Ross and Somerville Criticism - Essay

The Dial (review date 16 March 1900)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Some Experiences of an Irish R.M., by Somerville and Ross. The Dial 28, no. 330 (16 March 1900): 207.

[In the following positive review of Some Experiences of an Irish R.M., the critic states that the stories are a genuine depiction of Irish life.]

The dozen rollicking but not overdrawn sketches of rural life in the west of Ireland, collectively entitled Some Experiences of an Irish R. M. (Longmans), are reprinted from the Badminton Magazine, and they are well worth it. There is a note of genuineness in the book, despite its element of fiction, that we like. The stories are supposed to be told by a newly settled Resident Magistrate, who gradually becomes used to the ways of his horse-dealing, fox-hunting, hard-drinking, and by no means unlikable neighbors. The types and customs of the region are delineated with much humor, and the leading characters and their fortunes, marital and other, are carried on through the several chapters. The authors are Messrs. E. Somerville and Martin Ross, and Mr. Somerville furnishes some acceptable drawings.

The Nation (review date 8 October 1908)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Further Experiences of an Irish R. M., by Somerville and Ross. The Nation 87, no. 2258 (8 October 1908): 340.

[In the following review of Further Experiences of an Irish R. M., the critic, lamenting the tedious and dreary nature of most fiction, welcomes the work as comic literature.]

In these days, when fiction in general is either purposeful or futile to the verge of tears, one welcomes a book whose aim, avowed and accomplished, is a hearty and wholesome laugh. In these short stories [Further Experiences of an Irish R.M.], there is neither the tragedy of overwhelming fate nor of the writer's incompetence, but the same comedy, pungent as a turf fire, that insured to Flurry Knox and his genial biographer upon their first appearance a true Irish constancy and warmth of welcome for the future. The richness and diversity of Hibernian idiom is worthy of attention, independent of the threads of amusing misadventure on which it is strung; the combination may be ephemeral, but nobody can feel that the moments spent upon it are wasted.

C. L. Graves (review date July 1913)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Graves, C. L. “The Lighter Side of Irish Life.” Quarterly Review 219, no. 436 (July 1913): 26-47.

[In the following excerpt, Graves praises the partnership of Somerville and Ross.]

The literary partnership of Miss Edith Somerville and Miss Violet Martin—the most brilliantly successful example of creative collaboration in our times—began with An Irish Cousin in 1889. Published over the pseudonyms of ‘Geilles Herring’ and ‘Martin Ross,’ this delightful story is remarkable not only for its promise, afterwards richly fulfilled, but for its achievement. The writers proved themselves the possessors of a strange faculty of detachment which...

(The entire section is 6844 words.)

H. A. Hinkson (review date September 1915)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hinkson, H. A. “A Good Bag.” Bookman 48 (September 1915): 172-73.

[In the following excerpt, Hinkson is impressed by the portrayal of Irish life by Somerville and Ross in In Mr. Knox's Country.]

We are informed by the gifted authors of In Mr. Knox's Country that the book was written before the war. And we are glad that it was, for it is hardly possible that even such light-hearted gaiety and buoyant humour as the authors possess in so remarkable a degree should not otherwise have suffered some sort of eclipse, owing to the terrible events of the past year. So, grateful as we are for the works which preceded, we are doubly grateful for their latest successor, which is like a ray of sunshine illumining a dark and terrifying world. And it is Irish readers, who know and love their country and their country-folk, so often misrepresented by shoddy “humourists” whose conception of Irish speech and character has no foundation in fact, that have most reason to be grateful to these writers. To them the secret of Irish country life has been revealed, the gaiety, the sadness, the dashing, devil-maycare recklessness that in the hunting field found no fence too high, no ditch too wide to be essayed while the hounds gave cry ahead, the incurable optimism and courage which faced the worst of all enemies, the bailiff and the broker, and from the midst of ruined fortunes could still offer a seat at the board and a jest to season the meat. There is an epitome of life as it is lived in the South-West of Ireland, or rather as it was, for now the country houses are deserted, the stables empty; and, if you seek for the Flurry Knoxes, you will find them on the stricken fields of Flanders or on the gun-swept heights of Gallipoli.

Orlo Williams (essay date February 1920)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Williams, Orlo. “A Little Classic of the Future1.” The London Mercury 1, no. 4 (February 1920): 555-64.

[In the following essay, Williams discusses the work of Somerville and Ross as comic literature and predicts that their works will become classics.]

The evanescence of laughter is most pathetic. Its bubbles vanish from the sparkling wine that held it so soon after it has been uncorked, leaving a sadly flat beverage to the critical palates of future generations. Wit, being a subtler and less easily disintegrated essence, does not so quickly pass away, but the buoyant bubbles of laughter, except in some rare vintages, survive but a moment the...

(The entire section is 5874 words.)

Geraldine Cummins (essay date 1952)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cummins, Geraldine. “Two Irish Cousins.” In Dr. E. OE. Somerville: A Biography, pp. 14-36. London: Andrew Dakers Limited, 1952.

[In the following excerpt, Cummins provides a detailed account of the collaboration of Somerville and Ross.]

‘Le style c'est l'homme même.’ The style is the man himself, or as the Bible tells us, ‘By their works ye shall know them.’ So I shall now tell of the works of Somerville and Ross.

In 1942 Miss Elizabeth Hudson published a Bibliography of the first editions of the books of Somerville and Ross. But only three hundred copies of this Bibliography were printed and these were sold in the United States....

(The entire section is 8474 words.)

Geraldine Cummins (essay date 1952)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cummins, Geraldine. “Some Later Publications.” In Dr. E. OE. Somerville: A Biography, pp. 37-45. London: Andrew Dakers Limited, 1952.

[In the following essay, Cummins examines the later collaboration of Somerville and Ross.]

It is significant that the ‘Two Irish Cousins’ did not frequent literary circles in Dublin or London but passed their lives in their native counties, Galway and Cork.

In choosing this way of life theirs was a wise instinct, for the great artist should be racy of his native soil. Character is essential to all good art—the kind of character that expresses racial and territorial characteristics. Literature should be...

(The entire section is 3074 words.)

John Cronin (essay date 1972)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cronin, John “Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1899) and Further Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1908)” and “End of a Partnership: Dan Russel the Fox (1911) and In Mr. Knox's Country (1915).” In Somerville and Ross, pp. 50-66, 67-75. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1972.

[In the following essays, Cronin chronicles the literary partnership of Somerville and Ross and surveys the short fiction in In Mr. Knox's Country.]

In the summer of 1898 Edith and Martin went on holiday to Étaples where Edith painted busily and Martin helped by beating off intrusive French children who tried to steal the paints and jostle the artist....

(The entire section is 7900 words.)

Wayne E. Hall (essay date 1980)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Hall, Wayne E. “Somerville and Ross.” In Shadowy Heroes: Irish Literature of the 1890s, pp. 66-74. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1980.

[In the following essay, Hall presents an overview of the social, political, and economic processes that formed the background for Somerville and Ross's writing.]

Somerville and Ross frequently placed their own experiences against a broad background of major social processes. In “The Martins of Ross,” an essay on her family written only a few years before her death in 1915, Violet Martin described her father's funeral in 1872 as the final tableau in a tragic drama: “With the death of my father the curtain fell...

(The entire section is 3289 words.)

Anthony Cronin (essay date 1982)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cronin, Anthony. “Edith Somerville and Martin Ross: Women Fighting Back.” In Heritage Now: Irish Literature in the English Language, pp. 75-86. Kerry, Ireland: Brandon Book Publishers, 1982.

[In the below essay, Cronin places the work of Somerville and Ross within its historical context.]


Edith Somerville first saw her cousin, Violet Martin, on 17th January, 1886. “It was”, she wrote in after-life, “as it happens, in church that I saw her first; in our own church, in Castle Townshend … It is trite, not to say stupid, to expatiate upon that January Sunday when I first met her; yet it has proved the hinge of my life, the...

(The entire section is 5131 words.)

Harold Orel (essay date 1987)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Orel, Harold. “Some Elements of Truth in the Short Stories of Somerville and Ross: An Appreciation.” English Literature in Transition 1880-1920 30, no. 1 (1987): 17-25.

[In the below essay, Orel challenges and thereby revises the notion that Somerville and Ross, in their short fiction, represented the viewpoint of the Ascendancy class to which they themselves belonged.]

The thirty-four stories of Somerville and Ross have been reprinted in one volume under an omnibus title, The Irish R. M. and his Experiences (1928). For three generations the authors have been censured for adopting wholeheartedly and uncritically the prejudices of the Ascendancy class...

(The entire section is 4312 words.)

James M. Cahalan (essay date 1996)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Cahalan, James M. “‘Humor with a Gender’: Somerville and Ross and The Irish R.M.” In The Comic Tradition in Irish Women Writers, edited by Theresa O'Connor, pp. 58-72. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

[In the following essay, Cahalan offers a discussion of the ways in which the R.M. stories are written from a specifically woman's point of view, and stresses the various ways in which the figure of Major Yeates embodies a self-criticism of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy class.]

Ever since the publication of the first story in 1898—“Great Uncle McCarthy” in London's Badminton Magazine—Somerville and Ross's The Irish...

(The entire section is 5949 words.)