Delany, Patrick (1685?–1768), clergyman and writer, was born in Rathkrea, Queen's Co. (Laois), probably on 15 March 1685. His father, Dennis Delany, is reputed to have been a servant to the Irish judge Sir John Russell. Delany was educated in Athy, Co. Kildare, at the school of Mr Dalton. He was admitted to TCD in September 1701, and graduated BA (1706) and MA (1709). In the latter year, he became a junior fellow of the college and a tutor and, for the earlier part of his adult life, remained a member of the teaching staff of the university, where he is said to have been a popular lecturer and tutor. In 1722 he was awarded the degrees of BD and DD and became Archbishop King lecturer in divinity; in 1724 he became professor of oratory and history.
In about 1718 Delany was introduced – it is said by his friend Thomas Sheridan (qv) – to Swift (qv), who liked him immediately. ‘He is a man of the easiest and best conversation I ever met with in this island’, Swift told Pope in May 1730, ‘a very good listener, a right reasoner, neither too silent nor talkative’. Delany became an important member of the circle of Irish wits and writers surrounding Swift in the 1720s and, like the other members – Thomas Sheridan, Richard Helsham (qv), Mary Barber (qv), Constantia Grierson (qv), Elizabeth Sican, Matthew (qv) and Laetitia Pilkington (qv), members of the Rochfort and Grattan families, and Swift's friend Esther Johnson (qv) (‘Stella’) – he was an adroit versifier, able to produce light verse of all kinds, epistles, riddles, invitations to dine, letters of advice. Delany derived much pleasure from the social side of his connection with Swift, often hosting elaborate dinner parties; his house at Glasnevin was the scene of the weekly meetings at which Swift and his circle would read poems to each other and submit them for correction.
Delany left TCD in 1728 to become chancellor of Christ Church cathedral. He became also rector of Derryvullan, Co. Fermanagh, and, in 1730, chancellor of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin. In 1732 he married Margaret (née Barton), widow of Richard Tennison or Tenison (d. 1725) of Thomastown, Co. Louth, MP for Dunleer. When she died (1741), Delany proposed marriage to Mary Pendarves (née Granville), younger daughter of George Granville, Lord Lansdowne. The couple had met in Dublin some years earlier. After some time and despite family opposition, Mary agreed to marry him and on 9 June 1743 became the Mrs Delany (qv) whose autobiography remains a valuable source of information about eighteenth-century life and whose cut-paper flower pictures are considered among the most remarkable artefacts of the age.
In 1744 Delany accepted the lucrative position of dean of Down, and for the rest of his life he and ‘Mrs Delany’ lived together in great happiness. They spent considerable money and energy on Delville, Delany's house at Glasnevin. Mary Delany told her sister that ‘never was seen a sweeter dwelling, . . . a more delightful and agreeable place.’ Though this interesting house was demolished in the 1950s, several of the poems written about it in Swift's circle survive, as do Mrs Delany's own sketches of the house and grounds. Delany was an avid book-collector, a conscientious supporter of charity, and a bon viveur. Even by the standards of the day, the Delanys' lifestyle at Delville was lavish and it was widely known that they lived far beyond their means. When in 1729 Delany sent a verse epistle to Lord Carteret (qv) asking for preferment to a living with a better income so that he might have more money to spend on books, on living, and on charity, his poem was received with considerable mirth by Swift and others. By the 1760s Delany's health was in decline and he and his wife moved to England, where he died in Bath on 6 May 1768. He was buried at Glasnevin.
He was a talented writer and preacher, a warm-hearted, impetuous, hospitable man who seems to have been universally liked and respected. Swift, in particular, considered him a true friend, and it was Delany who stepped forward to rescue Swift's reputation from the calumnies of his first biographer, Lord Orrery (qv), with his Observations upon Lord Orrery's remarks upon the life and writings of Dr Jonathan Swift (1754). This is the only account of Swift by a close friend who had known him at the height of his powers. In addition to his observations on Swift and his charming occasional poetry (collected and edited by Robert Hogan), Delany founded and wrote a periodical, The Humanist (1757). He published several sermons, An essay towards evidencing the divine original of tythes (1748), An humble apology for Christian orthodoxy (1761), a confutation of transubstantiation (1766), and Three discourses on public occasions (1763). In his last years he worked assiduously to bring out a further series of discourses, which finally appeared in 1766 with the title Eighteen discourses and dissertations upon various very important and interesting subjects. Viscount Bolingbroke (1678–1751), among others, did not think highly of these discourses, which have not been reprinted.
There is a bust of Delany in the Long Room in TCD and an anonymous enamel painting of him in the NGI. Mrs Delany's sketchbook is also in the NGI.