JOHN BUNYAN (1628-88) was born in Elstow, a village near Bedford. He went to school in the village and became a travelling brazier or tinker, like his father. In 1644 he joined the Parliamentary army, and served in the garrison of Newport Pagnell, a Bedfordshire town, until 1646. He married in 1649 and had four children, though the name of his first wife is unknown. As part of her dowry she brought two popular books of devotion; and these, along with a series of experiences, triggered a complex conversion experience, not fully resolved until 1653, when Bunyan joined a separatist congregation in Bedford. Soon Bunyan began preaching and engagin in controversy with other reiligous groups. He wrote his first book, Some Gospel Truths Opened in 1656. Soon after the Restoration he was arrested for unlicensed preaching in the village of Lower Samsell and, because he refused to stop peraching, remain in prison in Bedford for twelve years. His account of his trial was published posthumously in 1765.
He was imprisoned again for about six months in 1676. He continued to write, and to preach in Bedfordshire and London. In 1678 he published the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress. It became am immediate bestseller, running through twelve ditions and being translated into Dutch, French and Welsh during Bunyan's lifetime; since then it has been traslated into more than two hundred languages. Its counterpart, The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1682) is epic in cope. The second part of The Pilgrim's Progress came out in 1684, partly in response to a number of imitations and spurious sequels. A Book for Boys and Girls, one of the earliest examples of literature for children, was published in 1686.
Bunyan died in 1688 for a fever contracted while riding from Reading to London to try to effect a reconciliation between a father and son. He left a number of works in manuscript, many of them published by Chalres Doe in his folio of 1692, which also contained the first (brief) biography of Bunyan.
ROGER POOLEY teaches at Keele University. His Cambridge Ph.D. thesis on Bunyan was partly supervised by the late Roger Sharrock, the editor of the previous Penguin Classics Pilgrim's Progress. He is the author of English Prose of the Seventeenth Century (1993) and a number of shorter pieces on Bunyan and other seventeenth-century figures. He has co-edited The Lord of the Journey; A Reader in Christina Spirituality and The Discerning Reader: Literature and Theory in Christian Perspecitve. He is an active member of the International John Bunyan Society.