theatre, he applied to Lord Elibank, who, with some friends, advanced money upon an assignment of the theatre, which Lee was reluctantly compelled to grant. In the season 1755-6 he was seen as Richard III, Touchstone, Lear, and other parts; Mrs. Lee also playing some new characters. In February a disagreement arose between Lee and the 'gentlemen' who had advanced him money, and the theatre was seized by the creditors, who, waiting for an excuse to quarrel with Lee, had already engaged West Digges [q. v.] as manager. Lee was thrown into prison and his furniture sold. He lost an action which he brought against Lord Elibank, Andrew Pringle, John Dalrymple, and others, and quitted Edinburgh tor Dublin, where he was engaged by Thomas Sheridan for 400/. for the season. Lee played Hotspur, Lothario, and other parts, but the engagement was unsuccessful. In 1760-1 he was engaged in Edinburgh, where, in addition to his performances, he 'read [from] "Paradise Lost" by way of farewell.' He now swallowed his pride, and once more enlisted under Garrick at Drury Lane, making, as Pierre in 'Venice Preserved,' 'his first appearance for ten years.' Parts such as Pans, Laertes, Tybalt, &c, were assigned him, and he was the original Pinchwife in his own abridgment of Wycherley's 'Country Wife.' 26 April 1765, 8vo, 1765, Vernish in Bickerstaffe's alteration of the 'Plain Dealer.' 7 Dec. 1765, and Traverse in the 'Clandestine Wife' of Colman and Garrick, 20 Feb. 1766. In the summer of this year he was with Barry at the Opera House, where he played Iago tomrry's Othello. He competed, unsuccessfully, in 1766-7 for the patent of the Edinburgh Theatre. On 23 June 1768 he was Archer in the ' Mayor of Garret ' at the Haymarket, and the following 8 July the Copper Captain in ' Rule a Wife and Have a Wife.' In 1769, and probably in subsequent years, he was at Bath. From 1774 to 1777 he was at Covent Garden, where he enacted Bayes in the 'Rehearsal.' Benedick, Osman in 'Zara.' Adam in 'As you like it.' Wolsey, and the Duke in 'Measure for Measure.' In 1778-9 he managed the theatre at Bath, and played 'leading business.' Richard III, Macbeth, Com us, Jaaues, &c. In 1780 he was too ill to act, and he died in 1781.
Lee had a good face and figure and was a competent actor. Kelly praises him warmly, especially in Aboan, Vernish, Young Belmont, Iago, and Pierre, but owns he had some unpleasant peculiarities of speech. The author of the ' State of the Stage' in 1758 is held to refer to Lee in describing an actor who was 'emphatically wrong in almost everything he repeated.' Cooke, 'Life of Macklin.' pp. 167-8, speaks of Lee's Iago as very respectable and showing judgment, and credits him with good qualities and much knowledge of his profession ; but says that he * wanted to be placed in the chair of Garrick, and in attempting to reach this he often deranged his natural abilities. He was for ever, as Foote said, "doing the honours of his face;" he affected uncommon long pauses, and frequently took such out-of-the-way pains with emphasis and articulation, that the natural actor seldom appeared.' In addition to the abridgments before mentioned, which the 'Biographia Dramatica ' calls his 'literary murders, he condensed the Relapse' into a three-act comedy called 'The Man of Quality.' which was acted at Covent Garden 27 April 1773, and Drury Lane 15 March 1774, and printed, 8vo, 1776. He is also suspected of having tampered with many other dramatic masterpieces. While manager of the Bath Theatre erroused the ire of Kemble, who refused to act in his adaptations. He also published 'A Letter from Mr. Lee to Mr. Sheridan.' Dublin, 1757, complaining of the treatment he received during his Dublin engagement; an 'Address to the Public.' a four-page sheet, small folio, dated Edinburgh, 4 Dec. 1767; 'Mr. Lee's Case against J. Rich.' Lond. 1758, folio; 'An Address to the Judges and the Public.' Lond. 1772, 8vo; 'A Narrative of a Remarkable Breach of Trust committed by Noblemen, Five Judges, and Several Advocates of the Court of Session in Scotland,' Lond. 1772, 8vo; and a series of letters relative to the Edinburgh Theatre.
Lee's wife died early. By her he had five daughters, two of whom, Harriet and Sophia, are noticed separately. His only son, George Augustus Lee (1761–1826), was a partner in a well-known firm of Manchester cotton-spinners (Phillips & Lee). He honourably distinguished himself by his readiness in adopting new inventions in his factories. Boulton and Watt were among his friends, and the steam engines which his firm introduced into their works were said to be the finest specimens extant of perfect mechanism. Lee was the first to employ cast-iron beams in his mills so as to render them fire-proof, and he was one of the first large employers to introduce gas into their workshops (cf. Trans. Roy, Soc., 1808). He induced his work-people, who numbered a thousand, to raise and administer a fund for mutual relief in sickness (Annual Biog. and Obit. 1827.)