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  • From Toronto to Cambridge:The Illuminated Manuscripts of Lord Lee of Fareham
  • Stella Panayotova

Lord Lee of Fareham (1868–1947) is best known as the politician who gave Chequers, the Elizabethan house in Buckinghamshire, to the British nation for the use of successive prime ministers. Many would think of him as the personal military secretary of Lloyd George or the lifetime friend of Theodore Roosevelt. Others may remember him as the main force behind the foundation of the Courtauld Institute and the establishment of the Warburg Institute in London. Some may even know him as the arbiter between English and American film companies in the 1930s – a position that allowed him to meet some of the great stars of early cinema, including Charlie Chaplin. But few, very few indeed, would think of Lord Lee as a manuscript collector. Five of his medieval illuminated manuscripts are at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and another ten at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. They are the focus of this paper.1

Lord Lee 'believe[d] that Christie's sales and question time in the House of Commons are the two most interesting functions in London' (Jumor 153–54). In fact, he never had trouble reconciling his two main passions, politics and art. Unlike other collectors who saw art as an escape from the clamour of politics or business, Lee pursued his collecting with a mighty appetite for battles.

Arthur Hamilton Lee was born on 8 November 1868 in Bridport, Dorset.2 He was two when his father, the rector of St Mary's Church in Bridport, died. Arthur went to boarding school at six, won a classical scholarship at Cheltenham College at eleven, and entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich at sixteen. While serving in China, he [End Page 673] carried out surveys of the new Russian naval base in Vladivostock, a secret mission that helped him meet Lord Tennyson in 1891 (A. Clark 44) and got him his first proper job, taking him to Canada. In 1893, at the age of twenty-four, Lee became a captain and professor of strategy and tactics at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. His English colleagues felt that he was jeopardizing a promising career. But Canada was the start of his career. Moreover, it gave Lee the three things he longed for most in life – friendship, love, and art. Lee spent the next five years at Kingston lecturing all over the East Coast, surveying the Canadian-American frontier, and enjoying the beauty of Canada and its exhilarating outdoor activities. 'There is no game so fast and thrilling as ice-hockey when played by Canadian championship teams,' he wrote. 'The night matches leave an indelible memory of excitement such as no other game can provide.'3

One of Lee's new friends had a profound influence on his future as a collector. Sir William Van Horne, the head of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was a voracious collector of Old Masters. He was a painter, too, and often entertained his dinner guests by first letting them admire his copies of Rembrandt and then smearing the canvases in front of them.

Another close friend was George Parkin, headmaster of Upper Canada College and later high commissioner to London. George Parkin's daughter, Alice, married Charles Vincent Massey (1887–1967), a prominent politician and patron of the arts who would become chancellor of the University of Toronto (1947–53) and governor-general of Canada (1952–59). It was through Alice that the Lees and the Masseys became friends. And it was largely because of this friendship that Lord Lee donated his manuscripts to Toronto.

The friend who brought about the most fundamental change in Lee's life was Charles Hosmer, a general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway and a distinguished Montreal art collector.4 In 1894, he introduced Arthur to a business friend, John Moore, one of the most powerful New York bankers, known as 'the diplomat of Wall Street,' who had brought his family to Quebec for the holidays. Arthur fell in love with his daughter Ruth and married her in 1899, while serving as British military attaché in Washington.

The following year, he...


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