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On-line at PTW: June 15, 2005
  Last update: March 9, 2015

An Introduction to Francis Lee, M.D.
A Contemporary of Jane Lead &
a Member of the Philadelphian Society

[ 1660 - 1719 ]

The following introductory paragraph is reproduced from the 1816 Edition of Jane Lead's Wars of David, printed by Thos. Wood, London where it appeared immediately following Francis Lee's "The Publishers Address to his Readers".

“Francis Lee, M. D. was a man of stupendous learning, he was most intimate with Robert Earl of Oxford, when Lord High Treasurer, to whom several proposals were made by him for the lasting honour and advantage of these nations. His works are almost innumerable;  but as he rarely could be prevailed on to affix his name to any one of them, they have been made public under the names of others, or have come into the world anonymously.  The greatest part of Mr. Nelson's "Feasts and Fasts" I found (saith the Author of his life) in his own hand, after his decease;   he was the first that put Mr. Hoare and Mr. Nelson upon the founding of Charity Schools, upon the same plan as that of Halle in Germany (superintended by the famous Augustus Franck): and he (Dr. Lee) was continually promoting and encouraging all manner of charities, both public and private."  Peter the Great, Czar of Muscovy, was exceedingly partial to him, for whom, by request, he wrote (in the year 1698) Proposals for the right framing of his government.” — Vide Dissertations, Theological, Mathematical and Physical, by Francis Lee, M.D.; 2 vol. octavo, printed anno 1752.

 

According to Christopher Walton, Notes and Materials for an Adequate Biography of The Celebrated Divine and Theosopher, William Law: London -1854   {otherwise referred to on this page as Notes and Materials}

“Francis Lee, (Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford) was not only an enlightened practical Christian, but profoundly versed in the Jewish, Philosophic, and Christian Mystic science of all ages.  His deep devotion to God, and pure love of the truth, be the depository of it where it might, and the operations of it never so offensive to unregenerate reason, may be inferred by what is related in his Treatises.  Many of the Manuscripts referred to by his daughter, in her preface to his posthumous Dissertations, the writer of these lines {Christopher Walton} recently found amongst Mr. Law's {William Law's} odd papers, from which source the extracts herein given, are obtained.   When Law retired from town, in the year 1740, some three years or so after the decease of his old friend Mr. Gibbon,  he, it would appear, borrowed Dr. Lee's papers to look over;  and, judging from the carefully-written copies he has made of numerous of those papers, and from his own latter conformity of opinion upon certain mysterious theological points, he must have entertained a great respect for Lee's talents as a learned spiritual writer.   The paraphrase of  {Jacob Boehme's or Behmen's} Supersensual Life, which was inserted in some of the last issue of the fourth volume of Behmen's works, published 1781, and there incorrectly stated in a note, to have been composed by Mr. Law, (the manuscript of it having been found in his handwriting,) was written by Lee, and merely copied by Law.    The writer of these lines {Walton} has in his possession both the original of Lee, and the copy of Law . . .

 

Thanks to the providential and excellent research done in a doctoral dissertation, entitled God's Healing Angel:  A Biography of Jane Ward Lead completed by Joanne Magnani Sperle; May, 1985; Kent State University. we can share the following excerpts.

“From the biographical sketch written by Lee's daughter, we learn that Lee was born on March 2, 1660, the fourth son of Edward and Frances Lee of Cobbam, in the county of Surrey.  Both parents were descended from nobility and died when Francis was only four years old.  Even before this loss, Lee began to shun the company of other children, preferring solitude, reading, and meditation.  His interests lay in subjects far beyond his age and comprehension.  Mrs. de la Fontaine uses her father's own words to describe his youth when he 'could not, in those young and tender Years, bear with any trifling Conversation, or what was common to Children of his Age; and that his Parents and Masters did constrain him to that upon which others are generally bent to by Nature.'  His childhood disposition seems very similar to Jane Lead's as it is described in her publisher's {Francis Lee's} preface to Wars of David.

“Lee was elected Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford in 1682 and remained there for seven years.  In 1691 he went to Italy by way of Germany and Holland, returning to England at the end of 1694.  It was at this point that the young Lee was urged coincidentally by two separate sources to seek out the elderly Lead whose works were being eagerly devoured abroad.   Mrs. Lead had retired from the world and was living out her final days in a private dwelling when Lee visited her.  (She clearly had not expected the acclaim that would occur when a few of her works went abroad purely by chance and were translated.)  During his visits, Lee read all of her writings   "which consisted for the most part of loose papers, like the Sibylline leaves, occasionally penned for her own private memory and recollection, except what had been thence transcribed by an ancient friend of  hers"{John Pordage} "and he {Lee} published a volume of them completely from his own initiative (Notes and Materials, p 508).   An important fact not generally noted, but evident in Lee's manuscripts, is the great sense of responsibility which he felt toward Mrs. Lead when her work, that he published, caused her to acquire a multitude of friends and enemies, as well as a deluge of mail from other countries.  She rapidly was growing blind from a cataract and had no secretary to help with the foreign correspondence, which he had generated.  At this point, Mrs. lead began to dictate her correspondence to Lee who felt bound to her by Christian charity and benevolence.  ...   Ironically, Lee later would lose his own eyesight because of a cataract only eight years after his mother-in-law's death.” {Jane Lead died in 1704, so Francis Lee's loss of sight would have occurred in 1712 at the age of 52}.

“Life became increasingly difficult for the young Francis Lee during 1694 and 1695 — several friends died, an estate was lost because he could not prove the deed within the time limit; and he was ejected from his college because he could not submit to certain propositions without violating his conscience.  Being divested of all he had, Lee offered himself totally to God's will.  He strictly examined Mrs. Leads pretentions {the laying of a claim to something} and decided to enter with her into a life of faith and total dependence on God.  ...  Thus the thirty-four-year-old Lee and the seventy-year-old Lead became spiritual partners.  They had met during a vulnerable period in Lee's life, and Lead had helped him to find purpose and direction.   Lee, on the other hand, felt bound by honor to assist her because of the furor which he created by publishing her volumes.   It is important to note that this relationship was reciprocal, if only because most scholars only present the fact that Lee assisted the blind seer.  At that time, Mrs. Lead's friends had encouraged her to take better care of herself because God had chosen her for His messenger.   They urged her to find someone to live with her and assist her because of her blindness.   Baron Kniphausen, a wealthy benefactor, bestowed a sum of money to enable Mrs. Lead and her daughter {Barbara Walton} (who we are told suffered greatly in her life) to live together in a suitable place. (Notes and Materials, p. 226)

 

Francis Lee would come to know Jane Lead's widowed daughter, Barbara Walton, who was also affiliated with the Philadelphian Society.   They worked together over the affairs of the Society as well as the correspondence generated by Lead's published writings,  which, over time, helped their relationship to grow into a close spiritual friendship.  Through Providential circumstances, they were led to become partners in marriage, — a relationship described by Francis Lee himself as “consecrated to Christ, beyond any instance that is commonly known” — “blessed, and holy to God, whatever man shall judge concerning it”.{Notes and Materials, p. 227}   

Lee would use his gifted intellect to answer the controversy, that erupted upon his publication of Mrs. Lead's writings which were received with much appreciation by some like-minded souls in parts of Europe but which set off an uproar in her own country.   God would use him to fill the void, left first by John Pordage and then by Thomas Bromley as the scholarly warriors set to defend the messages given to Jane Lead.   Later his works would infiltrate and influence others, most notably William Law, who would preserve the continuity of the truths that had been revealed, and would valiantly balance  and lovingly correct the counterfeit gospels that were multiplying in his day.

More than thirty years after Francis Lee's death, his papers were published in a book entitled, Apoleipomenia or Dissertations by Francis Lee, M.D.; Alexander Strahan, London, 1752, for which his daughter, Deborah Jemima de la Fontaine, served as editor. 

Serge Hutin gives us a bit more information that he gleaned from Deborah de la Fontaine, Francis Lee's daughter, in her foreword of the first volume of her father's collected works, the Dissertations or Apoleipomenia - 1752), which information was included in Hutin's book, Les disciples anglais de Jacob Boehme, DenoŽl, Paris, 1960

“Francis Lee died while doing business in France, in the city of Gravelines, on August 23, 1719, from strong fevers he suffered.  Before dying, he converted 'in extremis' to the Catholic Faith.  He is buried in the Gravelines Abbey's graveyard.”

 

End of:   'An Introduction to Francis Lee'

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