30 August 1779

Letter 30.  Mary Hays to John Eccles, Monday, 30 August 1779.1

 

    Your conduct has something very mysterious in it – the more I reflect, the more it puzzles me – do you really love me; or do you want to break off the connection between us – if so tell me plainly at once, and do not trifle with me any longer – it would have been more generous to have left me at first – you might then have gone off with honor, and have left me the melancholy satisfaction of thinking it was not want of affection – “but strong necessity’s supreme command”2 that occasioned our separation2 – but now when you have pursued me so long, and vainly flattered me your love would be eternal – when you too plainly saw the tenderness with which I regarded you – when I had suffered so much for your sake – the censures of the world – the remonstrances of friend’s – and still my faith remaining unmoved – none of these things hurting me, but on your account – I felt them but for you – I endeavored to console you, to administer comfort when my own heart has been almost broke; my health injured – (but you had vowed ever to love me – repeatedly said, “that no obstacles, or time could ever shake your constancy,”) I guileless and unsuspicious too easily believed you – there would have been a meanness in doubting the many professions you had made – which my soul despised the idea of – I judged of your heart from my own – I believed you incapable of ingratitude, and thought you possessed of those sentiments, [f. 120] of that sensibility, which characterizes the man of feeling.4 – Alas! I fear I have been deluding myself with fancied happiness. – “How coolly you can write you will leave me, and wish me happiness in another attachment.” – No Mr Eccles – have not so mean an opinion of me – my heart is not formed of such light materials – when once engaged ’tis fixed as fate – ever steady in my disposition, it does not soon receive an impression – but when attached, it is stamped in indelible5 characters which cannot be effaced. – You are at liberty to act as your inclination dictates – I seek not to bind you – I may suffer, but pride will prevent my reproaching you – I have a soul too haughty to complain – Ah foolish! is not what I have written a contradiction to this assertion. – I hardly know what I say – but be assured, if you desert me, I will never trouble you, but seek in retirement to regain that repose which you have robbed me of. – You tell me to restore myself to the world and its amusements – no never! – it is a world I despise – all made up of treachery and ingratitude – its amusements have no charms for me – they never had – and now they are doubly distasteful. – A too thinking mind is a misfortune – I envy the gay, the inconsiderate. – Parents who are assiduous to cultivate the minds of their children, are only laying a foundation for misery – those tender, those refined sentiments are only sources of pain. – Had it pleased the Almighty, to have taken me in my infancy, what anxieties should I have erased. – But I will not murmur – these trials perhaps are necessary [f. 121] to wean me from earthly, transitory things. – Enable me O Lord, to bow with resignation to thy corrections – enable me to say “thy will be done.”6 – but perhaps I am wronging you – I wish I may – Alas! too much I wish it – too tenderly I esteem you! – despise me not for the avowal – my heart has no reserves – it is a stranger to the art of dissimulation – its feelings, its affectations, are so pure, that vestal’s might not blush to own them – why then should I attempt to conceal them. – You fear my Mamma’s displeasure – She does not imagine that the affair is broke off – she does not think it ever will – nor does she appear solicitous about it, but leaves it to time – imagining perhaps, (for she does not know the alteration in your sentiments) that constancy will sooner, or later be rewarded. – But are your sentiments really changed – yes – Oh no, I will not think so. – Yet tell me frankly – fear not my reproaches – not one shall escape from my lips, or my pen – in silence will I acquiesce with your determinations; and forgive all that is past. – But seek not any more to delude me with false endearments – with professions of love, which the head dictates, not the heart – be satisfied with the triumph already gained, nor soothe7 me again to deceive – Surely you do not act thus to shew your power – that would indeed be most ungenerous. – I am perplexed, I know not what to think – I shall expect a letter on thursday, let that dissipate my doubts, or confirm my fears – but let the contents of ^it^ prove what it may, I shall ever [f. 122] remember you with too much tenderness! – and though abandoned –

                            Be all your own,

                                                Maria –

 

Monday August 30th 1779.


1 Brooks, Correspondence 84-86; Wedd, Love Letters 63-64. 

2 Line from Thomson's The Seasons, "Autumn," l. 215.

3 seperation] MS

4 Taken from the title of the popular work of sentimental fiction, Henry Mackensie's The Man of Feeling (1771), to which many of its laudable traits in the novel's hero are also being claimed by Eccles, much to Hays's applause.

5 indeliable] MS

6 Matthew 26:42.

7 sooth] MS