The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John
Author(s): Rebecca John & Michael Holroyd
Year published: 4 May 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Total Pages: 352
Captivatingly fresh and intimate letters from Augustus John’s first wife, Ida, reveal the untold story of married life with one of the great artists of the last century.
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; a young woman ahead of her time – almost of our own time – living a complex and compelling drama here revealed for the first time by the woman at its very heart.