The date and circumstances of William Dell's birth are unknown. There is evidence that he may have been born in Bedfordshire, between 1606 and 1608, that his parents were John Dell (d. 1614) and Joan Deacon (d. 1623) and that he grew up in a Puritan environment. He died on 5 November 1669 and was buried, according to his wishes, in unconsecrated ground. Dell entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1624 as a sizar, and graduated BA in 1628 and MA in 1631. In the same year he was ordained and elected Fellow at Emmanuel. In 1641 he was presented as rector of Yelden in Bedfordshire by the Earl of Bolingbroke, Oliver St John. Some time between 1641 and 1645 Dell underwent a religious crisis or perhaps a conversion, which he alludes to in the dedication to a sermon preached at Yelden and subsequently published (Christ's Spirit, A Christian's Strength, 1645). The dedication is addressed to Lady Bolingbroke, whose spiritual counsel during his crisis he gratefully acknowledges. When civil war broke out, Dell joined the Parliamentary Army as a preacher-soldier. By 1646 he was attached to the headquarters of the New Model Army and was a chaplain to Sir Thomas Fairfax. He shared this distinction with Hugh Peter and John Saltmarsh. Richard Baxter reported with dismay their success in promoting radicalism within the army. Dell was among the group of clergy who tried unsuccessfully to minister to Charles I on the day of his execution. In 1648 he married and the following year was made Master of Gonville and Caius College, thus becoming the first married Master of a Cambridge College. In 1660, at the Restoration, he resigned his Mastership. In 1662, having refused to subscribe to the Act of Uniformity, he was ejected from his living at Yelden and joined the ranks of the nonconformists. Hitherto, while preaching a doctrine that encouraged sectarian and anarchist sentiments, he had remained within the established Church. Having earlier secured a king's pardon, he suffered no further trial. He retired to lands earlier purchased in Westoning, also in Bedfordshire.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.