2 October 1779

Letter 59. John Eccles to Miss Hays, Saturday, 2 October 1779.1


  The letter which so much offended is missing. – 

    I fear I am too easy of forgiveness; for this reason I never durst confide in my tongue for resentment; it always leaves the task unfinished; indeed it hardly begins it. – I think I ought to have given you the letter I wrote yesterday morning, as a specimen of my abilities in scolding on paper; I know you would allow with me, that in that particular way I have few superiors. – Yet I am glad you have not seen it; tis too severe; I should have been on the rack till I had seen you afterwards. – Though upon my word and honor, you gave me rather a warm treat yesterday morning; tolerably high seasoned too, considering it was before breakfast; I should have returned the compliment I think. – But perhaps ’tis better as [f. 231] it is; ’tis better I should forget it; that will be more pleasing both to you and to me, than retaliation; yet (as they say to little children) you must promise to do so no more. – Indeed for the future, when I see you rather more serious than usual, I shall not leave you, till the clouds are vanished away, and serenity resumes her seat. – ’Tis dangerous to let your sex brood over trifling vexations, especially at this season of the year, (though ’tis fine to day) they either increase to the spleen or else settle their baleful effects on all around them. – Indeed you must not take offence on such light occasions, especially when I am without, and you within doors; ’tis the unlikeliest situation in the world to adjust petty grievances. – I know too it pains you; and causes sensations to arise which are far from being pleasing; the reflections which follow are like so many stings: you may say I speak from experience? I do so: and Horace says: Felix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum: (don’t laugh you know you set me the example of writing Latin) “happy are they who grow wise from the experience of others.”2 Well, now let me look over your last letters and see what they say, (I fancy I had better omit reading that of yesterday) and what kind of answer they deserve; I confess my inclinations are on the favorable side of the question; but what if I obey the injunctions of that same partial lady, with the black ribbon over her eyes?3 – Oh! don’t you tremble? – Does not your conscience recoil at the idea? – Methinks I see you look very grave; “But be not afraid”, you have no reason; I believe I need not have told you that: you have one to plead on your behalf, whose eloquence cannot fail; ’tis ever [f. 232] successfully persuasive. – After reading your letters (both of them) I cannot find in my heart to chide you at all; I accept the penitential strain of the last; it over-balances the severity of the former. – I own I should have found myself at a great loss what to write, had I neither seen you nor received this morning’s letter: I must either have written in a strain which would give both you and myself pain, or my pen must have belied the feelings of my heart: how could I have acted? – But you have released me from every difficulty, and I am free again (I don’t mean such a freedom as Mr C’s) I still remain your willing slave; but I mean I feel no embarrassment in writing to you; the theme has its wonted powers of inspiration, and I can unbosom myself without restriction. – This brings to my mind the kind enquiry in your last letter; you say “I complained of a gloominess of spirits, and beg to know the cause;” the question is grateful, ’tis tender, but it was a species of depression, which, though we feel it, we find very hard to account for; a croud of little reflections on the darker scenes of past, and present life, you well know their influence on our minds. – I avoid poring on them as much as possible, but there are times when we cannot entirely shut them out. – Even to wish for happier times is dangerous, as it naturally reflects on the infelicity of the present. – Were reason ever at our call, how many of our griefs might be prevented, or at least softened; but when we court her aid, we at the same time reject it. – The post-man with Mrs Collier’s letter has just disturbed me; I hope he has not [f. 233] taken you from that most delightful employ, I mean of writing to your humble servant. – I shall grow jealous of that woman; every thing looks yellow already; she engrosses a great deal of your time. – It will be safest to send her ^a^ challenge before things go much further; if ever I know you write to her more than once a week, she is a dead woman.


Sunday morning. – Well here is going to be a fine day you to go to Ballham, and though I don’t much like the scheme for a sunday, yet as you are engaged, I am glad, that you may enjoy the afternoon; I am not so selfish, as to wish to deprive you of pleasure, because I have no share in it myself; that would be a contracted disposition indeed. – I hardly know how to dispose of myself today; this morning I am at lecture with you; in the afternoon I shall be there by myself; (no small mortification) – but in the evening; what then; – Why I wish to go to meet you; – but the time of your coming home is so uncertain, and the former part of the evening will be so dark, that I fear I shall miss you: however I’ll speak to you on this subject by and by, when I see you. Mutual forgiveness has passed, and now you are my dear Maria again; and what was you before? Why, truly the same, in spite of pride. Really I had not an idea of offending you on friday morning, nor did I know when I left you that you were so; but I know trifling things will prey upon the mind at some times, more than others. – I shall see [f. 234] you tomorrow morning I suppose, and remember I shall expect you to go to Lark-hall next week, if the weather continue fine, so good morning.

                 Eternéllement le votre

                                J: Eccles. –


October 2d: 1779. –


    I am alarmed at your sudden illness, yet was so stupid as not to ask Miss Betsy what was the matter with you, nor whether you would be at meeting in the afternoon; I hope you will. – I always tremble lest I should (though innocently) be the cause of your pains; I fear some accident on my account; I fear tis for me you are unhappy; if so tell me.  I thought you were gone to Mrs Parker’s,4 when I saw you was not at lecture: I shall be very uneasy till I see you. – You wont go there this afternoon; I am glad of it, because I am resolved to see you. – Adieu! the blessing of heaven attend you. –


1 Brooks, Correspondence 134-36; Wedd, Love Letters 110-13.

2 Source unknown (does not appear to be by Horace). 

3 Lady Justice.

4 Ann Lepard Parker, Mary Hays's close friend at this time. A James Parker and family lived in Gainsford Street and most likely attended the Baptist chapel there. Ann Lepard married Henry Parker in 1779; most likely he is the son of James Parker.