Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry


Not on display

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

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following verse:
Of love when absent rankling at the heart
She tended oft the kine and to the mart
Bore all the efforts of her father’s art
And homeward as she bore the needfull pence
Would loiter careless on or ask [?‘taken’ inserted above] thro mere <[?pence]> pretence
To youth much michief [sic] for maturely grown1
The lines are written in ink over a draft in pencil, with four largely illegible lines (the second to the fifth, marked above by a single ellipsis) left in pencil only. Not given in Lindsay or Wilton and Turner, they are transcribed tentatively by Thornbury:
Moreover (?) the ...
No church and meads in (?) ... as the road (?)
Or anxious shivered in (?) ... bands (?)
And longed (?) ... on the oozy sands (?).
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 73 verso (D08503; CXXIII 70a), concerns the trials and tribulations of love, which seems to have prompted Turner, whether from imagination or embroidering a local West Country anecdote or report, to compose this narrative of an innocent West Country cow-girl encountering soldiers guarding the coast during the Napoleonic Wars, which continues on folio 80 verso (D08516; CXXIII 77a) and concludes on folio 83 verso (D08520; CXXIII 80a). John Gage has characterised it as a ‘particularly poignant episode’, and a catastrophic development from Southern Coast images of women ‘busy while the menfolk, often, of course, on leave from active service, take their ease’,2 such as the watercolour Plymouth, with Mount Batten of about 1816 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London).3

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See transcriptions (followed here with slight variations) in Lindsay 1966, pp.114–15, the first line as the conclusion of ‘Love’ and the remainder as part of ‘The Lost Girl’, sections (k) and (l) of poem no.50, ‘On the Western Itinerary 1811’, Gage 1987 p.[196] and Wilton and Turner 1990, p.172; previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, p.24 and 1897, p.212.
Gage 1987, p.195.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.352 no.457, reproduced; see Gage 1987 pp.[196]–7 and fig.272 (colour).

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