Lesley Lewis (1909–2010)

Author of The Private Life of a Country House

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Lesley Lawrence, the daughter of James Lawrence, a solicitor, and his wife Kathleen, was raised at the family home of Pilgrims Hall, near Pilgrims Hatch, Essex, England. She later described her childhood in a 1981 memoir, The Private Life of a Country House, 1912-1939. She was educated at home by governesses and sent to finishing school in Paris. In 1932, she became one of the first four students in a new program in art history at the University of London. She followed this up with a postgraduate degree on the rise of neo-Classical architecture in England. She got her first job in 1929 as a registrar for the City and Guilds of London Art School. In 1944, she married David Lewis, a medical entomologist, and traveled around the Sudan with him for 11 years as he investigated insects that transmit tropic diseases. Lesley Lewis read law by correspondence while in the Sudan and was called to the Bar in 1956, although she never practiced as an attorney. After the couple returned to London, she began to research British art and patronage through the Grand Tour and wrote the book Connoisseurs and Secret Agents in Eighteenth Century Rome (1961). She continued to accompany her husband on his trips to tropical countries, fitting in her own studies around them. In 1964, she was elected to the Society of Antiquaries, which she served for many years, including as vice-president from 1980 to 1984. She was awarded the society’s medal for outstanding services in 2002. She joined the Georgian Group shortly after its founding in 1937 and served as chairman from 1972 to 1979. She also was a vice-president of the Royal Archaeological Institute.
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