Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/286

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Bunyan
Bunyan
280

An anonymous reply, entitled ‘Dirt wip’t off,’ supposed to be the joint production of Fowler and his curate, appeared the same year, almost rivalliug Bunyan in the mastery of abusive epithets. Bunyads last work before his enlargement, written in the early part of 1672, was the ‘Confession of my Faith and Reason of my Practice.' Its object was to vindicate his teaching and if possible to secure his liberty. That the imperishable allegory on which Bunyan's claim to immortality chiefly rests, the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,' was also written in prison, we know on Bunyan’s own authority. The ‘den’ in which he dreamed his wonderful dream is identified by himself, in the third or first complete edition of 1679, with ‘the gaol.' That this gaol was the strait and unwholesome lock-up house on Bedford bridge was long accepted as an undoubted fact. When it was shown that being a county prisoner it was impossible for him to have passed his twelve years’ captivity in a town gaol intended for casual oifenders, it was concluded that the county gaol, which was certainly the place of his incarceration, was also the place of the composition of the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.' This conclusion has been recently called in question by the Rev. J. Brown, who gives reasons for believing that the composition of the allegory belongs to a short six months’ confinement, which, according to the story told by his anonymous biographer, and confirmed by Charles Doe, he was subjected to at a later period. The date of this imprisonmemt is fixed by Mr. Brown as 1675, and, according to the account preserved in Asty’s ‘Life of Owen,’ he was released from it by the intervention of Dr. Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln, whose diocese then included the county of Bedford. The strongest argument in support of Mr. Brown’s view is the improbability that if the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress ’ had been written during the twelve years’ imprisonment which came to anend in 1672, it should have remained six years unpublished, the first edition not appearing till 1678. It was not Bunyan’s wav to keep his works so long in manuscript. Besides, in the author’s poetical ‘Apology for his Book,' his account of its composition and publication suggests that there was no such prolonged interval as the common accounts represent.

Bunyan’s twelve years imprisonment came to an end in 1672. With the covert intent of setting up the Roman catholic religion in England, Charles II had suspended all penal statutes against nonconformists and popish recusants Bunyan was one of those who profited by this infamous aubterfuge. His pardon under the great sealbears date 13 Sept. 1672. This, however, was no more than the official sanction of what had been already virtually granted and acted on. For Bunyan had received one of the first licences to preach given by the royal authority, dated 9 May of that year, and had been called to the pastorate of the nonconformist congregation at Bedford, of which he had been so long' a member, on the 21st of the preceding January. The church of St. John, which had been occupied by this congregation during the Protectorate, had, on the Restoration, returned to its rightful owners, and the place licensed for the exercise of Bunyan’s ministry was abarn inthe orchard belonging to a member ofthe body. This continued to be the place of meeting of the congregation until 1707, when a new chapel was erected on its site. Though Bunyan made Bedford the centre of his Work, he extended his ministrations through the whole county, and even beyond its limits One of hisiirst acts after his liberation was to apply to the government for licenses for preachers and preaching' places in the country rotmd. Among these he made stated circuits, being playful1y known as ‘Bishop Bunyan,' his diocese being a large one, and, in spite of strenuous efforts at repression by the ecclesiastical authorities, steadily increasing in magnitude and importance. It is interesting to notice that Bunyan's father, the tinker of Elstow, lived on till 1676, being buried at Elstow on 7 Feb, of that year. In his will, while leaving a shilling apiece to his famous son and his three other children, he bequeathed all he had to his third wife, Ann, who survived him four years, and was buried in the same churchyard as her husband on 25 Sept. 1680.

Bunyan’s active ministerial labours did not interfere with his literary work; this continued as prolific as when writing was almost the only relief from the tedium of his confinement. Besides minor works, in 1676 appeared the ‘Strait Gate,’ directed against an inconsistent profession of christianity by those who, in his graphic language, can ‘throw stones with both hands, after their religion as fast as their company, can live in water and out of water, run with the hare and kill with the hounds, carry fire in one hand and water in the other, very anythings.' This was succeeded in 1678 by thr first edition of the ‘Pilgrim's Progress,' and in the same year by the second, an the next year by the third, each with very important additions, including some of the best known and most characteristic personages, such as Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Mr. By-ends and his family, and Mrs. Diffidence, the wife of Giant Despair. ‘Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.' ‘with its musical title and soul-moving pleas,’ was published in 1678, and his ‘Treatise of the