Billeder på siden

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 fell 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 twenty days after they had been sick; yet the greatest part died before five or six days. In the summer, about half of those who were taken sick died; but towards winter, three parts in four lived. None died suddenly, as though struck with lightning or apoplexy. I saw none die under twenty or twenty-four hours.* Spots appeared not much till the middle of June, and carbuncles not till the latter end of July, and seized mostly on old people, choleric and melancholy people, and generally on dry and lean bodies. Children had none. If very hot weather followed a shower of rain, the disease increased. Many people, after a violent sweat, or taking a strong cordial, presently had the tokens come out, so that every nurse would say : “ Cochineal was a fine thing to bring out the tokens." Authors speak of several kinds of plagues—some which took only children, others maids, others young people under thirty ; but this of ours took all sorts. Yet it fell not very thick upon old people till about the middle or slack of the disease. Old people that had the disease, many of them were not sick at all ; but they that were sick, almost all died. I had one patient fourscore and six years old. Though all sorts of people died very thick, both young and old, rich and poor, healthy and unhealthy, strong and weak, men and women, of all constitutions, of all tempers and complexions, of all professions and places, of all religions, of all conditions, good or bad-yet, as far as I could discern, more of the good people died than of the bad, more men than women, and more of dull complexions than of fair. Black men of thin and lean constitutions were heavyladen with this disease, and died, all that I saw, in two or three days; and most of them thick with black tokens. People of the best complexions and merry dispositions had least of the disease ; and, if they had it, fared best under it. This year in which the plague hath raged so much, no alteration nor change appeared in any element, vegetable or animal, besides the body of man. All other things kept their common integrity, and all sorts of fruit, all roots, flowers, and medicinal simples were as plentiful, large, fair, and wholesome, and all grain .as plentiful and good as ever. Alí kine, cattle, horses, sheep, swine, dogs, wild beasts and tame were as healthful, strong to labour, and wholesome to eat as ever they were in any year. Hens, geese, pigeons, turkeys, and all wild-fowl were free from infection.* The summer following the plague, very few flies, frogs, and such like appeared. Great doubting and disputing there is whether the plague be infectious or not; because some think if it were infectious, it would infect all, as the fire heats all it comes near ; but the plague leaves as many as it takes. Generally, every one is apt to judge by his own experience; and if any one may draw his conclusion from this, I have as much reason

* There is an apparent contradiction on this point between Boghurst and Defoe; probably, however, Defoe's cases of sudden deaths were cases of persons who had been ill for some time without being fully aware of it.

* There would seem to be a difference in this respect between the plague of London and the plague of 1348 at Florence, regarding which Boccaccio tells us that 'such was the quality of the pestilential inatter, as to pass not only from man to man, but, what is more strange, and has been often known, that anything belonging to the infected, if touched by any other creature, would certainly infect, and even kill that creature in a short space of time : and one instance of this kind I took particular notice of: namely, that the rags of a poor man just dead, being thrown into the street, and two hogs coming by at the same time, and rooting amongst them, and shaking them about in their mouths, in less than an hour turned round and died on the spot.' Of the plague at Athens also, Thucydides tells us that 'the birds and beasts which usually prey on human flesh either never approached the dead bodies, of which many lay about uninterred, or if they tast however, Mr Boghurst did not mean to deny that, under certain circumstances, the infection might be communicated from a sick patient to any brute with whom he might come in contact, but only that the contagion did not spread among the lower animals.

as any to think it not infectious, having passed through a multitude of continual dangers, being employed every day till ten o'clock at night, out of one house into another, dressing sores, and being always in the breath of patients, without catching the disease of any, through God's protection; and so did many nurses that were in like danger. Yet I count it to be the most subtle infectious disease of


Strange as it may appear, the doubts which were entertained in 1665 respecting the contagious nature of the plague remain till the present day unsettled ; some inquirers arguing that the disease is communicated by touch, or infection from proximity with the diseased, while others consider it extends its influence by other means. The subject of this controversy is of little practical consequence. It is sufficient to know that plague, like its, modern prototype cholera, is aggravated by insalubrious conditions of the atmosphere, and is intimately connected with neglect of cleanliness. In old London, as till the present day in eastern cities, it found scope for its ravages in confined alleys and courts, or wherever there was any lack of ventilation, sewerage, or a plenteous supply of water. The great fire which half destroyed London in 1666, twelve months after the disappearance of the pestilence, may be said to have banished plague from the metropolis ; for the city was rebuilt on a more open scale, with some degree of reference to the health of the inhabitants. Of recent years, much has been effected in the way of still farther improvement. Many thoroughfares have been opened up in densely crowded neighbourhoods, streets and lanes have been widened, and slaughter-houses removed ; besides not a little as respects improved dwellings for the humbler classes of society. Although much still remains to be done, a conviction of the importance of sanitary regulations is daily deepening and spreading, and will not much longer tolerate many things that continue to disgrace our civilisa


[ocr errors][graphic]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

BOUT the year 1786, the merchants and planters

interested in the West India Islands became anxious to introduce an exceedingly valuable plant, the breadfruit-tree, into these possessions, and as this could best

be done by a government expedition, a request was preferred to the crown accordingly. The ministry at the time being favourable to the proposed undertaking, a vessel, named the Bounty, was selected to execute the desired object. To the command of this ship, Captain W. Bligh was appointed, August 16, 1787. The burden of the Bounty was nearly two hundred and fifteen tons. The establishment of men and officers for the ship was as follows: I lieutenant to command, i master, I boatswain, I gunner, I carpenter, I surgeon, 2 master's mates, 2 midshipmen, 2 quarter-masters, i quarter-master's mate, I boatswain's mate, I gunner's mate, I carpenter's mate, I carpenter's crew, I sailmaker, I armourer, I corporal, i clerk and steward, 23 able seamen—total, 44. The addition of two men appointed to take care of the plants, made the whole ship's crew amount to forty-six. The ship was stored and victualled for eighteen months. Thus prepared, the Bounty set sail on the 23d of December; and what ensued will be best told in the language of Captain Bligh, whose interesting narrative we abridge.

THE VOYAGE-OTAHEITE. My instructions relative to the voyage, furnished me by the Commissioners of the Admiralty, were as follow : I was to proceed, as expeditiously as possible, round Cape Horn to the Society Islands. Having arrived at the above-mentioned islands, and taken on board as many trees and plants as might be thought necessary (the better to enable me to do which, I had already been furnished with such articles of merchandise and trinkets as it was supposed would be wanted to satisfy the natives), I was to proceed from thence through Endeavour Straits, which separate New Holland from New Guinea, to Prince's Island, in the Straits of Sunda ; or, if it should happen to be more convenient, to pass on the eastern side of Java to some port on the north side of that island, where any bread-fruit-trees which might have been injured, or have died, were to be replaced by such plants growing there as might appear most valuable. From Prince's Island, or the island of Java, I was to proceed round the Cape of Good Hope to the West Indies, and deposit one-half of such of the above-mentioned trees and plants as might be then alive at his majesty's botanical garden at St Vincent, for the benefit of the Windward Islands, and then go on to Jamaica; and having delivered the remainder to Mr East, or such person or persons as might be authorised by the governor and council of that island to receive them, make the best of my way back to England.

Setting sail from Spithead, as I have mentioned, on the 23d of December 1787, we arrived early in April 1788, without any special incident having occurred, in the neighbourhood of Cape Horn, round which, according to my instructions, I was to direct my voyage. By no possible exertions, however, could we make way in that route, owing to unfavourable winds. On the morning of the gth April, we had advanced the farthest in our power to the westward, being then 3 degrees to the west of Cape Deseada, the west part of the Straits of Magellan; but next evening we found ourselves 3 degrees 52 minutes east of that position, and were still hourly losing ground. It was with much concern I saw how hopeless, and even unjustifiable it was, to persist any longer in attempting a passage this way to the Society Islands. The season was now too far advanced for us to expect more favourable winds or weather, and we had sufficiently experienced the impossibility of beating round against the wind, or of advancing at all without the help of a fair wind, for which there was little reason to hope. On the other hand, the prevalence of the westerly winds in high southern latitudes left me no reason to doubt of making a quick passage to the Cape of Good Hope, and thence to the eastward round New Holland. Having maturely considered all

« ForrigeFortsæt »