He was a troublemaker. That afternoon, as he was playing tip-cat (a game in which a small piece of wood is hit with a bat) on Elstow village green, he heard a voice from the heavens "Wilt thou leave thy sins, and go to Heaven? [26], In prison, Bunyan had a copy of the Bible and of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs, as well as writing materials. The women were in fact some of the founding members of the Bedford Free Church or Meeting and Bunyan, who had been attending the parish church of Elstow, was so impressed by their talk that he joined their church. In March 1675, following Charles II's withdrawal of the Declaration of Religious Indulgence, John was again imprisoned for preaching. Firstly he became embroiled in a scandal concerning a young woman called Agnes Beaumont. He became interested in religion after his marriage, attending first the parish church and then joining the Bedford Meeting, a nonconformist group in Bedford, and becoming a preacher. In Grace Abounding Bunyan recorded few details of his upbringing, but he did note how he picked up the habit of swearing (from his father), suffered from nightmares, and read the popular stories of the day in cheap chap-books. He lied, stole, cursed, and got into fights. The earliest edition in which the two parts combined in one volume came in 1728. He continually heard voices urging him to "sell Christ" and was tortured by fearful visions. In 1658, aged 30, he was arrested for preaching at Eaton Socon and indicted for preaching without a licence. [10] Bunyan spent nearly three years in the army, leaving in 1647 to return to Elstow and his trade as a tinker. [38], In 1874, a bronze statue of John Bunyan, sculpted by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, was erected in Bedford. [33], In 1688, on his way to London, Bunyan made a detour to Reading, Berkshire, to try and resolve a quarrel between a father and son. [30], Two events marred Bunyan's life during the later 1670s. It is a classic example of a spiritual autobiography, and thus is focused on his own spiritual journey; his motive in writing it was plainly to exalt the Christian concept of grace and to comfort those passing through experiences like his own. All rights reserved. Elizabeth, who made strenuous attempts to obtain his release, had been pregnant when her husband was arrested and she subsequently gave birth prematurely to a still-born child. The Pilgrim's Progress is arguably one of the most widely known allegories ever written, and has been extensively translated. Like Thomas, she was from Elstow and was also born in 1603. After the restoration of the monarch, when the freedom of nonconformists was curtailed, Bunyan was arrested and spent the next twelve years in jail as he refused to give up preaching. Bunyan came from the village of Elstow, near Bedford. In 1862 a recumbent statue was created to adorn his grave. [46], Bunyan's work, in particular The Pilgrim's Progress, has reached a wider audience through stage productions, film, TV, and radio. There are few details available about his military service, which took place during the first stage of the English Civil War. Bunyan was freed in May 1672 and immediately obtained a licence to preach under the declaration of indulgence. [47] Authors who have been influenced by Bunyan include C. S. Lewis, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott and George Bernard Shaw. In Michael Davies and W. R. Owens, eds. He also increasingly identified himself with St. Paul, who had characterised himself as "the chief of sinners.". The family's name was originally the Old French Buignon, and is first noted in 1199 at neaby Wilsamsted (Wilstead), the first member or members coming to England as Norman feudal retainers. John was brought before the magistrate John Wingate at Harlington House and refused to desist from preaching. John's wife's name is not recorded, but the Bunyan's first, blind, daughter (born in 1650), was called Mary, and it is possible that she was named after her mother. To go free, all John Bunyan had to do was make one promise. It remains the book for which Bunyan is best remembered. Or have thy sins, and go to Hell? [46] Although popular interest in Bunyan waned during the second half of the twentieth century, academic interest in the writer has increased and Oxford University Press brought out a new edition of his works, beginning in 1976. He was also influenced by Martin Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, in the translation of 1575. The offence was punishable by 3 months imprisonment followed by banishment or execution if the person then failed to promise not to re-offend. After three years in the army he returned to Elstow and took up the trade of tinker, which he had learned from his father. [22] He was sentenced to three months imprisonment with transportation to follow if at the end of this time he didn't agree to attend the parish church and desist from preaching. [42] By 1938, 250 years after Bunyan's death, more than 1,300 editions of the book had been printed. A stage work by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which the composer styled a Morality, based on The Pilgrim's Progress was first performed at the Royal Opera House in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain and revived in 2012 by the English National Opera.

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