Christiana and Mercy at the Slough of Despond
Christiana and Mercy at the Slough of Despond, from The Pilgrim's Progress, published by Kronheim & Co., circa 1850s
The Pilgrim's Progress was written by John Bunyan and was first published in 1678. It has been considered one of the most significant religious works in English literature. A Christian allegory, it has been translated into more than two hundred different languages and has been continuously in print for nearly three hundred fifty years.
Comprised of two parts, it is written as a continuous narrative. The first part follows Christian as he travels, carrying the burden of his sin, from his home in the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Along his journey, he meets those who try to help him toward salvation, as well as those who try to turn him from the path. Similarly, the second part tells of his wife Christiana's pilgrimage to the Celestial City along with their sons and Mercy. Their journey takes longer and better allegorizes Christian life. Since part two uses heroines, it demonstrates that women can be pilgrims of Christ just as men can be. This colored illustration, from part two, depicts the travelers about to cross the Slough of Despond to reach the Wicket Gate.
John Bunyan (1628-1688) was an English preacher and Christian writer best known as the author of The Pilgrim's Progress. He received some sort of education but scholars are unsure as to the location and extent of his schooling. He took up tinkering as a profession and after serving three years in the Parliamentary Army, during the English Civil War, he returned to his work as a tinker. According to him, his youth years were marked by sinful acts of profanity and impiety. Bunyan states that he was redirected from such a life after hearing the voice of God chastising him for his idleness. He began to pursue a religious life and was baptized at St. John's Church. In 1655, he and his family moved to Bedford and he began preaching. As his popularity grew he became a target of slander and was imprisoned several times for preaching without a license. The Pilgrim's Progress was begun during his time at the Bedford County Gaol.
- Naomi Bean