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 164 Verso:
Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry 1811
Turner Bequest CXXIII 161a
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue entry) on white wove printing paper, 75 x 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The whole page is taken up with the following lines of verse:
Totness the port where hangs the neglected bar
This once resounding shore now silent is thro war
Yet gleams afar by her blanched sails
And straining pendants which the [?eye] regales
amidst the mass of richness floating round
Did hurt the sight from quantity till a bound
striving to find by [?happyness] coming hour
The West [?country] but allows that power
Towring above the long [?inclined] space
Where Dawlish pastures fair and [?watring] place
Tiegnmouth and Babicombe and Ore
[?Refer] in majestic greatness bleak Dart moor
Whose upmost Crags like broken ridges rest drest
in sombre majesty oft capt in cloudy vest1
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 162 verso (D08666; CXXIII 159a), concerns Exeter and the surrounding area of South Devon. Here Turner moves south-west to Totnes on the River Dart, which he drew on folios 94 recto and verso and 139 recto (D08541, D08542, D08625; CXXIII 91, 91a, 136), and in the contemporary Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook (Tate D08854, D08855; Turner Bequest CXXIV 39, 40). The town is at the upper tidal limit of the River Dart, and as Wilton and Turner note, the first two lines suggest economic depression during the Napoleonic Wars.2
For views of Teignmouth see under folio 71 verso (D08499; CXXIII 68a) and a drawing in the contemporary Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook (Tate D08851, D08852; Turner Bequest CXXIV 36, 37). Turner drew the coast near Dawlish, north-east of Totnes, on folio 71 recto (D08498; CXXIII 68). A long-unrecorded watercolour of Babbacombe Bay from near Teignmouth (private collection) has been dated to about 1811 and related to the Southern Coast by Eric Shanes;3 there is what appears to be a small related sketch on folio 67 verso (D08491; CXXIII 64a), including the Ore Stone, off Hope’s Nose at the south-eastern end of the bay, which is also referred to here.
Although Turner skirted the south side of Dartmoor on this tour, it is seen only occasionally in the distance in his drawings, such as the view of Plymouth from Mount Edgcumbe in the Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D08877; Turner Bequest CXXV 11); he explored various Dartmoor sites in detail in the later Devon Rivers, No.1 sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXXXII).
The next lines, on folio 167 verso (D08675; CXXIII 164a), describe an idyllic, calm sea and shipping, without mentioning particular places, though the setting may still be Devon.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Wilton and Turner 1990, pp.143, quoting parts of the first two lines, and 175 (transcription, followed here with slight variations).
Wilton and Turner 1990, p.143.
Eric Shanes, ‘Picture note 3: Babbacombe Bay from near Teignmouth’, Turner Studies, vol.10. no.1, Summer 1990, p.60, reproduced.

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-r1137148, accessed 23 November 2020.