Context: This is Bunyan's allegorical account of Christian's progress from sin and evil to glory and redemption, told as an account of a journey from the City of Despond to the City of Zion. The phrase "Vanity Fair" is also known, of course, through its appearance as the title of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel in the nineteenth century. In Bunyan's narrative, Christian travels through the Slough of Despond, up the Hill of Difficulty, through the Valley of Humiliation, across the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and past the very mouth of Hell. Christian meets Faithful and Evangelist, the latter being a guide for many pilgrims. Evengelist warns Christian and Faithful that they must go through the town of Vanity, where Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion have erected a huge fair. At the fair, warns Evangelist the travelers will be tempted by every kind of vain and worldly merchandise:
. . . They presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is kept a fair, called Vanity Fair; it is kept all the year long; it beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity.