Personal and Family History

Daniel Featley (Fairclough) (see Bio Bits) was born on 5 March 1582 to John and Marian (Thrift) Fairclough in the village of Charlton-on-Otmoor located just about ten miles northeast of Oxford. Daniel was the second of five children. In 1590 John Fairclough was a cook to the president of Magdalen College when nine year old Daniel came to Oxford as a student at the grammar school associated with the college. During this period Daniel worked with his school choir. The boy proved something of a prodigy for his skill in composition. Four years later in 1594 Daniel was admitted as a scholar at Corpus Christi College where his father was then employed. It was at Corpus Christi that Daniel came under the influence of John Rainolds, future Translator, who was the master of the college.

Daniel remained in Oxford until 1618 when he traveled to Paris. While still at Oxford he began a career as a writer and controversialist which, in addition to his formal church service, occupied the rest of his life. He became a tireless advocate for Reformationist positions consistent with the Church of England. Unfortunately for Daniel Featley, church members and leaders were not always of one mind as to what was right and appropriate in doctrine and practice. As the sands of power shifted on these matters he found safe ground difficult to discern and maintain.

In 1624 Daniel Featley married Joyce, the daughter of William Kerwyn, a prominent Londoner. She had been recently widowed. She was described by Daniel's nephew John as "an ancient grave gentlewoman" who was considerably older than her husband. Joyce Featley was a woman of independent means and maintained her own home in Kenington, London. She was an accomplished gardener and acted as physician and apothecary to her neighbors. Both Daniel and his wife were described "as pious and charitable".

Daniel Featley had the misfortune of living into the English Civil War where he was viewed by Parliamentarians as too sympathetic to the crown. As a result, in September 1643, he was expelled from the Westminster Assembly, deprived of his church offices and ordered into prison. The conditions of his imprisonment were mercifully not harsh, being allowed confinement in Lord Petre's house in Aldergate Street, London. By March of 1645 suffering from the effects of a stroke, Daniel Featley was allowed to move to Chelsea College where he lived for but a month, passing away on 17 April. He was buried in the chancel of Lambeth Church where he had served for so many years. He was survived by his wife Joyce.


Young Daniel Featley's first formal schooling was at the grammar school associated with Magdalen College. He studied there for four years before entering into his university studies at Corpus Christi College at age twelve, in 1594.

He graduated B.A. in 1602, proceeded M.A. in 1605, B.D. in 1613, and D.D. in 1617.


Daniel Featley's career as a teacher, scholar, and writer began with his becoming a fellow of his college, Corpus Christi, in 1602 at age twenty. This position carried with it teaching as well as administrative responsibilities. In 1601 he wrote a number of articles on religious subjects and in 1609 had his first published work, an abridgement of a biography of Bishop John Jewel written by Lawrence Humphrey.

In 1610 while still a fellow at Corpus Christi, the vice-chancellor of Oxford recommended Daniel to become chaplain to England's ambassador to Paris, Sir Thomas Edmund. Edmund made the appointment, and Featley left Oxford to spend three years in Paris. It was during this time that he became known as a Protestant controversialist. As such he was an ardent advocate, defender, debater and writer for the Reformation cause. France was predominantly Catholic despite its own Protestant faction known as the Huguenots. Defenders of the Roman Church had a strong presence in the French capitol. Featley engaged in a number of debates in Paris and received the admiration of his opponents for his notable skills. The debates involved subjects such as the significance of the bread and wine used in the sacrament of communion/mass. Out of these controversies came further publications.

Back in Oxford by the summer of 1613, Daniel Featley received an appointment as rector of Northill, Cornwall, which gave him significant income. However he soon came to regret the isolation this position brought him. Writing to Bishop Robert Abbot, he desired: "God to remove me out of this barren and thirstye soyle and settle me near the wellsprings of knowledge, that I may quench my thirst of controversy-learning".

In 1617 his wish was granted, and he was appointed as one of the Archbishop George Abbot's chaplains and shortly thereafter as rector of All Saints, Lambeth, adjacent to Abbot's Lambeth residence.

These positions put Featley close to the center of ecclesiastical power and the intellectual resources of London. He continued to write, to debate and fulfill his new responsibility to oversee the licensing of books for publication. Under his oversight new authors were encouraged and Puritan points of view were allowed expression in print.

Featley's openness to the Puritans ultimately led to his licensing two books by Puritan authors, Crompton and Elton. Their publications in 1625 met with the disapproval of King James I and Archbishop Abbot. He was formally summoned before the king and reprimanded. He also lost his chaplaincy with Abbot. Nonetheless, he continued to receive appointments, the rectory of All Hallows, Bread Street, London in 1676, and Alton, Middlesex in 1627. Also, he was admitted as a preacher at Lincoln's Inn, became a member of the Westminster Assembly, and Provost of Chelsea College, all in London.

Among his most popular publications were; The Handmaid to Private Devotion, a meditative piece arising out of his experience during the plague of 1625-6, and The Dippers Dipt, based on a debate with a Baptist minister, which he wrote during his imprisonment.

Daniel Featley and the Translation

One of the early lists of Translators named a "Mr. Fairclough" as being a member of the First Oxford Company headed by John Harding. It included among its members John Rainolds. Rainolds was president of Corpus Christi, one of the eminent scholars of his day and was the person who first suggested a new translation to King James at Hampton Court. The question has long been debated as to whether this Fairclough was Richard Fairclough (see Bio Bits) or Daniel Featley. The main argument in favor of Featley is that he was a fellow of Corpus Christi College at the time of the translation and was especially close to Rainolds. At least one source describes him as Rainold's godson. (This is plausible given Daniel's father's connection to Magdalen and Corpus Christi.) Also, indications of the close relationship between the two was Featley's being asked to speak at Rainold's funeral in 1607. It is certainly possible that Rainold's intervened on Daniel Featley's behalf, including him in the company of Translators.

On the other hand, if, at twenty-two, Daniel Featley's age in 1604, he had been selected as a Translator, it is remarkable that his biographers, to wit. his nephew, John Featley, and William Leo, would make no mention of it. Nor, did Featley himself ever reference being one of the Translators. Indeed, in 1605, Richard Fairclough (see biography), had been a fellow of New College and was a New College contemporary of several of the other Translators, as well as an established churchman in nearby Bucknell. Absent further information the question of who is "Mr. Fairclough" cannot with certainty be resolved. However, even if Daniel Featley was not the named Translator, as close as he was to John Rainolds, (in whose apartment translation meetings were held) and being at Corpus Christi College himself, it is likely that he was involved in some way in the project.

Bio Bits

The question of how Fairclough became Featley was addressed by Daniel Featley's nephew, John, in the following explanation:

"Dr. Daniel Featley his right name was Fairclough, and by that name he was ordained, as his Letters of Orders witnessed. All the antient Deeds of the Family ran in the name of Fairclough, and his elder Brother so wrote his name: but even in his days, by the mistakes of people, the word varied from Fairclough to Faircley, then to Fateley, and at length to Featley; which name he first owned in print of all our family. He was extracted originally out of Lancashire, where many of the same House do to this day retain the Primitive name, and give the same Coat of Arms with us. The name at first arose from that Fair Cliff where his Ancestors long since were seated: for in the Dialect of that country, a Cliff was antiently written Clough." –From Mr. John Featley (p. 72), in The Lives of Ten Excellent Men (chiefly the older Bishops of the English Church): London. Printed for Mark Pardoe, 1677, 16mo., pp. 164.