Fine Creek, Jan: 27th ‘62


My dear, dear Annie,

How shall I excuse myself for not sooner answering your dear & most interesting letter? What would I have not given to have been with you at Stratford. My devotion to that spot is the weak place in my heart & I hope yet to see it again. In the meantime I sigh to see it. And while I am on it, let me answer your genialogical inquiries. When I saw Bishop Meade’s genialogy of the Lees in the Southern Churchman, I found it different from that I had in my possession from the pen of Mr. William Lee, the brother of Richard Henry, & Alderman of London, & subsequently our minister at the Hague. I sent the dear Bishop a copy of this paper, & he replied that he was aware of the imperfect character of the genialogy he published, & was much obliged to me for correcting it, which he would do in his forth-coming volume of “Old Churches” &c I have not that very valuable & interesting work (which I will soon have) but I see from the facts you have derived from it that he has adopted the correct genealogy. Matilda Lee was the granddaughter of Thomas1 (whose portrait in French chalk you may have remembered in Lucy’s chamber) both owners of Stratford; & Henry Lee, the youngest brother of Thomas married Miss Blair, whose eldest son Henry married Miss Lucy Grimes2 (hence sister Lucy’s name) who was the niece of Dr. (of divinity) Porteus3 Bishop of London; & I have been told by members of the family, that the correspondence between your great-grandmother Mrs. Lee of Leesylvania & her uncle the Bishop of London was of the most interesting character & those of the niece especially beautiful. Old Dr. Wallace of Fauquier used to abuse almost everybody; & I met him at Prince William Court House when I first entered on the practice of the Law. He asked me in the course of our first conversation after my introduction to him, how I could hope to get practice in that County? “To be sure,” said he, “your father was really a distinguished man; & so was your uncle Charles; for he was in Washington’s Cabinet, as Attorney General. Your uncle Richard, too, was a clever man, as he proved himself to be in Congress, at Philadelphia. Jennings, too, your uncle Edmund Jennings, is a good lawyer; & even that fellow Theo (uncle Theodorick) is not a fool.4 But all that wo’nt help you here. You do’nt look like those people—you do’nt think like them—you do’nt feel like them. The ox loveth his kind, & the ass followeth his kind. These people can have nothing to do with you. Sir, if your father was now living, he could not be elected as a constable in this County.” But said, I, Dr., how did it happen that my father & all his brothers were so clever? Was my grandfather, or my grandmother entitled to the credit of this result? To which the Dr. answered “My dear Sir I have heard that your grandmother was a very clever woman; but your grandfather, a fool he was born, a fool he lived & a fool he died.” I tell you this anecdote to show that your great grandmother must have impressed the community generally with a sense of her cleverness as even Dr. Wallace admitted it. As to her husband, he represented his County either as Burgess under the Colonial system, or as Delegate to the Genl. Assembly of Virga for 24 years consecutively (I think). I understand he was remarkable for benevolence & that must have been directed by good sense – nay, by great wisdom to have accounted for his remarkable popularity. For in those days & in that County there were no demagogues. My darling, I have written so much to you about old times (which you seem to have a taste for) that will add modern matters in a letter of the “Unaccountable” who I hear is in Richmond & to whom I shall enclose this. Lucy too, will write to Agnes & tell no doubt of current matters. So I will only add here my love to all & that I am

Yours & theirs most aff           G.W. C. Lee  




1. Thomas Lee (1690-1750). He was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the son of Colonel Richard Lee, II (1647-1715), known as Richard “The Scholar.” Thomas was the man who built Stratford Hall ca. late 1730s.

2. Henry Lee, II (1730-1787) was born in Leesylvania, Virginia. He was married to Lucy Grimes Lee (1734-1792). He was the third son of Captain Henry Lee (1691-1747), who was born in Westmoreland County.

3. Porteus (1731-1809), a leading abolitionist in England. His parents were planters in Virginia, and he was bishop of London from 1787-1809.

4. Charles Lee (1758-1815) served as U.S. Attorney General from 1795-1801. He was the son of Henry (1730-1787) and Lucy Grimes Lee (1734-1792) of Leesylvania, birthplace of Light Horse Harry Lee. His brothers were Edmund Jennings Lee (1772-1843) and Theodorick Lee (1766-1849).    




Source: Transcribed from photocopy of original letter, James Lewis Howe Papers, Leyburn Library, Washington and Lee University

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 October 22