Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Philippa's Fox-Hunt" by Edith Sommerville and Violet Martin

"Philippa's Fox Hunt" by Edith Sommerville and Violet Martin (1899, 18 pages)

Fox Hunting 
Edith Somerville and Violet Martin

The Irish Quarter  Year Two
A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1

"the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable"-Oscar Wilde-A Woman of No Importance 

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two.   Everything you need to participate is on the resources page, including links to 1000s of short stories, from brand new ones to stories now in the public domain.   Guests posts are also welcome.  If you have any suggestions or questions please leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

There are thirteen interrelated stories in Some Experiences of an Irish R. M. by Edith Somerville and Violet Martin, aka Ross Martin.  The stories are about people living in country houses in Ireland at the end of the 19th century.   There world revolves around hunting, hounds and horses.   The people in these stories represent a way of life soon to all but fade away.  I think the stories have a lot of nostalgia for a simpler day appeal as they have been the basis of successful UK tv series and movies.  I do not know if they are still much read but in 1963 in The Lonely Voice:  A Study of the Short Story Frank  O'Connor indicated they were very popular.   He says there stories represent the past of the Irish Short story as a form, George Moore the future.   I think you can read these stories just for fun or dig much deeper and be rewarded.   The authors very much lived in the world they wrote about so I do not see these stories as possessed of a set back irony as they might have in the hands of other writers.

I have ebooks for three works by the Edith Sommerville and Violet Martin (writing as Ross Martin-there is some background information on this team of cousins in my prior posts on them).   I searched these books for the term "fox" and found about 150 references to foxes.   

The stories in Some Experiences of an Irish R. M. (an R. M. is a registered magistrate, kind of a justice of the peace and often a veteran of the British Army and a in practice a general figure of country Anglo Irish authority) are interrelated tales of the life of a retired British Army officer settling into his life as an R. M.   He has been engaged to Phillipa for a long time but as this story opens they are newly married and he has brought her to live in the house he has rented and been getting fixed up for a long time.   For Phillipa living in Ireland really is like living in a foreign country, she finds it fascinating.   We learn a lot about the local society people in this story.    The local female leader of society admits she generally hates the English but likes Phillipa so much she is willing to make an exception.   As I mentioned before, how you could handle a horse was almost a test of your manhood in the world of these stories and the biggest test of all was how you conducted yourself during a fox hunt.   There is no element of irony or such in these stories but fox hunts are almost a symbol of Anglo Irish oppression as they involve the use of huge resources just to kill a fox, resources that could be put to much better use.   This story takes us a long on a fox hunt and is very well realized. 

This story is fun to read.   The surprise ending was a cute twist.    

The stories of an Irish R. M. series are now read, I think, as works of nostalgia for simpler days.  For sure they represent the past of the Irish short story.   There is no dark side, no edge, in these stories    but they do let us see how people in the big house lived and they are very well written.   I think they are an important part of the past of the Irish short story but they can be read for their own merit, not just as historical documents.   I plan to read two more fox hunt related stories by the authors before the Irish Quarter comes to a close.

Mel u

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