Let Us All Gather To Discusse The Plague

By: Marianne Hess

My fellowe citizens of London, as ye may knowe, the greate Pestilence hath spread through our faire City. Mine selfe and many noble men of limited education propose that the only waye to vanquish this unholy Plague is to gather every citizene on the mouldering banks of the Fleet River at noontide on the morrow, with the purpose of discussing quarantine procedures. It was first advised, by the late Venerable John Dimme, that such an endeavor mighte enlighten the masses of the need for avoiding those stricken ill. Thus, at the conclusione of the gathering, it is hoped that all shall fully realize the dangers posed whilst gathering for such a gathering, and that such a gathering will prevente such gatherings in the future.

In the houre of Dimme’s death, due to erupting pustules and hellish fever, I leaned close to his pocked face, and he thus spake these delirious words: “My dear friend, gather the people ’round ye, by the stinking river. Gather all the people. Let them come from every dank alley and turreted castle. Let them come from the theatre and the church steeple, the inn and the plague house. Gather them together and preache to them the dangers of such a gathering. It is the only waye.”

Though I be stricken ill todaye, the swelling splotches in my groine and armpits feare me not. Indeede, I have a Physician of the greatest understanding. In additione to smoking much tobacco in my presence and pouring many fine leeches upon my foreheade, he hath buttered up my buboes, doused my skin in arsenic and filled my belly with the urine of a man-childe. I have also been informed, from the unlicensed apothecaries who roam the streets, that the Humours are to blame for my anguishe. Therefore, I have ordered all my maid-servants of a wet constitution to spit into my drye mouth. This will even things oute.

I doubt not that on the morrow, I shall be welle enough to wander the filthy crowds and make my waye to yonder wharf amongst the rats, straye dogs and putrefying bodies, where I shalle give this most crucial of dialogues. As such, I present to you the schedule, of which ye should take careful heed:

1. At noontide, the gathering will commence with a communal bathing in the river, in order to purge our souls of sin. It being filled to the brim with sewage, our faire citizens are certain not to drown.

2. Once we are cleansed and yet shivering, we shall line up to receive clothing donations from those who have lost loved ones to the Death. In this waye, the garments of the deceased mighte warm the living.

3. The many children presente shall find entertainment in the demonstrations of a rat catcher. He will take volunteers from amongst their innocent ranks, so that they mighte hold the vermin for him to catch in his basket.

4. This will be followed by my speech, and much shaking of hands and kissing of cheeks, as is the foreign fashione.

5. We will stare at the clouds in order to interpret their meaning. If it be fluffy kittens we see, the plague shall spare us. If wrathful angels, the end is nigh. Those who claim to see nothing but clouds shall be lined up and hanged on suspicion of being atheist.

6. Though it be supper time, all Londoners shall abstaine from beer and pottage, in order that we mighte grow quite faint and frail. The clergy, before they fled to the country, preached the importance of fasting to cleanse the soul, hence this will prepare us to meet our maker.

7. To purge the air of its dreaded effluvia, we will light fires all ’round us, and then burn pillars of gunpowder. During this, if any person be found to sweat, that person will be assumed to harbor the Pestilence and will be swiftly buried in the nearest churchyard.

8. Once concluded, all citizens shall return to their drafty, overcrowded huts. The only persons excluded from quarantine are those with enough capital to bribe the watchmen. Note: if that be ye, the watchmen prefer to receive their inducements in the form of fine curly periwigs, made from the copious hair of plague victims.

9. Bodies shall be placed in the death-carts.

It is to be observed that our esteemed majestie, the King — before retreating to the country with his Court — commanded that all Londoners attend this gathering, at risk of death in the Tower. Thus I have ordered the assistance of many waifs and men of the basest variety to drag forth from their homes any who so refuse. Most of these waifs and men are dying of the Pestilence. They are encrusted with a lifetime’s worth of stink, have had countless wayward chamber pots emptied upon their heads and are teeming with fleas. I tell you this not to frightene ye, nor do I send them to steale, rape and murder — as they undoubtedly will do. I do it for the welfare of every citizene, so that all shall attende this most important of sermons. We must showe God that we in London have giveth up our sins, so that this terrible French Pestilence might visite the Irish insteade.


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