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Then I saw in my dream that, when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity-fair:' it is kept all the year long; it beareth the name of Vanity-fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity: as is the saying of the wise, “ All that cometh is vanity.” (Isaiah xl. 17. Eccl. i. 2. and ii. 11, 17.)
This Fair is no new-erected business, but a thing of ancient standing. I will show you the original of it: Almost five thousand years ago, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons are; and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the Pilgrims made, that their way to the City lay through this Town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long. Therefore, at this fair, are all such merchandise sold, as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts; as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not.
And, moreover, at this Fair, there is at all times to be seen, jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.
Here are to be seen too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers, and that of a blood-red colour. ?
And as, in other fairs of less moment, there are several rows and streets, under their proper names, where such and such wares are beforehand, “That through much tribulation they must enter into the kingdom of God.” When Christians are called forth to more public situations, they need peculiar cautions and instructions, for inexperience renders men inattentive to the words of scripture.
In general, Vanity-fair represents the wretched state of things, in those populous places especially where true religion is neglected and persecuted. Satan, the god and prince of this world, is permitted to excite fierce persecution in some places and on some occasions, while at other times he is restrained.
2 Mr. Bunyan, living in the country, had frequent opportunities of witnessing those fairs, which are held first in one town and then in another; and of observing the pernicious effects produced on the principles, morals, health, and circumstances of young persons especially, by thus drawing together a multitude, from motives of interest, dissipation, and excess.
An account of Vanity Fair.
vended, so here likewise you have the proper places, rows, streets (viz. countries and kingdoms,) where the wares of this fair are soonest to be found. Here is the Britain Row, the French Row, the Italian Row, the Spanish Row, the German Row, where several sorts of Vanities are to be sold. But as, in other fairs, some one commodity is the chief of all the fair, so the ware of Rome, and her merchandise, is greatly promoted in this fair; only our English nation, with some others, have taken a dislike thereat.1
Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town where this lusty fair is kept; and he that would go to the City, and yet not go through this town, must needs go out of the world. The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair day too: Yea, and as I think, it was Beelzebub, the chief Lord of this Fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities; yea, would have made him lord of the fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the town; yea, because he was such a person of honour, Beelzebub had him from street to street, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that he might, if possible, allure that blessed One to cheapen and buy some of his vanities; but he had no mind to the merchandise, and therefore left the town, without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities. This Fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair.” (1 Cor. v. 10. Matt. iv. 8. Luke iv. 5—7.)
Now, these pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this Fair. Well, so they did; but behold, even as they entered into the fair, all
1 Our author evidently designed to exhibit in his allegory the grand outlines of the difficulties, temptations, and sufferings to which believers are exposed in this evil world; which, in a work of this nature, must be related as if they came upon them one after another in regular succession ; though in actual experience several may meet together, many may molest the same person again and again, and some harass him in every stage of his journey. To this an allusion is made by the 'rows' in this fair. Writing at the time he did, he might well say the English nation had taken a dislike to the merchandise of Rome. It is to be hoped that dislike may continue. 1 Here are inserted the following lines, –
• Behold Vanity-fair! The pilgrims there
Are chained and stoned beside:
And on Mount Calvary died.'