Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Delaune, Thomas

DELAUNE, THOMAS (d. 1685), nonconformist writer, was born at Brinny, near Cork. His parents were catholics and rented a farm under a landlord named Riggs, who, struck by the quickness and capacity of Delaune, placed him at a priory at Kilchiash, about seven miles from Cork. There the lad received a good education and remained till upwards of sixteen, when he became clerk to the proprietor of a pilchard fishery near Kinsale, named Bampsfield. He remained there several years. His employer was a protestant and persuaded Delaune to renounce catholicism, which brought so much obloquy and persecution upon him that he gave up his situation and settled in England. Shortly after landing he made the acquaintance of Edward Hutchinson, late baptist minister at Ormonde, whose daughter, Hanna, he married. He afterwards resided in London, and obtained his living by translating and other literary work, and subsequently by keeping a grammar school. He is said to have translated the ‘Philologia Sacra,’ and was an active member of the baptist body, although at his trial he denied ever having been a minister or lay preacher. On the publication of Dr. Benjamin Calamy's tractate, ‘A Scrupulous Conscience,’ &c., Delaune accepted the challenge he understood to be contained therein, and wrote his ‘Plea for the Nonconformists,’ a part of which was construed into a libel. On 29 Nov. 1683 he was accordingly apprehended and committed to Wood Street compter, where he complains he was placed on the common side and had only bricks for his pillow. Shortly afterwards he was removed by warrant to Newgate and lodged among the felons. While in prison he several times wrote to Dr. Calamy, whom he considered able to procure his release, but on finding that his name was not mentioned in the indictment Calamy refused to intervene. Although a true bill was found against him and he was brought up to plead against the indictment in December, Delaune was not tried till the following January, when he was convicted of publishing a false and seditious libel and sentenced to pay a fine of a hundred marks, to find security for good behaviour for six months, and to have his books publicly burnt by the hangman. As he was unable to pay the fine, he was compelled to remain in Newgate, where his wife and children joined him. His poverty was so great that his only means of sustenance was the chance gifts of visitors to the prison, but he is said to have exhibited great patience and fortitude until the death of his wife and two children from want of air and sufficient nourishment, when his health gave way, and he died after a few weeks' severe suffering, having been in Newgate about fifteen months. Defoe, in the preface he wrote to a new edition of ‘A Plea,’ &c., bitterly reflects on the parsimony of the dissenters, who would not subscribe the sum of about 67l. necessary to procure the release of their champion. While in prison Delaune wrote ‘A Narrative of the Sufferings of T.D.,’ &c. (1684). His ‘Plea for the Nonconformists, giving the true state of the Dissenters' Case,’ &c. (1683), was for many years a standard baptist apology, and was reprinted seven times between 1683 and 1706, when Defoe wrote his preface for it. Delaune also wrote ‘The Present State of London, or memorials comprehending a full and succinct account of the ancient and modern state thereof’ (a compilation from Stow), 1681, reprinted, with additions, in 1690 as ‘Angliæ Metropolis;’ and ‘Compulsion of Conscience condemned,’ 1683.

[Crosby's Hist. of the Baptists, ii. 366, &c., 1st edit.; Neal's Hist. of the Puritans, iv. 520, 2nd edit.; Bogue's Hist. of the Dissenters, i. 87; A Narrative of the Sufferings of T. D.; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xi. 95.]

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