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Scottish lyrists in strains no less encomiastic. It is the country of Thomson, Leyden, and Scott; and is the scene of tales, songs, and traditions innumerable. The lower part of the vale is purely agricultural; and as Leyden has justly remarked, in the vicinity of Kelso, where the Teviot joins the Tweed, its scenery rivals the beauty of an Italian landscape. The upper part of the district
“Where Cheviot's ridges swell to meet the sky'partakes more of a pastoral character ; but all is green and cheerful to the tops of the highest hills, and though still wild and solitary, is pleasingly rural. The whole of this region, once the centre of Border raids—the land of the Rutherfords, Elliots, Turnbulls, and other turbulent clans-is now a scene of beauty and fertility scarcely equalled in any part of the country.
‘Dark and dismantled lies each ancient peel.
Feed their gay flocks along these heaths and plains.' Even in Liddesdale—where, as might have been expected, the primitive manners of the Borders lingered long after they had become extinct in other parts of the country-all has been changed ; and in the whole island you do not look upon a greener, softer, more cultivated, or more accessible region.
ONE of the most striking facts presented to us by history
is the recurrence, at irregular intervals of time, of virulent diseases of an extraordinary character, which, breaking
out unexpectedly in particular localities, have spread a s sometimes over certain defined districts, sometimes over entire countries, sometimes over all the civilised world, and sometimes even, it would appear, over the whole surface of our planet, everywhere defying the power and skill of man, and sweeping off myriads to their graves. To these awful visitations men have given the name, at once vague and appropriate, of the Pestilence or the Plague ; reserving the name, however, especially for those cases in which human beings are the victims, and distinguishing similar recorded instances of unusual mortality among the lower animals by the name of the Murrain.
Of a general or universal plague, the best known instance in modern times is the famous pestilence, or “Black Death,' as it was called, of 1348–9, which, taking its rise in Asia, spread westward into Europe, and raged fearfully for many months. The best account we have of this pestilence is that given by the celebrated Italian writer Boccaccio, in the introduction to his Decameron, where there is a vivid description of its ravages in the city of Florence. Of all the other narratives of a pestilence extant, the two most celebrated are that of the plague at Athens, in the year 430 before Christ, by Thucydides, and that of the Great Plague of London, in 1664-5, by Daniel Defoe. No other narrative of the same description can be compared for truthfulness and accuracy with these two accounts, which, though written at an interval of two thousand years, the one by an ancient Greek, the other by an Englishman of the reign of Queen Anne, yet resemble each other in many points. There is this difference, however, between them, that while Thucydides was an actual eye and ear witness of what he describes, and was himself ill of the plague, Defoe wrote his account upwards of fifty years after the calamity to which it refers, and could have been but a mere infant in the arms when the plague was raging. Still, there is abundant evidence that Defoe took pains to make his account an authentic one, by collecting such anecdotes and minute particulars as could be obtained from acquaintances who had survived the plague, as well as by consulting all the public and parish records and printed pamphlets by medical men and others relative to the plague-year. His account, accordingly, may with perfect confidence be taken as, what it pretends to be, that of an eye-witness, who describes from personal recollection. In the following tract, therefore, we will present our readers with an abridgment of Defoe's Journal of the Plague-year in London; retaining the whole substance of that inimitable account, and interweaving, as we proceed, such additional particulars as we can obtain from other sources.
BREAKING OUT OF THE PLAGUE IN LONDON.
During the early part of the seventeenth century, London had been repeatedly, if not almost yearly, visited by the plague: the generally confined thoroughfares, and the absence of any proper sanitary regulations, affording it on all occasions more or less scope. These visitations, common as they were, usually created some degree of alarm; and therefore, when it was announced, in the month of September 1664, that plague had made its appearance in the metropolis, a certain excitement in the public mind was created. Little, however, appears to have been done to avert the contagion, and it may be said to have existed till the ensuing spring without any decided means being taken for its suppression.
At length, in March 1665, things became more alarming; it was ascertained that in St Giles and the neighbouring parishes several persons had died of plague. In May the weather became warm, so as to aggravate the complaint; and 'in June,' proceeds Defoe, 'the infection spread in a dreadful manner. I lived without Aldgate, about midway' between Aldgate Church and Whitechapel Bars, on the left-hand or north side of the street; and as the distemper had not reached to that side of the city, our neighbourhood continued very easy. But at the other end of the town their consternation was very great ; and the richer sort of people, especially the nobility and gentry, from the west part of the city, thronged out of town, with their families and servants, in an unusual manner; and this was more particularly seen in Whitechapel ; that is to say, the broad street where I lived. Indeed, nothing was to be seen but wagons. and carts with goods, women, servants, children, &c.—coaches filled with people of the better sort, and horsemen attending them, and all hurrying away. This hurry continued some weeks; and the more so, because it was rumoured that an order of the government was to be issued out to place turnpikes and barriers on the road, to prevent people's travelling; and that the towns on the road would not suffer people from London to pass, for fear of bringing the infection along with them; though neither of these rumours had any foundation but in the imagination, especially at first. · These accounts' by Defoe of the rapid spread of the plague, and the alarm which it caused, are borne out by other authorities. Thus, on the 13th of May, we find a privy-council held at Whitehall relative to the infection, and a committee of the lords appointed to consider the means of checking its progress. Under the auspices of this committee, the College of Physicians drew up a small pamphlet containing directions for the cure of the plague, as well as for preventing infection. One of the articles of this precious medical code is somewhat amusing. It is as follows: 'Pull off the feathers from the tails of living cocks, hens, pigeons, or chickens; and holding their bills, hold the hard to the botch or swelling, and so keep them at that part till they die, and by this means draw out the poison. It is good also to apply a cupping-glass, or embers in a dish, with a handful of sorrel upon the embers.
An extract from Pepys's Diary will help to give an idea of the excitement in London at the time the plague was beginning to rage.
June 7, the hottest day that ever I felt in my life. This day, much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and “ Lord, have mercy on us!” writ there; which was a sad sight to me.' Again, on the 17th of the same month, Pepys writes: 'This afternoon, going with a hackney-coach from the Lord Treasurer's house down Holborn, the coachman I found to drive easily and easily, at last stood still, and came down, hardly able to stand, and told me that he was suddenly struck very sick, and almost blind; he could not see; so I alighted, and went into another coach with a sad heart for the poor man, and for myself also, lest he should have been struck with the plague.'
To resume Defoe's account. "I now began,' he says, 'to consider seriously with myself concerning my own case, and how I should dispose of myself; that is to say, whether I should resolve to stay in London, or shut up my house and flee, as many of my neighbours did. After much anxious considering, sometimes resolving one way, sometimes another, I came to the conclusion that, upon the whole, it was my duty, and expedient for me in my trade and business, and shop full of goods to take care of, to remain in town, casting myself entirely upon the goodness and protection of the Almighty. I had an elder brother, however, a married man, who with his wife and children went out of town. During the month of July, and while our part of the town seemed to be spared in comparison of the west part, I went ordinarily about the streets as my business required, and generally went once in a day or in two days into the city to my brother's house, which he had given me charge of, and to see it was safe. But the city also began to be visited with the disease; and all this month of July people continued to flee. In August they fled in still greater numbers, so that I began to think there would be really none but magistrates and servants left in the city.
'Business led me out sometimes to the other end of the town, even when the sickness was chiefly there; and as the thing was new to me, as well as to everybody else, it was a most surprising thing to see those streets, which were usually so thronged, now grown desolate. One day being at that part of the town on some special business, curiosity led me to observe things more than usually, and indeed I walked a great way where I had no business; I went up Holborn, and there the street was full of people, but they walked in the middle of the great street, neither on one side nor other, because, as I suppose, they would not mingle with anybody that came out of houses, or meet with smells and scents from houses that might be infected. The inns of court were all shut up, nor were very many of the lawyers in the Temple, or Lincoln's Inn, or Gray's Inn, to be seen there. Whole rows of houses, in some places, were shut close up; the inhabitants all fled, and only a watchman or two left.
'It must not be forgot here that the city and suburbs were prodigiously full of people at the time of this visitation-I mean at the time that it began. The town was computed to have in it above one hundred thousand people more than ever it held before; the joy of the Restoration having alone brought a vast number of families to London.
"The apprehensions of the people were strangely increased by the error of the times, in which, I think, the people, from what principle I cannot imagine, were more addicted to prophecies and astrological conjurations, dreams and old wives' tales, than ever they were before or since. People took to reading Lilly's Almanac, and other such exciting works, almost all of which foretold the ruin of the city. Many persons, frantic from these or other causes, ran about the streets predicting all sorts of horrors. The trade of fortune-telling became so open, and so generally practised, that it became common to have signs and inscriptions set up at doors : “Here lives a fortune-teller," “Here lives an astrologer," &c. Certain it is that innumerable attendants crowded about their doors every day; and if but a grave fellow, in a velvet jacket, a band, and