Bolingbroke: The Idea of a Patriot King

H.T. Dickinson describes how, in his best-known work, Bolingbroke sought to produce a cure for present-day ills by rehearsing the virtues of an imaginary past.

The Idea of a Patriot King has been more highly praised, and more roundly condemned, than any other of Bolingbroke’s works. It has deserved a mixed reception; but it has not merited the attention lavished upon it. While it was certainly his most philosophical treatise on politics and the most high-flown in style, it is less significant than the Dissertation upon Parties or A Letter to Sir William Windham.

Bolingbroke was, in fact, a great political pamphleteer, but a second-rate philosopher. His best works were written as part of his long campaign against Sir Robert Walpole. When divorced from this political context, they lose much of their value; but, when they are seen in relation to his personal ambition and to the political obstacles which he had to face, they assume a much greater significance.

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