Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of a Speech to the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 175 × 109 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the ink draft of a speech:
The duty of returning thanks for the honourable | and marked distinction which his Royal – | the Duke of Sussex has been pleased to confer | on the directors of the AGB Institution has | fallen into my inadequate hands, but | actuated by the same feelings of most | profound respect felt most certainly | by every Director, I will beg therefore | in their name leave to offer them [‘their’ inserted above and ‘thanks’ below] | with gratefull respects for the | honor conferred on them and the [?kindness] | of his R Highn presiding this day | and to the company present for their | support [‘... ?appropriate of their endeavours’ inserted above] in drinking His health | and – if I might be alow [sic] to [...] | [...] on your [...] the Directors | in placing their law and [?regulations] before | you <...> hope for the approbation and | support, and the sooner a [?Generous] and | delighted [...] appreciation [‘shall’ inserted above] Enable | the directors to [?know] their value [‘by ...’ inserted above] or | defects, [four words] inserted above] the earlier will be their
The text breaks off at this point, and was presumably continued elsewhere. Finberg gave a partial transcription in his 1909 Inventory without further comment;1 later noting that the occasion was ‘Probably at AGB dinner. May 1818’.2 This appears to be a slip for March, when the ‘fourth annual public dinner’ of the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution was held on the 5th at the Albion Tavern in the City of London, with the Duke of Sussex in the chair and Turner as ‘Chairman and Treasurer’ as notified in the Literary Gazette.3 Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773–1843), the sixth son of George III, was a supporter of many radical, humanitarian, artistic and scientific causes; he had been President of the Society of Arts since 1816, and was later President of the Royal Society.4
The ‘tavern’ at 153 Aldersgate was a less homely establishment than the name might suggest, with a four-storey neo-classical façade, and various prominent organisations held dinners there;5 on this occasion, Turner’s Royal Academy colleague Joseph Farington reported: ‘Abt. 160 persons dined; the Duke of Sussex in the Chair. He addressed the Company with good effect’.6 Turner, not known for the suaveness of his public speaking (particularly in his Royal Academy perspective lectures), would have attempted nevertheless to do likewise with the help of these somewhat tortuous notes.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

Finberg 1909, II, p.598.
Undated MS note by Finberg in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, I, opposite p.598.
Literary Gazette, no.58, 28 February 1818, p.144.
See ‘Augustus Frederick, Prince, duke of Sussex (1773–1843)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 22 September 2016,
See ‘The Albion Tavern’, The Worshipful Company of Bowyers, accessed 22 September 2016,
Kathryn Cave (ed.), The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.XV, New Haven and London 1984, p.5170.
An Account of the General Benevolent Institution, for the Relief of Decayed Artists of the United Kingdom, London 1818, p.[5].
See ‘Welcome to the AGBI’, AGBI, accessed 22 September 2016,
Accounts include Eric Shanes, Young Mr Turner: The First Forty Years, 1775–1815, New Haven and London 2016, pp.456–7.
See James Hamilton, Turner: A Life, London 1997, p.247.
Finberg 1909, I, p.326.

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