Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes and a Draft of Poetry


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 87 × 119 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXIX 1 a

Catalogue entry

At the top of the page is a note of two lines: ‘2. 6 of 3. 6 from to to [sic] 4 [?rehung] and | [...] some [?add...t... paper] entering with Money’. This seems to be connected with Royal Academy business; for various other such notes in this sketchbook, see under folio 4 recto (D13757).
Below is a draft of poetry:
Of [?G...] thy [... ?high] Gay Rein
In Summer reign enlarged Autumns gleams
Her [?golden] beauty [... ?Sheen]
Of Glassy Thames by any graces beams
[?Wake ...] spurns the Queen
Of [?sleeping] honor, [? ‘so’ or ‘to’] the wide spread scene
[...] thy beauties as thy rising hills
To the ex[...] of [?extra] vastness fills
To [... ?hight] <...> [...] groves
[...] by O[...]
from the long [...] of T[...] B[...] hight
[...] delight
Turner’s somewhat cramped had here makes a full transcription problematic, but the general sense is of a nature poem with a Thames Valley setting, a common theme in Turner’s verse.1 His large painting England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday, was exhibited in 1819 (Tate N00502),2 as noted under folio 4 verso (D13758); it was accompanied in the Royal Academy catalogue3 by the following lines from ‘Summer’ from James Thomson’s Seasons:
Which way, Amanda, shall we bend our course?
The choice perplexes. Wherefore should we chuse [sic]?
All is the same with thee. Say, shall we wind
Along the streams? or walk the smiling mead?
Or court the forest-glades? or wander wild
Among the waving harvests? or ascend,
While radiant Summer opens all its pride,
Thy Hill, delightful Shene?
As the sketches on folio 2 recto opposite (D13753) may relate to the Richmond Hill painting, it is possible that Turner’s lines here are a draft for a poem to accompany it, which he left unresolved in favour of Thomson. ‘Sheen’ or ‘Shene’ is an archaic or poetic name for Richmond as a whole, and East Sheen still forms part of the borough.

Matthew Imms
September 2013

See for example the drafts in Turner’s ‘Verse Book’, transcribed in Andrew Wilton and Rosalind Mallord Turner, Painting and Poetry: Turner’s ‘Verse Book’ and his Work of 1804–1812, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990, pp.150–3.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.106–7 no.140, Pl.145 (colour).
The Exhibition of the Royal Academy, M.DCCCXIX. The Fifty-First, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London, 1819, p.13.

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