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The Pilgrim's Progress (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

John Bunyan , W.R. Owens
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Oct 2003 Oxford World's Classics
'As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream.' So begins one of the best-loved and most widely read books in English literature.

Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New edition edition (9 Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192803611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803610
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 360,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This new edition does full justice to the text for modern readers. The notes are helpful and scholarly. The introduction is warm and up to date. This is now the best reading edition available. (Roger Pooley, Keele University)

About the Author

W. R. Owens's publications include two volumes in the Oxford edition of The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan (1994) and a co-edited collection of essays, John Bunyan and his England 1628-88 (1990). He is co-editor, with P. N. Furbank, of The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe (1988), DefoeDe-Attributions(1994), and A Critical Bibliography of Daniel Defoe(1998). They are joint editors of The Works of Daniel Defoe (44 vols., in progress).

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As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream. Read the first page
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring spiritual autobiography 19 Feb 2006
The majority of this work was written by Bunyan whilst he was imprisoned as a Nonconformist following the Restoration of 1660. Bunyan's experiences of persecution are deeply inscribed into his Christian allegory. It is a spiritual autobiography by a remarkable man who refused to allow anything to compromise his principles.
But it is also a work that is acutely perceptive and revealing about the psychological condition of the radical Protestant of his time. The visionary society of the English Republic had collapsed and Puritans were no longer the dominant force in society. The pressure was on Bunyan and other spiritual leaders among the Puritans to enthusiastically justify their beliefs and demonstrate their righteousness, as well as their radical credentials.
Bunyan's allegory is sometimes criticised for being too one dimensional, but there is a very good reason that this is one of the most highly read books in English. People in his own time could read between the lines and understand the allusions and social and historical forces that move behind the language; and his contemporary readers share with people since a sympathy in the spiritual experiences described allegorically in what is actually quite a good story.
Though the allegory is ostensibly not as deep as, say, Milton's in Paradise Lost, it is perhaps fair to say that it's tighter and more coherent. The importance of this work as literature cannot be denied, whether or not you agree with the sentiments or accept one's own removal from Bunyan and his contemporaries in history.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best book? 28 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this is the first classic i've had and it got me wanting more its a brillant read please buy it!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on: A Reliable Edition, Improved 9 Jun 2004
By Ian M. Slater - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Bunyan was an astonishing man, a working-class genius who, while producing the last great medieval-style allegories in English, helped invent the English novel, apparently without intending either. The bulk of his writings fell into the obscurity of most seventeenth century theological tractates, but a few have remained current, and "The Pilgrim's Progress" (1678) has been of outstanding importance, for a variety of reasons. It was an immediate popular success, even appearing in French and Dutch editions within a few years, and being reprinted in Puritan Boston, where Bunyan's Baptist teachings would have been unwelcome. The second (1678) and third (1679) printings contained expansions. A fraudulent "Second Part" helped motivate Bunyan to produce his own sequel (1684), published with the First Part ever since.

"The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which is to Come" is, in fact, one of the most widely read works to come out of the era of the English Civil War, Restoration, and Glorious Revolution (which Bunyan did not live quite long enough to see). The number of actual readers, in English and many other languages, certainly exceeds those of Milton, Hobbes, or Locke, possibly all of them together. It is also one of the most misunderstood. In his own time Bunyan (1628-88) was regarded as a dangerous radical; he wrote the first part of "Pilgrim's Progress" while imprisoned for defying authority by refusing to promise to give up preaching. The issue was as much political and social as religious and ecclesiastical; the post-Restoration gentry could fear, but not accept or forgive, the pretensions of a social inferior. (In the age of panic over the "Papist Plot," Bunyan's treatment of the ramshackle "Giant Pope" as nearly harmless is striking: might it be read as an implied attack on the fear-mongering of the Anglican establishment? Perhaps not.)

In the late eighteenth century, William Blake still responded to Bunyan the religious and political Dissenter, and the theologically astute recognized him as expounding a particular doctrine, but distance in time increasingly made him seem not only pious, but even harmless. In the nineteenth century, "The Pilgrim's Progress," long seen as suitable reading for children, was available to the working class in cheap editions, with the approval of their "betters." It found a receptive readership; but it is now clear that many of those readers recognized, as George Bernard Shaw later said, that the sins and failings Bunyan attacked were mainly those of people with money and power. Or, at least, their allegorical representatives always seem to be, or behave like, landowners, merchants, and magistrates, while their victims are working men and women.

Bunyan was indeed mostly concerned with problems of salvation (by faith) and predestination (of which you can never be certain), but the allegorical universe Bunyan presents is solidly grounded in material and social reality. Each soul must seek salvation -- the message of self-help, which the proper Victorians loved. But the little community of believers, the congregation of the true faithful, carried another message for the working class -- Organize!

This Bunyan has yet to be fully digested by popular culture. There are still a multitude of complacent editions, variously inexpensive, lavish, abridged, retold, glossed theologically or linguistically, or otherwise brought into line with some perceived need, and marketed for (mainly Protestant) Christians in search of edification. (It has found many Catholic, and apparently, some Muslim readers, as well, which is another story.)

Those who need a full critical text of this famous work will consult Roger Sharrock's 1960 edition in the Oxford English Texts series, preferably in its revised printing of 1975, and probably in a library (so far as I can tell it is out of print). It was intended as a revision of a 1928 edition by J.B. Wharey, but it broke new ground in Bunyan studies, by returning to the earliest editions of the two parts whenever possible. This was extremely important in restoring the integrity of the text, for reasons I have described in a separate review of Sharrock's popular edition for the Penguin Classics (originally in the Penguin English Library)

Those who want a reliable edition for the serious reader or student, without the full apparatus, however, now have a choice of Sharrock's own very lightly modernized "popular version" for Penguin Books; N.H. Keeble's adaptation of Sharrock's Oxford text for the World's Classics series (published by Oxford University Press; reissued under the Oxford World's Classics imprint), or the present edition by W.R. Owen, which replaces it in the Oxford World's Classics line, and is likewise based on Sharrock's work.

These Oxford popular editions follow Sharrock's critical text, in fact rather more closely than Sharrock's own Penguin edition -- Owens even with some additional reversions to first edition readings, where he finds them comprehensible without emendation. They offer introductions, chronologies, notes, and glossaries directed more to the common reader or student, explaining seventeenth-century history and theology, as well as explicating Bunyan's language. All three were admirable examples of scholarly editions adapted for the ordinary reader, which is helpful, because Sharrock's main edition seems to be out of print. Keeble's edition may be available for the moment, but Oxford, unlike Penguin, doesn't seem to keep multiple versions of a title in print in its "Classics" line.

Since I have copies of both the Penguin and the old World's Classics editions, I hesitated over acquiring this new version. It offered an expansion of Keeble's chronology and notes, and a new introduction, with a bibliography consisting mainly of recent studies (from 1980 on). Definitely an improvement, although not a blockbuster. The big difference, however, is that Owens provides the only illustrations published with the text in Bunyan's lifetime, and the verse captions he provided to them. This is not only interesting; it provides some explicit statements about the text by the author, not otherwise readily available. The illustrations themselves are not impressive -- hardly in a class with those by Blake and Cruikshank, among many others of varying degrees of skill and insight. But they reflect a real, not imaginary, seventeenth-century environment, and are a worthwhile addition to the available evidence.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bestseller since 1678! 12 Feb 2006
By James John Hollandsworth, M.D. - Published on
I hadn't read this book in a long time, and when I first started it I thought, "Gee, I'm going to have to like it-how can I publish a negative review of the best selling books in history?" Fortunately, my fears were indeed unfounded. Pilgrim's Progress, despite its age, remains a book that makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you love God more.

The book is an allegory: it tells the imaginary story of a man named Pilgrim, from the time he realizes he is in the city of Destruction, and follows his and his companions' journeys through good times and bad to the Celestial City which he seeks. In it are many insights about life as a Christian and life outside of Christ. One of the beauties of the book is that Bunyan draws on so many different themes-fear, dark times, temptation, despair, hope, friendship, slander, greed, mercy, just to name a few-and then shows us the right & wrong way to respond to each of these through the characters and events of the book. Therefore everyone will appreciate the lessons of the book in a unique way, according to what he is experiencing in his own walk with God.

I was most impressed with the passion and singlemindedness of Christian-in the first few pages of the book, once he is convicted of his sin, he starts to run away from the city of Destruction, "but his Wife and Children perceiving it, began to cry after him to return; but the Man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on crying, "Life! Life! Eternal Life!"" How often I lack the passion to just get up early for prayer, and this man runs, desperately blocking out all else but the one great prize that he knows he must win.

The other theme that most spoke to me was that of the pilgrims' constant focus on their destination, their hope of heaven, which provided them the strength and courage to face any trial. More on the preciousness of our hope tomorrow.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The very complete introduction by W. R. Owens did the job for me 4 July 2008
By andris virsnieks - Published on
"No other work in English, except the Bible, has been so widely read over such a long period." When I read something like that about this other work, "Pilgrim's Progress", I was curious. I got a copy and paged through it. At first I was disappointed, because I suspected that even if I forced myself to plow through the whole book slowly I probably would not understand the reasons for its popularity. But then I read the excellent 57 page introduction. And that gave me the education about "Pilgrim's Progress" that I was looking for. W.R. Owens's analysis and explanation of John Bunyan's classic satisfied my curiosity completely.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book 3 Aug 2010
By Jerett Olson - Published on
I just got done reading Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Even though it was written in the 1600's, it still has great spiritual insight to our spiritual journey in Christ; the struggles, the fears, success, victories. It explains what it truly means to be a Christian, which beyond the current post-modern understanding of Christianity but back to pre-modern understanding of Christianity. Taking us back to our roots in Christianity that we have forgotten. It reminds us that being a Christian is far deeper than going to church and doing nice things, but it's about following God's Will to end of the Earth. I think every Christian should read this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure!! 29 July 2011
By Linda - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a timeless and always relevant allegory about our human nature and God's provision. I highly recommend Pilgrim's Progress to all, especially those who may feel they are alone in their struggles. You are never alone. The God of all comfort, mercy, and grace is near.
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