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A Journal of the Plague Year

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  5,530 ratings  ·  570 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 ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 1960 by Signet Classic (New American Library) (first published 1722)
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Bill Kerwin

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 cointhe sympathetic character is often permissive, the assertive unreasonable, the ardent rashand 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 Journal
...more
Henry Avila
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 ...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 ...more
F.R.
Aug 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 writers successes and because of their failures. It was up to them to forge the templates, and if a certain template didnt 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 actually a
...more
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
...more
Fiona
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,
...more
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alan
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Amelia
Jan 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNFd at chapter 11 ...more
Jo
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"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 ...more
W.D. Clarke
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
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.
Rachel
This is one of the stranger conglomerations I have ever encountered under the name, "novel." Weve got a 1722 fictionalized memoir of Londons 1665 bubonic plague epidemic, how-to-survive-plagues advice and 17th-century public health info, and, my favorite part, philosophical speculation about the outbreaks causes. Its 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-century
...more
Alp Turgut
1665 yılında Londrada yaşanmış olan veba salgınını tüm gerçekçiliğiyle okuyucuya sunan "Veba Yılı Günlüğü / A Journal of the Plague Year", Daniel Defoenun 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 ...more
J.G. 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
...more
Anca
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kim
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 ...more
Andrew Howdle
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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
...more
Yana
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Въпреки че тръгнах с нагласата, че може би ще върви трудно, оказа се, че "Дневник на чумавата година" е изненадващо увлекателна. Много добро решение от моя страна да я чета сега - мерките, взимани за предотвратяване на заразата през 17 в., провокират интересни сравнения със сегашната ситуация.
Bruce
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 accounts 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 ...more
gabrielle
Feb 01, 2009 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 ...more
Bryan Alexander
I first read Journal of the Plague Year (1722) in grad school, back in the 1990s, when I was studying the long 18th century. I saw it in terms of AIDS then. I connected it to all kinds of things I was exploring: contemporary medicine, the rise of the realistic novel, post-Cromwell British government...

And now I reread it during a new pandemic.

On its face it's a straightforward book. The narrator recalls his experience of the 1665 plague in London, starting with its first events and proceeding to
...more
Fatma
redundant, boring; boring, redundant.

(did I mention BORING?)
Andrea
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Kilian Metcalf
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Libros Prestados
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Mi videoreseña: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNCr0...

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
...more
Bettie
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?
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Julie
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.
Betsy
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 ...more

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