Pitch, Brimstone or Gunpowder

Just ahead of the latest episode of our monthly audio adventure for members of The Mark Steyn Club, let me remind the quarter of the world’s population currently under house arrest that there are worse ways of distracting yourself from the hell of the present than by prowling the delights of our Tales for Our Time home page. It’s configured in Netflix tile style, with the stories organized by category – thrillers, fantasy, romance, etc – which we hope will make it easy for you to find a favorite diversion of an evening. If it doesn’t, please let us know. But you can access nearly three dozen of our cracking yarns here – and all previous episodes of our current adventure, A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, here.

And with that welcome to Part Eleven of Defoe’s tale. Linda Powers, a Kansas member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:

I am enjoying the reading of A Journal of the Plague Year. Some things do not change no matter the number of centuries that have passed. Thanks for deciding to read this particular accounting of human history.

Indeed, Linda. In tonight’s instalment, if the social distancing is getting you down, well, not much has changed in a third of a millennium:

It was now the beginning of August, and the plague grew very violent and terrible in the place where I lived, and Dr Heath coming to visit me, and finding that I ventured so often out in the streets, earnestly persuaded me to lock myself up and my family, and not to suffer any of us to go out of doors; to keep all our windows fast, shutters and curtains close, and never to open them; but first, to make a very strong smoke in the room where the window or door was to be opened, with rozen and pitch, brimstone or gunpowder and the like; and we did this for some time; but as I had not laid in a store of provision for such a retreat, it was impossible that we could keep within doors entirely. However, I attempted, though it was so very late, to do something towards it; and first, as I had convenience both for brewing and baking, I went and bought two sacks of meal, and for several weeks, having an oven, we baked all our own bread; also I bought malt, and brewed as much beer as all the casks I had would hold, and which seemed enough to serve my house for five or six weeks; also I laid in a quantity of salt butter and Cheshire cheese; but I had no flesh-meat, and the plague raged so violently among the butchers and slaughter-houses on the other side of our street, where they are known to dwell in great numbers, that it was not advisable so much as to go over the street among them.

And here I must observe again, that this necessity of going out of our houses to buy provisions was in a great measure the ruin of the whole city, for the people catched the distemper on these occasions one of another, and even the provisions themselves were often tainted..

That’s the next stage: You go out foraging for a roll of Charmin, only to take home one that’s infected… Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read Part Eleven of A Journal of the Plague Year simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here.

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Please join me right here tomorrow evening for another episode of A Journal of the Plague Year.

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