Robert Harley's 'middle way': the Puritan heritage in Augustan politics - British Library Research Repository
Shared Research Repository
Journal article

Robert Harley's 'middle way': the Puritan heritage in Augustan politics



THE character of Robert Harley, first Earl of Oxford, was a puzzle to contemporaries and has continued to vex historians ever since. Harley's motives, objectives, principles (if indeed he had any) are of a piece with his notoriously difficult handwriting: often obscure and sometimes quite indecipherable. Of course, for a successful politician, and Harley was by any standards very successful, opacity could well be a deliberate ploy: a little obfuscation might be just what was needed to disarm an aggrieved petitioner, or to fudge a delicate issue in Parliament. Except that in Harley's case the obscuring process became second nature. Some contemporaries considered it to be pathological. Lord Cowper referred to ' that humour of his, which was, never to deal clearly or openly, but always with reserve, if not dissimulation, or rather simulation; and to love tricks even where not necessary'. In common with other hostile observers, Cowper regarded the 'humour' as malignant: it grew 'from an inward satisfaction he took in applauding his own cunning'.


There is 1 file associated with this work, which is available for download.


  • Resource type

    Journal article

  • Institution
    • British Library

  • Journal title
    • British Library Journal

  • Volume
    • 1989

  • Article number
    • 11

  • Publisher
    • British Library

  • Place of publication
    • London, UK

  • ISSN
    • 2056-2829

  • Official URL
  • Rights statement
  • Rights holder
    • British Library Board