Lord Byron

Epistle From Mr. Murray To Dr. Polidori

Dear Doctor, I have read your play, Which is a good one in its way,­ Purges the eyes and moves the bowels, And drenches handkerchiefs like towels With tears, that, in a flux of grief, Afford hysterical relief To shatter’d nerves and quicken’d pulses, Which your catastrophe convulses. I like your moral and machinery; Your plot, too, has such scope for scenery: Your dialogue is apt and smart: The play’s concoction full of art; Your hero raves, your heroine cries, All stab, and everybody dies. In short, your tragedy would be The very thing to hear and see: And for a piece of publication, If I decline on this occasion, It is not that I am not sensible To merits in themselves ostensible, But – and I grieve to speak it–plays Are drugs – mere drugs, sir–now-a-days. I had a heavy loss by ‘Manual’– Too lucky if it prove not annual,­ And Sotheby, with his ‘Orestes,’ (Which, by the by, the author’s best is), Has lain so very long on hand, That I despair of all demand. I’ve advertised, but see my books, Or only watch my shopman’s looks;– Still Ivan, Ina, and such lumber, My back-shop glut, my shelves encumber. There’s Byron too, who once did better, Has sent me, folded in a letter, A sort of–it’s no more a drama Than Darnley, Ivan, or Kehama: So alter’d since last year his pen is, I think he’s lost his wits at Venice. In short, sir, what with one and t’other, I dare not venture on another. I write in haste; excuse each blunder; The coaches through the street so thun­der! My room’s so full–we’ve Gifford here Reading MS., with Hookham Frere Pronouncing on the nouns and particles Of some of our forthcoming Articles. The Quarterly–Ah, sir, if you Had but the genius to review!­ A smart critique upon St. Helena, Or if you only would but tell in a Short compass what–but to resume: As I was saying, sir, the room­ The room’s so full of wits and bards, Crabbes, Campbells, Crokers, Freres, and Wards, And others, neither bards nor wits: My humble tenement admits All persons in the dress of gent, From Mr. Hammond to Dog Dent. A party dines with me to-day, All clever men, who make their way; Crabbe, Malcolm, Hamilton, and Chantrey Are all partakers of my pantry. They’re at this moment in discussion On poor De Staël’s late dissolution. Her book, they say, was in advance­ Pray Heaven, she tell the truth of France! Thus run our time and tongues away; But, to return, sir, to your play: Sorry, sir, but I cannot deal, Unless ’twere acted by O’Neill; My hands so full, my head so busy, I’m almost dead, and always dizzy; And so, with endless truth and hurry, Dear Doctor, I am yours JOHN MURRAY.

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