The London Review of Books blog unearths an extract from Daniel Defoe’s account of the great storm of 1703:
We have reckoned, including the City of London, about 123 People kill’d; besides such as we have had no account of; the Number of People drowned are not easily Guest; but by all the Calculations I have made and seen made, we are within compass, if we reckon 8000 Men lost, including what were lost on the Coast of Holland, what in Ships blown away, and never heard of, and what were drowned in the Flood of the Severn, and in the River of Thames.
What the Loss, how many poor Families ruin’d, is not to be Estimated, the Fire of London was an exceeding Loss, and was by some reckon’d at four Millions sterling; which, tho’ it was a great Loss, and happened upon the spot, where vast Quantities of Goods being expos’d to the fury of the Flames, were destroy’d in a hurry, and 14000 dwelling Houses entirely consum’d.
Yet on the other Hand, that Desolation was confin’d to a small Space, the loss fell on the wealthiest part of the People; but this loss is Universal, and its extent general, not a House, not a Family that had any thing to lose, but have lost something by this Storm, the Sea, the Land, the Houses, the Churches, the Corn, the Trees, the Rivers, all have felt the fury of the Winds. I cannot therefore think I speak too large, if I say, I am of the Opinion, that the Damage done by this Tempest far exceeded the Fire of London.
Defoe’s book has been acclaimed as “the first substantial work of modern journalism.” Yet I’d never even heard of it until today. How embarrassing is that?