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The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John
— —
Michael Holroyd Rebecca John
The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John by Michael Holroyd at Abbey's Bookshop,

The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John

Michael Holroyd Rebecca John



History of art & design styles: from c 1900 -;
Individual artists, art monographs;
Diaries, letters & journals


352 pages

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'It is right that, after more than one hundred years, she should have her say' John Carey, Sunday Times Twelve days before her twenty-fourth birthday, on the foggy morning of Saturday 12 January 1901, Ida Nettleship married Augustus John in a private ceremony at St Pancras Registry Office. The union went against the wishes of Ida's parents, who aspired to an altogether more conventional match for their eldest daughter. But Ida was in love with Augustus, a man of exceptional magnetism also studying at the Slade, and who would become one of the most famous artists of his time.

Ida's letters - to friends, to family and to Augustus - reveal a young woman of passion, intensity and wit. They tell of the scandal she brought on the Nettleship family and its consquences; of hurt and betrayal as the marriage evolved into a three-way affair when Augustus fell in love with another woman, Dorelia; of Ida's remarkable acceptance of Dorelia, their pregnancies and shared domesticity; of self-doubt, happiness and despair; and of finding the strength and courage to compromise and navigate her unorthodox marriage.

Ida is a naturally gifted writer, and it is with a candour, intimacy and social intelligence extraordinary for a woman of her period that her correspondence opens up her world. Ida John died aged just thirty of puerperal fever following the birth of her fifth son, but in these vivid, funny and sometimes devastatingly sad letters she is startlingly alive on the page.

By:   Michael Holroyd, Rebecca John
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm, 
ISBN:   9781408873595
ISBN 10:   1408873591
Pages:   352
Publication Date:   July 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Rebecca John is an artist and granddaughter of Augustus and Ida John. She lives in London. Michael Holroyd is one of our leading biographers. He has written the Lives of Lytton Strachey, Bernard Shaw and Augustus John, as well as a group biography of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and their families. He was awarded a knighthood in 2007 for services to literature. He lives in London.

It is a terrible ending to a terrible story. You might say that it was all Ida's fault. She was just a silly goose who mistook her grander for a phoenix. But that would not be true to the brave, witty, imaginative, sensitive, playful, talented woman who wrote these letters. It is right that, after more than one hundred years, she should have her say -- John Carey * Sunday Times * In the letters, erotic energy occasionally seems to be pushing in all directions at once ... She may have forfeited her chance to paint, but her letters, salvaged by her granddaughter Rebecca, after a century during which the renegade Ida was not mentioned in the family, make belated amends. Between baby-minding chores, she proved to be a witty, wickedly outspoken writer, which ensures that she will now not be forgotten -- Peter Conrad * Guardian * The letters of Ida Nettleship, first wife of arch-bohemian Augustus John, are a case in point: gathered together here from diverse sources by her granddaughter Rebecca John and expertly introduced by John's biographer Michael Holroyd, they constitute a rare epistolary treasure trove ... they give us a startlingly vivid picture of what it was like to be bound by passion, loyalty and an ever-growing brood of offspring to a `genius' ... the fine balance between tragedy and comedy in her situation finds expression in letters so fresh that it is hard to believe they were written more than a century ago -- Ariane Banks * Spectator * Their sympathetic edition of her fascinating and painful letters reveals a courageous woman, gifted with a buoyant intelligence -- Dinah Birch * The Times * A compelling glimpse of a lost age of bohemia that raises provocative questions about what it means to live freely -- Lara Feigel * Guardian * The letters, published here for the first time, go a long way to recovering [Ida] and tell a painful story of an emotionally sophisticated, morally honest woman struggling with the trap in which she finds herself, trying by turns to escape and take control of the situation. To different correspondents she showed different facets of her predicament and the result is a portrait both fragmentary and poignant -- Rosemary Hill * London Review of Books * The reader remains haunted by Ida's story, but also left aware that letters offer something that the grand narrative of a good biography often sweeps over or ignores: small contingencies, sudden mood changes, or what falls between the cracks. Indeed the very human muddle that is found here -- Frances Spalding * Oldie * These letters should resurrect [Ida] as a wit and object of fascination in her own right * Daily Telegraph *

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