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A Journal of the Plague Year (Penguin…

A Journal of the Plague Year (Penguin Classics) (original 1722; edition 2003)

by Daniel Defoe, Cynthia Wall (Editor), Cynthia Wall (Contributor)

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1,995363,371 (3.69)99
Title:A Journal of the Plague Year (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Daniel Defoe
Other authors:Cynthia Wall (Editor), Cynthia Wall (Contributor)
Info:Penguin Classics (2003), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Non-fiction, To read, Biog/Memoir, History
Tags:Memoir, based on true story, 200-300, BOS 2010

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A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe (1722)


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English (34)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
This book contains the phrase "Bring out your dead". It also has a scene where a man is put alive onto the dead cart, at which he remarks "But I an't dead though, am I". If those aren't reason enough to read it, then I don't know what is.

My understanding is that historians are unable to tell exactly where the line between truth and fiction lies. This edition is lightly modernised, which perhaps slightly spoils the effect of reading an original document but it is very cleverly written, as if by one who doesn't habitually write. He introduces the story of the three brothers several times before he actually tells it. Ultimately, I think the book is a victim of its own success as once the brothers' story is told it becomes repetitive and rather tiresome. ( )
  Lukerik | May 12, 2015 |
Daniel Defoe is a fascinating writer. He can write a marvelous melodrama and then create a novel that reads as if it is non-fiction. This fictional documentation of the great plague of 1665 in England is quite remarkable. Apparently some historians think it is better than actual documentation in its ability to convey the progression and social repercussions of this horrifying black death. He carefully lays out the slow unraveling of the societal fabric. He seems to say that fear and suffering result in chaos and irrational behavior. The desire to survive drives people to behave in ways they would not otherwise even consider or believe themselves capable of. I have to say that the power of this book seems, unfortunately, as relevant now as ever. With an Aids epidemic, Ebola epidemic, and threats of biological warfare in our lives, it is a pretty scary insight into the likely chain of events should some form of massive biological threat present itself. This was not a fun read, but very thought provoking. ( )
  hemlokgang | Mar 13, 2015 |
Okay, this is a fictitious account of what happened in 1665 in London even if it is made to seem factual. What this leaves me feeling, though, is what did Defoe want to achieve with this account? Was it meant to attract the voyeur in the reader, giving details of the disaster, or did he have a deeper purpose? He ascribes a lot of the reason for the plague to God’s judgement on people’s behaviour and he takes the opportunity to put the case for Dissenters on a few occasions but did this writer who published ‘Molls Flanders’ in the same year wanting this to be a significant aspect of the book?

Certainly making himself a grown man living through the plague rather than the five year old that he actually was adds immediacy and credibility as well as disguising the way a lot of research went into its composition. Of course, Burgess tells us in his introduction that fleas spread the disease and human to human contagion was very rare, something that retrospectively puts all the narrator’s assertions that it was spread by human contact into doubt, yet Defoe, it seems, has the last word, at least for now, with recent exhumations now asserting that it was spread by human contact and not by fleas.

Still, this is by the bye. The disjointed and repetitive nature of the book, its battology, made it a tedious read after a while, the only ongoing story being that of the three travellers and their companions but even this is rather distant. Yes, Defoe mentions lots of deep emotions, mainly of distress, but there’s no developed characterisation and I wonder if there’s any difference between the narrator and the author. ( )
1 vote evening | Jun 5, 2014 |
Some people reading this might think it is non-fiction, and Defoe strives to make it seem as if written by a guy who lived through the year 1665 in London. It seems pretty realistic and Defoe did research to make the book seem as factual as possible. The plague was a terrible affliction, and while many fled London there were many heroic people who stayed and kept the conditions from being much worse. The book is pretty didactic, but not disturbingly so. The language is kind of convoluted at times but when I finished the book I thought it well worth reading, even if during the reading it seemed heavy-handed at times. Defoe says the Great Fire of London, which occurred the next year--1666--was a blessing because it enabled many to have jobs after the economic disaster which was the plague. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jan 6, 2014 |
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 revise his own work. If you know much about the way plague was treated by the early moderns, you won't be surprised by too much here.

This penguin edition has some things going for it, starting with an amazing cover illustration and ending with Anthony Burgess' old introduction which is now an appendix. I suspect that's there because Burgess does what an introducer ought to do: describes a bit about Defoe's life and times, a bit about the book you're about to read, and a very slight interpretation of that book (here: 'can we preserve the societies we build?') The editor of this volume, on the other hand, gives us a semi-rapturous 'analysis' of Defoe's use of 'place' in the book, which sounds interesting until you read the book and realize that it's utterly tendentious.

Literary fashion is an odd beast- wouldn't it have made more sense to redo Roxana than to redo this? ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel Defoeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gnoli, DomenicoIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pendrey, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Plumb, J. H.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, James R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was about the beginning of September 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard in ordinary discourse, that the plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither, they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods, which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus.
But even those wholesome reflections -- which, rightly managed, would have most happily led the people to fall upon their knees, make confession of their sins, and look up to their merciful Savior for pardon, imploring His compassion on them in such a time of their distress, by which we might have been as a second Ninevah -- had quite a contrary extreme in the common people, who, ignorant and stupid in their reflections as they were brutishly wicked and thoughtless before, were now led by their fright to extremes of folly; and, as I have said before that they ran to conjurers and witches, and all sort of deceivers to know what should become of them (who fed their fears, and kept them always alarmed and awake on purpose to delude them and pick their pockets), so they were as mad upon their running after quacks and mountebanks, and every practising old woman for medicines and remedies; storing themselves with such multitudes of pills, potions, and presevatives, as they were called, that they not only spent their money but even poisoned themselves beforehand for fear of the poison of the infection; and prepared their bodies for the plague, instead of preserving them against it.
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Affreuse peste à Londres fut
En l'an soixante et cinq,
Cent mille personnes elle emporta,
Quant à moi, pourtant, toujours je suis là.
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This is not the same book as A Journal of the Plague Year, or even a version of A Journal of the Plague Year, but a completely separate work.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140430156, Paperback)

The shocking immediacy of Daniel Defoe's description of a plague-racked city makes it one of the most convincing accounts of the Great Plague of 1665 ever written.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:03 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Defoe's classic reconstruction of the Great Plague of 1665 is the most compelling account of natural disaster in all literature. Narrated by an imaginary 'Citizen who continued all the while in London', A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) scans the streets and alleyways of the stricken capital in its effort to record the appalling suffering of plague victims. At once horrifying and movingly compassionate, it is a nightmare vision of the modern city laid to waste. Louis Landa's Oxford English Novels text and notes are here reissued with an Introduction by David Roberts which sheds fresh light on the relationship of the Journal to Pepys's diary, and a new medical note based on the latest epidemiological research.… (more)

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