[Conclusion]: The View from Here

Ernest B. Gilman

in Plague Writing in Early Modern England

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780226294094
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226294117 | DOI:
[Conclusion]: The View from Here

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There is a series of exemplary texts in the history of early modern English plague writing, which form a series in that each responds, in turn, to the three pandemics that ravaged London between 1603 and 1665. They are exemplary in that they speak immediately to moments of personal crisis—the death of Jonson's son, Donne's recovery from a near-mortal illness—and to the crises of their times. In 1665, Pepys offered something new, the perspective of a walker in the plague city, while Defoe reconstructed the same epidemic many years later from an amalgam of childhood memory and journalistic research, at a moment in 1722 when London seemed again vulnerable to an outbreak of plague. Over the century that separates Jonson's epigram on his son and Defoe's Journal, the discourse of infectious disease was gradually, though incompletely, passing from the province of the divine to that of the physician (who was to assume something of the priestly aura of his predecessor, along with the warrant of the new empirical science).

Keywords: plague writing; pandemics; personal crisis; Defoe; infectious disease; mortal illness

Chapter.  4374 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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