The Lonely Tower. Samuel Palmer, RWS 1805-81. 1879. Etching, printed on laid paper, with watermark, 7½ x 9 ⅞ inches (19.2 x 25 cm); sheet 12¾ x 14½ inches (19 x 36.8 cm). Fifth state (of seven). Signed in pencil “S. Palmer,” lower right, and inscribed “Trial Proof,” lower left. Provenance: Private Collection by descent; bought from The Fine Art Society in the nineteenth century. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by Gordon Cooke

The subjects which Palmer chose for his etchings were all close to his heart but perhaps none more so than The Lonely Tower. It came to be regarded as his finest etching by many of his contemporaries, but unusually the principal feature of the landscape was not only a particular place, but one which he could see in the distance from the room in Furze Hill House, Redhill where he had made his studio. The hill was close to the spot were his son had died.

In his last years, Palmer’s work became more careful, meditative and richly laboured, as William Vaughan has described it. F.G. Stephens had compared the work of the Shoreham period with Keats, and the later work with Tennyson. The melancholy is combined with richness and depth, and both The Bellman and The Lonely Tower appear complete as works of art and as statements of emotion long considered.

This trial proof was printed before the etching was published for the Etching Club in 1880.


Cooke, Gordon. Samuel Palmer, His Friends, and Followers.Exhibition Catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society, 2012. No. 16.

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Lister, Raymond. Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer. Cambridge, 1988. pp. pp. 247–48 E12 v/VII.

Last modified 25 May 2014