Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

inore 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, being that of a saddler, and though a single man, with a house 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 sitle 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 tim 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

[ocr errors]

persons in their houses, and watchmen to prevent ingress into or egress from the infected houses. The order for the watchmen was as follows: 'That to every infected house there be appointed two watchmen, one for every day, and the other for the night; and that these watchmen have a special care that no person go in or out of such infected houses whereof they have the charge, upon pain of severe punishment. And the said watchmen to do such further offices as the sick house shall need and require; and if the watchman be sent upon any business, to lock up the house, and take the key with him ; and the watchman by day to attend until ten o'clock at night, and the watchman by night until six in the morning.'

The general regulations to be observed by householders were as follow : Orders concerning Infected Houses and Persons Sick of the Plague.-Notice to be given of the sickness. The master of every house, as soon as any one in his house complaineth either of blotch, or purple, or swelling in any part of his body, or falleth otherwise dangerously sick without apparent cause of some other disease, shall give notice thereof to the examiner of health within two hours after the said sign shall appear.

Sequestration of the sick.-As soon as any man shall be found by this examiner, chirurgeon, or searcher to be sick of the plague, he shall

, the same night, be sequestered in the same house; and in case he be so sequestered, then, though they die not, the house wherein he sickened should be shut up for a month, after the use of the due preservatives taken by the rest.

Airing the stuff.–For sequestration of the goods and stuff of the infection, their bedding, and apparel, and hangings of chambers must be well aired with fire, and such perfumes as are requisite, within the infected house, before they be taken again to use. This to be done by the appointment of the examiner.

‘Shutting up of the house. If any person shall visit any man known to be infected of the plague, or entereth willingly into any known infected house, being not allowed, the house wherein he inhabiteth shall be shut up for certain days by the examiner's direction.

“None to be removed out of infected houses.—That none be removed out of the house where he falleth sick of the infection into any other house in the city (except it be to the pest-house, or a tent, or into some such house which the owner of the said house holdeth in his own hands, and occupieth by his own servants), and so as security be given to the said parish whither such remove is made, that the attendance and charge about the said visited persons shall be observed and charged in all the particularities before expressed, without any cost of that parish to which any such remove shall happen to be made ; and this remove to be done by night: and it shall be lawful to any person that hath two houses, to remove either his sound or his infected people to his spare house at his choice, so with the letters arranged in a triangle or pyramid.' In short, all remedies were grasped at that quackery or ignorance could suggest; the plague meanwhile spreading far and wide.

THE PLAGUE INCREASES-PRECAUTIONS TAKEN BY

THE MAGISTRATES-HOUSES SHUT UP. The mortality increased as the summer advanced. Thus, for the week ending the 13th of June 1665, the number of burials, according to the bills of mortality, were 558, and of these 112 were from plague; in the following week, the deaths from plague were reported at 168 ; in the week ending the 27th of June, they had risen to 267; and in that ending the 4th of July, they were 470; and to all these returns would require to be added the numbers of those who had really died of plague, but whose deaths had been attributed by their friends to other diseases.

It was at the beginning of July that the lord mayor and magistrates of the city of London—whose conduct during the whole period of the plague was as noble and praiseworthy as the conduct of public officers in a great emergency could be-published their orders for the regulation of the city. By these orders were appointed, in every parish, persons with the title of examiners, who were to be citizens of good repute, and whose office was to last two months. These examiners were to be sworn by the aldermen, to inquire and learn from time to time what houses in every parish be visited, and what persons be sick, and of what diseases, as near as they can inform themselves; and upon doubt in that case, to command restraint of access until it appear what the disease shall prove; and if they find any person sick of the infection, to give orders to the constable that the house be shut up; and if the constable shall be found remiss and negligent, to give notice thereof to the alderman of the ward.'

Besides these examiners, there were to be women-searchers in every parish, such as are of honest reputation, and of the best sort as can be got in this kind; and these to be sworn to make due search and true report, to the utmost of their knowledge, whether the persons whose bodies they are appointed to search do die of the infection, or of what other diseases, as near as they can. No searcher, during the time of visitation, to be permitted to use any public work or employment, or keep a shop or stall, or be employed as a laundress, or in any other common employment whatsoever.'

Surgeons were also to be appointed in each parish. 'And forasmuch as the said chirurgeons are to be sequestered from all other cures, and kept only to this disease of the infection, it is ordered that every of the said chirurgeons shall have twelvepence a body searched by them, to be paid out of the goods of the party searched, if he be able, or otherwise by the parish.

Lastly, there were to be nurses or keepers to attend the sick

6

persons in their houses, and watchmen to prevent ingress into or egress from the infected houses. The order for the watchmen was as follows: ‘That to every infected house there be appointed two watchmen, one for every day, and the other for the night; and that these watchmen have a special care that no person go in or out of such infected houses whereof they have the charge, upon pain of severe punishment. And the said watchmen to do such further offices as the sick house shall need and require; and if the watchman be sent upon any business, to lock up the house, and take the key with him ; and the watchman by day to attend until ten o'clock at night, and the watchman by night until six in the morning.'

The general regulations to be observed by householders were as follow : Orders concerning Infected Houses and Persons Sick of the Plague.-Notice to be given of the sickness. The master of every house, as soon as any one in his house complaineth either of blotch, or purple, or swelling in any part of his body, or falleth otherwise dangerously sick without apparent cause of some other disease, shall give notice thereof to the examiner of health within two hours after the said sign shall appear.

Sequestration of the sick.-As soon as any man shall be found by this examiner, chirurgeon, or searcher to be sick of the plague, he shall, the same night, be sequestered in the same house; and in case he be so sequestered, then, though they die not, the house wherein he sickened should be shut up for a month, after the use of the due preservatives taken by the rest.

' Airing the stuff. -For sequestration of the goods and stuff of the infection, their bedding, and apparel, and hangings of chambers must be well aired with fire, and such perfumes as are requisite, within the infected house, before they be taken again to use." This to be done by the appointment of the examiner.

‘Shutting up of the house. If any person shall visit any man known to be infected of the plague, or entereth willingly into any known infected house, being not allowed, the house wherein he inhabiteth shall be shut up for certain days by the examiner's direction.

“None to be removed out of infected houses.—That none be removed out of the house where he falleth sick of the infection into any other house in the city (except it be to the pest-house, or a tent, or into some such house which the owner of the said house holdeth in his own hands, and occupieth by his own servants), and so as security be given to the said parish whither such remove is made, that the attendance and charge about the said visited persons shall be observed and charged in all the particularities before expressed, without any cost of that parish to which any such remove shall happen to be made ; and this remove to be done by night: and it shall be lawful to any person that hath two houses, to remove either his sound or his infected people to his spare house at his choice, so

« ForrigeFortsæt »