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January Week 2

Teen Reader

Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe


A Journal of the Plague Year

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About the Author

Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

Daniel Foe was the son of James Foe, a London butcher. Daniel later changed his name to Daniel Defoe, wanting to sound more gentlemanly.  Defoe graduated from an academy at Newington Green, run by the Reverend Charles Morton. Not long after, in 1683, he went into business, having given up an earlier intent on becoming a dissenting minister. He traveled often, selling such goods as wine and wool, but was rarely out of debt. He went bankrupt in 1692 (paying his debts for nearly a decade thereafter), and by 1703, decided to leave the business industry altogether.

Having always been interested in politics, Defoe published his first literary piece, a political pamphlet, in 1683. He continued to write political works, working as a journalist, until the early 1700s.  Political opponents of Defoe's repeatedly had him imprisoned for his writing in 1713.

Defoe took a new literary path in 1719, around the age of 59, when he published Robinson Crusoe, a fiction novel based on several short essays that he had composed over the years. A handful of novels followed soon after—often with rogues and criminals as lead characters—including Moll FlandersColonel Jack, Captain SingletonJournal of the Plague Year and his last major fiction piece, Roxana (1724).

Defoe died on April 24, 1731. While little is known about Defoe's personal life—largely due to a lack of documentation—Defoe is remembered today as a prolific journalist and author, and has been lauded for his hundreds of fiction and nonfiction works, from political pamphlets to other journalistic pieces, to fantasy-filled novels. The characters that Defoe created in his fiction books have been brought to life countless times over the years, in editorial works, as well as stage and screen productions. (From

A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)

A Journal of the Plague Year, account of the Great Plague of London in 1664–65, written and published in 1722. Narrated by “H.F.,” an inhabitant of London who purportedly was an eyewitness to the devastation that followed the outbreak of bubonic plague, the book was a historical and fictional reconstruction by Defoe, possibly based on the experiences of his uncle as well as historical documents.

Questions for A Journal of the Plague Year

What effect does Defoe create by using a first-person point of view for this story?

What were the main symptoms of the plague?

How do people’s religious beliefs affect their view of the bubonic plague?

What methods did the people use to avoid the plague?  What methods did they try to use to cure it?

What did most people regard as the cause of the plague?  How did the developing methods of science affect these views?

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