25 September 1779 (2)

Letter 54. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday, 25 September 1779.1


“Unusual fear spreads o’er my panting heart,

And every sigh I fetch’s a killing dart.”2

    I don’t know what is the matter with me; I feel a strange depression of spirits this morning, that I know not how to account for; a sort of presentiment! – Heaven, avert my fears! – But don’t be uneasy, I assure you there is no cause; I would not see you this morning because I do not love to look serious on you, and indeed at present I am not in a smiling humor; I will endeavor to disperse this gloom; I own I am wrong in giving way to it, when [f. 210] there is no apparent reason why I should. – I fear, though I know not what, or why. – Should they endeavor to separate us, will you acquiesce? – would you leave me? – But why should I start such a supposition? be assured it proceeds only from the present lowness of my spirits, not from any knowledge or imagination that such an event will take place – to what purpose then am I rendering you uneasy by my folly? I can call it by no other name; pardon me, I would not willingly give you a moments pain; but when one is depressed, it is a relief to pour <--> ^our^ complaints into the bosom of a sympathizing friend. –

“We will not part! – what a joyless wild

This world would be without thee! – where alas!

Where should I find the bosom to partake

And double every joy? – Where should I find

The tender sympathizing heart to feel,

And lighten every woe? No more the tongue

Of friendship, sweetest music to the ear!

Should greet my desert sense; no more my hours

In social converse steal away unmark’d?”3

How pleasing are those assurances in your last letter that, “every time you see me you find fresh reason for loving me, and that your [f. 211] affections are continually increasing.” – Ever retain these sentiments, and I cannot be unhappy; your heart is of infinite value to me; I must possess it intire; have I not a right to demand it of you? – I don’t think we shall see the cottage again this season, unless you can persuade Miss Dunkin to be of our party; she is a sad silly girl with her fears; I shall be angry with her if she don’t overcome them; some little sacrifices are due to friendship, if nothing else will induce her; I shall ever reflect with pleasure on the afternoons we spent in that sweet retreat; how hard it is that those minds who are formed so exquisitely susceptible of the pleasures of nature and soft affection, should so often be deprived of the privilege of tasting such pure delightful enjoyments. Perhaps it is, that ^we^ should otherwise be too much attached to this world. –

“Lord! all belongs to thee beneath the sun,

“And as in heaven; on earth thy will be done.”4

But can I speak those lines from the inmost recesses of my heart? Alas! I fear I cannot; resignation is easier in theory than practice; are not you of my opinion? and so indeed is all mankind, as appears evidently from their conduct.

    Upon reading over what I have written, I am afraid you will imagine something has happened to occasion such complaining; [f. 212] a style so contrary to what I usually write in; but be not alarmed! there is nothing I do assure you, but a lowness of spirits which will sometimes seize me – this dismal weather may perhaps have some influence over them. – The season of desolation is indeed approaching; the season that will deprive us of the satisfaction of seeing each other so often [as we] have been used to do; but it may be better it should be so; too frequent interviews might expose us to censure, might perhaps be dangerous; but let us continue our correspondence, it will prove a consolation to us under every ill – it is truly pleasing; I have been rather apprehensive lest writing to me has been a less agreeable employment to you lately, than it used to be; are my fears groundless? You must own I have had some reason for them this last week. – My Mamma was talking with me a few days ago about you; she spoke very affectionately, and said, “she had no objection if we wished to correspond,5 (for she does not know we do) but could wish us not to see each other too frequently, for the world was so very censorious that they might put constructions on our meeting often which might give us pain.” – She does not imagine that our acquaintance will ever be broken off, but leaves it to time. – If then this communication of our sentiments on paper can give you any satisfaction; continue it, if not (but that is an idea I do not like to indulge) tell me so, and I will obey; what say you to that? am I not an obedient Girl? – But you know I am. – Depend upon it, I will see you as [f. 213] often as I can; though the approaching winter will prevent its being so often as I have done. – On thursday I hope to go to Lark-hall, if we can but prevail on that perverse girl to go with us, and if nothing (no engagements I mean, or bad weather prevents) – On tuesday I believe I shall go to Mrs Lepards. –

    You are an ungrateful creature to rail at that window, many appointments (which I have the vanity to believe were pleasing to you) have been made there; I beg you will not call it unlucky and more. But let me stop; I have got ^to^ the fourth side I vow – which is being too good by half. – After reading your little shabby letter yesterday I had a good mind to throw it out of the window to be revenged. – Conceited (coxcomb) I was going to say, but that is inclosed in a parenthesis, therefore you are not to read it. – My spirits seem better than they were; indeed there was no cause for their being so very low, rather the contrary – “but women are whimsical changeable things,”6 though in my esteem for you I am immutable – Ever shall you find the tenderest, the faithfullest of friends in your own

                                                      Maria Hays.


Saturday morn: Sepr: 25th: 1779. -


    [f. 214] Does not your conscience tell you that such a long epistle is more than you deserve; I am a silly girl, that’s certain, but I recall my words, I am only acting up to the christian principle of returning good for evil. – Once more Adieu! – Love your Maria, notwithstanding she ^is^ apt to be a little saucy sometimes. –

    I am glad I have seen you; I was afraid you was ill, as your window curtain had been down all the day. – Surely I shall have an epistle from you as long as a sermon tomorrow. – Don’t let any thing I have written give you any uneasiness – I was in a foolish sort of humor this morning – the same evil genius sat at my elbow and dictated the first part of my letter, which did once at yours; but I have now intirely banished him, and will never again submit to his influence. – I have just received a letter from Mrs Collier, she is very well, but does not talk of returning. – Once more, I am glad I have seen you – I give myself too much concern about your welfare by half. – Am I not the best of all possible good girls to day to send you such a prodigious epistle; I am a little ashamed of it though. – Adieu! –


1 Brooks, Correspondence 126-28; Wedd, Love Letters 102-05.

2 Source unknown.

3 Lines taken from an account of the play, The Earl of Essex, which appeared in the Universal Magazine 28 (January 1761), 30. The play was being performed at that time at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.

4 Source unknown, though portions from the Lord's Prayer.

5 corrispond] MS

6 Song 1285, "The Camp-Medley," in The Vocal Magazine; or, Compleat British Songster, vols 1-9 (1781), p. 347.