Plague and Fire of London - Persecution in Scotland

In the meantime two extraordinary calamities had befallen the metropolis. In the summer of 1665, London was visited by a plague, which swept off about 100,000 people, and did not experience any abatement till the approach of cold weather. On this occasion the city presented a wide and heartrending scene of misery and desolation. Rows of houses stood tenantless, and open to the winds; the chief thoroughfares were overgrown with grass. The few individuals who ventured abroad, walked in the middle of the streets, and when they met, declined on opposite sides to avoid the contact of each other. At one moment were heard the ravings of delirium, or the wail of sorrow, from the infected dwelling; at another the merry song or careless laugh from the tavern, where men were seeking to drown in debauchery all sense of their awful situation. Since 1665, the plague has not again occurred in London, or in any other part of the kingdom.

The second calamity was a conflagration, which commenced on the night of Sunday the 2d of September 1666, in the eastern and more crowded part of the city. The direction and violence of the wind, the combustible nature of the houses, and the defective arrangements of that age for extinguishing fires, combined to favor the progress of the flames, which raged during the whole of the week, and burnt all the part of the city which lies between the Tower and the Temple. By this calamity, 13,200 houses and and 89 churches, covering in all 430 acres of ground, were destroyed. The flame at one time formed a column a mile in diameter, and seemed to mingle with the clouds. It rendered the night as clear as day for ten miles around the city, and is said to have produced an effect upon the sky which was observed on the borders of Scotland. It had one good effect, in causing the streets to be formed much wider than before, by which the city was rendered more healthy. By the populace, this fire was believed to have been the work of the Catholics, and a tall pillar, with an inscription to that effect, was reared in the city, as a monument of the calamity. This pillar with its inscription still exists; but the fire is now believed to have been occasioned purely by accident.