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Temple Stanyan (1675–1752)[2] was an English civil servant, politician and author. He is known for his Grecian History, first published in 1707, which became a standard work on the history of ancient Greece in the early part of the 18th century.

Temple Stanyan
Born(1675-02-08)8 February 1675[1]
Died25 March 1752(1752-03-25) (aged 77)[2]
Woodcote, Oxfordshire
Resting placeChurch of St Peter and St Paul, Checkendon
51°32′33″N 1°02′42″W / 51.5424°N 1.0450°W / 51.5424; -1.0450
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
OccupationCivil servant
Known forWriting on the history of Greece
  • Elizabeth Boys (dates unknown)
  • Susannah Hobbs (1721–1725, her death)
  • Grace Pauncefort (? – 1752, his death)
  • Lawrence Stanyan (d. 1725)
  • Dorothy Knapp (d.1730)


Early lifeEdit

Stanyan was born on 8 February 1675 at Monken Hadley, then part of Middlesex. He was one of eight children of Lawrence Stanyan (d. 1725), merchant, farmer, and commissioner of the revenue, of Monken Hadley, and Dorothy Stanyan (nee Knapp). One of his older brothers was Abraham Stanyan, who would later serve as the British ambassador to Switzerland, the Ottoman Empire and to Austria. His maternal uncle was Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Baronet, after whom he may have been named.

Stanyan entered Westminster School in 1691 as a Queen's Scholar. He enrolled at Christ Church, Oxford in June 1695 but did not take a degree.[1] In May 1697, Sir Richard Temple died and Stanyan inherited one of his properties, Rawlins Manor (Woodcote Manor) in Oxfordshire.[3]


Stanyan entered government service after leaving Oxford and by 1715 was under-secretary for the Northern Department (the department responsible for foreign relations with Northern European countries). He transferred to the Southern Department (the department for Southern Europe) as under-secretary in 1717, but he lost this position a year later. In 1719, he became Clerk of the Privy Council, succeeding his brother Abraham in the post. In 1724, he also regained the under-secretaryship at the Southern Department.[1]

Stanyan became a Fellow of the Royal Society on 12 May 1726, after being proposed by Francis Nicholson.[4] Abraham Stanyan was a prominent member of the Kit Kat Club, as was his cousin Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham and some sources state Temple was also a member.[5]

In 1731 he was succeeded as Clerk of the Privy Council by Gilbert West and in 1735 he left the Southern Department.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Stanyan married three times. His first wife, Elizabeth Boys (née Shirley), was the widow of William Boys. His married his second wife, Susannah Hobbs (bap. 1689, d. 1725), on 3 January 1721. His third marriage was to Grace Pauncefort (1692/3–1768).

Stanyan died at his seat, Rawlins Manor, on 25 March 1752 and was buried at the church of St Peter and St Paul, Checkendon, there is a memorial to him inside the church.[2][Note 1]

He was survived by his third wife. His daughter Catherine later became the second wife of Admiral Charles Hardy in 1759. Their eldest son, Temple Hardy, was likely named after Temple Stanyan and was a notable Royal Navy officer during the French Revolutionary wars.


The first volume of his two-volume book Grecian History, from the Original of Greece, to the Death of Philip of Macedon was published in 1707 by Jacob Tonson; there was a 32-year gap before the publication of the second volume in 1739.[6] This was published alongside a second, revised, edition of the first volume.[7]

The Grecian History was the first major English work on ancient Greece that was aimed at the general public and it became very successful.[8] It was the standard work on the topic during the 18th century[1] and editions were published in 1751, 1759, 1766, 1774, 1775 and 1781. It was translated into French by Denis Diderot in 1743. In the work, Stanyan, in common with better-known thinkers such Montesquieu and Rousseau, lavishes praise on Sparta, for being a strong stable state that was immune from factionalism and political unrest. He condemns the democratic constitution of Classical Athens, claiming that it suffered from these failings.[9]

Towards the end of the 18th century, Stanyan's history was superseded by William Mitford's History of Greece, the five volumes of which were published, one by one, between 1783 and 1810. Although later in the 19th century, that work itself came to be seen as flawed as it reflected the author's reactionary politics and his anti-democratic and anti-Jacobin views.[10]

Stanyan contributed to a major, 15-volume collaborative translation of Ovid's, Metamorphoses edited by Samuel Garth, that was published by Tonson in 1717. Among those who also contributed to the work were Alexander Pope, John Dryden, Joseph Addison, William Congreve and Nicholas Rowe.[11][12] He also contributed to a 1726 collection of English and Latin poems on archery and the Royal Company of Archers[13] and composed the Latin inscription on the plinth of John Michael Rysbrack's 1735 statue of George II at Greenwich Hospital.[14]


  1. ^ 24 March 1751, is given as the date of his death on his memorial at the church of St Peter and St Paul, Checkendon. However, at the time, the Old style date notation was in use so year was in fact 1752. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives the date as 25 March 1752.


  1. ^ a b c d e Philip Woodfine, Claire Gapper, 'Stanyan, Abraham (1672–1732)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, (2004)
  2. ^ a b c Temple Stanyan Memorial 1751, Checkendon (Image). Aidan McRae Thomson. 4 April 2011.
  3. ^ Mary Lobel (editor) (1962). "Parishes: South Stoke". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7: Dorchester and Thame hundreds. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 31 August 2013.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Temple Stanyan". The Royal Society. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  5. ^ Ceserani, Giovanna (2012). Italy's Lost Greece: Magna Graecia and the Making of Modern Archaeology. Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 0199744270.
  6. ^ "Full Record: The Grecian History. Volume the first. Containing the space of about 1684 years. By Temple Stanyan. Adorn'd with cuts". English Short Title Catalogue. British Library. OCLC 181835432. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  7. ^ Stanuan, T. (1739). The Grecian History: From the original of Greece, to the end of the Peloponnesian War. Containing the space of about 1684 years. In two volumes. By Temple Stanyan ... Volume the first. London, Printed for J. and R. Tonson.OCLC 79521540
  8. ^ Onnekink, David; Rommelse, Gijs (2011). Ideology and Foreign Policy in Early Modern Europe (1650–1750). Ashgate Publishing. p. 120. ISBN 1409419142.
  9. ^ Turner, Frank (1984). The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain. Yale University Press. p. 189. ISBN 0300032579.
  10. ^ Rabasa, José; Feldherr, Andrew; Woolf, Daniel R.; Hardy, Grant (2012). The Oxford History of Historical Writing: 1400–1800. Oxford University Press. p. 529. ISBN 0199219176.
  11. ^ Pat Rogers (2004). The Alexander Pope Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 261–. ISBN 978-0-313-32426-0. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  12. ^ OVID, et al. (1717). Ovid's Metamorphoses in fifteen books. London, Printed for Jacob Tonson at Shakespear's-Head over against Katharine-Street in the Strand.OCLC 123279498
  13. ^ (1726). Poems in English and Latin: on the archers, and Royal-Company of archers Edinburgh OCLC 68350275
  14. ^ James Caulfield (1821). Memoirs of the Celebrated Persons composing the Kit-Cat Club; with a prefatory account of the origin of the association. Hurst, Robinson & Company. p. 211. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
Sources and Bibliography

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