Walter J. Turner

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Walter James Redfern Turner (13 October 1889[1] – 18 November 1946) was an Australian-born, English-domiciled writer and critic.[2]

Born in South Melbourne, the son of a church musician – organist at St Paul's Cathedral – and a warehouseman, Walter James Turner, and a woman of long golden hair, Alice May (née Watson), he was educated at Carlton State School, Scotch College and the Working Men's College.[2][3] In 1907 he left for England to pursue a career in writing.[2] There he met and befriended a number of literary intellectual figures, including Siegfried Sassoon, Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, and Lady Ottoline Morrell (the caricature of her in his book The Aesthetes ended their friendship). On 5 April 1918, in Chelsea, he married Delphine Marguerite Dubuis (died 1951).[2] During the period from the First World War until the mid-1930s, he was known primarily as a poet. His 1916 Romance ("Chimborazo, Cotopaxi....") is probably the best remembered of his poems.

W. B. Yeats had the highest praise for Turner's poetry, saying that it left him "lost in admiration and astonishment",[citation needed] and included some of it in his Oxford Book of Modern Poetry (while omitting several authors very much better known today for their verse, such as Wilfred Owen). But today, although Turner produced several novels and plays, as well as books of poems, his reputation rests on his musical biographies of Mozart, Beethoven and Berlioz. He was musically untrained, and in the words of the music critic Charles Reid, "unhampered by any excess of technical knowledge" to restrain his "racy dogmatism."[4] His Mozart in has been reprinted many times in the 70 years since it was first published. Some of his musical articles for the New Statesman and other journals were reprinted in Music and Life, Facing the Music, Musical Meanderings, and Variations on the theme of Music.

Turner was a close friend of the pianist Artur Schnabel, about whom he frequently wrote, and with whom he frequently went hiking.[citation needed] He was a champion of Arturo Toscanini's conducting, which was for him a revelation in structure and expression. Siegfried Sassoon was another close friend of Turner, at least for a while. Turner, his wife, and Sassoon all cohabited a house on Tufton Street before Sassoon moved out in 1925. After this he fell out with Turner so badly that he made no mention whatsoever of him in his autobiography.[citation needed] During the Second World War, he edited a number of volumes about English culture. On 18 November 1946 he died at Hammersmith of a cerebral thrombosis.[2][3]



  • The Hunter and other Poems (1916)
  • The Dark Fire (1918)
  • The Dark Wind (1920) this was a compilation of poems from The Hunter, The Dark Fire, and In Time Like Glass published in America.
  • In Time Like Glass (1921)
  • Paris and Helen (1921)
  • Landscape of Cytherea (Record of a Journey into a Strange Country) (1923)
  • The Seven Days of the Sun (1925)
  • Marigold: An Idyll of the Sea (1926)
  • New Poems (1928)
  • Miss America (1930)
  • Pursuit of Psyche (1931)
  • Jack and Jill (1934)
  • Songs and Incantations (1936) which included his Seven Sciagraphical Poems
  • Selected Poems 1916–36 (1939)
  • Fossils of a Future Time? (1946)
  • Romance (1946)


  • The Man Who Ate the Popomack (1921) [5]
  • Smaragda's lover (1925)
  • Jupiter Translated (unpublished; first performed 1933)

Other books

  • Music and life (1921)
  • Variations on the theme of music (1924)
  • Orpheus; or, The music of the future (1926)
  • Beethoven, the search for reality (1927)
  • Musical meanderings (1928)
  • A trip to New York and a poem (1929)
  • Eighteenth century poetry : an anthology chosen by W.J. Turner (1931)
  • Wagner (1933)
  • Facing the Music: Reflections of a Music Critic (1933)
  • Berlioz: The Man and His Work (1934)
  • Blow for Balloons (1935) Novel.
  • Mozart, the man and his works (1938)
  • The Duchess of Popocatapetl (1939) Novel.
  • Fables, Parables and Plots: Revolutionary Stories for the Young and Old (1943)
  • A Treasury of English wild life edited by W.J. Turner (1946)
  • Music, a short history (1949)

See also

Walter Turner is also the name of a Solenostemon scutellarioides cultivar


  • McKenna, Wayne (1990). W. J. Turner: Poet and Music Critic. Sydney: NSW University Press. ISBN 0-86140-302-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Reid, Charles (1968). Malcolm Sargent: a biography. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd. ISBN 0-241-91316-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 McKenna, C. W. F., (1990). [online]: 'Turner, Walter James Redfern (1884–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University: Melbourne University Press, accessed 28 October 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Cable News in Brief". The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954). Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia. Australian Associated Press (AAP). 21 November 1946. p. 8. Retrieved 28 October 2012. Literary Editor Dies The death has occurred of Mr. Walter James ("Redfern") Turner, literary editor of "The Spectator." at the age of 57. He was educated at Scotch College. Melbourne, his father having been at one-time organist of St. Paul's Pro-Cathedral, Melbourne. He became a le ading dramatic and music critic in London and had a number of stories, essays and poems published<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  4. Reid, p. 189