9 November 1779

Letter 91. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Tuesday, 9 November 1779.1


    Your last letter, my dearest Eccles, if possible increased my esteem; – I am convinced that your affection is most disinterested a conviction that is productive of the most ineffable delight to me: – You know not how very tenderly your Maria esteems you! – her whole soul is yours; were she capable of bestowing a thought on any other, she would despise herself; – but tis impossible! – My ideas are too refined, my sentiments too delicate ever to entertain a second attachment, and (shall I add) neither could I stoop below my notions of p–rf–ct–n in my Eccles –––– there, now! – am I not in a very civil humor? [f. 345] Perhaps I have a better opinion of you than you deserve – I know I am a little partial in your favor; this is true; and I am apt to believe I shall always be so – tell me, from what is it we derive these prejudices? – Is it from that

                    “Certain something, not to be defined,

                    “That’s in no face, but in the lover’s mind.2

Tis rightly termed by the French a je ne sae quoy3 – I will flatter myself that you likewise feel the powers of this inexpressible charm! – I know you every day see women ten thousand times handsomer than your little girl; – yet let me hope tis she alone who excites in your bosom the sweet sensations of love, and approbation; because you are convinced that your affection is not lavished on an ungrateful object: oh no! – your Maria knows, she feels your worth; – those proofs of your fidelity and tenderness, (which she has experienced) are treasured up in the inmost recess of her heart; – she never can cease to be sensible of them, but when she ceases to exist; – the purest, yet most animated regard engrosses her every thought; – no amusements, no pleasures, can for one moment <--> banish your idea from my mind; indeed pleasure is but an empty sound, unless sharing or with my Eccles.

“Pl[1]c2 m2 38 [1] d29[1]07 w3ld,

G307 w37h p28506, [l]8d c[1]02; [f. 346]

627! 3f m6 [l]l2x2^3^9 9m3l’d,

25206 70[1]89p407, w45’d b2 7h202.4

You mistook the question that was to be debated at Coachmakers’-Hall; it was this, “whether considering the badness of the present time in a political view” – not the depravity of the age; for that certainly could be no alloy to the happiness of those, who have soul souls capable of enjoying domestic felicity. – What a ^how^ dreadful! ^a^ press-gang, <-> ^is^ this moment hurrying a poor man away, perhaps from all he holds most dear – a wife and family, who may depend on him alone for their subsistance! – these are the shocking calamities that are ever attendant on war5 – and this incident may furnish the debaters with an argument – my heart bleeds while reflecting on their distress, and a tear will not be suppressed – but tis grateful – tis the tear of sensibility – May I never be insensible to the feelings of the poor, and the unhappy and whilst I am sympathizing in their sorrows, may I raise my eyes in gratitude to a beneficent creator, who has showered so many blessings upon me; – more especially will I thank him for my Eccles; the whole world would not compensate for the loss of his heart. – Will you ever love me? – will your Maria never become indifferent to you? – Pardon these questions – I have no doubts – we shall one day be happy – were I indeed your’s, with what pleasure should I receive you after every little absence; – how sweet would be the employment of [f. 347] rendering your home agreeable – and would you not likewise feel a satisfaction (after the business of the day was over) in retiring to your Maria – to love – content, and domestic tranquility – but let me quit the subject! – I dare not think – Alas! that those souls who are so exquisitely susceptible of the pleasures of nature and soft affection, should so often be precluded from the enjoyment of it – but let us not murmur, for we know not what futurity may bring forth. – Goodnight! – may the blessing of heaven attend you,

                         Prays your own  Maria Hays.


Tuesday Novr 9th 1779. –



1 Brooks, Correspondence 186-88; Wedd, Love Letters 163-65. 

2 Lines from Dryden’s play, Tyrannick Love, Act III, scene 1, in The Works of Mr. John Dryden, vol. 1 (London: J. Tonson, 1695), with text from the 1692 edition of the play by H. Herringman, p. 20.

3 je ne sais quoi -- a quality that cannot be described or named easily.

4 The actual text reads:                       

                         “Place me in a desert wild,

                          Girt with penury and care;

                          Yet! if my Alexe^i^s smil’d,

                          Every transport, wou’d be there.

5 Surprisingly, the only reference in these letters to the American War of Independence; most English Baptists were sympathetic to the American cause.