Patrick Delany

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Delany, Patrick, D.D., Dean of Down, an eloquent preacher, a man of wit and learning, the friend of Swift, Gay, and Bolingbroke, was born of humble parentage in 1686. He entered Trinity College as a sizar, and obtained a high reputation for conduct and learning. He rose to be Senior Fellow, and became well known as a preacher at St. Werburgh's. Lord Carteret, when Lord-Lieutenant, was greatly attracted by his talents, and made him a frequent visitor at the Castle. In 1727-8 he was impoverished by exchanging the Fellowship for the Chancellorship of Christ Church, an office the emoluments of which were small, but which he hoped would lead to still further advancement.

In 1731 he married Mrs. Margaret Tenison, a rich Irish widow, and again found himself in a position to gratify his hospitable disposition and indulge his literary tastes. He wrote and published several works, chiefly theological; and at his beautiful residence of Delville, Glasnevin, he was wont to collect a brilliant circle, in which Swift shone pre-eminent. His wife died in 1741, and two years afterwards he married Mrs. Pendarves, a lady of uncommon brilliancy, heart, and accomplishments, his junior by fourteen years. Her fortune brought a considerable addition to his income. She had visited Dr. Delany during his first wife's lifetime, and had long been an admirer of his character and his writings. Her maiden name was Mary Granville: she was highly connected, being a niece of Lord Lansdowne's. At eighteen she was married for money to a Cornish miser of "the name of Pendarves.

After about six years of misery, her husband died suddenly in London, in 1724, and she found herself a rich young widow at twenty-four years of age. Moving in the dissolute society of the time, nought but her purity and good sense carried her safely through her married life, and her nineteen years of widowhood, during which she received numberless brilliant offers. Her marriage with Dr. Delany proved singularly happy. She writes: "I could not have been so happy with any man in the world as the person I am now united to; his real benevolence of heart, the great delight he takes in making everyone happy about him, is a disposition so uncommon, that I would not change that one circumstance of happiness for all the riches and greatness in the world." Mrs. Delany delighted in Delville, a spot that will long be associated with her memory and that of her husband. In May 1744 he was made Dean of Down.

Dr. Delany vindicated his friend Dean Swift's memory from the strictures of Lord Orrery. It is related that on one occasion he had the honour of preaching before George II., and when the moment came he was so awed by the presence of Majesty that Mrs. Delany was obliged to write out the text for the royal pew. He died at Bath, 6th May 1768, aged about 82, and was buried in Glasnevin graveyard. The last seven years of his life were years of ill-health and great depression; added to which their means had been somewhat reduced by his generosity and hospitality. Allibone writes: "Delany was a man of ability and learning; disposed occasionally to use his fancy, and to reason confidently on doubtful or disputed premises. There is also a great lack of evangelical sentiment in his writings."

His bust in the Library of Trinity College is thus described in an interesting notice of him in the University Magazine. "The most singular bust in the room. It is that of a man perfectly bald-the cranium well studded with moral and intellectual eminences; the eyes small, humorous, and piercing; the under lip, prominent and sensual, is relieved by the firmness of the upper companion; there is much depth from the ear to the eye, denoting constructive powers of a high order. The head is sculptured looking downwards, 'demisso vultu'; and the whole face seems kindling with either a repressed or an outcoming burst of laughter. Mirth lurks in every chiselled feature, and the genius of good humour is caught and indurated into the marble, there to last, and to look like life for time. The neck, which is scarcely seen, is slovenly arranged in a pair of clergyman's bands, which are tossed and rugged."

Mrs. Delany survived until 1788. She enjoyed the friendship of George III. and his Queen. Her Autobiography and Correspondence were edited by Lady Llanover in 6 vols. — three appearing in 1861 and three in 1862 — enriched with numerous portraits of Mrs. Delany and her correspondents. The particulars of her life in Ireland are interesting. She liked the country and its inhabitants: in her Diary we find the following remarkable testimony to the safety of travel here a century ago: " A comfortable circumstance belonging to this country is that the roads are so good and free from robbers, that we may drive safely at any hour of the night."


16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

98. Delany, Mrs., Autobiography and Correspondence. 6 vols. London, 1861-'62.

116. Dublin University Magazine (52). Dublin, 1833-'77.

118. Ecclesiae Hiberniae Fasti: Rev. Henry Cotton: Indices by John R. Garstin, M.A. 5 vols. Dublin, 1851-'60.

196. Irishmen, Lives of Illustrious and Distinguished, Rev. James Wills, D.D. 6 vols. or 12 parts. Dublin, 1840-'7.

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