Friday, 13 April 2007

Admiral Boyle's sister

Edith OEnone Somerville and Martin Ross (aka Edith's cousin Violet Florence Martin)

...Literature, particularly Irish literature, at the turn of the century, took on a new voice. Authors began to make political statements regarding the class system and society. Edith Oenone Somerville and Martin Ross (a pseudonym), were leaders of this literary movement in Ireland, and leaders for women in society.

Edith Oenone Somerville was born on the island of Corfu, off the Greek coast, on May 2, 1858. She was a child of the Somerville family of Castletownshend, "a lovely southwest Cork seacoast village dominated by four or five Anglo-Irish Big House families and their extensive social life,"(Charlotte, xiii.). One of her siblings, her brother, Admiral Boyle Townshend Somerville, was an accomplished sailor, as well as an author of many books himself.

Edith's cousin, Violet Florence Martin, was born on June 11, 1862, at Ross House in County Galway. In 1889, Violet adopts the pseudonym of Martin Ross, which "was not used exclusively for authorship" (Charlotte, xiii.). Edith and Martin (Violet will be referred to as Martin from this point), originally met on January 17, 1886 at Castletownshend, fourteen years after Martin and her mother moved to Dublin from Galway. The move came after Martin's "father died and her brother, on succeeding to the estate, closed their Big House and moved to London, leaving his mother and younger siblings," to fend for themselves in tough times (Charlotte, xii). This change in fortune, however, affected both Edith and Martin.

When the two young women met, they began a lifelong journey of culture, society and, of course literature. They fit together perfectly in their first work, The Buddh Dictionary, a dictionary of terms created throughout the years by their family. As Edith Somerville describes it:

"Our respective stars then collided, struck sympathetic sparks. We...discovered in one another a comfortable agreement of outlook in matters artistic and literary...." The pleasure they experienced writing together and their need to earn money...soon prompted them to embark on a more ambitious effort. (Charlotte, xiii)

Following a few short efforts, Somerville and Ross publish An Irish Cousin, their first novel, in 1889. The novel began as an effort "begun in idleness and without conviction," (Charlotte, xiii.) but turned into the passionate beginning of a literary career for the young duo...

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