Portrait of Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

Macaulay and Bunyan on the evils of swearing and playing hockey on Sunday (1830)

Found in: Critical and Historical Essays, Vol. 1

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) wrote an essay on the 17th century English religious writer John Bunyan (1628-1688) wittily defending him from the unfair attacks of his critics, one of whom called him a “depraved thinker”. In Macaulay’s view the worst one could say about him was that he swore a bit and played hockey on Sundays:

Sport and Liberty

He does not appear to have been a drunkard. He owns, indeed, that, when a boy, he never spoke without an oath. But a single admonition cured him of this bad habit for life; and the cure must have been wrought early; for at eighteen he was in the army of the Parliament; and, if he had carried the vice of profaneness into that service, he would doubtless have received something more than an admonition from Serjeant Bind-their-kings-in-chains, or Captain Hew-Agag-in-pieces-before-the-Lord. Bell-ringing and playing at hockey on Sundays seem to have been the worst vices of this depraved tinker. They would have passed for virtues with Archbishop Laud.