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John Lawrence, and the sheriffs, the court of aldermen, and a certain number of the common councilmen, or their deputies, came to a resolution, and published it, namely,“ that they would not quit the city themselves, but that they would be always at hand for the preserving of good order in every place, and for doing justice on all occasions; as also for the distributing the public charity to the poor; and, in a word, for the doing the duty and discharging the trust reposed in them by the citizens to the utmost of their power.”
In pursuance of these orders, the lord mayor, sheriffs, &c. held councils every day, more or less, for making such dispositions as they found needful for preserving the civil peace. Consulting with each other, and with some physicians, it appeared to the magistrates that the kindling of large fires in the streets might have some effect in purifying the air and abating the plague. Accordingly, on the 2d of September, a proclamation was issued by the lord mayor to this effect, “ Every six houses on each side of the way, which will be twelve houses, are to join together to provide firing for three whole nights and three whole days, to be made in one great fire before the door the middlemost inhab; tant; and one or more persons to be appointed to keep the fire constantly burning, without suffering the same to be extinguished or go out all the time aforesaid; and this to be observed in all streets, courts, lanes, and alleys; and great care to be taken where the streets, courts, lanes, and alleys are narrow, that the fires
may be made of a proportionable bigness, that so no damage may ensue to the houses.
The effects of these fires, do not appear to have been very beneficial, if we may judge from the continued increase of the number of deaths. the physicians,” says Dr Hodges in his Loimologia, or Account of the Plague,“ opposed the kindling of the fires with all our authority. But the magistrates, overanxious for the health of the city, and preferring the authority and example of our great Hippocrates, notwithstanding our expostulations, caused tires everywhere to be lighted. Ålas ! the three days had scarcely elapsed, when the mourning heavens, as if weeping for the innumerable funerals, extinguished the flames with profuse showers. Whether through the suffocating effluvia of the coals, or of the dampness of the rainy atmosphere immediately following, that very night brought unheard-of destruction, for truly more than 4000 perished before the morning." The night of this
dreadful mortality appears to have been that of the 3d or 4th of September; and the weekly return of deaths on the 5th of the month was 8252, of which 6988 were by the plague. According to Defoe, however, at least 10,000 died that week of the plague; and as many in each of the two following weeks. “ The plague,” he says,
now raged beyond all that I have expressed, and came even to such a height, that, in the extremity, they began to break into that excellent order
of which I have spoken so much in behalf of the magistrates ; namely, that no dead bodies were seen in the streets, or burials in the day-time; for there was a necessity, in this extremity, to bear with its being otherwise for a little while. And it is here to be observed that, after the funerals became so many, people could not toll the bell
, mourn, or weep, or wear black for one another as they did before; no, nor so much as make coffins for those that died.
“In our parish of Aldgate, the dead-carts were several times, as I have heard, found standing at the churchyard gate full of dead bodies, but neither bellman nor driver, nor any one else with it. Neither in these nor many other cases did they know what bodies they had in their cart; for sometimes they were let down with ropes out of balconies and out of windows, and sometimes the bearers brought them to the cart, sometimes other people; nor, as the men themselves said, did they trouble themselves tó keep any account of the numbers.
“Here, also, I ought to leave a further remark, for the use of posterity, concerning the manner of people's infecting one another; namely, that it was not the sick people only from whom the plague was immediately received, but from those who, though infected, were apparently well. When people began to be convinced that the infection was received in this surprising manner, they began to be exceedingly shy and jealous of every one that came near them. Once, in a public day, whether a Sabbath-day or not I do not remember, in Aldgate church, in a pew full of people, on a sudden one fancied she smelt an ill smell; immediately she fancies the plague was in the pew, whispers her notion or suspicion to the next, then rises and goes out of the pew; it immediately took with the next, and so with them all, and every one of them and of the two adjoining pews got up and went out of the church, nobody knowing what it was offended them, or from whom.
" This immediately filled everybody's mouth with one preparation or other, such as the old women directed, and some perhaps as physicians directed, in order to prevent infection by the breath of others; insomuch that if we came to go into a church, when it was anything full of people, there would be such a mixture of smells at the entrance, that it was much more strong, though perhaps not so wholesome, than if you were going into an apothecary's or druggist's shop; in a word, the whole church was like a smelling-bottle. In one corner it was all perfumes, in another aromatics, balsamics, and a variety of drugs and herbs; in another salts and spirits, as every one was furnished for heir own preservation; yet I observed that after people were possessed with the belief, or rather assurance, of the infection being thus carried on by persons apparently in health, the churches and meeting-houses were much thinner of people than at other times before that they used to be; for this is to be said of the people of
London, that, during the whole time of the pestilence, the churches or meetings were never wholly shut up, nor did the people decline coming out to the public worship of God, except only in some parishes, when the violence of the distemper was more pars ticularly in that parish' at that time, and even then no longer than it continued to be so.' OCTOBER 1665—THE PLAGUE ABATES, AND GRADUALLY 4,11
5:11 The plague, as we have already stated, was at its height during the five weeks which elapsed between the 22d of August and the 26th of September. The following are the entries in the bills of mortality for this period :
Deaths by Plague, August 22 to August 29,
6102 August 29 to September 5,
6988 September 5 to September 12,
. It will be observed from this table that there was a considerable decrease in the number of deaths for the week ending 26th September as compared with the four weeks preceding; and although the number was still enormously great, this symptom was eagerly grasped at by the citizens as perhaps indicating the abatement of the plague, and the next week's returns were looked for with extraordinary anxiety. What delight, what hope spread through the city when it was known that the return stood as follows:
Deaths by Plague. September 26 to October 3,
5720 But we must leave Defoe to describe the gradual abatement, of which these diminished returns were the proof. “ The last week in September," he says, “the plague being come to a crisis, its fury began to assuage. I remember my friend Dr Heath, coming to see me the week before, told me he was sure that the violence of it would assuage in a few days; but when I saw the weekly bill of that week, which was the highest of the whole year, being 8297 of all diseases, I upbraided him with it, and asked him what he had made his judgment from? His answer, however, was not so much to seek as I thought it would have been. * Look you,' says he, by the number which are at this time sick and infected, there should have been 20,000 dead the last week instead of 8000, if the inveterate mortal contagion had been as it was two weeks ago; for then it ordinarily killed in two or three days, now not under eight or ten; and then not above one in five recovered, whereas I have observed that not
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being, as he
89 domuilo od: HISTORY OF THE PLAGUE IN LONDON. 1, obrol slqo9g ut bib not, above two in five miscarry; and, observe it from me, thie next bill will decrease, and you will see many more people recover than used to do; for though a vast multitude are now everywhere infected, and as many every day fall sick, yet there will not so many die as there did, for the malignity of the distemper is abated; adding that he began now to hope, nay, more than hope, that the infection had passed its crisis, and
as I said, the last in September, the bill decreased almost 2000.
It is true the plague was still at a frightful height, and the next bill was no less than 6460, and the next to that 5720; but still my friend's observation was just, and it did appear the
did recover faster, and more in number, than they used to dą. And indeed if it had not been so, what had been the condition of the city of London? for, according to my friend, there were not fewer than 60,000 people at that time infected, whereof, as above, 20,477 died, and near 40,000 recovered; whereas had it been as it was before, 50,000 of that number would very probably have died, if not more, and 50,000 more would have síckened; for, in a word, the whole mass of people began to, sicken, and it looked as if'none would escape.
“But this remark of my friend appeared more evident in a few weeks more; for the decrease went on, and another week in October it decreased 1843, so that the number dead of the plague was but 2665; and the next week it decreased 1413 more, and yet it was seen plainly that there was abundance of people sick; đay, more than ordinary, and many fell sick every day, but, as above, the malignity of the disease abated."
- The best idea of the rapidity of the progress of the city towards health will be obtained from the bills of mortality, which, continued from the last entry quoted, were as follows:--:
Deaths by Plague. & October 3 to October 10,
5068 Id October 10 to October 17,
October 17 to October 24,
October 24 to October 31,
1414 November 7 to November 14, 16 November 14 to November 21, from which period the numbers decreased regularly; till, on the week ending the 5th of December they stood thus burials, 428; deaths from plague, 210. !
Those who had left town now began to flock in again; the shops began to be opened; and the bustle of trade recommenced. It is impossible,” says Defoe,“ to express the change that appeared in the very, countenances of the people that Thursday morning when the weekly bill came out. It might have been perceived in their countenances that a secret surprise and smile of joy sat on every
3219 1806 1388
4327 2665 1421 1031 .
body's face; they who would hardly go on the same side of the way with one another before, now shook each other by the hands in the streets. Where the streets were not too broad, they would open their windows and call from one house to another, and ask how they did, and if they had heard the good news that the plague was abated; some would return, when they said good news, and ask, “What good news ?' And when they answered that the plague was abated, and the bills decreased almost 2000, they would cry out, 'God be praised !' and would weep aloud for joy, telling them they had heard nothing of it; and such was the joy of the people, that it was, as it were, life to them from the grave. I could almost set down as many extravagant things done in the excess of their joy as of their grief, but that would be to lessen the value of it.'
Counting from the 20th of December 1664, when it was first rumoured that the plague had broken out in Drury Lane, to the 19th of December 1665, when the plague had so far abated that the weekly deaths were about 250, the entire number of victims swept off by the pestilence in the city of London in these twelve months was, according to the official returns, 68,596 ; but according to the computation of Defoe and others, at least 100,000. In order to give as accurate a notion as possible of the symptoms, and its mode of attacking people, we may add, in conclusion, one or two particulars of an interesting kind, from a manuscript account of the plague preserved in the British Museum, and written by Mr William Boghurst, a medical practitioner in London during the fatal period.
“In the summer before the plague,” he says," there was such a multitude of flies, that they lined the insides of the houses; and if
any threads or strings did hang down in any place, they were presently thick-set with flies, like ropes of onions; and swarms of ants covered the highways, that you might have taken up a handful at a time, both winged and creeping ants; and such a multitude of croaking frogs in ditches, that you might have heard them before you saw them. The plague was ushered in with seven months of dry weather and westerly winds. It fell first upon the highest grounds, as St Giles's and St Martin's, Westminster; but afterwards it gradually insinuated and crept down Holborn and the Strand, and then into the city; and at last to the east end of the suburbs; so that it was half a year at the west end before the east end and Stepney were affected. The disease spread not altogether by contagion at first, nor began only at one place, and spread farther and farther, as an eating and spreading sore doth all over the body; but felí upon several places of the city and suburbs like rain, even at the first. Almost all that caught the disease with fear died with tokens (spots on the body) in two or three days. About the beginning, most men got the disease with drinking, surfeiting, overheating themselves, and by disorderly living. Some died eight, ten, twelve, or