Welcome to Part Twenty-Six of the latest audio entertainment in our series Tales for Our Time: This latest tale is if anything too timely - A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. In tonight's news update from 1665, their economy (like ours) has tanked:
Our merchants were accordingly at a full stop; their ships could go nowhere—that is to say, to no place abroad; their manufactures and merchandise—that is to say, of our growth—would not be touched abroad. They were as much afraid of our goods as they were of our people; and indeed they had reason: for our woollen manufactures are as retentive of infection as human bodies, and if packed up by persons infected, would receive the infection and be as dangerous to touch as a man would be that was infected; and therefore, when any English vessel arrived in foreign countries, if they did take the goods on shore, they always caused the bales to be opened and aired in places appointed for that purpose. But from London they would not suffer them to come into port, much less to unlade their goods, upon any terms whatever, and this strictness was especially used with them in Spain and Italy.
Also in tonight's episode, there was a lot of "fake news" going around:
You may be sure, also, that the report of these things lost nothing in the carriage. The plague was itself very terrible, and the distress of the people very great, as you may observe of what I have said. But the rumour was infinitely greater, and it must not be wondered that our friends abroad... said that in London there died twenty thousand in a week; that the dead bodies lay unburied by heaps; that the living were not sufficient to bury the dead or the sound to look after the sick; that all the kingdom was infected likewise, so that it was an universal malady such as was never heard of in those parts of the world.
And they could hardly believe us when we gave them an account how things really were, and how there was not above one-tenth part of the people dead; that there was 500,000, left that lived all the time in the town..; there was no miss of the usual throng of people in the streets.
Gerald Bresslour, a First Month Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Washington State, writes:
Can you identify the music that introduces each episode of A Journal of the Plague Year? Thanks.
I believe I mentioned this way back when at the start of our tale, Gerald, but it's a long 'un so it bears periodic repeating: The answer is "I Will Always Give Thanks", the so-called "club anthem" by John Blow. John is the brother of Joe Blow. Nah, that's a joke. In fact, he was composer of the Chapel Royal, and the teacher of Henry Purcell and Jeremiah Clarke. "I Will Always Give Thanks" was an easy piece to pick, because it's the only piece of music I know that was composed in the year our tale is set - 1665.
I'll be back tomorrow evening with Part Twenty-Seven of A Journal of the Plague Year. If you're minded to join us in The Mark Steyn Club, you're more than welcome. You can find more information here. And, if you have a chum you think might enjoy Tales for Our Time (so far, we've covered Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Conrad, Kipling, Kafka, Louisa May Alcott, Scott Fitzgerald and more), we've introduced a special Gift Membership that lets you sign up a pal for the Steyn Club. You'll find more details here.