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The Pilgrim's Progress

Author(s)
Published
30/10/2008

Publisher writes

In John Bunyan's hands, a pious tract is transformed into a work of imaginative literature, "The Pilgrim's Progress", whose influence - both on work that followed and on the English consciousness as a whole - has been immeasurable. 

John Bunyan began "The Pilgrim's Progress" while he was in prison for conducting unauthorised Baptist religious services outside of the Church of England. In this classic allegory, devout everyman Christian abandons his family and the City of Destruction and sets off to find salvation. His path is straight but not easy, and he is beset by trials, including the terrible violence of the destructive Apollyon and the Giant Despair, as he pursues his pilgrimage through the Slough of Despond, the Delectable Mountains and Vanity Fair towards the Celestial City. In the second part of the narrative his wife, Christiana, is escorted by Great-Heart through the same difficult terrain.

Written with the urgency of a persecuted faith and a fiery imagination, "The Pilgrim's Progress" is a spiritual as well as a literary classic. In his introduction, Roger Pooley discusses Bunyan's life and theology, as well as the text's biblical and historical backdrop, its success and critical history. This edition also includes further reading, notes and accompanying seventeenth-century illustrations, a chronology, suggested further reading, notes and an index.

Author Information

John Bunyan, Roger Pooley

John Bunyan (1628-88) was born in Elstow, a village near Bedford. He went to school in the village and became a travelling brazier or tinker, like his father. He married in 1649 and had four children, though the name of his first wife is unknown. As part of her dowry she brought two popular books of devotion; and these, along with a series of experiences, triggered a complex conversion experience, not fully resolved until 1653, when Bunyan joined a separatist congregation in Bedford. Soon Bunyan began preaching and engaging in controversy with other religious groups. He wrote his first book, Some Gospel Truths Opened in 1656. Soon after the Restoration he was arrested for unlicensed preaching in the village of Lower Samsell and, because he refused to stop preaching, remained in prison in Bedford for twelve years. In 1678 he published the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress. It became an immediate bestseller, running through twelve editions and being translated into Dutch, French and Welsh during Bunyan's lifetime; since then it has been translated into more than two hundred languages. Bunyan died in 1688.

Judges' and contributors' comments

Cally Hammond: The first original narrative prose story.  Its English-speaking influence is colossal, its imagery pervasive; and the linkages between the author’s own life and this story add to its power.

Jenny Monds: One of the few books on the list that everyone will immediately recognise. Available in many different editions, this tale of Christian’s journey has never been out of print. Who can forget the poignancy of the postcard of Bunyan in jail which somehow made its way to Terry Waite in his captivity and touched us all (or those old enough to remember)?

Mark Oakley: I remember sitting on the London tube reading Bunyan and suddenly realizing how this great influential Christian allegory was pretty much alive and kicking around me as I went past the Vanity Fair adverts into the Slough of Despond next to Mr Brisk and Mrs Inconsiderate … 

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