Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry

1811

Not on display

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 75 × 117 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08454
Turner Bequest CXXIII 48 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
From his small cot he stretcht upon the main
And by one daring effort hope to gain
What hope appeared ever to deny
And from his labours and his toil to fly
And so [?she] proved entrapt and overpowrd
By hostile force in Verdun dungeon lowered
Long murmured gainst his hard thought lot
Rebeld against himself and even his wife forgot
But she [?repined] yet hoped, no tiding gaind
And fondly cherished [?oped] yet hope restrained
And only the <[?babbling]>
Would sighing pass delusive many an hour1
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 previous passage, introducing the character of a lobster-catcher, is on folio 45 verso (D08448); here he ventures into deep waters (the ‘main’) and is somehow captured and incarcerated in north-eastern France. There is no time-scale to the events, so whether the Napoleonic Wars or some earlier conflict are intended is unclear. Meanwhile his school-marm wife, described on folios 38 verso and 43 verso (D08434, D08444), is left abandoned. John Gage has characterised this episode as showing that ‘the lobster-catcher was a type of faithless tyrant, who, in the end, was treated to some of his own medicine’.2 The section peters out here, and the geographical thread of the long poem picks up again on folio 50 verso (D08458), where the verse itinerary reaches Poole in Dorset.
Lindsay reads the start of line ten as ‘And fondly cherished chid’, while Wilton and Turner give ‘And fondly cherished [h]oped’, as tentatively followed here.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

1
See transcriptions (followed here with slight variations) in Lindsay 1966, pp.110–11, as part of ‘The Wife of the Captured Fisherman’, section (g) of poem no.50, ‘On the Western Itinerary 1811’, Gage 1987, p.218 (first eight lines) and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.171; previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, p.20 and 1897, p.208.
2
Gage 1987, p.217.

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