Welcome to the penultimate episode of our current Tale for Our Time - Daniel Defoe's 1722 account of life in London 57 years earlier: A Journal of the Plague Year.
The great theme of our serialization is that not much has changed between contagions of 1665 and those of 2020. A pronounced exception to that is the elite hostility toward hydroxychloroquine, where the Democrat-media's position is that they'd rather you die than be cured by a medication of which Trump has spoken favorably. As tonight's episode makes clear, physicians were not so deranged by such fevers 355 years ago:
I remember my friend the doctor used to say that there was a certain set of drugs and preparations which were all certainly good and useful in the case of an infection; out of which, or with which, physicians might make an infinite variety of medicines, as the ringers of bells make several hundred different rounds of music by the changing and order or sound but in six bells, and that all these preparations shall be really very good: 'Therefore,' said he, 'I do not wonder that so vast a throng of medicines is offered in the present calamity, and almost every physician prescribes or prepares a different thing, as his judgement or experience guides him... Some', says he, 'think that pill. ruff., which is called itself the anti-pestilential pill is the best preparation that can be made; others think that Venice treacle is sufficient of itself to resist the contagion; and I', says he, 'think as both these think, viz., that the last is good to take beforehand to prevent it, and the first, if touched, to expel it.'
According to this opinion, I several times took Venice treacle, and a sound sweat upon it, and thought myself as well fortified against the infection as any one could be fortified by the power of physic.
Theriaca andromachi - or "Venice treacle" - in fact originated in Greece, and is a compound of cinnamon, lavender, gum arabic, turpentine, rhubard and whatnot all pulverized into an electuary. Could be worth a try.
On the other hand, if you've followed recent news out of South Dakota and Alberta, you'll be aware of concerns about the meat market being infected. They worried about that too in 1665:
Those who remember the city of London before the fire must remember that there was then no such place as we now call Newgate Market, but that in the middle of the street which is now called Blowbladder Street, and which had its name from the butchers, who used to kill and dress their sheep there (and who, it seems, had a custom to blow up their meat with pipes to make it look thicker and fatter than it was, and were punished there for it by the Lord Mayor); I say, from the end of the street towards Newgate there stood two long rows of shambles for the selling meat.
It was in those shambles that two persons falling down dead, as they were buying meat, gave rise to a rumour that the meat was all infected; which, though it might affright the people, and spoiled the market for two or three days, yet it appeared plainly afterwards that there was nothing of truth in the suggestion. But nobody can account for the possession of fear when it takes hold of the mind.
If you're minded to join our many members around the world in The Mark Steyn Club, you'll find more details here - and don't forget we always do a special live Tale for Our Time on our annual Mark Steyn Cruise. In the event free peoples are ever again permitted to be out on parole and venture abroad, we'd love to see you aboard.
Please join me tomorrow evening for the conclusion of A Journal of the Plague Year - and just before that for a cavalcade of great music chosen by our listeners in the first ever all-request audio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week.