John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, first published in 1678, was, and remains, immensely popular, and has never been out of print. Bunyan’s allegory of spiritual trials and eventual salvation offered a powerful model for Christians writing in the emerging genre of spiritual autobiography, who wanted to narrate their own struggles and conversions, whether those conversions were understood as a turn to the Christian faith or an intensification of religious feeling.
‘The new game of human life’, a board game dating from 1790, gave families the opportunity not just to read Bunyan’s allegory but to experience it in the form of a parlour game. According to the instructions, if parents or tutors encouraged children to stop at each character and drew ‘their attention to a few moral and judicious observations, explanatory of each character as they proceed and contrast the happiness of a virtuous and well spent life with the fatal consequences arising from vicious and immoral pursuits, this game may be rendered the most useful and amusing of any that has hitherto been offered to the public’. It’s not clear what children thought of such a carefully moralising game — but anyone keen to experience it for themselves can find a modern version to try at home!