Edith Somerville and Violet Martin. Photo: The Irish Times

Let us take Carbery and grind its bones to make our bread,” Violet Martin wrote in a letter to Edith Oenone Somerville in 1889, “and we will serve it up to the spectator so that its mother wouldn’t know it.” Violet (1862–1915) was then twenty-six years old, and Edith (1858–1949) thirty-one; the two second cousins had recently finished collaborating on their first novel, An Irish Cousin, which would be published in London later that year. Violet, whose nom de plume became “Martin Ross,” was writing from her family’s ancestral home, Ross House, near Oughterard in County Galway. The bones she proposed to grind...

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