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MS Eng 989-989.3

Somerville, E. Œ. (Edith Œnone), 1858-1949. E. Œ. Somerville collection, 1890-1946: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: f
Call No.: MS Eng 989-989.3
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Title: E. Œ. Somerville collection
Date(s): 1890-1946
Quantity: 1 linear feet (4 volumes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Compositions, watercolor drawings, and letters of Irish writer and artist, Edith Anna Œnone Somerville.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Gift of various donors, various dates. See items for full acquistion information.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

E. Œ. Somerville Collection, 1890-1946 (MS Eng 989-989.3). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

Edith Anna Œnone Somerville (1858-1949) was born in Corfu but spent her childhood at Drishane House, Castletownshend, in West Cork, Ireland. She was the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Henry Somerville (1824-1898) and his wife, Adelaide Eliza Coghill (1831-1895). Edith studied art in London, Dusseldorf, and in Paris, where she began her career as an illustrator. When she returned home in 1886, she met her cousin, Violet Florence Martin (1862-1915), and the two became life-long friends and began their partnership as writers. Their first venture was An Irish cousin published in 1889. Following the success of this book, they spent 1890-1893 touring Europe and writing travel books. Later they co-authored, under the pseudonym of Somerville and Ross (using the names Martin Ross and E. Œ Somerville), The Real Charlotte (1894), The Irish RM stories, Some experiences of an Irish R.M., and others. The partnership ended in December of 1915 when Violet Martin unexpectedly died of a brain tumor.
Somerville wrote on, publishing a memoir of Martin in 1917, Irish memories. She continued to publish under the joint authorship of Somerville and Martin, one author dead and one alive. She justified this in a two-fold manner, first by claiming that she was the amanuensis for Martin's spirit through the medium of automatic writing, and second, that she used notes on projected works and plots taken from their former correspondence - so the partnership continued.
Somerville most often did the illustrations for their books, but she is still better known as a writer then an artist, though she is regarded as an illustrator and painter of some note. In the twentieth century, Edith spent more time at oil painting, having one-person exhibitions in London and New York She was also a suffragist and an accomplished huntswoman became the first woman master of foxhounds in Ireland (1903-1908, 1912-1919).


Arranged in call number order.

Scope and Contents

Autograph drafts of Somerville's novels, French leave and The real Charlotte. Also with: autograph draft of an expanded version of her 1912 children's book, The story of the discontented litle elephant, expanded version titled: The story of the little elephant who wanted a long nose. This draft also includes full watercolor drawings to illustrate the book; and letters from Somerville to Isabel Farley.

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