I hope you are all surviving during this difficult period of isolation and anxiety for the future. While we may not be able to embrace our social friends, at least we have the internet to keep us going. To be honest, I'd be completely devastated without it. For those of us who write historical fiction, at least it enables us to imagine more realistically the feelings of those who lived in small isolated communities in the past.
When we're talking about isolation measures, we're not talking about something new. Successive generations went through the same thing. Quarantine procedures were established in England during the 1660s as a defence against the plague. Like the cruise ships now, people on ships with outbreaks were stopped from coming ashore. Eventually, people who were infected were allowed to leave their ships, but they had to be quarantined. During the plague, as the case today, people in London stayed off the streets and shops closed. Movement out of London was allowed initially, then severely restricted. Those who wanted to leave the city had to have a document proving they weren't ill -- our equivalent of having a test showing that we have the antibodies.
With vaccinations and the arrival of antibiotics, we have been living with a sense of complacency here in the West. Scientists' warnings that the overuse of antibiotics will trigger antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria have been around for years, and dystopian novels and films about viruses wiping out the whole of humanity have been on the rise. So why have we been taken so much by surprise by coronavirus? Part of it, I think, may be a result of rather smug belief that, with our high life expectancy, we no longer need to learn any lessons from the past. But antibiotics don't provide protection against viruses, and we don't have any special immunity to the ravages of natural disease. We now know what it is like to be those people in history, who had to stand by and see their communities decimated, unable to do anything about it. Perhaps we can even begin to understand the reasons for the Victorian obsession with momento mori. At the very least, it enables us to empathise more with past generations in their struggle against uncontrollable destructive forces.
We, too, will be in the history books. The idea is very little consolation when you're going through something like this. Someone in the future will be writing a blog on a Historical blog site like this one. They'll be talking about the impact of coronavirus on the early 21st century. I wonder what they'll say about us? I really hope our brush with disease will be nothing more than a small blip, worthy of only a few sentences.
Meanwhile, with thoughts like this running through my head, it's been difficult to concentrate on writing. Even reading has been more scattered than usual. Thankfully, I'd already finished a rough draft of my latest novel before the storm hit, otherwise I would have been struggling.
I haven't published a new Jane Austen variation for a while, but here it is, finally.