Partner Edith Anna Somerville, buried together
Ross Castle, Pairc Na Rossa, Ross Demesne, Moycullen, Co. Galway, Irlanda
Drishane House, Drishane, Castletownshend, Co. Cork, Irlanda
St Barrahane, Castletownshend, The League, Castletownshend, Co. Cork, Irlanda
Violet Florence Martin (11 June 1862 – 21 December 1915) was an Irish author who co-wrote a series of novels with cousin Edith Somerville under the pen name of Martin Ross in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Edith Somerville and Violet Martin formed a lifelong partnership in the late XIX century, which lasted until Violet's death in 1915 and continued, for Edith, beyond the grave. The two women were second cousins but did not meet until their early 20s, when they found they enjoyed and intellectual and emotional sympathy. Violet regarded their partnership as an alternative to marriage and Edith commented that, while for most young people, the flirtations of your are resolved and composed by marrriage, to Martin and to me was opened another way, and the flowering of both our lives was when we met each other.
Lillian Faderman argues that Edith Somerville and Violet Martin's partnership is unlikely to have been a sexual relationship, citing Geraldine Cummins, Somerville's biographer and companion from 1827, who claimed that Somerville had definitive views on the evils of sexual immorality and considered the Irish Roman Catholic Church wise in its condemnation of misdemeanours of this kind.
Martin was born at Ross House in Connemara, County Galway, the youngest of sixteen children of James Martin of Ross (1804–1872). The Martin family, a branch of the Martyn family - one of the Tribes of Galway - had settled at Ross by the early seventeenth century, having previously inhabited the town of Galway for some three hundred years. Her father, James, was a Protestant, his grandfather having converted from the Catholic faith in order to retain the family estates under the Penal Laws. Nevertheless, each child of the family was secretly 'baptised' by the family servants, a practice James Martin winked at.
She was a kinswoman of Richard Martin and her contemporary, Edward Martyn, two other notable members of the tribe. Her older brother, Robert Jasper Martin, was a noted songwriter and a well-regarded member of the Tory party in London. She shared a great-grandmother with the writer Maria Edgeworth, whose use of Irish vernacular speech she followed in her work.
Her father had managed to save both his estate and his tenants during the Great Famine - boasting that not one of his people died during the disaster - but at the cost of bankruptcy. Following his death in 1872, the family moved to Dublin and only returned to Ross in 1888 following revelations of financial fraud of the estate by their agent.
Violet Martin and Edith Somerville were second cousins. They originally met on 17 January 1886 at Castletownshend, after which they became lifelong companions and literary partners. They came to share a home in Drishane, County Cork. In 1889, Violet adopted the pseudonym Martin Ross, which comprised her surname and the name of her ancestral home; thus the authors were called Somerville and Ross. Their works included The Real Charlotte (1889), Some Reminiscences of an Irish R.M. and In The Vine Country.
Martin was a convinced Irish Unionist, in opposition to Somerville's open nationalism. Both she and her brother Robert were well-regarded members of the literary circle in Irish unionism. However, unlike her brother, Martin was a convinced suffragette, becoming vice-president of the Munster Women's Franchise League. While on friendly terms with the leading members of the Gaelic literary revival such as W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, she objected to their romantic version of Irish peasantry. She was on good terms with Edward Martyn, partner of Gregory and Yeats - and her kinsman - and shared his love of the Irish language and culture.
Violet was seriously injured in a riding accident in November 1898, from which she never fully recovered. This was a contributing factor to her death in Drishane, County Cork, in 1915. Edith Somerville continued to write under their joint literary names, claiming that they were still in contact. The two women left thousands of letters and 116 volumes of diaries, detailing their lives, much of them yet unpublished. Edith died at Castletownshend in October 1949, aged 91, and is buried alongside Violet Florence Martin at Saint Barrahane's Church, Castletownsend, County Cork, Ireland.
She was awarded a posthumous DLitt. by Trinity College Dublin.
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