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of the party in power they were not slow to use. • It is not generally remembered,' writes Dr. Stoughton, that long before the Uniformity, Conventicle, and Five Mile Acts were passed John Bunyan was cast into Bedford Gaol”. Under these Acts, within six months of the king's arrival, a warrant was issued against Bunyan, and he was arrested for preaching in a private house at Samsell, a hamlet of the village of Harlington about thirteen miles south of Bedford, on November 12, 1660. The intention to arrest him had oozed out, and Bunyan was warned of his danger, and might have escaped if he had chosen ; some of his friends advised it: but he had no mind to play the coward, lest he should make an ill savour in the country' and discourage the weaker brethren. The justice before whom he was taken, Mr. Francis Wingate, who seems to have been really desirous to release him, finding all his endeavours, earnestly seconded by his household, useless to lead him to promise to forego preaching, was compelled to make out his mittimus' and commit him to the county gaol. While his ' mittimus' was preparing he was reviled by one Dr. Lindale, 'an old enemy to the truth, who sarcastically reminded him of Alexander the coppersmith who much troubled the apostles—aiming 'tis like at me,' says Bunyan, because I was a tinker'-and comparing him to those who made long prayers that they might devour widows' houses.' But Bunyan was a match for him and paid him back in his own coin. He was given over to the constable, and in his custody returned to
i Church of the Restoration, vol. i. p. 138.
? The old Statute Law of the Realm, i Eliz. 2, re-enacted with all its rigour 16 Charles II, 4 (1664), required all persons to resort to church every Sunday and holiday, on fine of is. for each offence and Church censure. 23 Eliz. c. I made the fine £20 a month, and an obstinate offender for twelve months had to be bound to good behaviour by two sureties in £200 each, till he conformed. 29 Eliz. c. 6 empowered the Queen by process out of the Exchequer to seize the goods and two parts of the real property of such offenders, in default of paying these fines. 35 Eliz. c. i made frequenting conventicles punishable by imprisonment. Those who after conviction would not submit were to abjure the realm. Refusal to abjure was felony without benefit of clergy. See also 3 Jacob. 4; 21 Jacob. 4; Stoughton, Church of the Restora. tion, i. 135.
3 Relation of Bunyan's Imprisonment, pp. 401 foll.
Bedford, probably passing through his native village of Elstow on the way, and was committed to the prison which, with perhaps a brief interval in 1666, was to be his enforced home for the next twelve years, carrying 'God's comfort in his poor soul.' By an obstinate and widespread error it was long taken for granted that Bunyan's place of confinement was the town gaol, which, as old drawings show us, stood so picturesquely on one of the piers of the many-arched bridge over the Ouse. This idea, on which much sensational writing has been expended, has been satisfactorily proved by Mr. James Wyatt to be a baseless fancy, conjured up with the view of exaggerating the severity of Bunyan's sufferings during his by no means harsh imprisonment, and piling contumely on his persecutors. The bridge-gaol was a corporation * lock-up-house. The county prison, to which the county justices' warrant must have committed him, was a much larger and less wretched place of incarceration, now pulled down, occupying the angle between High Street and Silver Street". Prisons at the best were foul, dark, miserable places in those days, and one who visited Bunyan during his confinement speaks of Bedford gaol as an uncomfortable and close prison': but his own narrative contains no complaint of it, and we may reasonably believe that his condition was by no means so wretched as many of his biographers represent, especially after he had gained the favour of his gaoler, who at a later time was ready to imperil himself to grant indulgence to his notable prisoner. An attempt to procure Bunyan's release by his obtaining sureties having failed, some seven weeks after his committal the quarter sessions were held, and Bunyan was indicted as a person who' devilishly and perniciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service, and was a common upholder of unlawful meetings and conventicles to the great disturbance and distraction of all good subjects. The brutal and blustering Keeling, who afterwards by his base subserviency to an infamous government climbed to the Chief Justice's seat, was chairman of the sessions. Under such a man the issue was predetermined even had there been any question of Bunyan's guilt. But he confessed the indictment, and declared
See woodcut of the bridge-gaol heading A Relation of the Imprison. ment of Mr. John Bunyan, and the ninth note on the Relation.
his resolve to repeat his crime the first moment opportunity was given him. Sentence therefore was passed on him, indeed in the then state of the law his judges had no choice in the matter, that he should be imprisoned three months longer, and if at the end of that time he persisted in his contumacy, be · banished the realm'-in modern language transported'-and if he ventured to return without royal licence he must stretch by the neck for it.' Back therefore he was had 'with a heart sweetly refreshed' both during his examination and on his return to prison, and full of a peace no man could take from him. Three months elapsed, and then the clerk of the peace, one Mr. Cobb, went to him (April 3, 1661) by the desire of the magistrates to see if he could induce him to conform. But his attempts, which seem to have been very kindly made, were vain, and after giving Bunyan some very sensible counsel that he was in no state of mind to listen to, he left him with Bunyan's thanks for his civil and meek discoursing with him, and a prayer that they might meet in heaven.'
Ten days after this interview, April 13, Charles II's coronation took place, and the usual proclamation which allowed persons to sue out a pardon for twelve months from that day had the effect of suspending the execution of his sentence of banishment. The agent employed by Bunyan to avail himself of the royal cleinency was his second wife, Elizabeth, a truly noblehearted Christian woman, worthy to be the helpmate of such a man, as fearless as her husband in the pursuit of the right, but withal a true woman, with 'abashed face and trembling heart,' fuller of compassion for the justices, on the failure of her mediation, thinking 'what a sad account such poor creatures would have to give hereafter,' than of anger at their hardheartedness against her husband. How long before Bunyan's first wife had died we do not know. His narrative is provokingly sparing of facts and dates, except those which concern his own spiritual experiences; but we may gather from her account that somewhere about a year before his first apprehension in November, 1660, she had joined her lot with his and become a second parent to his five little motherless children, one of them a blind girl, the special object of her father's love. Eager for her husband's release she travelled up to London, and with dauntless courage made her way to the House of Lords, where she presented her
petition to one of the peers whom she calls Lord Barkwood, but whom we cannot now identify. He treated her kindly, showed her petition to other peers, but gave her small encouragement. Not baffled by previous failures, in August, when the assizes came round and the judges visited Bedford, the excellent Sir Matthew Hale being the most conspicuous among them, Elizabeth Bunyan, at her husband's instance, three times presented a petition to them that he might be heard, and his case taken impartially into consideration. The interview, which took place in the large chamber of the old Swan Inn, at the Bridge-foot, ended in Sir Matthew expressing real compassion for her sad case, but mildly telling her he was sorry he could do her no good, for what her husband had said was taken for a conviction, and that she must either apply herself to the king or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error ; the last course being the cheapest. No steps seem to have been taken to carry out either of these expedients, either because they required money which was not forthcoming, or, which Southey sensibly remarks is quite probable, “because it is certain that Bunyan, thinking himself in conscience bound to preach in defiance of the law, would soon have made his case worse than it then was.' What perhaps rendered him less eager to take the suggested remedies was, that, like Joseph before him, he had 'found favour in the eyes of the keeper of the prison, who treated him rather like 'a prisoner at large'; and confident that he was not a man to abuse his trust, suffered him to go where he pleased, and return when he thought proper. The church-book shows that during this very year he was occasionally present at the church-meetings, and employed on the business of the congregation. Nor was his preaching, which was the very cause of his imprisonment, inhibited. So far did this temporary liberty extend, that he even went to see Christians at London. This coming to the ears of those in authority, he was charged with having for his object to plot and raise divisions, and make insurrections,' and his well-meant indulgence was nearly costing his gaoler his place, and an indictment for breach of trust. His liberty was therefore seriously abridged, and he was forbidden even 'to look out at the door.' He was passed by at the following assizes, and when they were again held in the March of 1662, his earnest desire to be allowed to appear before the judges and plead his own cause was effectually thwarted by the unfriendly influence of the county magistrates by whom he had been committed, and the clerk of the peace, Mr. Cobb, who, having failed to induce him to conform, had turned bitterly against him, and become one of his greatest opposers. This failure effectually closed the prison doors on him, and, as already stated, he remained an inmate of Bedford gaol, with a short interval, for the next twelve years, till his release by order of the Privy Council, May 17, 1672. The seven years that followed his incarceration were years of deep darkness and trouble' to all Nonconformists. In 1661 the re-enactment of the Act of Uniformity, demanding an unfeigned assent and consent to everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer, had dealt a heavy blow at the Puritans. The next year, 'black Bartholomew's day' saw nearly two thousand rectors and vicars, about one fifth of the parochial clergy, driven from their charges as Nonconformists. The 'Conventicle Act' of 1664, and the ‘Five Mile Act' of 1665, completed the code of persecution, and deepened the feeling of despair in the Nonconformist body. England seemed no longer a home for them, and those who were fortunate enough to escape prison meditated a flight to the Low Countries or to America. The gaols were crammed with men of piety and education, some of whom perished of disease and wretchedness, while the old and young, sick and healthy, were shut up with the vilest miscreants. Upwards of 8,000 Quakers alone suffered imprisonment. Sixty Nonconformists were at, one time incarcerated in Bedford gaol for attending a religious meeting, among whom were two ministers. According to his earliest biographer-his friend Charles Doe, 'the Struggler'--Bunyan obtained his release in 1666, the year of the fire in London ; but he was speedily apprehended again on the old charge and put into the same gaol. Doe tells us that before his final deliverance he was released and apprehended again, his last imprisonment lasting only six months. But there is some doubt as to the perfect accuracy of these statements. The straitness of Bunyan's imprisonment may be seen from the fact that during all that time his name is not once mentioned in the church book. These records are indeed very fragmentary till 1668. 'For four years and a half after the passing of the Conventicle Act (in 1664) there is a gap, without