Introduction

Introduction (by Mary Hays).1

 

      The very great tenderness, which my Friends have shewn to me through every period of my distress? the sympathetic concern which they express for my unhappy fate? and the favorable opinion they have ever profess’d to entertain of my Eccles, induces me to suppose, that the letters which passed between myself, and the Friend of my heart, would prove an interesting manuscript to them, “When this aching head, wearied with woes and frailties, shall have sunk on the graves kind, cold pillar, there to rest.” – There are several other reasons which I could likewise give, for this my wish of leaving a memorial (more lasting than the original loose papers,) of an attachment so exquisitely ^pleasing!^ – yet alas! more exquisitely painful! – One is perhaps, a secret pride which I feel from the consciousness of having possessed the intire affections of a man, who did honor to humanity. – delightful assurance! – Another of having inspired a passion so delicate – so tender!

Oh the soft commerce! oh the tender ties!

Close twisted with the fibres of the heart!

Which broken, break them, and drain of the soul

Of human joys.2  [f. 2]

Ah! how keenly has my bosom experienced the thrill of transport, and the soul rending emotions of despair! – The frigid, the unimpassioned Stoick’s censure, of those sensations, which they are equally incapable of feeling, as inspiring, my heart rejects (with all their dull insipid apathy! – to me, more pleasing is the sad luxury of tender woe, which swells into my eyes of the remembrance of my dear departed love, – than all the offended vanities of the dissipated world, – or the phlegmatick calm of the vain boasting philosopher! – But alas! the pang that now wounds my heart, seems to sigh a denial to the sentiments that my hand obeys! –

            Reflect (if not forgot my touching tale)

            How was each circumstance with aspics arm’d?3

Perhaps while I thus submit to my revered Friend’s, the inmost feelings of my soul, which flowed from a mind devoted to the softest affection that ever animated the human breast, and addressed to the object of that affection; they may on perusing my letters with the cool, unprejudiced eye of reason, find many expressions exceptionable. – All the defence which I shall make is a frank avowal, that I ever had a dislike to the affected prudery, and insincerity which is generally instilled into our den, from the most ungenerous motives – that of supposing that the more cold, (and permit me to add disingenuous4 their conduct is to the man, to whom they intend to give their hand, the more desirable they [f. 3] render themselves to him. – Mistaken notion! how contrary to the artless simplicity, and winning softness, which might ever to be the characteristick of a woman. – What happiness can we expect with that man, whose tenderness we despair of returning, unless like Daphne, when pursued by Apollo, we are ever flying before him. – Where then would be all those joys of virtuous love, which Thomson so elegantly describes in his Seasons, where he says: –

“Thought meeting thought, and will preventing will;

With boundless confidence; for nought but love

Can answer love – and render bliss secure!”5

And Doctor Young 

“Where souls, meet souls, reciprocally soft,

Each others pillar to repose divine.”6

A woman of honor (I am convinced) never appears half so amiable, or displays half so many endearing attractions, as when sensible to the merits of a man who deserves her affections. – These sentiments by the generality of mankind may perhaps be termed romantic – but they are not the less just, nor the less in nature; to those who dare to think; to those whose souls are capable of feeling the real powers of the affections; and to those only I appeal: – Two thirds of the world are strangers to the meaning of the word love: – take it in its common acceptation; – they feel passion, they feel esteem, they even [f. 4] feel that mixture of both, which is the best counterfeit of love; but of that vivifying fire, that lively tenderness which makes us forget ourselves, when the interest, the happiness, the honor of him we love is concerned; – that tenderness, which renders the object beloved, all we see in the creation – of this, how few have any idea.7 – For though I shall never again behold him, who was the object of my love! – yet my tenderness can never cease! nor would I give up the refined delight of loving him for all the advantages in the power of fortune to bestow.       

    It was my intention, when I first purposed writing a preface, or introduction to this book, to have given some account of our attachment previous to the correspondence; but I find the retrospection too painful – besides, as this manuscript, is designed only for the perusal of my most dear, and intimate Friends, (who have been witnesses to most of the scenes of my unhappy fate,) it would be unnecessary. – I shall therefore only surmise, that we had seen, and loved each other, through innumerable obstacles, and difficulties, for near two years before this correspondence commenced; which took place at a very distressing period, when we were prohibited from conversing, and a final separation threatened – which prohibition was productive of a fuller, and more interesting [f. 5] reciprocation of sentiments on paper, which riveted8 those sensations, that had before such too deep. – If I erred in thus indulging an affection (in opposition to duty,) which is implanted in our souls by the God of nature, and of love; I have sufficiently expiated it, if floods of unfeigned, and unceasing tears, may be termed an expiation. – All the excuse I have to plead is my knowledge of the merits of the object of my affections!—His virtues were his own! his faults were fortunes! – If exquisite sensibility – refined sentiments – warm affections – strength of understanding – seriousness of mind – and symmetry ^of^ form, could render a man amiable – My Eccles, was so! for those were all his own –

And he was mine – and I was – was most bles’d

Gay title of the deepest misery!

As bodies grow more pondrous robb’d of life,

Good lost, weighs more in grief, then gain’d in joy;

Like blossom’d trees o’erturn’d by vernal storms,

Lovely in death the beauteous man lay! –9

 

                                                Mary Hays

April 27th – 1781.  [f. 6]


1 Brooks, Correspondence 31-34; not included in Wedd, Love Letters.

2 Edward Young, “Night the Fifth,” from The Complaint (London: A. Millar and T. Cadell, 1768), 108. All references hereafter to The Complaint are from this edition.

3 Edward Young, “Night the Third,” The Complaint,  43.

4 disengenous] MS

5 James Thomson, The Seasons (1730-34), "Spring," ll. 1120-22; citations are from John Aikin's edition (London: J. Murray, 1778).

6 Loosely taken from Edward Young, The Complaint, “Night the Fifth,” 1.38.

7 As Brooks notes in her Introduction and in her notes to this letter, the preceding passage is largely paraphrased from Frances Brooke's The History of Emily Montague (4 vols, London: Dodsley, 1769), 3.162-63. See Brooks, Correspondence 12-14, 34.

8 rivited] MS

9 Edward Young, The Complaint, “Night the Third,” ll. 103-08, with “she replaced by “he.