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Tany, Thomas (DNB00)


TANY, THOMAS (fl. 1649–1655), fanatic, was a goldsmith at the sign of the ‘Three Golden Lions’ in the Strand, London. His surname is spelled in nine different ways, and seems to have been pronounced ‘tawny.’ A contemporary calls him ‘a mad Transilvanian’ (Mercurius Fumigosus, No. 32, 3–10 Jan. 1655, p. 252), but he was probably a native of London; there are traces of his family in the parish of St. Mary Aldermary. He seems to have been epileptic, and stuttered in his speech. He claimed to have had it revealed to him, on 23 Nov. 1649, that he was ‘a Jew of the tribe of Reuben,’ and that he must change his name from Thomas to Theaurau John. Hence Lodowicke Muggleton [q. v.] calls him John Tany. On 25 April 1650 he issued a proclamation announcing the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the rebuilding of the temple, thus endorsing the mad scheme of John Robins (fl. 1650–1652) [q. v.] the ranter. He soon announced himself as ‘high priest.’ Muggleton says he circumcised himself. On 20 Dec. he claimed to be Earl of Essex and heir to the throne. He read the English versions of Jacob Boehme, and in 1651 began to publish pantheistic tracts, showing illiteracy and mania, but with some flashes of beauty. These introduced him to John Pordage [q. v.], who had him at his house for a week or a fortnight at a time. He was imprisoned in Newgate in 1651 for blasphemy, but was soon released. On 4 Feb. 1652 John Reeve (1608–1658) [q. v.] visited him, with Muggleton and another, and bade him abandon his pretensions. On the retirement of Robins (April 1652) Tany stepped into his place. Removing to Eltham, he made tents for his expedition, ‘with the figure of every tribe upon the tent.’ Reeve then wrote him ‘a sentence of eternal damnation.’ On 8 June 1654 he claimed the crown of France. In the last week of 1654 he made a great bonfire in Lambeth, and threw into it his tent, saddle, pistols, a sword, and a bible, on which ‘the people were ready to stone him.’ On Saturday, 30 Dec., he made his appearance at the parliament house, ‘armed with a long rusty sword,’ asked Cooper the doorkeeper ‘whether he might deliver a petition,’ and was told it could be done through a member. An hour later he came with another armed man, ran at Cooper with his sword, and ‘hurt divers’ till Major Ennis overpowered him. He was taken for a quaker, and sent to the gatehouse. On 10 Feb. 1655 he was liberated on bail, in company with John Biddle [q. v.], and finally discharged on 28 May. Muggleton says that ‘after a while’ he sailed in a small boat to Holland, ‘to call the Jews there,’ and that ‘he and one Captain James were cast away and drowned.’ It seems probable that he was the ‘prophet’ who, being on a similar errand, visited Anthoinette Bourignon at Amsterdam in 1668, ‘and so, entering into a little bark, it is not known what became of him.’

In addition to broadsheet proclamations (25 April 1650, 8 May 1654, 8 June 1654), Tany published: 1. ‘The Nation's Right in Magna Charta discussed with the Thing called Parliament’ [1651], 4to, dated 1 Jan. 1651. 2. ‘Theavrav John his Aurora,’ 1651, 4to (introductory epistle by Robert Norwood; see Simpson, Sidrach). 3. ‘Theavravjohn his Theous-Ori Apokolipikal,’ 1651, 4to (contains a reply to Basset Jones [q. v.]); second part, 1650 [i.e. 1652], 4to. 4. ‘Theaurauiohn High Priest to the Jewes, his Disputive Challenge to the Universities’ [1655], 8vo.

[Tany's Works; A List of some of the Grand Blasphemers, 1654; Weekly Intelligencer, No. 74, 2–9 Jan. 1654, p. 151; Perfect Account of the Daily Intelligence, No. 209, 3–10 Jan. 1654, p. 1665; Mercurius Fumigosus, ut supra, and No. 70, 19 Sept.–3 Oct. 1655, p. 550; Fowler's Dæmonium Meridianum, 1655, i. 53, 60; Ross's Pansebeia, 1658, pp. 377 sq.; Whitelocke's Memoirs, 1682, p. 592; Parliamentary History, xx. 402; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss) iii. 599 (calls Tany ‘a blasphemous Jew’); Muggleton's Acts of the Witnesses, 1699, pp. 20 sq., 43 sq.; Apology for M. Antonia Bourignon, 1699, p. 299.]

A. G.