Four Courts Press 
New Catalogue
September 2005
45/35/$55 hbk

Edith Somerville: a biography


Edith Somerville, 1858-1949, was the co-author, with her cousin Violet Martin, of The Irish RM stories and The Real Charlotte. Her life is illuminated by exceptionally rich collections of both written and photographic material. For the first time all these sources have been collated and the two writers placed in the context of their separate family lives. Edith Somerville's determination to conceal biographical details from the first third of her life, before she met Violet Martin in 1886, has hitherto prevented a full understanding of her character. She was determined that her family home should survive as a working part of the new Ireland.

To prevent land being lost by compulsory purchase, she later became a horse-dealer and an agricultural tenant of her brother. With her sister, she worked a dairy farm for more than three decades, influenced by Horace Plunkett and the ideals of the Irish Agricultural Organization Society. Somerville's literary and artistic work was undertaken as an aside from engineering the survival of her family home: an understanding of how little time was spared for her writing and painting after 1895 justifies Molly Keane's admiration of Somerville and Ross for achieving so much while being so restricted.

Gifford Lewis is a graduate of the University of Wales who has published research into paleography and biographies of Irish working women.

400pp ills September 2005