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THOMAS THOMPSON, ESQ.
THE HONOURABLE MRS. THOMPSON,
OF POUNDSFORD PARK, SOMERSETSHIRE,
AND VAN BURGH HOUSE, GREENWICH,
Ark of Bunyan's Remains,
BY THEIR FRIEND,
Jan. 1, 1839.
FOREIGNERS have long wondered, that a century and a half should have passed away without producing a Life of Bunyan. We ourselves can hardly explain this anomaly in our biographical literature. It has certainly not arisen, however, from any national indifference to Bunyan. Perhaps, the real reason is, that we identify him with his Pilgrim : for CHRISTIAN is, in one sense, as Montgomery has well said, “a whole-length Portrait of the Author himself.” We thus feel that we can know nothing better of Bunyan; and therefore we let our curiosity fall asleep. And yet, it ought to occur to us, that he was not likely to tell all the best, concerning himself, even in an Allegory; for he was as modest as he was frank. Besides, his Pilgrim never writes Books, nor preaches Sermons; and thus neither the literary nor the ministerial life of Bunyan has any place in the Allegory. In like manner, neither Doubting Castle, nor the Cage at Vanity Fair, is any emblem of his own imprisonment in Bedford Jail.
These considerations would have weighed with the public, and even led to a demand for a real Life of Bunyan, long ago, had not every new biographical Sketch, repeated merely the old facts. This repressed curiosity; especially when neither Dr. Southey nor Mr. Conder added any thing to the old facts, but new and beautiful forms. Even Mr. Ivimey, the historian of the Baptists, made but few discoveries, although he threw some valuable lights upon both “the Pilgrim” and “Grace Abounding.”
There is neither censure nor sarcasm in these remarks. No one, perhaps, who had only a literary purpose to answer, “would have prepared an Ark for the saving” of Bunyan's Remains : whereas, the Author of this Volume had to complete the design of his “Experimental Guides for the Perplexed and Doubting,” by an explanation of the wonderful and mysterious experience of John Bunyan. He had thus a motive which compelled him to search diligently. He had also, on
both sides of the Atlantic, a circle of readers, large - enough for his ambition, and upon whom he could
calculate, if his researches were successful. They have been so, beyond even his most sanguine expectations.
He discovered much that was unknown or unnoticed hitherto, as well as much to enlarge and illustrate what is best known in the history of Bunyan. Whilst, therefore, the Work is partly experimental, it is chiefly biographical, and intended equally for the world and the Church. It claims, indeed, to be as complete a. Life of Bunyan, as his own documents, or the traditions of his country, can furnish, at this late period: for although as the Ark of his Remains, it has more pitch than paint upon it, and is rather Puritanical than fashionable in its shape : it is not ill stored with facts, nor overloaded with private opinions. There are, indeed, both opinions and principles in it, and not few of them; but they are neither “creeping things in their form, nor uncatholic in their spirit. They are not ceremonious; but they are never sectarian, except Protestantism be so.
This Volume will be followed by a Standard Family Edition of the Pilgrim's Progress, from Bunyan's revised text; and illustrated by old Prints or new Drawings of its local Scenery, and with Notes chiefly from his own pen. Some of the Prints were intended for his Life; but only that of his Cottage could be finished in time. When ready, however, they may be had, separately, to bind up with this Volume.