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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Inscriptions not by Turner: A Letter Addressed to the Artist 1827

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Inscriptions not by Turner: A Letter Addressed to the Artist 1827
Ink on white wove paper, 228 x 377 mm
Watermark ‘T Sweetapple | 1825’
Inscribed by or on behalf of Samuel Lovegrove in ink with letter to Turner filling right-hand half, and with the artist’s name and address at centre of left-hand half, ascending vertically (see main catalogue entry)
Inscribed in ink with payment or delivery mark over address
Stamped in black with postmark ‘[...] 20 NO 20 | 1827’ below left of centre
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This document appears to have been routine and ephemeral enough for Turner soon to use the other side (Tate D25522; Turner Bequest CCLXIII a 7) for studies for the major painting Dido Directing the Equipment of the Fleet, or The Morning of the Carthaginian Empire, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828 (Tate N00506)1 and evidently in the planning stage in late 1827, when the letter was received. Compare the slighter studies on the back of another piece of correspondence of that time, numbered consecutively with it in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory (D25523; Turner Bequest CCLXIII a 8).
In the centre of the left-hand half of this side is the artist’s name and address:
J M W Turner Esqr
Queen Ann Street West
Harley Street Cavendish
The whole of the right-hand side is taken with a neat but idiosyncratically spelt letter:
Dear Sir
I Received the 10th Instant your very kind | Letter and I am very much Obligd for your Information | I also Recd at the same Time, One from Mr Harpur, | with the Leagacy Stamp Enclosed in it for me to sighn | the Receipt; and to return it to him and likewise | to Inform him in what way I whould have the | Money sent, which was in the same way that he | sent Mrs Marshalls, for that always came very safe | and without much Trouble, and I returned him | the Receipt on last Munday and I have not heard | from since which I thinks that odd that he has not | sent to me before now, Dr Sir I must [‘beg’ inserted above] you to Excuse | my riteing for my Eyes are so very bad that it is | almost done by feeling, If you please to give my kind Respects to Mr. Turner, So I Remains Sir, Your obedient | Servant, S. Lovegrove
ye 19th of Novr, 1827 I shall send you A Turkey & Chine very | soon.
Turner’s maternal uncle, Joseph Mallord William Marshall (1740–1820) of Brentford, Middlesex, lived in later life at Sunningwell, near Oxford. Turner had drawn there in his youth in the Oxford sketchbook of about 1789 (Tate D00024, D00026; Turner Bequest II 12, 13); see also Tate D00050 (Turner Bequest III Ea).2 Marshall’s property in Wapping, East London, was left to his nephews,3 Turner and Henry Harpur (the artist’s solicitor and executor),4 while his widow Mary received an annuity which Turner is thought to have administered.5 James Hamilton notes that he ‘visited his aunt soon after her husband’s death’,6 and there are directions from Turner to his engraver and publisher W.B. Cooke, presumably in the spring or early summer of 1822, about the delivery of payment following ‘Lady Day [25 March] last for 2 years Annuity’, together with a pound of tea each for Mary and her sister Mrs Sarah Lovegrove,7 who would be buried at Sunningwell in July of that year at the age of seventy-eight.8
Sarah’s husband Samuel Lovegrove, a ‘domestic servant’ (1745–1832), was thus J.M.W. Marshall’s brother-in-law,9 and while Gage suggested him as a third beneficiary in 182010 Selby Whittingham has noted that Mary Marshall had died at the end of 1826, so the present letter may relate to a separate bequest to Samuel from his sister-in-law,11 hence the reference here to a ‘Legeacy Stamp’ forwarded by Harpur at this time. The elderly Lovegrove’s promise of country produce (perhaps with Christmas in mind) suggests continuing good relations, as does his greeting to the artist’s father ‘Mr. Turner’.12
For early rental payments on the Wapping properties see the receipt of April 1821 transcribed in the Folkestone sketchbook (Tate D17364; Turner Bequest CXCVIII 91a). Sam Smiles has comprehensively presented the history of the site and Turner’s involvement, including tenancy negotiations in the weeks preceding Lovegrove’s letter,13 which he mentions in relation to the payments to Mrs Marshall.14

Matthew Imms
July 2016

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.149–50 no.241, pl.243.
See David Hill, Turner on the Thames: River Journeys in the Year 1805, New Haven and London 1993, pp.3, 5–6.
See Hamilton 1997, p.209, and N.R.D. Powell, ‘Finance and Property’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.108.
See James Hamilton, ‘Mother’s Family’ in Joll, Butlin and Herrmann 2001, p.193, and Whittingham 1999, p.75.
See Gage 1980, p.113 note 1.
Hamilton 1997, p.209; see also Whittingham 1999, p.22..
Quoted in Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, pp.275–6; see also Gage 1980, p.113 note 1, and Hamilton 1997, p.209.
See Whittingham 1999, p.22.
Ibid., pp.22, 144c.
Gage 1980, p.113 note 1.
See Whittingham 1999, p.22.
See also Hamilton 1997, p.209, mistakenly giving the late Mrs Lovegrove as the letter’s author.
Smiles 2007, pp.3–5; see Gage 1880, pp.109–11 letters 125–127.
Smiles 2007, p.5 note 4.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Inscriptions not by Turner: A Letter Addressed to the Artist 1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, March 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-inscriptions-not-by-turner-a-letter-addressed-to-the-artist-r1185824, accessed 13 June 2024.