How A Tinker Wrote A Novel
( Originally Published 1877 )
Travels of Christian
ONCE upon a time — years and years ago — I wanted some good Sunday book to read ; and when the want was made known, I was helped to a big, leather-bound, octavo book, which at first glance—notwithstanding one or two large splotches of gilt upon the back —did not look inviting. In the first place, what boy wants to grapple with a big octavo? Your precious old aunt will tell you what an octavo is, — that it means a book with its paper folded so as to make eight leaves of every sheet, whereas a duodecimo is one of paper folded so as to make twelve leaves to a sheet ; and this last is therefore much handier and every way better for boy use, —at least, I think so. Then it was bound in full calf —very suspiciously like a dictionary, and like—well, I must say it — like the Bible. I don't mean, of course, to breathe one word against that venerable volume ; but then, you know, when a fellow wants a good Sunday book, and knows just where the Bible is kept, and has read it ever so often, he doesn't want what looks too much like it.
However, there I was with the big book on my knee ; and there were pictures in it. These were stunning. There was a picture of a man with a great pack on his back, doing his best to get out of a huge bog ; and there were some people standing by, who didn't seem to help him much.
There was a picture of a prodigious giant, —fully as large as that in Jack and the Beanstalk story, — who was leading off two little men, —one of whom looked like the man that wore the big pack, and was near sinking in the bog. Then there was a splendid picture of this same little man walking up with all the pluck in the world, through a path, beside which were seated two old giants, who — judging from the bones which lay scattered around their seats — seemed to have been amusing themselves by eating up just such little men as the plucky one, who came marching up between them so bravely.
In short, the pictures carried the day ; and though it seemed droll Sunday work, I wanted amazingly to find out how this plucky little man got through with his bogs and giants.
So I set to.
Christian was the man's name, and he had a family. But he became pretty well satisfied that he was living in a city that would certainly be destroyed ; and was very much troubled about it, and couldn't sleep at night, nor let his family sleep.
So it happened that this Christian, after getting some directions from a man called Evangelist, "put out" one day, with his pack upon his back, and left his wife and children.
They did indeed run out after him so soon as they saw that he was fairly set off, and called to him very piteously and loudly, — which is not surprising, if he was a man of fair honesty ; but he — strangely enough, I think —put his fingers in his ears, and cried out, — "Life, life ! " I didn't, in fact, at all like the manner in which the book makes him leave his family behind him. His course may have been well enough ; but why shouldn't he have taken them along with him, instead of leaving his children to be looked after by that fellow Great-Hear— But I mustn't tell the story in advance.
His going off in this way made a great deal of noise in the neighborhood ; and a Mr. Pliable, who was something of a gossip, went out crossways to meet Christian, and have a chat with him, and was won over to keep by him, until they both tumbled into that great bog I spoke of. After floundering in this for a while, — Pliable abusing Christian for getting him in such a scrape, — they both crawled out. Pliable struck back, straight for home.
Christian kept on, — very wearily, with all that mire upon him in addition to his pack. A Mr. Worldly-Wiseman met him on the road. He was a pompous man, and had the air of knowing all that it was needful for anybody to know, and of having a well-filled purse besides.
When he heard that Christian was travelling to the Celestial City, he said, ` Pooh, nonsense ! " and advised him to go across to the town of Morality, where he himself had a snug house, which he sometimes occupied. My impression is that he offered to rent it to him at a low rate. He told Christian, moreover, that Squire Legality, who lived there also, would take off his pack for him, —which, unlike most travellers, he was very anxious to be rid of : indeed, if he had valued it very highly, I think Mr. Legality would have taken it off all the same — if he had fallen in his way.
Christian does make a side-start on the Morality-road ; but Evangelist sees him before he has gone far, and puts him into the path he first chose. This takes him through a wicket, —where the keeper is very kind, — and brings him after a while to a place called the Interpreter's house, where he sees many wonderful things,, — in visions, as it were. Among the rest, two boys named Patience and Passion, whom I haven't forgotten to this day. Patience took things very quietly, and had a good, honest, contented look ; —while Passion, with heaps of money, dashed it all abroad in a very reckless way.
He sees, too, here, — or thinks he sees (though it is hard to tell which of the two it is), a man shut up in a cage of despair, and who has a very sad time of it, beating against the bars of his den.
There was a house called Beautiful on his way, where he was received by two excellent persons, — Discretion and Charity. They took Christian to task, however, for having set off without his wife and family ; and his excuses were not of the best, I thought. However, they treated him well, and had him up in the morning to the top of the house, from which they pointed out to him the Delectable Mountains, that lay straight in his path. There couldn't be a finer country than that seemed to be, or than that proved to be, when he reached it at last. I don't think there was any thing in the book more enjoyable than that stoppage in the Delectable country ; the very thought of it for years after brought up the loveliest images of fountains and sweetly-flowing streams, and vineyards, and the most luscious of fruits.
I wondered why Christian did not stop there altogether. But it seemed to be a road whereon every one must travel — when once they had set foot upon it, — either in a wrong direction or a right one.
Vanity Fair was an extraordinary place he had to pass through, with a sort of world's exhibition always going on in it,—with a French Row, and an Italian Row, and a British Row : I am sure there would have been an American Row if the author had known as much of our people as of the rest of Vanity Fair.
As for the city, it was not very unlike New York : the judges were worse, I think ; and Faithful, — who was the best of men (at least, he seemed so), gets executed there.
Christian made good speed out of it — so soon as he could.
I can't undertake to give the full order of his travel ; but I know he met . a great monster, Apollyon, some-where, a prodigious creature with scales, equal to any thing in the Arabian Nights. He strode wide across the way on which Christian was making his pilgrimage, and gave fight to him. My heart stood in my mouth at the first reading of this battle. Would Christian win ? It was "nip and tuck " with them for a long time, and I was not sure how it could come out. But at last Christian gave this Apollyon a good punch under the fifth rib, and the dragon flew away.
There was a Giant Despair somewhere, who lived in Doubting Castle, in sight from the road. Christian was warned against him (I think he was in company with poor Faithful at this time), and they somehow strayed into his territory, and fell asleep.
This made one's heart beat. What if the giant should take a walk in their direction !
Why don't they wake up? —we thought. But they slept, and slept. And the giant did come that way, and haled them into his underground dungeons. I think I gave Christian up at this pass.
This giant had a wife called Diffidence, —which seemed a very funny name for a woman who advised the giant — after they had gone to bed — to give Christian and Faithful a good sound beating every morning after breakfast.
He did give them a beating, and a good many of them ; and Christian would have been murdered out-right if he had not bethought himself of a key he had — all the while — in his own bosom, and which would unlock any door in all Doubting Castle.
It was very stupid in him not to have thought of the key before ; but he didn't.
However, he used it at last, — unlocked the dungeon door, — helped up poor Faithful, — went along the stairs — very quietly, — tried another lock, — opened that (what if the giant should hear!), and it grated fearfully ; unlocked another and another, and at last they were safe outside once more, and made their way back to the true path which they had wandered from. They set up a column of some sort thereabout, —so that other people shouldn't get into the grounds of Doubting Castle again for want of warning. This was very good of them ; but I suspect it did not serve much purpose. Almost every-body stops to see Doubting Castle, and take the risk of being caught by Giant Despair.
Well, this plucky, earnest Christian went on, — meeting with hobgoblins, —worrying terribly in a certain Val-ley of Humiliation, —trembling as he walked between two great monsters called Pope and Pagan (he was foolish for that, — since these giants had their teeth drawn, or had worn off the sharp edges of them with long years of mumbling).
He enjoys himself hugely in the Delectable Mountains—(I was sure he would), and the hospitable shepherds entertain him very kindly : he reaches the worst in the valley of the waters of Death, but comes out all right at last by the shores of the river of Life, and passes on into the streets of the CELESTIAL CITY.
Don't forget that it was a Sunday on which I first read this book, and dreamed after it — of Apollyon (whom I imagined a monster bat, with wings ten feet long, and flapping them with a horrible, flesh-y sound) —also, of Giant Despair and his deep dungeon. (If Christian had happened to forget the key!)
I don't think I dreamed of old Worldly-Wiseman, or Pliable, or Legality, or Pick-thank. These are humble, riff-raff characters (to boys), compared with Apollyon. But the day will come when grown boys will reckon them worse monsters than even Apollyon, —by a great deal. I know I do.
There was a second part to this story, —though both parts were bound in one within the leather covers I told you of. It was too much together for one day's reading ; but I came to it all afterward.
The second part tells the story of Christian's wife and children. The good woman bewailed her husband, and bethought herself sorrily if she had been always to him what she should have been. She didn't for a moment accuse him for not taking her with him ; it appears now indeed —as if the author of the book had thought better of it — that poor Christian did urge and urge, over and over, that wife and children should together set off ; and that he did not put his fingers in his ears in that selfish way until all hope seemed gone.
Of course it had made much stir in their town, that Christian should have gone off in that manner ; and there were all kinds of rumors as to what had happened to him, and many reports of his adventures ; there were those even who undertook to say where he actually was at present, and what sort of robes he was wearing, &c. As if they knew !
But Christiana —that was the name of Christian's wife—did not cease to vex herself; and after much thinking, determined to set off on the same journey her good husband (she thought him good now that he was gone) had taken the year (it may have been two years) before.
When the packing began, and the news spread, you may be sure there was a new stir in the town : the gossips had a great feast in talking of it; and many of them came to reason with Christiana, — and to see what wardrobe she might be carrying ; and to bid her an affectionate good-by, and see what hat she might be wearing on the journey.
One charming young person, whose name was Mercy, and who was no gossip at all, and never knew how many flounces anybody wore to their skirts, or what they cost, —determined to go with Christiana. Christiana could not have had a better companion.
So they set off — children and all — this time. The Slough of Despond (being the bog spoken of) was still there, and in bad condition. The king of that country had indeed given orders to mend this slough ; and it was said thousands of loads of waste material had been dumped there, —for which the bills had been paid, — still there was no sign of mending, and it continued as grievous and plaguing as if it had been a highway of a New-England town with the regularly elected select-men puttering around it.
But Mercy guides them through safely ; and they go in high spirits through the first wicket, and reach in good time the Interpreter's house.
They see many things here — by reason, I suppose, of there being women of the party—which even Christian did not see; amongst others, — a man raking everlastingly in a muck-heap, and never looking up. He was said to be a kind of stock-broker.
Great-Heart, the real hero of this second journey, takes them in charge to go on to the House Beautiful, and wards off a great many dangers from them on the way, — putting to death on the road a stout man by the name of Grim, who gave a great fright to Christiana's boys. Indeed, he showed such valor that the women entreated — Mercy especially — that he should keep by them altogether. He seems to have done so ; at least, he was always near when there was any fighting to be done.
There was a dapper little lawyer called Brisk, who introduced himself to the party at the House Beautiful,—he being a temporary boarder like themselves. He was a fine-spoken man, though a little airy. He greatly ad-mired Mercy's housekeeping ways with her needle. He asks her how much she could earn at it ?
Aha, Lawyer Brisk ! But she wouldn't listen to his love-making ; and I was very glad when she said " No " to him.
If, indeed, it had been Great-Heart !
One of Christiana's boys fell sick hereabouts with gripes,—from eating apples that fell from over the wall of Beelzebub's garden (I dare say Matthew shook them off himself). He is so poorly that they call in a Doctor Skill, who has a large practice, and puts up pills which give the go-by very quickly to Beelzebub's apples.
As they go on, Great-Heart kindly shows the boys where their father Christian fought with Apollyon ; and he warns them all in the Valley of Humiliation to keep close by him. And it was extraordinary how the phantoms and monsters that threatened and growled, vanished when Great-Heart marched straight upon them without blinking. Lions, for instance, whose great feet the boys can hear pattering up over the grass after them in the dark, when once they stand and face them, with Great-Heart close by, — turn, and are heard no more.
It's not so, however, with giant Maul : the fight with him was one of the hardest in the book. What a picture there was of it ! I would have liked to show you a copy of it; but the printers who control these things say such pictures cost immensely, and wouldn't hear of it.
This Maul has a huge club, which he brandishes, and fetches Great-Heart a blow with it that brings that brave man to his knee. Mercy screamed, and thought it had been all up with him ; and so indeed did I, — at the first reading. But he gets upon his legs, and, after long parrying, gives Maul a thrust between his ribs that makes an end of him, and puts the boys and poor trembling Christiana in good case once more.
I forget now where, — but at one point they came up with old Honesty, — one of the very best fellows in all the book. It is so refreshing to meet with a new character ! The only thing I disliked about him was his putting in a favoring word when somebody hinted that Mercy should marry Matthew, — the boy who was made sick with eating Beelzebub's apples. I never liked this. She was too fine a woman. Yet such young fellows somehow always get the fine women, and don't get — over eating Beelzebub's apples.
When the party came up to the stile that led over into the grounds of Doubting Castle, Great-Heart proposed to go over and call out giant Despair, and make an end of him.
At this point I remember my heart beat pit-a-pat again. Would he do it? Would the giant come out? Would Great-Heart have the better of him ? What if the giant should throw a rock out of the windows upon him ? Then there were nets in those grounds, and pitfalls ; and Mrs. Diffidence with her hot water and spits.
However, Great-Heart did go ; and did call him out ; and did slay giant Despair, — as much as such a character can be slain. That Doubting Castle was pulled down then and there ; but there has been a new one built, with modern improvements. The gentlemen who occupy it — philosophers among them — don't waylay strangers in the old manner : in fact, they give them strong, juicy meats to eat, and set them on the road again, in high spirits, — back to the town of Morality. There have been stories, however, that some of the younger dwellers in Doubting Castle, have, in a fit of passion, brained an innocent visitor or two, with some of the old bones lying about the premises.
They push on after this without very great adventures. They have a nice time at those dear Delectable Mountains, and through a spy-glass catch a glimpse of the Celestial City. Some think they see it, and some think they don't.
They don't mind the dangers of the Enchanted Ground much. Mistress Bubble with her fawning and fine jewels, and offer of soirées (I presume she gave amateur theatric shows), did not wheedle them at all.
They came to Beulah at last, and to the river brink, - and sang as they looked, —
Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood Stand dressed in living green."
Ah, but that Great-Heart was a noble fellow 1 Mercy ought to have married him; but it didn't end so. Great-Heart never married.
Well, that story in the leathern covers, and as big as a Bible, has been printed by hundreds of thousands, and has been translated into all the languages of Europe. And it was written by a travelling tinker. Think of that !
John Bunyan was his name ; and he was born in a house built of timber and clay (which was standing not many years ago), in the little village of Elstow, near to Bedford, England.
Bedfordshire is a beautiful county : there are fine farms and great houses, and beautiful parks in it ; but this man, John Bunyan, was the son of a travelling tinker, and was born there only a few years after the pilgrims landed from the Mayflower on Plymouth Rock. He says of himself that he was a wild lad, swearing dreadfully, going about with his father to tinker broken tea-pots, lying under hedges, having narrow escapes from death—once, falling into the river Ouse, and another time handling an adder, and pulling out his fangs with his fingers.
But he fell in with Puritan preachers, who "waked his conscience ; " for he lived just in the heart of those times which are described in Walter Scott's novel of "Woodstock," and in that other novel of "Peveril of the Peak ; " and he didn't think much of episcopacy or bishops ; and at last he took to preaching himself, — having left off all his evil courses.
He married too, and had four children, - one of them, poor Mary Bunyan, blind from her birth. Bunyan loved this girl greatly. I think when he wrote of Mercy, — he thought of Mary Bunyan.
He fought in the civil wars under Cromwell, and it is possible enough that he may have seen Charles the First go out to execution. Maybe he was one of those crazy fellows who came to Ditchley (in Scott's novel) to help capture the runaway, Charles the Second, who was gallivanting in that time in the household of old Sir Arthur Lee. He throve while the Commonwealth lasted ; but when Charles the Second was called back to the throne in 1660 (John Bunyan being then thirty-two years old), it was a hard time for Puritans, and worst of all for such Puritan of Puritans as the Puritan preacher, — Bunyan.
They tried him for holding disorderly religious meetings ; and he put a brave face on it, and contested his right ; but this only made the matter worse for him, and they condemned him to perpetual banishment. Some-how, this judgment was changed in such a way, that Bunyan, in place of being shipped to Holland or America (where he would have found a parish), was clapped into Bedford Jail, where he lay (he tells us) " twelve entire years." He had no book there but the Bible and Fox's Book of Martyrs. He made tag-lace to support his family, the while he was in jail, and bemoaned very much the possible fate of his poor blind daughter Mary.
While he was living his prison life, country people in England were reading the newly printed book by Isaac Walton, called the Complete Angler ; and during the same period of time, John Milton published his Paradise Lost ; and in that Bedford Jail, in those same years, John Bunyan wrote the story I have told you of, called the Pilgrim's Progress.
He came out of jail afterwards, —a good two hundred years ago today, —and took to preaching again. But he preached no sermon that was heard so widely, or ever will be, as his preachments in the Pilgrim's Progress.
He went on some errand of charity in his sixtieth year, and took a fever, and died in 1688. It was the very year in which the orthodox people of England had set on foot the revolution which turned out the Popish King James the Second, and brought in the Protestant William and Mary. Poor John Bunyan would have seen better times if he had lived in their day, and better yet if he had lived in ours, and written in the magazines as well as he wrote about Great-Heart.
Live as long as you may, you can never outlive the people that he set up in his story.
Messrs. Legality, and Cheat, and Love-lust, and Carnal-mind, we meet every day in society. Every boy and girl of you all will go by and by — slump — into some Slough of Despond ; and God help you, if the pack you carry into it is big! Always, and at all times, there must be thwacking at dragons in our own valleys of humiliation ; and if the teeth of giant Pope are pulled, giant Despair—whatever Great-Heart may have done —will be sure to catch us some day in Doubting Castle, or somewhere else.
In fact, I don't much believe that Great-Heart did kill him ; and think—to that extent—the work is fictitious.
Giant Despair lives, you may be sure of it,—perhaps not in that same old Doubting Castle, which was probably pulled down. But he has a great many fine residences—in the city, and in the country too.
And he has a new wife; and her name is not Diffidence now—oh, no ! but it is sometimes Dame Swagger, and sometimes Miss Spending, and sometimes Mrs. Dividends, and sometimes Lady Heartless.
As for that Valley of the Shadow of Death,—who that has lived since Bunyan died, or who that shall live henceforth, may escape its bewilderments and its terrors ? The poor tinker and preacher, —the zealous writer who made his words cleave like sharp knives, sleeps now quietly (to all seeming) in a grave on Bunhill Fields. And we shall have our resting-places marked out too, before many more crops of autumn leaves shall fall to the ground ; but evermore, the path to such resting-place, for such as he, and for such as we, must lie straight through the awful Valley of the Shadow of Death.
It would be a sad story if there were no Celestial City.