Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry; with a Sketch of a Hilly, Wooded Landscape


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink and graphite on paper
Support: 75 x 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 152

Catalogue entry

The following lines of verse run parallel with the gutter:
Betiding notes of woe more direfull fraught
With Sea mews clangings and the gannet <screams> squeal
The [?slap and billows] clamouring, circling wheel
[?And] endless warfare1
Interspersed with drawings and the printed pages of Coltman’s British Itinerary, sixty-nine pages of this sketchbook are given over wholly or partly to these verses which Turner intended as a commentary for publication with the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England which he sketched on the 1811 West Country tour (see the introduction to the sketchbook). The first lines are on folio 18 verso (D08396), and the last on folio 207 verso (D08736; CXXIII 204a).
The lines conclude the passage occupying the whole of the opposite page, folio 154 verso (D08651; CXXIII 151a), part of a long sequence on the rugged coast an stormy seas of Cornwall. The first letter of the first word in the last line appears to have been altered with a vertical stroke, perhaps to make it ‘In’ as given by Wilton and Turner, although the ‘d’ of ‘And’ remains. The next lines, on folio 157 verso (D08657; CXXIII 154a), consider humanity at the mercy of these natural forces.
Within the lively but slight pencil sketch occupying most of the page it is difficult in places to differentiate foliage from clouds, while several diagonal strokes may indicate sunbeams or rain. The inscription appears to have been written subsequently, partly obscuring the foreground.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.174 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).

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