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solitude and neglect, the devastation having been rapidly accelerated during the last twenty years, to my own knowledge: until very recently it contained some relics of the rich monuments formerly erected in honour of distinguished members of the Lee family; and I well remember, only in 1828, examining that of Sir IIenry Lee, the “Queen’s Champion,” reposing in blazoned armour, with the insignia of the Garter. Near him the recumbent figures of his father, Sir Anthony Lee, and his Lady Margaret; and a third, of which the inscription was illegible, although the gold and colours were tolerably fresh in them all. But neither sentiment nor taste were at hand to prevent wanton mischief and desecration; the chapel roof was even then off, the area was used as a cow-pen, and the whole was strewed with fragments of sculptured marble and alabaster. I was not therefore surprised in June, 1812, to find the destruction so far completed, that the monuments had disappeared, there being merely undistinguishable pieces of them, torn down and thrown on the ground. Sic transit, sc. And this, in the fourteenth century, had belonged to the all-potent and imperious Spensers !
To return to the Hartwell line. Thomas Lee, the eldest son and heir of the aforesaid patriarchal Sir Thomas and Dame Eleanor, his wife, was high sheriff of the county in the fourth year of King Charles the First; and married Jane, daughter of Sir George Throckmorton, of Fulbrook, by whom he had issue a son, Thomas, his heir. The latter, about the year 1632, married Elizabeth, second daughter of the IIon. Sir George Croke, Knt. one of the Justices of the Court of King's Bench, a judge of eminent ability and learning, whose three volumes of reports of cases decided in the reigns of Elizabeth, James, and Charles, are regarded as high authority in law to the present day.
This third Thomas died in 1644, leaving several children, of whom the eldest, from a lukewarm Parliamentarian, became a zealous Royalist, and accompanied his step-father, Sir Richard Ingoldsby--the “honest Dick” of Henry Cromwell, but an alternate regicide and cavalier,—when he endeavoured to bring over the temporising Lord-Keeper, Bulstrode Whitelocke, with the Great Seal, to the King's party. Soon afterwards the Lord of Hartwell was chosen to represent the borough of Aylesbury in the convention parliament which met at Westminster on the 25th of April, when he directly voted for Charles the Second's restoration. As a reward for these services, that monarch raised Mr. Lee to the rank of Baronet in the same year, by the style and title of “Sir Thomas Lee, of Hartwell;
Lee, of Hartwell ;” and created him a K.B. He continued nearly to the close of his life to hold a seat in parliament, and took a distinguished part in the debates. He was also one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in 1689 and 1690, in which year he died.
He married Anne, daughter and heiress of Sir John Davies, of Bier-court, Pangbourne, in the county of Berks, and grand-daughter of the poetical Sir John Suckling, a maternal ancestor of the heroic Nelson. This Suckling was just as zealous a royalist as Nelson; and his strong feeling stimulated him to raise and equip a troop of horse at his own expense, placing himself at their head. From the misbehaviour of the advance of the royal army before the Scotch Covenanters, Sir John was so sharply and maliciously scourged in ballads and squibs by his brother poets, that his premature death at the early age of thirty-two is attributed to them; but other accounts state it to have been a consequence of wounding his foot with a rusty nail, or other impediment, in hurrying on his boots to pursue a servant who had robbed him. In either way it was a result of mortification ; and we shall presently see cause for his annoyance at satiric stings.
Sir Thomas Lee, the second Baronet of that name, succeeded his father in February, 1690; before which event, and until the time of his own death, he was returned to Parliament for Aylesbury. He married Alice, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Hopkins, Esq. citizen and merchant of London: by this union he had issue: 1. Thomas, his successor ; 2. William, who was bred to the common law, and rose to be Chief Justice of England; 3. John, who became a Colonel in the Guards; 4. George, who studied the civil law and was appointed Dean of the Arches, Judge of the Prerogative Court, and a Lord of the Admiralty; and 5. Sarah, who died unmarried in 1693. The station, learning, and integrity of those useful and eminent public characters, William and George, demand a few moments of special attention. Browne Willis, in a manuscript which he drew up and presented to Sir Thomas Lee, * and which is now preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, mentions the second Baronet's family, and then proceeds in these terms :-“ Thomas Lee, his eldest son, who succeeded him in his title, a gentleman of a public spirit, justly honoured with his county electing him one of their knights in this present Parliament convened A° 1721, before which, even ever since he first came of age, he has been returned for the ancient borough of Wycombe, which corporation, together with that of the county-town of Bucks, has generously elected his second brother, a no less ingenious and deserving gentleman, Mr. William Lee, for their Recorder ; who is a person eminently skilled in the laws of his country, and may be said to have made as great a progress in the study of them, and have as much practice, as any gentleman of his years has been known to acquire in his profession.”
Besides this mention of Sir William Lee by the pen of a friend, there are various recorded proofs of his ability and excellent bearing. Sir James Burrow, himself a well-known lawyer, describes him as “a gentleman of most unblemished and irreproachable character, both in public and in private life, amiable and gentle in his disposition, affable and courteous in his deportment, cheerful in his temper though grave in his aspect, generous and polite in his manner of living, and deservedly happy in his friendships and family connexions, and to the highest degree upright and impartial in the distribution of justice.” These qualifications, added to untiring and industrious perseverance, were pretty sure of commanding success; and he achieved it, although he was rather pains-taking than ambitious. He had no very decided political bias; but, having been born in the year of the Revolution, he was wont to remark that, “ As he came in with King William, he was bound to be a good Whig.” After having repeatedly declined to serve in the House of Commons, he was elected a burgess for Chipping-Wycombe in 1727; and, in the fourth year of George the Second, appointed one of the Judges of the Court of King's Bench. On the promotion of Lord Hardwicke to the Great Seal in the tenth year of that monarch, Judge Lee was advanced to the dignity of Chief Justice of the same court, and knighted.* In 1745 he was sworn of the Privy Council ; and, upon the death of the Right IIon. Henry Pelham, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the 6th of March, 1754, he performed, ad interim, the functions of that high office, until his own demise about a month afterwards. This event was deeply deplored both by his private friends and professional colleagues : in a letter from Lord Hardwicke to Sir George Lee, 11th of April, 1754— three days after Sir William's decease—he says,
* This manuscript is a thin quarto volume in a leather cover, and for Willis, who sported a very scribble-scrabble hand in general, is tolerably written. On the fly-leaf he says,—“ This acc' was drawn up by mee, B. Willis, A' 1724 or 1725, as I remember, and presented to Sir Tho. Lee.”
May I presume to make use of this opportunity to condole with you on the loss of my old friend, the late Lord Chief Justice. I truly lament it, as of a most valuable friend, for whom I had a sincere affection, and of an able and most upright magistrate and servant of the crown and public." He must indeed have been as well an extraordinary, as an exemplary and toilsome man. Among the interesting muniments preserved at Hartwell, there are no fewer than two hundred manuscript note-books of cases on circuits and in Banco, with the miscellaneous remarks of this eminent official, testimonies alike to his disciplined habits and methodical industry; and many other memoranda of a very varied nature, from medicine to metaphysics and from politics to cookery, which must have been thrown together in the brief intervals of a busy and honourable life, evince an uncommon propensity to diarizing. There are also preserved at Hartwell, in
at Hartwell, in a nearly continuous succession, many
* In this year died a cousin of Sir Willian's— William Lee, of Abingdon—the singular mention of whom in biography deserves notice. At the time of his deatlı he was ninety-one years of age; and had then seventeen children, seventy-eight grand-children, and one hundred and two great-grand-children: in all one hundred and ninety-seven. “Such men were greatly wanted,” says Grainger (Supp. page 225), “ at this period, to repair the depopulation of the Civil War."
years of Rider's popular almanac_“The British Merlin ”—which the Chief Justice seems to have carried about with him, and to have entered his roadmotes therein. But, after a memorandum of “6 bushells of oats for 4 horses per week and much bran, hempseed good in their corn, walking them in dewy grass in the moming very good;" and another teaching that "for rheumatism, elder tea,” we are startled by the sudden announcement, “I marryed to Mrs. M. M., May, 1733,” meaning Mrs. Margaret Melmoth, the rich relict of James Melmoth, Esq. At his death, he had been a judge in the Court of King's Bench upwards of twenty-four years; and for nearly seventeen of them had presided therein, with an ability equally stamped by judicious caution and unquestioned integrity. In early life he was elected Recorder of Buckingham: but Browne Willis remarked that “he conferred more honour upon that town than could be imparted by the highest titles derivable from it.”
Nor was his still more meritorious younger brother George less fortunate in his career than Sir William : and it is on all sides admitted that his knowledge as a civilian, experience as a senator, abilities as a statesman, and high-principled rectitude as a man, were eminently serviceable to his country. He was born in the year 1700, and at the age of seventeen entered as an under-graduate of Clare Hall, Cambridge, whence he removed to Christ Church, Oxon, where he was matriculated April 4th, 1719. On the 22nd June, 1724, he supplicated the Convocation at Oxford to allow him the two years and three quarters which he had previously passed at Cambridge, in order to his becoming B.C.L. in that term. In 1729 he became LL.D., and was admitted an advocate in Doctors' Commons. His qualifications and energy opened to him the road to the highest honours of his profession; besides which he was elected into successive parliaments to represent Brackley, Devizes, Liskeard, and Launceston. He was knighted, made a Privy-Councillor, and established Dean of the Arches and Judge of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: thus he and his brother had the rare good fortune of presiding, at the same time, over the highest civil and common law courts in this country. Besides being Chairman of the Committee of Privileges and Elections, Sir George, in