Sue Young Histories

Edith Anna Œnone Somerville 1858 – 1949

July 30, 2009

Somerville and RossEdith Anna Œnone Somerville 1858 – 1949 was an Irish novelist who habitually signed herself as “E. Œ. Somerville”. She wrote in collaboration with her cousin “Martin Ross” (Violet Martin) under the pseudonym, “Somerville and Ross”.

Edith Somerville was an advocate of homeopathy, as was Violet Martin. Somerville was a patient of Robert H Perks,

Edith Somerville was born on Corfu, where her father was stationed, the eldest of eight children. A year later he retired to Drishane, County Cork, where Somerville grew up. She received her primary education at home, and then at Alexandra College, Dublin, later studying art in Paris in 1884 and at the Royal Westminster School of Art in London.

At home riding and painting were her absorbing interests.

In 1887 she met her cousin Violet Martin, and thus began their literary partnership. Their first book, An Irish Cousin, appeared in

  1. By the time Violet died in 1915 they had published fourteen books together.

Somerville was stunned by Martin’s death. She was in London the following year, still recovering from the shock, when the 1916 Insurrection broke out. On 9 May she wrote a letter to The Times, blaming the British Government for the state of affairs in Ireland.

She tended towards Nationalism afterwards, and, an adept musician, at parties specialized in Irish tunes and Nationalist songs.

Following Violet Martin’s death in 1915, Somerville continued to write as “Somerville and Ross”, claiming that they were still in contact through a spiritualist seances.

She had exhibitions of her pictures in Dublin and in London between 1920-38; and was active as an illustrator of children’s picture books and sporting picture books. Somerville was a devoted sportswoman who, in 1903 became master of the West Carbery Foxhounds. She was also active in the suffragist movement, corresponding with Dame Ethel Smyth.

She died at age 91 in Castletownshend, County Cork.