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John Bunyan continued
Discover the places that inspired John Bunyan
St John’s Rectory St John Street Bedford-The Interpretor’s House
John Gifford- The Interpretor
Elstow Green-Vanity Fair
At Mary’s & St Helena’s Church, Elstow
The bell tower-Beelzebub’s Castle
An old oak door in the northwest corner of the building-Wicket Gate
Houghton House-Palace Beautiful
Between Elstow and Harrowden-The Slough of Despond
Stevington-The Hospitium, The Holy Well and The Cross
During his time in prison he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. It is a book strongly marked by his experience of persecution and suffering. The central character, Christian, is warned from the outset of the trials and dangers he will have to undergo on his journey from the City of Destruction. His pilgrimage takes him through the Slough of Despond and the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and he has to contend with enemies like the fiendish Apollyon and Giant Despair. But with the help of his trusty companions, Faithful and Hopeful, he finally makes it to the Celestial City. The famous episode at Vanity Fair, where Faithful is put to death, dramatizes, in part, Bunyan’s own trial before the Bedfordshire magistrates. What comes across is the cultural isolation of the pilgrims, and their awareness that they are a small minority battling for survival against the dominant forces of the day. There is a strong sense of social exclusion, and even of social antagonism. In The Pilgrim’s Progress the pilgrims are from humble backgrounds, while their ungodly enemies tend to be members of the gentry or nobility: ‘sins are all Lords and great ones’ Bunyan comments pointedly.
The Pilgrim’s Progress was a best-seller from the moment of its publication. No other work in English, except the Bible, has been so widely read over such a long period. It has been translated into over 200 languages, and there have been innumerable imitations, adaptations and abridgements. Much of its attraction in English lies in the beauty and simplicity of Bunyan’s prose, and in the vividness with which he brings his allegorical characters to life, acutely catching the rhythms of colloquial speech. Its influence was profound, as any reader of nineteenth-century fiction will know. Maggie Tulliver, Adam Bede, Little Nell, Nicholas Nickleby, and Huckleberry Finn all read The Pilgrim’s Progress. Many other novels draw upon Bunyan in their structure, setting and thematic development – think of Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Vanity Fair, not to speak of books for children like Little Women.