12 February 1779
Letter 2. John Eccles To Mary Hays, Friday, 12 February 1779.1
As a lover and a friend, I sit down to write to one, who merits every tender sentiments which those characters convey. – I make no apology for writing; the distress of my mind is a sufficient one. – You have long been the only wish, the governing passion of my heart; at thought of you, every other passion subsides, [f. 9] as the stars disappear at the sun’s approach, and I have believed (perhaps conceitedly,) that you had no dislike to me. – I embraced every opportunity of being in your company, though it were but for a minute; it was the only pleasure I had, to sweeten the bitter draught of a week’s absence. – For four or five months past, I have alternately been the subject of hope and disappointment. – So long as I could look forward to a termination of my troubles, however distant; so long I was happy, in comparison to the present anxiety of my mind; but all hope is now vanished, and I seem to be insulted by misfortune. – Any thing else, I could have borne with fortitude, but to be deprived of my happiness, my heaven, my all: oh cruel thought!
Mrs Hays has only acted like a good and prudent mother; perhaps were I in her situation, I should have done as she has; and I think I may say, I have avoided as much as possible, giving her any cause of displeasure; I never asked to see you in private, nor ever wrote to you before; if I am to be reproached for loving you, that I can easily bear, because it is for you. – But what can I say of my father? – The respect due to him forbids me to say much. – I have been with him since Mr Dunkin2 was there, and he is as inexorable as though I were quite a stranger to him. – It is true I [f. 10] received this comfort from him: “He was sorry I appeared so much troubled about one woman, as there are so many in the world; and that I had put myself to so much expence in an affair so trivial.” This my dear Miss Hays, is a father’s consolation.
I have now something to say which hurts me more than every thing beside; I hope it is an unjust suspicion; I am afraid my company is become disgusting to you; I am afraid I have only been teazing you. – I confess, I never thought so till wednesday evening and yesterday morning, when you were so averse to telling me, at what time you should go, and return from Miss Lepard’s.3 – You seemed to express a wish that I would not accompany you. – I am not unconscious that my company now is far from being desirable; – is a burthen to myself; – but there has been a time when it was coveted. – Why then am I so much altered? – You know it is for you. – I hope I am now wronging you; if not, how charitable will it be to tell me; for sure my troubles place me above your contempt! They deserve your pity.
I am now going to commit a trespass on the respect I owe Mrs Hays, and on your delicacy, but I cannot help it. – I expect to be forbid ever to speak to you again; if so I hope you will not refuse to see me once afterwards in private; – this [f. 11] favor I think I may claim, for oh! Miss Hays, I have loved you; I adore you; – and the greater discouragement’s I have met with, the more firmly has my heart been attached to you; – this deserves some regard. – Then I shall bid you a long farewell; for I never, never can live in England without you! – I shall then be driven to put in execution, a resolution which I have long formed in case of an extremity. – But whatever happens to me, may you live long and happy; and never experience the disappointments and misfortunes, which have fallen so heavy on me. – May heaven always smile on you, and be kind to you; and may you ever enjoy that felicity, which virtues like yours so well deserve, and which I am unworthy of sharing with you.
With the tenderest affection, I beg leave to4 subscribe myself Dear, Miss Hays
Your constant servant
Friday morning Feby 12th 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 35-36; Wedd, Love Letters, 15-16.
2 Most likely this is John Dunkin, Sr (d. 1809), father of John Dunkin, Jr. (1753-1827). The younger Dunkin married Joanna Hays (1754-1805), Mary's eldest sister, in 1774, and by 1776 the Dunkins were living next door to the Hays family in Gainsford Street. The Dunkins, both father and son, served as guardians and benefactors to Mrs. Hays and her children after the death of her husband, John Hays, in 1774.
3 During the 1770s, Ann Lepard was one of Mary Hays's closest friends. She was a member of the Baptist congregation at Carter Lane a member of one of the congregations most prominent families. She would soon marry George Parker, most likely the son or relation of James Parker, the Hays's neighbor in Gainsford Street; the younger Parker joined Carter Lane in 1781. The Parkers will live at Ballam and will be visited on a few occasions by Mary Hays and John Eccles. Parker dies in 1782, putting both Mary and her friend in similar situations. For more on the Lepards, see their entry in the Biographical Index.
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