A Journal of the Plague Year
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A Journal of the Plague Year

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  2,589 ratings  ·  246 reviews
The authoritative text has been fully annotated and makes available a perennially popular novel, one that has often been mistaken for an actual eyewitness account of the last great plague in England. "Backgrounds" encourages comparison of 1665 documents with those of the early 1720s, when England feared a new outbreak of the plague. Included are official government orders...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 17th 1992 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1722)
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #62: A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), by Daniel Defoe

The story in a nutshell:
Although not actually written until sixty years later (but more on that in a bi...more
Anca
Historical fiction about the plague of London in 1665. Defoe was just a 5 year old child when it happened but documented about it in exhaustive details so it will sound like a real life journal. It is first person narrative but it does not focus on the person of H.F, a saddler that stayed to protect his business (presumed to be based on Defoe's uncle, Henry Foe that lived through it), but on general means.
There are many details about parishes affected, official decisions, the frauds deceiving pe...more
F.R.
One of the problems with reviewing the earliest authors of fiction is that they were writing at a time before the rules had been properly worked out. Novels took on the form we know and love because of these writer’s successes and because of their failures. It was up to them to forge the templates, and if a certain template didn’t work then they could try a new one with the next book.

‘A Journal of the Plague year’ is a case in point. Although Defoe was alive at the time of plague, this is actual...more
Keely
And so it was that the plague came into London, by the mercy of God, and I thought I would remain in the city despite the plague, for since God made it, I could not escape it if he meant me to perish from it, viz. when that brick fell off the chimney and onto my foot, which I was loathe to move, for since God sent the brick, it would do me no good to move my foot and so avoid his will.

But I would say the best way to avoid the plague and to survive would be to leave the city, as many did, when th
...more
gabrielle
Feb 01, 2009 gabrielle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to gabrielle by: Lil
(Another one from the _Peeps_ list.) Written in the early 1700s; a first-person narrative of the London plague of 1665. The account is incredibly detailed, although its accuracy has been called into question lately. There's no longer any way to verify Defoe's statistics because the church records (tracking burials etc) were lost in the Great Fire. I LOVE PLAGUE STORIES. Doom! Death! Destruction! I think it would be really cool to set up a "living history" tour of London & visit the locations...more
Bruce
This is a fictionalized account, through the eyes and voice of the narrator, H.R., of the last great Plague in London, in 1665. Defoe published it in 1722. Using charts and graphs from the time of the plague, Defoe adds to his account’s verisimilitude. “H.R.” may be a reference to his uncle who lived in the city at the time of the plague and kept a record of events that were occurring. This novel is one of the best accounts of the temper of the times and complements the journal kept by Samuel Pe...more
Andrea
This is grim but strangely gripping, almost in spite of its author. First I had to try and remember that this is so early, among the earliest of the many claims of earliest novels -- that's hard enough. Written decades after the events it is describing, it's still quetsioned how much of it is based on Daniel Defoe's uncle's diary (he himself was 5 at the time he describes in such detail), how much is historical research, how much is 'novel'. It's strangely removed yet at the same time close enou...more
Rachel

This is one of the stranger conglomerations I have ever encountered under the name, “novel.” We’ve got a 1722 fictionalized memoir of London’s 1665 bubonic plague epidemic, how-to-survive-plagues advice and 17th-century public health info, and, my favorite part, philosophical speculation about the outbreak’s causes. It’s pretty safe to say that Defoe has an agenda in this book beyond telling tragic, bubo-filled plague stories, though he tells them very movingly indeed.

Like other pre-19th-centur...more
Jeff
This is a fictionalized first-hand account of the London plague of 1665 written in 1722. I'm fascinated by plague literature for some reason, probably compounded lately by the hoo-ha over the H1N1 virus, which so far does not measure up. This book is considered to be one of the grand-daddies of plague literature, and i wasn't disappointed. It's a compelling portrait of daily life in the midst of a horrific plague filled in with lots of information from contemporary writings, weekly bills of mort...more
Philippe Malzieu
It was the most Serge Gainsbourg's preferred book.
Daniel defoe is not a only-one-book man (Robinson Crusoe).
It is an aesthete book which one exchanges the name between friends.
What is extraordinary, it is the realism of story. All descriptions are extraordinary. They agree elsewhere with what was described. As of the appearance of the signs, death occurred in a few hours.
the plague is well known since the Middle Ages as an apocalyps. René Girard in "the scapegoat" says that people did not even...more
Genia Lukin
I understand that this is a book written before the conventions of a "novel" or a "memoir" or any other thing of that sort actually existed. So when Defoe was writing this book, he was just... well, writing. Because of that, the basic structure of the book contains only two set points; one - the plague begins; two - the plague ends.

Between these points chaos reigns supreme. Stories are written together and connected in an entirely associative manner, stories trail off and reappear several pages...more
Phyllis
Would someone please, please break this thing up into chapters. Sometimes you just have to put a book down and this just goes on and on, horrifying story after horrifying story, with no break.

So, the populace is scared, with reason. And some of them die and others don't, but a lot of people are in the prior category. In fact, the book is full of lists of the number of dead.

Some residents of London hightail it to the countryside, sometimes taking the plague with them and sometimes successfully. A...more
Katharyn
Jan 16, 2010 Katharyn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Katharyn by: Paul Meerscheidt
The fictional journal of a man living out the Black Plague in London, written in old English slang appropriate to the working "author's" social status (including spelling errors).

More true to journal form than most fictional journals, the entries are a mix of personal experience, personal observation reflection and medication, second hand stories, and general statistic documentation; as such, I found my interest fluctuated greatly from entry to entry, having personally very little interest in s...more
Sacherina
I am impressed by this book because of its matter-of-fact approach towards the plague. Defoe manages to write a book about a disasterous disease that basically paused the whole country until it was over withouth becoming emotional. I say that the narrator doesn't become emotional, what emotions are stirred in the reader is a whole different matter.

It is gloomy and depressing as a whole but Defoe manages to occasionally lift the reader's spirits by telling him about the incredible acts of kindnes...more
Rick Skwiot
Thanks to 20th century medical and public health advances, we now know how to prevent, stem, and treat most infectious diseases. Though a few folks may still recall the flu epidemic of 1918, which cost 20 millions lives worldwide and a half million in the United States alone, for most of us living outside the Third World, fear of epidemic has become largely a thing of the past.

But if you wish to glimpse daily life under the threat of impending death by disease (without actually being threatened...more
Mad Russian the Traveller

Daniel DeFoe is probably best known for his authorship of the novel, "Robinson Crusoe", and I have read that novel in abridged form years ago as a child. I plan to eventually read "Robinson Crusoe" in unabridged form (in an 1869 edition that I inherited from my grandmother), but not until I finish my current stack, so I decided to read this smaller work of DeFoe until I have time for the larger book.

As a published writer in a time when proto-newspapers were first coming into being in England, De...more
Grace Harwood
If you've ever watched films like "Contagion" or anything where a super virus comes along and threatens to wipe out civilisation, well forget them, because this is the original, classic story of the ultimate super virus which threatened the population. This is a fictionalised account, but you don't need more than a basic grasp of history to know that the events described in this book actually happened; the fear which hung over the streets and the desperate measures people were willing to take ar...more
Paul Lawrence
Journal of a Plague Year was written in 1722, 57 years after the 1665 plague. So it is a fictional 'journal' rather than a true tale. Nevertheless, Defoe may have had some memory of events - he would have been five at the time. Defoe himself was a political commentator, journalist and secret agent, as well as the author of Robinson Crusoe. In his life he was pilloried, imprisoned, and at one stage faced the prospect of execution through his involvement in the Monmouth Rebellion. The book itself...more
Britt Vasarhelyi
Feb 03, 2013 Britt Vasarhelyi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults who enjoy unusual events in history
Recommended to Britt by: yard sale or used bookstore
I have this book in both paperback and digital forms, since I'm prone to lending books I love and then never getting them back. So far, I've kept them both.

Daniel Defoe is best known for "Robinson Crusoe," but he also authored literally hundreds of others books. This is remarkable since he's one of the earliest writers of novels -- and some say he's the first.

I had no particular interest in the plague when I picked up this book. I'd tried to read "Rats, Lice and History," hadn't gotten very far...more
Jim
A straightforward account of the bubonic plague that struck London in 1665. While the peole and conversations by the people are fictional, the plague and its effects are as accurate as possible.

The bad parts of the plague besides a literal decimation, bur the attendant pain that caused people to roar and scream and go crazy. Childbrith was very deadly, for midwifes and doctors were exposed to plague infected blood routinely, such that the were noone to deliver the babies born in 1665. Most women...more
Aric Cushing
A great account of the plague and the ravages on the countryside during the disease's reign. Worth the read, but towards the middle one might find that everything that needed to be said, was done so previously. A must for die hard history fans.
Fernanda
No ha sido la gran obra maestra, pero vaya que me ha mantenido interesada. El libro documenta el año de 1665, aquel en el que la Peste azotó Inglaterra y asesinó a miles de personas en poco tiempo. A pesar de ser ficción es bastante informativo. Haciendo a un lado el purismo excesivo al inicio y al final, la narración fue entretenida y digerible. Los horrores son descritos perfectamente así como las medidas que se tomaron y las estadísticas representativas de la enorme cantidad de personas que m...more
Libri &
Diario dell'anno della peste è una cronaca fedele e allo stesso tempo un racconto intimo che l'autore, Daniel Defoe, fa dell'epidemia di peste bubbonica (passata alla storia con il nome di Grande peste) che colpì Londra tra il 1664 e il 1666. Defoe in particolare si concentra sull'anno 1665 quando l'infezione infuriò per la City, il cuore di Londra, mietendo migliaia di vittime. Utilizzando l'espediente del finto diario, Defoe all'epoca aveva solo cinque anni, l'autore affida la narrazione degli...more
Eugenia
Very embarrassed to admit that I only just realized that this is historical fiction, not a chronicle or journal in real life (I avoided reading it in college because I never chose to read any "non-fiction" in college, so I didn't read this one, because I thought it was a true account). It's extraordinarily well done.
Betsy
Jul 01, 2007 Betsy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: medieval dorks like myself
A little past medieval, but still highly intriguing. DaFoe had such an informal, easy to read style that made the history very easy to identify with. Also very descriptive and somehow quite matter-of-fact, with few emotional observations about what was going on. I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
Cinara
Very interesting and detailed account of the plague epidemic in London in the mid-seventeenth century. It just didn't have to be so repetitive.
Julie
This is another book I really enjoyed. I found it very moving and descriptive. It also was heart-breaking in places.Highly recommend this one.
John
Dark, harrowing, fictitious retelling of the plague in London in 1665. Worth the read just to see how they handled the situation...
Steven Tiberius
Feb 27, 2007 Steven Tiberius rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Time Travellers
Please, for the love of God, wash your hands! And DON'T feed the rats! I can't stress this enough, they WILL bite you!
Eveline Chao
I feel like it's morbid to like this, but it was really great and fascinating.
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2007
Daniel Defoe (1659/1661 [?] - 1731) was an English writer, journalist, and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularize the genre in Britain. In some texts he is even referred to as one of the founders, if not the founder, of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote m...more
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Robinson Crusoe Moll Flanders The Further Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe Roxana Captain Singleton

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“a near View of Death would soon reconcile Men of good Priciples one to another, and that it is chiefly owing to our easy Scituation in Life, and our putting these Things far from us, that our Breaches are formented, ill Blood continued, Prejudices, Breach of Charity and of Christian Union so much kept and so far carry'd on among us, as it is: Another Plague Year would reconcile all these Differences, a close conversing with Death, or the Diseases that threaten Death, would scum off the Gall from our Tempers, remove the Animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing Eyes, than those which we look'd on Things with before” 1 likes
“But it was impossible to make any impression upon the middling people and the working labouring poor. Their fears were predominant over all their passions, and they threw away their money in a most distracted manner upon those whimsies.” 0 likes
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