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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Verses (Inscriptions by Turner) c.1807-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 73 Recto:
Verses (Inscriptions by Turner) circa 1807–8
Turner Bequest XCVI 71
Inscribed by Turner in pencil (see main catalogue entry) on white laid paper, 163 x 92 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘71’ bottom left, descending vertically
Stamped in black ‘XCVI 71’ bottom left, descending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
See note to folio 68 of the sketchbook (D06053) for background to these verses. Rosalind Mallord Turner’s reading published in the 1990 Tate catalogue is adopted here, with significant variations noted in square brackets:
As sure in Art the bearer of the cradle
Host of Opinion dogma unheard
Thou best understood
seat selflove
Trust all to consequential boasting
self conceit
For arts each man as ready as his meat
Born into friendship scarce lets the great door
Creak on its hinges which must hang before
Draws up the current or drains it dry
prevents another catch his Patron Eye
By inwards consuming – each has a frail part
Thus reigns disfavour round the [Turner: in] things of [art inserted]
Jerrold Ziff has published a poem among Turner’s papers in the British Library in which another version of some of these lines appears:
Creak on the hinge that (?missile) hinge before
Dam up the current of your purse or try
To prevent another catch a patron’s eye1
This poem presents the then-familiar Romantic image of the suffering, impoverished artist, struggling towards fulfilment in a commercial, philistine country like a traveller through a storm. Lines inside the back cover of the sketchbook (D40653) are also repeated in similar form in the manuscript.

David Blayney Brown
October 2006

British Library Add. MS. 46151–BB, folio 1 verso.

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Verses (Inscriptions by Turner) c.1807–8 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 2006, 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-verses-inscriptions-by-turner-r1130239, accessed 25 May 2019.