He exhorted his hearers to prepare themselves by fasting and prayer for the danger which menaced their civil and religious liberties, and refused even to speak to the courtier who came down to remodel the corporation of Bedford, and who, as was supposed, had it in charge to offer some municipal dignity to the bishop of the Baptists.

Bunyan did not live to see the Revolution.[8] In the summer of 1688 he undertook to plead the cause of a son with an angry father, and at length prevailed on the old man not to disinherit the young one. This good work cost the benevolent intercessor his life. He had to ride through heavy rain. He came drenched to his lodgings on Snow Hill, was seized with a violent fever, and died in a few days (August 31). He was buried in Bunhill Fields; and many Puritans, to whom the respect paid by Roman Catholics to the reliques and tombs of saints seemed childish or sinful, are said to have begged with their dying breath that their coffins might be placed as near as possible to the coffin of the author of the Pilgrim's Progress.

The fame of Bunyan during his life, and during the century which followed his death, was indeed great, but was almost entirely confined to religious families of the middle and lower classes. Very seldom was he during that time mentioned with respect by any writer of great literary eminence. Young coupled his prose with the poetry of the wretched D'Urfey. In the Spiritual Quixote, the adventures of Christian are ranked with those of Jack the Giant-Killer and John Hickathrift. Cowper ventured to praise the great allegorist, but did not venture to name him. It is a significant circumstance that, for a long time all the numerous editions of the Pilgrim's Progress were evidently meant for the cottage and the servants' hall. The paper, the printing, the plates, were all of the meanest description. In general, when the educated minority and the common people differ about the merit of a book, the opinion of the educated minority finally prevails. The Pilgrim's Progress is perhaps the only book about which the educated minority has come over to the opinion of the common people.

The attempts which have been made to improve and to imitate this book are not to be numbered. It has been done into verse; it has been done into modern English. The Pilgrimage of Tender Conscience, the Pilgrimage of Good Intent, the Pilgrimage of Seek Truth, the Pilgrimage of Theophilus, the Infant Pilgrim, the Hindoo Pilgrim, are among the many feeble copies of the great original. But the peculiar glory of Bunyan is that those who most hated his doctrines have tried to borrow the help of his genius. A Catholic version of his parable may be seen with the head of the virgin in the title-page. On the other hand, those Antinomians for whom his Calvinism is not strong enough, may study the Pilgrimage of Hephzibah, in which nothing will be found which can be construed into an admission of free agency and universal redemption. But the most extraordinary of all the acts of Vandalism by which a fine work of art was ever defaced was committed in the year 1853. It was determined to transform the Pilgrim's Progress into a Tractarian book. The task was not easy; for it was necessary to make two sacraments the most prominent objects in the allegory, and of all Christian theologians, avowed Quakers excepted, Bunyan was the one in whose system the sacraments held the least prominent place.

However, the Wicket Gate became a type of baptism, and the House Beautiful of the eucharist. The effect of this change is such as assuredly the ingenious person who made it never contemplated. For, as not a single pilgrim passes through the Wicket Gate in infancy, and as Faithful hurries past the House Beautiful without stopping, the lesson which the fable in its altered shape teaches, is that none but adults ought to be baptized, and that the eucharist may safely be neglected. Nobody would have discovered from the original Pilgrim's Progress that the author was not a Paedobaptist. To turn his book into a book against Paedobaptism, was an achievement reserved for an Anglo-Catholic divine. Such blunders must necessarily be committed by every man who mutilates parts of a great work, without taking a comprehensive view of the whole.


The above article has been slightly corrected as to facts, as compared with its form in the 9th edition. Bunyan's works were first partially collected in a folio volume (1692) by his friend Charles Doe. A larger edition (2 vols., 1736-1737) was edited by Samuel Wilson of the Barbican. In 1853 a good edition (3 vols., Glasgow) was produced by George Offer. Southey's edition (1830) of the Pilgrim's Progress contained his Life of Bunyan. Since then various editions of the Pilgrim's Progress, many illustrated (by Cruikshank, Byam Shaw, W. Strang and others), have appeared. An interesting life by "the author of Mark Rutherford" (W. Hale White) was published in 1904. Other lives are by J.A. Froude (1880) in the "English Men of Letters" series, and E. Venables (1888); but the standard work on the subject is John Bunyan; his Life, Times and Work (1885), by the Rev. J. Brown of Bedford. A bronze statue, by Boehm, was presented to the town by the duke of Bedford in 1874.

[1] The name, in various forms as Buignon, Buniun, Bonyon or Binyan, appears in the local records of Elstow and the neighbouring parishes at intervals from as far back as 1199. They were small freeholders, but all the property except the cottage had been lost in the time of Bunyan's grandfather. Bunyan's own account of his family as the "meanest and most despised of all the families of the land" must be put down to his habitual self-depreciation. Thomas Bunyan had a forge and workshop at Elstow.

[2] There is no direct evidence to show on which side he fought, but the balance of probability justifies this view.

[3] There is no means of identifying the place besieged. It has been assumed to be Leicester, which was captured by the Royalists in May 1645, and recovered by Fairfax in the next month.

[4] Bunyan had joined, in 1653, the nonconformist community which met under a certain Mr Gifford at St John's church, Bedford. This congregation was not Baptist, properly so called, as the question of baptism, with other doctrinal points, was left open. When Bunyan removed to Bedford in 1655, he became a deacon of this church, and two years later he was formally recognized as a preacher, his fame soon spreading through the neighbouring counties. His wife died soon after their removal to Bedford, and he also lost his friend and pastor, Mr Gifford. His earliest work was directed against Quaker mysticism and appeared in 1656. It was entitled Some Gospel Truths Opened; it was followed in the same year by a second tract in the same sense, A Vindication of Gospel Truths.

[5] He was not, however, as has often been stated, confined in the old gaol which stood on the bridge over the Ouse, but in the county gaol.

[6] His formal pardon is dated the 13th of September 1672; but five months earlier he had received a royal licence to preach, and acted for the next three years as pastor of the nonconformist body to which he belonged, in a barn on the site of which stands the present Bunyan Meeting.

[7] It is now generally supposed that Bunyan wrote his Pilgrim's Progress, not during his twelve years' imprisonment, but during a short period of incarceration in 1675, probably in the old gaol on the bridge.

[8] He had resumed his pastorate in Bedford after his imprisonment of 1675, and, although he frequently preached in London to crowded congregations, and is said in the last year of his life to have been, of course unofficially, chaplain to Sir John Shorter, lord mayor of London, he remained faithful to his own congregation.