Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lee, James (1715-1795)

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LEE, JAMES (1715–1795), nurseryman, was born at Selkirk in 1715. When about seventeen years of age he set out to walk to London, but on reaching Lichfield was laid up with small-pox. On his recovery he completed his journey, and ultimately became gardener at Sion House, seat of the Duke of Northumberland, near Brentford, Middlesex. In 1760 he entered into partnership with Lewis Kennedy (see Donaldson, Agricult. Biog. p. 117) as nurserymen at the Vineyard, Hammersmith, and was the means of introducing many exotic plants into cultivation in this country, among them being the fuchsia, which he happened to see growing in the window of a cottager, whose husband had brought it from South America. A guinea was at first charged for a specimen of this plant. Lee was a correspondent of Linnaeus, and his translation of part of the Swedish naturalist's works into English, under the title of 'Introduction to the Science of Botany,' was the first description of the sexual system of plants to appear in our language (Pulteney, Progress of Botany, ii. §49). It was issued in 1760, and ran through many editions; the ninth (styled the fourth) came out in 1810, with a preface by Dr. Thornton, who signed himself James Lee the younger, to the great disgust of the author's son. Lee died in July 1795, his partner haying predeceased him.

[Lee's Introd. Bot., 10th ed., Pref; Loudon's Arboretum, i. 78; Jackson's Lit. Bot. p. 36.]

B. D. J.