4 November 1779 (2)

Letter 88. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Thursday morning, 4 November 1779.1

Thursday morn: Novr 4th 1779.

My dear Maria,              

         I cannot help sometimes recollecting the folly, (to give it no worse a name) we have been so often guilty of, in being offended at trifling incidents, of not the least consequence in themselves. – As though we were not unhappy enough before, we were always ready to add to it. – We ourselves, rendered at least half our time burthensome [f. 338] and painful. – I have frequently been at a loss to know from whence this arose, and how it was possible for two souls united by the tenderest connections, to become each other’s tormentors. – A word, spoken perhaps inadvertently, or a look not sufficiently animated, could cause several day’s uneasiness. – We always put the worst construction on each other words and actions. – This, I think, must have proceeded from a want of confidence in each other; any thing which had the most distant seeming appearance of a slight, was a sufficient foundation for a thousand little discontents and jealousies; – yet after all, neither doubted the others affection on the whole; but willing to employ every little ground of suspicion to try how far our power extended, we embittered the few moments we had together, with distance and coldness, and always parted most dissatisfied with ourselves; each for having raised disquietude in the breast of the other. – Say, do you not feel it so? – I know it; well then, grown wise by experience let us forget and amend from the past; – indeed I believe those petty tumults are over, and we need no more caution; for is not a life of tenderness to be preferred to one of perpetual anxiety. – The past month has been so different from all others, that I think we shall never be induced to quarrel again; the smallest share of prudence on each part will be sufficient to prevent it. – I have endeavored, and still am resolved to avoid it, and have found a secret pleasure in my endeavors; – it would now be a difficult task for me to look on you even with a feigned coldness. – Let us persevere, it would be unpardonable to relapse into former errors, especially [f. 336] when we so clearly discern them. –

Thursday evening. – I have just unsealed your letters, looked over some of them, and added to their number such as I have received since I last enclosed them; and now they are sealed again and directed to you. – We have now a pretty good collection; sufficient to make two volumes. – I reflect with pleasure how punctual we have been in our correspondence; – I was afraid at first, three letters a week would become tiresome to you, both to read and write but you have disappointed my fears. – I think since we began, we have only omitted writing once each; and in general we have filled three sides and sometimes four of paper. – How would many people stare on hearing this, and wonder what we could find to write about; – some have not a capacity of describing their ideas, or of disposing them intelligibly on paper, and others have such a sameness in their ideas, that is, they have so few, that really they may well wonder. – But though I know I shall never be tired of writing to my little girl, yet it often pains me when I consider that in all probability e’re long, it will be out of my power to write so much as I do now. – I will not neglect to write, but must yield to necessity. – So long as I am able to fill three sheets a week, you may expect them; when I can no longer do it, you must accept them half filled, and excuse what is wanting. – It will be hard to be obliged to see you less frequently, and to write less too; but let me not anticipate the ill nature of fortune, it [f. 337] dispirits me; I can yet both see you and write to you; let me hope it will be in my power to continue it. – I have not heard you speak of going to Lark-Hall lately; have you forgot the delightful rambles we took there? If not, I am sure you at least wish to repeat them: but remember, if we go, it must be very shortly, for the days draw in apace; an afternoon is but just long enough to go thither and return; and we must sit there a little to rest ourselves and chat; besides the old lady is so good-natured and officious, that it is impossible not to stay some time with her. – These long evenings, how they hang on one’s hands! – When I am with you, time flies, and when absent it scarcely moves; – on Wednesday evenings, it overtakes me e’er I am aware; and now I look on the chasm between the evening and ten o’clock with an anxious uneasiness. – No labor would be difficult or hard, provided when it was finished, I could retire and enjoy my little girl’s company; – that would make me forget the unkindness of the world; – it would be more than a compensation for all the troubles and vexations which we are perpetually liable to abroad in the world. – Was it not for this, the spirit of love was infused in the human bosom? – To soften, to sweeten2 life? – To ease the mind from care? And to relieve it under the most depressing circumstances? – What hearts then must those possess, who, after the business of the day is over, can fly into public company, leaving a tender wife in depressing solitude? – They are no more than brutes, and strangers to social virtue; they never knew what it was to love like my dear Maria’s faithful  

                                J. Eccles. –


1 Brooks, Correspondence 182-83; Wedd, Love Letters 158-60

2 sweeting] MS