Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 75 × 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 65 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
No hope amongst direfull reefs a resting place
Indented west and north a bank extends
Even to the utmost stretch the eye
Loose shelving beach thrown up by restless waves
A usefull barrier carefull nature craves.
Beneath the western waves the marshes lie
Luxuriant bearing every varied dye
Even Melcombe sands their safty owes
Melcombe whos sands oft trace the lover vows
Whose yelding surface tells the loved name
But Neptune jealous washes out the same
Alas the yeliding [sic] type commixing gives
Its tender hope and then coquetish leaves1
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, on folio 64 verso (D08485; CXXIII 61a), ends with a reference to the dangerous waters off Portland Bill, at the southern tip of Dorset’s Isle of Portland, known as the ‘race’, to which the first line here refers. Lindsay, and Wilton and Turner, following Thornbury, give the third word of the fifth line as ‘barren’ (which Lindsay qualifies as ‘useless’), but a ‘useful barrier’ appears intended in what is surely a description of Chesil Beach, the steep pebble bank and beach running north-west, in a well-known vista from the heights at the north end of Portland, eighteen miles towards West Bay, enclosing the Fleet lagoon west of Weymouth. Turner calls the latter ‘Melcombe’, from Melcombe Regis, the district along the coast north-east of the town centre. There are studies in and around Weymouth in the Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook (Tate D08835, D08836; Turner Bequest CXXIV 24, 25) and on the recto and verso of folio 44 of the present book (D08445, D08446).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See transcriptions (followed here with slight variations) in Lindsay 1966, p.113, as part of ‘Portland and Melcombe Sands’, section (j) of poem no.50, ‘On the Western Itinerary 1811’ (conflating lines nine and ten), and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.172; previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, p.23 and 1897, p.211.

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