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A Journal of the Plague Year

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  4,039 Ratings  ·  377 Reviews
In 1665, the Great Plague swept through London, claiming nearly 100,000 lives. In A Journal of the Plague Year, Defoe vividly chronicles the progress of the epidemic. We follow his fictional narrator through a city transformed-the streets and alleyways deserted, the houses of death with crosses daubed on their doors, the dead-carts on their way to the pits-and encounter th ...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published May 29th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1722)
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Bill  Kerwin
Feb 02, 2011 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

Who would have thought, in The Year of Our Lord 2014, that Ebola--with its controversial questions about voluntary and involuntary quarantine--would suddenly make this 350 year-old classic seem strangely relevant once more?

Since writing is an expression of human character, what is true of one's character is true of one's writing as well. A person's strengths and weaknesses are often two sides of the same coin—the sympathetic character is often permissive, the assertive unreasonable, the ardent r
Henry Avila
Aug 14, 2015 Henry Avila rated it liked it
In the crowded , unhealthy, unclean, foul, pest dominated, filthy city of London, the Bubonic Plague breaks out, in 1665, no surprise, it has occurred before, in fact just a few years, previously, but this escalates, felling some say, 100,000 people, who never rise again. Daniel Defoe, the inventor of the English language novel (Robinson Crusoe, 1719), yet because of his earlier employment, was more a journalist than a novelist, writes a memoir of this catastrophe, almost sixty years later. The ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 10, 2014 Philippe Malzieu rated it really liked it
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
Apr 03, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, read-again
A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel by Daniel Defoe, telling the story of the Great Plague in London in the year 1665. The book was first published in March 1722, 57 years after the event. A Journal of the Plague Year is an account, a "journal", of one man's experiences in the year 1665, in which the Great Plague struck the city of London. The book is told mostly in the order things happened, as far as I can tell anyway, though there are no chapters, it's just all one big story, which co ...more
Jun 13, 2009 Anca rated it really liked it
Shelves: 10, summer-2009
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
J.G. Keely
Aug 04, 2007 J.G. Keely rated it it was ok
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

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
Oct 31, 2010 Bruce rated it really liked it
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
Feb 01, 2009 gabrielle rated it really liked it  ·  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 lo ...more
Kilian Metcalf
Oct 15, 2014 Kilian Metcalf rated it really liked it
I think this must be the ur-text for all futuristic dystopian post-apocalyptic novels. I thought it was non-fiction until I learned more about Daniel Defoe. He was five when the plague struck London in 1665, and his book was published in 1722. That makes it technically historical fiction. Much of the book is based on the experiences of Defoe's uncle. Early critics were also unclear how to classify it. Some considered it nonfiction, with Defoe as the editor of his uncle's memoirs. Some put it def ...more
Daniel Defoe's 'A Journal of the Plague Year' is a curious piece of fiction. It is both a historical account, with an emphasis on the veracity of all the details, and an imaginative reconstruction of the 'Plague Year' (1665).

Although Defoe himself was only five years old when the plague spread across London in 1665, and he was probably evacuated as well, the 'Journal' was written like a sort of historical memorial, meant to be read by posterity as a 'survival guide' in the eventuality of anothe
Feb 09, 2014 Andrea rated it liked it
Shelves: london
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
Feb 10, 2016 Alan rated it really liked it
I taught this a couple times (Soph Eng Lit survey), instead of Moll or Robinson (or, indeed, Pamela or pt of Tristram). Of course it's a historical reconstruction: Defoe was 5 in the Plague Year, also the year the Dutch sailed to Chatham, on the Bay of Thames, and captured the Royal Charles, its transom still featured in Rijksmuseum.
I think those semesters AIDS featured in news. (Also useful for teaching Freshman Oedipus R, which begins in citywide mortality--to be cured by executing the cause
Not for the faint hearted as this was solid text on a gruelling subject. Seeing as this was written some decades after the events I wonder why the great fire was not mentioned - maybe the answer lies in the fact that DeFoe and his contempories did not know that the fire cleansed the area. *shrug* What do you think?
Rick Skwiot
Nov 20, 2012 Rick Skwiot rated it it was amazing
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
Catalin Negru
Jan 31, 2016 Catalin Negru rated it it was amazing
Target audience: common people, anyone who wants to find information about the plague, the beliefs and the lifestyle of the Londoners of the year 1666.

About the author: Daniel Defoe was an English trader, writer, journalist, pamphleteer, and spy, most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is noted for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain with others such as Samuel Richardson, and is among the founders of the English novel. He was
Ruthie Jones
I readily admit that it can be quite difficult to tease out the remarkable stories that lurk within these older works. The authors of yore (Defoe included) are often long winded and repetitious. If you have patience and fortitude, you will be rewarded!

While A Journal of the Plague Year is a work of fiction (Defoe was only 5 years old in 1665), it does present an historical account of a truly horrific year in London's history, made even more horrific when the fire of 1666 swept through and claime
Feb 20, 2013 Sacherina rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
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
Nov 14, 2015 LobsterQuadrille rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs who aren't afraid of a heavy read
When I started reading A Journal of the Plague Year, it seemed pretty dry and scholarly, but I decided to give it a chance, and surprisingly I actually found it an enjoyable(if slow) book. As something of a history buff, I thought it was interesting to see how the bubonic plague affected the individuals and economy of England centuries ago, and even to see how the English language was written and used back then. The prose became progressively less dry, though it can still be tough to slog throu ...more
Libros Prestados
Dec 09, 2014 Libros Prestados rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Mi videoreseña:

Me ha encantado y no me sorprende la buena fama que tiene.

Es un relato fascinante e inmersivo que va dibujando el horror de lo que viene siendo una pandemia (la epidemia de peste que asoló londres en 1665) mediante la opinión de un supuesto testigo de los acontecimientos y decenas de pequeñas anécdotas que van conformando la narración. Es increible la capacidad de Defoe de hacerte creer que él estuvo allí, cuando es todo un producto de su i
May 11, 2013 Jesse rated it liked it
It must be said that Defoe was a thoroughly mediocre writer. It seems that Pope's judgment was not far off, saying that "De Foe wrote a vast many things; and none bad, though none excellent, except [Robinson Crusoe]". The "Journal" makes for very interesting reading, yet it is tedious and exceptionally dull; which fact is all the more confounding, when one considers that it is written in a journalistic, breakneck-paced style that positively commands excitement, and when one considers, in additio ...more
Justin Evans
Apr 12, 2012 Justin Evans rated it it was ok
Yep... Defoe's returns continue to diminish. This reminds me of Dostoevsky's 'House of the Dead,' since both books are absolutely riveting for the first 100 pages or so: you get an immediate impression of what it's like to live in a plague-ridden London (or Russian prison); you get drawn in by the odd 'life is stranger than fiction' moment, but then, before you know it, you're reading exactly the same thing two or even three times for no particular reason other than the narrator's inability to r ...more
Genia Lukin
Nov 30, 2013 Genia Lukin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Jan 16, 2010 Katharyn rated it liked it  ·  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
Nov 15, 2009 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2016 Daniela rated it really liked it
FINALLY DONE!!! Now, you may be wondering why I'm giving this book 4 stars if reading it was as painful as I made it seem, but it's really quite simple: context.
The archaic language was not archaic then and the exceedingly poetic prose was to be expected in a work as old as this, along with all the "praise Him!" and "spare me, God" that are present in every single page of the book. Context.
Getting back to present times, that which makes it a weirdly beautifuly written book has now become boring
Noah Goats
Dec 15, 2016 Noah Goats rated it really liked it
This isn't a very novelistic sort of novel. There is no particular narrative drive propelling the story forward. This is a work of fiction that presents itself as a work of non fiction (it sort of reminded me of World War Z on this point), and the result is very readable. This book gives the reader a very good feel for what it would have been like to live through the plague of 1665, and what the people back then thought about this calamity that had taken over their city.
Carol Peters
Jan 12, 2017 Carol Peters rated it did not like it
It's historically interesting but otherwise too deadly boring to finish.
Grace Harwood
Jul 04, 2013 Grace Harwood rated it liked it
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
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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 ...more
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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” 2 likes
“Wherever God erects a house of prayer, The Devil always builds a chapel there; And 'twill be found upon examination The latter has the largest congregation.” 1 likes
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