22 September 1779

Letter 50. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Wednesday afternoon, 22 September 1779.1


Dearest Maria,

    How hard it is to be abridged in our liveliest pleasures, and how sincerely can we lament the absence of that, which when present assisted us in the enjoyment of them – Tis for this I deeply regret the revolution of the seasons. – How swiftly have the fragrant spring and cheerful summer passed; the delightful, the serene evening is no more; the cool shade, the refreshing breezes begin to lose their charms. – Hardly will the willow grove (where I have experienced the most delicious pleasures and their keenest reverse) afford us what to admire in its declining beauties. – But a very few times more will its wonted visitants court its encircling shade; deprived of its rustling honors, and its cool protection becoming useless, they’ll pass it neglected by: just like the sordid, the ungenerous world; they pay their homage where interest and convenience invite; but let these lose their existence, and alas! how changed are the men of large professions! their boasted sincerity is mere falsehood. – What a humiliating reflection is it on human nature, that external accidents, such as beauty or fortune, should ever be considered of greater value than the innate, fixed principles and affections of the mind, and that the loss of either of the former, should be considered of greater consequence, than the want of a sensible and virtuous mind; yet such are the low ideas of far the greater part of mankind, the personal qualifications claim their first regard, whilst the eternal mind (if thought of at all) is esteemed of trivial notice. – But to return; winter approaches, and brings me no other consolation, than that which is desirable from solitude; were it solitude to be secluded from all the world but you, I’d bid it thrice welcome, and with the warmest rapture immediately retire to a cell. – But, my Maria, I am to lose your company (the world’s a trifle) and what is happiness, but you, and eternally to love you? – And yet, my loved Maria, I am unhappy; oh! Pardon the expression, should I say I am unhappy? – Your tenderness (by what more affectionate name can I call it?) forbids it. – I want the power of expression to tell you how much I am indebted to your goodness, and how much I love you. – Yet you know there are circumstances, which sometimes I must feel with pain; but I have hope; I still comfort myself. – Conscious of the sensibility and partiality of your heart, I rejoice; and conscious too (I speak it with pride) with what an equal flame my bosom glows, oh! instruct me heaven to be just to her, even to revere her and love her. – In spite of every obstacle, I will have hope:

“The storms of wintry time will quickly pass,

“And one unbounded spring encircle all.”2

Thus far yesterday morning; suppose I now scold you a little, do not you deserve it? – Yet I cannot find it in my heart to begin; I’ll wait till the afternoon when I hope to see you; If you then behave yourself passablement bien,3 perhaps I may forgive you, otherwise you must take consequences. – Yet I know you don’t much fear me, nor do I wish you should. – How could you look so serious this morning; were you afraid to dispense your smiles? Did you think they would not become you, or that I did not deserve them? – They always do become you, and ’tis beyond the shadow of doubt that I always deserve them. – The morning was rather dull, and you was (perhaps) most tremendously fearful, lest you should be deprived of the pleasure of my company this afternoon. – That’s the best reason yet; well, it shall be so; you are a very good girl for the thought. – I could not write any thing that would have been pleasing to you: I expected you in the afternoon, and after being disappointed there; I thought myself certain of seeing you, either going to, or returning from Mrs Collier’s (as I understood on sunday evening, you intended to go for her letters) there after waiting for two hours a second disappointment overtook me; this you must know was nothing to enliven my spirits, so I came home and went to bed in a pet; and yet you could hardly afford me a smile this morning: are you not an unfeeling hussey? – It is amazing odd; but when I think I have the greatest reason in the world for being angry with you, so certain have you the upper hand of me; you think you have still greater reason than I, and in a few minutes can convince me of it. – Really this morning I was almost ashamed of myself to think I could be so hard-hearted not to have written to you, and that I made you wait so long at the upper window; but I always thought you an excellent rhetorician; your words and looks have too great influence with me. – That window of yours is a most unlucky place to compose any difference; it keeps me at too great a distance; your words have not half the effect they would have, were I a little nearer; I imagine the air which passes between us, takes off from the persuasion, with which they come from your mouth. – I have been thinking of the Indian Philosopher this morning, and wonder I was born so long before you; I can assign no other reason for it, than that the Gods found it difficult to pair me. – After having formed me, they saw me of such exquisite workmanship, that it took them three or four years to send a match for me.4 – Vanity! you say: but am I not paying you a compliment? – I assure you, ’twas unintentional, so you must excuse it. – But seriously should I rack my brain for compliments, till I had exhausted all, they would fall far short of what you merit: my dear Maria, to endeavor to compliment you, is paying you a very bad compliment; but be assured you have all my heart, which I flatter myself is of greater value than all the fine things I could say, Adieu! I am

                   With the warmest affection ever yours

                                        J. Eccles. –


Wednesday afternoon, Sep. 22nd: 1779. 

Excuse the idle vanity of this letter, I am ashamed of it. –


1 Brooks, Correspondence 118-20; Wedd, Love Letters 95-97.

2 The closing lines from Thomson's The Seasons, "Winter," ll. 1068-69.

3 Fairly well.

4 A reference to Eccles's birth year 1755 (Hays was born in 1759).