London in the Time of the Stuarts

By Walter Besant | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
PLAGUE AND MEDICINE

THIS chapter dealing with the medical literature of the Plague covers both the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, in which there was little change medicinally.

The sixteenth century was full of plague and pestilence. In Elizabeth's reign there was plague in 1563, in 1569, in 1574, in 1581, in 1592, and in 1603. Preventive ordinances were drawn up and issued. It is, however, evident that the people could not be possibly made to understand the necessity of caution and quarantine. The invisible enemy, to an ignorant folk, does not exist. The people of London bribed the officers, surveyors, constables, and scavengers to take down the I "Bills" affixed to infected houses; they refused to carry the white rods enjoined by law upon the convalescent; they went about among their fellows while they were still dangerous; and they would not keep the streets clean. The period of seclusion was fixed at four weeks; women were appointed to carry necessaries to infected houses; every morning at six, and every evening at eight the streets were to be sluiced with buckets of water; there were to be no funeral assemblies; beggars and masterless men were to be turned out of the City. These precautions were excellent; the sanitary laws were in the right direction; but all was rendered ineffectual for want of an executive; the Plague might have been stamped out had these rules been enforced; but they were not, and so the disease continued until the Great Fire of 1666 purified the soil. New investigations rendered necessary by the outbreak of Plague in India and elsewhere will perhaps lead to an abandonment of the old theory that the Plague was caused simply by the unclean condition of the ground, saturated with the abominations of a thousand years and more. Until science, however, has spoken more definitely, I suppose that we shall continue to associate a visitation of this terrible scourge with unsanitary conditions. It is at least a useful and a wholesome belief.

I have before me certain infallible remedies prescribed in the attack of 1625. Among them are blisters, clysters, cauteries, poultices, cuppings, strong purges

-233-

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London in the Time of the Stuarts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • 49079- Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Sovereigns 1
  • Chapter I- James I 3
  • Chapter II- Charles I 22
  • Chapter III- The City and the Civil War 53
  • Chapter IV- The Commonwealth 64
  • Chapter V- The Restoration 74
  • Chapter VI 82
  • Chapter VII- James II 103
  • Chapter VIII- William the Third 117
  • Chapter IX- queen Anne 127
  • Religion, Government, and Trade 135
  • Chapter I- Religion 137
  • Chapter II- Tiie Church and Dissent 154
  • Chapter III- Superstitions 159
  • Chapter IV- Sanctuary 168
  • Chapter V- City Government and Usages 172
  • Chapter VI- Trade 190
  • Chapter VII- The Irish Estates 206
  • The Great Plague and Fire 213
  • Chapter I- Plague 215
  • Chapter II- Plague and Medicine 233
  • Chapter III- The Fire 240
  • Chapter IV- Ii. the Fire of London 244
  • Chapter V- Contemporary Evidence 258
  • Chapter VI- London after the Fire 269
  • Manners and Customs 285
  • Chapter I- Food and Drink 287
  • Chapter II- Dress and Manners 298
  • Chapter III- Weddings and Funerals 308
  • Chapter IV- Places of Resort 311
  • Chapter V- Theatre and Art 318
  • Chapter VI- Sports and Amusements 328
  • Chapter VII- Coaches 338
  • Chapter VIII- Punishment and Crime 345
  • Chapter IX- Public Morality 355
  • Chapter X- General Notes 359
  • Appendices 363
  • Index 385
  • Ogilby and Morgan''s Map of London, 1677 397
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