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THE FIRE OF LONDON.
No sooner was the plague sQ abated in London that the inhabitants began to return to their habitations, than a most dreadful fire broke out in the city, and raged as if it had commission to devour everything that was in its way,.
On the second of September, 1666, this dismal fire broke out at a baker's shop in Pudding-lane by Fish-street, in the lower part of the city, near Thames street, (among rotten wooden houses ready to take fire, and full of combustible goods) in Billinsgate-ward; which ward in a few hours was laid in ashes. It began in the dead of the night, and the darkness very much increased the confusion and horror of the surprising calamity : when it had made havoc of some houses, it rushed down the hill towards the bridge; crossed Thames-street, invaded St. Magnus church at the bridge foot, and though that church was so great, yet it was not a sufficient barricado against this merciless conqueror ; but having scaled and taken this fort, it shot flames with so much the greater advantage into all places round about, and a great building of "houses
upon the bridge is quickly thrown down to the ground; there, being stayed in its course at the bridge, the fire marched back through the city again, and ran along, with great noise and violence, through Thames-street, westward, where, having such combustible matter to feed on, and such a fierce wind upon its back, it prevailed with little resistance, unto the astonishment of the beholders. The fire is soon taken notice of, though in the midst of the night: Fire! Fire! Fire! doth resound through the streets; many start out of their sleep, look out of their windows; some dress themselves, and run to the place. The citizens affrighted and amazed, delayed the use of timely remedies; and what added to the misfortune, was, the people neglecting
their houses, and being so fatally set on the hasty removing of their goods, which were, notwithstanding, devoured by the nimble increase of the flames. A raging east wind fomented it to an incredible degree, and in a moment raised the fire from the bottoms to the tops of the houses, and scattered prodigious flakes in all places, which were mounted so vastly high in the air, as if heaven and earth were threatened with the same conflagration. The fury soon became insuperable against the arts of men and power of engines; and beside the dismal scenes of flames, ruin and desolation, there appeared the most killing sight in the distracted looks of the citizens, the wailings of miserable women, the cries of poor children, and decripid old people ; with all the marks of confusion and despair. No man that had the sense of human miseries could unconcernedly behold the dismal ravage and destruction made in one of the noblest cities in the world.
The lord mayor of the city comes with his officers ; what a confusion there is !counsel is taken away; and London, so famous for wisdom and dexterity, can now find neither brains nor hands to prevent its ruin : the decree was gone forth, London must now fall: and who can prevent it? No wonder, when so many pillars are removed, the building tumbles. The fire gets the mastery, and burns dreadfully, by the force of the wind; it spreads quickly; and goes on with such force and rage, overturning all so furiously, that the whole city is brought into jeopardy and desolation.
-Fire commission'd by the winds,
That night most of the Londoners had taken their last sleep in their houses ; they little thought it would be so when they went into their beds: they did not in the least expect, that when the doors of their ears were unlocked, and the casements of their eyes were opened in the morning, to hear of such an enemy invading the city, and that they should see him with such fury enter the doors of their houses, break into every room, and look out at their windows with such a threatening countenance.
That which made the ruin more dismal was, that it began on the Lord's Day morning ; never was there the like Sabbath in London ; some churches were in flames that day; God seemed to come down and preach himself in them, as he did in Sinai
THE FIRST DAY'S PROGRESS.
when the mount burned with fire ; such warm preaching those churches never had : in other churches ministers were preaching their farewell sermons; and people were hearing with quaking and astonishment : instead of a holy rest which Christians had taken that day, there was a tumultuous hurrying about the streets towards the place that burned, and more tumultuous hurrying upon the spirits of those that sat still, and had only the notice of the ear, of the strange and quick spreading of the fire.
Now the trained bands are up in arms, watching at every quarter for outlandishmen, because of the general fears and rumours that fire-balls were thrown into houses by several of them, to help on and provoke the too furious flames. Now goods are moved hastily from the lower parts of the city, and the body of the people begins to retire and draw upward. Yet some hopes were retained on the Sunday that the fire would be extinguished, especially by those who lived in remote parts; they could scarce imagine that the fire a mile off could reach their houses. All means to stop it'proved ineffectual ; the wind was so high, that flakes of fire and burning matter were carried across several streets, and spread the conflagration everywhere.
But the evening draws on, and now the fire is more visible and dreadful; instead of the black curtains of the night which used to spread over the city, now the curtains are yellow; the smoke that arose from the burning part seemed like so much flame in the night, which being blown upon the other parts by the wind, the whole city, at some distance, seemed to be on fire. Now hopes begin to sink, and a general consternation seizeth upon the spirits of the people: little sleep is taken in London this night; some are at work to quench the fire, others endeavour to stop its course, by pulling down houses; but all to no purpose; if it be a little allayed, or put to a stand, in some places, it quickly recruits, and recovers its force : it leaps, and mounts, and makes the more furious onset, drives back all opposers, snatches the weapons out of their hands, seizes upon the water-houses and engines, and makes them unfit for service.
Some are upon their knees in the night, pouring out tears before the Lord, intereeding for
London in the day of its calamity; yet none can prevail to reverse that doom, which is gone forth against the city, the fire hath received its commission, and all attempts to hinder it are in vain.
Sunday night the fire had got as far as Garlick-bithe in Thamesstreet, and had crept up into Cannon-street, and levelled it with
the ground, and still is making forward by the water.side, and upward to the brow of the hill on which the city was built.
On Monday, Gracechurch-street is all in flames, with Lombard street on the left, and part of Fenchurch-street on the right, the fire working (though not so fast) against the wind that way: before it, were pleasant and stately houses; behind it, ruinous and desolate heaps. The burning then was in fashion of a bow; a dreadful bow it was ! such as few eyes had ever seen before !
Now the flames break in upon Cornhill, that large and spacious street, and quickly cross the way by the train of wood that lay in the streets untaken away, which had been pulled down from houses to prevent its spreading, and so they lick the whole streets as they go; they mount up to the tops of the highest houses, they descend down to the bottom of the lowest cellars; they march along both sides of the way, with such a roaring noise as never was heard in the city of London; no stately buildings so great as to resist their fury: the Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded, and when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run through the galleries, filling them with flames; then descending the stairs, compasseth the walks, giveth forth flaming vollies, and filleth the court with fire: by and bye down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the building upon them, (the founder's statue only remaining) with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing.
September the third, the Exchange was burnt, and in three days almost all the city within the walls : the people having none to conduct them right, could do nothing to resist it, but stand and see their houses burn without remedy; the engines being presently out of order and useless !
Then ! then! the city did shake indeed! and the inhabitants did tremble ! they flew away in great amazement from their houses, lest the flames should devour them, Rattle ! rattle! rattle ! was the noise which the fire struck upon the ear round about, as if there had been a thousand iron chariots beating upon the stones; and if you turned your eyes to the opening of the streets where the fire was come, you might see in some places whole streets at once in flames, that issued forth as if they had been so many forges from the opposite windows, and which folding together united into one great volume throughout the whole street; and then you might see the houses tumble, tumble,
THE SECOND DAY'S PROGRESS.
tumble, from one end of the street to the other, with a great crash ! leaving the foundations open to the view of the heavens.
Now fearfulness and terror doth surprise all the citizens of London ; men were in a miserable hurry, full of distraction and confusions; they had not the command of their own thoughts, to reflect and enquire what was fit and proper to be done. It would have grieved the heart of an unconcerned person, to see the rueful looks, the pale cheeks, the tears trickling down from the eyes (where the greatness of sorrow and amazement could give leave for such a vent) the smiting of the breast, the wringing of the hands; to hear the sighs and groans, the doleful and weeping speeches of the distressed citizens, when they were bringing forth their wives (some from their child-bed) and their little ones (some from their sick beds) out of their houses, and sending them into the fields, with their goods.—Now the hope of London is gone ; their heart is sunk: Now there is a general remove in the city, and that in a greater hurry than before the plague; their goods being in greater danger by the fire, than their persons were by the pestilence. Scarcely are some returned, but they must remove again ; and not as before ; now, without hopes of ever returning and living in those houses any more. The streets were crowded with people and carts, to carry what goods they could get out; they who were most active and had most money to pay carriage at exorbitant prices, saved much, the rest lost almost all. Carts, drays, coaches, and horses, as many as could have entrance into the city were laden, and any money is given for help; five, ten, twenty, thirty pounds for a cart, to bear forth to the fields some choice things which were ready to be consumed ; and some of the countrymen had the conscience to accept the prices which the citizens did offer in their extremity. Now casks of wine and oil, and other commodities, tumbled along, and the owners shove as much as they can toward the gates : every one became a porter to himself and scarcely a back, either of man or woman, but had a burden on it in the streets. It was very melancholy to see such throngs of poor citizens coming in and going forth from the unburnt parts, heavy loaden, with pieces of their goods, but more heavy loaden with grief and sorrow of heart; so that it is wonderful they did not quite sink down under their burdens.
Monday night was a dreadful night! When the wings of the night had shadowed the light of the heavenly bodies, there was no darkness of night in London, for the fire shines now about