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The Life of John Bunyan.
was interred in the Bedford burying-ground; and she was the last of his descendants about whom anything is known.
The Pilgrim's Progress is the best of Bunyan's works. It places him in the first rank of genius, along with Shakspeare and Milton. It is the brightest uninspired allegory which was ever penned; and has made a deeper and broader impression on mankind, proportionately to the period of its existence, than any other work of imagination, whether ancient or modern. No human production has so much engaged the attention of publishers, or won such general favour with the public, or infused its ideas and imagery so widely into men's thoughts. It charms our childhood and cheers our mature age; it is the favourite alike of the peasant and the philosopher; and it kindles enthusiasm as much on the banks of the Orinoco or the Ganges as by the side of its native Ouse.
Lord Kames, who could not see the Pilgrim's Progress in any higher light than a mere literary one, admired it for its resemblance to the epics of Homer, in a proper mixture of the dramatic and narrative. Dr. Johnson, who had little patience with books of any sort, and least of all with those written by dissenters, characterised the Pilgrim's Progress as “a work of original genius, and one of the very few books which every reader wishes had been longer.” Mr. Grainger, the editor of the Biographical History of England, though a high-churchman, calls this masterpiece” of Bunyan “one of the most popular and most ingenious books in the English language.” Dr. Franklin says,
Honest John Bunyan is the first I know of who has mingled narrative and dialogue together,-a mode of writing very engaging to the reader, who, in the most interesting passages finds himself admitted, as it were, into the company and present at the conversation. Defoe and Richardson have imitated him with success.” Mr. Macaulay says, “In every nursery the Pilgrim's Progress is a greater favourite than Jack the Giant Killer. Every reader knows the strait and narrow path as well as he knows a road in which he has gone backward and forward a hundred times. This is the highest miracle of geniusthat things which are not should be as though they were, that the imaginations of one mind should become the personal recollections of another. Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John Bunyan in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. We live in better times; and we are not afraid to say that, though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two great creative minds. One of those minds produced the Paradise Lost; the other the Pilgrim's Progress.” Dr. Southey says, “It is a book which makes its way the fancy to the understanding and the heart. The child peruses it with wonder and delight; in youth we discover the genius which it displays; its worth
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is apprehended as we advance in years; and we perceive its merits feelingly in declining age. If it is not a well of English undefiled, to which the poet as well as the philologist must repair, if they would drink of the living waters, it is a clear stream of current English-the vernacular speech of his age—sometimes, indeed, in its rusticity and coarseness, but always in its plainness and its strength."
Mr. Toplady says, “The Pilgrim's Progress is the finest allegorical work extant, describing every stage of a Christian's experience, from conversion to glorification, in the most artless simplicity of language; yet peculiarly rich with spiritual unction, and glowing with the most vivid, just, and well conducted machinery throughout. It is, in short, a master-piece of piety and genius, and will, we doubt not, be of standing use to the people of God, so long as the sun and moon endure." James Montgomery says, “It has been the lot of John Bunyan, an unlettered artisan, to do more than one in a hundred millions of human beings, even in civilised society, is usually able to do. He has produced a work of imagination, of such decided originality, as not only to have commanded profound admiration on its first appearance, but amidst all changes of time and style, and modes of thinking, to have maintained its place in the popular literature of every succeeding age, with the probability that, so long as the language in which it is written endures, it will not cease to be read by a great number of the youth of all future generations, at that period of life when their minds, their imaginations, and their hearts are most impressible with moral excellence, splendid picture and religious sentiment. It would be difficult to name another work of any kind in our native tongue of which so many editions have been printed, of which so many readers have lived and died, the character of whose lives and deaths must have been more or less affected by its lessons and examples, its fictions and realities." Dr. Cheever says, “ It is a work so full of native good sense, that no mind can read it without gaining in wisdom and vigour of judgment. It is one of the books that, by being connected with the dearest associations of childhood, always retain their hold on the heart; and it exerts a double influence when, at a graver age and less under the despotism given to imagination in childhood, we read it with a serene and thoughtful perception of its meaning. How many children have become better citizens of the world through life, by the perusal of this book in infancy! How many pilgrims, in hours when perseverance was almost exhausted, and patience was yielding, and clouds and darkness were gathering, have felt a sudden return of animation and courage from the remembrance of Christian's severe conflicts, and his glorious entrance at last through the gates into the city!” Mr. Offor says, “The Pilgrim's Progress has proved an invaluable aid to the Sunday School Teacher, and to the Missionary. One of the latter wrote home with joy to inform his Christian friends, that a
The Life of John Bunyan.
Vainy set up three nights to read it, never having before seen so beautiful a *****, and praying that the Holy Spirit may influence his countrymen to read, waiso enlighten their hearts to understand, the wondrous dream. The Pun< who was engaged to translate it into Singhalese, was so deeply affected by the story, that, at times, he could not proceed. When he had passed the wicketgate, and Christian's burden fell from his shoulders, at the sight of Christ crucilied, he was overcome with joy—he laughed, wept, clapped his hands, danced, and shouted, “Delightful, delightful!' It was especially blessed to the persecuted Christian natives in Ceylon. In their distress, when driven from home, in places of danger, they encouraged each other by repeating portions of scripture, and the vivid delineations of perseverance and triumph from the Pilgrim's Progress. No book, the result of human labour and ingenuity, has been so eminently useful. Let Homer have the credit of his lofty poem, Plato of his philosophy, Cicero of his elegancies, and Aquinas of his subtleties; but, for real value, as connected with human happiness, our unlettered mechanic rises infinitely their superior.”
The First Part of the Pilgrim's Progress was written by Bunyan in Bedford jail. This fact is mentioned by all his biographers,—Mr. Philip among the rest; yet, under some strange delusion, it is afterwards denied by Mr. Philip, and the denial of it trumpeted forth as a discovery, in his Essay on Bunyan's Genius and Writings. But it rests on far too broad and solid evidence to be for a moment shaken. Bunyan, indeed, did not occupy a large portion of the time of his imprisonment on the Pilgrim,—for he seems to have composed the work rapidly, and in a few heats; nor did he repeat any passages of it to his pious fellow-prisoners while it was in the course of composition, but kept it all a secret till it was complete, and very probably wrote it only at hours when his fellow-prisoners were in bed. He had no books to assist him in it, except the Bible, a Concordance, and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. When he had finished it, he submitted it to his friends for their opinion on its fitness for publication, and he found that opinion so divided, and so hotly conflicting, that he was, for several years, in great doubt and perplexity whether to publish or suppress it.
At length, in 1678, six years after his final liberation, he gave it to the world. The first edition was a foolscap octavo, of 253 pages, without any illustrations; and only one copy of it is known to be now in existence. A second edition was published in the same year, with very considerable additions,particularly the scene with Christian's wife and children before he started, the whole scene with Worldly-Wiseman and at Sinai, part of the scene with GoodWill at the gate, the conversation about Christian's family in the Palace Beautiful, the matter of Lot's Wife, and a large part of the affair of Doubting-Castle. A third edition appeared in 1679, with a portrait of Bunyan, and the addition of By-Ends' conversation with Hold-the-World, Money-Love, and Save-All
The Life of John Bunyan.
So many as either ten or eleven other editions were published before Bunyan's death, and all after the seventh contained some illustrations; but none had any alterations or additions, except small verbal ones or side notes or references. All these facts, as also some others which we have yet to state, are brought clearly out in the collated editions of the Pilgrim's Progress, published in 1847 by the Hanserd Knollys Society, with Introduction by George Offor.
Several continuations of the First Part of the Pilgrim's Progress, some more or less anonymous, and some fraudulently under Bunyan's initials, were promptly pushed before the public; but all were worthless, and only one has in even the slightest degree escaped sweeping annihilation. Bunyan's own Second Part of the Pilgrim appeared in 1684; and nine editions of it were published in the course of the next twenty-four years.
Bunyan probably contemplated a Third Part, for he closed the Second with these words, “Should it be my lot to go that way again, I may give those that desire it an account of what I here am silent about—mean time I bid my reader adieu;” but he died only four years after, and did not accomplish his purpose. The piece which has been generally known to the public as the Third Part, and which has a place in very many modern issues of the Pilgrim's Progress, appeared in 1692, and attained to a sixth edition in 1705. But it was formally denounced in 1708 as an imposture;” and it certainly did not proceed from the pen of Bunyan.
Before Bunyan died, the Pilgrim's Progress was translated into French, Flemish, Dutch, Welch, Gaelic, and Irish; and since then it has been translated into Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Danish, Estonian, Armenian, Arabic, Hindostanee, Bengalee, Tamul, Mahratta, Canarese, Gujarattah, Orissa, Burmese, Malay, Cingalese, Malagassee, Bechuana, Pichuana, Samoan, Tahitian, and New Zealand. The multiplication of it through the press in English alone far surpasses our power of computation. One hundred thousand copies of it were thrown off in London before Bunyan died: and shoals of editions have ever since been issuing from most of the great publishing-houses of both this country and America. It has also afforded immense employment to editors, annotators, artists, and all sorts of illustrators. “The prints which have been engraved to illustrate it,” remarks Southey, “would form a collection, not so extensive indeed, but almost as curious as that which Mr. Dappa saw at Vallombrasa, where a monk had got together about eight thousand different engravings of the Virgin Mary.”
Several attempts, more or less successful, have been made to render the Pilgrim's Progress into verse. The earliest was by Francis Hoffman in 1706; and the best was by Dr. J. S. Dodd in 1795. One, which has been much circulated in Sunday Schools, was done by Burder, the well-known author of the Village Sermons; one, for the use of young children, was done by the late
The Life of John Bunyan.
Isaac Taylor of Ongar; and four others, of various character, were done by respectively a Lady, T. Dibdin, J. B. Drayton, and the Rev. W. E. Hume.
Attempts to imitate the Pilgrim's Progress, or to rival it, have been very numerous. One of these, published in 1705, was a sheer forgery, simply altering the names of Bunyan's characters, striking out some of his passages, and taking the title of the Progress of the Pilgrim. The most remarkable of the others are the Pilgrim's Progress from Quakerism to Christianity,—the New Pilgrims, or the Pious Indian Convert,—the New Pilgrimage to the Heavenly Jerusalem,—the Female Pilgrim, or the Travels of Hephzibah,—and the Progress of the Pilgrim, Good Intent, in Jacobinical Times.
But is the Pilgrim's Progress itself an original composition ? Multitudes of allegorical works, or of works containing allegorical passages, more or less based on the idea of a pilgrimage, existed prior to the date of its publication; and may not some of these have suggested to Bunyan both the main plan of his allegory, and a goodly proportion of its characters and incidents? This question possesses great literary interest; and has been keenly debated from a year or two after the appearance of the Pilgrim down to the present day.
Some of Bunyan's contemporaries flatly asserted that his Pilgrim was a tissue of plagiarisms; and these he indignantly replied to in a very characteristic set of rhymes prefixed to his Holy War. But notwithstanding his denial, multitudes of great men, ever since—critics, poets, and theological writershave detracted from the fame of his originality, and affected to trace a less or greater portion of his best ideas to the works of previous authors. The more violent and sweeping of these, who represent him as mainly or entirely a plagiarist, do not deserve any notice; for they are abundantly refuted by Bunyan's poverty, his illiteracy, his seclusion from public libraries, his imprisonment in Bedford jail, and the authenticated facts and circumstances of his authorship, all which afford the strongest possible presumptive evidence that he never saw, and probably never heard of, the works to which he is alleged to have been indebted. Internal evidence too, is perfectly conclusive that he was at least essentially original,—that, if he owed any obligations at all to persons who wrote before him, they were few and trivial compared with the whole bulk and value of his work.
Several of his admirers, while contending that he was essentially original, assert or suppose that he made some borrowings, and think themselves clearsighted enough to espy the precise passages where he got them. Mr. Montgomery, for example, thinks he may have obtained the first idea of his story from a poem entitled “the Pilgrimage” in Whitney's Emblems; and Dr. Southey says that, in certain passages, he had certainly in his mind Bernard's “ Isle of Man, or the Legal Proceedings in Manshire against Sin.” But these at best are mere conjectures, and not by any means probable. Mr. Offor is the