9 October 1779

Letter 65. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday morning, undated [9 October 1779].1


      Indeed you have been rather unkind to me these few days past! your Maria seems to have lost her power of pleasing; lost all the influence she ever flattered herself of possessing over the heart of her Eccles – If I have offended, it has been unintentionally; tis ever my constant study to oblige;  I tremble at the thoughts of your displeasure; why then will you make me unhappy by assuming that coldness bordering on severity, with which you treated me last night, and this morning? – consider – when I deny any of your requests, such as walking this morning, or going to Lark-hall, it proceeds not from an unwillingness to oblige you; but from an impossibility of complying; you know the delicacy of our situation; why then will you distress me, by appearing angry at what equally pains your Maria? – Can you love her, and at the same time treat her with that apparent coldness and indifference, which you too well know gives her an heart-felt pang. – Ah! think that your little girl has often drank deep of the bitter cup of adversity; has been early initiated to sufferings! – tis to you, (who have so often declared you loved her above all her sex) that she looks for consolation! – If you add to her unhappiness, she will indeed feel herself deserted, friendless and forlorn. – My spirits are depressed beyond expression,  the starting tear at this moment hides the paper from my eyes. – Yesterday evening and this morning, I have been trying (but in vain) to persuade myself that my fears are groundless; and that you love me with all the fervency of affection which your letters express –––––– I dare not go on, for fear I should offend again – but could you see your girl at this moment, compassion and tenderness would obliterate every trace of your displeasure. – [f. 261] You have been affected with her tears – and – but I must lay down my pen. –

     Pardon me, I scarce know what I have written – I am not happy, because I fear you begin to think a pursuit tiresome, which affords so little prospect of success; I have given you my heart, that is all that it is in my power to bestow; it has nothing but sincerity to recommend it; perhaps ’tis a trifle not worth your acceptance. – Yet is it possible, that you can forget the many vows of everlasting constancy which you have so repeatedly made? – I know not what to think; I am perplexed, puzzled,

                        “My mind a chaos of confusion seems”2

Give me a few lines this afternoon; explain to me the real situation of your heart, without the least disguise – Tell me what I am to do – what I am to think – what expect – tell me whether you still love me (and if you do) forgive my fears, and confess that they were not intirely without foundation. – Will you be still my friend? – or will you intirely desert your Maria? – She will be agitated beyond measure, till she receives your answer to this – that answer she is determined shall either confirm, or dispel3 her doubts – on that answer all depends – you must in [f. 262] that accept, or renounce her offered heart – there you must reiterate your vows of fidelity, or declare them void. – Oh! hasten it to me –with trembling and palpitation shall I open it – but I shall know the contents by your countenance; smile on me, and I will take it as an omen for good, I will believe you still, the faithful, the affectionate friend, that has so long had (and still continues to have) my best esteem – if on the contrary you avert your eyes, and look grave, I shall from that conclude, my peace of mind is a matter of indifference to you, and that I am no longer beloved – but what a distressing supposition – it cannot be! no; I am convinced you are incapable of such ingratitude – you will still look on your Maria with complacency, and cause her, to chide herself for suspecting you. – The few lines which she so impatiently expects will evince to her the folly of entertaining such suspicions, (do I flatter myself?) Adieu! – with the most animated esteem I shall be all your own


                                                Maria -

Saturday morning


1 Brooks, Correspondence 148-49; Wedd, Love Letters 123-24.

2 A line from a poem "Translated from the French" by Eliza Haywood (c. 1693-1756) in Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1724), 10. 

3 dispell] MS