Fane, Violet (writer)

Reference: MS 2608Date: 1785-1958Extent: 7 boxes and c.232 files

Violet Fane was the pseudonym, of Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie (née Lamb), who was born at Beauport, Littlehampton, Sussex, on 24 February 1843, eldest daughter of Charles James Saville Montgomerie Lamb and his wife Anna Charlotte Gray. 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 pseudonym ‘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, (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 sole translation work, 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).

The bulk of the collection consists of around 2000 items of correspondence, mostly addressed to members of Lady Currie’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 Lady Currie 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. 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 Lady Currie,1898-1905; diaries kept by her mother Anna Charlotte Lamb 1859 and 1875-1880; pen and pencil sketchbooks by Lady Currie and other family members; newscuttings relating to Lady Currie’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 Lady Currie’s daughter Sophie Singleton; manuscript and typescript poems by other writers; a large number of photographs of Lady Currie, her friends and family, and official 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.

More information

  • A full description is available on our online database
  • A handlist of the whole collection is available here
  • See also MS 5514 – ‘Minnie Lamb pen & ink sketches’, (1859-1863), 1 volume
  • Publications by Violet Fane can be found in our Special Collections Library