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Of the Plague...

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Increase in the Burials in the 130 Parishes and at the Pesthouse this year
Increase of the Plague in the 130 Parishes and the Pesthouse this year

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In 1665 there were pub. several curious works and pamp. which we shall briefly notice. (1). Reflections on the Weekly B. of Mort. for the Cities of Lond. and West., and the Places Adjacent; but more especially so far as they Relate to the Plague, and other Mortal Diseases that we English are most subject unto, etc. Lond., "printed for Samuel Speed, at the Rainbow, in Fleet St." And therein is contained a B. of mort. for the year 1593, being a plague year.

(2). The Four Great Plagues, viz., 1593, 1603, 1625, and 1636, Compared with the Weekly B. of Mort. printed every Thursday in the said Years; by which an Increase and Decrease is plainly discovered in all those years. "Printed for Peter Cole, at the Printing Press in Cornhill, in the Royal Exchange." A copy of this passed with the library of the late Sir Hans Sloane into the Brit. Museum. It contains a Bill of the Buried of all Diseases within Lond. and the Liberties thereof, from March to December, 1593.

(3). A Collection of the Original B. of Mort., Official Placards, and other Public Papers and Notices, Placarded and Pub. by Authority, during the various Plagues in Lond., from 1592 to 1670 (2 vols.). [Particularly copious and curious as to the Great Plague of the year 1665.]

(4). London's Remembrancer, or a True Account of every particular Week's Christenings and Mort., in all the Years of the Pestilence, within the cognizance of the B. of Mort., being xvin Years. By John Bell, Clerk to the Co. of Parish Clerks. The bills here given comprehended 130 Parishes, and distinguished the parishes by the four divisions, viz., 97 parishes within the walls; 16 without the walls; 12 out-parishes in Middlesex and Surrey; and 5 parishes in the City and Liberties of Westminster. Of the parishes within the City that of St. James's, Duke's Place, was alone omitted from the bills. Some of the parishes without the walls were not included in the bills.

(5). Certain Necessary Directions, as well for the Cure of the Plague as for Preventing the Infection.

(6). Weekly Bills for the Plague Year, printed by E. Cotes, printer to the Co. of Parish Clerks.

(7). London's Dreadful Visitation, or a Collection of all the B. of Mort. for this Present Year; beginning the 20th of Dec., 1664, and ending the 19th Dec. following. By the Co. of Parish Clerks of London. By way of preface to this book there is an address, "The Printer to the Readers," which shows the spirit of awe the plague visitations inspired in many men's minds :

Courteous reader, I presume that the candor of thy ingenuity is such that thou wilt not rashly condemn me of imprudence in the reprinting these sad sheets. First understand the reasons moving me thereunto, and then I am somewhat confident that thou wilt approve of my design. I know that romances and play-books too much gratifie the humours of the populace; but humble and sincere Christians with delight recall to minde God's mercies, and with awfulness tremble at His judgements: Behold, the ensuing papers will assist thy meditations in both: Consider His mercy to thee and mee, that we are yet in the land of the living, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling: His judgements on many thousands in or near this city, whom He hath in one year swept away with the beesome of a temporal destruction: O let us not imagine that they were greater sinners than we, the survivors! for except we speedily and seriously repent, we shall all likewise perish, either Similitudine, or Certitudine Pane: But I am a printer, no preacher; I shall therefore wave such discourses, and briefly, yet perspicuously, render a faithfull account, why I undertook this publication. In the year 1625 the stroke of the Lord's hand was heavy upon this city and suburbs, which year was ever since called The Great Plague: Now though thou hast seen probably several printed general reports, given by the parish clerks in that year, yet I am not able to recover all the particular weekly bills thereof; the sight of them hath been much desired these times; but it is beyond my power

as yet to answer men's expectations. That posterity may not be any more at such a loss, I resolved to communicate unto the nation these subsequent leaves: In all humility beseeching the Omnipotent to confer upon us such an uniforme and cordial repentance, that every one of us may search out the plague of his own heart and brain, and purge ourselves, by His gracious assistance, from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; that so He may, in the riches of His tender compassion, return in favor to this sinful city, and restore health to our habitations: That neither the physicians of our souls or bodies may hereafter in such great numbers forsake us; and that neither my self, or any other of my profession, may have occasion, for the future, to print such dreadful lines.

Then follows each weekly bill for the year; and the "general bill" for the year, from which we have already quoted.

Prob. as a consequence of the attention thus drawn to the bills, a further improvement was introduced the totals of the christenings were distinctly set down in the bills, under each of the 4 divisions.

In 1665 was pub. 3rd ed., "much enlarged," of Graunt's Natural and Political Observations, etc., and therein was contained mention of the first known B. of Mort. for Dublin, viz., A Bill of Mort. from the 7-6 July to the end of Aug. 1662." [DUBLIn, Bills of MORT. FOR.]


During several weeks following the Great Fire (Sept. 1666) the bills were not pub. The deaths for these several weeks were afterwards given together in one bill.

In 1667 was pub., The Report of all the Christenings and Burials within the City of Lond. and the Liberties thereof, with the Out-parishes thereunto Adjoining, as also the City and Liberties of Westminster; from the 10th March to the 27th of the same, 1667, made by the Co. of Parish Clerks. Similar returns were also made for the years 1667, 1669, 1670, 1702, 1704, 1705, 1708, and 1709.

In 1676 there was pub. Observations upon the London B. of Mort., wherein was contained tabular results deduced from the earlier bills. Sir Wm. Petty, in his essay Of the Growth of the City of Lond., and of the Measures, Periods, Causes, and Consequences thereof, pub. 1682, made a continuation of this table for the 18 years 1665-82 inclusive. Lord Chief Justice Hale, in his Primitive Origination of Mankind, pub. 1677, says, that "nothing can be clearer than the gradual increase of mankind to be seen by the curious obs. in the B. of mort."

De Laune said, in 1681, "The B. of mort. in times of no infection do yearly amount to 20,000 and odd, which is three times more than Amsterdam; and equal to, if not beyond Paris, as by the bills themselves may be seen."

In 1682 Sir Wm. Petty-founder of the great house of Lansdowne-pub. an Essay in Political Arithmetic; concerning the People, Housings, and Hospitals of Lond. and Paris. An ed. of this work was afterwards done into French; and soon after its appearance Louis XIV., we are told, ordered more exact regis. of births and deaths to be kept in France "than had before been known in Europe."

About this period also Petty pub. Observations upon the Dublin B. of Mort., 1681, and the State of that City. He commences his essay as follows:

The obs. upon the Lond. B. of mort. have been a new light to the world; and the like obs. upon those of Dublin may serve as snuffers to make the same candle burn clearer. The Lond. obs. flowed from bills regularly kept for near one hundred years; but these are squeezed out of 6 straggling Lond. bills, out of 15 Dublin bills, and from a note of the families and hearths in each parish in Dublin, which are all digested into the one table or sheet annexed. [DUBLIN BILLS OF MORT.]

Many of the other obs. made by Petty will be given under LONDON; POPULATION; and other heads which they most concern.

In 1689 there was pub., A Proposal for better Securing of Health, containing Reflections on the Lond. Weekly B. of Mort, and Remedies to Lessen the Great Annual Amount of Deaths (fo. sheet).

In 1689 also Halley read his famous paper before the Royal So. : An Estimate of the Degrees of the Mort. of Mankind; and the main facts therein were deduced from the B. of mort., or registers of Breslau in Silesia. We shall speak more at large upon this


The Co. of Parish Clerks do not seem to have seen the value of a permanent record of its labours, for Maitland tells us that "by the unpardonable omissions of the Co.'s clerk, there's a chasm in the 3rd vol. of their register, from the 2nd Nov., Anno. 1698, to the 16th Dec., 1701," which defects he managed to supply for his own purposes from Graunt; and from the library of Sir Hans Sloane. [Or was it that some other compiler had borrowed and not returned this portion of the regis.? See 1664.]

The weekly bills of the Parish Clerks paint the picture with photographic exactness. In 1702-first of Queen Anne-the mort. of which was below both the preceding and following year, 5639 persons are reported as having died of convulsions, 2730 of consumption, and 2682 of fever. One person is described as having perished through being "choaked with fat;" while 61 died of "surfeit ;" 9 of "St. Anthony's fire ;" 66 were drowned; 21 were "found dead in the streets;" 23 "hanged and made away themselves;" II were murdered; 90 "overlaid ;" and I "stifled in mud." Only 1455 people are reported as having died of old age. The second year of Queen Anne showed no great variations in the list of curious items, two more individuals being reported as "choaked;" 70 perishing of "surfeit;" 10 of "St. Anthony's fire;" 61 as being drowned; 72 hanged; 12 murdered; and 69 "overlaid." The rising mort. of the next few years

denotes the increase of the smallpox. This fatal disease, which, in some respects, took the place of the plague of former times, destroyed seldom less than a thousand lives p.a., though in some years up to 4 and 5 thousand. [SMALLPOX.] To this there was added another calamity, which may almost be called a disease--namely, the vast amount of drunkenness which came to prevail about this period, and which is mentioned as something frightful in all the records of the time.-Martin.

Addison composed, about 1711, the following humorous B. of mort. in a paper, Dying for Love:

T. S. wounded by Zelinda's scarlet stocking as she was stepping out of a coach.

Tim Tattle killed by the tap of a fan on his left shoulder by Coquetilla, as he talked carelessly with her at a bow window.

Samuel Felt, haberdasher, wounded in his walks to Islington, by Mrs. Susannah Cross Stich, as she was clambering over a style.

John Pleadwell, Esq., of the Middle Temple, assassinated in his chambers, the 6th inst., by Kitty Sly, who pretended to come to him for advice.

On the occasion of the Gov. proposing to inflict a penny stamp on newspapers, etc., about 1712, there was pub. The Case of the Co. of Parish Clerks, Relating to the Duties on Pamphlets, etc., humbly offered to the Hon. House of Commons; wherein it is set forth that: The said Co., by their Charter, are obliged to keep a press in their Hall, for printing the weekly and yearly B. of mort., wherein it is appointed that Searchers shall in every parish constantly view the body or bodies of every person or persons that shall happen to die, and report the nature of the distemper of every person to the clerk of that parish where the said person shall so die, and according to such report every Parish Clerk is thereby obliged to bring in his account weekly to the said Co.'s Hall of such distempers, and also of all christenings which shall happen, in order that the said Co. or their Clerk take an account weekly thereof, and send the same to Her Majesty and to the Lord Mayor of the City of London; likewise to give an account of all such Freemen and their widows as shall happen to die in each week, that the same may be presented to the Court of Aldermen, in order to take care of all orphans. There is also divers other orders mentioned in the said Charter-as their keeping a clerk, a printer and beadle belonging to the said Co., which is a great charge to the same. That such reports are accordingly made by the said Searchers to the said Clerks, and accounts thereof weekly sent up to Her Majesty, and to the Lord Mayor as aforesaid; and likewise an account thereof dispersed accordingly in each respective parish within the said B. of Mort., the profits whereof is the support of the charge and expences of the said Co., they having little or no lands or estate to defray the same; and if the said duty be laid upon the said bills, very few persons will take in the same; whereby the said Co. will be out of any capacity of conforming to their Charter, or giving Her Majesty or the Lord Mayor any such account as aforesaid; and must likewise totally dissolve the said Co., they not having wherewithal to support the charge of the same.

Wherefore and for that the said Co. have been at a great charge and expence in building a hall in pursuance of the said Charter, and have always conformed themselves thereto; and the said Bill being of very great advantage, not only for the security of all orphans, but also a general satisfaction to all persons, by showing the nature of the diseases, and of the increase and decrease of the burials each week; which must inevitably be laid aside if the said duty is charged on the same: The said Co. therefore humbly hope that this Hon. House will take the same into consideration and exempt the weekly and yearly B. of mort. from the intended duty mentioned in the said Act concerning pamp. and papers, etc.; otherwise the said Co. (which has been of ancient and long standing) will be utterly dissolved and overthrown; all which is humbly submitted to the consideration of this Hon. House. A provincial B. of Mort. given in The Guardian, No. 136, edited by Richard Steele (about 1714), contained the following among the causes of death :

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Among the curious causes of death, selected from the bills of a later date, are the

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In 1726 Mr. John Smart, author of the famous Int. Tables, suggested that, with a view to the providing of data for the construction of proper T. of mort.,

If those in whose power it is would oblige the Parish Clerks weekly to make a return of the age of every person dying in each respective parish within the weekly B. of mort., in like manner as they now make their returns of the diseases and casualties; and if the number dying of every age were printed at the end of every year with the yearly Bill; then there would in time be a good foundation to build upon; and whenever this is done in Lond., it is probable it will be done likewise in other places, both at home and abroad, where accounts of births and burials are kept, which would make the foundation still more certain.

Apparently, in pursuance of this recommendation, a summary of the ages of all who died in Lond. was added in 1727-8. Thus, under 2 years of age, 9851; between 2 and 5, 2407; 5 and 10, 1038; 10 and 20, 950; and so on for each decade, until 90 and upwards, 135; so that, notwithstanding pestilence and other scourges, some did live to a good old age.

The area of the bills had become slightly extended since 1636, and now included in all 22,618 acres, beyond which limits the "old bills" never extended.

The following criticism has been offered on the Lond. Bills of this period :

The figures given reveal some striking facts regarding the health of Lond. at this period. We find

that whereas in the year 1728 the baptisms were 16,625, the number of those who died under two years of age amounted to 9851, or considerably more than one half of the total births. Between the ages of two and five, 2407 more children died, so that, subtracting the whole of this infant mort. from the 16,625 births, the surviving generation consisted of but 4367 individuals. This state of things grew worse in the succeeding year, 1729. While the whole of the reported baptisms amounted to but 17,060 the deaths of infants under two years of age were 10,735, and of those between the ages of two and five, 2516; making a total of 13,251, equal to nearly three-fourths of the whole birth-rate. Imperfectly though the registers may have been kept at this, as at former times, and considerable as was undoubtedly the number of children not baptized, this enormous infant mort. cannot be explained otherwise than on the supposition of the most defective sanitary arrangements and a general disregard of public health within the metropolis, added to growing licentiousness. The case is forcibly stated by a contemporary writer, Mr. Corbyn Morris.

A Bill of Mort. was kept in Amsterdam in 1728, from which we have already quoted [AMSTERDAM]. It is not improbable that earlier bills were kept there.

In 1729 a circumstance arose which showed the causes of fluctuations to which the bills were subjected. In that year the christenings and deaths of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of Lond. were added to the bill; but a contest arising between the inhabitants of the Tower-Liberty without and within the Tower, whether this church of St. Peter ad Vincula was parochial or not, the question was tried in the Court of King's Bench at Westminster in 1730, when it was determined in the negative; and in the bill for 1731 the returns were again omitted.

In 1733 an account or bill was commenced at Northampton of the ages at which the inhabitants died. It was from this bill, combined with another commenced in 1741, that Dr. Price derived the data for founding the NORTHAMPTON T. OF Mort.

In 1737 Mr. Weyman Lee pub. An Essay to Ascertain the Value of Leases and Annu. for Years and Lives, etc., wherein were many obs. on the B. of Mort. There is nothing very new or orig, in his remarks upon the bills. He found that I in 2786 lived to the age of 100; 1 in 200 to 90; 1 in 33 to 80; 1 in 14 to 70; 1 in 8 to 60; 1 in 5 to 50; and I in 4 to 45.

In 1738 Mr. John Smart, author of the famous Int. Tables bearing his name, pub. A T. of Mort. deduced from the Lond. Bills for the Ten Years 1727-37. This table was very little known. [LOND. MORT. T.]

In the same year Herr Kersseboom, of the Hague, pub. in Amsterdam, a tract on the prob. number of people in Holland and West Friesland, which he had deduced from the B. of Mort. He afterwards used this as a base for the construction of his T. of Vitality. [KERSSEBOOM'S MORT. T.]

Maitland, in his Hist. of Lond. (1739), says:

The B. of mort. of the City of Lond. is certainly one of the most defective of its kind, none being mentioned therein but such as are buried in parochial cemeteries, precincts, and liberties; by which means many burial grounds belonging to the Church of England (such as St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Temple Church, St. Peter's ad Vincula, the Rolls and Lincoln's Inn Chapels, the Charter House, and divers others belonging to Hospitals) are not only precluded the same, but likewise those belonging to Dissenters of all denominations, together with all those that are buried from within the B. of Mort. in the several circumjacent parishes; whereby the number of persons that die within this city and suburbs is greatly diminished, to the no small lessening the grandeur of Lond. in the eyes of the world, in respect to the number of its inhabitants. Therefore 'twere better the bill were laid aside, than to suffer such a defective account to be printed, to the dishonour of this incomparable City. But much more laudable would it be to enable the Co. of Parish Clerks to pub. a perfect account of the births and deaths (instead of that imperfect one of christenings and burials) in this vast metropolis; which account would not only greatly redound to the honour of this vast City, but likewise to the nation in general, to see its celebrated capital excel all other cities upon earth in respect to the number of its inhabitants, whereby is manifested its great commerce and opulency. After some observations, not material to our present purpose, he continues:

For the better enabling me to calculate the number of the inhabitants of this City, I found myself indispensably oblig'd to have recourse to the several registers belonging to the undermention'd burial grounds, where in all places (though in many with great difficulty) I succeeded by getting an account of the number of persons buried in each thereof, from all parts within the B. of Mort. in the year 1729, except the Presbyterians great burial ground in Bunhill-fields, where the lessee, out of a selfish view, would not discover the vast number buried there in the said year, otherwise than that I might safely insert one for every day of the year. This obstinate refusal put me upon inquiring of John Smith, the grave-digger, who assur'd me that tho' he kept no register, in the course of his long service he had made such observations that he was sure they buried annually between 700 and 800; but lest I should exceed the number, I have chosen only to insert 500 for the aforesaid year; which, according to the opinion of divers of the most eminent undertakers I apply'd to, is much too few.

His list of burial places not included in the bills numbered 64; the total burials whereat in the year 1729, amounted to 3038.

Bills were kept in Edinburgh early in the last century. Dr. Price constructed a T. of Mort. from them, for a period of 20 years, 1739-58 [ÉDINBURGH]. After 1758 he says the bills were kept very irregularly.

Bills were kept in Norwich early in the last century. From a copy of those kept for the 30 years 1740-69, during which period the ann. average christenings were 1057, and burials 1206, Dr. Price constructed the NORWICH T. OF MORT.


In 1742 Mr. Thomas Simpson pub. his Doctrine of Annu. and Rev., etc., and therein he gave a very exact Table for estimating the prob. of Life, deduced from Ten Years Obs. on the B. of Mort. of the City of Lond." [LOND. T. OF MORT.]

In 1747 Mr. James Hodgson, F.R.S., pub., The Valuation of Annu. upon Lives deduced from the Lond. B. of Mort. [ANNUITIES ON LIVES.]

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We must now introduce another somewhat famous writer upon the subject, Dr. Thomas Short, M. D., who in 1750 pub. : New Observations, Natural, Moral, Civil, Political and Medical, on the City, Town and Country B. of Mort. ; to which is added Extended Abstracts of the Writings of the Best Known Authors upon the Subject, with an Appendix on the Weather and Meteors. Between 1740 and 1750 this industrious gentleman collected regis. of christenings and burials of 160 country parishes, besides those of many chapels lying in sundry situations, on various soils, and the inhabitants having different businesses and ways of life. The following description of one of his Tables will afford the reader some insight into Dr. Short's labours:

The line below the yearly totals, col. 1, gives the number of rainy days that year; col. 2, how many people died on these days; col. 3, how many days were showery, besides the rainy days; col. 4, the number that died on these days; col. 5, number of drisling days; col. 6, how many died; col. 7, on how many days thunder was heard there; col. 8, how many died there; col. 9, the number of days on which it snowed; col. 10, how many died-total. The table further comprises the specified number of deaths during the prevalence of the wind in "eight points" of the compass respectively, though the ages at which the deaths occurred are not even incidentally mentioned.

The treatise, however, is so unskilfully arranged, as to be almost statistically unavailable.

In 1751 Mr. Corbyn Morris pub. his Observations on the Past Growth and Present State of the City of Lond., and thereto he annexed: A complete table of the christenings and burials within the City, from 1601 to 1750, both years inclusive; together with a table of the numbers which have annually died of each disease from 1675 to that time; and also a further table representing the respective numbers which have annually died of each age, from 1728 to that year. From this last he particularly attempted to show the then increasing destruction of infants and adults in the city, and consequent thereto the excessive drain continually made upon all the provinces of the kingdom for recruits.

The subject continued to engage much attention. The writer pointed out that, although the then bills were kept in a better method than formerly, they were yet defective in many particulars of the most important concern, and to that extent at least were open to improvement. On this point we had better hear his views in his own language:

1st. the extent of time at the beginning of life is not sufficiently divided, although the degrees of strength at this time are continually varying from each other, and with swift steps-insomuch that one month in the earliest infancy produces greater alterations than several years in manhood. These successive and violent ravages in infancy ought therefore to be minutely described, in order to furnish cautions for the better security of life in its tender years; upon which the very preservation, and much more the increase, of our species principally depends.

2nd. The diseases are not connected with the several ages; thus, for instance, although it appears by the Bill for the year 1750, that 4543 died of consumption; 5837 of convulsions; 4294 of fevers, and 1229 of the smallpox; yet of what ages these several persons are is uncertain. Whereas, by annexing to every disease the number of persons of each age dying thereof, it would appear, from remarks upon a competent series of years, to what diseases persons of every age were particularly subject. From whence, if these Bills were extended throughout the kingdom, the growth or declension of every particular disease would be clearly discovered. This would furnish a constant fund of instruction to the intelligent physician; and at particular critical junctures might suggest caution, not unworthy the attention of the legislative body of the kingdom; at least, would make a faithful report to it of the state of the national health, and of the annual increase or diminution of the people.

Almost a century elapsed before the latter portion of Mr. Morris's recommendations were carried into effect. [See 4th and 5th reports of the Regis. -Gen.]—He added, that it would be requisite that the amount of weddings should be inserted in the bill; and also the respective numbers of those accidentally sickening of the smallpox and dying thereof; and of those receiving it from inoculation and dying under that process. He further says:

Dissenters should also be required to keep their bills in the same manner; and to deliver a monthly account to the churchwardens of each parish of all the particulars prescribed which have happened to persons within their congregations belonging to such parish. But no difference of sects to be inserted in the B. of mort., for two reasons: 1st. Because it would annually bear a publick testimony of our several religious divisions; and 2ndly. Because it may oftentimes be very difficult to assign the religion of the person deceased.

In 1752 Mr. James Dodson prepared a paper on B. of Mort.: wherein he showed the importance of their being so kept as to afford the means of Valuing Annu. on Lives, and proposed alterations which appeared to him calculated to fit them for the purpose. The paper will be found in Phil. Trans. for that year.

În 1754 Mr. S. Stonehouse pub. The Valuation of Annu. on Lives deduced from the Lond. B. of Mort., wherein was a T. of Mort. deduced from the Lond. Bills for a period of 20 years-1728 to 1747. [LOND. T. OF MORT.]

In 1755 the Rev. Dr. Brakenridge addressed a letter to the President of the Royal So., in which he proposed to remedy the defects existing in T. of Mort. deduced from the Lond. B. of Mort. by blending the results with those obtained from the Registers of Breslau. [MORT. T.j

By the middle of the 18th century, Bills of Mortality had become very general; and many of the continental cities pub. them. The Bill for the City of Paris, 1758, gives the following particulars :-Burials, 21, 120; Christenings, 19,369; Marriages, 4089; Foundlings, 4969.

The Bill for Amsterdam, same year: Burials, 1789 (decrease of 900): Christenings, 4270; Weddings, 2417. Vessels arrived in the Texel, 1326. For earlier Bill for the city, see AMSTERDAM.

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