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National Library of Wales
De Vere Cole, Tristan, Augustus John manuscripts

Reference code(s): GB 0210 MSTRISTDEVERE

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: Tristan de Vere Cole (Augustus John) Manuscripts

Short Title: De Vere Cole, Tristan, Augustus John manuscripts

Creation date(s): [?1912]-1969

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: 4 volumes

Name of creator(s): Augustus John; Dorelia McNeill


Administrative/Biographical history: Augustus Edwin John (1878-1961), artist, was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, and became a leading British portrait painter. In 1901 he married Ida Nettleship (1877-1907) and they had five children, the last being Henry John (1907-1935). In 1902 he met Dorothy (Dorelia or Dodo) McNeill (1881-1969) who became his mistress and, following Ida's death, his common-law wife. They had a further four children, including Romilly (1906-1986) and Poppet (1912-1997), and settled at Alderney Manor, Dorset, and from 1927 at Fryern Court, Fordingbridge, Hampshire. Augustus died there on 31 October 1961 and Dorelia on 24 July 1969.
In 1928 Augustus John had met Mavis Wright (1908-1970), who in 1931 married his friend Horace de Vere Cole (1881-1936). However she modelled for John and became his mistress. On 16 March 1935 she gave birth to Tristan de Vere Cole, who was most likely John's son. He was brought up partly by his mother and partly by Augustus and Dorelia at Fryern Court. In 1939 Mavis married the archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler (1890-1976), divorcing in 1943. In July 1954 she was arrested, having apparently shot and seriously wounded her then lover Tony Vivian, 5th Baron Vivian. She served a six-month prison sentence for unlawful and malicious wounding. She died on 14 October 1970. After attending boarding school Tristan served in the Navy, 1951-1960, and later became a drama director for the BBC. He married Diana Crosby Cook in 1962.


Scope and content/abstract: Letters and related papers of Augustus John and Dorelia McNeill, [?1912]-1969, sent to, or collected by, Tristan de Vere Cole. The collection includes letters of Augustus John to Mavis de Vere Cole, 1934-1959, and to her son Tristan de Vere Cole, [1947]-1961, together with letters of Dorelia McNeill to Mavis de Vere Cole, [?1949]-1961, and to Tristan de Vere Cole, 1951-1968. Also included are letters addressed to, or sent by, Augustus and Dorelia John and other members of their family, [?1912]-1969, including several from Michael Holroyd, 1966-1969, together with miscellaneous items, 1928-[?1961], in the hand of Augustus John.


Language/scripts of material: English, some French, Romani

System of arrangement: Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 24007-24010.

Conditions governing access: Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their Readers' Tickets.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright laws apply. Information regarding the ownership of Augustus John copyright can be found at (viewed December 2010).

Finding aids:


Accruals: Accruals are not expected.

Archival history: Letters to Dorelia John from Lytton Strachey and Michael Holroyd (NLW 24010D, ff. 41-43, 45-63) were given by her co-executor Romilly John to Brigit Marnier and were subsequently given to the vendor by Brigit's son Tobias Marnier; the Romilly John letter to Dr Westlake (NLW 24010D, f. 73) was found inside a copy of John's novel Death by Request in a sale of his property in 1987.

Immediate source of acquisition: Purchased from Tristan de Vere Cole, Newbury, September 2010.


Existence and location of copies: Photocopies of NLW MS 24007E and 24008D are NLW, Michael Holroyd (Augustus John) Research Papers, 3/10-11.

Related material: For other papers relating to Augustus John at NLW see also NLW, Augustus John Papers; NLW, Michael Holroyd (Augustus John) Research Papers; NLW ex 1237 and 2293-7.

Publication note: Roderic Owen with Tristan de Vere Cole, Beautiful and Beloved: The Life of Mavis de Vere Cole (London, 1974)


Note: Title based on contents

Archivist's note: Description compiled by Rhys Morgan Jones. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Michael Holroyd, Augustus John: The New Biography (London, 1997); Roderic Owen with Tristan de Vere Cole, Beautiful and Beloved: The Life of Mavis de Vere Cole (London, 1974); Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, Augustus John Papers at the National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth, 1996); Michael Holroyd, 'John, Augustus Edwin (1878-1961)', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, May 2006 [accessed 9 December 2010].

Rules or conventions: Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH

Date(s) of descriptions: December 2010

De Vere Cole, Tristan, | 1935- | Correspondence
John, Augustus, | 1878-1961 | Correspondence
McNeill, Dorelia, | 1881-1969 | Correspondence
Wheeler, Mavis, | 1908-1970 | Correspondence

Personal names
De Vere Cole , Tristan , 1935-
Holroyd , Michael
John , Augustus , 1878-1961
McNeill , Dorelia , 1881-1969
Wheeler , Mavis , 1908-1970

Corporate names


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