[2 October] 1779

Letter 60. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday evening, [2] October 1779.1  


Saturday evening Oct I know not the day of the month

    Let me consider a little – shall I write you a few lines tonight, or shall I not? – You will certainly think me too good; to prevent which, suppose I scold you a little – Don’t look so astonished! you deserve2 it for preventing my sleep last night, or rather for rendering my dreams uneasy; my troubled imagination was hovering on quarrels, coldnesses, and separations. – Most gladly I welcomed the morning beams that dispelled these unpleasing illusions, and convince me my fears were imaginary. – Was you to be absent now, I think I should feel a sort of (what shall I call it) vacancy, or awkwardness; from what does this idea proceed, can you tell me? – I charge you not to say it is love, for though a short word, it has a very broad sound with it; besides, you have not the vanity to suppose I love you! tis only esteem; I regard you with a preference: a tender friendship: there’s a pretty definition of my liking is there not?  ––– You promised me a dissertation3 on love; I don’t recollect that I have had it yet; I shall expect you to be amazing clever upon it, for ’tis really a very fruitful subject, very inspiring and so forth, especially to those who have felt its influence; ’tis a sort of contradictory passion, [f. 236] I believe, composed of pleasing pains, and painful pleasures; the proverb holds, “that to be wise and love, is hardly granted to the Gods above.”4

­_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “The power of love,

In earth, and seas, and air, and heav’n above

Rules unresisted with an awful nod,

By daily miracles, declar’d a God!

He blinds the wise, gives eyesight to the blind,

And moulds and stamps anew, a lovers mind.”5

So much for love, don’t you think my notions of it are very just? – But why do I ask you? – I don’t think you know any thing of the matter; though perhaps I should be mortified, if you was to say that I was right in my conjecture. – The ladies will sometimes assert things, for the pleasure of being contradicted; though you are not always clever at taking those hints; perhaps tis an intentional dullness, not remembering,

“That in love the only battery

Which with success you plan to conquer hearts,

Is flattery” –6

Pardon this levity! but I cannot possibly be serious to night. –

[f. 237]

I wish you would not be a free mason – In my opinion it is a mighty silly affair; will it not be an introduction to keeping a great deal of company, and drinking, although a man be ever so soberly inclined – I am almost afraid to trust you amongst them I own. – Has not curiosity a little share in your design of enlisting7 yourself in that society? – it certainly must, there can be no other motive; we are all apt to be tinctured with our Grand-mother Eve’s foible; but tis more inexcusable in you men, who ^as you^ term yourselves lords of the creation, ought to possess ^stronger^ minds. – Be not offended with your Maria, for presuming to dictate; it proceeds from her affection; she thinks you so pleasing as you are, that she cannot bear the idea of your being too largely connected with the fashionable world, lest the prevalance of example, and the libertinism of conversation, should obliterate those sentiments, or blunt the edge of that sensibility, which I have so often reflected on with the most pleasing emotions of admiration; and which has gained you an interest in my heart; and without which your person (though I allow it to be interesting too) could have made no impression, more than a transient approbation, like that with which we look on a pleasing picture. – I don’t like to go to Mr Parker’s tomorrow, as I am afraid there will be company; I had rather go when they are alone; besides I am so old fashioned as to dislike even [f. 238] the shadow of dissipation on a sunday; it is a day set apart as sacred, the only day in the seven; ought we then to profane it by devoting it to pleasure; not that I think I should be much edified by hearing Mr Brown; while I feel a contempt for the man’s understanding ’tis impossible to hear him with satisfaction, be his doctrine never so good; such is the depravity of human nature. – Good-night! – your sleep will be sweet if your Maria have any influence. –


1 Brooks, Correspondence 136-38; Wedd, Love Letters 113-14. 

2 diserve] MS

3 desertation] MS

4 Taken from "March" of Edmund Spenser's The Shepherd's Calendar (1579).

5 Lines taken from Dryden's Palamon and Arcite: Or The Knight's Tale (1700) (from Fables Ancient and Modern), Book 2, ll. 350-55.

6 Source unknown.

7 inlisting] MS