5 November 1779

Letter 89. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Friday evening, 5 November 1779.1


[f. 338]

        I have been very uncomfortable all day lest any thing I said in my letter this morning should displease you; yet I don’t know why I should – I am a silly girl, that’s certain – but you know not the anxieties your Maria suffers, when she is the least apprehensive of your displeasure – You need not fear those petty quarrels (which we used so often to have) ever being renewed; I would not undergo those painful solicitudes again for the universe; – my Eccles’s happiness is too dear to me to be trifled with; – in every thing (in future) will your little girl endeavor to promote it; – she lives but for you; the whole world without you, would be of little worth; – what magic have you used to inspire so tender an affection? – I was a stranger to the sensibility of my soul, till you called forth all its powers; – if it is indelicate to avow an attachment so warm, so animated, yet so pure  of what indecorum have I been guilty! – But it is not! – it cannot be so! –

                    “Say ye severest, ye prudes in virtue!

                    “What would ye have done?2

I never yet have had cause to repent my frankness – nor do I think I ever shall; – for even should you be, [f. 339]

                    “False, deceitful, cruel and inconstant,3

I should still have the satisfaction to reflect, how little have I merited such treatment; –  and that my conduct had ever been actuated by the noblest principles of unreserved affection; – but I am convinced my Eccles is incapable of deceiving his artless, unsuspicious Maria; she knows him to be all that is amiable; and she loves him with the most unaffected tenderness, and is happy beyond her most romantic wishes, in the assurance that he regards her with a reciprocal esteem – You complain of the length of the evenings; – with what pleasure could your little girl (would fate permit) endeavor to amuse each tedious hour, and soften every care that might perplex you – in your serious moments, I would with attention listen to your sentiments; and when oppressed with any grief, by sharing I would strive to alleviate it. – I can have no idea of pleasure equal to that of making you happy – I would sacrifice my own, to endure your felicity; – never shall this faithful heart know another attachment; were I never again to behold you; were you even the husband of another, my tenderness, a tenderness as innocent, as it is lively, would never cease; nor would I give up the refined delight of esteeming you (independent of any hopes of being beloved) for all the pleasures that the most unbounded affluence could bestow – Let the world see, that there are in this degenerate age, lover’s who are capable of the most heroic virtues – Let us by our constancy, and perseverance force fortune at last to relent; all things [f. 340] are ordered by a wise creator: he would not have implanted the best affections in the human heart, merely to make us wretched! – ’tis not consistant with his beneficence! – let us then hope. – Something whispers, all will yet be well! – I fear nothing but a change in your sentiments. – Ah! will your little girl be ever dear to you? – But she does not doubt your truth, and honor; she would not doubt it for empires! –                                          

     You ask me, when I will go to Lark-Hall? – ’tis a question I cannot now determine; but rest assured I will embrace the very first opportunity to do it. – Does not this correspondence4 give you pleasure? – I should never have esteemed you half so tenderly had you never have written to me; before I was partial in your favor, but it is since that you have been beloved by your own

                                                 Maria Hays


Friday evening Novr 5th 1779.


1 Brooks, Correspondence 183-84; Wedd, Love Letters 161

2 Lines adapted from Thomson’s The Seasons, “Summer,” ll. 1197-98.

3 Paraphrase of lines from Otway’s The Orphan, Act II, scene 1 (p. 36).

4 corrispondance] MS