Open main menu

Shaw, Mary (DNB00)

SHAW, MARY (1814–1876), vocalist, daughter of John Postans, messman at the guard-room, St. James's Palace, was born in 1814. From September 1828 to June 1831 she was a student at the Royal Academy of Music, and afterwards became a pupil of Sir George Smart. She made her first appearance in public as a contralto singer in 1834. At the amateur musical festival at Exeter Hall in the November of that year she attracted attention, and in 1835 she was engaged at the concert of ancient music and at the York festival. About the end of the year she married Alfred Shaw, an artist. In 1836 she sang at the Norwich and Liverpool festivals, at the latter taking the contralto part of Mendelssohn's ‘St. Paul’ on its first performance in England. In 1837 she appeared at the Philharmonic and Sacred Harmonic societies, and at the Birmingham festival. After singing at the Gloucester festival in 1838 she took part in the Gewandhaus concerts at Leipzig under Mendelssohn's direction. In a letter to the directors of the Philharmonic Society, dated 19 Jan. 1839, Mendelssohn speaks of Clara Novello [q. v.] and Mrs. Shaw as ‘the best concert singers we have had in this country for a long time.’ She next appeared at La Scala in Milan on 17 Nov. 1839 in Verdi's opera ‘Oberto.’ In 1842 she returned to England, and took part in operatic music at Covent Garden with Adelaide Kemble. In 1843 she sang at the Sacred Harmonic Society and at the Birmingham festival. Soon afterwards her husband became insane, and her distress of mind deranged her vocal organs so that she was unable to sing in tune. For three or four years she resorted to teaching, only appearing in public at an annual benefit concert. Eventually she married a second husband, John Frederick Robinson, a country solicitor, and retired from the profession. She died on 9 Sept. 1876 at her husband's residence, Hadleigh Hall, Suffolk.

[Grove's Dictionary of Music, iii. 485; Men of the Reign, p. 805; Athenæum, 1876, ii. 411.]

E. I. C.