Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: ?Poetry for ‘Caligula’s Palace and Bridge’; ?Shipping off Deal or Margate


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 98 x 76 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 1 a

Catalogue entry

With the page turned vertically, the upper half is taken up with the following scrawled lines:
Alas when in his [...] pride
[?T...]rd down the depth of [?Bay ...] [‘days’ inserted below]
the [... ?Bridge] to tell before
the s[...] – and [... ]ing ways
sad [...] of [?m...y] . [?r...]
a [...]ing
This reading is extremely tentative, even regarding many of the words not specifically qualified or queried. However, the general pessimistic sense and mention of what seems to be a ‘Bridge’ may relate to the ‘Fallacies of Hope’ lines Turner composed to accompany his large painting, Caligula’s Palace and Bridge, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1831 (Tate N00512):1
What now remains of all the mighty bridge
Which made the Lacrine Lake an inner pool,
Caligula, but massy fragments left,
As monuments of doubt and ruined hopes
Yet gleaming in the Morning’s ray, that tell
How Baia’s shore was loved in times gone by?2
For studies for the painting in this sketchbook, see under folio 7 recto (D35769), and for the other poetry it contains, see the Introduction.
Below is a rapidly rendered view, apparently of buildings and the masts of boats seen from off shore, perhaps at Deal (see under folio 3 verso; D35762) or Margate (see under folio 10 verso; D35776) on the Kent coast.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.189–90 no.337, pl.339 (colour).
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, p.180, from exhibition catalogue; see also Butlin and Joll 1984, p.190, quoting Turner’s 1831 MS version with slight variations (Tate Archive TGA 7219/8).

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