John Bunyan (1628-1688): His Life, Times, and Work

By John Brown; Frank Mott Harrison | Go to book overview

tremble and sigh with poor Christian when they do not even understand what poor Christian's joy or trouble is; but they all in a measure understand what is meant by the celestial country for which this homely hero with the burden on his shoulder is bound, and without measure they can all dream of the solace and glory of so heavenly a paradise."1


ADDENDUM--Chapter XII.
Modern Criticisms of 'The Pilgrim's Progress.'

(These excerpts are given by the kind permission of the respective
authors or publishers.)

Although Mr. BERNARD SHAW, in the Epistle Dedicatory to his Man and Superman, states that Bunyan expressed himself "in the terms of a tinker's theology," and that the "whole allegory is a consistent attack on morality and respectability, without a word that one can remember against vice and crime," yet, after comparing characters of Shakespear and Dickens, he says:

"Now you cannot say this of the works of the artist-philosophers. You cannot say it, for instance, of 'The Pilgrim's Progress.' Put your Shakespearian hero and coward, Henry V. and Pistoll or Parolles, beside Mr. Valiant and Mr. Fearing, and you have a sudden revelation of the abyss that lies between the fashionable author who could see nothing in the world but personal aims and the tragedy of their disappointment or the comedy of their incongruity, and the field preacher who achieved virtue and courage by identifying himself with the purpose of the world as he understood it. The contrast is enormous: Bunyan's coward stirs your blood more than Shakespear's hero, who actually leaves you cold and secretly hostile. You suddenly see that Shakespear, with all his flashes and divinations, never understood virtue and courage, never conceived how any man who was not a fool could, like Bunyan's hero, look back from the brink of the river of death over the strife and labor of his pilgrimage, and say 'Yet do I not repent me'; or, with the panache of a millionaire, bequeath 'my sword to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage and skill to him that can get it.'... Your man of letters thinks he can get Bunyan's or Shakespear's style without Bunyan's conviction or Shakespear's apprehension, especially if he takes care not to split his infinitives...."

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON'S Introduction to the Bagster edition of The Pilgrim's Progress* is devoted mainly to an ecstatic eulogy of the little woodcuts by the publisher's daughter, Eunice, to which are added a few by her brother, Jonathan. But whilst

____________________
*
London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, Paternoster Row.
1
David Sime. (Vide.Appendix III.)

-288-

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