The Great Plague of London; excerpts from The Diary of Samuel Pepys

 

 

 

The Diary of Samuel Pepys - cover

 

 

 

 

 
from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Volume Two (Everyman’s Library)

 

 
May 24th, 1665. Up, and by 4 o’clock in the morning, and with W. Hewer, there till 12 without intermission putting some papers in order. Thence to the Coffee-house with Creed, where I have not been a great while, where all the newes is of the Dutch being gone out, and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another.

 
June 10th, 1665. Lay long in bed, and then up and at the office all the morning. At noon dined at home, and then to the office busy all the afternoon. In the evening home to supper; and there, to my great trouble, hear that the plague is come into the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the City); but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbour’s, Dr. Burnett, in Fanchurch Street: which in both points troubles me mightily. To the office to finish my letters and then home to bed, being troubled at the sicknesse, and my head filled also with other business enough, and particularly how to put my things and estate in order, in case it should please God to call me away, which God dispose of to his glory!

 
June 29th, 1665. Up and by water to White Hall, where the Court full of waggons and people ready to go out of towne. … This end of the towne every day grows very bad of the plague. The Mortality Bill is come to 267; which is about ninety more than the last: and of these but four in the City, which is a great blessing to us.

 

 

July 1st, 1665. Called up betimes, though weary and sleepy, by appointment by Mr. Povy and Colonell Norwood to discourse about some payments of Tangier. They gone, I to the office and there sat all the morning. At noon dined at home, and then to the Duke of Albemarle’s, by appointment, to give him an account of some disorder in the Yarde at Portsmouth, by workmen’s going away of their owne accord, for lacke of money, to get work of hay-making, or any thing else to earne themselves bread.

Thence to Westminster, where I hear the sicknesse encreases greatly. … Thence by coach and late at the office, and so to bed. Sad at the newes that seven or eight houses in Bazing Hall street, are shut up of the plague.

 

 

August 22nd. 1665. I went away and walked to Greenwich, in my way seeing a coffin with a dead body therein, dead of the plague, lying in an open close belonging to Coome farme, which was carried out last night, and the parish have not appointed any body to bury it; but only set a watch there day and night, that nobody should go thither or come thence, which is a most cruel thing: this disease making us more cruel to one another than if we are doggs.

 

 

August 28th, 1665. Up, and being ready I out to Mr. Colvill, the goldsmith’s, having not for some days been in the streets; but now how few people I see, and those looking like people that had taken leave of the world. I there, and made even all accounts in the world between him and I, in a very good condition, and I would have done the like with Sir Robert Viner, but he is out of towne, the sicknesse being every where thereabouts. I to the Exchange, and I think there was not fifty people upon it, and but few more like to be as they told me, Sir G. Smith and others. Thus I think to take adieu to-day of the London streets. …

 

 

August 30th, 1665. Up betimes and to my business of settling my house and papers, and then abroad and met with Hadley, our clerke, who, upon my asking how the plague goes, he told me it encreases much, and much in our parish; for, says he, there died nine this week, though I have returned but six: which is a very ill practice, and makes me think it is so in other places; and therefore the plague much greater than people take it to be. Thence, as I intended, to Sir R. Viner’s, and there found not Mr. Lewes ready for me, so I went forth and walked towards Moorefields to see (God forbid my presumption!) whether I could see any dead corps going to the grave; but, as God would have it, did not. But, Lord! how every body’s looks, and discourse in the street is of death, and nothing else, and few people going up and down, that the towne is like a place distressed and forsaken.

 

 

August 31st, 1665. Up and, after putting several things in order to my removal, to Woolwich; the plague having a great encrease this week, beyond all expectation of almost 2,000, making the general Bill 7,000, odd 100; and the plague above 6,000. … Thus this month ends with great sadness upon the publick, through the greatness of the plague every where through the kingdom almost. Every day sadder and sadder news of its encrease. In the City died this week 7,496 and of them 6,102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead, this week is near 10,000; partly from the poor that cannot be taken notice of, through the greatness of the number, and partly from the Quakers and others that will not have any bell ring for them. … As to myself I am very well, only in fear of the plague, and as much of an ague by being forced to go early and late to Woolwich, and my family to lie there continually.

 

 

September 3rd, 1665. Up; and put on my coloured silk suit very fine, and my new periwigg, bought a good while since, but durst not wear, because the plague was in Westminster when I bought it; and it is a wonder what will be the fashion after the plague is done, as to periwiggs, for nobody will dare to buy any haire, for fear of the infection, that it had been cut off of the heads of people dead of the plague. … After dinner left them and I by water to Greenwich, where much ado to be suffered to come into the towne because of the sicknesse, for fear I should come from London, till I told them who I was. … Church being done, my Lord Bruncker, Sir J. Minnes, and I up to the Vestry at the desire of the justices of the Peace, Sir Theo. Biddulph and Sir W. Boreman and Alderman Hooker, in order to the doing something for the keeping of the plague from growing; but Lord! to consider the madness of the people of the town, who will (because they are forbid) come in crowds along with the dead corps to see them buried; but we agreed on some orders for the prevention thereof. Among other stories, one was very passionate, methought, of a complaint brought against a man in the towne for taking a child from London from an infected house. Alderman Hooker told us it was the child of a very able citizen in Gracious Street, a saddler, who had buried all the rest of his children of the plague, and himself and wife now being shut up and in despair of escaping, did desire only to save the life of this little child; and so prevailed to have it received stark-naked into the arms of a friend, who brought it (having put it into new fresh clothes) to Greenwich; where upon hearing the story, we did agree it should be permitted to be received and kept in the towne.

 

 

September 4th, 1665. [A]fter dinner to Greenwich, to Sir J. Minnes, where I found my Lord Bruncker, and having staid our hour for the justices by agreement, the time being past we to walk in the Park with Mr. Hammond and Turner, and there eat some fruit out of the King’s garden and walked in the Parke, and so back to Sir J. Minnes, and thence walked home, my Lord Bruncker giving me a very neat cane to walk with; but it troubled me to pass by Coome farme where about twenty-one people have died of the plague, and three or four days since I saw a dead corps in a coffin lie in the Close unburied, and a watch is constantly kept there night and day to keep the people in, the plague making us cruel, as doggs, one to another.

 
September 6th, 1665. … I looked into the street and saw fires burning in the street, as it is through the whole City, by the Lord Mayor’s order.* Thence by water to the Duke of Albemarle’s: all the way fires on each side of the Thames, and strange to see in broad daylight two or three burials upon the Bankeside, one at the very heels of another: doubtless all of the plague; and yet at least forty or fifty people going along with every one of them.

* Thinking that bad air was involved in the transmission of disease, the authorities ordered giant bonfires to be burned in the streets of London and house fires to be kept burning night and day, in the hope that the air would be cleansed.

 
September 7th, 1665. Up by 5 of the clock, mighty full of fear of an ague, but was obliged to go, and so by water, wrapping myself up warm, to the Tower, and there sent for the Weekely Bill, and find 8,252 dead in all, and of them 6,878 of the plague; which is a most dreadfull number, and shows reason to fear that the plague hath got that hold that it will yet continue among us.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   April 2020

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