11 October 1779

Letter 67. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Monday evening, 11 October 1779.1


[f. 263]

        I have been trying all day to forget the letter you showed me this morning,2 but fear I shall not succeed unless you procure me a draught of the waters of oblivion; you may get it at the chymist I dare say. – How could you have the cruelty to write in such a manner to your Maria? – indeed it would have broke her heart! – Such severity, without one tender expression mixed with it, was more then she deserved. – Had you loved her, could you have done so? – “From this time let there be an end of every thing between us”, (or a sentence to the same purpose, still vibrates on my ears, or rather seems before my eyes.) And could you mean so, even for a moment? – can a heart that has felt the power of love, so easily, for such a trifle give up the beloved object? – Oh, no; ’tis impossible! – Don’t be so hasty for the future: only consider for a moment what might have been the consequence, had you given3 me that epistle; think what your poor little girl must have suffered; how wretched you would have made her! – My God! I shudder at the thought! and would it not afterwards have pained you to reflect that in obeying the dictates of (may I say pride) you had plunged her, whom you have so often [f. 264] professed to love, and who regards you with the tenderest partiality, into distress and wretchedness. – You have but one fault; could you divest yourself of that, how amiable would you be; with what ineffable delight your Maria would behold you. – One more remark on that unpleasing epistle, and I will have done with it for-ever – If I recollect right, you mentioned something towards the conclusion of it, of my using you ill, because I supposed myself superior to you in a point of fortune. – No, Mr Eccles, I have a soul incapable of such meanness4; were I possessed of thousands, they should be yours – millions without you, could not give happiness; your heart is of inestimable value to me; your Maria would not exchange her interest there, for all the advantages in the power of fortune to give; did she possess an affluent fortune, she would not hesitate a moment sharing it with him on whom she has bestowed her heart; which she flatters herself, is of more value; never then again suffer an idea to intrude so unworthy of yourself and me, but let us mutually forget, and forgive, all that is past; the recollection is too painful to be admitted; be not angry with me for taking notice of, and in some measure answering your letter of this morning; the contents of it so sensibly affect me, that indeed I cannot help it; yet if you are angry again; what shall I do? – you know not how much your displeasure pains me;  I own (that as it appeared to you) I was to blame yesterday; it was a misunderstanding; you must pardon your Maria, and she will never [f. 265] again offend; it has given me such a timidity, that I write with trembling, least I should say any thing that may not be pleasing; I shall not be able to shake off5 this restraint till you assure me of intire forgiveness, and of your returning love (which I begin to fear I have forfeited). – Tell me in what manner you would have me behave, and I will endeavor to conform to your rules; am I not a good girl? – you ought to praise me sometimes, as well as chide; you should try to melt me with love, as well as freeze me with fear. – What lordly creatures you men are! – I am sure your wives ought ^to^ practice the doctrine of non-resistance, and passive-obedience, if they wish to live tolerably happy – You are enough to make one shrink back like the sensitive plant, at the thought of matrimony; many of my sex annex the idea of freedom to it, because they get from under the jurisdiction of their parents; but matrimony and liberty, are a –– girlish connection –– too well you know your power; my frankness of disposition has betrayed me into an error (wise by experience) I advise the ladies never to let the reins go out of their hands; men are not generous in those cases. – Yet still you are dearer to my soul than ––finish the sentence for your Maria H. –

    I am almost afraid to give you this letter, though I think I have not written any thing that can displease you in it; if I have, I am sure it has been undesigned; you must therefore look on it with a favorable eye; never be angry with me any more; it [f. 266] leaves such a constraint; such a depression on my spirits, that weakens every faculty of my soul. – Good night – may you taste that peace, which you so often deprive your Maria of; her prayers, are ever for your happiness and welfare, and that the best of blessing may attend you;  though you should desert and forget her, yet will she ever remember you with the tenderest esteem; you have taught her what l--e is, and for no other can she ever feel it – accuse her not of caprice – suspect her not of inconstancy – whilst life and thought remains her heart will be faithfully all your own.

“If I am false, or swerve from truth and love;

When time is old, and hath forgot itself

In all things else, let it remember me;

And after all comparisons of falsehood,

To stab the heart of perjury in maids,

Let it be said, false as Maria Hays."6

– Monday even: Octr. 11th: 1779.


1 Brooks, Correspondence 149-51; Wedd, Love Letters 126-28.   

2 . . . The letter there mentioned is missing. –  [note by original editor]

3 giving] MS

4 meaness] MS

5 of] MS

6 Lines from John Dryden's play, Troilus and Cressida (1783), Act II, scene 2, with "Maria Hays" replacing "Cressida" in the final line.