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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Irish Magic: Somerville & Ross

One of my reading treats on my recent stay in the West of Ireland  - apart from reading about pirates and white slavery there in then18th Century - was to catch up with some books about and by Edith Somerville and Violet Martin Ross whose families had been on Ireland for hundreds of years... 



The way down to the harbour
from the Customs House.
Early 20th C

Significantly the old family homes of the Somervilles were located in the exquisite cul-de-sac that is Castletownshend the village where we rented a house for our stay. The house still owned by a Somerville had once been rented to the British Government for the Customs House for nearby Skibbereen – a significant building on that coast, which once the pirates stopped calling was rife with smugglers. It was certainly haunted, but that’s another story.

It is a very small village with an alleged population of one hundred and fifty but has at least half a dozen great, well appointed houses with prime views of the harbour and the sea. Most of these houses were built or serially occupied for more than a century by four intertwined families who in the latter nineteenth and earliest twentieth century lived an almost self contained life involving a round of hunting, sailing, tennis parties, playing cards, writing and performing plays and theatrical events.




For a while in earlier centuries such ascendancy families had lived like potentates building and furnishing houses on British government support, on sea trade and rents paid by Irish farmers. By the time of Edith and Violet things had changed. The Land Acts of the late nineteenth century had reduced the wealth of some families to the point that they had to work away from home as painters, actors, writers and photography to keep the roofs over their heads from falling in, Violet’s brother closed up crumbling Castle Ross and became a kind of professional Irishman in London society, preferring that to the struggle to keep up the now unrewarding role of the Irish Landlord.
Both Edith and Violet separately and then together wrote stories, articles and tales for fees with the intentions of helped to keep their family afloat. Then they got together in a famously close relationship mimicking a marriage but – despite later post Freudian retrospective analysis – neither necessarily nor provably homosexual. (Not, as we say these days, that that matters).

Out of this relationship – to the rescue of the Somerville home Drishane[1] - came a stream of stories, articles and books. Most important of these is probably The Real Charlotte which according a critic quoted by to academic biographer John Cronin is a splendid piece of realistic fiction, a definitive exploration of ‘the Indian Summer of the Anglo Irish Ascendancy.’ He compares it with Jane Austen’s work in its tautness and resilience.

 Charlotte Mullen, at the centre of the novel a dark and destructive a figure of evil- is entirely convince, This novel has been called the finest Irish novel of the 19th Century.
They then went on to the subsequently more famous Some Experiences of an Irish RM which was phenomenally successful.

I am famously serious in my approach to life but there beside the roaring peat fire in the ex- Customs House in Castletownshend I laughed out loud at these tales which were based in this very village but could apply universally to small communities everywhere.

Edith and Violet at a typical  Castletowneshend
Tenniss Party
This pair of writers make their complementary sense of humour and ear for verbal anarchic usage shine from the page. The graphic nature of the writing is such that we see tumbles from horses, worthy characters covered in mud, encounters on the road to Skibbereen, the pompous incomers exposed, sly characters rewarded on the one hand and outed on the other. We meet rich complex characters which remind me of those in Dickens’ novels or working class Victorian Britain.  The dark nature of death and injustice it touched upon in a place where death is an everyday experience, be it the bird, animal or person.

Their letters show that these two were obsessed with the language patterns and idioms of their native countryside which as Canadian reviewer Susan Smith observes’ ...contains a curious mixture of the poetic and the absurd with the vitality of Elizabethan English. One letter recounts the story of  a widow who was  … left with one child and the invoice for another  ...since they recorded the language of the common people …their writing has a depth and range missing in other Anglos Irish writers…’ For this reason, Smith says, we should not associate Somerville and Ross with those associated with the Celtic Revival, such as Lady Gregory and WB Yeats.  A very enlightening thought for me.

So beside an Irish fireside I learned a lot not just about these two remarkable women and their writing but about the subtleties of Irish-English identity (I learned not to think about them and Anglo-Irish. They were definitely Irish first.) I learned about the poignant nature of these families and their affairs in the twilight and unloosening of their visceral connection with England.

I also got to re-acquaint myself with a pair of excellent writers from whom I can learn a lot about telling a good story in good style.

It also occurs to me that this extraordinary world could be the setting for a good novel or a great film © Wendy Robertson 2012
Should take more holidays perhaps.


Some Books Read:
The Real Charlotte: Somerville & Ross
Some Experiences of an Irish RM: Somerville & Ross

Selected Letters of Somerville & Ross; Edited By Gifford Lewis
                    - With an excellent forward by Molly Keane


Somerville & Ross: The World of the Irish RM
-          A gorgeous picture book with informative text. As you see from this page images are very much part of the story.




Somerville & Ross:  John Cronin 
This is more like an academic thesis considering letters and books in analytical detail. Very enlightening

4 comments:

  1. They sound absolutely fascinating! It must have added a great deal too, reading the stories where they were written.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Kathy. Perhaps location is everything...w

    ReplyDelete
  3. SEEKING GOD?

    Is it possible to seek God? Calvinists teach that none seek God. They believe God selects all who will be saved, making it an impossibility to seek HIM. Man-made doctrines are always contrary to Scripture. God's word is always, the last word.

    Acts 15:15-17 With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 After theses things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will restore it, 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,

    Prophets of God agree that all mankind may seek the Lord; a sharp contrast to Calvinistic teaching.

    Psalm 10:4 The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, "There is no God."

    The wicked can seek God, however, they choose not to. Pride destroys the desire to seek God.

    Acts 17:26-27 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

    Mankind is to seek God. He is there for whoever is willing to find Him.

    Psalm 53:1-2 The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God.".....2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks God,

    If God selects men to be saved against their will, He would not have to look down to see who seeks Him.

    Proverbs 8:17 "I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.

    God says diligently seek Him. Calvinists proclaim that no man can seek God. Who do you believe?

    2 Chronicles 19:3 But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God."

    Men need to prepare their hearts to seek God.

    Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

    The writer of the Psalms says God will not forsake those who seek God. Those who preach, the John Calvin view of predestination, strongly disagree.

    Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom......

    Jesus says seek God's kingdom. John Calvin says men cannot seek God.

    Hebrews 11:6 ....for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

    God rewards those who seek Him.

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    (All Scripture quotes from:NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

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  4. UNLESS THE FATHER DRAWS HIM BY STEVE FINNELL

    John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

    What is the meaning of John 6:44?

    1. Does it mean only a few, who have been selected by the Father, will be saved? No, it does not.
    2. Does it mean that men only respond to the gospel because of irresistible grace? No, it does not.

    WHO ARE THOSE THAT THE FATHER DRAWS?

    John 6:45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

    The Father draws all who hear and learn. The Father does not force anyone to hear or learn. Men have free-will. God does not impute faith into a few so they will believe and be saved. Faith does not come by injection.

    HOW DO MEN HEAR AND LEARN?

    Romans 10:13-14 for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?

    Men need to hear the gospel before they can learn and believe. The Father draws men by the gospel.

    Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

    Faith comes from hearing the gospel. Faith does not come because the Father selected a chosen few, before the world began, to be saved. All who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior are the chosen and that includes whoever accepts God's terms for pardon. Faith does not come because of irresistible grace.

    God the Father draws men to Jesus with the gospel.

    Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,

    IT IS THE GOSPEL THAT DRAWS MEN TO JESUS!

    IRRESISTIBLE GRACE IS NOT THE METHOD THAT THE FATHER USES TO DRAW MEN TO JESUS.

    Romans 10:21 But as for Israel He says, "All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."

    Israel as a nation rejected the gospel. How could that be possible if irresistible grace were in play? Israel turned away from God.

    Matthew 23:37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

    Jerusalem was unwilling to be drawn to Jesus by believing the gospel. They had a choice.

    John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

    The Jews had the opportunity to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they were unwilling. There was no irresistible grace in play. The Father draws all who are willing to believe the gospel.

    John 6:40 This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

    IF YOU ARE READING THIS BLOG YOU ARE ONE OF THE "EVERYONE" WHO HAS A CHANCE TO BE BELIEVE THE GOSPEL AND BE SAVED.

    MEN REJECT GOD.

    GOD DOES NOT REJECT MEN DUE TO NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN.



    THE FATHER DRAWS MEN TO JESUS THROUGH THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL. MEN ARE NOT DRAWN TO JESUS BECAUSE THEY WERE PRESELECTED FOR SALVATION!

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    ReplyDelete