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Correspondence of Sir William Lee

Call Number: MS 90


This collection of approximately 110 letters consists mainly of letters written and received by Sir William Lee of Hartwell (Buckinghamshire), 4th baronet (1726-1799). A small number of letters received by other family members and some related materials are also present. The correspondence covers topics such as county and national politics (elections); family; social and financial relationships; and estate management (agriculture, building, tithes and enclosures). Correspondents include members of the Harcourt, Grenville, and Stanhope families.


  • 1755 - 1803


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.


.75 Linear Feet (2 document cases) : Ornamentation: Seals on items: Aa:3, Ab:1, Ac:3-4, Ad:1, Ba:8, Ba:16, Bd:1, Ca:2, Cb:1, Cc:1, Cc:3, Cc:4, Da:11, Db:1, Dc:1, Ec:3, Fa:2, G:1, G:3, G:5, G:7, G:9. Scribbled sketches on items: Ba:7, Ba:14, Da:9 (botanical).

Scope and Contents

The Lees of Hartwell in Buckinghamshire were minor gentry engaged in county politics and to some degree in national politics. Brothers of the 3rd baronet had been prominent in law; the 4th baronet, Sir William, married into the political family of the Harcourts of Oxfordshire. In Buckinghamshire the major families were the Grenvilles, Stanhopes, and Verneys: the Grenvilles and Stanhopes were usually in politics.

This collection consists primarily of letters received by Sir William from his family, friends, neighbors, and business connections, and much of it is political. He is known for state-improvements, and for medicine: the collection reflects the former interest slightly, but the latter interest not at all.

Physical Location

MS 90

Other Finding Aids

See detailed descriptions of these letters in the file Note that the "Old number" at the end of each entry in this document is not an earlier call number but rather provides information about the order of the material when received, i.e. "Old no. within the group."

Custodial History

The historian George Herbert Guttridge (1898-1969) collected letters by 18th-century English and Scottish figures, primarily Whig politicians. He seems to have obtained these letters in groups of varying sizes, often from bookdealers. Spencer Research Library acquired the collection through the California bookdealer, Joseph Rubinstein, following Guttridge's death in 1969. During processing, the Guttridge Collection manuscripts were subdivided following their original provenance into the Correspondence of Sir William Lee; the Papers of David Erskine, 11th earl of Buchan; the Correspondence of Lady Mary Holland; and Miscellaneous Correspondence. A group of 154 printed pamphlets acquired at the same time have been cataloged separately as printed works.

This part of the Guttridge collection appears to have been obtained from Bernard Halliday's catalogue no. 242 lot 363 (Jan 1940) "Lee (Sir Wm., of Hartwell, Bucks) A Collection of Letters addressed to him... about 100 letters in all [QQ.171]." (Catalogue leaf found with G. acq. in Manuscript Records.) All the family names in the Conspectus (except for Greenhill, the Lees as writers, and the "Solicitor-General") are mentioned (although identities and counts are not exact); also mentioned are "and others", and the Wharton letter (now removed to MS 203B:16, since it is not obviously relevant to the Lee family). See MS 203B for other letters owned by Guttridge which might also have been part of this Halliday offer.

It is probable that the source of Halliday's material was the March 8, 1939 sale by Sotheby of "The Hartwell Papers" (the archives removed from Hartwell House). Lot 640 was "Chesterfield (Fifth Earl of) 6 Holograph letters, signed to Sir William Lee…Stanhope (William) 11 Holograph letters, signed…Stanhope (Eugenia)... July 17, 1773 -- Grenville (George) 16 Holograph letters, signed...; and others. (99 items)"

Later additions to the Correspondence of Sir William Lee in June 1989 were sections Ac-Ae (9 letters) found as a group in thr Phillipps collections.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, Joseph Rubinstein, after 1969.

Guide to the Guttridge Collection of Sir William Lee Correpsondence
Correspondence of Sir William Lee
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1989; revised by ksc, 2006. Finding aid encoded by skt, 2006; revised by mwh, 2019.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in<language encodinganalog="language">English.</language>
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Correspondence of Sir William Lee, MS 90, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States