Welcome to Episode Twenty of our nightly radio news updates from 1665, A Journal of the Plague Year - the latest in our Tales for Our Time. There's never been a better time than a planet-wide house arrest to get into this series. John Lewis, a member of The Mark Steyn Club from leafy locked-down England, writes:
Thank you to our host for his Tales for Our Time.
With the unprecedented leisure time available I am finally able to enjoy much of the back catalogue. Tuesday was a lengthy but worthwhile Prisoner of Zenda marathon, yesterday a more manageable Wendigo and today I thoroughly enjoyed The Power-House. Tomorrow .............. who knows?
Don't forget Three Men in a Boat, John. It makes more sense than anything in our world.
There's been some discussion - here, there and everywhere - on the death toll in the present crisis, and whether it's being under- or over-counted. The same question occupies our narrator in tonight's episode:
It was for want of people conversing one with another, in this time of calamity, that it was impossible any particular person could come at the knowledge of all the extraordinary cases that occurred in different families; and particularly I believe it was never known to this day how many people in their deliriums drowned themselves in the Thames, and in the river which runs from the marshes by Hackney, which we generally called Ware River, or Hackney River. As to those which were set down in the weekly bill, they were indeed few; nor could it be known of any of those whether they drowned themselves by accident or not. But I believe I might reckon up more who within the compass of my knowledge or observation really drowned themselves in that year, than are put down in the bill of all put together: for many of the bodies were never found who yet were known to be lost; and the like in other methods of self-destruction.
There was also one man in or about Whitecross Street burned himself to death in his bed; some said it was done by himself, others that it was by the treachery of the nurse that attended him; but that he had the plague upon him was agreed by all.
It was a merciful disposition of Providence also, and which I have many times thought of at that time, that no fires, or no considerable ones at least, happened in the city during that year, which, if it had been otherwise, would have been very dreadful...
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