Defoe_Journal_of_the_Plague_Year (1)

Defoe, Daniel. A Journal of the Plague Year- being Observations of Memorials, of the most remarkable occurences…which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665. Written by a citizen who continued all the while in London. E. Nutt, J. Roerts, A. Dodd and J. Graves. 1722. FIRST EDITION, with half-title; [together with-]

A Journal of the Plague Year, which can be described as the author’s “most under-appreciated great novel” (Oxford DNB) was published on 17 March, in the same year as Moll Flanders. The protagonist, H.F. (perhaps referring to Defoe’s uncle Henry Foe, a saddler) lives in London throughout the plague, and is torn between staying put and escaping, between “pragmatic, even crass economic motives, and spiritual impulses, and…obsessed with determining the reasons individuals get the plague. Very much a man of the time when the world was poised between the religious certainties of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and modern scepticism and secularism, H. F. collects evidence, ponders, sorts, and entertains or rejects hypotheses about the cause of the plague even as he seeks to understand God’s will and occasionally succumbs to
superstitions such as bibliomancy. That H. F.’s research is hopeless…does nothing to detract from the energy of his mind and the questions Defoe raises about ethical conduct, public policy, and human limits” (op.cit.)

There is no copy of A discourse concerning the plague (1721), sometimes attributed to William Byrd, in the British Library.

REFERENCES- [Journal of the Plague Year-] Moore 449; Furbank and Owens A216

Sotheby’s Auction on July 17, 2008 in London