Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses (Inscription by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 163 × 92 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCVI 66

Catalogue entry

From this leaf and continuing as far as the inside back cover of the sketchbook (D40653) Turner has jotted drafts of a long poem lamenting the demolition of Alexander Pope’s villa at Twickenham; for the demolition, see Introduction and note to folio 45 (D06015), which has a sketch related to Turner’s picture Pope’s Villa at Twickenham, During its Dilapidation, shown at his own gallery in 1808 (on the London art market in 2008).1
The verses in this sketchbook anticipate the more coherent poem ‘On the Demolition of Pope-House at Twickenham’ in Turner’s Verse Book (private collection).2 They make many allusions to pastoral iconography, mythology and other poets associated with Thames scenery including James Thomson. Although they defeated Finberg, they were in large part deciphered by Rosalind Mallord Turner for the 1990 Tate catalogue.3 There it was assumed that they can be read as a continuous whole, but this is arguable on grounds of content and style (at times degenerating into doggerel) and also because passages are irregularly spaced and written in different directions and media. It is perhaps safer to regard them as fragments and in this catalogue they are cited as they appear on individual leaves. Readings are based on R.M. Turner’s, with significant variations noted in square brackets. Text on this leaf reads:
Pope’s House & G [?arden] the curved river entwind
In Twickenham lower reach Isis inspired
In Kew sunshine Tompson the moral mind
The noble say that man himself might stem [Turner: staunch]
This throbing wound
The panting swain to beg a [Turner: in] favour rose
Some heavenly honor nor [Turner: ner] did worth oppose
In vain the ... when sweet horns a[re] heard
dance the gay hours in Tw[ickenham’s] sound
Stallion and Hunter she ...view
and he would pity
In deep dun gloom Umbrage throw
An [Turner: in] awfull silence
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.55–6 no.72 (pl.82); Sotheby’s sale, 9 July 2008, lot 91.
Wilton and Mallord Turner, pp.150–3.
Published ibid., pp.153–5

David Blayney Brown
October 2006

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