22 October 1779

Letter 75. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Friday morning, 22 October 1779.1

[f. 293]

My dear Maria.

         I made so sudden an exit last night, that I had not time to ask you to let me know how you was this morning; I have not seen you at the window, which makes me rather fearful; yet why should I fear, you did not appear to me to be dangerous last night? – Let me hope then; – yet whether I hope or fear, in whatever concerns you, I feel myself deeply interested. – I have just seen you; – why so serious? what pains my dearest? Are you so ill you cannot smile? Or what is it vexes you? – I cannot bear to see you look so. – Your countenance is expressive of something more than bodily pain; are not your spirits depressed? – They are, and I feel mine infected; yet I will not give way to their humor. – Heaven forbid though my heart should be steeled to sympathy; to console or ease you, pain would lose its hateful form and become pleasure; give me half the sensations you experience; they are mine. – “Joy flies monopolists; it calls for two;” and “grief when divided, is hushed into peace.”2 – So said the immortal Young. – I am the more concerned when I see sadness depictured in your face, because I cannot immediately know the cause of it; I always fear too I have by some means been the cause of it; was I seen at your house last night? – But [f. 294] I must remain in suspense till tomorrow morning; if you are pretty well, and the morning is at all favorable, I know I may expect then to see you; I shall be very uneasy till then; though I hope all my fears are without foundation.

    What a dull, rainy evening! and I am doomed to spend it by myself, yet shall I not be conversing with you? – And is that solitude? – if so; well may it be said ^to^ be “sometimes best society;”3 for next to my little girl’s real company, this ideal converse is most pleasing. – The oftener I see you, and the more of your company I enjoy, the more endearing do you grow. – Is it possible we can ever be parted? – It must be something more than human, that can divide us. – I cannot express how much I am my dear Maria’s; my heart beats quicker at thoughts of her. – How engaging has your conduct ever been to me, and how void of guile; had you been skilled in the arts of your sex, and practiced them, how weak would have been your influence in proportion to what it now is! I am confirmed in the first opinion I ever formed of you, that you are artless, sincere, faithful and generous; these qualities attached my heart to you; I saw my little girl’s soul in her face, and she was all amiable. – What can I say to the assurances contained in your last letter; words would only mock what I feel; yet I must say, what I have ever said before, my whole heart is yours; accept it, ’tis the only present I can make you; that I am incapable of infidelity and that I am sensible only to your charms. – [f. 295] Yet I think you are pretty well convinced of this already; the doubts you entertain of me are very few I believe. – I have often wondered how I (a stranger, entirely unknown here, without friends, with many enemies) obtained my Maria’s partial thoughts; we felt the first glowings of affection only from the piercing, the softening look; you had your family, and the world to encounter; I only a few frowns, and I’m sure no mortal ever dreaded them more than I. – Never was there a more timorous lover; I wonder you had patience with me; many an effort did I make to speak to you, long before I had the power to do it, and when I did speak, ’twas from a sudden emotion without giving myself much time to think: I did not cut quite so awkward a figure as I expected; I recollected I acquitted myself afterwards with a little honor. – Yet how a little time has altered me; I can now speak to you with greater freedom than to any one in the world beside; I considered myself then, like a servant on trial; but now as one you have approved; am I not right? – I was called away before I could finish this last night, so shall add a few lines (if you allow me time) this morning; one cannot see now till half-past six, and in a gloomy morning not so soon. – I think if I go into the country, the only enjoyment I shall have, will be in the manner of spending my mornings and in writing to you afterwards. – There are such delightful and romantic walks, as must unavoidably inspire, such as take pleasure in them, with warm ideas. – I fancy I shall turn poet there; when wandering on the hills where the timorous deer skip and play, and from [f. 296] whence you have the most unbounded and luxuriant prospects; such as villages surrounded with fruitful meadows, gentlemen’s seats with well cultivated gardens, and ever verdant plains; at your feet a fine river winding along in natural meanders, and clear as chrystal; and behind you, forests covered with lofty oaks; I say can one roam there without feeling that enthusiastic ardor which elevates the soul to themes more than mortal? – Should I go, (which is very doubtful), you may expect such compliments from thence, as the rural genii can afford; I shall devote my time to you intirely. – But I wish to continue near my little girl; absence is not necessary to raise the flame I feel – Good morning! – I am ever yours,

                                                        J. Eccles. –


Friday morn. Octr. 22d. 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 163-64; Wedd, Love Letters 139-40. 

2 First line from Young, The Complaint, "Night the Second" (p. 24); source for the second line is unknown.

3 Phrase from Milton's Paradise Lost, Book 9.