18 September 1779

Letter 46. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Saturday morning, 18 September 1779.1


Dear Maria,

    Really I think we were made for each other, and cannot help reflecting how fortunate it was I ever came to London; many circumstances, which induced me to leave my home, and which I used to term accidents, now are evidently so many providences; even the death of my <–> ^Mother^ which I have so much regretted, both on her account (she was the tenderest of mother’s) [f. 176] and as the source of what has since befallen me, I can now acquiesce in; convinced that,

“All-gracious providence is good and wise

Alike in what it gives and what denies.”2

Had my <–> ^mother^ been still within the narrow sphere of human existence in all probability I should never have seen you; she would never have parted with me; I was her favorite. But she has left this, for a celestial world, and I live in hopes of rejoining her there. – And had I never seen you, could I ever have been happy?—Is there another Hays in the universe? – Is there in the scope of creation another in whom I could look with such inexpressible delight? – No, I should have loved with an inferior love; the softer movements of the heart would have lain inactive; ’tis you only can put them in motion; I should have never known of what powers I am possessed, had not you called them forth. – Did you ever read in Dr. Watts’s Lyrick Poems, some verses intitled, The Indian Philosopher?3 – I cannot exactly recollect them; but I remember they are very pretty; if you never read them, I’ll write them out for you; I know you’ll be charmed with them; there is such a delicacy in the sentiment on which they turn; if it has a little of the fabulous, ’tis yet very pleasing. – ’Tis pleasing to me, because, perhaps I have too much vanity. – I have the vanity to think myself formed with sentiments, with ideas correspondent with yours; [f. 177] and if I possess them not, I flatter myself most agreeably. – I wish to think myself in every respect like you; I wish to compare myself and you to Celadon and his Amelia. – “The same distinguished by their sex alone.”4 – At worst, this is a very laudable ambition, an ambition worthy of a lover – therefore it cannot be displeasing to you. –

    What a pleasant walk! what a sweet ramble we had yesterday; unmixed with any thing to embitter5 it – so would I ever live with my Maria; so with her would I pass my days in tranquility, unruffled by the intrusion of the vain, the impertinent world. – Can the mind feel that real, that enlivening satisfaction in the circles of the gay which flows from the enjoyment of a dear friend in an agreeable rural excursion? – Can the fantastic characters which form too great a part of the society of the present age, supply the want of that peace, of that harmony of soul, which a survey of nature, and the well turned conversation of pure friendship ever leave behind them? – How I could enjoy “an elegant sufficiency,” and such a “shady blest retreat,”6 as my Maria loves! – I think I should leave all the world behind me, and with her be supremely happy. – But let me not wish it; ’tis dangerous; – let me rather await the destinations of providence, which will order all things aright; ’tis safest; who knows what is in reserve for us? – Perhaps the clear sun of prosperity may succeed the cold winter of adverse fortune. – There may [f. 178] yet be in store for us, pleasures as exquisite, as our disappointments have been severe and piercing. – ’Tis a delightful morning; why will you be so sluggish? – Why will you not arise and see a sight you never yet saw? – I mean the rising sun; he is just now peeping over our horizon, with smiles upon his countenance, again to cheer the face of nature; still he looks propitious; a few days more and his visits will be less conspicuous; clouds and storms will intervene and hide him from our view; saddened nature will mourn his absence and resign herself to the chilling arms of a long winter; how like the round of human life! The fickle goddess of fortune is ever changing sides; sometimes she looks and seems to promise a never fading verdure; ere long, she turns her back, and the blossoms which her smiles produced wither and die away; “such the glories of this world;”7 – Yet hope, the comforter hope, looks forward and anticipates the time when nature as well as fortune again shall smile.

 --------------------  “Th’ inchantress hope

“Follows us here, nor leaves us when we die.8

You must endeavor by some means to get Miss Dunkin’s9 company next week, otherwise I shall almost despair of seeing the cottage10 again this season; but if she cannot go, positively you must; I can dispense with her company, but I insist on your going; ’tis the last [f. 179] long walk we can promise ourselves this season, and it proved so agreeable the last time that I cannot think of being disappointed. – Where there are but few pleasures, it would be a crime to lose any. – I intended to scold you in this letter, but you made atonement for all your offences on thursday; so I see you are looking out of your window and consequently am

            Ever your’s  

                        J: Eccles.

 

Saturday morn: Sepr 18th 1779.


1 Brooks, Correspondence 110-12; Wedd, Love Letters 86-88.

2 Lines adapted from Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle I, ll. 205-06. 

3 Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was an Independent minister, private tutor, and generally considered the greatest hymn writer of the eighteenth century. He spent most of his adult life in Stoke Newington, near London. His Catechism (first published in 1730) was mostly Calvinistic and was widely used in England and America, going through numerous editions in the eighteenth century; nevertheless, he flirted with various forms of heterodoxy in his latter years. Among his other popular works was Horae Lyrica. Poems chiefly of the Lyrical Kind (1706). Watts's works were repeatedly reprinted throughout the 18th century. Watts's The Indian Philosopher was composed in 1701. 

4 Line from Thomson's The Seasons, "Summer," l. 1174.

5 imbetter] MS

6 Line from Thomson's The Seasons, "Spring," l. 1158.

7 Line from Young's The Complaint, "The Consolation," in "Night the Ninth" (p. 186). 

8 Source unknown.

9 A sister of Hays's brother-in-law, John Dunkin, Jr., Hays's brother-in-law.  

10 Lark Hall, in Lambeth (see next letter).