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 179 Verso:
Inscription by Turner: Draft of Poetry 1811
Turner Bequest CXXIII 176a
Inscribed by Turner in ink and pencil (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:
Such that most een follow Nelson
Will [?navy] [?‘defenders’ or ‘defend us’] emulate his fame
Alas no second Blenhim [i.e. ‘Blenheim’] yet is found
No monumnt but yet decks the Ground
[?Activate] in our hearts but still our eyes
Would pleasing view his Cenotaph arise
On some bold promontory where the western main
Rich with his actions ever blesst by fame
Beheld him weather oft in naval pride
Our roaring Channels strong allance [i.e. alliance’] tide
Usfull [i.e. ‘Usefull’] as the Eddystone beams its honor drest
And high the lighted gleam in flamey vest
A Sea mark [?‘emuling’, i.e. ‘emulating’] reverd and ever known
My nation gratitudes monumental stone1
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 177 verso (D08693; CXXIII 174a), recalled the death of Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Judy Egerton has described these lines as ‘impassioned’, if ‘unpolished’.2 James Hamilton has noted Turner following the lead of his fellow artist John Opie (1761–1807) as he ‘campaigns for a monument’,3 while Robert Upstone has noted that the verses between folio 177 verso (D08693; CXXIII 174a) and folio 182 verso (D08701; CXXIII 179a) clearly demonstrate ‘Turner’s deep-seated patriotism’4 during the Napoleonic Wars.
Blenheim Palace had been built near Oxford a century earlier as a reward for the Duke of Marlborough’s military victories, and was later the subject of a watercolour by Turner (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery),5 engraved in 1833 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales. Turner goes on to suggest a prominent coastal beacon or lighthouse as a fitting monument to Nelson; he would make two watercolours in the late 1820s featuring the column of Great Yarmouth’s Nelson Monument: Yarmouth Sands (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge);6 and Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (private collection),7 engraved for England and Wales in 1829. There are studies of the Eddystone Lighthouse, in the open sea south of Plymouth, in the Vale of Heathfield sketchbook (Tate D10258, D10260; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 40, 41) and a watercolour of about 1817 (private collection).8
The hero would eventually be commemorated in central London’s Trafalgar Square, named as such in 1830,9 by Nelson’s Column (1843), which Turner would have seen whenever he visited the Royal Academy, accommodated within the new National Gallery building from 1837.10 In his next lines, on folio 182 verso (D08701; CXXIII 179a), Turner continues to consider the importance of a monument, and imagines a naval battle.
See Wilton and Turner 1990, p.175 (transcription, followed here with slight variations); lines one, six, seven, thirteen and fourteen given in Hamilton 2003, p.102.
Egerton, Wyld and Roy 1995, p.70, quoting lines 6–10 (pp.70–1).
Hamilton 2003, pp.102, 198 note 48.
Upstone 1990, p.54.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.399 no.846, Pl.194.
Ibid., pp.405–6 no.904, reproduced.
Ibid., p.394 no.810, reproduced.
Ibid., p.357 no.506.
‘Trafalgar Square – a brief history’, london.gov.uk, accessed 21 January 2011, http://www.london.gov.uk/trafalgarsquare/history/index.jsp.
See Sidney C. Hutchison, The History of the Royal Academy 1768–1986, London 1986, p.87.
Technical notes:
The first ten lines (to ‘tide’) are in ink, with the rest in pencil.

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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-r1137174, accessed 25 May 2022.