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they were making preparations to bury the whole parish, and the like. But time made it appear the churchwardens knew the condition of the parish better than they did; for the pit being finished on the 4th of September, I think they began to bury in it on the 6th, and by the 20th, which was just two weeks, they had thrown into it 1114 bodies, when they were obliged to till it up, the bodies being then come to lie within six feet of the surface. I doubt not but there may be some ancient persons alive in the parish who can justify the fact of this, and are able to show even in what place of the churchyard the pit lay better than I
The mark of it also was many years to be seen in the churchyard on the surface, lying in length parallel with the passage which goes by the west wall of the churchyard, out of Houndsditch, and turns east again into Whitechapel, coming out near the Three Nuns Inn.
“ It was about the 10th of September that my curiosity led, or rather drove me, to go and see this pit again, when there had been near 400 people buried in it; and I was not content to see it in the daytime, as I had done before, for then there would have been nothing to have been seen but the loose earth, for all the bodies that were thrown in were immediately covered with earth by those they called the buriers, which at other times were called bearers, but I resolved to go in the night, and see some of them thrown in.
“ There was a strict order to prevent people coming to those pits, and that was only to prevent infection; but after some time that order was more necessary, for people that were infected, and near their end, and delirious also, would run to those pits, wrapt in blankets or rugs, and throw themselves in, and, as they said, bury themselves. I cannot say that the officers suffered any willingly to lie there; but I have heard that, in a great pit in Finsbury, in the parish of Cripplegate-it lying open then to the fields, for it was not then walled about-many came and threw themselves in, and expired there, before they threw any
and that, when they came to bury others, and found them there, they were quite dead, though not cold.
“This may serve a little to describe the dreadful condition of that day, though it is impossible to say anything that is able to give a true idea of it to those who did not see it, other than this, that it was indeed very dreadful, and such as no tongue can express.
I got admittance into the churchyard by being acquainted with the sexton who attended, who, though he did not refuse me at all, yet earnestly persuaded me not to go, telling me very seriously, for he was a good religious and sensible man, that it was indeed their business and duty to venture, and to run all hazards, and that in it they might hope to be preserved; but that I had no apparent call to it but my own curiosity, which, he said, he believed I would not pretend was sufficient to justify my running
that hazard. I told him I had been pressed in my mind tego, and that, perhaps, it might be an instructing sight that might not be without its uses. "Nay,' says the good man, if you will venture upon that score, 'name of God go in; for depende upon it, it will be a sermon to you, it may be the best that ever you heard in your life. It is a speaking sight, says hes 4 and has a voice with it, and a loud one, to call us all to neri pentance;' and with that he opened the door, and said, 'Go, il
ON 91986 “His
, discourse had shocked my resolution a little, and I stood wavering for a good while; but just at that interyal saw two links come over from the end of the Minories, and heard the bellman, and then appeared a dead-cart, as they called it, coming over the streets; so I could no longer resist my desire of seeing it, and went in. There was nobody, as I could perceiveri at first in the churchyard, or going into it, but the buriers and the fellow that drove the cart, or rather led the horse and cart; þut when they came up to the pit, they saw a man go to and again, muffled up in a brown cloak, and making motions with his hands under his cloak, as if he was in great agony; and the buriersi immediately gathered about him, supposing he was one of those poor delirious or desperate creatures that used to pretend, as I have said, to bury themselves. He said nothing as he walked about, but two or three times groaned very deeply and loud, and sighed as if he would break his heart.
" When the buriers came up to him, they soon found he was, neither a person infected and desperate, as I have observed above nor a person distempered in mind, but one oppressed with a dreadful weight of grief indeed, having his wife and several of his children all in the cart that was just come in with him, and he followed in an agony and excess of sorrow. He mourned heartily, as it was easy to see, but with a kind of masculine grief that could not give itself vent by tears;, and calmly desiring the buriers to let him alone, said he would only see the bodies thrown in, and go away; so they left importuning him. But no sooner was the cart turned round, and the bodies shot into the pit promiscuously, which was a surprise to him, for he at least expected they would have been decently laid in, though, indeed, he was afterwards convinced that was impracticable ; 1 say no sooner did he see the sight, but he cried out aloud, unable to contain himself. I could not hear what he said, but he went backward two or three steps, and fell down in a swoon. The buriers ran to him and took him up, and in a little while he came to himself, and they led him away to the Pie Tavern, over against the end of Houndsditch, where it seems the man was known, and where they took care of him.
“ As the plague increased, there was but one shift that some families had, and that not a few, when their houses happened to be infected; and that was this: the families who, in the first
breaking out of the distemper', fled away into the country, and had retreats among their friends, generally found some one or other of their neighbours or relations to commit the charge of those Kouses to, for the safety of the goods, and the like. Some houses were indeed entirely locked up, the doors padlocked, the windows and doors having deal-boards nailed over them, and only the inspection of them committed to the ordinary watchmen and parish officers, but these were but few. It was thought that there were not less than 1000 houses forsaken of the inhabitants in the city and suburbs, including what was in the out-parishes, and in Surrey, or the side of the water they called Southwark This was besides the numbers of lodgers, and of particular persons s who w
were fled out of their families, so that in all it was "computed that about 200,000 people were fled and gone in alloturis! sini be For my own part, I had in my family only an ancient woman that managed the house, a maid-servant, two apprentices, and myself; and the plague beginning to increase about us, I had many sad thoughts about what course I should take, and how I should act. The many dismal objects which happened everywhere as I went about the streets, had filled my mind with a great deal of horror, for fear of the distemper itself, which was indeed very horrible in itself, and in some more than others : the swellings, which were generally in the neck or groin, when they grew hard, and would not break, grew so painful, that it was equal to the most exquisite torture; and some, not able to bear the torment, threw themselves out at windows, or shot them selves, or otherwise made themselves away; and I saw several dismal objects of that kind : others, unable to contain themselves, vented their pain by incessant roarings; and such loud and lamentable cries were to be heard, as we walked along the streets, that would pierce the very heart to think of, especially when it
as to be considered that the same dreadful scourge might be expected every moment to seize upon ourselves. os de Terrified by those frightful objects, I would retire home sometimes, and resolve to go out no more; and perhaps I would keep these resolutions for three or four days, which time I spent in the most serious thankfulness for my preservation, and the preservation of my family, and the constant confession of my sins, giving myself up to God every day, and applying to him with fasting, and humiliation, and meditation ; such intervals as I had, I employed-in reading books, and in writing down my memorandums of what occurred to me every day.
1.had'a very good friend, a physician, whose name was Heath, whom I frequently visited during this dismal time, and to whose advice I was very much obliged for many things. Dr Heath out in ots,
me, and finding that I ventured so often my family, and not to suffer any of us to go out of doors ; to
keep all our windows fast, shutters and curtains close, and never
any one bought a joint of meat in the market, they would not take it out of the butcher's hand, but took it off the hooks themselves. On the other hand, the butcher would not touch the money, but have it put into a pot full of vinegar, which he kept for that purpose. The buyer always carried small money, to make up any odd sum, that they might take no change. They carried bottles for scents and perfumes in their hands, and all the means that could be used were employed; but then the poor could not do even these things, and they went at all hazards. Innumerable dismal stories we heard every day on this very account. Sometimes a man or woman dropped down dead in the very markets; for many people that had the plague upon them knew nothing of it till the inward gangrene had affected their vitals, and they died in a few moments, this caused that many died 'frequently in that manner in the street suddenly, without any warning; others perhaps had time to go to the next bulk or stall
, or to any door or porch, and just sit down and die. These objects were so frequent in the streets, that when the plague came to be very raging on one side, there was scarcely any passing by the streets, but that several dead bodies would be lying here and there upon the ground: on the other hand, it is observable that though at first the people would stop as they went along, and call to the neighbours to come out on such an occasion, yet afterwards no notice was taken of them; but that if at any time we found a corpse lying, go across the way, and not come near it; or if in a narrow lane or passage, go back again, and seek some other way to go on the business we were upon; and in these cases the corpse was always left till the officers had notice to come and take it away, or till night, when the bearers attending the deadcart would take it up and
carry it away.”
THE PLAGUE AT ITS HEIGHT-AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 1665.
During the month of July the plague had been fearfully increasing. The deaths by plague for the week ending the 4th of July had been, as we have mentioned, 470; the deaths, however, for the week ending the 1st of August were reported at 2010; and this, as usual, was far below the real number.
I had,” continues Defoe,“ taken my friend the physician's advice, and locked myself and my family up, and resolved to suffer the hardship of living a few months without flesh-meat, rather than to purchase it at the hazard of our lives.
“ But though I confined my family, I could not prevail upon my unsatisfied curiosity to stay within entirely myself; and though I generally came frightened and terrified home, yet I could not restrain; only that, indeed, I did not do it so frequently as at first.
“ In these walks I had many dismal scenes before my eyes, as, particularly, of persons ling dead in the streets, terrible shrieks and screechings of women, who, in their agonies, would throw open their chamber windows, and cry out in a dismal surprising
It is impossible to describe the variety of postures in which the passions of the poor people would express themselves.
“ Passing through Token House-yard, in Lothbury, of a sudden a casement violently opened just over my head, and a woman gave three frightful screeches, and then cried, 'Oh death, death, death!' in a most inimitable tone, and which struck me with horror, and a chilliness in my very blood. There was nobody to be seen in the whole street, neither did any other window open, for people had no curiosity now in any case, nor could anybody help one another; so I went on to pass into Bellalley.
“Just in Bell-alley, on the right hand of the passage, there was a more terrible cry than that, though it was not so directed out at the window; but the whole family were in a terrible fright, and I could hear women and children run screaming about the rooms like distracted, when a garret-window opened, and somebody from a window on the other side the alley called and asked 'What is the matter?' Upon which, from the first window, it was answered, “My old master has hanged himself!'
“ It is scarcely credible what dreadful cases happened in particular families every day. People, in the rage of the distemper, or in the torment of their swellings, which was indeed intolerable, running out of their own government, raving and distracted, and oftentimes laying violent hands upon themselves, throwing themselves out at their windows, shooting themselves, &c. Mothers murdering their own children in their lunacy some dying of mere grief, as a passion; some of mere fright and