Joseph Mallord William Turner

Cholera Remedy; and Buildings on Hill


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 59 × 96 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXV 42

Catalogue entry

Turner’s inscription provide the directions and dosage of cajeput oil as a remedy for cholera (see inscription line above). Matthew Imms has identified the source of the remedy as Sir Matthew Tierney (1776–1845), the physician-in-ordinary to George IV and William IV,1 whose recipe was printed first in the Morning Herald, 1831 (exact date unknown) and then reprinted in the Mirror, 1831: ‘Cajeput oil, twenty five drops in a wine glass of hot water. If not relieved in five minutes, take fifty more.’2
A cholera epidemic broke out in Britain in the autumn of 1831 and was obviously of great concern to Turner who wrote to Robert Cadell about it on 25 February 1832:
In regard to the Cholera I will thank you to send me the paper which your medical-man printed as to the treatment &c. or if any thing has been discovered during the progress of the disease in Scotland and [in] your opinion is show (contagious or Epidemic) for known cases.
Here the dispute runs high and no treatment made known or Cholera Hospitals Established – some will have it is typhus owing to the state of the Winter which has been very damp and partic[ularly] foggy.3
Cadell replied to Turner’s letter on 3 March, answering his concerns about the outbreak.4 As Turner was in Scotland when Tierney’s recipe was published, it is possible that it was Cadell who drew his attention to the recipe in the first place.
With the sketchbook inverted is a rough sketch that Finberg described as ‘Buildings on [a] Hill’;5 with its lack of topographical detail no more can be added to his description.

Thomas Ardill
November 2010

Deborah Brunton, ‘Tierney, Sir Matthew John, first baronet (1776–1845)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 11 November 2010,
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 13 August 1831, p.93.
Turner to Robert Cadell, 25 February 1832, John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner with an Early Diary and a Memoir by George Jones, Oxford 1980, pp.147–8 letter 174.
National Library of Scotland, MS ACC.5188, Box 2 (Diary), 1832; see Gerald E. Finley, ‘Turner and Scott’s “Poetry”: New Evidence’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.115, No.848, November 1973, pp.741–2 note 13.
Finberg 1909, II, p.582, CCLXV 42.

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