The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

Mary Montgomerie Lamb, 1843-1905

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1843.02.24
Place of Birth: Beauport, Littlehampton
Date of Death: 1905.10.13
Place of Death: Harrogate, Grand Hotel,


Mary Montgomerie Lamb, was a poet and novelist who wrote under the pseudonym of Violet Fane. She was the eldest daughter of Charles James Saville Montgomerie Lamb and Anna Charlotte, the daughter of Arthur Hopwood Grey of Bersted, Sussex. Her grandfather, Sir Charles Montolieu Lamb, was the second baronet of Beauport, Sussex, and her grandmother, Mary, was the daughter and heiress of Archibald Montgomerie, the eleventh earl of Eglinton.

On 27 February 1864 Mary Lamb married Henry Sydenham Singleton, an Irish landowner, with whom she had two sons and two daughters. Following his death in 1893, she married Sir Philip Henry Wodehouse Currie, G.C.B., on 24 January 1894. He later became Baron Currie of Hawley and was ambassador to Constantinople.


In 1863, before her marriage to Singleton, Mary Lamb designed etchings for a reprint of Tennyson's Mariana. The pseudonym she chose when she began to write, following her marriage, in order to hide her identity from her family, was that of a character from Disraeli's Vivian Grey.

Her poetry publications include From Dawn to Noon (1872), Denzil Place: A Story in Verse (1875), The Queen of the Fairies and other Poems (1876), Anthony Babington (1877), Collected Verses (1880), Autumn Songs (1889), Under Cross and Crescent (1896) and Betwixt Two Seas: ¼ Ballads written at Constantinople and Therapia (1900). She also wrote novels, including Sophy, or the Adventures of a Savage (1881), Thro' Love and War (1886) and The Story of Helen Davenant (1889). Her periodical articles were collected together as Edwin and Angelina Papers (1878), Two Moods of a Man (1901) and Collected Essays (1902). She also wrote Memoirs of Marguerite of Valois, Queen of Navarre (1892). Her portrait was engraved by Stodart, and it appears on the frontispiece of her two-volumed Poems (1892).

Mary Singleton became well known in London for her beauty, originality and wit. Mr. W. H. Mallock's New Republic (1877) was dedicated to her, and she can be identified within it as Mrs. Sinclair, 'a sort of fashionable London Sappho.' JW was among her friends and correspondents. In 1876/8 she attended a concert by the singer Mlle Nita Gaëtano that was being held at the Leylands' London home at Princes Gate, and JW was keen to know what she thought of his Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178) there (#11660). She was among those invited to his famous Sunday breakfasts in the late 1870s (#05455). In February 1885 she attended JW's 'Ten O'Clock Lecture'. She described it as 'witty, eloquent, entirely original' (#01071).


Dictionary of National Biography Online, Oxford, 2004.