John Lee - the actor

John Lee

Born 1725
Died 1781


Actor specialising in Shakespeare. Father of four daughters, among them the novelist Harriet Lee and playwright Sophia Lee, and at least 1 son.

Known to Boswell as a "good, agreeable, honest man"1, but to others as "irascible, [who] had rocky relationships with most of his fellow actors."2. He was an actor at various theatres during his lifetime, including Smock Alley, Covent Garden and Drury Lane. In 1762-3 he was at the latter. Sometime manager of the theatre in Edinburgh. 

According to a 1797 article about his daughter Sophia, he was "a comedian of celebrity, and sufficiently powerful in talents to be, at one time, the formidable rival of the late master of the scene, Mr. Garrick".3

  • 1. Boswell's London Journal 1762-1763, December 14, 1762
  • 2. Chevalier, Noel (ed.). (1995). The Clandestine Marriage & Two Short Plays. p. 237.
  • 3. 'Biographical Sketch of Miss Lee', The Monthly Mirror, 1797, vol. 4 p. 7

Life with Boswell: 

Boswell went to see him in London on December 14, 1762, but didn't find him at home. They breakfasted together on February 7, 1763.