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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeWeb ExhibitionsHarvey-LeeSamuel Palmer Intro Harvey-LeeThe Lonely Tower

Samuel Palmer  
(Newington, south London 1805 – 1881 Redhill, near Reigate, Surrey)

The Lonely Tower

The Lonely Tower | Samuel Palmer | Etching | Elizabeth Harvey-Lee

The Lonely Tower
Alexander 12 vi/vi, Lister 12 vi/vii
192 x 254 mm (plate); 168 x 235 mm (image); 290 x 440 mm (sheet)

Etching, 1879. The plate signed. First published state, with the plate number 16 added and the plate bevelled. Signed in pencil. One of the Twenty-one Etchings by the Etching Club, published by H Blair Ansdell December 1879. Total edition of 100, of which 75 were for sale and 25 for Club members. On japan with wire lines. Short printing ink stain in the top right border.    


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Additional Information about the Print

Palmer was inspired by Milton’s lines that follow on immediately after those mentioning the bellman in Il Penseroso

Or let my lamp at midnight hour,
Be seen in some high lonely tow’r,
Where I may oft out-watch the Bear

In a fragment of an undated letter to Valpy Palmer commented on The Lonely Tower

Here poetic loneliness has been attempted; not the loneliness of a desert, but a secluded spot in a genial, pastoral country, enriched also by antique relics, such as those so-called ‘Druidic stones’ . The constellation of the ‘Bear’ may help to explain that the building is the tower of Il Penseroso. Two shepherds, watching their flocks, speak together of the mysterious light above them.

In the etching Palmer developed the composition of the original exhibited watercolour, giving more emphasis to the tower and the stars, the wagon and road on the left and the chasm between them and the shepherds, and introducing low on the horizon a crescent moon; an intensified fervent focus which obviously pleased him, as he transferred it to a small watercolour, in almost the last painting he did.

The tower is that on Leith Hill, near Dorking, which was visible from Palmer’s painting room in Furze Hill House, Redhill. A particularly poignant view for Palmer, as it was close to where his elder son, the nineteen year old Thomas More, had died in 1861.

The plate of The Lonely Tower would prove to have an exceptional continuing history. Cancelled in 1880 after the Etching Club edition, its whereabouts unknown, it re-surfaced in Liverpool in the 1920’s and Henry Macbeth Raeburn restored it, removing most of the traces of the scored lines of cancellation (and with them much of the silhouette of the ‘druidic stones’). An edition was not printed until 1954, when Mary Sholten printed 5 proofs and a numbered edition of 25 on cream wove paper, though these did not come onto the market till 1994. C H Welch printed a further 21 impressions in 1962. Subsequently the plate had been acquired by David Gould who projected a new edition in 1972, to be printed by Edgar Holloway. This was abandoned after about 10 impressions had been taken, when the Keating forgeries of Palmer Shoreham paintings came to light.