Samuel Smiles, Self-Help; With Illustrations of Character and Conduct, 2nd ed., London, 1860, pp.124-25

Turner, the greatest of our landscape painters, was a man of an entirely different character. He was intended by his father for his own trade of a barber, which he carried on in Maiden Lane, until one day the sketch which the boy had made of a coat of arms on a silver salver having attracted the notice of a customer whom his father was shaving, he was urged to allow his son to follow his bias, and he was eventually permitted to follow art as a profession. He learnt its first rudiments with Malton, who had at the same time under him another pupil, Thomas Girtin, whose genius was akin to Turner’s, and kept alive in him that ardent spirit of emulation and industry which never ceased to be his distinguishing characteristic, even after he had attained the summit of his fame. Girtin and Turner, though essentially unlike in character and disposition, were warmly attached friends, and, when poor Girtin died, full of promise, under thirty, he had no more affectionate mourner than his fellow pupil and competitor. Like all young artists, Turner had many difficulties to encounter, and they were all the greater that Turner’s circumstances were so straitened. But he was always willing to work, and to take pains with his work, no matter howsoever humble it might be. He was glad to hire himself out at half-a-crown a night to wash in skies in Indian ink upon other people’s drawings, getting his supper into the bargain. Thus he earned money and acquired expertness.