28 June 2012

Alexander Baron: Rosie Hogarth (1951; repr. 2010)

Rosie Hogarth is Alexander Baron's third novel, coming after From the City, from the Plough (1948) and There's No Home (1950). Set in the Angel area of Islington, predominantly in the fictional Lamb Street which may well be inspired by Baron Street near Chapel Market – and which may also be the inspiration for Alexander Baron's name change from Bernstein – Rosie Hogarth explores a working-class community through the central character Jack Agass, who has just returned to London in 1949 after the end of the war, following civilian work in Persia.

Now thirty, Jack wants to settle down and is welcomed back to Lamb Street as a lodger in the Wakerell household, Mrs Wakerell seeing him as a strong candidate for her daughter Joyce's husband.

Rosie Hogarth underlines the sometimes very subtle class differences in the working class itself – how the respectable Angel area contrasts with the less respectable Hoxton; the insufferable snobbishness of Joyce's sister-in-law Gwendoline (and its attendant, psychologically violent divisiveness); Jack and Joyce's embarrassment as Mrs Wakerell trumpets her daughter and future son-in-law's relative wealth; and Joyce's own social aloofness.

But Joyce's aloofness is mainly a symptom of the alienation several of the characters experience. The brain-damaged 'Barmy' Naughton is the novel's central outsider, stamped by that epithet which perpetuates, indeed defines, his difference – but Jack and Joyce (and the lesser character Mr Wakerell) are wounded too.

The novel was written before the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies freed so many people from their inhibitions, and although sex is clearly close to the surface of these working-class lives, although pre- and extra-marital sex are (largely tacitly) rampant, these inhibitions still form a strong retaining wall which prevents the expression of natural desires. Mix sexual taboos with a certain shy predispositon, expecially if the subject's partner is also shy, and a kind of stalemate results, making communication difficult if not impossible.

Such (though not necessarily sexual) inhibitions are a key theme in the book, as is memory. Jack was an orphan brought up by Kate Hogarth, whose daughter Rosie he remembers fondly and with whom he seems to be in love. Rosie appears to be everything Joyce is not – contrast the sexual attractiveness and sexual confidence of Rosie with Joyce, a timid, rather plain virgin who retreats behind her glasses, and it is evident that a sexually frustrated Jack will be drawn to Rosie like a moth to a flame. And Rosie can burn.

I'm not too sure that I find the secret revolutionary Rosie hiding behind a smokescreen of assumed prostitution all that believable though, and I'm not the only one. In the Introduction to the novel, Andrew Whitehead quotes Alison Macleod – who, with her husband Jack Selford, had known Baron well – as saying that he wasn't completely successful in his depiction of her; Whitehead continues by expressing strong doubts about the 'Shavian-style dialogue about politics and society' that takes place between Rosie and her father Mick Monaghan near the end of the novel.*

But this is a powerful book: Baron doesn't do stereotypes, and his characters are convincingly drawn with their all illusions, their doubts, and their contradictions. This is published by New London Editions, an imprint of Five Leaves, and is a welcome addition to the recover of Baron's hitherto almost forgotten oeuvre.

*Alison Macleod was once a longtime television critic with the Daily Worker, a committee member of Unity Theatre, and is the author of the story of her disillusionment with communism: The Death of Uncle Joe (1997); she is incidentally also the niece of Rebecca West. Significantly, while we're on the subject of Shavian issues, Alison once wrote to me to register astonishment that anyone should be interested in Lionel Britton: Herbert Marshall had once wanted to put on Britton's Spacetime Inn (1932) – in which a central character called Bernard Shaw appears – at Unity Theatre, but the committee had objected on the grounds that they saw it as 'pretentious piffle'.

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Alexander Baron: There's No Home

James Agee / Walker Evans: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941)

A unshaven man dressed in a crumpled shirt and overalls stares from the front cover of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The photo was taken by Walker Evans and the reader will later learn that the man is George Gudger, although that isn't his real name. The beginnings of the book go back to when James Agee and Evans were employed by Fortune magazine during the Depression in 1936 to write an article on poor white sharecroppers in the South. They spent eight weeks with families pseudonymously called the Gudgers, the Woods, and the Ricketts, and Evans (whose photos are shown at the beginning of this work) divides his photos into four sections: the three families mentioned (in that order), and a more general, broadly more external collection that includes the local school, post office, store, etc. Their work was never published by Fortune, although this far wider-reaching study came out in its own right in 1941.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is not just a journalistic work, in fact it's not conventionally journalistic at all: the parts where Agee describes the families and the homes they live in (especially the Gutgers) are minutely dwelt on, the furniture and the objects hung on walls almost photographically detailed. This is obviously Agee's main intention: to give as realistic a description as possible; but he also sees the written part of the book as a problem, something almost extraneous to it:

'If I could do it, I'd do no writing at all here. It would be photographs; the rest would be fragments of cloth, bits of cotton, lumps of earth, records of speech, pieces of wood and iron, phials of odors, plates of food and of excrement.'

Agee says this at the beginning of the book, and it sounds as though his ideal is a kind of experimental work, which in fact is just what he creates in his writing: a wild helter-skelter of a book that doesn't just document but also philosophizes, politicizes, poeticizes, rambles, deconstructs itself, psychoanalyzes the narrator: digression is the norm. Sentences are often very long and frequently there are a number of semi-colons in them, but it is mainly the eccentric use of colons, often ending several paragraphs at a time, that stands out. Agee was an alcoholic and drowned himself in booze at the age of 45: parallels with Kerouac are obvious. I often asked myself if Agee wrote drunk, because surely that's exactly what fuels this long book which resists all categories and takes the reader on a mystery tour in which the narrator often seems oblivious to anything other than his own obsessive self-questioning, torturing himself with brutal honesty.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a book of love and guilt, struggling hard to get to the marrow of its subjects. It is not just a major Southern work, it is a major work of literature, although I suspect that it is often abandoned by readers in the same way that William Gaddis's The Recognitions – with which it shares a few things – must also be.
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'James Agee’s Unconventional Use of Colons', by Anna Maria Johnson

26 June 2012

William Gaddis: The Recognitions (1955)

I recently finished reading William Gaddis's 956-page The Recognitions and feel a similar sense of achievement to that I experienced on finishing James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), Lionel Britton's Hunger and Love (1931), David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (1996) and Alexander Theroux's Laura Warholic: or, the Sexual Intellectual (2005). It's not just that all of these novels are extremely long, but that they can all also be described as 'experimental': they resist being fitted into the conventional pattern of the novel. Although in 2005 Time recognized The Recognitions as one of the best one hundred novels published since the magazine began in 1923, the novel famously had a poor critical reception – famously because the lower case jack green, a pseudonym for the actuary Christopher Carlisle Reid, wrote a much quoted and oddly punctuated article about it in his magazine newspaper. Called 'Fire the Bastards!', jack green analyzed the initial fifty-five reviews of Gaddis's first novel and found most of them lazy and clichéd: he considered only two of them to be 'adequate'.

Gaddis originally intended a much shorter work based on Goethe's Faust, but the idea of forgery came in and expanded it. It is also based on a third century religious publication, the Clementine Recognitions, which Gaddis calls 'the first Christian novel', and originally thought of his first novel as the last Christian novel. The search for salvation, authenticity, and the idea of redemption are of central importance in a world shot through with falseness.

In this book, one of the main characters, Wyatt Gwyon, is a forger of paintings, and another, Otto Pivner, is a playwright looking for a plot amid suggestions that he has borrowed from other works. And Gaddis piles on the falsehoods, copies, lies, substitutes, pretences, impersonations, etc.

We learn, of instance, if we didn't already know it, that the tune of the popular song 'Yes, We Have No Bananas' was actually taken from the Halleluja chorus of Handel's Messiah; Frank Sinisterra (whose name Gaddis himself has largely borrowed, of course) makes counterfeit money and impersonates a ship's captain at the beginning, and a Romanian called Yák near the end, of the book; Mr Feddle falsely signs books for fun; Otto pretends to have been wounded in a non-existent Central American revolution and wears a sling to brag about it: the degree of the falsehood can be small or little, but it is recognized throughout this novel.

Gaddis is fond of drawing up lists, and among one of them a number of objects appear, of which I've selected several (sometimes surreally) false things: 'decorative wooden easel and palette', 'a dusty imitation ink-blot', a dusty imitation dog spiral', 'a talking doll', 'Venus de Milo with a clock in her belly', 'a sewing kit (resembles quality bone china) figurine', 'a false face, mounted on a false face'. Tropes of falseness are often layered in Gaddis's world, and the word 'palimpsest' (which I think it is apt in this book to see as a multiplicity of re-cognitions) is mentioned a number of times.

Esoteric references (often religious) abound; humorous (sometimes punningly scatological) names (Agnes Deigh, Recktall Brown, Dr Weissgall, the 5 Jones brothers ('los cinco-jones')) are relished; a long suicide letter by Esme is a reproduction of a non-suicidal letter Gaddis received from 'muse' Sheri Martinelli, on whom the character is based.

This is just some of the fun that Gaddis has with language in this very serious novel, which beyond any doubt holds an important place in the history of literature, hovering as it does between the modernist and postmodernist periods. But it is undoubtedly a difficult book, as everyone who comments on it points out. The link below to Stephen Moore's 'A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions' contains synopses of all the chapters, and numerous annotations.

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'A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions', by Stephen Moore

'Fire the Bastards!' (1962), by 'jack green' (Christopher Carlisle Reid)

Paris Review, 24 January 2012: 'Mistaken Identity', by Jenny Hendrix

'Mr. Difficult: William Gaddis and the Problem of Hard-to-Read Books', by Jonathan Franzen

Paris Review, 4 November 1986: 'William Gaddis, The Art of Fiction No. 101' – Interviewer Zoltán Abádi-Nagy

15 June 2012

Ethel Mannin: Confessions and Impressions (1930)


A third of this book is autobiography. The daughter of a 'country girl' from a farm and a Cockney father, a postal worker of Irish ancestry, Ethel Mannin (1900 – 1984) was born near Lavender Hill in Clapham. Her first chapter contains such gems as 'The defiant snobbery of the plebian is as stupid as the arrogant snobbery of the patrician', and 'the affectation of the Lowbrow [is] as tiresome as the affectation of the Highbrow', calls herself a 'Philistine' and says that she started work as a shorthand typist at fifteen, and 'that is all there is to it'.

Political awareness came to Mannin at a young age, and her earliest memory is walking on Clapham Common with her father, who stopped to talk with a man for whom he had a great respect – the socialist MP John Burns: she thought socialism the right stance to take until she was eighteen.

Mannin spent a year in a private school where she thought the 'spinster' schoolteachers drew a sadistic sexual pleasure from disallowing their pupils to leave the room to go to the toilet, then sending them home for wetting the floor. She sees no hope either in state education, believing the teachings of A. S. Neill and Bertrand Russell (a future lover of hers) to be the path to a future without schools or marriage.

She worked for Charles Highham at fifteen, by the following year was writing adverts and running internal business magazines, and at seventeen was writing stories, poems and articles for one of Higham's monthlies that she produecd herself. By this time, she had had a strong, year-long, non-sexual friendship with an anarchist in his late twenties who gave her a more intellectual education than any organized schooling had done for her.

After a few inconsequential affairs she married and lived at Strawberry Hill for five years, during which she had a child and wrote four novels. But after spending a short time in the States Mannin realized that marriage wasn't for her. She bought the cottage of her dreams near Wimbledon Common and began to understand a few things: people are dead, civilization has distorted natural intelligence, they fill their lives with meaningless rubbish, they have sterilized their emotions by intellectualizing them: D. H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley are strong influences.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The remaining two thirds of the book are devoted to prominent people of the period that Mannin has met. Most of her portraits are complimentary, although she is particularly scathing about the drama critic Hannan Swaffer, whom she detests for a number of reasons, and calls him a puritan: a great insult in Mannin's world.

Understandably, her best words are reserved for the fellow anarchists A. S. Neill and Bertrand Russell, (whom she says has a 'first-class mind').

She dedicates the book to another 'first-class mind', an unnamed man she loved greatly but who killed himself shortly before publication.

14 June 2012

Boris Vian: L'Écume des jours (1947)

The first paragraph of L'Écume des jours (variously translated in English, and two publications have rendered it Mood Indigo1 and the rather ugly Foam of the Daze) begins with a man's blackheads shrinking back into his skin out of the shame of seeing themselves in the mirror, and the reader knows almost immediately that this will be no ordinary read. Sure enough, we soon learn of a cook feeding the mice, and beheading an eel that's been popping out of the tap to feast on his pineapple-flavored toothpaste, and many conventional situations are turned on their head. I'm not too certain why I'd avoided reading this book so far (probably put off by reading his J'irai cracher sur vos tombes first, I imagine), but I'm very happy I finally got round to it: this is a very funny book which also has a number of very serious things to say.

The main character is Colin, who has enough money to live on to avoid having to work, unlike his friend the engineer Chick, who has far less money than the workers he's in charge of, so Colin often invites him over for a meal cooked by his chef Nicolas, who derives his culinary inspiration from the 19th century master Jules Gouffé.

Colin soon meets Chloé, the love of his life, and quickly marries her in a wildly extravagant wedding. Meanwhile, Chick has found Alise, but the couple don't have much money for long: although Colin very generously gives his friend a quarter of his 100,000 doublezon wealth, Chick is obsessed with the philosopher Jean Sol Partre (obviously a very thinly veiled satirized version of Vian's friend Jean-Paul Sartre), and must own everything he writes, including very expensive limited editions.

Colin too will soon have money problems as a water lily is discovered growing in Chloé's lung, and the best cure is to send her to a mountain retreat and keep her surrounded all the time by flowers. Almost as soon as she gets better, the other lung begins the same complaint, and Colin will have to consider the unthinkable: working for a living.

The end is catastrophic for all four main characters. Chick has spent all his money on Partre's books and souvenirs, but Partre is working on a multiple-volume encyclopedia of nausea: Alise kills Partre as he refuses to cease publication, she dies while burning bookshops, and the police kill Chick during an argument over him not paying his taxes. Chloé dies, a heartbroken Colin decides to drown himself, and even the pet mouse, in sympathy with his dead friends, resorts to suicide by sticking his head in the jaws of the cat.

This is an anarchic book, and the author of it is of course a kind of anarchist as he takes shots at almost every institution. Another book that once did that, and which led to the author abandoning novels altogether, was Thomas Hardy with Jude the Obscure (1895). In Jude, though, work is all important, whereas for Vian it is the opposite.

Vian once said that it's not possible to see a man working without cursing the person who made him do it, because that man could be swimming, lying on the grass, reading, or making love to his wife. Ignoring the fact that the mention of the word 'wife' 2 of which Vian seems to approve alludes to another (sometimes poisonous) institution – and one for which Hardy was severely punished for taking such a strong, er, poke at – this shows us where Vian's sympathies clearly lie: in the love of freedom.

Throughout the novel, institutions represent enslavement and/or tyranny: the brutalization of work, the enslavement of everyone to money, the thuggery of the police, the callousness and avarice (and a mild suggestion of pedophilia) of the clergy, the violence of the government, etc.

To return to Vian's satire of Sartre through Partre, though, the novel makes a number of obvious references to the philosopher's works, particularly to La Nausée, and the allusion to Sartre's famous lecture on L'Existentialisme est un humanisme at the Club Maintenant in 1945 – in which Partre arrives on an elephant in an armored howdah and begins by exhibiting a pile of stuffed vomit – is hilarious. There are also references, for instance, to a 'duchesse de Bovouard' (Simone de Beauvoir) and 'Don Evany Marqué (an anagram Raymond Queneau, surprisingly, didn't find himself), but the main point is clear: celebrity cults are tyrannous too, and we have seen the destructive results of one on Chick and Alise.

Very funny, very frightening, surprisingly modern: a wonderful book.

1 This relates to the jazz theme running thoroughout the novel, in which the character Chloé's name is taken from the jazz song 'Chloe (Song of the Swamp)' (to which the water lilies obviously allude), and Vian also claims that he wrote the Foreword in New Orleans and the book itself in Memphis and Davenport – although in reality he never went to any of these places.

2 He in fact said 'femme', which can also mean 'woman', so do we give him the benefit of the doubt?

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Boris Vian: J'irai cracher sur vos tombes / I Shall Spit on Your Graves

13 June 2012

Charles Bradlaugh in Northampton, England


The statue of Charles Bradlaugh in Abington Square, Northampton.

'"THOROUGH"

CHARLES BRADLAUGH,
BORN SEPT. 26, 1833,
DIED JANY. 30, 1891.
M.P. FOR NORTHAMPTON 1880–1891.
FOUR TIMES ELECTED TO ONE
PARLIAMENT. IN VINDICATION OF
THE RIGHTS OF CONSTITUENCIES,
INDIA, TOO, CHOSE HIM HER
REPRESENTATIVE.
HIS LIFE WAS DEVOTED TO
PROGRESS. LIBERTY. AND JUSTICE.'

Bradlaugh was also a lecturer and pamphleteer who used the pseudonym 'Iconoclast', which is perhaps apt for an atheist MP of the day. He was a friend of the poet James Thomson, and his re-publication (with Annie Besant) of the pro-birth control pamphlet The Fruits of Philosophy led to a prison sentence which was quashed on appeal.

Around the other sides of the plinth are plaques containing the words to 'Bradlaugh for Northampton', which was written by James Wilson and set to music by John Lowry.

'BRADLAUGH FOR NORTHAMPTON.

ELECTORS OF NORTHAMPTON, WORK!
THE DAY WILL SOON BE HERE,
WHEN YOU WILL HAVE TO GIVE YOUR VOTES.
AND GIVE THEM WITHOUT FEAR;
FOR FREEDOM'S BATTLE NE'ER WAS WON
BY COWARDS IN THE PAST,
NOR CAN IT EVER BE SUSTAINED
BY MEN WHO FEAR THE BLAST.

THEN TOIL, MEN, TOIL IN FREEDOM'S CAUSE
REST NOT CONTENT WITH VAIN APPLAUSE
HUMANITY NEEDS BETTER LAWS –
TO WIN THESE WE'LL SEND BRADLAUGH!'

''TIS NOT TO TREAD YOUR CHURCHES DOWN,
NOT CHAPELS BUILT BY MEN,
NOR HINDER EARNEST WORSHIPPERS
ON MOUNTAIN OR IN GLEN;
BUT TO GIVE FREEDOM TO EACH THOUGHT
THAT SWELLS THE BRAIN OF MAN,
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY FOR ALL,
NO STATE CHURCH IN OUR PLAN.

'TIS NOT TO ROB RICH LORDS OF LANDS,–
OPPRESS AS THEY WOULD YOU,
NOR PROPERTY MAKE INSECURE,
TO FEED A LAWLESS FEW;
BUT TO MAKE WAY FOR THOSE TO RISE,
WHO HARD BUT HUMBLY TOIL,
AND GIVE TO ALL SOME INTEREST
IN NATURE'S GIFT, THE SOIL.'

'SOME COWARDS CRY OUT "HERESY!"
BEWARE! MY FELLOW MEN,–
THAT CRY'S BEEN RAISED, SO HIST'RY SAYS,
'GAINST BRITAIN'S NOBLEST MEN,
SAY, IS HE MANLY, IS HE TRUE?
IS HE FOR JUSTICE STRONG?
AND WILL HE LABOUR GOOD TO DO?
THEN ECHO IN YOUR SONG ––

WE'LL TOIL, WE'LL TOIL IN FREEDOM'S CAUSE,
NOT REST CONTENT WITH VAIN APPLAUSE,
BUT FIGHT DETERMINED FOR JUST LAWS,
AND MAKE OUR MEMBER, BRADLAUGH!'

ADDENDUM: I recently received this link from the Charles Bradlaugh Society:
 
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Grant made to publish Charles Bradlaugh archives

Becket's Well, Northampton, England

Becket's Well is on Bedford Road, Northampton.

'BECKET'S WELL
THIS STRUCTURE WAS ERECTED IN 1843 OVER A SPRING OUTSIDE THE OLD TOWN WALLS. THIS IS THE SPRING AT WHICH IT IS REPUTED THOMAS À BECKET RESTED AND DRANK AT HIS FLIGHT FROM NORTHAMPTON CASTLE AFTER HIS TRIAL IN 1164 FOR "DEFIANCE OF ROYAL AUTHORITY". BECKET ESCAPED TO FLANDERS BEFORE THE VERDICT WAS BROUGHT IN, BUT RETURNED TO ENGLAND AFTER SIX YEARS. HE WAS MURDERED IN CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL IN 1170.'



Scenes from Becket's life.

The Double Helix: Francis Crick in Northampton, England

Abington Street, Northampton. The Sir Francis Crick sculpture was a joint venture between the artist Lucy Glendinning and m-tec.

'Francis Crick.

One of the greatest British scientists of the 20th century.

Born in Weston Favell Northampton and educated at Northampton Grammar School, Crick became involved in scientific research at Cambridge university where he unlocked the secret of life[:] the double helix structure of DNA. 

He later moved to California to study the human brain and consciousness in the field of neuroscience at the Salk Institute. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962 and the Order of Merit in1991.

                                                                                December 2005'

I find it a little surprising that there's no mention of James D. Watson.

The sculpture is over eight yards high and the figures are life-size.

Karen White: The Memory of Water (2008)

Karen White's The Memory of Water is an example of the Lowcountry sub-genre of Southern Literature, is set in South Carolina, and is told by four narrators:

Diana, a gifted painter with bipolar disorder who has lost much of her creativity under a fog of prescribed drugs.

Marnie, Diana's sister who teaches children with special needs in Arizona, who returns to South Carolina for an indetermined period.

Quinn, Diana's ex-husband who has invited Marnie over.

Gil, Diana and Quinn's nine-year-old son, who has recently gone dumb.

Diana and Marnie were in a boat accident a number of years before, in which their mother, another mentally ill person, apparently died. Marnie has little memory of the events, although there's obviously a huge communication problem between the sisters, who haven't seen each other for ten years.

Recently there has been another boat accident, and although both Diana and Gil have survived, they are evidently very disturbed by the ordeal and Quinn hopes that Marnie can help Gil recover from the trauma.

The fear of water and the curative power of (and often indirect communication by) art are central motifs in this often perceptive – even beautifully written – but ultimately unsatisfying novel that seems to begin in the right places but ends unbelievably: an absorbing psychological mystery turns into Southern Gothic with a denouement that drowns in its own contrivances.

11 June 2012

John Bunyan in Bedfordshire

'VISITORS TO
BUNYAN'S BIRTHPLACE
––––– ONLY –––––
PROCEED BY THE
SIDE OF THE BROOK
Please do not damage the [crops?]'

This signpost is in Harrowden, Bedfordshire, which is where John Bunyan (1628–88) was born. We reached it by taking the only road through the hamlet until it peters out near a farm. From there, I parked the car and took a bridlepath to a brook, where I found this notice, which I think is slightly misleading: I knew there's no birthplace, but does everyone else who might take this path know it? Bunyan's place of birth has long been demolished, but in 1951 – the year of the Festival of Britain – an inscribed stone was put up in a field approximately where the cottage was. We began to wade through the knee-high grass to cross the field, but as it had been raining heavily for some time before and our clothing was becoming increasingly wet, we both realized that to continue would amount to an act of insanity.

Harrowden is in the parish of Elstow, a village very close as the crow flies but about two miles away by road. At a young age Bunyan began working life as a tinker, but left Harrowden to serve in the army. A few years later he resumed his life as a tinker. He moved to the village itself in about 1649, and it was probably very shortly after this that he married. Here the juxtaposition of the festivities and the Moot Hall seems to suggest Vanity Fair.

Bunyan was fond of playing tip-cat (a variety of rounders) on the village green on Sundays, but following a sermon by Christopher Hall on the evils of breaking the Sabbath he experienced a religious wake-up call in the form of a voice denouncing him for his sins.

Moot Hall dates from the 16th century and now contains various exhibits mainly relating to the time of Bunyan in the 17th century.

The impressively restored upper floor.

The pulpit from which Christopher Hall preached the sermon that led to Bunyan's conversion.


One of the doors from Bedford County Gaol, where Bunyan was imprisoned for illegal preaching. He probably wrote The Pilgrim's Progress during his imprisonment.


In Bedford, on the corner of Silver Street and Main Street, is a plaque on the ground:

'ON THIS SITE STOOD
THE
BEDFORD COUNTY GAOL
WHERE
JOHN BUNYAN
WAS IMPRISONED FOR
TWELVE YEARS
1660–1672'

Bust of Bunyan by Edward William Wyon (1811–85).

John Bunyan's father Thomas's will of 1675, leaving his son one shilling (or five new pence).

Sir Samuel Luke of Cople, the Governor of the Newport Pagnell garrison, where Bunyan was probably based. Cople is said to be the model for Samuel Butler's satirical Hudibras.

And Samuel Butler himself, by (?)Gerald Soest.

And back in Bedford:

'This backwater
of the river Great Ouse
is where
JOHN BUNYAN
was baptised
circa 1650'

St Cuthberts Street.

'ON THIS SITE
STOOD THE COTTAGE
WHERE
JOHN BUNYAN
LIVED FROM
1655'

The Bunyan Meeting Church.

The church doors, copper on bronze, depict ten different scenes from The Pilgrim's Progress.

This, I believe, is the correct order of the panels:

1. 'As he read he wept and trembled'.

Christian prepares to leave his wife and children.

2. 'Christian enters by the wicket gate'.
Goodwill welcomes him.

3. 'Thy sin be forgiven thee'.
With the Shining Ones at the cross.

4. 'Simple said "I see no danger"'.
With Simple, Sloth and Presumption.

5. 'Go to the ant, thou sluggard'.
Time for Christian to consider the ant's ways, and to be wise.

6. 'Is thy strength so small'.
Christian passing the lions.

7. 'They harnessed him from head to foot'.

Being prepared with armour for his journey from the House Beautiful.

8. 'For tho they killed thee thou art still alive'.
The death of Faithful, and the chariot taking him away.

9. 'Let us keep our way'.
Christian refuses Demas's silver mine snare.

10. 'Be of good cheer my brother'.

Christian and Hopeful crossing the River of Death on their way to the Celestial City.

Inside the Bunyan Meeting Church.

'Christian approaches the House Beautiful'.

'Evangelist points the way'.

An extremely sanitized and romanitized representation of Bunyan in prison. Not a bad view from his cell.

'And all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side'.

'Christian vanquishes the fiend Apollyon'.

'He hath given me rest by His sorrow and life by His death'.

'Faithful helping Christian'.

'Christian climbs the Hill Difficulty'.

The statue of John Bunyan, significantly, is at a crossroads, and by St Peter's Green in Bedford.

It was sculpted Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, and bears the date 1873, although it wasn't unveiled until the following June. Of note is the unfettered chain by Bunyan's left foot.

There are three scenes from The Pilgrim's Progress around the plinth.

Christian at the wicket gate.

His fight with Apollyon.

And his losing of his burden at the cross.