Distemper Has Struck

Yesterday evening I went to an event irresistibly entitled Everything You Wanted To Know About Zombies But Were Afraid To Ask Daniel Defoe. Geographer Amy Cutler gave a talk in which she explored similarities between Defoe’s A Journal Of The Plague Year (1722) and modern zombie films. She provided a handout in which quotations from Defoe are presented in a sort of multiple choice format, and it is so splendid that I take the liberty of reproducing it here:

DISTEMPER HAS STRUCK LONDON. I WOULD (PLEASE MARK)

Run about the Streets Naked except a pair of Drawers about my Waste, crying Day and Night, with a Voice and Countenance full of horror, a swift pace, and no Body cou’d ever find me to stop, or rest, or take any Sustenance.

Make a strange Hubbub, quacking and tampering in Physick, and invite the People to come to me for INCOMPARABLE Remedies.

Go to the Pye-tavern (in Aldgate), and in the middle of all this Horror, behave with all the Revelling and roaring extravagances, and make impudent Mocks and Jeers.

Break into a Store-house or Ware-house and seize upon an abundance of High-crown’d Hats, as they were no Bodies Goods.

Grow stupid or melancholy, wander away into the Fields, and Woods (of Camberwell), and into secret uncouth Places out of the Compass of the Communication, almost any where to creep into a Bush, or Hedge, and DIE.

Make use of the most excessive Plenty of all sorts of Fruit, such as Apples, Pears, Plumbs, and the cheaper, because of the want of People; eat them to excess, and be brought to Fluxes, griping of the Guts, Surfeits, and the like, and dye of it.

Cure my Body of the Plague with the violent Motion of my Arms and Legs when I throw down my Nurse and run over her, run down Stairs and into the Street directly to the Thames, throw away my Shirt, swim quite over the River to the Falcon Stairs (Southwark); where landing, and finding no People there, run about the Streets there, naked as I am, for a good while, when it being by that time High-water, I take the River again, and swim back to the Still-yard, land, run up the streets again to my own House, knock at the Door, run up the Stairs, and into my Bed again.

Go about denouncing of Judgment upon the City in a frightful manner, sometimes quite naked, and with a Pan of burning Charcoal on my Head.

Make my Boat serve me for a House (in Bow), and row down the River to Woolwich, and lay in little or nothing but Biscuit Bread, and Ship Beer, and die alone in my Wherrie.

Be absolutely overcome with the Pressure upon my Spirits, that by degrees, my Head sunk into my Body, that the Crown of my Head was very little seen above the Bones of my Shoulders; and by Degrees, loseing both Voice and Sense, my Face looking forward, lay against my Collar-Bone, and cou’d not be kept up any otherwise, unless held up by the Hands of other People.

With as little Baggage as possible, travel on from Wapping to Hackney until I came into the great North Road on the top of Stamford-Hill, and make forwards to Epping-Forest, and pitch my tent with an old Soldier, a Biscuit Baker, and a lame Sailor, and live like Hermits in Holes and Caves.

Being tyed in my Bed, and finding no other Way to deliver myself, set the Bed on fire with my Candle, and Burn myself in my Bed.

1 Responses to “Distemper Has Struck”


  • “Please come as plague victim, zombie, anointed one … etc”

    Let us hope that Mr Key attended this irresistible Lyceum Art event as “Priest’s Darkest Chum”.

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