J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry 1811

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 108 Verso:
Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry 1811
Turner Bequest CXXIII 105a
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue entry) on white wove writing paper, 75 x 117 mm
Part watermark ‘W Di
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
First feeds the meadows where grows the line
Then drives the mill that all its powers define
Dividing the vegetating [?pulpy mass] with care till
On the peopled town who all combine
To throw the many strands in lengthened twine
Then onward to the Sea its freight it pours
And by the [‘its’ inserted above] prowess holds to distant shores
The straining vessel to its cordage [‘as to canvass’ inserted above] yields
So Britain floats the produce of her fields
Why should the Volga or the Russians
Be coveted for hemp why such [‘thus’ inserted above] supply’d
The sinew of our strength our naval pride
Have not we soil sufficient rich or lies1
Ascending up the right-hand edge of the page in relation to the main passage is the following couplet, apparently developed from the third line in the main verse, which was inserted as an afterthought:
Pressing, dividing all vegetating pass withdrawn
high swels the [?‘stoney’ or ‘shiney’] mass
Thornbury quotes the couplet in place of the single line, noting: ‘Uncertain whether these lines come here.’ The adjective in the last line is unclear; Wilton and Turner’s and Thornbury’s alternative readings are given respectively. Wilton and Turner repeat a line as ‘withdrawn high swels the stoney mass’, but the phrase only occurs once (at the side), with ‘withdrawn’ appearing on the previous line as transcribed above.
Interspersed with drawings and the printed pages of Coltman’s British Itinerary, sixty-nine pages of this sketchbook are given over wholly or partly to these verses which Turner intended as a commentary for publication with the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England which he sketched on the 1811 West Country tour (see the introduction to the sketchbook). The first lines are on folio 18 verso (D08396), and the last on folio 207 verso (D08736; CXXIII 204a).
The previous passage, on folio 105 verso (D08563; CXXIII 102a), is the first to deal with the technicalities of the rope-making industry at Bridport in Dorset, concluded here and leading to a patriotic meditation on British industry and agriculture during the Napoleonic Wars, continued on folios 110 verso and 113 verso (D08572, D08578; CXXIII 107a, 110a). Andrew Wilton has described the ‘ringing patriotic affirmations’2 of this section.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Wilton and Turner 1990, pp.60, 173 (transcriptions – p.60 excluding the last line – followed here with slight variations); previously transcribed with variations in Thornbury 1862, II, p.26 and 1897, pp.214–15; seee also Daniels 1986, p.15, Wilton 1987 p.103, and 2006, p.90.
Wilton 1987 p.103, and 2006, p.90.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry 1811 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-inscription-by-turner-draft-of-poetry-r1137046, accessed 20 September 2020.