Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dering, Edward (1540?-1576)
DERING, EDWARD (1540?–1576), puritan divine, descended from an ancient and still existing Kentish family, which claims to be of Saxon origin, was the third son of John Dering, esq., of Surrenden-Dering, Kent, and Margaret, his wife, daughter of John Brent of Charing, Kent. He received his education at Christ's College, Cambridge; was admitted B.A. 1559-60, and was shortly after elected a fellow of the society. He commenced M. A. in 1563. In the following year Queen Elizabeth visited the university, and proceeded to make a tour of the colleges; on her arrival at Emmanuel, Dering presented her with a congratulatory copy of Greek verses–the earliest evidence of that scholarship which afterwards led Archbishop Parker to style him 'the greatest learned man in England' (Parker Corresp. p. 413). In 1566 he was university proctor, and the next year preacher before the university on the Lady Margaret foundation. On 28 Nov. 1568 he was collated by Parker to the rectory of Pluckley, the parish in which Surrenden-Dering is situate. He also appears about this time to have been one of the chaplains to the Duke of Norfolk, and to have held a chaplaincy in the Tower of London, where he preached, 11 Dec. 1569, a sermon of remarkable power and beauty, which he afterwards printed. Down to this time he would seem to have been well disposed towards the A glican party, and in agreement with the church discipline and ritual. He was singled out by Parker as the scholar best qualified to reply to the malignant misrepresentations of Sander in his treatise, 'De Visibili Monarchia;' and he was employed by the privy council to draw up a series of answers to a book which at the time was supposed to have been written by Cartwright (Lemon, Cal. State Papers, 1547-80, p. 470). In his 'Sparing Restraint' (a reply to Harding, the Jesuit assailant of Jewel) he writes: 'Our service is good and holy, every tittle grounded on Holy Scriptures' (Whitgift, Works, ed. Parker Soc. ii. 470). But on 25 Feb. 1569-1570 he preached at court before the queen, his text being Ps. lxxviii. 70, with singular vehemence. Thomas Baker, referring to this discourse, observes that it 'is a remarkable piece, and perhaps the last of that kind that was preached at court' (manuscript note to copy of Dering's 'Works' in St. John's College, Cambridge). The whole sermon is a fierce indictment against the clergy, whose lives and ordinary practice are held up to reprobation in the most unsparing terms. Dering wound up his description in the following words, directly addressed to Elizabeth herself: 'And yet you in the meane while that all these whoredoms are committed, you at whose hands God will require it, you sit still and are carelesse, let men doe as they list. It toucheth not belike your common-wealth, and therefore you are so well contented to let all alone.' We learn from Dering's own statement in the dedication of his lectures on the Hebrews to Elizabeth, that in consequence of the offence thus given he was suspended from preaching. It may have been in the hope of winning over a divine of so much oratorical power that, notwithstanding, he appears to have been presented by the crown, 20 Dec. 1571, to the prebend of Chardstock in Salisbury Cathedral (Rymer, xv. 695). He was probably more or less resident in Cambridge from 1569 to 1571, for he took a foremost part in the resistance to the new statutes of 1570, which were imposed on the university after the expulsion of Cartwright [see Cartwright, Thomas (1535-1603)]. In November 1570 he addressed a letter to Cecil, the chancellor of the university, in which he criticised the new statutes and their authors with remarkable freedom; and 24 March 1572 he wrote again to the same authority (then Lord Burghley) pleading pathetically on behalf of Cartwright, and urging that he should be permitted to return to Cambridge and to lecture there. In the same year he was appointed divinity reader at St. Paul's, and in this capacity delivered a series of expositions on the earlier chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which greatly increased his reputation, and were largely attended by the citizens of London. His previous experience, however, had taught him no discretion; and in the preface (22 April 1572) to 'A briefe and necessarie Catechism,' which he next proceeded to publish, he renewed his attacks on the clergy. 'There was never no nation,' he said, 'which had so ignorant ministers;' while he animadverted with special severity on the scandalous disputes and the litigation which prevailed within the church itself 'the parson against the vicar, the vicar against the parson, the parish against both, and one against another, and all for the belly.' Whether on account of this publication is not clear, but in 1573 he was suspended from his lectureship and summoned before the Star-chamber. He was there charged with having given utterance to sundry unwarrantable and unorthodox sentiments, and more especially with having predicted that Parker, his former friend, would be the last archbishop of Canterbury. This charge he did not altogether deny, but sought to explain away. He was further examined as to his general agreement with the doctrine of the Thirty-nine Articles, and his answers were deemed so far satisfactory that his sentence of suspension from his lectureship was cancelled, mainly, it is said, on the recommendation of Sandys, bishop of London. The leniency with which he was treated gave, however, great offence to the bishops, and even Sandys seems from this time to have turned against him. Parker seems also to have now become his enemy, and in a letter written 17 March 1574-5 we find him saying, 'Being the other day at court, her Majesty misliked Deering's reading.' When accordingly an endeavour was made in 1574 to obtain for Dering the appointment of lecturer at Whittington College as successor to Dr. Thomas Sampson, the archbishop put his veto on the proposal. Shortly after this Dering's health began to give way. We find from his letters that in July 1575 he was suffering from blood-spitting and difficulty of breathing. He died 26 June in the following year at Thoby, in the parish of Mountnessing, Essex. Assuming that he was about twenty at the time of admission to his B. A. degree, he was about thirty-six at the time of his death.
Dering's writings show that he possessed a remarkable command of language, and that he was a man of warm affections and deep and earnest convictions; but it is no less evident that he was by temperament singularly vehement and impulsive, and wanting in sobriety of judgment and in discretion. He seems to have fully merited Strype's description as being 'a great enemy to the order of bishops' (Annals, ii. i. c. 20). On the other hand, his reputation among his contemporaries stood singularly high. By Rutherfurd ('Free Epistle,' prefixed to the first part of the Survey) he is named along with Calvin, Cartwright, and Beza, as one to whose judgment he would readily bow. His works have been several times printed, and a complete list as far as known is given by Cooper (Athenæ Cant. i. 356-7). The best collected edition is that of 1614, London, 4to. This contains (1) 'A Sermon preached before the Queenes Maiestie.' (2) 'A Sermon preached at the Tower of London.' (3) 'Twenty-seven Lectures or Readings upon the Epistle to the Hebrews.' (4) ' Certain godly and comfortable Letters,' &c. (5) ' A briefe and necessary Catechisme for Christian Housholders.' (6) 'Godly private Prayers for Christian Families, the whole, the which (greater part of them) were wanting in the former works in octavo. Also certain godly Speeches uttered by Maister Dering,' &c. Dering's eldest brother, Richard, was the grandfather of Sir Edward Dering.
[Rev. F. Haslewood's Genealogical Memoranda relating to the Family of Surrenden-Dering, Kent, 1876; Strype's Annals and Life of Parker; Parker Correspondence, pp. 410, 413, 434, 476; Sandys's Sermons (Parker Society), p. xxi; Neal's History of the Puritans, i. 204. 230.]