Thomas Stanley by Gerard Soest

Thomas Stanley (1625-1678). Portrait by Gerard Soest (1600-1681). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Stanley (1625 - April 12, 1678) was an English poet, translator, and historian of philosophy.[1]

Life Edit


Stanley, connected with the Derby family, was educated at Cambridge. He was the author of some poems and of a biographical History of Philosophy (4 volumes, 1655-62). He was learned in the classics, and translated from the Latin and late Greek as well as from the Italian and Portuguese, and ed. Æschylus. His poetry is thoughtful and gracefully expressed.[2]

Youth and educationEdit

Stanley was born in Herts, the son of Sir Thomas Stanley of Cumberlow. His mother, Mary Hammond, was the cousin of Richard Lovelace. Stanley was educated in company with the son of Edward Fairfax, the translator of Tasso.[3]

He proceeded to Cambridge in 1637, in his thirteenth year, as a gentleman commoner of Pembroke Hall. In 1641 he took his M.A. degree, but seems by that time to have proceeded to Oxford.[3]

Adult lifeEdit

Stanley was wealthy, and married early; his wife was Dorothy, daughter and coheir of Sir James Emyon, of Flower, in Northamptonshire. He travelled much on the Continent.[3]

He was the friend and companion, and at need the helper, of many poets, and was himself both a writer and a translator of verse. His Poems appeared in 1647 ; his Europa, Cupid Crucified, Venus Vigils, in 1649; his Aurora and the Prince, from the Spanish of J. Perez de Montalvan, in 1647; Oronla, the Cyprian Virgin, from the Italian of G. Preti (1650); and Anacreon; Bion; Moschus; Kisses by Secundus ... a volume of translations, in 1651.[3]

Stanley's most serious work in life, however, was his History of Philosophy, which appeared in 3 successive volumes between 1655 and 1661. A 4th volume (1662), bearing the title of History of Chaldaick Philosophy, was translated into Latin by J. Le Clerc (Amsterdam, 1690). The 3 earlier volumes were published in an enlarged Latin version by Godfrey Olearius (Leipzig, 1711).[3]

In 1664 Stanley published in folio a monumental edition of the text of Aeschylus.[3]

He died at his lodgings in Suffolk, Street, Strand, on the 12th of April 1678, and was buried in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields.[3]



Stanley is a very interesting transitional figure in English literature. Born into a later generation than that of Waller and Denham, he rejected their reforms, and was the last to cling obstinately to the old prosody and the conventional forms of fancy. He is the frankest of all English poets in his preference of decadent and Alexandrine schools of imagination; among the ancients he admired Moschus, Ausonius, and the Pervigilium Veneris; among the moderns, Joannes Secundus, Gongora and Marino.[3]

The English metaphysical school closes in Stanley, in whom it finds its most delicate and autumnal exponent, who went on weaving his fantastic conceits in elaborately artificial measures far into the days of Dryden and Butler.[3]

Stanley's original poems, which had been collected in 1651, were imperfectly reprinted in Sir S. Egerton Brydges's edition of 150 copies in 1814, but never since; his “Anacreon” was issued, with the Greek text, by A.H. Bullen in 1892.[3]


When Stanley turned to prose, however, his taste became transformed. He abandoned his decadents for the gravest masters of Hellenic thought. As an elegant scholar of the illuminative order, he secured a very high place indeed throughout the second half of the 17th century. His History of Philosophy was long the principal authority on the progress of thought in ancient Greece. It took the form of a series of critical biographies of the philosophers, beginning with Thales; what Stanley aimed at was the providing of necessary information concerning all "those on whom the attribute of Wise was conferred." He is particularly full on the great Attic masters, and introduces, "not as a comical divertisement for the reader, but as a necessary supplement to the life of Socrates," a blank verse translation of the Clouds of Aristophanes.[3]

His prose works have not been collected.[3]

Critical introductionEdit

by Edmund Gosse

Eminent among the scholars of the Restoration as the historian of Philosophy and the expounder of Aeschylus, Stanley had dedicated his youth to studies less severe, and is now principally remembered as the last of the old school of lyrists. Born into a younger generation than that of Waller and Denham, he really belongs, as a poet, to the age before them, and in him the series of writers called ‘Metaphysical’ closes.

Stanley is without the faults or the merits of his predecessors. His conceits are never violent or crude, though often insipid: but he has no flashes of music or sudden inspired felicities. He is a tamer and duller Herrick, resembling that writer in his versification, and following him at a distance in temperament and tone.

Stanley was a very delicate and poetical translator; and he had the originality to select the authors from whom he translated according to his own native bias. He delighted in Moschus and Ausonius among the ancients, and in Joannes Secundus and Ronsard among the moderns; the world in which his fancy loved to wander was one of refined Arcadian beauty, rather chilly and autumnal, but inhabited by groups of nymphs and shepherds, who hung garlands of flowers on votive urns, or took hands in stately pensive dances. In no poet of the century is the negative quality of shrinking from ugliness and coarseness so defined as in Stanley. He constantly sacrifices strength to it, not as Habington sometimes did, from instinctive reticence and modesty of fancy, but from sheer over-refinement.

Stanley makes a strange figure among the rough prosaic writers of the Restoration, and no poems of his have been preserved, except those of his youth. He probably ceased to write, and gave his intellect to less shifting studies, when he found the whole temper of the nation obstinately set against his inclination. He died in middle life, just when Lee and Otway were at the height of their vogue, and a few weeks before another great tradition in English poetry ceased at the death of Marvell.[4]


Bentley is said to have had a very high appreciation of his scholarship, and to have made use of the poet's copious notes, still in manuscript (in the British Museum), on Callimachus.

His poem "The Relapse" was included in the Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900.[5]

His portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely.[3]



  • Poems. London: 1647.
  • Europa / Cupid Crucified / Venus Vigils. London: W.W. for Humphrey Moseley, 1649.
  • Poems. London: Roger Norton, 1651.
  • His Original Lyrics: Complete (edited by Louise Imogen Guiney). Hull, UK: J.R. Tutin, 1907.


  • The History of Philosophy. London: Humphrey Moseley & Thomas Dring, 1655;
    • Volume II. London: Humphrey Moseley & Thomas Dring, 1656;
    • Volume III. London: Humphrey Moseley & Thomas Dring, 1660.
  • The History of Chaldaick Philosphy. London: Thomas Dring, 1662.


  • Juan Pérez de Montalván, Aurora Ismenia and the Prince. 1647; 2nd edition, London: W. Wilson for Humphrey Moseley, 1650.
  • Girolamo Preti, Oronta: The Cyprian virgin. London: 1650.
  • Anacreon / Bion / Moschus / Kisses by Secundus... (a volume of translations). London: 1651.[3]
  • Anacreon, Bion, and Moschus, with other translations (edited by Sir Samuel Egerton Bryges). London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1815.

Collected editionsEdit

All Things Drink Thomas Stanley Audiobook Short Poetry

All Things Drink Thomas Stanley Audiobook Short Poetry

  • Poems and Translations (edited by Galbraith M. Crump). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1962.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[6]

See alsoEdit


  • PD-icon.svg Gosse, Edmund (1911). "Stanley, Thomas". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 781. . Wikisource, Web, Mar. 5, 2018.


  1. Thoms Stanley (English poet), Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web, Feb. 14, 2016.
  2. John William Cousin, "Stanley, Thomas," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: Dent / New York: Dutton, 1910, 356. Wikisource, Web, Mar. 5, 2018.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 Gosse 1911, 781.
  4. from Edmund W. Gosse, "Critical Introduction: Thomas Stanley (1625–1678)," The English Poets: Selections with critical introductions (edited by Thomas Humphry Ward). New York & London: Macmillan, 1880-1918. Web, Feb. 14, 2016.
  5. "The Relapse," Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch).Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919., Web, May 6, 2012.
  6. Search results = au:Thomas Stanley 1678, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Feb. 14, 2016.

External linksEdit

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