Papers of Mary Montgomerie Currie, pen-name Violet Fane

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection consists of around 2000 items of correspondence, mostly addressed to members of Violet Fane's family during the period 1850 to 1905. Many are written by family members, but there are also letters from friends, including literary figures of the time such as Alfred Austin, Robert Browning and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, and letters from diplomats and government members. The collection includes letters written by Violet Fane herself, and letters written to her by her husbands and children. In addition, there is an earlier collection of letters from members of the Burges/Lamb family, c. 1785-1867 (Sir James Burges came into the possession of the estate of his friend John Lamb in 1821 and assumed the name of Sir James Lamb by royal license). There are also letters written to members of the family in the twentieth century, particularly to Sir Charles Lamb.

The rest of the collection consists of diaries kept by Violet Fane 1898-1905; diaries kept by her mother Anna Charlotte Lamb 1859 and 1875-1880; pen and pencil sketchbooks by Violet Fane and other family members; newscuttings relating to Violet Fane's life and work, to literary and political life, and to foreign affairs, c. 1865-1920; notebooks containing manuscript fair copies of Violet Fane's poems; manuscripts of prose articles and notes; prose and verse manuscripts by Violet Fane's daughter Sophie Singleton (Mrs Lionel Harbord); manuscript and typescript poems by other writers; a large number of photographs of Violet Fane, her friends and family, and offical portraits; printed verses, illustrated material, catalogues, orders of service etc.; and sundry papers chiefly related to Sir Philip Currie's activities in the diplomatic service.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Montgomerie Lamb was born at Beauport, Littlehampton, Sussex, on 24 February 1843, eldest daughter of Charles James Saville Montgomerie Lamb and his wife Anna Charlotte Grey. Her grandfather was Sir Charles Montolieu Lamb, second baronet, of Beauport, Sussex. She was brought up at Beauport, where from an early age she showed an interest in poetry and story-writing, which was strongly discouraged by her family. For this reason all her work was published under the pen-name 'Violet Fane', the name of a character in Disraeli's Vivian Grey. In 1864 she married Henry Sydenham Singleton, an Irish landowner, and subsequently became well known in London society for her beauty, charm and original conversation. Henry Singleton, by whom she had two sons and two daughters, died on 10 March 1893. On 24 January 1894 she married Sir Philip Henry Wodehouse Currie, G.C.B., later Baron Currie of Hawley, and accompanied him to Constantinople, where he was ambassador. In 1898 her husband was transferred to Rome, and there they lived until his retirement in 1903, when they settled at Hawley, Hampshire. Lady Currie died of heart failure on 13 October 1905 at the Grand Hotel, Harrogate, and was buried at Mattingley Church, Hampshire.

Her first publication was a volume of verse entitled From Dawn to Noon (1872). This was followed by Denzil Place: a story in verse (1875), The Queen of the Fairies and other poems (1876), and Anthony Babington, a drama in prose and verse (1877). In 1880 she issued her Collected Verses. She also wrote prose, beginning with the witty social sketches entitled Edwin and Angelina Papers (1878) and continuing with a number of light essays, originally contributed to periodicals and later republished in volume form. Three novels, Sophy, or the Adventures of a Savage (1881), Thro' Love and War (1886) and The Story of Helen Davenant (1889), were followed by further poems, Autumn Songs (1889). In 1892 a second edition of her collected poems was published, now in two volumes. Also in that year, her Memoirs of Marguerite of Valois, Queen of Navarre was published. While living in Constantinople she wrote two books of poems, Under Cross and Crescent (1896) and Betwixt two Seas: poems and ballads written at Constantinople and Therapia (1900).

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check www.reading.ac.uk/library/special-collections/using/lib-special-using.asp for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Presented to the Library by Ian Anstruther, October 1983.

Note

Description prepared by Bridget Andrews, with reference to the Dictionary of National Biography.

Other Finding Aids

Listed at item level.