Somerville & Ross Manuscripts Queen's University Belfast




Significant collection of personal and literary papers of Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) alias “Somerville and Ross,” one of Ireland's most celebrated literary partnerships. An important and unique collection reflecting the lives, interests and work of the two authors, the Somerville & Ross Papers consist largely of diaries, correspondence, working papers, and draft manuscripts relating to the authors’ literary activities, personal interests and affairs. Of the literary papers can be found annotated, handwritten notes and manuscripts relating to numerous publications produced under the Somerville & Ross name, including that of ‘The Further Experiences of an Irish RM’ (1908), one of their best known works. Other papers concern the unfinished novel, ‘A Man of the People’ (c 1897-99) and drafts of ‘Some Irish Yesterdays’ (1906), ‘Mount Music’ (1919), ‘The Big House of Inver’ (1925) and, Somerville’s last book, ‘Maria and Some Other Dogs’ (published 1949). Working notes are also featured and these include an indexed notebook of Irish anecdotes and dialogue compiled by the two writers, c 1886-1945, and various notes on Irish political and cultural affairs, the suffragette movement and Irish agriculture, c 1910-32. Most notable amongst the personal papers are the extant diaries of both Somerville and Martin and comprehensive series of correspondence from the two writers with friends, relatives and other associates. Of particular significance are the letters between Martin and Lady Augusta Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, c 1889-1915, and with the artist, William Gorman Wills, c 1885-1890; and Somerville with her brother, Colonel John Somerville, c 1889-1948, and the English Composer and Feminist, Dame Ethel Smyth, c 1918-44. Other interesting items include three notebooks detailing spiritualist séances attended by Somerville, 1930-41, with messages apparently received from Violet Martin and other dead relatives and a number of original illustrations and drawings by Somerville, who, in addition to her literary activities enjoyed a good degree of artistic success during her lifetime.


Comprehensive collection of literary and personal papers reflecting the lives and work of the popular Irish writers, Somerville and Ross. The collection is notable for including the extant diaries of both Edith Somerville and Violet Ross, for illustrating the collaborative work of the two authors and for including sizable series of late 19th and early 20th century correspondence commenting on the lives and interests of the correspondents in question.

Physical Characteristics

Collection of paper based materials consisting of approx. 2100 items, c 1873-1948, including 113 volumes (diaries), 4 files of notes, approx. 1800 autograph letters, approx. 60 literary manuscripts, 12 notebooks and 119 drawings and illustrations.



Collection Type



Policy: Closed   Method: Purchase;   Periodicity: Closed


The collection is available for reference only under supervised access in the Special Collections Reading Room at The McClay Library. Further information is available here: 

Visitor access to The McClay Library

Legal Status

Queen's University Belfast is the legal owner of this collection, however a literary agent manages copyright issues for this collection.

Description or Catalogue

Somerville & Ross Manuscripts listing:

See also Somerville & Ross Exhibition 2006

Manuscripts webpage

Publications Note

Manuscript/Archival Collection only.



Martin, Violet (1862-1915)


Novelist and artist


Violet Florence Martin (1862-1915)

Irish novelist, under the name ‘Martin Ross’. b. Ross House, Co. Galway, 1862. ed. Alexandra College, Dublin.  Spent most of her life at Ross and Drishane in Co.Cork, home of her cousin, Edith Somerville, with whom she formed a successful literary partnership from c 1886. Together they published 14 titles under the name of Somerville and Ross. Their first book, An Irish Cousin, appeared in 1889. This was followed by other notable successes including The Real Charlotte (1894), Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1899) and In Mr Knox’s Country (1915). Suffered horse-riding accident in 1898 and was in constant pain thereafter, spending her last years as an invalid. d. Cork, 1915


Publications include:Some Irish Yesterdays (1906); Stray Aways (1920), and with Edith Somerville, An Irish Cousin (1889, re-written, 1903); Naboth’s Vineyard (1891); In the Vine Country (1893); Through Connemara in a Governess Cart (1893); The Real Charlotte (1894); Beggars on Horseback (1895); The Silver Fox (1897); Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1899); A Patrick’s Day Hunt (1902); All on the Irish Shore (1903); Further Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1908); Dan Russell the Fox (1911); In Mr Knox’s Country (1915); Irish Memories (1917); The Big House of Inver (1925); French Leave (1928)


[Source: Dictionary of Irish Biography, 1998; Eirdata; A Biographical Dictionary of Ireland from 1500, John C. Kinoulty (Unpublished - presented to QUB, 1991; Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 1990]



Somerville, Edith Anna Oenone (1858-1949)



Irish novelist and artist. b. Corfu, 1858, family returning to Drishane, Co. Cork in 1859. ed. Alexandra College, Dublin. Studied art in London, Dusseldorf, and Paris after 1884, and became a magazine illustrator. She exhibited later in Dublin, London and New York, 1920-38. In 1886, met her cousin, Violet Martin, with whom she formed the successful literary partnership, Somerville and Ross. Their first book, An Irish Cousin, appeared in 1889, and by Martin’s death in 1915 they had published 14 titles together, including The Real Charlotte (1894), Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1899) and In Mr Knox’s Country (1915). Somerville continued to write and publish as Somerville and Ross despite Martin’s untimely death, believing that, through spiritualist séances, the two remained in contact. Subsequent successes included Irish Memories (1917) and The Big House at Inver (1925). In 1903, she became the first woman Master of Foxhounds and from 1912-19, served as Master of the West Carberry Pack. She was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Dublin in 1922 and in 1941 received the Gregory Gold Medal from the Irish Academy of Letters, of which she was a founding member. d. Drishane, 1949.



Queen's University Belfast


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Administrator Role







Academic Institution





Queen's University Belfast was formerly established as 'Queen's College, Belfast' by Queen Victoria in 1845 as one of a network of three Queen's Colleges in Ireland alongside Cork and Galway. It was raised to the status of a full university in 1908 with its own Charter and Statutes. When Queen's College first opened its doors in 1849, there were 20 professors and 90 matriculated students all based in the main Lanyon building off University Road, Belfast. Since then, the University has grown considerably both in reputation and stature reflecting its status as one of the oldest universities in the UK. Now catering to some 1,300 academics and 17,000 full and part-time students, the University offers courses and research opportunities in Agriculture & Food Science, Arts, Economics & Social Sciences, Medicine & Health Sciences, Science, Engineering, Education, Law and Theology based in centres within several miles of the original site, as well as a Marine Laboratory at Portaferry, a campus at Armagh City and outreach centres in Omagh and Newcastle and a nursing campus at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. Notable persons to have come through Queen’s doors include Seamus Heaney, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland and senior officer at Queen's, David Trimble, a former member of teaching staff and a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace and actor Liam Neeson.