Page images

of the entrance of the plague into Rome in the year 1656, which we are assured was conveyed thither from Naples by cloths and other wares from that place, brought first to Port Neptuno, and carried from thence to the neighbouring castle of St Lawrence : which, after having been kept some time there, were conveyed into Rome *. . The second instance I shall take is from the account given us of the entrance of the plague into Marseilles †; which being drawn up with great exactness, may be the more relied on. It appears indisputably by this account, that the mischief was brought thither by goods from the Levant. For the first who had the disteniper, was one of the crew of the lip which brought those goods : the next were those who attended upon the same goods, while they were under quarantine; and foon after the furgeon, whom the magistrates of Marseilles appointed to examine the bodies of thofe who died.

This relation, if duly considered, is, I believe, fufficient to remove all the doubts any one can have about the power of merchandise to convey infection : for it affords all the evidence the most scrupulous can icasonably desire. Possibly there might be fome fever of extraordinary malignity in Marseilles, fuch as is commonly called pestilential, before the arrival of these goods : but no such fever has any indisputable right to the title of pestilence, as I have before thewn. On the contrary, these two, the real pestilence, and such pestilential fevers, mult carefully be distinguished, if we design to avoid all mistakes in reasoning upon these subjects.

* Gastaldi de peste, p. 116.5 + Journal de ce qui s'eft paflé à Maricilles, &c.


Some such fever of uncommon malignity, I fay, might perhaps be in Marfeilles before the arrival of these goods. There might likewise perhaps be an inAtance or two of fevers attended with eruptions, bear ing fome resemblance to those of the plague: for such I mylelf have fometimes seen here in London. But it is not conceivable, that there fhould be any appearance of the true plague before that time : for it was full six weeks from the time of the sailor's death, which had given the alarm, and raised a general attention, before the magistrates received information of any one's dying of the plague in the city. And I believe it was never known, that the plague being once broke out, gave so long a truce in hot weather.

The plague which has this present year almost depopulated Messina, affords a third instance of the fame kind. By an authentic relation of it, published here, we are informed, that a Genoefe vellel from the Levant, arrived at that city; and upon notice given that a failor who had touched fome cafes of cot: ton fuffs bought up at Patrasso in the Morea, where the distemper then ragéd, was dead of the plague, in the voyage ; the fhip was put under quarantine ; during which time the cotton stuffs were privately landed. The master and fome failors dying three days after, the vessel was burnt. These goods lay for some time concealed, but were foon after publicly fold : upon which the disease immediately broke out in that quarter where they were opened ; and afterwards was {pread through the whole city.

I think it not improper, for the fuller confirmation of the present point, to give a relation commu: * Vid. the London gazette, July 23. 1743.


ed up:

nicated to me by a person of unquestionable credit, of the like effect from goods, in respect to the smallpox; which distemper is frequently carried in the nature of the plague to both the East and West Indies from these countries, and was once carried from the East Indies to the Cape of Good Hope, in the following manner. About the year 1718, a ship from the East Indies arrived at that place : in the voyage three children had been fick of the small-pox : the foul linen ufed about them was put into a trunk and lock.

At the ship's landing, this was taken out, and given to some of the natives to be washed : upon handling the linen, they were immediately seized with the finall-pox, which spread into the country for many miles, and made fuch a defolation, that it was almolt difpeopled.

It has been thought fo difficult to explain the manner how goods retain the feeds of contagion, that some authors * have imagined infection to be performed by the means of infects; the eggs of which may be conveyed from place to place, and make the disease wheri they come to be hatched. But as this is a supposition grounded upon no manner of obfervation, fo I think there is no need to have recourse to it. If, as we have conjectured, the matter of contagion be an active fubftance generated chiefly from animal corruption, it is not hard to conceive how this may be lodged and preserved in soft porous bodies, which are kept pressed clofe together.

We all know how long a time perfumes hold their fcent, if wrapt up in proper coverings : and it is very remarkable, that the strongest of these, like the Kircher, Langias, &c.


matter we are treating of, are mostly animal juices, as musk, civet, &c. and that the substances found most fit to keep them in, are the very fame with those which are most apt to receive and communicate infection, as furs, feathers, silk, hair, wool, cotton, flax, &c. the greatest part of which are likewise of the animal kind,

Nothing indeed can give us so just a notion of infection, and more clearly represent the manner of it, than odoriferous bodies. Some of these do strangely revive the animal spirits; others instantaneously depress and sink them : we may therefore conceive, that what active particles emitted from any such substances do, is in the like way done by pestiferous bodies; fo that contagion is no more than the effect of volatile offensive matter drawn into the body by our smelling.

The third cause we assigned for the spreading of contagion, was a corrupted state of air. Although the air be in a right state, yet a sick perfon may infect those who are very near him; as we find the pestilence to continue sometimes among the crew of a fhip, after they have failed out of the infectious air wherein the disease was first caught. A remarkable accident of this nature is recorded to have happened in the plague at Genoa in the year 1656. Eleven persons put to sea in a felucca, with design to withdraw themselves from the contagion, and retire into Provence ; but one of them falling sick of the plague foon after they had imbarked, infected: the rest; insomuch that others being taken ill, and dying in their turns, they were not admitted any where, but were forced to return from whence they came : and by VOL. II. H


that time the boat arrived again at Genoa, no more than one of them survived *.

However, in this case the malady does not usually spread far, the contagious particles being soon disperfed and loft. But when in a corrupt difpofition of the air the contagious particles meet with the subtile parts generated by that corruption, by uniting with them they become much more active and powerful, and likewise of a more durable nature ; fo as to form an infectious matter capable of conveying the mischief to a greater distance from the diseased body, out of which it was produced.

In general, a hot air is more disposed to spread contagion than a cold one, as no one can doubt, who confiders how much all kinds of effluvia are farther diffused in a warm air, than in the contrary. But moreover, that state of air, when unseasonable moiIture and want of winds are added to its heat, which gives birth to the plague in some countries, will doubtless promote it in all. For Hippocrates sets down the same description of a pestilential state of air in his country, as the Arabians do of the constitution which gives rise to the plague in Africa +. Mercurialis assures us the same constitution of air attend. ed the peftilence in his time at Padua : and Gasfendus observed the same in the plague of Digne ll.

* Toulon, traité de la peste. + Hippocr. epid. 1. in. That Hippocrates describes here the constitution of air accompanying the true plague, contrary to what some have thought, Galen testifies in his comment upon this place, in libr. de temper. I. i. c. 4. and in lib. de differentiis febr. lib. i. C. 4.

I Vid. Mercurial. prælect. de peftilent. !! Notitia ecclef. Diniensis.


« PreviousContinue »