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Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

IV. Satiric

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 every body 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 “Manuel,”—

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 can not 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,