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churches, and to conform to the worship which they did not approve of before ; but as the terror of the infection abated, those things all returned again to their less desirable channel, and to the course they were in before."
The following is one of De Foe's most affecting passages ; and such scenes doubtless occurred; but the narrative itself is fictitious, for the relator is only an ideal person.
“ It was about the 10th of September that my curiosity led, or rather drove me to go and see this pit again, when there had been near four hundred people buried in it; and I was not content to see it in the day-time, as I had done before, for then there would have been nothing to have been seen but the loose earth; for all the bodies that were thrown in were immediately covered with earth, by those they called the buriers, which at other times were called bearers; but I resolved to go in the night and see some of them thrown in.
“ There was a strict order to prevent people coming to those pits, and that was only to prevent infection; but after some time that order was more necessary, for people that were infected, and near their end, and delirious also, would run to those pits, wrapped in blankets, or rugs, and throw themselves in, and, as they said, bury themselves : I cannot say that the officers suffered any willingly to lie there ; but Í have heard, that in a great pit in Finsbury, in the parish of Cripplegate, it lying open then to the fields, for it was not then walled about, they came and threw themselves in, and expired there before they threw any earth upon them: and that when they came to bury others, and found them there, they were quite dead, though not cold.
“ This may serve a little to describe the dreadful condition of that day, though it is impossible to say any thing that is able to give a true idea of it to those who did not see it, other than this, that it was indeed very, very, very dreadful, and such as no tongue can express.
“ I got admittance into the church-yard by being acquainted with the sexton who attended, who, though he did not refuse me at all, yet earnestly persuaded me not to go ; telling me very seriously, for he was a good, religious, and sensible man, that it was, indeed, their business and duty to venture and to run all hazards, and that in it they might hope to be preserved; but that I had no apparent call to it, but by my own curiosity, which he said he believed I would not pretend was sufficient to justify my running that hazard. I told him I had been pressed in my mind to go, and that perhaps it might be an instructing sight, that might not be without its uses. Nay, says the good man, if you will venture upon that score, 'name of God, go in, for, depend upon it, 'twill be a sermon to you ; it may be the best that ever you heard in your life. It is a speaking sight, says he, and has a voice with it, and a loud one, to call us to repentance; and with that he opened the door, and said, Go, if you will.
“ His discourse had shocked my resolution a little, and I stood wavering for a good while, but just at that interval I saw two links come over from the end of the Minories, and heard the bellman, and then appeared a dead-cart, as they called it, coming over the streets, so I could no longer resist my desire of seeing it and went in; there was nobody, as I could perceive at first, in the church-yard, or going into it but the buriers and the fellow that drove the cart, or rather led the horse and cart, but when they came up to the pit, they saw a man go to and again, muffled up in a brown cloak, and making motions with his hands, under his cloak, as if he was in a great agony, and the buriers immediately gathered about him, supposing he was one of those poor delirious or desperate creatures, that used to pretend, as I have said, to bury themselves! he said nothing, as he walked about, but two or three times groaned very deeply and loud, and sighed as he would break his heart.
“ When the buriers came up to him, they soon found he was neither a person infected and desperate, as I have observed above, or a person distempered in mind, but one oppressed with dreadful weight of grief indeed, having his wife and several of his children, all in the cart, that was just come in with bim, and he followed in an agony and excess of sorrow. He mourned heartily, as it was easy to see, but with a kind of masculine grief, that could not give itself vent by tears, and calmly desiring the buriers to let him alone, said he would only see the bodies thrown in and go away, so they left importuning him; but no sooner was the cart turned round, and the bodies shot into the pit promiscuously, which was a surprise to him, for he at least expected they would have been decently laid in, though, indeed, he was afterwards convinced that was impracticable: I say, no sooner did he see the sight, but he cried out aloud, unable to contain himself; I could not hear what he said, but he went backward two or three times, and fell down in a swoon; the buriers ran to him, and took him up, and in a little while he came to himself, and they led him away to the Pye-tayern, over against the end of Houndsditch, where, it seems, the man was known, and where they took care of him. He looked into the pit again as he went away, but the buriers had covered the bodies so immediately with throwing in the earth, that though there was light enough, for there were lanterns and candles in them, placed
all night round the sides of the pit upon the heaps of earth, seven or eight, or perhaps more, yet nothing could be seen.”
We will copy another passage, in which some of the less probable statements we believe to be have been true, and some of the more probable invented. The monthly fast is here mentioned. It is humourous to see that staunch Dissenter, De Foe, who was so shamefully sent to the pillory for his notions, personating us that were of the church,” in order to reprobate in a sly, but most effectual manner, the disgraceful penal laws against the Non-conformists. No reader of De Foe's life forgets the remarkable passage of his standing in the pillory three times, and being fined and imprisoned for his ironical tractate entitled, “ The shortest Way with the Dissenters ;” in which, parodying the language of Sacheverell and his party, he gravely urged that dissent should be at once abolished instead of dallied with ; that every person attending a dissenting meeting should be sent to the galleys, and the preacher whipped and hanged; all which, without any suspicion of the trick, was actually applauded by certain zealots, so that the Dissenters became alarmed till the irony was seen through by the discovery of the writer; and then the partizans who had so rashly committed themselves, and “ prayed God to incline her Majesty's heart to do as there said,” turned in revenge upon De Foe, and procured his condemnation for a scandalous and seditious libel, the ironical passages being read as grave and deliberate suggestions, De Foe, however, triumphed in his punishment, the populace adorning the pillory with flowers, drinking his health, and protecting him from insult. But we return to the extract; in which the most cursory reader will remark the dry caustic satire which pervades it, particularly the Whitechapel Churchman's good natured excuse for the clergy, that all men have not the same faith and courage. The whole pretended calculation about the “ six and forty constables," &c. is evidently mere invention.
“ I might have thronged this account with many more remarkable things which occurred in the time of the infection, and particularly what passed between the Lord Mayor and the Court, which was then at Oxford, and what directions were from time to time received from the Government for their conduct on this critical occasion. But really the Court concerned themselves so little, and that little they did was of so small import, that I do not see it of much moment to mention any part of it here, except that of appointing a monthly fast in the city, and the sending the royal charity to the relief of the poor, both which I have mentioned before.
“ Great was the reproach thrown on those physicians who left their patients during the sickness, and now they came to town again, nobody cared to employ them; they were called deserters, and frequently bills were set up upon their doors, and written• Here is a doctor to be let! —so that several of those physicians were fain for a while to sit still and look about them, or at least remove their dwellings, and set up in new places, and among new acquaintance: the like was the case with the clergy, whom the people were indeed very abusive to, writing verses and scandalous reflections upon them, setting upon the church door— Here is a pulpit to be let!'—or sometimes to be sold, which was worse.
“ It was not the least of our misfortunes, that with our infection, when it ceased, there did not cease the spirit of strife and contention, slander and reproach, which was really the great troubler of the nation's peace before : it was said to be the remains of the old animosities, which had so lately involved us all in blood and disorder. But as the late act of indemnity had laid asleep the quarrel itself, so the Government had recommended family and personal peace upon all occasions, to the whole nation.
“ But it could not be obtained, and particularly after the ceasing of the plague in London, when any one that had seen the condition which the people had been in, and how they caressed one another at that time, promised to have more clarity for the future, and to raise no more reproaches : I say, any one that bad seen them, then, would have thought they would have come together with another spirit at last. But, I say, it could not be obtained; the quarrel remained, the church and the presbyterians were incompatible: as soon as the plague was removed, the dissenting ousted ministers, who had supplied the pulpits which were deserted by the incumbents, retired; they could expect no other, but that they should immediately fall upon them, and harass them with their penal laws, accept their preaching while they were sick, Christ. OBSERV. No. 365.
and persecute them as soon as they were recovered again; this even we that were of the church thought was hard, and could by no means approve of it.
" But it was the Government, and we could say nothing to hinder it; we could only say, it was not our doing, and we could not answer for it.
« On the other hand, the Dissenters reproaching those ministers of the church with going away, and deserting their charge, abandoning the people in their danger, and when they had most need of comfort, and the like, this we could by no means approve; for all men have not the same faith, and the same courage, and the Scripture commands us to judge the most favourably and according to charity.
“ A plague is a formidable enemy, and is armed with terrors, that every man is not sufficiently fortified to resist, or prepared to stand the shock against : it is very certain, that a great many of the clergy, who were in circumstances to do it, withdrew, and fled for the safety of their lives; but it is true also, that a great many of them stayed, and many of them fell in the calamity, and in the discharge of their duty.
“ It is true, some of the dissenting turned-out ministers stayed, and their courage is to be commended, and highly valued, but these were not abundance; it cannot be said that they all stayed, and that none retired into the country, any more than it can be said of the church clergy, that they all went away; neither did all those that went away, go without substituting curates, and others in their places, to do the offices needful, and to visit the sick as far as it was practicable; so that upon the whole, an allowance of charity might have been made on both sides, and we should have considered, that such a time as this of 1665, is not to be paralleled in history, and that it is not the stoutest courage that will always support men in such cases : I had not said this, but had rather chosen to record the courage and religious zeal of those of both sides, who did hazard themselves for the service of the poor people in their distress, without remembering that any failed in their duty on either side, but the want of temper among us has made the contrary to this necessary; some that stayed, not only boasting too much of themselves, but reviling those that fled, branding them with cowardice, deserting their flocks, and acting the part of the hireling, and the like: I recommend it to the charity of all good people to look back, and reflect duly upon the terrors of the time, and whoever does so will see that it is not an ordinary strength that could support it; it was not like appearing in the head of an army, or charging a body of horse in the field; but it was charging death itself on his pale horse : to stay was indeed to die, and it could be esteemed nothing less, especially as things appeared at the latter end of August and the beginning of September, and as there was reason to expect them at that time; for no man expected, and I dare say, believed, that the distemper would take so sudden a turn as it did, and fall immediately two thousand in a week, when there was such a prodigious number of people sick at that time as it was known there was; and then it was that many shifted away that had stayed most of the time before.
“ Besides, if God gave strength to some more than to others, was it to boast of their ability to abide the stroke, and upbraid those that had not the same gift and support; or ought not they rather to have been humble and thankful, if they were rendered more useful than their brethren ?
“ I think it ought to be recorded to the honour of such men, as well clergy as physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, magistrates, and officers of every kind, as also all' useful people, who ventured their lives in discharge of their duty, as most certainly all such as stayed did to the last degree, and several of all these kinds did not only venture, but lost their lives on that sad occasion.
“ I was once making a list of all such, I mean of all those professions and employments who thus died, as I call it, in the way of their duty; but it was impossible for a private man to come at a certainty in the particulars; I only remember, that there died sixteen clergymen, two aldermen, five physicians, thirteen surgeons, within the city and liberties before the beginning of September : but this being, as I said before, the great crisis and extremity of the infection, it can be no complete list. As to inferior people, I think there died six and forty constables and headboroughs in the two parishes of Stepney and Whitechapel; but I could not carry my list on, for when the violent rage of the distemper in September came upon us, it drove us out of all measures ; men did then no more die by tale and by number, they might put out a weekly bill and call them seven or eight thousand, or what they pleased; it is certain they died by heaps, and were buried by heaps, that is to say, without account; and if I might believe some people, who were more abroad and more conversant with those things than I, though I was public enough for one that had no more business to do than I had, I say if I may believe them, there was not many less buried those three first weeks in September than 20,000 per week: however the others aver the truth of it, yet I rather choose to keep to the public account; seven and eight thousand per week is enough to make good all that I have said of the terror of those times; and it is much to the satisfaction of me that write, as well as those that read, to be able to say, that every thing is set down with moderation, and rather within compass than beyond it.”
We took up De Foe's work, saying, that we could not quote it as authority, nor could we; but it is always easier to take up De Foe than to lay him down; in alluding to his mixture of fact and fiction, with a view to reprobate such a mode of making history itself doubtful, we have been led to quote a few passages which bear upon our general subject.
But we have a more veracious, though brief, history of that awful calamity in Vincent's “ God's terrible Voice in the City,” printed in 1667, and reprinted at different periods ; among others, at the time of the pestilence at Marseilles, and now recently on occasion of the present season of visitation. We copy from this interesting chronicle the following affecting particulars :
“ In June the number increased from 43 to 112; the next week to 168, the next to 267, the next to 470; most of which increase was in the remote parts, few in this month within or near the walls of the city: and few that had any note for goodness or religious profession were visited at the first. God gave them warning to bethink and prepare themselves : yet some few that were choice characters were visited pretty soon, that the best might not promise to themselves a supersedeas, or interpret any place of Scripture so literally, as if the Lord had promised an absolute general immunity and defence of his own people from this disease of the plague.
“ Now the citizens of London are put to a stop in the career of their trade : they begin to fear whom they converse withal, and deal withal, lest they should have conie out of infected places. Now roses and other sweet flowers wither in the gardens, are disregarded in the markets, and people dare not offer them to their noses, lest with their sweet savour that which is infectious should be drawn in. Rue and wormwood are taken into the hand; myrrh and zedoary into the mouth: and without some antidote few stir abroad in the morning. Now many houses are shut up where the plague comes, and the inhabitants shut in, lest coming abroad they should spread infection. It was very dismal to behold the red crosses, and to read in great letters, Lord have mercy upon us ! on the doors, and watchmen standing before them with halberts; and such a solitude about those places, and people passing by them so gingerly, and with such fearful looks, as if they had been lined with enemies in ambush that waited to destroy the passengers.
“ Now rich tradesmen provide themselves to depart. If they have no countryhouses, they seek lodgings abroad for themselves and their families : and the poorer tradesmen, that they may imitate the rich in their fear, stretch themselves to take a country-journey, though they have scarce wherewithal to bring them back again. The ministers also, many of them, take occasion to go to their country places for the summer-time; or, it may be, to find out some few of their parishioners that were gone before them, leaving the greater part of their flock without food or physic, in the time of their greatest need. I do not speak of all ministers: those which did stay out of choice and duty deserve true honour. Possibly some might think God was now preaching to the city, and what need of their preaching? Or rather, did not the thunder of God's voice atfrighten their guilty consciences and make them tly away, lest a bolt from heaven should fall upon them. I do not blame any citizens retiring, when there was so little trading, and the presence of all might have helped forward the increase and spreading of the infection; but how did guilt drive many away, where duty would have engaged them to stay in the place ? Now the highways are thronged with passengers and goods, and London doth empty itself into the country. Great are the stirs and hurries in London by the removal of so many families. Fear puts many thousands on the wing, and those think themselves most safe that can fly furthest from the city.
“ In July the plague increaseth, and prevaileth exceedingly. The number of 470, which died in one week by the disease, ariseth to 725 the next week, to 1089 the next, to 1843 the next, to 2010 the next. Now the plague compasseth the walls of the city like a flood, and poureth in upon it. Now most parishes are infected; yet there are not so many houses shut up by the plague, as by the owners forsaking them for fear of it. But, though the inhabitants be so exceedingly decreased by the departure of so many thousands, the number of dying persons increaseth fearfully. Now the countries keep guard, lest infectious person should from the city bring the disease unto them. Most of the rich are now gone, and the middle sort will not stay behind; but the poor are forced to stay and abide the storm. Now most faces gather paleness; and what dismal apprehensions do then fill their minds; what dreadful fears possess the spirits, especially of those whose consciences are full of guilt, and have not made their peace with God. The old drunkards, and swearers, and unclean persons, are brought into great straits: they look on the right hand and on the left, and death is marching towards them from every part, and they know not whither to fly that they may escape it. Now the arrows begin to fly very thick about their ears, and they see many fellow-sinners fall before their faces, expecting every hour themselves to be smitten : and the very sinking fears they have had of the plague brought the plague and death upon many. Some by the sight of a coffin in the streets have fallen into a shivering, and immediately the disease has assaulted them, and death hath arrested them, and clapped to the doors of their houses upon them; from whence they have come forth no more, till they have been brought forth to their graves. We may imagine the hideous thoughts, the horrid perplexity of mind, the tremblings, confusions, and anguish of spirit, which some awakened sinners have had when the plague bath broken in upon their houses, and seized upon near relations, whose dying groans sounding in their ears, have warned them to prepare; when their doors have been shut up and fastened on the outside, and none suffered to come in hut a nurse whom they have been more afraid of than of the plague itself; when lovers and friends, and companions in sin, have stood aloof, and not dared to come nigh the door of the house lest death should issue forth from thence upon them; especially when the disease hath invaded themselves, and first begun with a pain and dizziness in their head, then trembling in their other members; when they have felt boils to arise under their arms, and seen blains to come forth in other parts; when the disease hath wrought in them to that height, as to send forth those spots which most think are the certain tokens of near approaching death. And now they have received the sentence of death in themselves, and have certainly concluded that within a few hours they must go down into the dust, and their naked souls, without the case of their body, must make their passage into eternity, and appear before the Highest Majesty, to render their accounts and receive their sentence. None can utter the horror which hath been upon the spirits of such, through the lashes and stings of their guilty consciences, when they have called to mind a life of sensuality and profaneness; their uncleanness, drunkenness, and injustice; their oaths, curses, derision of saints and holiness, and neglect of their own salvation: and when a thousand sins have been set in order before their eyes, with another aspect than when they looked upon them in the temptation; and when they find God to be irreconcileably angry with them, and that the day of grace is over, the door of mercy shut, and that pardon and salvation, which before they slighted, now unattainable: that the grave is now opening its mouth to receive their bodies, and hell opening its mouth to receive their souls; and they apprehend that they are now just entering into a place of endless wo and torment, and must take up their lodgings in the regions of utter darkness, with devils, and their damned fellow-sinners, and there abide for evermore in the extremity of misery, without any hopes or possibility of a release : and that they have foolishly brought themselves into this condition, and been the cause of their own ruin. We may guess that the despairful agonies and anguish of such awakened sinners have been of all things the most insupportable; except the very future miseries themselves, which they have been afraid of.
" In August how dreadful is the increase! From 2010, the number amounts to 2817 in one week; and thence to 3880 the next; thence to 4237 the next; thence to 6102 the next; and all these of the plague, besides other diseases.
“ Now the cloud is very black, and the storm comes down upon us very sharp. Now death rides triumphantly on his pale horse through our streets, and breaks into every house almost, where any inhabitants are to be found. Now people fall as thick as leaves from the trees in autumn, when they are shaken by a mighty wind. Now there is a dismal solitude in London streets; every day looks with the face of a Sabbath observed with greater solemnity than is used to be in the city. Now shops are shut in, people rare, and very few that walk about; insomuch that the grass begins to spring up in some places, and a deep silence almost in every place, especially within the walls : no rattling coaches, no prancing horses, no calling in of customers, nor offering of wares; no London cries sounding in the ears. If any voice be heard, it is the groans of dying persons breathing forth their last: and the funeral knells of them that are ready to be carried to their graves."
“ It was generally observed, that God's people, who died by the plague amongst the rest, died with such peace and comfort
as Christians do not ordinarily attain unto except when they are called forth to suffer martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Some who have been full of doubts, and fears, and complaints, whilst they have lived and been well, have been filled with assurance, and comfort, and praise, and joyful expectation of glory, when they had lain on their deathbeds by this disease. And not only more grown Christians, who have been more ripe for glory, have had these comforts, but also some younger Christians, whose acquaintance with the Lord hath been of no long standing. But ' mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; the end of that man is peace.”
“ I can speak something of mine own knowledge, concerning some of my friends whom I have been withal. I shall instance only in the house where I lived. were eight in family; three men, three youths, an old woman and a maid ; all which came to me, hearing of my stay in town, some to accompany me, others to help me. It was the latter end of September before any of us were touched. The young ones