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
D08661
Turner Bequest CXXIII 156 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
In orange, reds and golden glows the rich welkin cheek
Blue charms but little shone in such a sky
While distant hills mantain the powerfull dye
In all its changes even the russet down embrownd
By midday sun or rock or mossy mountain crownd
And deep sunk hamlets smoke assumes a tone
That true to Nature Art is proud to own
Beyond herself in fair harmonious [?dies]
And practically imitations dies
How manfold [i.e. ‘manifold’] the tones yet all harm[...]us [i.e. ‘harmonious’] blend
In sweet succession following each to lend
The ever lovely running link of harmony
That pleasing [‘ever’ inserted above] cheating the anxious Eye
To measures distance and its lines defy,
Deep in the foreground <‘way’> the various [?woods] afford
In verdure richly clad lies [?Poppelford]1
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 157 verso (D08657; CXXIII 154a), concludes a stormy, rocky Cornish coastal sequence with an indication of clearing skies, developed in the lush, lyrical imagery here. ‘Welkin’, a poetic word for the sky, had also been used on folios 130 verso and 138 verso (D08610, D08624; CXXIII 127a, 135a).
Although John Gage has suggested that the first few lines may relate to the sketch of Bridgwater immediately opposite on folio 160 recto (D08662; CXXIII 157), or more likely to the view of Minehead on folio 165 verso (D08672; CXXIII 162a) as interpreted in the sunny Southern Coast watercolour of the view,2 Minehead and Dunster Castle, Somersetshire, of about 1820 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),3 the setting for the whole passage is probably South Devon. Wilton and Turner give the last word as ‘Pennelford’, but by reading the double letters as ‘pp’ (allowing for Turner’s characteristic short or absent downstrokes) then ‘Poppelford’ seems intended, suggesting Newton Poppleford, near Sidmouth on the Exeter road. Exeter itself is mentioned in the next passage, on folio 162 verso (D08666; CXXIII 159a), while there are sketches of Sidmouth on folios 206 verso and 208 recto (D08734, D08737; CXXIII 203a, 205).
1
See Wilton and Turner 1990, pp.174–5 (transcription, followed here with slight variations); see also Gage 1987, p.195 and Milner 1990, p.41, giving first seven lines.
2
Gage 1987, p.253 note 38.
3
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.353 no.469, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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