“beaming with euphoria and oblivious of duty”

From: A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12, Chelsea. Originally published by Victoria County History (2004):

“…In the 1890s several artists also moved into Upper Church Street, Chelsea. No. 123 on the corner of Elm Park Road was built in 1894 for Felix Moscheles, and by 1901 the Chelsea Arts Club had moved into two old villas at nos 143-5. Evelyn and William de Morgan moved to nos 125-7 (nos 8-9 Bolton Place), Upper Church Street, where two terraced houses were adapted for them in 1909-10. Augustus John occupied Robert Hannah’s at no. 153, until he moved to Mallord Street.

The Vale was extended northwards c. 1909, with picturesquely grouped neo-Georgian houses along the west side. Mallord and Mulberry streets were added to link it with Upper Church Street, and several studios were built in this group of streets before and after the First World War. In Mallord Street no. 28 was designed 1913-14 like a Dutch cottage by Robert van t’Hoff for Augustus John…”

From: A Slender Reputation (1994), by Kathleen Hale:

“Augustus John’s house was at 28 Mallord Street. The story goes that Augustus had met a Dutch architect for the first time in one of the local pubs, and had immediately commissioned him to build a house. By the luck of the gods, considering its haphazard conception, the house was well-built, in a simple, modern style, compact and convenient. The ground floor was entirely occupied by a ballroom-sized studio, lit by enormous windows facing away from the street. It was furnished with a grand piano, a model throne, and a plethora of cushions and divans. On the first floor was a spacious hall, and a small sitting-room with a telephone, where I was to work. A staircase went up to the bedrooms and bathrooms above.

When I took up my duties, I found dishevelled piles of unanswered letters, some of them important commissions for portraits, and unpaid bills all over the house. Eventually I got these into order of priority, and suggested that Augustus set aside some time every afternoon for dealing with them. He dictated to me very slowly and I wrote as fast as I could. The resulting scribbles were illegible to me, unless I copied them out immediately after each lot was dictated. When I presented him with the neatly handwritten letters (my handwriting then was round, childish and very clear), he would decide whether to sign them himself or to leave them for me to sign on his behalf as ‘p.p. Augustus John’. He always squeaked the ‘p.p.’, which amused us both idiotically, and he often called me ‘p.p.’. We had lots of silly fun, but getting him to start work was always a tussle of wills. The minute he had finished his morning painting session, his only idea was to join his friends at a local pub. I remember one day when Lady Tredegar arrived after lunch for a sitting, Augustus was nowhere to be found. I ran along King’s Road looking in all the pubs and eventually tracked him down – beaming with euphoria and oblivious of duty. Realising that a direct approach to him would only meet with an angry rebuttal, I said, craftily, that I too would like a drink, an idea that appealed to his conviviality. Fairly soon I suggested that we return home as Lady Tredegar was due any minute. A look of appalled consternation flashed across his face, and we sped back at a smart pace, me in a straight line.”


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