PURITAN'S PROGRESS: A Study of John Bunyan by Monica Furlong

PURITAN'S PROGRESS: A Study of John Bunyan

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The known facts of Bunyan's life are meager enough to require a good deal of either imaginative or scholarly supplementation on the part of would-be biographers; he yields little to pious dilettantism. Unfortunately, Furlong views Puritan thought and culture through a condescending haze which blurs or fragments its astonishing intellectual scope and consistency--perhaps on the assumption that this context doesn't have to be taken into scrupulous account in dealing with a self-taught ""mechanick preacher."" Missing what is unique about the mental and spiritual climate that produced Bunyan, she misses what is unique about the man and his work. More's the pity because Furlong is obviously moved by Bunyan. She narrates his life with simplicity: the ""dunghill"" beginnings as a Bedfordshire tinker's son, the protracted religious conversion described in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, the twelve-year imprisonment (for preaching to ""unlawful assemblies"") which produced the first part of Pilgrim's Progress, the continuing fame as a preacher. She gives general outlines and rather truncated analyses of the major works; the emphasis is on the stories as stories and as records of spiritual journeys, and their doctrinal aspects are treated as a necessary evil rather than as an integral artistic element. Much time is spent on psycholiterary speculation which fills in the bothersome lacunae in Bunyan's life with extensive inferences from Erikson's study of Luther (who conveniently shared ""an extraordinary number"" of Bunyan's characteristics). Surprisingly, Furlong is somewhat more convincing when she generalizes about the psychological substratum of the Puritan movement. However, good intentions and occasional insights are no substitute for systematic exploration; the field remains open for a really challenging popular study.

Pub Date: Dec. 18th, 1975
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan