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A Journal of the Plague Year

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  6,689 ratings  ·  856 reviews
The novel is a fictionalised account of one man's experiences of the year 1665, in which the Great Plague struck the city of London. The book is told roughly chronologically, though without sections or chapter headings.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 29th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published March 1722)
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Bill Kerwin
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it

Because 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 rash—and the same thing can be said of an author's beauties and his faults. A brief study of Daniel Defoe's book on the London plague of 1665-1666 illustrates this principle.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about “A Journ
Henry Avila
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
In the crowded unhealthy unclean foul, pest dominated filthy city of London the Black Plague breaks out in 1665, no surprise it had 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 author was only fi ...more
MJ Nicholls
In 1664, Borif De Pfeffel Jonffon was the Mayor of London. He was widely popular with his flowing blonde wig and extravagant ruff. Having invented the highly successful sport of peacock wiff-waff, where live cocks were thwacked across a bronze table with scimitars, then skinned and served whole to the victors, his electoral success was secured. In spite of his various mistresses, several of them chambermaids and lower-ranking countesses, his re-election the following year seemed certain. He prom ...more
Roy Lotz
It was a very ill time to be sick in…

My pandemic reading continues with this classic work about one of the worst diseases in European history: bubonic plague. Daniel Defoe wrote this account when the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction were looser. He freely mixes invention, hearsay, anecdote, and real statistics, in pursuit of a gripping yarn. Defoe himself was only a young boy when the Great Plague struck London, in 1664-6; but he writes the story in the person of a well-to-do, curi
Aug 26, 2010 rated it liked it
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
David Schaafsma
The Danse Macabre from The Seventh Seal:

It is no mystery to me today why it is that the name of an eighteenth-century novelist (Moll Flanders, Robinson Crusoe) is still known (okay, not to everyone, but to readers of literature). He’s just flat out a great writer! This book, which has been staring me in the face on my “books to be read during the pandemic” list for a few months, is just exactly the kind of literary mountain I have historically liked to cli
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Daniel Defoe wrote this fictionalised account (by an author known only as H.F.) of the 1664 bubonic plague outbreak in London, otherwise known as the Black Death. He wrote it some 50 years after the events. Defoe was fascinated by plagues and did a huge amount of research, producing a work that was believed to be a true account for some decades after it was published. I bought it several months ago and it seemed to be timely to read it now. The parallels are chilling.

..the Face of Things, I say,
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
L.S. Popovich
You will notice right away Defoe's journalistic approach, rife with supporting statistics. His powers as a writer and boldness of presentation are clearly beyond the pale. As was the case with Robinson Crusoe, he was not forthright with sources or veracity in the tale. It is often impossible to tell where he obtained his facts, and how much was mere invention.

A Journal of the Plague year is a vast catalogue of deaths, in all manners of protracted agonies, distempers, including plenty of "murther
Emily M
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this a couple of summers ago in a second-hand bookshop because I’ve always been intrigued and it was one of those pretty Modern Library Classics that I love. And then it hovered near the top of my TBR pile but never quite surfaced. Just as well as it turned out, because I got to read it now, in late April of 2020.

Anyone reading this during the coronavirus lockdown is bound to comment on the similarities to our times: blame the foreigners, government dithering, rising death rates in neig
‘Oh! death, death, death!’ [p.59]
That’s it. That’s the review. No punch line.
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 10, 2014 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
Feb 10, 2016 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, a year before the Great Fire, and two before 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
W.D. Clarke
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 18c, 2020
This edition's transplendent "Afterword" (by none other than that anti-DeFoe and scion of Joyce, Anthony Burgess) deftly analyses why this two-star reader's one-star l'il brain cell only afforded him a three-star experience of this five-star novel, viz:
There are people who still find Defoe hard to take as a novelist, and this is because they have become accustomed to regarding the novel as a form almost aggressively 'literary', full of barely concealed machinery, self-conscious fine writing, th
Jan 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF’d at chapter 11
~The Bookish Redhead~
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
"A journal of the plague year" is actually a fictional account covering this time in history, and although Defoe was alive, we are given a narrator instead, and this was written near enough sixty years afterwards. We are certainly not told much about this narrator, apart from the fact he has family and servants, and we get a brief description of where he lives, but that is about it. I think due to this lack of character description, I was unable to completely empathise with him, and I also notic ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it

Fathers and Mothers have gone about as if they have been well, and have believ’d themselves to be so, till they have insensibly infected, and been the Destruction of their whole Families: Which they would have been far from doing, if they had the least Apprehensions of their being unsound and dangerous themselves.... It is very sad to reflect, how such a Person as this last mentioned above, had been a walking Destroyer, perhaps for a Week or Fortnight before that; how he had ruin’d those, that
Hákon Gunnarsson
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m not going to read any books that are about plagues, or pandemics for the next few months. Listening to the news of Covid-19 is enough of that for me right now, but for those that are looking for a good classic plague book, I’d like to recommend this one. I think it’s a pretty good one.

Daniel Defoe, best know for Robinson Crusoe which I still haven’t read, does a good job at a level headed, unsentimental, perhaps a little detached view of a plague. The narrator is a science minded man so the
Salem Lorot
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it

Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year offers important lessons amid our COVID-19 pandemic. Here are nine lessons that we can pick.

A dreadful plague in London was
In the year sixty-five,
Which swept an hundred thousand souls
Away; yet I alive!
H. F.

This is the second pandemic book that I have read. The first was Barry's The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. I shared with you the lessons we could learn from t
J.G. Keely
Aug 04, 2007 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
How little the world really changes!
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
I have seen this taught as a non-fiction account of the Great Plague of 1666; it isn't.

What it actually is: a very early historical novel. (Defoe was alive, but was a small child, in 1666.) There's no reason why it shouldn't be taught in a history class (as it has the virtue of being short, among other things), but an eye-witness non-fiction account it isn't.

I guess that's credit to Defoe's ability as a novelist.
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
Hande Çakır
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Öznel veriler baz alınarak yazılmış bir kurgu kitabı veba yılı günlüğü. Yazarın bahsettiği 1665-1666 veba salgını sırasında 5 yaşında olması bunu doğruluyor. İnternetten edindigim bazı bilgilere göre yazarken yararlandığı verileri, salgının göbeğinde bulunmuş olan amcası Henry Foe'nin salgına dair yazdığı notlarından almış. Bütün bunlar kitabında insanlığı etkileyen böylesine korkunç salgınların toplumlar üzerinde ne çeşit etkileri olduğunu derinlemesine incelemesine ve oldukça gerçekçi bir biçi ...more
Jun 13, 2009 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
Andrew Howdle
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Defoes' reconstruction, an early piece of investigative journalism in many ways, makes for sober reading. At the current time, it is deeply disturbing. There are moments where 1665 parallels 2020. One thread that runs through Defoe's account is how the poor are suddenly noticed and given attention. The Plague made people see the horrors of social deprivation. The Plague doesn't just kill: it shows the circumstances that caused the deaths; much as the vulnerability of our aged citizens is connect ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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, whic ...more
Alp Turgut
1665 yılında Londra’da yaşanmış olan veba salgınını tüm gerçekçiliğiyle okuyucuya sunan "Veba Yılı Günlüğü / A Journal of the Plague Year", Daniel Defoe’nun bulduğu günlükleri bir araya getirerek ortaya çıkardığı edebi açıdan olabildiğince akıcı ve etkileyici bir eser. Hastalığı kapan insanların acıdan Thames nehrine atlamasına kadar yaşadığı tüm korkunç olayları okuma şansı bulduğumuz kitapta binlerce kişinin öldüğü veba salgınlarının insanların üzerindeki etkisine bir kere daha tanıklık ediyor ...more
Genia Lukin
Nov 30, 2013 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
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Jun 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
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.
Jul 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
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Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An eyewitness account of a difficult period in London written by someone who wasn't there. As usual for the author, many capitalized words. Even though the events portrayed are terrible, Defoe manages to give the reader enough distance from the subject that they may fully behold it. In this age of HD TV closeups we sometimes forget how much we fail to see.

In general, plagues and other disasters where the victims and survivors have all long-since passed are quite entertaining.

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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 m ...more

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“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.” 5 likes
“But it was impossible to beat anything into the heads of the poor. They went on with the usual impetuosity of their tempers, full of outcries and lamentations when taken, but madly careless of themselves, foolhardy and obstinate, while they were well. Where they could get employment they pushed into any kind of business, the most dangerous and the most liable to infection; and if they were spoken to, their answer would be, 'I must trust to God for that; if I am taken, then I am provided for, and there is an end of me', and the like. Or thus, 'Why, what must I do? I can't starve. I had as good have the plague as perish for want. I have no work; what could I do? I must do this or beg.” 4 likes
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