16 November 1779

Letter 98. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Tuesday evening, 16 November 1779.1

[f. 363]

My dearest Maria,

         Though we cannot go where we intended to day, yet the time which we then should have passed together shall still be yours; – ’tis dedicated to you; – the minutes would then have glided along more sweetly, but this pleasure remains to delude them with; by any means to suffuse the softness of complacency o’er my little girl’s countenance, is always a pleasing employ; and may I not hope this will have that effect? It will, or else I flatter myself. – I am half afraid you will be so much engaged now that Mrs Collier is returned home, that you will forget me; – I own, for several reasons, I ought not to complain yet, but I thought it would be prudent just to suggest the hint now, that I may not have cause to complain of you in reality: is not this a good scheme to keep you faultless? – There I think you must allow the latter part of that sentence to be very civil; – I am disposed to be rather polite this evening; indeed I was going to compliment you, but on second thoughts, and on looking towards your window, – I think I had better not; – I am doubtful you have not been writing to day; indeed hitherto you have been punctual, and I know not why you should begin to be lazy now; you cannot plead me for a precedent; – my two last letters indeed [f. 364] have been something concise, but then consider how much longer mine in general are than yours. –

     The impressions your letters have made on my heart are indelible; – never, never can I cease to remember your tenderness; it is ever new in my memory; – not a minute passes without bringing you to my thoughts; ever shall I feel the most grateful returns of affection for all your kindness; – ’tis productive of that peace and consolation which the universe without you could not bestow. – How disinterested is true sincere love! – It wishes nothing but the heart; – every thing else is of the most diminutive value, in comparison with that. – What are titles, estates and grandeur? – Can they give happiness? – Are they to be considered with those pleasures which arise from sympathy of souls? – Where two hearts are united by that exalted passion, which virtue and purity of mind inspires, no prospects or advantages whatever, have sufficient weight to part them; – ’tis enough for each to possess the other’s undivided affections, every thing else they can leave to the disposal of the all-wise author and giver of all. – How few are endued with that susceptibility of soul, which gives the most delicate cement to love! – How few are capable of a refined attachment! – Fortune, something attracting in the person, and perhaps an apparent share of good nature, are sufficient qualifications for most; – these only are consulted, and thought the only requisites to happiness; – many [f. 365] a marriage, I believe, has been hazarded on these circumstances singly. But is this love; is this soft affection? – Oh! no: they are but small requisites towards it. – What is it to,

                “Thought meeting thought, and will preventing will?”

                            What is it to,

Perfect esteem, enliven’d by desire

Ineffable, and sympathy of soul?”1

Oh! my Maria, ours is an attachment of a purer kind; – it is not founded on such trifles as any thing this low world can give; it is of the soul; has it not stood the refining fire of bitter affliction? – Has any opposition been able to weaken it? – No; – I may answer for both, it has not; and for myself I can say it has enabled me the better to see and esteem your virtues; and by it, the refined and elevated principles of your soul, have been rendered more conspicuous. – I have infinite obligations to you, such I never shall be able to fulfill; – the confidence you reposed in me, from the commencement of our acquaintance, has been most generous; but it has not been committed to one who can be ungrateful; no, it always has, and ever will be preserved inviolate. – Unknown as I was, [f. 366] without any friends to countenance me, young and utterly inexperienced in the ways of love and of the world, my Maria herself was my friend; she on whom I then looked with a fond partiality which I could by no means account for, was my tender pleader; but well she knew who possessed my undivided heart; she knew on whom my affections were fixed. – I have ever thought there was something extraordinary in our first intimacy; – from the first time I ever had an opportunity of observing you, I felt something in your favor which I was a stranger to before; (for I was not such an adept in the science of love as you have been persuaded to believe) and I thought I saw the same prejudice depicted in your countenance; this was several months before I had the courage to speak to you; but I suppose you can recollect I was constant at the meeting though it was seldom you ever saw me look at you; – I was then diffident and entirely artless; I was fearful of offending you should I presume to take any liberties; – this might have been a sufficient evidence to my power of discernment, that I was but little skilled in the ways of love; – for it is very seldom such are over modest. After some time I ventured to speak to you, and found you, “all I wished”; nor was you (like many of your sex) severe to me; I foresaw many difficulties, but, my dear Maria, I loved you: and ever will you be nearest the heart of your sincerely affectionate

                                            J. Eccles. –


Tuesday evening Novr 16th 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 195-97; Wedd, Love Letters 171-72. 

2 Lines from Thomson’s The Seasons, “Spring.”