Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses (Inscriptions by Turner)

c.1807–8

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 163 × 92 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D06061
Turner Bequest XCVI 71

Catalogue entry

See note to folio 68 of the sketchbook (D06053) for background to these verses. Rosalind Mallord Turner’s reading published in the 1990 Tate catalogue is adopted here, with significant variations noted in square brackets:
As sure in Art the bearer of the cradle
Host of Opinion dogma unheard
Thou best understood
seat selflove
Trust all to consequential boasting
self conceit
For arts each man as ready as his meat
Born into friendship scarce lets the great door
Creak on its hinges which must hang before
Draws up the current or drains it dry
prevents another catch his Patron Eye
By inwards consuming – each has a frail part
Thus reigns disfavour round the [Turner: in] things of [art inserted]
Jerrold Ziff has published a poem among Turner’s papers in the British Library in which another version of some of these lines appears:
Creak on the hinge that (?missile) hinge before
Dam up the current of your purse or try
To prevent another catch a patron’s eye1
This poem presents the then-familiar Romantic image of the suffering, impoverished artist, struggling towards fulfilment in a commercial, philistine country like a traveller through a storm. Lines inside the back cover of the sketchbook (D40653) are also repeated in similar form in the manuscript.

David Blayney Brown
October 2006

1
British Library Add. MS. 46151–BB, folio 1 verso.

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