John Bunyan

John Bunyan

John Bunyan

John Bunyan

Excerpt

JOHN BUNYAN, man of the people, village tinker, had no other ambition in his writing than to serve his faith and to help his fellows; he had no idea of producing a masterpiece which would outlast the passage of centuries. Yet today we can hardly imagine the non-existence of Grace Abounding and The Pilgrim's Progress , so important a place have they won in the English cultural heritage.

Nevertheless, Bunyan has not met with undiluted praise. Though Swift, Johnson, Cowper, Macaulay and many others have rendered him homage, he has had violent detractors. All down the ages, the critical spirit endeavours to find new perspectives and to suggest fresh evaluations; but once an author has become part of history, he is entitled to expect a certain objectivity from his readers, and Bunyan seems to have reached the point where he may enjoy this privilege. One can have more or less liking for him, read him for pleasure or merely as a duty, but his name cannot be ignored.

He owes his position primarily to his talent as a writer, but some of his fame is also due to the virile personality which made him share intensely the fervour of his time, and even to the very lowliness of his social status: Bunyan speaks with the voice of the seventeenth-century working man; his work is the expression of popular culture. And because he combines dramatic genius with a vigorous faith, he helps us more than any other writer to understand Puritanism both as an intellectual movement and as a way of life.

Bunyan was born in the pretty village of Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628, probably in November, as he was baptized on the thirtieth of that month.

In his will his father described himself as a 'braseyer', and his grandfather as a 'pettie chapman'. They were humble folk but of old stock: for three hundred years Bunyans had owned land in Bedfordshire, and in better days they had . . .

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