Thomas Deloney

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Thomas Deloney was a hack writer of Elizabethan London and the author of innumerable occasional ballads and broadside sheets as well as a pioneer in English prose fiction. As a boy, he learned the trade of a weaver, and he began writing ballads on contemporary events while working at his trade in Norwich. About 1585, he moved to London, where he seems to have devoted all of his time to writing. He was the author of many ballads, which at the time were printed on single sheets of paper and hawked about the streets. Deloney, according to tradition, was the successor to William Elderton, the chief balladeer of the early 1580’s. Although many of his ballads have long since been lost, there are two collections of his work: The Garland of Good Will and Strange Histories of Kings, Princes, Dukes.

It is for his work as a writer of prose narratives that Deloney is usually remembered. His best-known work is The Pleasant History of John Winchcomb in His Younger Days Called Jack of Newbery, usually referred to as Jack of Newbery. The volume is a realistic prose narrative extolling the virtues of weavers, the author’s fellow tradesmen. Another prose narrative by Deloney, the two-part The Gentle Craft, in which he glorifies shoemakers, probably influenced Thomas Dekker’s popular play The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599). A third prose narrative by Deloney is Thomas of Reading, which praises the clothiers of England. All three narratives combine romantic and realistic techniques in dealing with phases of the life of Elizabethan trades and crafts against semihistorical backgrounds.

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