Look at what I found at the museum today! A violin dated to 1810, the year Rite of Summer is set. I envisioned Stephen’s violin a little darker than this while I was writing, but just look at that shape!
The violin was considered a man’s instrument during the British Regency; it would be utterly scandalous for a woman to be caught raising her arms high enough to play it properly.
Note also the lack of rests. Louis Spohr (1784–1859) is supposed to be the inventor of the chinrest in about 1820, while shoulder rests didn’t come into use until the mid-twentieth century. There’s a reference to using folded cloth between the violin and shoulder in order to bring the violin up higher in a document from 1836 or so, but no mention of how often that was actually done.