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DEFOE.

(1661-1731.)

[DANIEL DEFOE may justly be considered the founder of the English Novel. His Robinson Crusoe, is not only the first in order of time, of that class of works in our language, but to this day remains unrivalled in many important particulars. Defoe was incapable of romance. His imagination created no scenes of surpassing loveliness or splendor. His mind possessed little delicacy, he seldom gives expression to pathos. His forte lay in the narration of adventures, not in the delineation of passion or character. He had a perfect mastery in the art of invention, an almost unbounded power in creating incidents and situations. His minute and circumstantial details, combined with their entire naturalness, cheat the reader into the belief of the reality and truth of what he reads. In this power of feigning reality, or forging the handwriting of nature, as it has not unaptly been termed, Defoe has never been surpassed. In addition to Robinson Crusoe, he wrote many other works of fiction, of various degrees of excellence, besides a large number of satirical and political pieces. His books and pamphlets indeed were no less than 210 in number. The extract which is given is from his description of the Great Plague in London.]

The Great Plague in London.

Much about the same time I walked out into the fields towards Bow, for I had a great mind to see how things were managed in the river, and among the ships; and as I had some concern in shipping, I had a notion that it had been one of the best ways of securing one's self from the infection, to have retired into a ship; and musing how to satisfy my curiosity in that point, I turned away over the fields, from Bow to Bromley,

and down to Blackwall, to the stairs that are there for landing or taking water.

:

Here I saw a poor man walking on the bank or seawall, as they call it, by himself. I walked a while also about, seeing the houses all shut up; at last I fell into some talk, at a distance, with this poor man. First I asked him how people did thereabouts? Alas! sir, says he, almost desolate: all dead or sick Here are very few families in this part, or in that village, pointing at Poplar, where half of them are not dead. already, and the rest sick. Then he, pointing to one house, There they are all dead, said he, and the house stands open; nobody dares to go into it. A poor thief, says he, ventured in to steal something, but he paid dear for his theft, for he was carried to the churchyard too, last night. Then he pointed to several other houses. There, says he, they are all dead; the man and his wife and five children. There, says he, they are shut up; you see a watchman at the door; and so of other houses. Why, says I, what do you here all alone? Why, says he, I am a poor desolate man; it hath pleased God I am not yet visited, though my family is, and one of my children dead. How do you mean then, said I, that you are not visited? Why, says he, that is my house, pointing to a very little low boarded house, and there my poor wife and two children live, said he, if they may be said to live; for my wife and one of the children are visited, but I do not come at them. And with that word I saw the tears run very plentifully down his face; and so they did down mine too, I assure you.

But, said I, why do you not come at them? How can you abandon your own flesh and blood? Oh, sir,

says he, the Lord forbid; I do not abandon them; I work for them as much as I am able; and, blessed be the Lord, I keep them from want. And with that I observed he lifted up his eyes to heaven with a countenance that presently told me I had happened on a man that was no hypocrite, but a serious, religious, good man and his ejaculation was an expression of thankfulness, that in such a condition as he was in, he should be able to say his family did not want. Well, says I, honest man, that is a great mercy, as things go now with the poor. But how do you live then, and how are you kept from the dreadful calamity that is now upon us all? Why, sir, says he, I am a waterman, and there is my boat, says he, and the boat serves me for a house; I work in it in the day, and I sleep in it in the night, and what I get I lay it down upon that stone, says he, showing me a broad stone on the other side of the street, a good way from his house; and then, says he, I halloo and call to them till I make them hear, and they come and fetch it.

Well, friend, says I, but how can you get money as a waterman? Does anybody go by water these times? Yes, sir, says he, in the way I am employed there does. Do you see there, says he, five ships lie at anchor? pointing down the river a good way below the town; and do you see, says he, eight or ten ships lie at the chain there, and at anchor yonder? pointing above the town. All those ships have families on board, of their merchants and owners, and such like, who have locked themselves up and live on board, close shut in, for fear of the infection; and I tend on them to fetch things for them, carry letters, and do what is absolutely necessary, that they may not be

obliged to come on shore; and every night I fasten my boat on board of the ship's boats, and there I sleep by myself; and blessed be God, I am preserved hitherto.

Well, said I, friend, but will they let you come on board after you have been on shore here, when this has been such a terrible place, and so infected as it is?

Why, as to that, said he, I very seldom go up the ship-side, but deliver what I bring to their boat, or lie by the side, and they hoist it on board; if I did, I think they are in no danger from me, for I never go into any house on shore, or to touch anybody, no not of my own family; but I fetch provisions for them.

Nay, says I, but that may be worse, for you must have those provisions of somebody or other and since all this part of the town is so infected, it is dangerous so much as to speak with anybody; for the village, said I, is as it were, the beginning of London, though it be at some distance from it.

That is true, added he, but you do not understand me right. I do not buy provisions for them here; I row up to Greenwich, and buy fresh meat there, and sometimes I row down the river to Woolwich, and buy there; then I go to single farm-houses on the Kentish side, where I am known, and buy fowls and eggs, and butter, and bring to the ships, as they direct me, sometimes one, sometimes the other. I seldom come on shore here; and I came only now to call my wife, and hear how my little family do, and give them a little money which I received last night.

Poor man! said I, and how much hast thou gotten for them?

I have gotten four shillings, said he, which is a

great sum, as things go now with poor men; but they have given me a bag of bread too, and a salt-fish, and some flesh; so all helps out.

Well, said I, and have you given it them yet?

No, said he, but I have called, and my wife has answered that she cannot come out yet; but in half an hour she hopes to come, and I am waiting for her. Poor woman! says he, she is brought sadly down; she has had a swelling, and it is broke, and I hope she will recover, but I fear the child will die; but it is the Lord! Here he stopt, and wept very much.

Well, honest friend, said I, thou hast a sure comforter, if thou hast brought thyself to be resigned to the will of God; he is dealing with us all in judgment.

Oh, sir, says he, it is infinite mercy if any of us are spared; and who am I to repine!

Say'st thou so, said I; and how much less is my faith than thine! And here my heart smote me, suggesting how much better this poor man's foundation was, on which he staid in the danger, than mine; that he had nowhere to fly; that he had a family to bind him to attendance, which I had not; and mine was mere presumption, his a true dependence and a courage resting on God; and yet, that he used all possible caution for his safety.

I turned a little way from the man while these thoughts engaged me; for, indeed, I could no more refrain from tears than he.

At length, after some farther talk, the poor woman opened the door, and called Robert, Robert; he answered, and bid her stay a few moments and he would come; so he ran down the common stairs to his boat, and fetched up a sack in which was the provisions he

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