Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Harley, Edward (1664-1735)
HARLEY, EDWARD (1664–1735), auditor of the imprest, born at Brampton-Bryan, Herefordshire, on 7 June 1664, was the second son of Sir Edward Harley, K.B. [q. v.], by his second wife, Abigail, daughter of Nathaniel Stephens of Essington, Gloucestershire. He was educated at Westminster School, and was called to the bar at the Middle Temple. He took an active part in the transactions which preceded and accompanied the landing of the Prince of Orange in England. With. Colonel John Birch he met the prince at Salisbury. At Harley's suggestion the passage over the Thames at Wallingford Bridge was secured (Townsend, Leominster, pp. 172-4). In 1692 he was appointed recorder of Leominster, an office which he resigned in 1732 in favour of his son Robert. On 29 July 1698 he became M.P. for Leominster, and continued to represent the borough until 1722, when he lost the election. In 1702 he obtained the lucrative office of auditor of the imprest, which he held during life. In parliament he vigorously defended his brother, Robert Harley, earl of Oxford [q. v.], against the attacks of Lord Ooningsby in 1715. A charge was produced and pressed against him in 1717 of having embezzled the funds of the state. Harley proved that while in that year thirty-six millions of money were paid into his hands, yet his accounts were correct within three shillings and fourpence, which had been mischarged through the inadvertency of a clerk. During this investigation he retired into private life, and employed his time in literary pursuits, in studying social questions and the interests of the tenantry on his various estates. When Lord Coningsby during 1718-24 endeavoured to wrest from the corporation of Leominster the privileges of its charter, Harley, at much cost to himself, successfully vindicated their rights. He was chosen "chairman, of the trustees for the charity schools in London in 1725. He died on 30 Aug. 1735 at his chambers in New Square, Lincoln's Inn (Probate Act Book, P. C. C. 1735), and was buried in Titley churchyard. By his wife Sarah, third daughter of Thomas Foley of W r itley Court, Worcestershire, he had three sons and one daughter. Edward, the eldest son, succeeded his cousin Edward (1689-1741) [q. v.] as third earl of Oxford, and was father of Thomas Harley [q. v.] Harley was author of: 1. 'An Essay for composing a Harmony between the Psalms and other parts of the Scripture . . .; wherein the supplicatory and prophetick part of this Sacred Book are disposed under proper heads' (anon.), 4to, London, 1724. 2. 'An Abstract of the Historical Part of the Old Testament, with References to other Parts of the Scripture,' &c. (introduction signed E. Harley), 8vo, London, 1730 (another edition, with the author's 'Essay' and 'The Harmony of the Four Gospels,' 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1735-33). 3. 'The Harmony of the Four Gospels, wherein the different manner of relating the facts by each Evangelist is exemplify'd. . . . With the History of the Acts of the Apostles' (anon.), 8vo, London, 1733. Harley's portrait by J. Richardson was engraved by G. Vertue. He maintained charity schools at Brampton-Bryan, Titley, and in Monmouthshire.
[Collins's Collections of Noble Families, pp. 205-207; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 431-4; Townsend's Leominster; Welch's Alumni Westmon. 1852, p. 544; Chester's London Marriage Licenses (Foster), col. 626; will in P.C. C. 188, Ducie.]