1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stanley, Thomas

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

STANLEY, THOMAS (1625-1678), English poet and philosopher, son of Sir Thomas Stanley of Cumberlow, in Herts, was born in 1625. His mother, Mary Hammond, was the cousin of Richard Lovelace, and Stanley was educated in company with the son of Edward Fairfax, the translator of Tasso. 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. He was wealthy, married early, and travelled much on the Continent. 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. Stanley's most serious work in life, however, was his History of Philosophy, which appeared in three successive volumes between 1655 and 1661. A fourth volume (1662), bearing the title of History of Chaldaick Philosophy, was translated into Latin by J. Le Clerc (Amsterdam, 1690). The three earlier volumes were published in an enlarged Latin version by Godfrey Olearius (Leipzig, 1711). In 1664 Stanley published in folio a monumental edition of the text of Aeschylus. 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. His portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely; his wife was Dorothy, daughter and coheir of Sir James Emyon, of Flower, in Northamptonshire. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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 Mr Bullen in 1892. His prose works have not been collected.  (E. G.)