Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes on Grammar, &c (Inscriptions by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 185 × 108 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CVI 67 a

Catalogue entry

Turner’s inscriptions (of which only the first seven lines were transcribed by Finberg) read:
[in ink and pencil] There is not a quality or endowment, faculty or ability | which is not in a superior degree possesst by women. | [in pencil] Vide Mrs Wells. Knockholt, Oct.
[in ink] In discourses that are to be spoken, regard must be | had to the easiness of pronunciation. Example of style.| Periodique – viz. – several sentences linked together, the | sense only given at the close. Sir Will. Temple | If you look about you, and consider the lives of others | as well as your own; if you think how few are born with | honor, and how many die without name or children; how | little beauty we see and how few friends he hear of how many | disasters, & how much poverty there is in the world; you | will fall down upon your knees and instead of repining at | one affliction will admire so many blessings which you have | receivd from the hand of God
Style coupe short | independent proposition, each compleat. [Pope inserted] Stricking (?)| I confess it was want of consideration that made me | an author. I writ because it amus’d me I corrected | because it was as pleasant to correct as write I pub|lished I was told it might please such it was | a credit to please
Non semper intendum est perpetuitate & quasi | conversione verborum; sed saepe carpenda membris | minitioribus oratio est
It is not proper always to employ a continued | train and a sort of regular compass of phrases but style | ought to be often broken down into smaller numbers. Blair
Swift valued himself upon using words only | of native growth
Most of these observations are copied or summarised from Hugh Blair’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres (1783 and subsequent editions); see note to folio 69 verso of this sketchbook (D07211; Turner Bequest CVI 66a). The two longer passages with their several quotations from Sir William Temple (his Letter to Lady Essex), Alexander Pope and Cicero are derived from Lecture XI, on ‘Structure of Sentences’, while the remark on Jonathan Swift’s avoidance of words of foreign origin comes from Lecture X, on ‘Style – Perspicuity and Precision’.
Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, p.15; Gillian Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book’: The Liber Studiorum, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1996, p.30. Forrester follows Wilton in ascribing Turner’s notes from Blair to the Cockermouth sketchbook (Tate D07537–D07592; D40744–D40745; Turner Bequest CX).

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