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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Stanzas Referring to Jonathan Wathen Phipps, Baroness Howe and Samuel Whitbread (Inscription by Turner) c.1812-13

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 2 Recto:
Stanzas Referring to Jonathan Wathen Phipps, Baroness Howe and Samuel Whitbread (Inscription by Turner) c.1812–13
Turner Bequest CXXIX 2
Ink on white wove paper, 110 x 178 mm
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue entry)
Watermarked ‘[WHAT]MAN | [180]5’
Trace of inscription by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘2 [?]’ bottom right
Stamped in brown ‘CXXIX 2’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The top of this page has three illegible lines written in pencil, followed by verses in ink, running
from left to right down the page, and continued from folio 1 verso (D09059) opposite;
Howe asked the Oculist his fee’s
To ease her blindness case
To ease her purblind
In doubt as to care so to ease
   Ease or to cure
Whitbread the [deleted.] known by blue and buff
Still raised once
And patent held for humming stuff
Frothy tho poor ^is a Modney wig
Reform be gentle eer you Swig
Drink deep or taste nor least ^spare your brains
Tis gas at top or bottom be the gains ^for his pains1
It is not clear whether the two verses are related. The first section continues the theme of the alliance of Jonathan Wathen Phipps and Baroness Howe (see inside front cover, D40818): In the second verse the ‘Whitbread’ alluded to here is Samuel Whitbread (1758–1815), son of the founder of the brewing dynasty, and a committed radical reforming politician. As the effective leader of the Whigs from 1806 he would certainly have been well known to Turner’s Yorkshire patron, Walter Fawkes. The context for Turner’s lines is not clear, but aside from his politics Whitbread was also a major supporter of the Drury Lane Theatre. In 1809 the theatre, over £500,000 in debt and in danger of going out of business, was destroyed by fire. Whitbread became chairman of the committee set up to rebuild it. With the help of his political friends, he managed to raise the necessary funds and the Drury Lane Theatre was reopened on 10 October 1812. Also in 1812 there was something of a movement to regulate the licensed trade and the Whitbread papers at Bedford contain a pamphlet by Joseph Phillimore, LL.D., entitled Reflections on the Nature and Extent of the License Trade (London, 1812).2

David Hill
October 2008

The transcription here is indebted to, but differs in some respects from that offered by Rosalind Mallord Turner in Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990. It is uncertain that the phrase ‘Modney wig’ is accurately transcribed; Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, p.176 give ‘Rodney wig’.
For Whitbread’s connections with the arts generally see Stephen Deuchar, Paintings, Politics and Porter: Samuel Whitbread II (1764–1815) and British Art, exhibition catalogue, Museum of London, 1984.

How to cite

David Hill, ‘Stanzas Referring to Jonathan Wathen Phipps, Baroness Howe and Samuel Whitbread (Inscription by Turner) c.1812–13 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-stanzas-referring-to-jonathan-wathen-phipps-baroness-howe-r1146782, accessed 21 June 2024.