Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Boy of Egremond, for Rogers’s ‘Poems’

c.1830–2

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 238 x 306 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D27695
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 178

Catalogue entry

This vignette, The Boy of Egremond was published in the 1834 edition of Rogers’s Poems and appears as the head-piece to a poem of the same title.1 The engraver was Edward Goodall.2 Rogers’s poem tells of the son of twelfth-century noble William Fitz Duncan. Popularly known as the ‘Boy of Egremond’ (or Egremont), the youngster drowned while crossing the River Wharfe in Yorkshire at a narrow and especially turbulent point, which as Turner notes in the margin of his own copy of the 1827 edition of Poems is known as the ‘Strid’ (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI p.203).3 The poet recounts the tale with overflowing sentiment:
In tartan clad and forest-green,
With hound in leash and hawk in hood,
The Boy of Egremond was seen.
Blithe was his song, a song of yore
But where the rock is rent in two,
And the river rushes through,
His voice was heard no more!
’Twas but a step! the gulf he passed;
But that step – it was his last!
As through the mist he winged his way,
(A cloud that hovers night and day,)
The hound hung back, and back he drew
The Master and his merlin too.
That narrow place of noise and strife
Received their little all of Life!
(Poems, p.185)
Turner’s illustration shows the young boy accompanied by his hound and hawk about to embark on his ill-fated crossing. The composition appears to be derived from a small pencil thumbnail sketch which the artist made in the margin of his working copy of the book (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI p.203). In addition Turner also made a tiny drawing of a large building with square towers and walls. This appears to be Bolton Castle, the medieval ruins which appear in the background of the finished vignette (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI p.202). The rest of the backdrop is a dramatic view of the North Yorkshire landscape, a part of the country with which Turner was very familiar, having visited the area several times between 1797 and 1825. Topographical sketches featuring the Wharfedale valley, for example, can be found in the Devonshire Rivers No.3 and Wharfedale sketchbook (Turner Bequest CXXXIV), Hastings sketchbook (Turner Bequest CXXXIX), Yorkshire 2 and Yorkshire 5 sketchbooks (Turner Bequest CXLV and CXLVIII), and the Farnley sketchbook (Turner Bequest CLIII). He also made one large detailed drawing to which he may have referred, The Strid, Bolton Woods (see Tate D12119; Turner Bequest CLIV U).
1
Samuel Rogers, Poems, London 1834, p.184.
2
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.393. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T05120).
3
Ian Warrell, J.M.W. Turner 1775–1851: Aquarelles et Dessins du Legs Turner: Collection de la Tate Gallery, Londres / Watercolours and Drawings from the Turner Bequest: Collection from the Tate Gallery, London, exhibition catalogue, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Charleroi 1994, p.168.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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