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”.
On an exterior wall at Stationers Hall (previous post), there is a plaque commemorating the first printing press in Fleet Street, although Wynkyn de Worde’s press was actually 350 metres away in Shoe Lane next to St Bride’s churchyard. Wynkyn de Worde who was a native of Holland, and an apprentice of Thomas Caxton, set up his own press in 1501.
Next to St Martin within Ludgate (previous post) is the Stationers Hall. This 19th century building is on the site of an earlier building which became the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in 1606. From 1557, this guild regulated the publishing industry including printers, bookbinders and booksellers. It operated the Stationers’ Register which listed publications and provided an early form of copyright.
As well as Boswell (previous post), there are quite a few literary connections to St Martins within Ludgate, including with Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.
In “Little Dorritt”, Arthur Clenham, sitting in a coffee house on Ludgate Hill on Sunday evening, hears the church bells ring out.
William Shakespeare had his winter theatre just a few streets away.
And “I owe you three farthings say the bells of St Martins”, from the old “Oranges and Lemons” nursery rhyme could be referring to St Martin within Ludgate which did have a ring of five bells, of which one now remains on display in the church.