Friday 16 August 1661

At the office all the morning, though little to be done; because all our clerks are gone to the buriall of Tom Whitton, one of the Controller’s clerks, a very ingenious, and a likely young man to live, as any in the Office. But it is such a sickly time both in City and country every where (of a sort of fever), that never was heard of almost, unless it was in a plague-time.

Among others, the famous Tom Fuller is dead of it; and Dr. Nichols, Dean of Paul’s; and my Lord General Monk is very dangerously ill.

Dined at home with the children and were merry, and my father with me; who after dinner he and I went forth about business. Among other things we found one Dr. John Williams at an alehouse, where we staid till past nine at night, in Shoe Lane, talking about our country business, and I found him so well acquainted with the matters of Gravely that I expect he will be of great use to me. So by link home. I understand my Aunt Fenner is upon the point of death.

33 Annotations

First Reading

RexLeo  •  Link

"..every where (of a sort of fever), that never was heard of.."
Is influenza a modern epidemic (spread from East annually) or was it present even in 17th C?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"of a sort of fever"
The first pandemic of influenza was in 1918 if I am not mistaken; It probably has been around a long time but localized; the season also is not right; it strikes in wintertime

Australian Susan  •  Link

"of a sort of fever" Typhoid? Typhus?

gerry  •  Link

Per L&M "according to bills of mortality, 3490 deaths from fever occurred this year in London"

Jesse  •  Link

"every where (of a sort of fever)"

Quick search on the Internet. Some sites claim the source unidentified. This location… suggests the relatively hot & dry summer of 1661 may have spawned a "Drought malaria, common in many parts of the world, arises when rivers and ponds are reduced to the smaller pools and puddles that anopheline mosquitoes prefer for breeding."

vicente  •  Link

Jesse great piece:
"...The first prescription of cinchona powder in England is attributed to Robert Brady in 1660. Thomas Sydenham advocated its use in his Methodus curandi febres in 1666. By that time, the "Jesuit's Powder" was already widely known in Europe, but in Protestant England many orthodox physicians were prejudiced against its use..."…
english remedy of agues and fevers 1682…

my view: "nature" at its best trying to prevent the advance of man, as the most successfull predator, who will never take NO for answer. Infectious diseases: Basic Hygiene: total lack of any kind of cleanliness in every facet of day to day life. Today: to get a faint idea of problems, see the world of the undernourished and the epedemics now running amok:
The cure for "ague" that killed Cromwell, that pesky mosquito that has got S. California in a tither. Also greed was working, removing the water from bogs and marshes to enclose lands for the Landlords profits, thereby removing a source of disease as a side effect. "Tis Odd..

Australian Susan  •  Link

The site referenced by Vincent in his 3.16am post only refers to Malaria, but there are other mosquito bourne fevers such as Dengue and Ross River. These latter two are present here in Queensland, but climatic conditions are not right for malaria. We certainly have heat and humidity, so it is obviously not just heat which causes malaria to spread. In the bills of mortality "ague" probably refers to malaria or malaria-like fevers such as Dengue or Ross River. Other fevers may be thyphoid (bad water) or typhus (human louse)and "spotted fever" may refer to meningococcal disease, which is characterised by large dark spots.

Jesse  •  Link

"that never was heard of almost, unless it was in a plague-time"

The 'Epidemic Timeline' at… lists a similar "unidentified fever" in England in 1638.

Yes, here in So. Calif. citiations are being written against property owners with stagnant pools. I've done my civic duty and drained my koi(less) pond. No mosquito bites but my father thinks a little quinine might help my agued back.

PHE  •  Link

My Lord General Monk
Seems odd that Sam should refer to him in his 'old' name when he has been Duke of Albermarle for some time now.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

- Dr. Nichols - was Matthew Nicholas, D.D. and had been installed as Dean of St. Pauls July 1660. His brother was Sir Edward Nicholas, Secretary of State.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Jesse's epidemic timeline does not mention the late 19th century plague outbreak which spread through ports. Shanghai and Hong King were effected and also San Francisco and Sydney. In California, plague spread into the native animal population - ground squirrels - from the shipbourne black rats. It is still in the ground squirrel population in the hills around SF. In Sydney it never got into the native animal population as rats venturing beyond the city died in the harsh climate. The city paid bounties on dead rats, cleaned up its slums and contained the outbreak. In the 17th century disease vectors were not yet worked out and people put their trust in breathing sweet air via pomanders, herbs and posies of flowers.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"that never was heard of"
That excludes quite a lot of them.

JWB  •  Link

" and dry summer of '61"...Don't we know better? Most recently we read of Sam's Huntingshire rides- remember the coat,the wollen socks. Then earlier, Rev Josselin commented on the rain and again it rained during coronation. To my memory, old and fading to be sure, when weather has been commented upon, it's been cold and wet. My bets on typhoid. With the army in London earlier in the year, the crowd at the coronation and the overcrowding of the jails, town and country, the sanatation systems,such as they were, must have been woefully overtaxed. Read Geo. Fox about the filth he endured.

BradW  •  Link

RE: epidemics

The older, Linnean view is that the list of major human diseases doesn't change, and that these maladies don't change their symptoms over time. But more recent evidence seems to counter both views.

In fact host-pathogen interactions can change fairly quickly. I'm sure Aussie Sue could recount for us how a European viral disease was introduced Down Under to fight the population boom among rabbits, and that while it killed over 99% of the bunnies the first year, it evolved very quickly into a form that killed only 50% or so of infected animals (to the ranchers' disappointment). Human diseases such as syphilis and typhus have changed their ways over time, either in lethality, symptoms or mode of transmission. New human pathogens have emerged from nowhere (HIV, Nipavirus, Influenza H5N2); other diseases which were once major killers have disappeared entirely.

For all those reasons, my two cents is that looking for a modern syndrome to match the "fever" that Sam is describing will likely be fruitless, especially without a whole lot more information about symptoms and mode of transmission.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

In New York,something new to these parts has killed a lot of birds and a few people in recent years: West Nile Fever.

vicente  •  Link

Re: Diseases: there has been none, nor will there ever be a disease to wipe out all of mankind, only enough to thin out the population:
Bugs and cohorts, as in a potatoe famine,fleas to spread more germs, Locusts to remove food from Humans, DDT, failed to get rid of all the pests. Nufink is perfect. Mosquito is natures way of inserting new tests into the blood stream, to see wot will work.
Variety is the spice of life. There are leaves that cure, give pleasure, kill pain, and deny the body to function. C'est La vie.
Re: Nile 'tis 'ere in La La land too, and no cure yet? tho not every body that gets injected, die or have symtoms either.
It is a Tragedy for all concerned.
So second guessing wot Londeners are failing from, needs a scientific approach and autopsy the perfectly embalmed, and check out all aspects and Dna compare.

Australian Susan  •  Link

[Disease & Rabbits Update
In the battle against the bunny, CSIRO scientists have developed a new disease to kill the feral furries. This has been introduced into South Australia with great effect, but not NSW & Vict, 'cos if the bunnies are decimated (or actually the reverse of decimated - 90% kill), then the feral foxes will go for the native animals again. Here in Qld, we have no bunnies, but we do have foxes and now have no quail.]
Typhoid in the 17th cent probably endemic and probably people may have had resistance, unless it had mutated. Typhus too would have spread in confined spaces as its vector (human louse) moved from host to host.Typhus closed down the Cowan Bridge School attended by the Bronte sisters in the 1830s. Typhus was rife in the WWI trenches, but at least by that time people knew the importance of delousing. We hear of Sam having his headlice removed, but have we had any mention of body lice? Or crabs?

dirk  •  Link

hot & dry summer of 1661?

According to the Monthly Mean Central England Temperature listing at…
the monthly average for August 1661 was 15 deg C = 59 deg F.

This was by no means a hot month of August! We have to go back to 1992 to find average temperature so low.

As to the amount of rain, I haven't been able to find any data.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Don't forget 1661 was in the midst of the Little Ice Age. If the Gulf Stream ever fails, we might get more summers like that in London.

vicente  •  Link

Jesse: I like the goal fever; great time line:{ I'm sure they have missed many other outbreaks of population thinning] 'tis but the fevers found in the nick {Jail Gaol}: no water of quality, no wash, no toilet, open sewage, bad food and starvation diets, infested meats, fleas, lice, crabs and, bedding loused up [which be palliasses that is a sack filled with hay or any other soft material]. The aroma best left without description. Would be a CDC haven for research, not unlike some places reserved for malcontents in less endowed parts of the world. It is amazing that people do survive based on our knowledge of hygene.

Glyn  •  Link

We only met Tom Whitton twice before his death. The first time Pepys was amused to see him in high spirits skylarking with a friend: the second time he went to the theatre with Pepys. That and his death are the only things History will ever know about him.

dirk  •  Link

"That and his death are the only things History will ever know about him." - re Glyn

Come to think of it, that's more than history will ever remember about most of us...

Terry F  •  Link

Oldenburg to Spinoza, August 16/26, 1661

"ILLUSTRIOUS SIR, AND MOST WORTHY FRIEND, -- So painful to me was the separation from you the other day after our meeting in your retreat at Rhijnsburg,....[where we] conversed...of God, of extension, of infinite thought, of the differences and agreements between these, of the nature of the connection between the human soul and body, and further, of the principles of the Cartesian and Baconian philosophies.[...]

"There is at present in the press a collection of physiological discourses written by an Englishman (Robert Boyle) of noble family and distinguished learning) They treat of the nature and elasticity of the air, as proved by forty-three experiments; also of its fluidity, solidity, and other analogous matters. As soon as the work is published, I shall make a point of sending it to you by any friend who may be crossing the sea. Meanwhile, farewell, and remember your friend, who is

"Yours, in all affection and zeal,
HENRY 0LDENBURG [Secretary of The Royal Society]
London, 16/26 Aug., 1661."…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"the famous Tom Fuller is dead of it"

Dr. Thomas Fuller, who died on this day, was buried at Cranford, Middlesex, by his patron, Lord Berkeley. Dr. Hardy, Dean of Rochester, preached his funeral sermon. — Smyth's Obituary, p. 54.
---Wheatley, 1899.

Bill  •  Link

"a very ingenious, and a likely young man to live"

Wheatley, in his annotation of the diary (1899), gives us the footnote below for 14 March 1662/63. And this footnote is included in Phil's current version of the diary for that date. He should have given it earlier.

"The distinction of the two words ingenious and ingenuous by which the former indicates mental and the second moral qualities was not made in Pepys's day."

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Influenza, commonly known as "the flu", is an infectious disease caused by an influenza virus. The symptoms of human influenza were clearly described by Hippocrates roughly 2,400 years ago. Although the virus seems to have caused epidemics throughout human history, historical data on influenza are difficult to interpret, because the symptoms can be similar to those of other respiratory diseases. The disease may have spread from Europe to the Americas as early as the European colonization of the Americas; since almost the entire indigenous population of the Antilles was killed by an epidemic resembling influenza that broke out in 1493, after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The first convincing record of an influenza pandemic was of an outbreak in 1580, which began in Russia and spread to Europe via Africa. In Rome, over 8,000 people were killed, and several Spanish cities were almost wiped out. Pandemics continued sporadically throughout the 17th and 18th centuries...,…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"But it is such a sickly time both in City and country every where (of a sort of fever), that never was heard of almost, unless it was in a plague-time."

According to the bills ogf mortality, 3490 deaths from fever occurred this year in London: C. Creighton, A history of epidemics in Britain, i, 576 (L&M note)…


Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Among others, the famous Tom Fuller is dead of it;"

I wonder how Pepys met Dr. Fuller, never mind became his friend. He doesn't tell us in the Diary. Yes, Fuller was a Cambridge man, but way before Pepys' time. His parish was in Dorset, and he was all over England during the Civil Wars. So they must have met during Fuller's time at the Savoy during the Commonwealth. That they were friends says a lot about them both.

Dr. Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) "caught a fever, and died of it at his lodgings in Covent Garden on 15 August, 1661, and was buried at Cranford Church; his funeral procession included 200 clergymen from London."… link

RIP, Thomas Fuller -- I know Pepys thought about you, usually on Sundays when he read your books, and I think he missed you.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.