Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
Critical Introduction by Edmund W. Gosse
Thomas Stanley (1625–1678)
[Thomas Stanley was born at Cumberlow, in Hertfordshire, in 1625, and died in Suffolk Street, London, on the 12th of April, 1678. His translations appeared in 1649 and his original poems in 1651.]  1
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.  2

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