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Bunyan, John (1628 - 1688)

English writer, author of The Pilgrim's Progress (first part 1678, second part 1684), one of the best - known religious allegories in English. A Baptist, he was imprisoned in Bedford 1660 - 72 for unlicensed preaching and wrote Grace Abounding in 1666, which describes his early spiritual life. He started to write The Pilgrim's Progress during a second jail sentence 1676 - 77. Written in straightforward language with fervour and imagination, it achieved immediate popularity and was highly influential.

Early life

Bunyan was born in Elstow, near Bedford. At 16, he was drafted into the Parliamentary army to fight in the Civil War. His military career, probably his first experience of stern and impassioned Puritanism, was brief, and in 1647 he returned to Elstow. In 1649 he married his first wife, Margaret Bentley, who introduced him to the religious work The Plaine Man's Path - way to Heaven which exerted a powerful influence on Bunyan; the origin of specific images, such as the Man with the Muck Rake in The Pilgrim's Progress, have been traced to it.

Preacher and writer

Following a period of religious doubts and struggles, during which he suffered a strong conviction of sin, which attached itself to his mild vices of swearing, dancing, and Sunday games, he underwent a conversion experience and joined the Baptists in 1653. He became more cheerful and began preaching in neighbouring villages and publishing religious pamphlets. His first wife died in 1656 and he married his second wife in about 1659. In 1660 he was committed to Bedford county jail for unlawful preaching, where he remained for 12 years, refusing all offers of release conditional on his not preaching again. Set free in 1672, he was elected pastor of the Bedford congregation, but in 1676 he was again arrested and imprisoned for six months in the jail on Bedford Bridge. Other works include The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1680) and The Holy War (1682).

(Excerpted from Hutchinson Multimedia Encyclopaedia 2000)