The following passage comes from the author's A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain, which is reviewed on this site. — George P. Landow

Illuminated initial T

urner's father kept a busy barber's shop in Maiden Lane, 200 yards from the Covent Garden piazza. His clientele included lawyers and theatrical people from Drury Lane, merchants from Long Acre, artists and musicians from the surrounding streets, and yet more artists, scientists and antiquaries from Somerset House nearby. There was no real shortage of money in the Turner family. Counting up from James Boswell, who paid around £6 per year to have his hair dressed waydacy, and Charlotte Burney who reported thai ninepence (9d) for a hairdressing was '3d too dear', and further still the London woollen draper William Mawhood who recorded 'hair combed; cost 6d' in 1778, and multiplying those up by a figure that suggests an average of about twenty customers a day, the elder William Turner might have earned £300 a year. This represents perhaps £20,000 in the early twenty-first century. Turner the barber was not a poor man, and he had the foresight and vicarious ambition to display his son's early watercolours in his shop with a three-shilling price tag. This was perhaps six times the price of a good haircut, and about right. Nevertheless, only ten years later Turner would be demanding for one painting what his rather might have earned from cutting hair in a year.

The first condition of success for the young Turner, given energy, purpose and ability, was continual support from a busy father who had high ambitions for him. A further condition was the capture of luck and good fortune and the contacts these might bring. [14]


Hamilton, James. A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Great Britain. London: Atlantic Books, 2014. [Review by George P. Landow]

Last modified 1 June 2014