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 and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 75 × 117 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08497
Turner Bequest CXXIII 67 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
So hopefull fancy leds us through our care
Strecht wide our visionary minds, on air
Build all our [?‘umost’, i.e. ‘utmost’, or ‘inmost’] wishes could atain
Even to the sandy frailty of the main
And ask the blessing which we all desire
To give what Nature [?ever] could inspire
What madness asked or passion fans the flame
At once our pilots and our early bane
Enwrapt we hope [‘wish’ inserted above] the object not in scope
And prove a very libertine to hope
[...]
Can ardour [?imitate our of] youthful fire
Check for a [?moment] all our warm desire1
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 lines, on folio 68 verso (D08493; CXXIII 65a), conclude a long passage concerning the Dorset coast from Poole westwards to Weymouth and Portland, ending with an image of lovers writing their names in the sand on Weymouth Beach, leading to this consideration of the joys and disappointments of love, continued on folio 73 verso (D08503; CXXIII 70a).
1
See transcriptions (followed here with slight variations) in Lindsay 1966, pp.113–14, all except the last two lines as part of ‘Portland and Melcombe Sands’, section (j) of poem no.50, ‘On the Western Itinerary 1811’, and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.172; previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, p.23 and 1897, p.211–12.
Technical notes:
Lindsay, and Wilton and Turner, following Thornbury, give the fifth word of the sixth line as ‘never’, but it may be ‘ever’. After this the writing changes from a very dark to a medium brown ink, using a thicker nib, and is written over a draft in pencil, suggesting significant intervals in the process of composition (or perhaps in transcription from earlier drafts). The ink inscription ends with ‘hope’, with an illegible few words in pencil crammed in above the last two full lines.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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