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In the dining-room is Sir William Lee, the brother of Sir George, and Lord Chief Justice of England, in scarlet robes. Near him is his pretty second wife, Margaret Drake, relict of . . . . Melmoth, having features stamped with reflection and talent. This is the Lady whom Sir William married one May morning, as told on page 66 of this volume; and her death and burial are as tersely commemorated in a receipt from one Samuel Hughes :-" Received, June 10th, 1752, of the Rt. Hon. Lord Chief Justice Lee, the sum of one hundred and two pounds ten shillings, being the full payment for the funeral of Dame Margaret Lee, and in full of all demands."
Sir Joshua Reynolds exerted his skill in perpetuating the Lees of his day, and has consequently left some excellent specimens of his powers at Hartwell, where he was a welcome visitor: but the sad vice of deteriorating oils, with which he was infatuated, is strongly displayed both in faded tints and in cracks. Over the mantelpiece of the library is the before-mentioned portrait of Lady Elizabeth Lee, which has been twice engraved; the first plate was executed under the burin of Fisher, and the second by J. Watson; the impressions of both were sold at 7s. 6d. each. This picture, though unexceptionably placed, has suffered greatly from the cause just stated: she is seated under a tree, in a pensive attitude, and the elevated expression of her features forcibly recalls the late Mrs. Siddons to my mind. The same impression does not hold when viewing another beautiful portrait of Lady Elizabeth employed in fancywork, drawn in crayons by Miss Read.* Sir Joshua also painted Sir William Lee, her Ladyship's husband; and Ann, daughter of Sir Thomas Lee, married to G. V. Vernon of Sudbury, afterwards Lord Vernon. The last is in an elegant chapeau de paille manner; but the finest of Sir Joshua's productions here-in my estimation, at least is the beautiful head of Philadelphia, daughter of Sir John Dyke, Bart., who married William Lee, son of the Lord Chief Justice.
* The Crayonists were boldly emulous; for the portrait which Sir Joshua made of Sir William Lee very soon had a parallel in a crayon-drawing by Hoare. This was a style of art in which Lady Elizabeth herself was a proficient and there are several fine specimens by various artists, in the Hartwell Collection.
He also painted the portrait of Frederic Prince of Wales for Sir George Lee, who sent it to Hartwell; besides which another likeness of his Royal Highness, by Ramsay, was presented by the good Prince himself.
The easternmost bed-chamber of the first-floor on the south façade, was occupied by Sir George Lee: in it are seven pictures with black frames, shewing the ornamental grounds of Hartwell as they existed a century ago. The execution is very laboured, and probably very faithful; and they are therefore of considerable local value, though not at all artistic. They appear to have been painted before that shewn on Plate III.; but they exhibit the same formal piece of water, angular walks, and lofty wall of yew, with the row of high arches cut therein. A few other particulars may be reaped, on closely inspecting these memorials.
Without going into an enumeration of all the paintings, mention should be made of two good landscapes by Bolognese, architectural scenes by Paolo Panini, ruins by Roland Savory, a head of Charles the First by Old Stone, animals by Burton, and the portrait of Louis XVIIIth of France, painted by Robert Le Fevre in 1817, and presented by that King to the late Sir George Lee. The features in the last painting bear stronger evidence of truth than of sublimity of mind, yet there is a tone of expression which evinces goodness of heart.
We may now dwell upon a picture which, from many recollections, must be esteemed one of the most interesting in the collection. This is a capital wholelength portrait of the celebrated Sir John Suckling, whose connexion with the Lee family is shewn at page 63: it is seven feet high by rather more than four broad, and was actually painted by Vandyck, although Sir Joshua Reynolds, when at Hartwell, pronounced it to be the work of Cornelius Jansen.* Sir John is seen standing, and leaning his left arm in a contemplative mood on a rock inscribed Ne te quæ sciveris extra, with a folio book thereon, on a paper between
* In a letter cited by Suckling's biographer, the knight thus speaks of the artist :-" And for Mistress Delanae's we do not despaire but Vandyck may be able to copy it; three score pounds wee have offered, and I think four score will tempt him." Considering the value of money in those days, this extract shews the high estimation in which Vandyck was held by his contemporaries.
the leaves of which appears the title SHAKESPEARE (sic); he has light auburn hair, and wears it in the flowing style so offensive to the Round-heads of his day; he is dressed in close vestments with a blue surtout over them, upon which a scarlet mantle is fastened on the right shoulder by a gold button; and he wears half-boots of untanned, or yellowish-brown leather in the buskin fashion. The whole is richly coloured, and not over-poweringly dark, as was so common with the leaders of art in that day. This portrait may possibly be the one mentioned by Aubrey, in his Lives of Eminent Men, as being in the house of Lady Southcote, a sister of Suckling; but the local belief is, that it was brought to Hartwell on the marriage of Ann Davies, his sister's daughter, with Sir Thomas Lee.
Sir John was a man of prepossessing address, and great general talent; but he rather merited being classed with a Buckingham, a Wharton, or a Rochester, than with Julius Cæsar, whose intellectual acquirements were better ballasted, for the inimitable Roman was a man equally qualified for fun or mischief— legislation or law-breaking-squabbles or conquest. Sir John was earnest in some of his principles; but his brief life affords an instance of its being easier to give instruction, than to set example, since he has only left sufficient character to stamp him as a gallant admirer of the fair sex, a gay courtier, a reckless gambler, a holiday soldier, and a sparkling poet. Still he was a remarkable young man, and it is not easy to pronounce how he would have stood, had he been destined to a longer life. His poems, though too prurient for the present age, have an elegance which entitles them to admiration; and in his description of feminine grace he is peculiarly happy. Even when rioting in witty levity, he is rarely coarse; and his well-known "Ballad upon a Wedding" has long been admired for graphic description and beauty of expression. This lively effusion was occasioned by the marriage of Lord Broghill with Lady Margaret Howard, daughter of the Earl of Suffolk; and, in perhaps its finest verse, a felicitous allusion is made to that charming old superstition of the English peasantry, namely, that on Easter morning the sun always dances :
Her feet beneath her petticoat,
Like little mice, stole in and out,
As if they fear'd the light:
But, oh! she dances such a way!
No sun upon an Easter-day
Is half so fine a sight.
The book in the picture before us, being thus selected, affords a good indication of sound judgment, and illustrates a literary anecdote recorded by Rowe and others. In a discussion respecting the intellectual endowments of the immortal Bard of Avon, between Sir John Suckling, Endymion Porter, Sir William Davenant, Mr. Hales of Eton, and Ben Jonson, Suckling, who was a professed admirer of Shakspeare, had undertaken his defenee against Ben with some warmth; Mr. Hales, who had sat silent for some time, broke out, saying, "That, if Mr. Shakspeare had not read the Ancients, he had likewise not stolen anything from them: and that, if Ben would produce any topic finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to show something upon the same subject at least as well written by Shakspeare."
But a point of some interest in "folk-lore" must not be overlooked, since accuracy is the soul of record. Every one remembers how inveterately the fine old Latin adage "Incidis in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim ”—of Philip Gaultier, has been cited as a line of Virgil's. In like manner, the following passage has been almost universally ascribed to Butler :—
For he that fights and runs away
May live to fight another day.
But it is nowhere to be found in that poet's works: a parallel appears, however, in Hudibras (l. iii. canto iii. v. 243), where the right-trusty Squire Ralpho defends his stratagem:
To make an honourable retreat,
At page 63 of this work, I alluded to Sir John's having been sorely taunted by the wits and witlings of the time; and the Puritans even belaboured his memory after his untimely death with bitter acrimony.
it is said that the contested lines above quoted were vented by the Comptroller of the Navy, Sir John Mennis, circ. 1641, and afterwards printed, in a volume intituled Musarum Delicia, published by him and Dr. Smith in 1656. But neither there, nor in the equally often quoted Wits' Recreations, printed by Blundell in 1640, nor in the Censura Literaria, have I been able to meet with the verse. A ballad attributed to Mennis appears in many works of the period, and has also found admission, dirty as it is, into Bishop Percy's Collection: it displays more spite than poetry, commencing
Another sharp lampoon, in a similar metre, and apparently from the same pen, thus flings at the cavalier :