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Why No One Can Mend the Slough of Despond

From: The Eighteenth Century
Volume 54, Number 3, Fall 2013
pp. 375-392 | 10.1353/ecy.2013.0032



For all the critical attention to topography in Pilgrim’s Progress, little scholarship has addressed the futile efforts of “His Majesty’s surveyors” to repair the Slough of Despond. This essay argues that Bunyan’s portrayal of labor derives from early modern highway statutes that made road maintenance the manual responsibility of all the kingdom’s parishioners. At a time when Quakers, Presbyterians, and Baptists were routinely elected as highway surveyors, I suggest that the slough episode exemplifies the conflicting commitments of certain Restoration-era nonconformists who resisted the state liturgy of the Anglican church while making surprising contributions to English parochial governance.

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