Memorable poems

Epistle from Mr Murray to Dr Polidori by Lord Byron

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 shattered nerves and quickened 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 way, the old bore’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 altered 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 are 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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This page last updated: June 1, 2005.