The 18 February 1678 saw the publication of what is recognised as the first novel written in English – “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. This Christian allegory by John Bunyan has never been out of print and has been translated into more than 200 languages.
Bunyan spent most of his life living in Bedford and visitors to this city can find quite a few connections to this intriguing personality who began his working life as a travelling blacksmith. The John Bunyan Museum is a good place to start with depictions of scenes from his early life, time as a soldier, imprisonment and preaching and writing.
There has been a hospital associated with St Bartholomew the Great since the 12th century, and the current St Bart’s hospital has a very interesting museum. A variety of old books are on display, including this 1557 tome on the administration of the “Hospital of St. Bartholomewes”.
John Rogers was a Bible translator who became one of 60 Protestant martyrs burnt at the stake in the churchyard of St Bartholomew the Great during the reign of Queen Mary. Using the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew, he published the Matthew Bible in 1537, which was based on William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament and as much of the Old Testament that he was able to complete before his execution in 1536. The translations of Myles Coverdale were used for the remaining parts of the Old Testament.
John Rogers died on 4 February 1555 and there is a memorial to him and two other Protestant martyrs on the wall opposite the church’s Tudor gateway.
J. R. R. Tolkein (see previous post) was an undergraduate at Exeter College from 1911 to 1915, and Professor of Anglo Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College from 1925 to 1945. From 1945 to 1959, he was Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College.
Merton is one of the oldest Oxford colleges and the chapel is from 1289. We took a day trip to Oxford, during our visit to London in October 2016, and enjoyed a stroll along the river and up the High, remembering when we lived there for 12 months in the late 1970s.
Another interesting art work at the recent calligraphy exhibition (see previous post) was hand lettering of a quote from J. R. R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” by Tash Limawan.
Today is Tolkein’s birthday. He was born in South Africa in 1892, but went to England with his mother when he was three years old, living most of his adult life in Oxford.
Went to a cinema today to see “The Man Who Invented Christmas”, a very entertaining and interesting telling of the story behind Dickens’ writing of “A Christmas Carol”. Dan Stevens was masterful and thoroughly believable as Charles Dickens and Justin Edwards was perfect as his friend John Forster.
Have just finished reading “The Last Man in Europe” by Dennis Glover, which is a partly fictionalised biography of George Orwell. The book includes vivid descriptions of life in London during World War II. At the end of the war, Orwell was living at 27B Canonbury Square in Islington after his previous flat in Kilburn had been destroyed by a bomb. We visited Canonbury Square last year and posted a blog about a nearby interesting tower.
Now a gentrified neighbourhood, Canonbury Square was, when Orwell lived there, a working class area and he uses it as a setting for the home of Winston Smith in his last novel, “Nineteen Eighty Four”.
Ludovico Ariosto, also from Ferrara, and from the same era as Savonarola (previous blog) had an entirely different outlook on life. He was a poet and playwright who first coined the word, “humanism”. He is most famous for the romantic epic poem, “Orlando Furiosa” which is a story of chivalric knights, but with fantasy elements, including a trip to the moon.
Ariosto’s house is now a small museum in Ferrara which is open Tuesday to Sunday and has free entry.
Girolamo Savonarola (see previous blog) was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1452. He entered the Dominican order in Bologna in 1475 and in 1482 was sent to San Marco in Florence where he became a popular preacher, denouncing the worldliness of the church and the ruling Medicis. His tempestuous life is best known by readers of English through George Elliott’s novel, “Romola”.
The statue of Luther in Worms is surrounded by other figures who played a role in the beginnings of the Protestant religions, including John Wycliffe who founded a movement known as the Lollards, Peter Waldo who founded the Waldensians and Girolamo Savonarola, an Italian Dominican friar (below).