Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Harley, Robert (1661-1724)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

HARLEY, ROBERT, first Earl of Oxford (1661–1724), the eldest son of Sir Edward Harley, K.B., by his second wife, Abigail, daughter of Nathaniel Stephens of Easington, Gloucestershire, was born in Bow Street, Covent Garden, on 5 Dec. 1661, and was educated at a private school kept by Mr. Birch at Shilton, near Burford, Oxfordshire, where Simon Harcourt, first viscount [q. v.] (afterwards lord chancellor), and Thomas Trevor (afterwards lord chief justice of the common pleas) were among his contemporaries. It is frequently stated that Harley was also educated at Westminster School, but of this there is no satisfactory proof, as the admissions of that date are no longer in existence. Harley was admitted a member of the Inner Temple on 18 March 1682, but was never called to the bar. At the revolution he assisted his father in raising a troop of horse and in taking possession of Worcester in the name of William III. In March 1689 he was appointed high sheriff of Herefordshire, and at a by-election in April was returned to parliament, through the influence of the Boscawen family, for the borough of Tregony. At the general election in March 1690 he was returned for New Radnor borough, which he continued to represent thenceforth until his elevation to the House of Lords.

By birth and education Harley was a whig and a dissenter, but by slow degrees he gradually changed his politics, ultimately becoming the leader of the tory and church party. Harley quickly showed his aptitude for public business in the house, and on 26 Dec. 1690 was selected one of the commissioners for taking the public accounts. In 1693 Harley, who ' knew forms and the records of parliament so well that he was capable both of lengthening out and of perplexing debates,' joined with Foley and the tories in opposing the court, and 'set on foot some very uneasy things that were popular' (Burnet, Hist. of his own Time, iv. 197). At Harley's instance, in January 1694, a humble representation 'was made to the king on his refusal to pass the Place Bill (Parl. Hist. v. 831), but his motion for a further answer after the king's reply had been received was defeated by a large majority (ib. v. 837). In November of this year he brought in the Triennial Bill, which was this time quickly passed into law (6 & 7 Wm. & Mary, c. 2). In 1696 he succeeded in establishing the National Land Bank (7 & 8 Will. Ill, c. 31), which the tories predicted would completely eclipse the Bank of England, a delusion that was quickly dispelled by the utter failure of the scheme. At the end of this year he opposed the bill of attainder against Sir John Fenwick (ib. v. 1104-6). In December 1697 he carried a resolution that the military establishment should be reduced to what it had been in 1680, and in December 1698 that the army in England should not exceed seven thousand men, in consequence of which William was compelled to dismiss his Dutch guards. Harley had now become a great power in the house, for, while acting almost always with the tories, he contrived by his moderation and finesse to retain the favour of many of the whigs and dissenters. At the meeting of the new parliament on 10 Feb. 1701 he was elected speaker, a position for which he was well qualified by his minute knowledge of parliamentary procedure, by a majority of 120 votes over Sir Richard Onslow (Journals of the House of Commons, xiii. 325), Sir Thomas Lyttelton, the speaker of the former parliament, having withdrawn from his candidature at the request of the king. Harley was again electe speaker after the general election at the end of this year, but only by the narrow majority of four, being opposed by Lyttelton, whom the king this time openly favoured (ib. p. 645). On 19 June 1702 Harley was appointed custos rotulorum of Radnorshire, and at the meeting of Anne's first parliament in October was for the third time elected to the chair (Parl. Hist. vi. 46), and in November presented the thanks of the house to the tory admiral, Sir George Rooke, for his 'great and signal services' (Journals of the House of Commons, xiv. 39). Thwarted in their plans for the active prosecution of the war by the extreme high tories, Marlborough and Godolphin determined to obtain the dismissal of Nottingham and his followers. Harley was sworn a member of the privy council on 27 April 1704, and on 18 May was appointed secretary of state for the northern department in the place of Nottingham, while Mansel, the Earl of Kent, and St. John replaced Sir Edward Seymour, the Earl of Jersey, and Clarke. Harley, in spite of his new appointment, continued to occupy the chair until the dissolution of parliament in April 1705. In 1704 he took part in the debate on the constitutional case of Ashby v. White, and maintained that the sole judgment of election matters was vested in the House of Commons (Parl. Hist. vi. 277-9). In consequence of the conduct of the tory majority in the lower house the ministry began more and more to rely upon the whig party. A curious account of a dinner given by Harley in January 1706, with a view of cementing the alliance of the ministers with the whigs, is preserved in 'The Private Diary of William, first Earl Cowper' (Roxburghe Club, 1833, p. 33), where it is recorded that, after the lord treasurer had gone, 'Sr Harley took a glass and drank to Love and Friendship and everlasting Union and wish'd he had more Tockay to drink it in (we had drank two Bottles, good, but thick). I replied his white Lisbon was best to drink it in, being very clear. I suppose he apprehended it (as I observ'd most of the Company did) to relate to that humour of his, which was, never to deal clearly or openly, but always with Reserve, and if not Dissimulation or rather Simulation : and to love Tricks even where not necessary, but from an inward satisfaction he took in applauding his own Cunning. If any Man was ever born under a Necessity of being a knave, he was.' On 10 April 1706 Harley was appointed one of the commissioners for the union with Scotland. In December Sunderland became secretary of state for the southern department in the place of Sir Charles Hedges, and the final breach between the ministry and the hiqh tories was shortly afterwards significantly marked by the expulsion of Buckingham, Nottingham, Rochester, and others from the privy council. The ministry as now constituted, consisting both of whigs and tories, was agreed on one point only, namely, the prosecution of the war, and its very existence was dependent on the royal favour. This favour had hitherto been bestowed upon the Churchills, but Harley now endeavoured to undermine their influence with the queen. While pretending to be cordially working with Marlborough and Godolphin, he secretly did his best to inflame the queen against the policy of her ministers, and, with the aid of his cousin, Abigail Hill (afterwards Lady Masham), he succeeded in convincing her that the church was in danger and that the tories alone could save it from destruction. On the appointment of Dr. Blackall and Sir William Dewes to the bishoprics of Exeter and Chester, Godolphin taxed Harley with having secretly instigated the queen to make those appointments without consulting the ministry. This Harley denied, and the queen herself in a letter to Marlborough declared that it was 'so far from being true that he [Harley] knew nothing of it till it was the talk of the town' (Stanhope, Anne) p. 316). Marlborough and Godolphin, however, continued to have their suspicions of Harley's good faith, and the whigs resolved to oust him from office. In January 1708 William Gregg, a clerk in Harley's office, was arrested on the charge of entering into a treasonable correspondence with M. Chamillard, the French minister. At the time Harley's own fidelity to his allegiance was openly doubted by the whigs, but there is no evidence that he was guilty of any greater offence than that of culpable negligence in allowing the most confidential documents under his care to be accessible to the underlings of the office. Gregg was found guilty on his own confession, but the committee of the seven whig lords who examined him while under sentence in Newgate failed to obtain any proofs of Harley's disloyalty, and Gregg immediately before his execution delivered a statement to the sheriffs in which he declared that Harley had no knowledge, either directly or indirectly, of his treasonable correspondence with France. Though Harley's character was thus cleared, Godolphin and Marlborough had made up their minds that he must be dismissed. The queen was reluctant to part with her secret and confidential adviser, and they iccordingly absented themselves from the cabinet council on 8 Feb. 1708, having previously informed her that while Harley continued in office they could take no further part in the administration. When Harley, therefore, in their absence opened some business relating to foreign affairs, the Duke of Somerset observed that 'he did not see how they could deliberate on such matters since the general was not with them' (Burnet, Hist. of his own Time, iv. 354). With this opinion the other ministers silently agreed, and, leaving their business undone, the council broke up. On the following day Harley pressed the queen to accept his resignation, to which course she reluctantly consented on the llth. Though removed from office, Harley still retained the confidence of the queen, with whom he kept in constant communication through the medium of Mrs. Masham. His ceaseless intrigues against his former colleagues, owing to the overbearing conduct of the whigs at court, and the ill-advised prosecution of Sacheverell speedily bore fruit. In April 1710 the final interview between Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman took place. A few days later Shrewsbury, who was well known to have a secret understanding with Harley, was appointed lord chamberlain, on 13 June Sunderland was dismissed, and on 8 Aug. Godolphin received a letter from Anne desiring him to break his staff of office. On the 10th the treasury was put into commission, with John, earl Poulett, as its nominal head, and Harley, one of the commissioners, was appointed chancellor of the exchequer.

Harley, who was now practically in the position of prime minister, endeavoured at first to effect a combination with those whigs who still retained office. He assured them that 'there was a whig game intended at bottom,' though he failed to give them any vary intelligible explanation of what he meant by that assurance. Failing in this endeavour he fell back wholly on the tories, and, having induced the queen to dissolve parliament, formed an entirely tory ministry, consisting of Rochester, St. John, and Harcourt and others, and drew up his 'plan of administration,' which is dated 30 Oct. 1710 (Hardwicke, Misc. State Papers, ii. 485-8).

At the polling booths the tories obtained a large majority, and Harley, feeling secure in power, was not long before he opened secret negotiations for peace with the court of Versailles, employing as his agent a priest named Gaultier, who had formerly served as chaplain to Marshal Tallard during his embassy to England, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Pretender's cause. Meanwhile he called in the assistance of the press. He instructed Defoe to expatiate in the pages of the l Review ' upon his leanings towards the policy of the whigs ; and he secured Swift to write the 'Examiner,' and to fight the battles of the ministry. While he attempted to satisfy the tories, he endeavoured to conciliate the whigs, and, though he declared his resolution of carrying on the war, he did everything that he could to obtain a peace. This dubious policy of Harley's soon disgusted the high tories, who, elated with their success at the general election, were anxious for a more pronounced line of action, and at the October Club the tory Earl of Rochester became the favourite toast. An incident, however, which shortly afterwards happened, more than restored Harley's waning popularity. A French refugee, at one time Abbé de la Bourlie, but then known as the Marquis de Guiscard, who was living in London and had made frequent proposals to Marlborough and Godolphin for descents upon the coasts of France, becoming dissatisfied with his pay and fearing the conclusion of a peace between England and his native country, turned traitor and offered his services to the French court. His letters being intercepted he was himself arrested, and on 8 March 1711 was examined before a committee of the privy council at the Cockpit. While undergoing his examination, Guiscard, failing to get near enough to St. John, who had signed the warrant for his arrest, suddenly stabbed Harley in the breast with a penknife. Guiscard was secured after a prolonged scuffle, and died some few days afterwards in Newgate of the wounds which he had received. Harley appears to have shown great self-possession, for St. John records that 'the suddenness of the blow, the sharpness of the wound, the confusion Avhich followed, could neither change his countenance nor alter his voice ' (Bolingbroke, Letters and Correspondence, i. 63). Though Harley's wound was a slight one, it brought on an attack of fever which necessitated his confinement to his room for some weeks.

On the 13th an address from both houses was presented to the queen expressing a belief that Harley's fidelity and zeal had 'drawn upon him the hatred of all the abettors of popery and faction,' and begging her to give directions' for causing papists to be removed from the cities of London and Westminster' (Parl. Hist. vi. 1007-8); and a bill was also rapidly passed making an attempt on the life of a privy councillor when acting in the execution of his office to be felony without benefit of the clergy (9 Anne, c. 16). On his reappearance in the House of Commons on 26 April, Harley received the congratulations of the speaker upon his 'escape and recovery from the barbarous and villainous attempt made upon him by theSieur de Guiscard' (ib. vi. 1020-1). On 2 May he brought forward his financial scheme, which consisted in funding the national debt, then amounting to nearly nine and a half millions, allowing the proprietors a yearly interest of six per cent., and incorporating them to carry on the trade in the South Seas under the name of the South Sea Company. The scheme was received with much favour, and an act was passed embodying these proposals, which were afterwards adopted and extended by Sunderland, and were destined to have disastrous results in the immediate future. On 23 May 1711 Harley was created a peer of Great Britain by the titles of Baron Harley of Wigmore, Herefordshire, Earl of Oxford, and Earl Mortimer, with remainder in default of male issue to the heirs male of his grandfather, Sir Robert Harley, K.B. (Pat. Soil, 10 Anne, pt i. No. 24). The preamble to the patent, recounting Harley's services in very glowing terms, is said to have been written in Latin by Freind, and to have been translated into English by Swift (Harl. Miscellany, 1808, i. 1-2). Aubrey de Vere, twentieth earl of Oxford, with whose family the Harleys had been connected by marriage, had died as recently as March 1702, and the fear lest any remote descendant of the De Veres should be able to establish his right to that earldom appears to be the explanation of the grant of the additional earldom of Mortimer to Harley. The new peer took his seat in the House of Lords on 25 May (Journals of the House of Lords, xix. 309). On the 29th of the same month he was constituted lord high treasurer of England, and, having resigned the post of chancellor of the exchequer, was succeeded in that office by Robert Benson, afterwards Lord Bingley. On 1 June Harley took the oaths as lord high treasurer in the court of exchequer, and was addressed by Harcourt in a fulsome speech, in which the lord keeper declared that 'the only difficulty which even you, my lord, may find insuperable, is how to deserve better of the crown and kingdom after this advancement than you did before it' (Collins, Peerage, iv. 78). On 15 Aug. he was chosen governor of the South Sea Company, a post from which he retired in January 1714. Meanwhile the secret negotiations of peace had been proceeding, and on 27 Sept. 1711 Mesnager signed the preliminary articles on the part of France. When this became known the whigs were furious, and on 7 Dec. aided by Nottingham, Marlborough, and Somerset, defeated the government in the House of Lords by carrying a clause to the address declaring 'that no peace could be safe or honourable to Great Britain or Europe if Spain and the West Indies were allotted to any branch of the house of Bourbon' (Parl. Hist. vi. 1035-9). 'This happened,' says Swift, 'entirely by my lord treasurer's neglect, who did not take timely care to make up all his strength, although every one of us gave him caution enough ... it is a mighty blow, and loss of reputation to lord treasurer, and may end in his ruin' (Works, ii. 427). Harley retaliated by persuading the queen to dismiss the Duke of Marlborough from all his employments, and to 'create twelve new peers in order to secure a majority for the peace in the upper house. Early in 1712 he introduced a bill giving precedence to the whole electoral family immediately after the queen. The bill was passed through both houses in two days (10 Anne, c. iv.), and Thomas Harley was despatched to Hanover with the news, by his cousin the treasurer. On 25 Oct. 1712 he was elected a knight of the Garter, and was installed at Windsor on 4 Aug. 1713. At length the tedious negotiations for peace were brought to an end, and the treaty of Utrecht was signed on 31 March 1713.

Though Harley was loud in his protestations of attachment to the electoral family, there is little doubt that on his accession to office in 1710 his intention had been to effect the restoration of the Stuarts as well as to make peace with France. His natural indolence, however, prevented him from making up his mind to take any active steps towards consolidating the tory party and preparing for the restoration of the Stuarts. St. John, who had been created Viscount Bolingbroke, and had long been jealous of Harley, became impatient of the delay which was threatening the success of his Jacobite schemes. Taking advantage of Lady Masham's quarrel with Harley, he obtained her assistance in condemning the lord treasurer's influence with the queen. In May Bolingbroke brought matters to a crisis by drawing up the Schism Bill, which reduced Harley to the dilemma of either breaking with the dissenters by supporting it or with the extreme tories by opposing it. In the same month Swift made his last attempt to reconcile his two friends, who were becoming more estranged every day, but found it of 10 avail (Works, xix. 159). When the Schism Bill came up from the commons, Bolingbroke expressed himself warmly in support of it, since it concerned the security of the church of England, the best and firmest support of he monarchy,' while Harley characteristically remarked that 'he had not yet considered of it ; but when he had, he would vote according as it should appear to him to be either for good or detriment of his country. And therefore he was for reading the bill a second time' (Parl. Hist. vi. 1351, 1354). On 9 June Harley wrote a letter to the queen enclosing a 'brief account of public affairs since 8 Aug. 1710, to this present 8 June 1714' (ib. vi. ccxliii-viii) and offered to resign. His resignation was not then accepted, but Lady Masham continued her appeals to the queen's high church propensities, and on 27 July Harley was dismissed, the queen assigning the following reasons of her parting with him, viz., ' that he neglected all business ; that he was seldom to be understood ; that when he did explain himself she could not depend upon the truth of what he said ; that he never came to her at the time she appointed ; that he often came drunk ; lastly, to crown all, he behaved himself towards her with bad manners, indecency, and disrespect' (Swift, Works, xvi. 191-2). Bolingbroke's triumph was of brief duration, for Anne died on 1 Aug., and from George neither he nor Harley could hope for any favour.

Though Bolingbroke took the oaths in the new parliament, which met in March 1715, he fled to France a few days afterwards, but Harley with characteristic courage refused to leave the country, and on 11 April took his seat in the House of Lords. Two days afterwards a committee of secrecy was appointed by the House of Commons to inquire into the late peace and the conduct of the ministers (Journals, xviii. 59) ; on 9 June the report was received (ib. p. 165), and on the following day Lord Coningsby's motion that 'this house will impeach Robert, earl of Oxford and earl Mortimer, of high treason and other high crimes and misdemeanors,' was carried without a division (ib. p. 166). On 9 July Lord Coningsby exhibited the sixteen articles of impeachment against Harley, which had been carried in the commons by large majorities, at the bar of the House of Lords (Journals of the House of Lords, xx. 99-111). The greater number of these articles referred to Harley's conduct with regard to the treaty of Utrecht, while the sixteenth accused him of abusing his influence with the queen in persuading her to exercise her prerogative 'in the most unprecedented and dangerous manner,' by the creation of the twelve peers in December 1711. Harley asserted in his own defence that he 'had always acted by the immediate directions and commands of the queen, and never offended against any known law,' adding that he was ready to lay down his life with pleasure in a cause favoured by his 'late dear royal mistress' (Parl. Hist. vii. 106); the motion, however, for his committal to the custody of the Black Rod was carried by 82 to 50, and on the 16th he was sent to the Tower. On 2 Aug. six further articles accusing him, among other things, of giving evil advice to the queen, and of secretly favouring the Pretender, were brought up from the commons by Lord Coningsby (Journals of the House of Lords, xx. 136-42). It would appear from the notes and extracts made by Sir James Mackintosh from the Stuart papers that in September 1716, during his confinement in the Tower, Harley wrote to the Pretender 'offering his services and advice, recommending the Bishop of Rochester as the fittest person to manage the Jacobite affairs in England, he himself being in custody ; adding, that he should never have thought it safe to engage again with his majesty if Bolingbroke had been still about him' (Edinburgh Review, lxii. 18, 19). No traces of this important document, which was seen by Sir James Mackintosh at Carlton House, can now be found, a search being made for it in vain by Lord Mahon when engaged in writing his 'History of England' (vol. i. App. p. iii).

In May 1717 Harley, being still confined in the Tower, petitioned the House of Lords that the circumstances of his case should be taken into consideration, and accordingly on 24 June the impeachment was commenced in Westminster Hall, with Lord Cowper acting as the high steward. After Hampden had opened the charges against the earl, Lord Harcourt moved that they should adjourn to the House of Lords, where a resolution was passed declaring that 'the commons be not admitted to proceed in order to make good the articles against Robert, earl of Oxford and earl Mortimer, for high crimes and misdemeanors till judgement be first given on the articles for high treason' (Journals of the House of Lords, xx. 512). The two houses were unable to agree upon this question of procedure, and on 1 July, after fruitless conferences had been held, Harley was acquitted, and the impeachment dismissed in consequence of the failure of his prosecutors to appear. A motion by Sir William Strickland in the House of Commons for leave to bring in a bill of attainder against Harley did not find a seconder, but an address to the king to except Harley out of the Act of Grace was agreed to, and his name, together with that of Lord Harcourt, Matthew Prior, Thomas Harley, and several others, appeared among those excepted from the operation of that act (3 Geo. I, c. 19). Though forbidden the court, Harley continued to go to the House of Lords. In February 1718 he led the opposition to the Mutiny Bill (Parl. Hist. vii. 538, 543-4, 548), and in February 1719 he protested against the introduction of the Peerage Bill (ib. p. 589), but after this date he seems to have but rarely attended the house. He still kept up some correspondence with the Jacobites, but did not accede to the Pretender's suggestion that he should act as the chief of the J acobite council in England. He died at his house in Albemarle Street, London, on 21 May 1724, and was buried at Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire, where there is a monument to his memory.

While Pope, in his 'Epistle to Robert, Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer' (Roscoe, iii. 294), sang the praises of

A soul supreme, in each hard instance try'd
Above all pain, all passion, and all pride,
The rage of pow'r, the blast of public breath,
The lust of lucre and the dread of death,

and Swift declared that he impartially thought Harley 'the most virtuous minister, and the most able, that ever I remember to have read of' (Works, xix. 160), Bolingbroke, in his 'Letter to Sir William Windham,' has painted his rival's character in the blackest of colours. In spite of an unprepossessing appearance, an inharmonious voice, and a hesitating delivery, Harley, by his consummate tact and unrivalled skill in parliamentary warfare, made a great reputation for himself in the House of Commons. A shrewd and unscrupulous politician, he made a skilful party leader, but owing to his deficiency in most of the higher qualifications of statesmanship he proved a weak and incapable minister. His intellect was narrow, and he was incapable of taking a firm and broad view of any large question. His manners were cold and formal. He was insincere, dilatory, and irresolute, and though unable to arrive at a prompt decision himself on any subject of importance, his jealousy of his colleagues prevented him from consulting them. His want of political honesty, his indifference to truth, and his talent for intrigue were alike remarkable. He kept up communications with Hanover and St. Germain at the same time, and with unblushing effrontery assured both parties of his unswerving attachment to their cause. Even Lord Dartmouth, who had formed a very high estimate of Harley's character, and considered that his greatest fault was vanity allowed that 'his friendship was never to be depended upon, if it interfered with his other designs, though the sacrifice was to an enemy (Burnet, History of his own Time, vi. 50 n.) Though he shared with other distinguished men of his day the vice of hard drinking, he had the greatest aversion to gambling, and indeed in most respects his private life was singularly free from reproach. Nor to his credit should it be forgotten, that, though constantly scheming for the aggrandisement of himself and his family, he was not to be corrupted by money. He was the first minister who employed the press as a political engine. He was a lover of literature, and he liberally encouraged men of letters, though his favours to Defoe and others were certainly not honourable to their recipients. Harley made the first considerable purchase of books, which were to form the nucleus of the great library with which his name is imperishably connected, in August 1705. Within ten years from that date he had become the owner of some 2,500 manuscripts, including the collections of Foxe the martyrologist, Stow the author of the 'Survey,' Sir Simonds D'Ewes the famous antiquary, and of Charles, Lancaster herald. In 1721 the manuscript portion of his library consisted of six thousand volumes, besides fourteen thousand charters and five hundred rolls. In 1708 Humphrey Wanley commenced the compilation of the 'Catalogue,' and in his 'Diary' (Lansdowne MSS. 771, 772) will be found many interesting details as to the growth of the library while under his charge. Very large sums were spent by Harley in the bindings of his books. The chief binders whom he employed were Christopher Chapman of Duck Lane and Thomas Elliott, and the materials used included Morocco, Turkey, and Russia leather, doeskin, and velvet (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 335; Dibdin, Bibliographical Decameron, ii. 504). The library was further increased by Harley's son. [For the later history of the library see under Harley, Edward, second Earl of Oxford.]

Harley wrote some very indifferent verses, which Macaulay describes as being 'more execrable than the bellman's;' three of these compositions are printed in Swift's 'Works' (xvi, 128-31, 191). The authorship of several pamphlets, including Defoe's 'Essay on Public Credit,' the same writer's 'Essay upon Loans,' and Sir Humphrey Mackworth's ' Vindication of the Rights of the Commons of England,' have been erroneously attributed to Harley. 'The Secret History of Arlus and Odulphus, Ministers of State to the Empress of Grandinsula, in which are discover'd the labour'd artifices formerly us'd for the removal of Arlus,' &c. [London], 1710, 8vo, has also been ascribed to Harley, but was most probably written by some one at his instigation. Some little correspondence between Harley and Pope will be found in Elwin and Courthope's 'Works of Alexander Pope,' 1872, viii. 180 et seq. The earliest letter, dated 21 Oct. 1721, is from Pope, announcing in fulsome terms that he has dedicated to Harley an edition of Parnell's poems.

Harley married twice, his first wife being Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Foley of Whitley Court, Worcestershire, by whom he had three children, viz. Edward, who succeeded him as the second earl and is separately noticed; Elizabeth, who married Peregrine Hyde Osborne, third duke of Leeds, in December 1712, and died in November 1713; and Abigail, who married George Henry Hay, seventh earl of Kinnoull, and died on 15 July 1750. Harley's second wife was Sarah, daughter of Simon Middleton of Hurst Hill, Edmonton, by whom he had no issue. His second wife survived him some years, and died on 17 June 1737 (Gent. Mag. vii. 371). Upon the death of Alfred, sixth earl of Oxford, on 19 Jan. 1853, the titles became extinct, and the family estates devolved on his sister, Lady Langdale, the widow of the master of the rolls [see Bickersteth, Henry]. She resumed her maiden name of Harley, and dying on 1 Sept. 1872 devised the Oxford property, including the manors of Wigmore andBrampton Bryan, to Robert William Baker Harley, the present owner.

The portraits of Harley, the first earl, are numerous. There is one 'after Kneller' in the National Portrait Gallery, and another after the same master, taken when Harley was speaker, in the possession of Colonel Edward William Harcourt at Nuneham Park. Two portraits of Harley were exhibited at the Loan Collection of National Portraits in 1867, by the British Museum and the late Lady Langdale respectively (Catalogue, Nos. 98, 105). An engraving by Brown after the portrait of Harley by Kneller, then in the possession of the Hon. Thomas Harley Rodney, and now at Barrington Hall in the possession of Lord Rodney, appears in Drummond's 'Histories of Noble British Families '.(1842). An engraving by Vertue after Kneller is contained in Collins's 'Historical Collections' (1752), and other engravings will be found in Lodge's 'Portraits' and Park's edition of Walpole's 'Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors.'

[The following authorities among others have been consulted: Swift's Works, 1814; Burnet's History of his own Time, 1833; Luttrell's Brief Relation of State Affairs, 1857; Bolingbroke's Works, 1754, and Correspondence, 1798; Macaulay's History of England, 1855, iv. 463–465, 467, 481–3, 691–3, 699–701, 746, v. 18, 150–1, 169; Wyon's Reign of Queen Anne, 1876; Earl Stanhope's Reign of Queen Anne, 1870; Lord Mahon's History of England, 1839, vols. i. and ii.; Lecky's History of England, 1883, i. 129–30; Macpherson's Original Papers, 1775; Hardwicke's Miscellaneous State Papers, 1778, ii. 482–520; Wentworth Papers, 1883; Lockhart Papers, 1817, i. 369–74; Macky's Memoirs, 1733, pp. 115–16; Spence's Anecdotes, 1820, pp. 167–8; Memoirs of the Marquis of Torcy, 1757; Coxe's Memoirs of Marlborough, 1818; Coxe's Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, 1798; Memoirs of the Harley Family and particularly of Robert, earl of Oxford, drawn up by one of his brothers (Lansdowne MS. 885); Collins's Historical Collections, 1752, pp. 205, 207–12; Manning's Speakers of the House of Commons, 1851, pp. 405–8; Lodge's Portraits of Illustrious Personages, 1850, vii. 97–109; Noble's Continuation of Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 1806, ii. 20–3; Howell's State Trials, 1812, xv. 1045–1196; Walpole's Cat. of Royal and Noble Authors, 1806, iv. 118–26; Edwards's Lives of the Founders of the British Museum, 1870, pt. i. pp. 203–46; Dibdin's Bibliomania, 1876, pp. 346–56; Preface to vol. i. of the Cat. of the Harl. MSS. in the Brit. Mus., 1808; Sims's Handbook to the Library of the British Museum, 1854, pp. 29–34, 147–9; The Genealogist, 1884, new ser. i. 114–17, 178–182, 256–61; Boswell's Life of Johnson (G. B. Hill, 1887), i. 153–4, 158, 175; Edinburgh Review, lxii. 1–36; Quarterly Review, cxlix. 1–47; Boyer's Annals, 1703–13; Historical Register, 1714–24; Boyer's Political State of Great Britain, 1724, xxvii. 534–41; Doyle's Official Baronage, 1886, ii. 743–4; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 181, 441, 5th ser. xi. 344, 6th ser. vii. 150, 212; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. i. pp. 558, 571, 578, 585, 592, 599, 606, pt. ii. pp. 8, 16, 27 ; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.147
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
399 ii 17 f.e. Harley, Robert, 1st Earl of Oxford: for Essington read Eastington
401 i 24 for Dewes read Dawes
405 ii 7-8 for Whitley Court read Witley Court