Bernard Shaw called John Bunyan England's greatest prose writer. Even today, next to the Bible, The Pilgrim's Progress is perhaps the world's bestselling book, translated into more than 200 languages. Although there are many important studies of Bunyan as a writer or religious figure, this scholarly book by an eminent British intellectual historian is unique in setting the tinker's son from Bedford against the history of his turbulent, revolutionary times. Hill authoritatively discusses not only Bunyan's life, theology and publications but also his attitude toward women, his hatred and contempt for the rich (on theological grounds), his roots in popular culture, his influence on working-class movements in England, America, China and Africa, as well as his role as creative artist. A major work for a specialized audience. (Jan.)
A recognized scholar of 17th-century English history, Hill has provided an excellent study of John Bunyan that places his literary achievement in the context of his economic, political, and religious environment. For Hill, Bunyan symbolizes lower-middle-class Calvinism and its reaction to the economic and political crises of the English Civil War period, and he substantiates his argument by repeatedly contrasting Bunyan's views to those of the university-educated Milton and of the more radical Quakers and Ranters. Since he is a cultural historian, Hill analyzes the whole Bunyan corpus, choosing not to stress Pilgrim's Progress to the same extent that a literary critic probably would stress it. Highly recommended for academic libraries. Susan A. Stussy, St. Norbert Coll., De Pere, Wis.