Saturday, August 02, 2014

Nursing the sick in the plague year?

A Journal of the Plague Year A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Surely Peter Ackroyd consulted this text in detail before writing Hawksmoor as there is a great deal of Dafoe's plague infected imagery in Ackroyd's celebrated historical murder mystery – also set in London. Where Hawksmoor opens with orphan child and future architect Nicholas Hawksmoor falling under the spell of the murderous Mirabilis, the Dafoe text, A Journal of the Plague Year (JOTPY), builds on the gradual but incessant listing of the sick and dying in London parishes. This is followed by the marking of condemned houses with a red cross and the appointing of wardens (or modern day coppers) to keep the sick shut in their houses and the hiring of mercenary nurses to see off the sick, quietly. Cries of "Throw out your dead" echo JOTPY and the descriptions of the streets are vivid, though a great deal of JOTPY is concerned with mechanical listing the parishes and the number of dead in them. This listing of bodies builds on the feeling of hysteria and the setting and descriptions around Bishopsgate and St Botolph's Church where Dafoe himself was a parishoner, is the identical setting as Hawksmoor; while Hawksmoor vividly paints a picture of the Great Fire of London and the sinister desire to get on and make London great again – at no matter what cost – Journal of the Plague Years (JOTPY) sets the course for the earlier hysteria and disaster which enveloped the city for two terrible years.

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