A Journal of the Plague Year

The narrator recounts information about Aldgate and Finsbury, actual areas of London struck by the epidemic. How might Defoe’s original audience have reacted to reading these familiar geographical names?

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There was news of the plague in Marseilles in 1721; therefore, as fiction rooted in truth, the Journal could potentially a text that could help Londoners prepare for a potential outbreak. Its advice and factual information could allay the widespread panic that would most likely ensue. Defoe also wrote a smaller nonfiction work on this same topic: Due Preparations for the Plague, as well for Souls as Body (1722). One scholar speculated that the Journal was published to support the government's unpopular trade embargo with plague-stricken countries, while another believed it to be supportive of the policies of Robert Walpole. It also stands as a positive assertion of the fortitude and endurance of the people of London in the face of tragedy and chaos; literary critic Manuel Schonhorn wrote that the Journal "stands as a quiet yet authentic testimony of a city's victory in the face of disaster of frightful proportions. Throughout the experience Defoe's London has triumphantly asserted its illustrious qualities."