Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lee, Francis

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1423189Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32 — Lee, Francis1892Bertha Porter

LEE, FRANCIS, M.D. (1661–1719), miscellaneous writer, born at Cobham in Surrey on 12 March 1661, was the fourth son of Edward Lee of the family of the Lees, earls of Lichfield, by his wife Frances, a connection of the Percies. Both parents died in his childhood. He entered Merchant Taylors' School on 11 Sept. 1675, was admitted a scholar of St. John's College, Oxford, on St. Barnabas day, 1679, proceeded B.A. on 9 May 1688, M.A. 19 March 1686-7, and was elected to a fellowship at St. John's in January 1682 (Reg. of St. John's Coll.) In 1691 he became chaplain to Lord Stawell of Somerton in Somerset, and tutor to his son (Lee, Dissertations, pp. xiii-xv), and he was also tutor to Sir William Dawes, afterwards archbishop of York. At the revolution he refused the oaths, and probably on that account failed to proceed B.D. in 1692 as the statutes directed. Lee left England in the summer of 1691. He studied medicine, and on 11 June 1692 entered the university of Leyden, after which he practised medicine in Venice. On his way home in 1694 he made the acquaintance in Holland of the writings of Jane Lead [q. v.} the mystic. He sought Mrs. Lead out on his return to London, and became a devoted disciple. He arranged her manuscripts, published them with prefaces of his own, and supported her in her troubles. His elder brother, William, a dyer in Spitalfields, tried to break the connection, but about 1696 Lee, at Mrs. Lead's suggestion, married the latter's daughter, Barbara Walton, a widow, and afterwards resided in her house in 'Hogsden Square.' In 1697 he was a chief founder of the Philadelphian Society. He edited, and, in conjunction with Richard Roach, B.D., of St. John's College, wrote, the 'Theosophical Transactions' issued by the society between March and November 1697. The meetings of the society in Baldwin's Gardens became so crowded that they were removed to Hungerford Market and Westmoreland House (Rawlinson MS. D. 883, ff. 65-6, in Bodl. Libr.) Henry Dodwell the elder [q. v.] remonstrated with Lee upon his adherence to the society, and a controversy between them proceeded until 1701. Dodwell's arguments, coupled with those of Edward Stephens in 1702, probably led to the breaking up of the Philadelphian Society in 1703. Lee then turned his activity to more practical schemes. He is said to have been the first to suggest to Hoare and Robert Nelson [q. v.] the foundation of charity schools on a German plan. On 25 June 1708 he became a licentiate of the College of Physicians in London. On Easter day, 18 April 1718, he read a declaration of belief during service in the oratory, or private chapel, of his brother, William Lee, claiming the right of catholic communion (ib. J. 835). He died on 23 Aug. 1719 of fever at Gravelines in Flanders, whither he had gone on business, and owing to the exertions of the lady abbess (letter in Rawlinson MS.) was buried in the precincts of the abbey. His body was afterwards re-interred within the walls of the building, but a report that he had died in the catholic faith was confidently contradicted at the time (letter from the Hon. Archibald Campbell in ib.) Lee made no will; his estate was administered by William Lee in October 1719, in favour of his widow and his only daughter, Deborah Jemima, who afterwards became the wife of James de la Fontaine.

Lee was a man of great learning. His acquaintance with oriental literature gained for him popularly the name of 'Rabbi Lee.' In conjunction with Nelson he prepared the manuscripts of his friend J. E. Grabe [q. v.] for the perusal of Hickes (Lee to Ockley, Addit. MS. 16911, f. 3). He was entrusted with Nelson's papers at his death, but did not live to write his life (Thoresby, Letters, ii. 300). His works are said to have been very numerous, but his modesty prevented his ever putting his name to anything. Among works known to have been by him are: 1. 'Horologium Christianum,' Oxford, 1689. 2. 'The Labouring Person's Remembrancer, or a Practical Discourse of the Labour of the Body,' Oxford, 1690. 3. The Preface to 'A Letter to some Divines.' London, 1695, translated from the High Dutch of Dr. Peterson. 4. 'The History of Montanism.' London, 1709 (part ii. of 'The Spirit of Enthusiasm exorcised,' by George Hickes. This was regarded as a recantation of his devotion to Jane Lead). 6. 'The Christian's Exercise' (Thomas à Kempis), London, 1715, 1716, 1717, usually attributed to Nelson, who only wrote the 'Address' prefixed. 6. 'Considerations concerning Oaths' London, 1716, n.p., 1722, n.p. n.d. 7. 'Memoirs of the Life of Mr. John Kettlewell;' compiled from the collections of Hickes and Nelson, London, 1718 (see Secretan, Life of Nelson, p. 62). 8. 'The Unity of the Church and Expediency of Forms of Prayer,' London, 1719. 9. 'An Epistolary Discourse, concerning the Books of Ezra. . . . Together with a New Version of the Fifth Book of Esdras.' London, 1722; begun in 1709 to precede a separate publication of Ockley's translation of Esdras from the Arabic, and posthumously published by Dr. Thomas Haywood from Lee's manuscripts (Addit MS. 15911 , f . 38). Whiston's exposition of the fifth vision of Esdras (Authentic Records, pp. 75-88) was intended as a supplement to Lee's manuscript 'Exposition of the VII. Visions.' 10. A collection of some of Lee's works called 'Απολειπόμενα, or Dissertations, Theological, Mathematical, and Physical,' London, 1752.

Lee edited the second volume of Grabe's 'Septuagint' from the author's manuscripts, Oxford, 1719, and wrote the prolegomena to the historical portion of the work, the manuscript of which is preserved in the Bodleian (Coxe, Cat. Cod. Greec. p. 871; see also Ballard MS. vii. pp. 22, 31, in Bodleian Library). He supplied annotations to the Book of Genesis in Samuel Parker's 'Bibliotheca Biblica.' 1720. He is said greatly to have assisted Nelson in his 'Festivals and Fasts,' and, from manuscripts entrusted to him by the author, published Nelson's 'Address to Persons of Quality and Estate,' London, 1715 (Secretan, pp. 152, 272). A paraphrase or enlargement of Boehme's 'Treatise on the Supernatural Life,' by Lee (wrongly attributed to Law in a footnote), was inserted in some copies of the fourth volume of Boehme's 'Works' published in 1781 (pp. 73-104). The mystical poems inserted in Jane Lead's works, and which have been ascribed to Lee by Walton (Memorials of Law, pp. 148, 180, 232, 257), &c., were more probably the work of Richard Roach (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. xil. 381). An account of Jane Lead's last days, by Lee, was published in a German translation in Amsterdam, but does not appear to be extant. A manuscript retranslation into English is in the Walton Library (now preserved in Dr. Williams's Library), where are also letters by Lee on the occasion of Mrs. Lead's death, both Latin and English, with a translation of the former by the Rev. Canon Jenkins.

[Lee's Dissertations, passim; Robinson's Reg. of Merchant Taylors' School, p. 288; Wilson's Hist. of Merchant Taylors' School, i. 372, ii. 880, 955-9; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. cols. 422. 713; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), ii. cols. 386, 399; Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 21; Peacock's Index to Leyden Students, p. 69; Haywood's Preface to Lee's Epistolary Discourse, passim; Walton's Memorials of Law, pp. 46-6, 141, 188, 228-7., 233-4 n., 508-9 n., where is much information respecting unpublished works, chiefly in connection with Jane Lead; State of the Philadelphian Society, p. 7; Gichtel's Theosophia Practica, 1722, v. 3541, 3660, vi. 1707; Gent. Mag. 1789 ii. 794, 1792 i. 309, for letter by Lee on Occult Philosophy, 1802, i. 17, plate ii. fig. 3, for cross with inscription to his memory at Gravelines. A drawing of the cross is in Rawlinson's manuscript additions to Wood's Athenæ (in Bodleian), J. 336; Secretan's Nelson, pp. v n., 70-1; Lavington's Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists compared, Preface; Account of the Authority of the Arabick MSS. in the Bodleian Library, pp. 5, 31; Addit. MSS. 23204 ff. 14, 18, 35, 15911 ff. 3-10, 12, 23, 27, 28, 32, 34, 38; Campbell's Doctrine of a Middle State, p. 138, for letter by Lee; Whiston's Memoirs, pp. 192, 196, 286; Whiston's Authentic Records, pp. 46-8, 59, 61, 72; Hearne's Remarks and Collections (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), p. 338; Reg. of St. John's College, Oxford, kindly communicated by the Rev. Dr. Bellamy; Brit. Mus Cat.; Cat. of Bodleian Library; Halkett and Laing's Cat. of Anon. and Pseudon. Literature; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

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