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A Journal of the Plague Year

A Journal of the Plague Year

3.8 32
by Daniel Defoe

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The haunting cry of "Bring out your dead!" by a bell-ringing collector of 17th-century plague victims has filled readers across the centuries with cold terror. The chilling cry survives in historical consciousness largely as a result of this classic 1722 account of the epidemic of bubonic plague — known as the Black Death — that ravaged England in 1664&


The haunting cry of "Bring out your dead!" by a bell-ringing collector of 17th-century plague victims has filled readers across the centuries with cold terror. The chilling cry survives in historical consciousness largely as a result of this classic 1722 account of the epidemic of bubonic plague — known as the Black Death — that ravaged England in 1664–1665.
Actually written nearly 60 years later by Daniel Defoe, the Journal is narrated by a Londoner named "H. F.," who allegedly lived through the devastating effects of the pestilence and produced this eye witness account. Drawing on his considerable talents as both journalist and novelist, Defoe reconstructed events both historically and fictionally, incorporating realistic, memorable details that enable the novel to surpass even firsthand accounts in its air of authenticity. This verisimilitude is all the more remarkable since Defoe was only five years old when the actual events took place. Long a staple of college literature courses, A Journal of the Plague Year will fascinate students, teachers, and general readers alike.

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From the Publisher
"A cunning work of art; a confidence trick of the imagination."
—Anthony Burgess

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Thrift Editions
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Barnes & Noble
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1 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

It was about the Beginning of September 1664, that I, among the Rest of my Neighbours, heard in ordinary Discourse, that the Plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Roterdam, in the Year 1663, whether they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant among some Goods, which were brought home by their Turkey Fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus. It mattered not, from whence it come; but all agreed, it was come into Holland again.

We had no such thing as printed News Papers in those Days, to spread Rumours and Reports of Things; and to improve them by the Invention of Men, as I have lived to see practised since. But such things as these were gathered from the Letters of Merchants, and others, who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by Word of Mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole Nation, as they do now. But it seems that the Government had a true Account of it, and several Counsels were held about Ways to prevent its coming over; but all was kept very private. Hence it was, that this Rumour died off again, and People began to forget it, as a thing we were very little concerned in, and that we hoped was not true; till the latter End of November, or the Beginning of December 1664, when two Men, said to be French-men, died of the Plague in Long Acre, or rather at the upper End of Drury Lane. The Family they were in, endeavoured to conceal it as much as possible; but as it had gotten some Vent in the Discourse of the Neighbourhood, the Secretaries of State gat Knowledge of it. And concerning themselves to inquire about it,in order to be certain of the Truth, two Physicians and a Surgeon were ordered to go to the House, and make Inspection. This they did; and finding evident Tokens of the Sickness upon both the Bodies that were dead, they gave their Opinions publickly, that they died of the Plague: Whereupon it was given in to the Parish Clerk, and he also returned them to the Hall; and it was printed in the weekly Bill of Mortality in the usual manner, thus,


The People shewed a great Concern at this, and began to be allarmed all over the Town, and the more, because in the last Week in December 1664, another Man died in the same House, and of the same Distemper: And then we were easy again for about six Weeks, when none having died with any Marks of Infection, it was said, the Distemper was gone; but after that, I think it was about the 12th of February, another died in another House, but in the same Parish, and in the same manner.

This turned the Peoples Eyes pretty much towards that End of the Town; and the weekly Bills shewing an Encrease of Burials in St. Gileses Parish more than usual, it began to be suspected, that the Plague was among the People at that End of the Town; and that many had died of it, thoe they had taken Care to keep it as much from the Knowlege of the Publick, as possible: This possessed the Heads of the People very much, and few cared to go throe Drury-Lane, or the other Streets suspected, unless they had extraordinary Business, that obliged them to it.

This Encrease of the Bills stood thus; the usual Number of Burials in a Week, in the Parishes of St. Giles's in the Fields, and St. Andrew's Holborn were from 12 to 17 or 19 each few more or less; but from the Time that the Plague first began in St. Giles's Parish, it was observed, that the ordinary Burials encreased in Number considerably.

Copyright 2001 by Daniel Defoe

Meet the Author

Daniel Defoe is an apt author for the first disaster novel, having survived numerous catastrophic events himself. This tradesman-turned-fiction-writer was twice bankrupt, worked as a secret agent (perhaps in payment for help getting out of prison), and spent three days in the pillory. Typical of Defoe's resourceful spirit of survival, while in the stocks he composed a poem about his experience that so moved the local flower sellers that they festooned his pillory with roses. Scorned by upper-class writers for his popularity with the masses and his interest in trade, he was deeply concerned about social issues, ones that included the well-being of London’s poor and the education of women.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'A Journal of the Plague Year' is journalistic history, not fiction. Defoe describes an event that happened when he was only an infant. He used family's and other accounts of the last great epidemic of the Black Death to strike England. It is readable and instructive. To me, the most interesting part of the tale, is the 'knowledge' seventeenth-century Londoners had of this disease [Bubonic Plague, Yersinia pestis] before knowledge of microbes and their transmission. Animals, especially dogs, cats and rats, were identified as possible vectors and shot on sight. Infected people were quarantined in their homes, along with uninfected relatives. Although these homes were guarded by armed watchmen, breakouts from quarantine were common. The disease spead and uninfected villages on the outskirts of London, themselves, set out guards preventing panicked refugees from entering and infecting their town. An interesting and human tale of desperation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Defoe's novel is fascinating, but this edition's flaws far overshadow the prose. The editors and Barnes & Noble Books should be ashamed of themselves for putting out such a shabby version of the novel. The text is full of typos (such as the previously noted 'tick' for 'sick'), dropped words, incorrect words ('last' instead of 'first' at the bottom of page 234, for example), and bad formatting (the notes). The additional materials¿contemporary descriptions of the plague¿are vaguely interesting, but not essential. Rather than some inconsequential snippets from Pepys and Boghurst, the editors should have considered a map of London at the time of the plague, annotations, or other materials to help illustrate some of Defoe's more difficult references. Avoid this edition and pick up one of the more professional releases from Oxford or Penguin.
jlacerra More than 1 year ago
It is certainly not appropriate for me to review Daniel Defoe as if he were a modern author. In this book Defoe takes on the guise of a first-hand observer of the London plague of 1665. The language is Olde English and somewhat difficult to wade through sometimes. But the drama of the crisis does come home in many areas. It is a worthwhile read if one can be patient with the archaic language.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
A Jour­nal of the Plague Years by Daniel Defoe is a fic­tional book about the Great Plague of Lon­don in 1665. The book was pub­lished in 1722 (57 years after the event) and was meant as a warn­ing because they thought that plague in Mar­seilles would cross the chan­nel into England. A Jour­nal of the Plague Years by Daniel Defoe is a nov­el­iza­tion of a first hand expe­ri­ence dur­ing the Black Death plague in Lon­don. This book is very dif­fi­cult to cat­e­go­rize because the reader doesn’t really know if it is a mem­oir or not. Is it fic­tion? Doesn’t read like it, from what I read it seems that Defoe fic­tion­al­ized his uncle’s memoirs. Is it non-fiction? It might be, after all it seems that… Defoe fic­tion­al­ized his uncle’s memoirs. What­ever it is, the book gives the reader an eerie, haunt­ing, dark sense of Lon­don in 1665 when the plague ran amok bring­ing a dis­as­ter upon the cap­i­tal. One can get a very good feel­ing of what it was at the time, the peo­ple, and the land­scapes and how peo­ple spoke. Much of the book is sta­tis­tics and there is not really a coher­ent sto­ry­line, it is more of a nov­el­iza­tion of a diary and a hand­book of what do and what to avoid dur­ing the deadly out­break. It is sim­ple to read and has an air of under­ly­ing author­ity, espe­cially given the weekly death sta­tis­tics. Defoe issues a stern warn­ing with those death sta­tis­tics, upon close exam­i­na­tion one could tell how fast the virus is spreading. This book is best read as his­tor­i­cal fic­tion novel that mixes fact and fic­tion. Defoe was a very young boy (5) at the time of the plague and used mor­tal­ity bills and con­tem­po­rary accounts for the book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book lets readers see life during the plague outbreak. It is very interesting, especially to people interested in this topic. Although it should not be considered a first-hand account, the individual obsevations made by the narrator are very probable. The narrator repeats some main points, but that is just to get one message across: life was scary at that time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book ln the world I like lt!
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If you are the real silverstar, then where was our original camp? (+)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She sat down, watching
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I do like getting the sense of how horrid it was and the use of different ways to contain or avoid the infection.it is just incredably redundant.i hear this is just a version of the original.explains the poor text but. If the original is just as repeditive .it desensitizes the impact london truly much have gone thru
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A plague in today's society would be devastating, and that is the point of this book. It is written as though the accounts were absolutley accurate, and though the editors suggest that this is a novel, there is very little about it that doesn't seem true. It is, though, a difficult read and one that is truly unenjoyable. The concepts are hard to grasp, and the repetition is annoying.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book still gives an excellent picture of the London Plague centuries after it was written. However, this edition suffers from poor proof-reading. There many misplaced words. To give only one example: on page 180 the author trys to speak of the prodigious number of the 'sick' but is hampered by the proof reader who lets the word 'tick' serve in its place. There are perhaps a half dozen times such as this one where too much reliance on Spell Checker jolts the reader out of the story to remind one that this $5.95 edition is no bargain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read Willowsong's story at spray.book one is at result one,book two is at result two and so on.please rearate and review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can you meet me at secrets result six