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BUNYAN'S LIFE AND WORKS
JOHN BUNYAN, whose book, The Pilgrim's Progress, is still after two centuries reprinted and read in numberless editions, sprang from surroundings of small literary promise. His father barely held his head above poverty; and Bunyan himself in his most prosperous years was the pastor of a congregation of small shopkeepers and laborers in a provincial town. With less education than the son of a day laborer in our times, by high purpose and the fire of imagination he put his name beside those of Milton and Dryden, in the history of English literature; and no book written in his time has begun to have so many readers and so widespread and continuing an audience as The Pilgrim's Progress.
To understand this power and intensity of his genius we must take into account not only the man and his temperament, but also the stirring times in which he lived; for when a nation is deeply stirred by a great moral conflict, and particularly when honest and high-minded men are to be found on both sides in that conflict, a few gifted men are apt to lift the style of their language to a new level of beauty and meaning. A notable case is Abraham Lincoln, who in the Gettysburg Address and the two Inaugurals brought English prose_style to the highest point which it reached in the nineteenth century. An