Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > John Bunyan. Andrew Marvell > Its influence
  The Pilgrim’s Progress The Holy War  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

VII. John Bunyan. Andrew Marvell.

§ 6. Its influence.

As to Bunyan’s subsequent influence on English life and literature, it is to be remembered that, above everything else, his desire was to be a religious teacher, that it would have been against his conscience to aim at mere literary distinction and success. It would have gratified him beyond expression could he have known that The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the few books which act as a religious bond for the whole of English Christendom. As a creator of fictitious personalities, he has charmed the world, weaving them into a story of universal interest and lasting vitality. The most perfect and complex of fairy tales, as Hallam called the book, it has not only won the hearts of children at an age when its spiritual meaning is little perceived, but it has also been the interpreter of life to men perplexed with life’s problems. “This is the great merit of the book,” said Dr. Johnson, “that the most cultivated man cannot find anything to praise more highly, and the child knows nothing more amusing;” and even Swift could testify that he had been better entertained and more improved by a few pages of this allegory than by more pretentious books of another kind. Still, the literary class, as a whole, did not at the time, or long after, give the book appreciative welcome. Cowper was afraid to introduce Bunyan’s name into his poetry lest he should provoke a sneer. Addison, in disparaging fashion, said that he never knew an author that had not his admirers, for Bunyan pleased as many readers as Dryden or Tillotson; and Mrs. Montague, following in his wake, called Bunyan and Quarles “those classics of the artificers in leather,” laughing at them as forming the particular entertainment of her neighbours, the Kentish squires. On the other hand, Mrs. Piozzi asks, “Who shall say that Lillo, Bunyan and Antonio Correggio were not naturally equal to Jonson, Michael Angelo and the Archbishop of Cambrai?” And Horace Walpole evidently thought he was paying Edmund Spenser a compliment when he spoke of him as “John Bunyan in rhyme.”   18
  While the learned class differed widely in judgment, the general world of readers never wavered in their favourable estimate of the book. Between 1678, when it first appeared, and 1778, thirty-three editions of part I and fifty-nine editions of parts I and II together were issued, and then publishers left off counting. It is computed that one hundred thousand copies were sold in Bunyan’s own lifetime. Nor was its literary influence confined to his own country. Three years after its publication, it was reprinted by the puritan colony in America, there receiving, as Bunyan himself tells us, “much loving countenance.” And there it has continued ever since, in untold number of editions; and, with Shakespeare, it forms part of the literary bond which unites the two English-speaking peoples on each side of the Atlantic.   19
  Bunyan’s allegory was translated into Dutch and French in 1682. The first edition in German appeared in 1694, many successive editions following in its wake. F. H. Ranke tells us that, as a young man at Nürnberg, he met with a copy of an edition of 1703, translated from the Dutch, which made such an impression upon him that he formed classes of young men for the study of the book; and Gustav Kettner suggests that, in two of Schiller’s poems, Der Pilgrim and Die Sehnsucht, Bunyan’s influence is distinctly traceable. Jung-Stilling also records with what pleasure he read the book; Wieland, too, after telling an English traveller at Weimar how The Pilgrim’s Progress had delighted him, went on to say, “In that book I learned to read English; English literature had great influence upon me, your puritan writings particularly.”   20
  Other translations of Bunyan’s dream have gone on multiplying down to the present time. There are now versions of The Pilgrim’s Progress in no fewer than one hundred and eight different languages and dialects, so that it is no mere poetical figure to say, as has been said, that it follows the Bible from land to land as the singing of birds follows the dawn.   21

  The Pilgrim’s Progress The Holy War  

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