“Christian and Faithful beaten at Vanity Fair” by David and William Bell Scott. Illustration for Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, 1857. Scanned by David P. Landow, The Victorian Web.
Your statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.
(Edited to express Bunyan’s thoughts and his 17th century terms in modern American English. MT)
Then I saw in my dream, that when Faithful and Christian got out of the wilderness, they soon saw a town nearby, and the name of this town is “Vanity”; and in the town a fair is held, called “Vanity Fair”, all year long. It bears this name because the town where it is held is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is sold there – all its commerce – is vanity. As the saying of the wise goes, “All that comes is vanity.”
“All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” Isaiah 40:17
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 1:14
“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11
“Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 2:17
“But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 11:8
This fair is no new enterprise, but of ancient standing. I will show you the original:
Almost five thousand years ago, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, just as these two honest persons are; and BEELZEBUB, APOLLYON, and LEGION, with their companions, perceiving by the path which the pilgrims took, that their way to the Celestal City lay through the Town of Vanity, they schemed to set up a fair there, in which all sorts of vanity would be sold, and that it would last all year long. Therefore at this fair all such merchandise is sold: as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, advancements, titles, countries, kingdoms; lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts – as whores, prostitutes, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and much more.
And moreover, at the fair there are also always deceivers, cheats, gamblers, plays, fools, apes, scoundrels, and villains, and every type of these.
Here are to be seen, too – and for free! – thefts, murders, adulteries, false witnessing, and crimes of a blood red hue.
And as in other fairs of less importance, there are several rows and streets, under their proper names, where such and such wares are hawked; so here too you have the proper places, rows, streets (namely, countries and kingdoms), where the wares of this fair are easily found: here is the British row; the French row; the Italian row; the Spanish row; the German row – where various kinds of vanities are to be sold. But as in other fairs, where a particular commodity is the most prominent, so here the wares of Rome and all her merchandise are greatly promoted: only our English nation, along with some others, have taken a dislike to these.
Now, as I’ve said, the way to the Celestial City lies straight through the Town of Vanity, where this wicked fair is held; and whoever wants to reach the City but not have to pass through the Town, must go out of the world altogether.
“Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.” 1 Corinthians 5:10
The Prince of princes Himself, when he was here, passed through this town to go to His own country, and that was on a fair-day too; and as I remember, it was BEELZEBUB, the chief lord of this fair, who invited Him to buy his vanities; yes, and would have made Him ‘king of the fair’, if only He would have bowed down to him as He passed through. Yes, too! because the Prince was such a person of honour, BEELZEBUB took Him from street to street, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, that he might, if possible, allure the Blessed One to cheapen Himself by buying some of his vanities. But the merchandise held no allure for Him; and therefore He left town without laying out as much as a penny on its trash.
“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;” Matthew 4:8
“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” Luke 4:5-7
This fair, therefore, is an ancient enterprise – of longstanding! – and very famous.
Now the pilgrims Christian and Faithful, as I’ve said, have to pass through the fair: well, and so they did, but take note, even as they entered the fairway, all the people there were roused, and the town itself it seemed was in a hubbub over them; and this was for several reasons –
First, the pilgrims were dressed in clothing so different from that of any of those who traded at that fair. Therefore the people of that place constantly stared at them: some saying they were fools; some that they were madmen; and some that they were odd.
Secondly: and just as they wondered at their clothes, they wondered at their speech; for few could understand what they said. For Faithful and Christian naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but they that traded at the fair were the men of this world: so that from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians to one another.
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7, 8
Thirdly: but what amused the merchants quite a bit was that these pilgrims thought their merchandise was of so little value – that they cared not so much as to give them a passing glance; and if the merchants called to them to buy, the pilgrims would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, “Turn away, mine eyes, from beholding vanity!” and look upward, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven.
“Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.” Psalm 119:37
“(Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” Philippians 3:19, 20
One, noticing how the two carried themselves with dignity, happened mockingly to say to them, “What will you buy?” but they, looking gravely at him, answered, “We buy the truth.”
“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23
At this, the merchants seized this occasion to despise the men all the more: some mocking them; some taunting; some reproaching them; and some calling on others to strike them. At last, things came to such an uproar in the fair that order was almost overthrown. So a message was sent to the great one of the fair, who immediately came down and deputized some of his most trusted friends to interrogate the men who had nearly ruined things there. So the two men were interrogated: and they that sat to question them, asked them: where they came from; where they were going; and why they were dressed so strangely?
The men answered that they were pilgrims and strangers in the world; and that they were going to their own country, which was the heavenly Jerusalem;
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-16
and that they had given no occasion to the men of the town, nor to the merchants, to abuse them and keep them from continuing their journey. Except perhaps that when someone asked them what they would buy, they said they would buy the truth. But they who were appointed to interrogate them did not believe them to be any better than lunatics and madmen, or else troublemakers who came to throw everything in the fair into confusion. Therefore they seized them and beat them, and smeared them with dirt; and then put them into a cage, that they might be made a spectacle to all the men of the fair. In the cage, therefore, they lay for some time, and were made the object of any man’s joke, or malice, or revenge; the great one of the fair laughing still at everything that happened to them.
But the men being patient, and not “rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing,” and giving good words for bad, and kindness for injuries, some men of the fair who were more observant and less prejudiced than the rest, began to hold back and blame the baser men for their continual abuse of the men. These, therefore, in an angry way, also broke out against them, calling them as bad as the men in the cage, and telling them that they seemed to be confederates, and would be made to take part in their misfortunes. The others replied, that from what they could see, the men in the cage were quiet and sober, and intended nobody harm; and that there were many that traded in the fair who were more worthy to be put into the cage – yes, and pillory, too! – than the men whom they had abused. So after many words had passed on both sides – the men in the cage behaving themselves meanwhile very wisely and soberly before them – they came to blows among themselves, and injured one another.
Then were these two poor men brought before their examiners again, and there found guilty of the recent hubbub in the fair. So they beat them pitifully, and hanged irons upon them, and led them in chains up and down the fair as an example and terror to others, lest anyone else should speak anymore on their behalf, or join up with them. But CHRISTIAN and FAITHFUL behaved still more wisely; and received the ignominy and shame that was cast upon them with so much meekness and patience, that it won to their side – though but few in comparison to the rest – several of the men in the fair. This put the other party into an even greater rage; so much so that they pronounced sentence of death on the two men, declaring that neither the cage nor the irons were enough, but that they should die for the trouble they had caused, and for deluding the men of the fair.
Then were they remanded to the cage again, until further orders should be pronounced. So they caged them and secured their feet in the stocks.
Here therefore, once again the men remembered what they had heard from their faithful friend, EVANGELIST; and were all the more confirmed in their purpose and sufferings by what he told them would happen to them. They also comforted each other now, that whoever’s lot it was to suffer, even he would have the best part; therefore each man secretly wished that he might have that privilege; but committing themselves to the all-wise counsel of Him Who rules all things, with great contentment they remained in the condition in which they were in, until they should be otherwise dealt with.