Welcome to the final installment of our latest Tale for Our Time: published in 1722, Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year - that's to say, in London. The plague of 1665 would be followed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London. The coronavirus is being even more swiftly followed by global recession - and the only argument among the experts appears to be whether this will be the worst downturn "since the Thirties", or in fact even worse. When it comes to that question, most freeborn citizens of the democratic world are merely spectators in our fates. In Defoe's London, by contrast, nobody got to vote every couple of years for senators and governors and presidents, but on the other hand they were at least free to choose for themselves when to emerge from their homes and resume social intercourse. And, when it comes to the poor and the laid-off, the very small government of the Lord Mayor appears to compare favorably with today's swollen and sclerotic bureaucracies.
In tonight's concluding episode, Londoners even return - as Dr Fauci and CNN have told us we never can - to shaking hands:
It is impossible to express the change that appeared in the very countenances of the people that Thursday morning when the weekly bill came out. It might have been perceived in their countenances that a secret surprise and smile of joy sat on everybody's face. They shook one another by the hands in the streets, who would hardly go on the same side of the way with one another before. Where the streets were not too broad they would open their windows and call from one house to another, and ask how they did, and if they had heard the good news that the plague was abated. Some would return, when they said good news, and ask, 'What good news?' and when they answered that the plague was abated and the bills decreased almost two thousand, they would cry out, 'God be praised!' and would weep aloud for joy, telling them they had heard nothing of it; and such was the joy of the people that it was, as it were, life to them from the grave.
Thank you so much for your compliments about Tales for Our Time during this time of state-mandated isolation. Some like the ripping yarns for boys, some the more genteel social comedy for girls, but of the tales in totality all seem to be in favor. Thank you too for your kind words about today's first all-request edition of my Song of the Week. We are trying to come up with a few diversions during this lockdown - while recognizing that a couple of request shows is no substitute for bloody global revolution.
If you enjoyed our time with Daniel Defoe, I hope you'll join me later this month for a brand new and very different Tale for Our Time. And, if you've yet to hear any of our Tales, you can enjoy the first two-and-a-half years' worth of audio adventures - by Conan Doyle, Kafka, Conrad, Gogol, Dickens, Baroness Orczy, Jack London, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson and more - by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For details on membership, see here - and, if you're seeking the perfect present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, don't forget our Steyn Club Gift Membership. Sign up a pal today!
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