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Dear Doctor, I have Read your Play

September 24, 2012

To season your Monday with humor, here’s a satiric recommendation of a play written by a would-be author and hanger-on to George Gordon, Lord Byron. Byron’s publisher, John Murray, received the play, written by a Dr J. W. Polidori, and when Murray asked Byron for assistance in rejecting it for publication, this is what the poet sent:

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, nowadays.
I had a heavy loss by Manuel
Too lucky if it prove not annual—
And Sotheby, with his damn’d 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 advertis’d—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,
Or drain’d his brains away as stallion
To some dark-eyed and warm Italian;
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 MSS 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 today,
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 Stael’s late dissolution.
Her book, they say, was in advance—
Pray Heaven she tell the truth of France!
‘Tis said she certainly was married
To Rocca, and had twice miscarried,
No—not miscarried, I opine—
But brought to bed at forty nine.
Some say she died a Papist; some
Are of opinion that’s a hum;
I don’t know that—the fellow, Schlegel,
Was very likely to inveigle
A dying person in compunction
To try the extremity of unction.
But peace be with her! for a woman
Her talents surely were uncommon.
Her publisher (and public too)
The hour of her demise may rue,
For never more within his shop he—
Pray—was she not interr’d at Coppet?
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

This poem has been scheduled to post while I’m laid up for a few days–because it always pays to ask Byron to write something so you don’t have to. Right?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2012 8:17 am

    Right. 🙂 I love it. Then again, I would.

  2. September 24, 2012 8:32 am

    Wishing you a swift and full recovery, Jeanne. I’m thinking kinder thoughts of Gorgeous George today.

  3. September 24, 2012 7:38 pm

    Feel better! Rest easy in the knowledge that you have posted a wonderful poem that cannot help but make people smile.

  4. joyweesemoll permalink
    September 24, 2012 7:39 pm

    What fun!

    Sending healing energies your way!

  5. September 24, 2012 9:12 pm

    Sorry to hear you aren’t feeling 100%. Hope this poem (and the laughter it gives) helps in the healing process.

  6. September 24, 2012 10:38 pm

    Charming retort…so glad the play wasn’t on the PhD reading list; if it moved Byron to blatant satire, what must it have done to the rest of us?

  7. September 25, 2012 10:09 am

    Wow – I wonder how long it took him to write that. FEEL BETTER! 🙂

  8. September 26, 2012 5:53 pm

    Thanks for the laugh, and feel better soon.

  9. September 27, 2012 7:39 am

    Thanks, all! I am recovering.

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