he can make a living at such a time he replies: “Do you see these five ships lie at anchor (pointing down the river a good way below the town), and do you see eight or ten ships lie at chain there? (pointing above the town)…All these ships have families on board, of their merchants and owners, and such-like; who have locked themselves up and live on board, close shut in, for fear of the infection; and I tend on them and fetch things for them, carry letters, and do what is absolutely necessary, that they may not be obliged to come on shore; and every night I fasten my boat on board one of the ship's boats, and there I sleep by myself, and, blessed be God, I am preserved hitherto.'He then goes on to say that he rarely comes on shore, but only to check on his family and give them money when he has it. He has called his wife to come and get the money and food he brought her, but she hasn't come out yet. He tells our narrator that he always places the money on a large rock by the street and calls his wife, then when he has moved away she comes out and gets it. As they talk his wife finally calls to him:"At length, after some further talk, the poor woman opened the door and called, 'Robert, Robert'. He answered, and bid her stay a few moments and he would come; so he ran down the common stairs to his boat and fetched up a sack, in which was the provisions he had brought from the ships; and when he returned he hallooed again. Then he went to the great stone which he showed me and emptied the sack, and laid all out, everything by themselves, and then retired; and his wife came with a little boy to fetch them away, and called and said such a captain had sent such a thing, and such a captain such a thing, and at the end adds, 'God has sent it all; give thanks to Him.' When the poor woman had taken up all, she was so weak she could not carry it at once in, though the weight was not much neither; so she left the biscuit, which was in a little bag, and left a little boy to watch it till she came again. 'Well, but', says I to him, 'did you leave her the four shillings too, which you said was your week's pay?' 'Yes, yes,' says he; 'you shall hear her own it.' So he calls again, 'Rachel, Rachel,' which it seems was her name, 'did you take up the money?' 'Yes,' said she. 'How much was it?' said he. 'Four shillings and a groat,' said she. 'Well, well,' says he, 'the Lord keep you all'; and so he turned to go away. As I could not refrain contributing tears to this man's story, so neither could I refrain my charity for his assistance. So I called him, 'Hark thee, friend,' said I, 'come hither, for I believe thou art in health, that I may venture thee'; so I pulled out my hand, which was in my pocket before, 'Here,' says I, 'go and call thy Rachel once more, and give her a little more comfort from me. God will never forsake a family that trust in Him as thou dost.' So I gave him four other shillings, and bid him go lay them on the stone and call his wife. I have not words to express the poor man's thankfulness, neither could he express it himself but by tears running down his face. He called his wife, and told her God had moved the heart of a stranger, upon hearing their condition, to give them all that money, and a great deal more such as that he said to her. The woman, too, made signs of the like thankfulness, as well to Heaven as to me, and joyfully picked it up; and I parted with no money all that year that I thought better bestowed."And I do believe with that I will be done. Well, almost done. I've learned a lot about the Great Plague by reading this book, and I've got things to go look up, that's always a good thing, if I remember to do it. I liked the book as much as you can like a book about lots and lots of people dying horrible deaths because of rats and fleas. I would and possibly will read it again, there are just so many books out there to read and re-read who knows if I'll actually get around to it again. The book is definitely creepy, things like carts for the dead and big pits for the bodies, and bodies laying in houses for days until someone figures out the people in the house must all be dead. Things like that. I'll give it four stars anyway, unless that "a journal should be separated into days" thing bugs me too much, then it will go down to a three star. For now it's four.

  • Anca
    2019-01-26 17:14

    Historical fiction about the plague of London in 1665. Defoe was just a 5 year old child when it happened but documented about it in exhaustive details so it will sound like a real life journal. It is first person narrative but it does not focus on the person of H.F, a saddler that stayed to protect his business (presumed to be based on Defoe's uncle, Henry Foe that lived through it), but on general means.There are many details about parishes affected, official decisions, the frauds deceiving people, logic assumings about the plague's spreading, occasional particular stories/anecdotes to make a general point. The narrator neutrally presents a detailed account of the situation.I was fascinated about the bubonic plague ever since I've read Camus' The Plague. Of course, Defoe handles it entirely different, the human despair in a crisis and the candor that follows up a tragedy are mentioned with resignation because it is all flushed away soon after the refugees return. So it is obviously not Defoe's aim to point it.The narrator is a well respected man that I sympathized with for his attitude and openness. He has medical & religious beliefs that I suppose are of the most common sense you could find those days (happily he doesn't linger over the latter). I think that the book's axis is the interest given to the poor, despite his belonging to the middle class. Because the writing is so unpolished that it reads like a report, it won't strike a chord but rather state a historical reality and force the readers into the acknowledge of a misfortunate category of people (especially in the context of the growing illuminism movement). At that time, it's likely Defoe also intentioned it to serve as a guide for the future cities struck by the disease.-The book's structure (no chapter/headings) made it slightly difficult to read. That, cumulated with an upsetting redundance towards the end definitely reduced my enthusiasm. But that's just details.-The foreword (for the Romanian edition) is very welcomed as it sets the book in a historic & literary context; plus, a perspective over Defoe's life and work.

  • Rachel
    2019-02-05 12:10

    This is one of the stranger conglomerations I have ever encountered under the name, “novel.” We’ve got a 1722 fictionalized memoir of London’s 1665 bubonic plague epidemic, how-to-survive-plagues advice and 17th-century public health info, and, my favorite part, philosophical speculation about the outbreak’s causes. It’s pretty safe to say that Defoe has an agenda in this book beyond telling tragic, bubo-filled plague stories, though he tells them very movingly indeed. Like other pre-19th-century things I've read (here’s looking at you, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman), the organization of the above pieces seems a little chaotic to modern sensibilities. There’s lots of repetition, and threads come and go unexpectedly. (One of the end notes in my edition went, "[Defoe's] narrative thus parallels the plague, becoming uncontrollable.") But this is a guy who has been credited with popularizing the novel form in English, so he’s probably still working out a few bugs. Or he’s a pre-post-structuralist genius à la Laurence Sterne. Or something in between. I will leave that to people who know a lot more about The Novel than I do to figure out.* But enough literary stuff. Let’s get to the really good part about this book which is, of course, Defoe’s speculations about plague epidemiology** and how they relate to the history of science.I was captivated by these speculations, particularly because of their historical context. The book was written over a century before germ theory, but is the product of a transitional time when early Enlightenment reasoning coexisted with older belief systems. Defoe did a bunch of research into surviving records from the plague period, and includes a lot of contemporary theories about the disease. He (or his narrator) seems to settle on an interesting hybrid of natural and supernatural causes of the epidemic. God does send the plague in general:Doubtless the Visitation itself is a stroke from Heaven upon a City, or Country, or Nation where it falls; a Messanger of his Vengeance, and a loud Call to that Nation, or Country, or City, to Humiliation and Repentance.BUT natural causes can explain its course thereafter; God doesn’t make an executive decision to take out each individual victim:Now ‘tis evident, that in the Case of an Infection, there is no apparent extraordinary occasion for supernatural Operation, but the ordinary Course of Things appears sufficiently arm’d, and made capable of all the Effects that Heaven usually directs by a Contagion. Among these Causes and Effects this of the secret Conveyance of Infection imperceptible, and unavoidable, is more than sufficient to execute the Fierceness of divine Vengeance, without putting it upon Supernaturals and Miracle. Sure in Defoe's view, the rescue of the odd individual here and there can be ascribed to divine providence, and natural causes are ultimately divine in origin, but natural processes are a major preoccupation in the text. And it’s really amazing how many pieces of plague epidemiology, as we currently understand it, are present. When considering potential infective agents, Defoe brings up good old miasma, bad sweat, and killer halitosis, among others, but also:Others talk of infection being carried on by the air only by carrying with it vast numbers of insects and invisible creatures, who enter into the body with the breath or even at the pores with the air and there generate or emit most acute poisons or poisonous ova or eggs, which mingle themselves with the blood and so infect the body.Microbes!For prevention, he records that people filled their mouths with herbs and wrote “Abracadabra” in a prophylactic pyramid, but some systematically destroyed rats and imposed quarantine measures.Defoe also interpolates actual Bills of Mortality from 1664-1665 throughout: death counts in London organized by week and by parish. He uses pre-plague data as a kind of control in several speculations about plague prevalence and the populations most affected. In such stew of theories and data, how to parse out what’s really happening? Well, part of what Defoe explores in the novel is how to evaluate the nature of evidence, like the place of rumors and anecdotes, and subjective influences on “hard” evidence, such as the pressure to under-attribute deaths to the plague in London’s weekly Bills of Mortality.The pieces are here, people! Add a little inductive reasoning and the visual display of quantitative information, and you could get something like John Snow’s maps , which assisted in uncovering cholera etiology a little over a century after A Journal of the Plague Year was written.So, yeah. Repetitious, messy, and archaically capitalized it may be, but this is a fascinating document of scientific history.________________________*Which would be most people, and, if it is you, I would love it if you could clue me in.**Defoe doesn’t call it epidemiology – there’s a lot of “Distemper” and “Visitation” and “noisome Pestilence” and “Bills of Mortality” and “is it best to hide in a Hut in the Forest?” and that sort of thing. But epidemiology (in the sense of causes, spread and control of disease) is what he’s getting at.

  • J.G. Keely
    2019-02-05 13:08

    And so it was that the plague came into London, by the mercy of God, and I thought I would remain in the city despite the plague, for since God made it, I could not escape it if he meant me to perish from it, viz. when that brick fell off the chimney and onto my foot, which I was loathe to move, for since God sent the brick, it would do me no good to move my foot and so avoid his will.But I would say the best way to avoid the plague and to survive would be to leave the city, as many did, when the signs of the plague came, for in this way, many survived who would not have, by the grace of God, for though God created the plague, which cannot be hoped to be avoided, we are no Mahometans who believe our lives predetermined.But, the Lord Mayor should not have locked people with the plague up in their houses, for this was a cruel thing, and I think many died who had no reason to from this expedient, viz. by being trapped with others who were diseased or suffering ill health from the close air.I rejoice that God sent this plague to kill so many unpleasant people, viz. heathens and unbelievers and thieves and the greedy, for surely God sent the plague for this purpose, and would not have allowed to live any who so deserved death, viz heathens, unbelievers, thieves, and the greedy.Though it was difficult to go to church, for so many of the priests had died, and so many of those who came in and prayed for their lives, and their families lives, which was the best thing they could do, even though the plague travels on the breath and to be in church is very dangerous for this reason, doubtless God spared the good people who deserved life, viz. kind and gentle people.Now I must tell you a sad story about a man who I knew to be extremely generous and pious, and whose wife was chaste and always kind, and who had two infant children. The children both died of the plague, followed by the wife, who did not even know she had it, and then he was driven to madness by the plague and ran through the streets naked and babbling, before he also died. I feel it was necessary to relate this story, for there are many such like it, and though I cannot declare it's veracity myself, it seems so likely that I must needs include it here, viz. it is a worthy story.And I should say that the Lord Mayor should not have locked people with the plague up in their houses, for this was a cruel thing, and I think many died who had no reason to from this expedient, viz. by being trapped with others who were diseased or suffering ill health from the close air.There are some physicians who say that the disease can be detected by taking a microscope to the exhalation of a victim, whereupon will be seen many tiny monsters, viz. dragons, snakes, and devils, and that these enter the blood and lay many eggs which pass the disease along, but I think this most ridiculous and unlikely, and only include it because some have said it.Some poor, ignorant folks went to fortune tellers or other such liars and payed monies to have certain rituals performed or symbols given which were meant to protect them, viz. pins or necklaces said to be good luck or proof against disease, which was most foolish and it is a shame that such folk took advantage of the poor in this way.Luckily, most of the poor took faith in the church, wearing crosses or invoking saints and praying each day and night to be spared, which I am certain the greater part were.But I should not end this account without first speaking of a certain crime: the Lord Mayor should not have locked people with the plague up in their houses, for this was a cruel thing, and I think many died who had no reason to from this expedient, viz. by being trapped with others who were diseased or suffering ill health from the close air.

  • Bruce
    2019-01-16 13:06

    This is a fictionalized account, through the eyes and voice of the narrator, H.R., of the last great Plague in London, in 1665. Defoe published it in 1722. Using charts and graphs from the time of the plague, Defoe adds to his account’s verisimilitude. “H.R.” may be a reference to his uncle who lived in the city at the time of the plague and kept a record of events that were occurring. This novel is one of the best accounts of the temper of the times and complements the journal kept by Samuel Pepys. This plague, in which 100,000 persons lost their lives, was followed one year later, in 1666, by the Great Fire that destroyed much of London, these two events precipitating the rebuilding and “reinvention” of London into the modern city that it became thereafter.It is hard to avoid noting the similarities with which people of the time and people today respond to events that are frightening, apparently inexplicable, and disruptive, how people draw irrational conclusions about causes, now they conjure bizarre interpretations as to reasons for the events, how they fall back upon primitive and punitive religious explanations or simply attribute all that is happening to Divine Providence or Vengeance, and how social norms and conventions break down, the veneer of civilization proving to be shallow and fragile indeed. We see the same thing happening with the HIV epidemic, with 9/11, with the occurrence of natural disasters possibly related to global climate change - the list could go on and on. Humankind lives and responds with emotions, rationality seemingly coming into play only to justify and reinforce emotional reactions, and we fool ourselves to think that we are primarily rational creatures.The narrator thinks that the plague was caused by some sort of infection and puts forth several theories about how it might be passed from person to person. Are these theories those prevalent in the early 18th century, when the novel was written, or are they meant to reflect theories that were just beginning to be considered at the time of the plague fifty years earlier? Even as he seems aware of the logical and even theological inconsistencies in the ways he views events, the narrator nonetheless tries to reconcile his determination to see the Plague through scientific eyes, seeking natural explanations for its existence and spread, and also to interpret it as some kind of Divine Retribution and to interpret vagaries in its expression as signs of Divine Mercy and Intervention. We see the same inconsistencies and illogic today, every day, as people try to interpret and understand suffering in their own lives. Some things, indeed, never do change.I n a previous paragraph I suggested possible present-day analogies to the Plague in London, but in truth these are pale comparisons. Maybe more similar ones would be the nuclear bombings in Japan or the fire-bombing of Dresden, although these were sudden and relatively brief events, albeit with prolonged consequences, whereas the Plague dragged on for month after month. Nonetheless, the point is to suggest physical and psychological traumas that led people to respond in ways that are utterly at variance to their usual ways of living and coping with mundane stresses. It is difficult for us to imagine the multiple effects and ramifications of such an experience, the collapse of trade, the resulting lack of necessities, the collapse of civil order and dearth of personnel to carry out needed functions, all in addition to the pervasive terror caused by the threat of sudden and painful death. Even as he praises the steps taken by the municipal authorities for the isolation and care of those who are ill or the dead, the narrator points out how such measures were ineffective and could not have been helpful in controlling the spread of the disease. This novel can’t help but remind one of Albert Camus’ novel, The Plague.The narrator’s descriptions of how the City recovered from the Plague and returned to its usual functioning are also of interest. Not surprisingly, most of the goodwill and mutual support and caring that occurred during the worst days returned pretty much to normal afterward, and the usual acrimonies and squabbles to which humanity is accustomed resumed. I could not help but reflect upon how the goodwill and support felt within the US and around the world in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy dissipated in the months and years following.

  • gabrielle
    2019-01-31 12:07

    (Another one from the _Peeps_ list.)  Written in the early 1700s; a first-person narrative of the London plague of 1665.  The account is incredibly detailed, although its accuracy has been called into question lately.  There's no longer any way to verify Defoe's statistics because the church records (tracking burials etc) were lost in the Great Fire.  I LOVE PLAGUE STORIES.  Doom!  Death! Destruction!  I think it would be really cool to set up a "living history" tour of London & visit the locations mentioned in the book (assuming they've been reconstructed).  I'm actually really surprised nobody's done something like that already.  I know I'm not the only armchair immunologist on the planet!

  • Fatma
    2019-01-21 18:16

    redundant, boring; boring, redundant. (did I mention BORING?)

  • Andrea
    2019-01-26 12:21

    This is grim but strangely gripping, almost in spite of its author. First I had to try and remember that this is so early, among the earliest of the many claims of earliest novels -- that's hard enough. Written decades after the events it is describing, it's still quetsioned how much of it is based on Daniel Defoe's uncle's diary (he himself was 5 at the time he describes in such detail), how much is historical research, how much is 'novel'. It's strangely removed yet at the same time close enough to be fairly terrifying. Some claim it as part of the psychogeography tradition, an early example of a literary mapping of London, and I confess that is what I liked the most. The street by street, parish by parish descriptions, the sense of all London reading the death lists, waiting, watching the plague move from West to East and South but all the while hoping it wouldn't reach them. Getting some sense of what these times were like, how they were lived so far removed from imagination and Hollywood's occasional depictions. It's hard to believe that it all started only a short distance from where I work every day in Holborn.I haven't read much beyond wikipedia and short descriptions, but what bothered me most was trying to decide if there is any touch of irony in this or if it is written straight faced. I just couldn't tell. It's horrifying however, when you don't identify with the rich but with the poor. He rails against the thievery, the lengths to which the well-off had to go when fleeing the city to protect their property--there is so much here about protecting property. So damn much. Yet he himself lists the multiple professions, the thousands that lost all work and hope of sustenance when the plague hit London. The many families who fled the cities, firing their servants and turning them out of their homes penniless and with nowhere to go. He writes at one point of the plague as a kind of deliverance, how it:carried off in that time thirty or forty thousand of these very poor people which, had they been left, would certainly have been an insufferable burden by their poverty; that is to say, the whole city could not have supported the expense of them, or have provided food for them; and they would in time have even been driven to the necessity of plundering either the city itself or the country adjacent, to have subsisted themselves...In fact, it is extremely noticeable that all of the much vaunted charity of the city and 'gentlemen' of the country is primarily a measure to stop mass starvation resulting in rebellion and theft. Personally, I was angry enough at it that I was hoping for a little more pillage, for some distribution of the high life in this time of horror, especially as he describes the frightful conditions under which people lived. Their desperation is visible in the number of people willing to risk their lives for the small pay offered them to nurse the sick and watch at their doors and dig the graves and collect and bury the dead.While praising London's government for running the city well through it all, Defoe blames the poor for spreading the plague, for not remaining shut up in their houses like the wealthy, waiting out the infection: But it was impossible to beat anything into the heads of the poor. They went on with the usual impetuosity of their tempers, full of outcries and lamentations when taken, but madly careless of themselves, foolhardy and obstinate, while they were well. Where they could get employment they pushed into any kind of business, the most dangerous and liable to infection... As though people seek out such employment when they don't need to eat. There is also a curious interlude when he reproaches some men getting drunk in a pub and laughing at those praying and grieving. He tells them to repent, to learn from his own behaviour, and tells them he is saved by God...As I say, almost over the top enough that it could be stab at some critique of the religious and the rich, but I have a feeling it's probably not, or not critical enough. Though it has contradictory opinions in it to fill another book sorting them all out.

  • Kilian Metcalf
    2019-01-31 16:34

    I think this must be the ur-text for all futuristic dystopian post-apocalyptic novels. I thought it was non-fiction until I learned more about Daniel Defoe. He was five when the plague struck London in 1665, and his book was published in 1722. That makes it technically historical fiction. Much of the book is based on the experiences of Defoe's uncle. Early critics were also unclear how to classify it. Some considered it nonfiction, with Defoe as the editor of his uncle's memoirs. Some put it definitely in the fiction camp because of the structure and coherence of the work as compared to other accounts such as Pepys' diary.It is a harrowing read. At the time of writing, germs hadn't been invented, so it was a complete mystery what caused the plague. It came out of nowhere, blazed a trail of death and destruction, and then stopped. All for no discernible reason. Some people got sick, some didn't. Some died, some recovered. No pattern to the progress, and it all appeared random. The narrator did nothing different from those who lived and those who died. He was lucky.One of the most interesting sections of the book for me was the economic analysis close to the end of the account. Because of the social disruption and massive loss of management, labor and consumers, businesses failed. Ironically, what brought the economy out of the mess was another disaster—the great fire. Because of the destruction caused by the fire, there was a huge demand for construction and goods to replace what was lost. England finally righted itself and carried on.Of all the books by Defoe I've read (Robinson Crusoe, Journal of the Plague Year, and Moll Flanders) I like this the best.

  • Genia Lukin
    2019-02-14 19:13

    I understand that this is a book written before the conventions of a "novel" or a "memoir" or any other thing of that sort actually existed. So when Defoe was writing this book, he was just... well, writing. Because of that, the basic structure of the book contains only two set points; one - the plague begins; two - the plague ends.Between these points chaos reigns supreme. Stories are written together and connected in an entirely associative manner, stories trail off and reappear several pages later, stories grow into huge incidents or just peter out.Nevertheless, for the first half of the book, more or less, this isn't really a detriment, giving, as it does, the feel of a genuine diary. However, sad though it is to say, genuine diaries are, on the whole, rather boring affairs, and this book, just like the diary it purports to be, becomes, in its second half, quite unbearably dull.It certainly has its merits as a depiction of what people had thought about plagues and epidemics in the 17th-18th centuries, how they handled the concept and what they did when no functioning system of public health or regulations, nor welfare and disaster relief, stood to help them in their need. It's sometimes horrifying, and sometimes banal, like life in general,and if it were a more structured, more varied bonk, it would be interesting all the way.

  • Ruthie Jones
    2019-02-07 19:24

    I readily admit that it can be quite difficult to tease out the remarkable stories that lurk within these older works. The authors of yore (Defoe included) are often long winded and repetitious. If you have patience and fortitude, you will be rewarded!While A Journal of the Plague Year is a work of fiction (Defoe was only 5 years old in 1665), it does present an historical account of a truly horrific year in London's history, made even more horrific when the fire of 1666 swept through and claimed even more lives. Buried in the wordiness, Defoe paints a frightening picture of human suffering. As fast as the plague spread throughout London and to other towns, ignorance and fear and rumors spread even faster. Defoe's narrator gives many names to the plague throughout: calamity, infection, disease. The most interesting of his names for this plague is Visitation. It sounds like death disguised as an old friend has come a calling. After making my way through this book, I think Visitation is quite apt. There were many instances during that terrible year when it was difficult to tell who was sick and who was well. Even the infected didn't always know they were sick, so they spread it around to the unsuspecting.A topic that Defoe obviously felt strongly about was the shutting up of households at the first sign of sickness to help minimize the contagion. This included "imprisoning" people who were not sick at the time but became sick and died because of their containment.The fear and reality of a contagious, deadly disease are part of our history as human beings as well as part of our present and no doubt our future.***". . .the best Preparation for the Plague was to run away from it."". . .'tis evident Death will reconcile us all; on the other Side the Grave we shall be all Brethren again.""A Plague is a formidable Enemy, and is arm'd with Terrors that every Man is not sufficiently fortified to resist, or prepar'd to stand the Shock against."

  • Charles
    2019-01-17 20:11

    Daniel Defoe's 'A Journal of the Plague Year' is a curious piece of fiction. It is both a historical account, with an emphasis on the veracity of all the details, and an imaginative reconstruction of the 'Plague Year' (1665). Although Defoe himself was only five years old when the plague spread across London in 1665, and he was probably evacuated as well, the 'Journal' was written like a sort of historical memorial, meant to be read by posterity as a 'survival guide' in the eventuality of another outbreak (when the 'Journal' was first published in 1722, another outbreak of the plague was thought to be almost imminent after an outbreak in Marseilles in 1720 wiped out nearly 100,000 of its inhabitants). Yet, there are a lot of 'stories' meant to be interesting digressions from the more spiritual, societal and scientific concerns of the 'Journal' (which are never 'exhausting' or uninformed either). These stories are usually very short (except for the one about the three resourceful men: the biscuit-baker, the sail-maker and the joiner). Another interesting aspect is that everything is described by a narrator simply referred to as H.F. at the end of the 'Journal' (who most critics assume to be Henry Foe, Defoe's uncle). H.F. lived in London in those horrific times, and is, therefore, a witness to many of the incidents he recounts.In the appendix to this Penguin Classics edition, they included the Introduction by Anthony Burgess. It provides a much-needed historical context in clear, unambiguous terms and a well-researched study of Defoe's novels and career, explains what could have possibly been Defoe's literary aims, with regards to the writing of the 'Journal', and its influence on literature in general. This introduction is a must-read, in my opinion, as it offers a great perspective of the text for literary students and general readers alike.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-01-17 18:25

    Not for the faint hearted as this was solid text on a gruelling subject. Seeing as this was written some decades after the events I wonder why the great fire was not mentioned - maybe the answer lies in the fact that DeFoe and his contempories did not know that the fire cleansed the area. *shrug* What do you think?

  • Rick Skwiot
    2019-01-25 13:07

    Thanks to 20th century medical and public health advances, we now know how to prevent, stem, and treat most infectious diseases. Though a few folks may still recall the flu epidemic of 1918, which cost 20 millions lives worldwide and a half million in the United States alone, for most of us living outside the Third World, fear of epidemic has become largely a thing of the past.But if you wish to glimpse daily life under the threat of impending death by disease (without actually being threatened by it), along with the accompanying grief, despair, depravity, kindness, and courage, Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year" can take you there.However, Defoe`s classic work is neither a journal nor of the plague year. Rather, it consists of an odd and hardly chronological collection of anecdotes, statistics, and ruminations written by the author of Moll Flanders some fifty years after the Plague of 1665 (when he was but a child of four). While pretending to be a first person eyewitness account of the epidemic, the Journal is in fact convincingly realistic fiction. The author has wisely created a narrator and a literary vehicle that powerfully portrays 17th century London and the agonies of an epidemic that killed more than 100,000 in the city.Early on, Defoe establishes credibility for his fictional construct by quoting detailed figures (seemingly culled from official documents) on the growing death tolls as the Black Death spread across London. Further, throughout the book he documents the legal measures, such as quarantining households, and describes the medical endeavors to fight the disease and its spread. But more important, having once persuaded the reader of the authenticity of his tale, Defoe gets under the skin of the plague by showing the human suffering and drama it created.He accomplishes this through his fictional narrator, a bachelor merchant who saunters about London hearing cries of pain, listening to tales of death, observing grief-deranged survivors roaming the streets, and even visiting the mass graves where, under the cover of night, death carts dump their grisly loads.Also, we are privy to the deliberations of our moralistic but pragmatic narrator--on whether or not to flee London with his brother's family, on predestination and free will, on the quackery and skullduggery that fed on fear and ignorance. This imaginative character's active, intelligent, and detailed surveillance of the epidemic places us in the streets of London and creates a work of lasting vitality.Through him we see the people's susceptibility to omens, religious superstition, prophets of doom, and astrologers; to quacks, charlatans, and fortune-tellers. We glimpse the duplicity and cowardice of the government and ruling class, who frequently fled London to save their own skins while abandoning their servants to penury and possible infection. We view mountebanks fleecing desperate families, nurses murdering and robbing their lingering patients, and the sick taking their own lives to save themselves a last few hours of pain. But we also are shown acts of great kindness, courage, charity, and love, as well as human ingenuity in service of a will to survive in the face of seeming doom.Ultimately, the book is perhaps not so much about the plague as about human nature, of which Defoe is a keen observer, showing us that 17th century Londoners are not much different from ourselves. .But as gloomy as this subject matter may seem, he can present it with a light and often-humorous touch, as in his story of the drunken piper. The beggar had passed out on the street after given an uncustomarily large amount to drink. A second man, thinking the piper a corpse, laid a plague victim beside him for the death cart to retrieve. The piper did not revive until about to pushed into a mass grave. He called out, "Where am I?" The sexton replied, "Why you are in the dead-cart, and we are going to bury you." The piper then asked, "But I ain't dead though, am I?"Defoe presents the enigmatic narrator as both deeply affected by the suffering and aloof. He roams about London and its environs with seemingly little concern for his own well-being, at times viewing the horrific scenes with passion and compassion, and at other moments from a distant, Archimedean point of intellectual detachment. Along the way we get the narrator's (and, we suspect, the author's) views on religion, criminal justice, public health measures, medicine, government, and economics.The pragmatism of Defoe's narrator shows through in his discussion of the last. Virtually all commerce came to a halt in the months when the plague ruled. Ships did not dock, shops closed, construction stopped, and economic life was put on hold while death profited. Defoe shows us the repercussions of this economic death--not only the hardship, the admirable efforts of certain government officials to help the needy, and the charity of many--but also how it helped stem the spread of the disease by reducing contact among people.In the end, it's Defoe's details that win out, making this fictional account read as the intimate first-person portrayal it purports to be: the 200,000 pet dogs and cats rounded up and slaughtered to help prevent the epidemic's spread; the infection and quick death of infants who fed at the breasts of their diseased mothers; the public whippings of those who stole from the dead; the excruciating pain of the swellings brought on by the bubonic plague and the perhaps even more painful attempts by physicians to break the tumors with hot irons. Such details as these, perhaps too realistically rendered for the squeamish, give "A Journal of the Plague Year" an irresistible authority.However, the whole conceit might have fallen flat had it not been crafted with such a deft, and I think, sly, touch. Defoe's language never flies toward hyperbole, but is grounded in seemingly careful observation--even when the narrator is deeply moved. Defoe's slyness is evident in his narrator often claiming faulty memory or lack of knowledge--"whether he lived or died I don't remember"--which augments the verisimilitude of his highly creative and still haunting work.

  • Catalin Negru
    2019-02-07 16:04

    Target audience: common people, anyone who wants to find information about the plague, the beliefs and the lifestyle of the Londoners of the year 1666.About the author: Daniel Defoe was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer, and spy, most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is noted for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Samuel Richardson, and is among the founders of the English novel. He was a prolific and versatile writer, producing more than five hundred books, pamphlets, and journals on various topics, including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology, and the supernatural. He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.Structure of the book: This edition has 289 pages, and the book is not divided in parts, chapters or points.Overview: Although it is considered to be a work of fiction, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year from 1722 is based on a solid documentation and describes in great detail the physical and mental effects the plague had had upon the citizens. This book is somehow a clear proof that reality always beats fiction. There is no comparison, for example, between modern-day movies or books about zombie apocalypses and the city of London of the year 1666. So much horror, so much cruelty, so much death and so much savagery; at a certain moment I almost had the feeling those things never happened in reality. And yet they did.Of all, I especially liked how Defoe depicted the psychological impact of the plague upon the citizens, a thing missing from modern-day productions. Everywhere reigned concern and the cries were heard continuously. Despair and fear altered human reason, bringing the population to a state of semi-savagery. The stench reminded those alive that death was one step away and everyone wondered when his turn would come. And I'll end this overview with a quote:Next to these public things were the dreams of old women; or, I should say, the interpretation of old women upon other people’s dreams; and these put abundance of people even out of their wits. Some heard voices warning them to be gone, for that there would be such a plague in London so that the living would not be able to bury the dead; others saw apparitions in the air, and I must be allowed to say of both, I hope without breach of charity, that they heard voices that never spake, and saw sights that never appeared; but the imagination of the people was really turned wayward and possessed; and no wonder if they who were poring continually at the clouds, saw shapes and figures, representations and appearances, which had nothing in them but air and vapour.Strong points: A Journal of the Plague Year is one of my favorite books, and for a good reason. Fascinating, cruel, interesting, many details but not boring, not too long or too short. Easy to read and captivating.Weak points: I felt like the pace of the book changed towards the end, as if the narration becomes less interesting as the effects and the strength of the plague are diminishing. Moreover, I believe that many tables and statistics about deaths and casualties could have been skipped by the author. In any case, a 5-star book._______________★★★ Follow us on Goodreads★★★ Visit our website

  • Sacherina
    2019-02-09 19:26

    I am impressed by this book because of its matter-of-fact approach towards the plague. Defoe manages to write a book about a disasterous disease that basically paused the whole country until it was over withouth becoming emotional. I say that the narrator doesn't become emotional, what emotions are stirred in the reader is a whole different matter.It is gloomy and depressing as a whole but Defoe manages to occasionally lift the reader's spirits by telling him about the incredible acts of kindness and courage of the common people. People steal, scam and shun each other but they also help one another, for example by contributing with money for the poor.This book made me even more interested in the plague than I was previously. One thing that particularly intrigues me after having just finished the book is what in the end stopped the plague. Defoe says with absolute certainty that it was God's will because there was no real reason for the plague to stop killing people all of a sudden, but I am sure to do some further research on the subject after having read about it.The book is written as a journal but it is surprising that it is such an unemotional one. It doesn't contain as many personal experiences as one would expect. It is a journal that tells of the plague, not of a person.What I disliked with the book as a whole was Defoe's habit of repeating himself. He brought up the same issues many times, of course they were mostly important, interesting issues, but I am a person who dislikes repetition of information in books. The ammount of detail could also be a bit overwhelming at times, but overall it was an informative depiction of the plague.

  • LobsterQuadrille
    2019-02-15 20:20

    When I started reading A Journal of the Plague Year, it seemed pretty dry and scholarly, but I decided to give it a chance, and surprisingly I actually found it an enjoyable(if slow) book. As something of a history buff, I thought it was interesting to see how the bubonic plague affected the individuals and economy of England centuries ago, and even to see how the English language was written and used back then. The prose became progressively less dry, though it can still be tough to slog through. I liked that it was written with such intelligence and compassion, and it was probably a good challenge for my brain after all the comparatively light books I've been reading lately.Still, the thick prose and the overly detailed plethora of facts and figures made it pretty tiring to read, and I skimmed over some parts because I wasn't interested in learning the exact number of plague deaths each week in every district or parish of London. Also, there is a reason why books are usually divided into chapters, and this book is a perfect example of why. Being a continuous narrative, it was hard to find a good, logical place to take a break from reading since I don't like to pause on a page where the last sentence continues to the next page. This habit compelled me to keep reading until I found a page that started a new sentence from the very top.This historical fiction work by Daniel Defoe is worth checking out if you like history and are up for a challenge, but though I ultimately liked it, I can certainly understand why not everyone would enjoy it.

  • Libros Prestados
    2019-01-22 14:05

    Mi videoreseña: ha encantado y no me sorprende la buena fama que tiene.Es un relato fascinante e inmersivo que va dibujando el horror de lo que viene siendo una pandemia (la epidemia de peste que asoló londres en 1665) mediante la opinión de un supuesto testigo de los acontecimientos y decenas de pequeñas anécdotas que van conformando la narración. Es increible la capacidad de Defoe de hacerte creer que él estuvo allí, cuando es todo un producto de su imaginación, nutrido con el trabajo de otros y los rumores e historias que aún rondaban en la época en la que él vivía (unos 60 años tras los hechos).Se observa el germen de lo que hoy conocemos como reportaje periodístico: la narración de los hechos incluyendo muchos detalles "de interés humano". Se diferencia, por supuesto, en el lenguaje (el vocabulario y estructura de las frases es diferente al uso moderno de la lengua) y en el pequeñísimo detalle de que se trata de un relato inventado, aunque basado en la realidad. De ahí que se considere una novela, aunque en su época se incluía dentro de los ensayos filosóficos donde los autores trataban de hablar sobre sus teorías y creencias con la intención de "educar" al pueblo, o, al menos, hacerle reflexionar sobre las realidades de la vida y el pensamiento.Abstenerse hipocondriacos. Sin embargo, aquellos interesados en escribir novelas sobre apocalipsis zombis deberían leerlo para obtener datos y una visión en conjunto de los estragos de una pandemia entre la población.Sin duda, un gran libro.

  • Justin Evans
    2019-01-20 14:32

    Yep... Defoe's returns continue to diminish. This reminds me of Dostoevsky's 'House of the Dead,' since both books are absolutely riveting for the first 100 pages or so: you get an immediate impression of what it's like to live in a plague-ridden London (or Russian prison); you get drawn in by the odd 'life is stranger than fiction' moment, but then, before you know it, you're reading exactly the same thing two or even three times for no particular reason other than the narrator's inability to revise his own work. If you know much about the way plague was treated by the early moderns, you won't be surprised by too much here. This penguin edition has some things going for it, starting with an amazing cover illustration and ending with Anthony Burgess' old introduction which is now an appendix. I suspect that's there because Burgess does what an introducer ought to do: describes a bit about Defoe's life and times, a bit about the book you're about to read, and a very slight interpretation of that book (here: 'can we preserve the societies we build?') The editor of this volume, on the other hand, gives us a semi-rapturous 'analysis' of Defoe's use of 'place' in the book, which sounds interesting until you read the book and realize that it's utterly tendentious. Literary fashion is an odd beast- wouldn't it have made more sense to redo Roxana than to redo this?

  • Katharyn
    2019-01-31 14:28

    The fictional journal of a man living out the Black Plague in London, written in old English slang appropriate to the working "author's" social status (including spelling errors). More true to journal form than most fictional journals, the entries are a mix of personal experience, personal observation reflection and medication, second hand stories, and general statistic documentation; as such, I found my interest fluctuated greatly from entry to entry, having personally very little interest in statistics beyond general numbers. The "author's" observations correctly observed a hand full of points that are now known to be fact about the plague but were at the time (both during the plague, and when the book was written in the 1720's) miss understood; such as the numbers of those infected increasing when when the feline population was hunted. A classic read, I feel my status as an intellectual has gone up by two points: one for having read something by Defoe, another for having read this particular piece of historical fiction (which does read like a textbook, but I enjoy history textbooks).

  • Jeff
    2019-02-09 20:10

    This is a fictionalized first-hand account of the London plague of 1665 written in 1722. I'm fascinated by plague literature for some reason, probably compounded lately by the hoo-ha over the H1N1 virus, which so far does not measure up. This book is considered to be one of the grand-daddies of plague literature, and i wasn't disappointed. It's a compelling portrait of daily life in the midst of a horrific plague filled in with lots of information from contemporary writings, weekly bills of mortality, etc... The extensive endnotes were really informative too. Only problems were the fact that our narrator is a bit repetitive, and it's been forever since i've read a novel written in Ye Olde Englyshe with its extra-long sentences punctuated with myriad commas and semicolons. I found myself losing focus rather easily if there was anything mildly distracting going on around me. Still, a very interesting read, and essential for any fans of plague literature. Also got me very interested in the following year's disaster, the London fire of 1666. More destruction, please!

  • Daniela
    2019-01-25 12:04

    FINALLY DONE!!! Now, you may be wondering why I'm giving this book 4 stars if reading it was as painful as I made it seem, but it's really quite simple: context.The archaic language was not archaic then and the exceedingly poetic prose was to be expected in a work as old as this, along with all the "praise Him!" and "spare me, God" that are present in every single page of the book. Context.Getting back to present times, that which makes it a weirdly beautifuly written book has now become boring and repetitive. In other words: dull as hell. However, the author still managed to not only give an accurate account of the plague year, he also shows the despair and utter terror that people felt back then. So much that at certain points you feel like crying (unless you are completely soulless, that is). So there, 4 stars because it was masterfuly written for its times and a very interesting in-deep account of events. Were it based on just personal taste -and going by the Goodreads system alone-, my review would have been of 2 stars at the most because of how horribly boring it is.

  • Samantha
    2019-02-05 19:06

    This book is about the last plague in London in 1665. Though it is fiction, it reads like non-fiction . . . . really boring non-fiction. There are lists of numbers of deaths in various parishes (which may not have been nearly so painful to get through if I wasn't listening to this as an audiobook), discussions of fortune tellers exploiting people's fears, and the hopelessness of those not able to leave the city. It is all done in a very cold, detached tone with no personal stories told. There are really no characters to speak of as the narrator almost always speaks in general terms not about specific people. I decided that this wasn't even worth my listening time and quit in the middle, which is something I very rarely do.