Samuel Pepys Diary - Plague extracts

The Complete Diary



1663 | 1664 | 1665 | 1666 | 1667


19th Oct 1663.

Sir W. Batten and I took coach, and to the Coffee-house in Cornhill; where much talk about the Turk's proceedings, and that the plague is got to Amsterdam, brought by a ship from Argier; and it is also carried to Hambrough.

June 16th 1664

The talk upon the 'Change is, that De Ruyter is dead, with fifty men of his own ship, of the plague, at Cales ....

June 22nd 1664

At noon to the 'Change and Coffee- house, where great talke of the Dutch preparing of sixty sayle of ships. The plague grows mightily among them, both at sea and land.

July 25th 1664

Thence back again homewards, and Sir W. Batten and I to the Coffee-house, but no newes, only the plague is very hot still, and encreases among the Dutch.

May 24th 1665.

Up, and by 4 o'clock in the morning, and with W. Hewer, there till 12 without intermission putting some papers in order. Thence to the Coffee-house with Creed, where I have not been a great while, where all the newes is of the Dutch being gone out, and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another.

April 30th 1665

Great fears of the Sickenesses here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.

June 7th 1665

... it being the hottest day that ever I felt in my life, and it is confessed so by all other people the hottest they ever knew in England in the beginning of June - we to the New Exchange and there drunk whey; with much entreaty, getting it for our money, and would not be entreated to let us have one glasse more. ....
This day, much against my Will, I did in Drury-lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and "Lord have mercy upon us" writ there - which was a sad sight to me, being the first of that kind that to my remembrance I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll tobacco to smell to and chaw - which took away the apprehension. [Houses infected by the Plague had to have a red cross one foot high marked on their door and were shut up - often with the victims inside. Tobacco was highly prized for its medicinal value, especially against the Plague. It is said that at Eton one boy was flogged for being discovered not smoking.]

June 10th 1665

In the evening home to supper, and there to my great trouble hear that the plague is come into the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the City); but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbour's, Dr Burnett in Fanchurch-street - which in both points troubles me mightily.
To the office to finish my letters, and then home to bed - being troubled at the sickness, and my head filled also with other business enough, and perticularly how to put my things and estate in order, in case it should please God to call me away - which God dispose of to his own glory.

June 15th 1665

The Duke of Yorke not yet come to town. The town grows very sickly, and people to be afeared of it - there dying this last week of the plague 112, from 43 the week before - whereof, one in Fanchurch-street and one in Broadstreete by the Treasurer's office.

June 30th 1665

Myself and family in good health, consisting of myself and wife - Mercer, her woman - Mary, Alice and Su, our maids; and Tom, my boy. In a sickly time, of the plague growing on. Having upon my hands the troublesome care of the Treasury of Tanger, with great sums drawn upon me and nothing to pay them with. Also, the business of the office great. Consideration of removing my wife to Woolwich. She lately busy in learning to paint, with great pleasure and successe. All other things well; especially a new interest I am making, by a match in hand between the eldest son of Sir G Carteret and my Lady Jemimah Mountagu. The Duke of York gone down to the fleet; but, all suppose, not with intent to stay there - as it is not fit, all men conceive, he should.

July 17th 1665

...I took my Lady Jem apart and would know how she liked this gentleman [Philip Carteret was lame and Lady Jemima suffered from a deformity of the neck. Pepys was asked to supervise the courtship] and whether she was under any difficulty concerning him. She blushed and hid her face awhile, but at last I forced her to tell me; she answered that she could readily obey what her father and mother had done - which was all she could say or I expect.
So anon took leave and for London. But Lord, to see, among other things, how all these great people here are afeared of London, being doubtful of anything that comes from thence or that hath lately been there, that I was forced to say that I lived wholly at Woolwich.

July 22nd 1665

I met this noon with Dr Burnett, who told me, and I find in the news-book this week that he posted upon the Change, that whoever did spread that report that instead of the plague, his servant was by him killed, it was forgery; and showed me the acknowledgement of the maister of the Pest-house that his servant died of a Bubo on his right groine, and two Spots on his right thigh, which is the plague.

July 26th 1665

I down and walked with Mr. Castle ... and the King having dined, he came down and I went in the barge with him, I sitting at the door - down to Woolwich ... and back again with him in the barge, hearing him and the Duke talk and seeing and observing their manner of discourse; and God forgive me, though I adore them with all the duty possible, yet the more a man considers and observes them, the less he finds of difference between them and other men, though (blessed be God) they are both princes of great nobleness and spirits.

July 31st 1665

.... Thus we end this month, as I said, after the greatest glut of content that ever I had; only, under some difficulty because of the plague, which grows mightily upon us, the last week being about 1700 or 1800 of the plague.
My Lord Sandwich, at sea with a fleet of about 100 sail to the Norward, expect De Ruyter or the Dutch East-India fleet.
My Lord Hinchingbrooke coming over from France, and will meet his sister at Scott's hall.
Myself having obliged both these families in this business very much, as both my Lady and Sir G Carteret and his Lady do confess exceedingly; and the latter two also now call me Cosen, which I am glad of.
So God preserve us all friends long, and continue health among us.

August 16th 1665

It was dark before I could get home; and so land at church-yard stairs, where to my great trouble I met a dead Corps, of the plague, in the narrow ally, just bringing down a little pair of stairs - but I thank God I was not much disturbed at it. However, I shall beware of being late abroad again.

August 28th 1665

But now, how few people I see, and those walking like people that have taken leave of the world.... I to the Exchange, and I think there was not 50 people upon it and but few more like to be, as they told me, Sir G Smith and others. Thus I think to take Adieu today of London streets ....

August 31st 1665

Up, and after putting several things in order to my removal to Woolwich, the plague having a great increase this week beyond all expectation, of almost 2000 - making the general Bill 7000, odd 100 and the plague above 6000 ....
Thus this month ends, with great sadness upon the public through the greateness of the plague, everywhere through the Kingdom almost. Every day sadder and sadder news of its increase. In the City died this week 7496; and all of them, 6102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead this week is near 10000 - partly from the poor that cannot be taken notice of through the greatness of the number, and partly from the Quakers and others that will not have any bell ring for them.
As to myself, I am very well; only, in fear of the plague, and as much of an Ague, by being forced to go early and late to Woolwich, and my family to lie there continually.

September 14th 1665 finding that although the Bill [total of dead] in general is abated, yet the City within the walls is encreasd and likely to continue so (and is close to our house there) - my meeting dead corps's of the plague, carried to be buried close to me at noonday through the City in Fanchurch-street - to see a person sick of the sores carried close by me by Grace-church in a hackney-coach - my finding the Angell tavern at the lower end of Tower-hill shut up; and more then that, the alehouse at the Tower-stairs; and more then that, that the person was then dying of the plague when I was last there, a little while ago at night, to write a short letter there, and I overheard the mistress of the house sadly saying to her husband somebody was very ill, but did not think it was of the plague - to hear that poor Payne my waterman hath buried a child and is dying himself - to hear that a labourer I sent but the other day to Dagenhams to know how they did there is dead of the plague and that one of my own watermen, that carried me daily, fell sick as soon as he had landed me on Friday morning last, when I had been all night upon the water ... is now dead of the plague - to hear ... that Mr Sidny Mountagu is sick of a desperate fever at my Lady Carteret's at Scott's hall - to hear that Mr. Lewes hath another daughter sick - and lastly, that both my servants, W Hewers and Tom Edwards, have lost their fathers, both in St. Sepulcher's parish, of the plague this week - doth put me into great apprehensions of melancholy, and with good reason.

October 1st 1665

And my Lord did whisper to me alone, that things here [the wars with the Dutch] must break in pieces, nobody minding anything, but every man his own business of profit or pleasure, and the King some little designs of his own; and that certainly the Kingdom coud not stand in this condition long - which I fear and believe is very true.
So to supper, and there my Lord the kindest man to me before all the table, talking of me to my advantage, and with tenderness too, that it overjoyed me.

October 31st 1665

I to the office, where Sir W Batten met me and did tell me that Captain Cockes black was dead of the plague - which I had heard of before but took no notice. By and by Captain Cocke came to the office , and Sir W Batten and I did send to him that he would either forbear the office or forbear ging to his own office. However, meeting yesterday the Searchers with their rods in their hands coming from his house, I did overhear them say that the fellow did not die of the plague. [The "searchers of the dead", usually old women, were employed to examine corpses and ascertain the cause of death. They carried tall white wands so the public could avoid contact with them.]

November 1st 1665

Lay very long in bed, discoursing with Mr. Hill of most things of a man's life, and how litle merit doth prevail in the world, but only favour - and that for myself, chance without merit brought me in, and that diligence only keeps me so, and will, living as I do amongst so many lazy people, that the diligent man becomes necessary, that they cannot do anything without him.

December 31st 1665

Thus ends this year, to my great joy, in this manner:-
I have raised my estate from 1300l in this year to 4400l. I have got myself greater interest, I think, by my diligence; and my imployments encreased by that of Treasurer for Tanger and Surveyor of the Victuals.

It is true we have gone through great melancholy because of the great plague, and I put to great charges by it, by keeping my family long at Woolwich, and myself and another part of my family, my clerks, at my charge at Greenwich, and a maid at London. But I hope the King will give us some satisfaction for that. But now the plague is abated almost to nothing, and I entending to get to London as fast as I can, my family, that is, my wife and maids, having been there these two or three weeks. The Duch war goes on very ill, by reason of lack of money; having none to hope for, all being put into disorder by a new Act that is made as an experiment to bring Credit to the Exchequer, for goods and money to be advanced upon the credit of that Act.

I have never lived so merrily (besides that I never got so much) as I have done this plague-time, by my Lord Brouncker's and Captain Cocke's good company, and the acquaintance of Mrs Knipp, Coleman and her husband, and Mr Laneare; and great store of dancings we have had at my cost (which I was willing to indulge myself and my wife) at my lodgings.

The great evil of this year, and the only one endeed, is the fall of my Lord of Sandwich, whose mistake about the prizes hath undone him, I believe, as to interest at Court; though sent (for a little palliateing it) Imbassador into Spayne, which he is now fitting himself for. But the Duke of Albermarle goes with the Prince to sea this next year, and my Lord very meanly spoken of; and endeed, his miscarriage about the prise-goods is not to be excused, to suffer a company of rogues to go away with ten times as much as himself, and the blame of all to be deservedly laid upon him.

My whole family hath been well all this while, and all my friends I know of, saving my Aunt Bell, who is dad, and some childrn of my Cosen Sarah's, of the plague. But many of such as I know very well, dead. Yet to our great joy, the town fills apace, and shops begin to open again. Pray God continue the plague's decrease - for that keeps the Court away from the place of business, and so all goes to wrack as to public matters, they at this distance not thinking of it.

January 3rd 1666

... at the Duke's with great joy I received the good news of the decrease of the plague this week to 70, and but 253 in all; which is the least Bill hath been known these twenty years in the City. Through the want of people in London is it, that must make it so low below the ordinary number for Bills.

January 10th 1666

Thence to the 'Change, and there hear to our grief how the plague is encreased this week from seventy to eighty-nine.

January 13th 1666

... pretty merry, though not perfectly so, because of the fear that there is of a great encrease again of the plague this week. And again my Lord Bruncker do tell us, that he hath it from Sir John Baber; who is related to my Lord Craven, that my Lord Craven do look after Sir G. Carteret's place, and do reckon himself sure of it. After dinner Cocke and I together by coach to the Exchange, in our way talking of our matters, and do conclude that every thing must breake in pieces, while no better counsels govern matters than there seem to do, and that it will become him and I and all men to get their reckonings even, as soon as they can, and expect all to breake. Besides, if the plague continues among us another yeare, the Lord knows what will become of us.

January 16th 1666

So home late at my letters, and so to bed, being mightily troubled at the newes of the plague's being encreased, and was much the saddest news that the plague hath brought me from the beginning of it; because of the lateness of the year, and the fear, we may with reason have, of its continuing with us the next summer. The total being now 375, and the plague 158.

January 22nd 1666

Thence by water in the darke down to Deptford, and there find my Lord Bruncker come and gone, having staid long for me. I back presently to the Crowne taverne behind the Exchange by appointment, and there met the first meeting of Gresham College since the plague. Dr. Goddard did fill us with talke, in defence of his and his fellow physicians going out of towne in the plague-time; saying that their particular patients were most gone out of towne, and they left at liberty; and a great deal more, &c. But what, among other fine discourse pleased me most, was Sir G. Ent about Respiration; that it is not to this day known, or concluded on among physicians, nor to be done either, how the action is managed by nature, or for what use it is.

January 23rd 1666

Up and to the office and then to dinner. After dinner to the office again all the afternoon, and much business with me. Good newes beyond all expectation of the decrease of the plague, being now but 79, and the whole but 272. So home with comfort to bed. A most furious storme all night and morning.

January 30th 1666

I took coach after Mr. Gawden's, and home, finding the towne keeping the day solemnly, it being the day of the King's murther, and they being at church, I presently into the church, thinking to see Mrs. Lethulier or Batelier, but did not, and a dull sermon of our young Lecturer, too bad. This is the first time I have been in this church since I left London for the plague, and it frighted me indeed to go through the church more than I thought it could have done, to see so [many] graves lie so high upon the churchyards where people have been buried of the plague. I was much troubled at it, and do not think to go through it again a good while.

February 1st 1666

Up and to the office, where all the morning till late, and Mr. Coventry with us, the first time since before the plague, then hearing my wife was gone abroad to buy things and see her mother and father, whom she hath not seen since before the plague, and no dinner provided for me ready, I walked to Captain Cocke's, knowing my Lord Bruncker dined there, and there very merry, and a good dinner.

February 7th 1666

7th. It being fast day I staid at home all day long to set things to rights in my chamber by taking out all my books, and putting my chamber in the same condition it was before the plague. But in the morning doing of it, and knocking up a nail I did bruise my left thumb so as broke a great deal of my flesh off, that it hung by a little. It was a sight frighted my wife, but I put some balsam of Mrs. Turner's to it, and though in great pain, yet went on with my business, and did it to my full content, setting every thing in order, in hopes now that the worst of our fears are over as to the plague for the next year.

March 1st 1666

Up, and to the office and there all the morning sitting and at noon to dinner with my Lord Bruncker, Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen at the White Horse in Lumbard Streete, where, God forgive us! good sport with Captain Cocke's having his mayde sicke of the plague a day or two ago and sent to the pest house, where she now is, but he will not say anything but that she is well. But blessed be God! a good Bill this week we have; being but 237 in all, and 42 of the plague, and of them but six in the City: though my Lord Bruneker says, that these six are most of them in new parishes where they were not the last week.

March 13th 1666

The plague encreased this week 29 from 28, though the total fallen from 238 to 207, which do never a whit please me.

April 5th 1666

The plague is, to our great grief, encreased nine this week, though decreased a few in the total. And this encrease runs through many parishes, which makes us much fear the next year.

April 23th 1666

This morning the House of Parliament do meet, only to adjourne again till winter. The plague, I hear, encreases in the towne much, and exceedingly in the country everywhere.

May 12th 1666

The plague encreases in many places, and is 53 this week with us.

June 13th 1666

returned and walked to Mrs. Bagwell's house, and there (it being by this time pretty dark and past ten o'clock) went into her house and did what I would. But I was not a little fearfull of what she told me but now, which is, that her servant was dead of the plague, that her coming to me yesterday was the first day of her coming forth, and that she had new whitened the house all below stairs, but that above stairs they are not so fit for me to go up to, they being not so. So I parted thence, with a very good will, ....

July 4th 1666

4th. Up, and visited very betimes by Mr. Sheply, who is come to town upon business from Hinchingbrooke, where he left all well. I out and walked along with him as far as Fleet Streete, it being a fast day, the usual fast day for the plague, and few coaches to be had. Thanks be to God, the plague is, as I hear, encreased but two this week; but in the country in several places it rages mightily, and particularly in Colchester, where it hath long been, and is believed will quite depopulate the place.

August 6th 1666

so home and in Fenchurch-streete met with Mr: Battersby; says he, "Do you see Dan Rawlinson's door shut up?" (which I did, and wondered). "Why," says he, "after all the sickness, and himself spending all the last year in the country, one of his men is now dead of the plague, and his wife and one of his mayds sicke, and himself shut up;" which troubles me mightily. So home; and there do hear also from Mrs. Sarah Daniel, that Greenwich is at this time much worse than ever it was, and Deptford too: and she told us that they believed all the towne would leave the towne and come to London; which is now the receptacle of all the people from all infected places. God preserve us!

August 9th 1666

I met also with Mr. Evelyn in the streete, who tells me the sad condition at this very day at Deptford for the plague, and more at Deale (within his precinct as one of the Commissioners for sick and wounded seamen), that the towne is almost quite depopulated.

September 13th 1666

Up, and down to Tower Wharfe; and there, with Batty and labourers from Deptford, did get my goods housed well at home. So down to Deptford again to fetch the rest, and there eat a bit of dinner at the Globe, with the master of the Bezan with me, while the labourers went to dinner. Here I hear that this poor towne do bury still of the plague seven or eight in a day.

November 20th 1666

I to the office a little, and then to church, it being thanksgiving-day for the cessation of the plague; but, Lord! how the towne do say that it is hastened before the plague is quite over, there dying some people still,
[According to the Bills of Mortality seven persons died in London of the plague during the week November 20th to 27th; and for some weeks after deaths continued from this cause.]
but only to get ground for plays to be publickly acted, which the Bishops would not suffer till the plague was over; and one would thinke so, by the suddenness of the notice given of the day, which was last Sunday, and the little ceremony.

April 4th 1667

One at the table told an odd passage in this late plague: that at Petersfield, I think, he said, one side of the street had every house almost infected through the town, and the other, not one shut up.

See also

Daniel Defoe on The Plague (brief extracts)

Black Death and Plague "not Linked" (BBC news item)

Plague in London: spatial and temporal aspect of mortality by Graham Twigg

Channel 4 Plague Home