Although alleged to be of Norwich, Thomas Deloney was most likely born in London where he was trained as a silk-weaver. An entry in the parish register of St Giles-without-Cripplegate from 16 October 1586, records the baptism of his son Richard.
In the course of the next ten years he is known to have written about fifty ballads, one-sheet stories and news sheets, some of which got him into trouble, and caused him to keep a low profile for a time. John Strype described him as "presumptuous", because the heroes and heroines of his works were clearly common people, and therefore in Strype's terms only suitable for comedy or farce.
According to A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 'Less under the influence of John Lyly and other preceding writers than Greene, he is more natural, simple, and direct, and writes of middle-class citizens and tradesmen with light humour. Of his novels, Thomas of Reading is in honour of clothiers, Jack of Newbury celebrates weaving, and The Gentle Craft is dedicated to the praise of shoemakers. He "dy'd poorely," but was "honestly buried."'
There is evidence to suggest that his son traveled to the Virginia colony.
The lavish diversity of his characters, has led to him being viewed as a precursor of Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Charles Dickens. The critic Merritt E. Lawlis has pointed out that, Deloney was the first English novelist to use a dramatic technique in his novels in which scenes appear as if they were episodes in a play.
Among his works were:
- Three broadsides inspired by the Spanish Armada: "The Queenes visiting of the Campe at Tilsburie with her entertainment there," "A Joyful new Ballad, declaring the happie obtaining of the great Galleazzo", and "A new Ballet of the straunge and Most cruell Whippes which the Spaniards had prepared."
- A collection of Strange Histories (1607); historical ballads by Deloney, with some poems from other hands. This collection contains the ballad of Fair Rosamond.
- The Blind Beggar of Bednall Green and The Pleasant and sweet History of Patient Grissel in the collection Garland of Good Will.
- Jack of Newbury celebrating weavers.
- The Gentle Craft (1597) in praise of shoemakers.
- The Pleasant Historie of John Winchecombe (8th ed., 1619).
- Thomas of Reading or the Sixe Worthie Yeomen of the West in honour of clothiers (1612).