Thomas Stanley, (born 1625, Cumberlow, Hertfordshire, Eng.—died April 12, 1678, London), English poet, translator, and the first English historian of philosophy.
He was born in Cumberlow, Hertfordshire, the son of Sir Thomas Stanley of Cumberlow and his wife, Mary Hammond. Mary 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 subsequently embarked on a legal career, entering the Middle Temple in 1664 to study law.
He was wealthy, married early, and travelled much in Europe. 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 portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely and by Sir Godfrey Kneller; in all he was painted at least fifteen times.
Stanley is the last of the metaphysical poets; born into a later generation than that of Edmund Waller and John Denham, he rejected their influence in prosody and forms of fancy. He admired Moschus, Ausonius, and the Pervigilium Veneris; among the moderns, Joannes Secundus, Gongora and Giambattista Marino.
Stanley's major work was The History of Philosophy, a series of critical biographies of philosophers, beginning with Thales; the life of Socrates included a blank verse translation of The Clouds of Aristophanes. It appeared in three volumes between 1655 and 1661. A fourth volume (1662), bearing the title of The History of Chaldaick Philosophy, was translated into Latin by Jean Le Clerc (Amsterdam, 1690). The three earlier volumes were published in an enlarged Latin version by Gottfried Olearius (Leipzig, 1711). In 1664 Stanley published in folio a monumental edition of the text of Aeschylus.Richard Bentley is said to have appreciated his scholarship, and to have made use of Stanley's notes, on Callimachus.
Stanley's first wife was Dorothy Emyon, daughter and coheir of Sir James Emyon, of Flore, Northamptonshire, with issue Thomas Stanley (1650 – death unknown).
After Dorothy's death, Stanley married Catherine Killigrew, with no issue. He died at his lodgings in Suffolk Street, Strand, London on 12 April 1678, and was buried in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields. His widow died in Cumberlow in 1689.