When John Constable fell in love with Maria Bicknell, granddaughter of a Suffolk country neighbour, he little knew how long it would take to make her his wife. The impediment to their marriage was simple: 'that necessary article cash'. He was a painter without sufficient funds to support the daughter of a prominent London lawyer, and both he and her grandfather, the formidable (and sometimes comical) Rector of East Bergholt, disapproved of the match. It would be seven long, difficult years before they could marry, but in that time he would become one of the greatest painters of the nineteenth century.Martin Gayford writes superbly about Constable's early years as a painter and Maria and John's correspondence provides the lively backdrop to the story; one of lovers' tiffs, London versus country life, encounters with Turner, Byron and Wordsworth, royal scandals and rivalries at the Royal Academy. All the time, John Constable battles to become a painter who can earn his living and win Maria's hand.