Violet Florence Martin

Life
1861-1915 [pen-name ‘Martin Ross’]; b. Ross House, Co. Oughterard, Co. Galway, gdg. of Charles Kendal Bushe; ed. locally and in Alexandra College in Dublin, where she moved in 1872 with her mother after her brother Robert had closed the family home as being too heavily encumbered with debts on death of their father, a bankrupt; returned to Ross House with her mother, 1888, and made a gallant attempt to revive past grandeur, living as tenants in five rooms of the mansion; met her cousin Edith Œ. Somerville in Castletownshend, and formed a literary collaboration as as ‘Somerville and Ross’ in 1888, resulting in An Irish Cousin (1889), originally planned as a sensational Gothic novel, and the first of a number of classics of Anglo-Irish fiction including notably the novel The Real Charlotte (1894), also commended in 1889; the Some Experiences of an Irish R. M. (1899); suffered horse-riding accident in 1898 and was in constant pain thereafter, spending her last years as an invalid [see further under Edith Somerville, infra.]. ODNB DIW DIB DIH SUTH OCIL

Works
[with Edith Somerville], Novels, An Irish Cousin (1889); An Irish Cousin (1889); Naboth’s Vineyard (1891); The Real Charlotte (1894); The Silver Fox (1898); and Dan Russel the Fox (1911).

Short stories, Some Experiences of an Irish R. M. (1899); Further Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1908); and In Mr. Knox’s Country (1915).

Travel works, Through Connemara in a Governess Cart (1892); In the Vine Country (1893), and Beggars on Horseback (1895). [For publishing details, see under Somerville]; also, memoir of Robert Ross, quoted at length in the first chapter of Edith Somerville’s Irish Memories (1917), pp.[5]-29.

Criticism
Edith Somerville, Irish Memories (1917) [infra]; Maurice Collis, Somerville & Ross: A Biography (London: Faber 1968) [infra]; Seán McMahon, ‘John Bull’s Other Ireland: A Consideration of The Real Charlotte by Somerville & Ross’, by Éire-Ireland, 3, 4 (Winter 1968), pp.119-35 [infra]; Ruth Frehner, The Colonizers’ Daughters: Gender In The Anglo-Irish Big House Novel (Tubingen: Franacke 1999), x, 256pp.; James M. Cahalan, Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction (Syracuse: Syracuse UP 1999), 234pp.

[ top ]

Commentary
Edith Somerville, Irish Memories (1917), Chap. I: The Martins of Ross [‘A few years ago Martin wrote an account of her eldest brother, Robert, known and loved by a very wide circle outside his own family at ‘Ballyhooley ... I propose, unfinished though it is, to make it the foremost chaper in these idea and stra ying recollections’]; An Account of Robert Jasper Martin, of Ross, by Martin Ross’, Part I: ‘My brother Robert’s life began with the epoch that has changed the face and the heart of Ireland. It ended untimely, in strange accord with the close of that epoch; the ship has sunk, and he has gone down with it. [...; &c.]' (For longer extract, see infra.)

Maurice Collis, Somerville & Ross: A Biography (London: Faber 1968), p.38; ‘In 1882, when she was twenty, [Violet] made her first visit to London, which lasted two months. By this time her brother Robert Martin of Ross, was 36 and was married. ... He was a gifted charming man, who found it amused his friend for him to pose as a stage Irishman. He had begun to publish in the Globe and other papers verses and stories of Irish life, including the song Ballyhooley, which was such a hit in the halls that it alone made him famous ... published his best stories and verses in a volume called Bits of Blarney (1899) ... Some Experiences &c., also in 1899, were very much better stories of the Irish country scene.’ Further notes that Somerville & Ross’s first collaboration was an article on “Palmistry” written by Violet and illustrated by Edith, for the Graphic, 11 Oct. 1886. and that ‘In the event, Edith went to Paris where in due course the article for the Graphic arrived and she set to work to illustrate it’.

Seán McMahon, ‘John Bull’s Other Ireland: A Consideration of The Real Charlotte by Somerville & Ross’, in Éire-Ireland, 3, 4 (Winter 1968), remarks: ‘Of the two, Edith was the more artistic; she did many illustrations for the books and exhibited successfully twice in London. She was also a competent musician and played the organ in St. Barranane’s in Castletownshend. [...] Martin on the other hand was more literary, more sensitive, more introspective and more gloomy. She was much better informed about the other Ireland than Edith: she is the one, for example, who renders with phonetic accuracy the few phrases of the Irish language that appear in their books.’ (p.125.)

[ top ]

Quotations
Letter to Edith
(March 1910): ‘About one hundred and fifty years ago a very grand lady married the head of the family and lives there, and was so corroded with pride that she would not allow her two daughters to assoicate with the neihgbours of thei rown class. She lived to see them marry two of the men in the yard. yesterday, as we left, an old spinster, daughter of the last owner, was at the door in a little donkey-trap. She lives hear in an old castle and since her people died she will not go into the House, or ointo the enormous yards, or the beautiful old garden. She has a strange mixture of distinction and commonness, like her breeding, and it was very sad to see her at the door of that great house. If we dared to wrte up that subject - Yours Ever (and let us add, through Death) - Martin. (n. source; quoted in Benedict Kiely, ‘The Great Gazebo’, A Raid into Dark Corners, Cork UP 1999, p.32.)

Big House at Inver?: ‘I was driven off to a little desolate awful church, to which the Ardrahan clergyman drives out. I have never been at anything so wretched - the little church quite well built, but coated with mildew and damp, the decaying old prayer books stuck to the seats with fungus. The clergyman came out and dusted a pew for me before he allowed me to sit in it - I, a young man, and a policeman were the congregation. The parson gave out a hymn, started it very well; I struck in, and he and I then sang a duet. When he found that I was well set, he sang an excellent bass in a low baritone. The youth and the policeman listened reverently to this unique performance. / In the afternoon Tilly Redington and I drove over to Tyrone House. A bigger and much grander edition of Ross - a great square cut-stone house of three stories, with an area - perfectly empty - and such ceilings, architraves, teak doors and chimney-pieces as one sees in old houses in Dublin. It is on a long promontory by the sea and there rioted three or four generations of St. Georges - living with country-women, occasionally marrying them, all illegitimate four times over. No so long ago eight of these awful half-peasant families roosted together in that lovely house, and fought, and barricaded and drank, till the police had to intervene - about 150 years ago a very grand Lady Harriet St Lawrence married a St. George, and lived there, and was so corroded with pride that she would not allow her daughters to associate with the Galway people. She lived to see them marry two men in the yard. Yesterday as we left an old Miss St. George, daughter of the last owner, was at the door in a donkey trap-she lives near, in a bit of the castle, and since her people died she will not go into Tyrone House, or into the enormous yard, or the beautiful old garden. She was a strange mixture of distinction and commonness, like her breeding, and it was very sad to see her at the door of that great house - If we dare to write up that subject!’ (Letters of Somerville & Ross, ed. Gifford Lewis, London 1989, p.294; R. F. Foster, ‘Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History’, Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish History and English History London: Allen Lane/Penguin 1993; rep. in Jonathan Allison, ed., Yeats’s Political Identities, Michigan UP 1996, p.89.)

[ top ]

References
Elaine Showalter, A Literature of Their Own (1984), bio-note [as above]; also incidental comments on pp.30, 58, 341-42.

[ top ]