Joseph Mallord William Turner

Verses (Inscriptions by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 118 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest C 71

Catalogue entry

Rosalind Mallord Turner’s reading of the verses for the 1990 Tate exhibition is retained here:
A shepherd boy as he drove along
And fleecy charges [along the Thames side inserted]
Sought the Old Swain in his usual seat
With faltering accents his tender lambkin bleat
Tell all the news he fraughtful came
the ... of Pope well earned fame
Alas my lamb my heart full can have heard
The mournful Thames sent back the dolf sound
When balmy wispers on the ground rebound
The mournfull rustling of the aspen tall
As yesteryear even some day did [forever inserted] befall
To homely remains
This must be Turner’s own work, in imitation of the Augustan poets who it associates with the scenery of the Thames; Alexander Pope is mentioned and the melancholy tone of the second stanza with its mention of ‘homely remains’ must spring from the demolition in 1807 of his villa at Twickenham, by order of Baroness Howe who built a new house in its place. Turner was much affected by her act of sacrilege. His memorial picture, Pope’s Villa at Twickenham (on the London art market, 2008),1 was exhibited in his gallery in 1808, and he wrote a long poem on its demolition in his Verse Book.2 For another version of the present verses, see folio 87 verso of the Boats, Ice sketchbook (Tate D06713; Turner Bequest CI 87a).

David BlayneyBrown
January 2010

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 1990, pp.150–3.

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