13 August 1779

Letter 19. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Friday, 13 August 1779.1


       Yes, I am perfectly satisfied of your sincerity; pardon my doubts – from this moment I banish them from my bosom; never more  shall they find entrance2 there! – You have promised ever to be mine – I will not – I cannot disbelieve that promise – you have suffered for my sake – you have stood many trials, why then should I give way to these unworthy apprehensions – be assured they do not proceed from a want of confidence in you, but a diffidence of my own merit – it was rather what I feared, than what I expected. –

       If pleasure and pain bear an equal proportion, [f. 75] you think we have much of the former in store of us;

“Good after ill, and after pain delight,

Alternate, like the scenes of day and night.

What then remains, but after past annoy,

To take the good vicissitude3 of joy.” – 4

I am intirely of your opinion, that happiness cannot consist in the sordid gratification of self. – The passions are common to all, but the affections, the lively sweet affections, the only sources of true pleasure, are the portion of only a chosen few.5 – Love, the gay child of sympathy and esteem, is when attended by delicacy, the only happiness worth a reasonable beings pursuit; and the choicest gift of Heaven; it is a softer, tenderer friendship, enlivened by taste, and by the most ardent desire of pleasing, which time instead of destroying renders every hour more dear and interesting. – Half the world have no souls, at least none but of the animals and vegetable6 kind – to these species of beings, love and sentiment are quite unnecessary – they were made to travel through life in a state of mind neither awake nor asleep – and it is perfectly equal to them in what company they take their journey. – I envy them not their dull insipid calmness – rather would I suffer all those heart-rending exquisite distresses, which too often flow from sensibility, [f. 76] than possess that stoical indifference, which though it may exempt them from pain, yet at the same time precludes them from the sweet, the pleasurable sensations, which those hearts experience who are susceptible to the finer feelings of humanity.

       You are afraid the long winter evenings will hang heavy on your hands – and wish me to lay down a plan, how you should employ your leisure hours – three evenings in a week I expect you to dedicate to our correspondence – write your thoughts with freedom, just as they flow – I shall never complain of your being tiresome, on the contrary I account the reading of your letters one of the most pleasing amusements of my life! – I shall require your sentiments on various subjects, occurrences, and authors; and hope by a strict attention to your precepts to become more worthy of the tenderness you profess for me. – I flatter myself it will not prove an unpleasing task to form the mind of her, with whom you wish to spend your future life.

“To pour the fresh instruction o’er the mind,

To breathe the enlivening spirit, and to fix

The generous purpose in the glowing heart.”7

The remaining three evenings endeavor to amuse yourself – [f. 77] chearfulness is the true medicine for the studious – the mind, and heart require to be diluted – blossoming is as necessary to it, as to trees, to make it recover its verdure and flourish – on sunday’s, I shall see you as usual – shall I not? – Thus have I laid down a plan as you desired – tell me if it pleases you. – “Saturday evening is devoted to pleasure (say you)” – I dare not think too much about it – for I hardly ever promised myself an unusual degree of happiness, but some incident occurred to prevent it. – How transitory, how uncertain are all the enjoyments of this life! and yet how thoughtless are we of a future one – is not this astonishing! – from whence can this carelessness proceed – every day – every hour we have fresh instances of mortality presenting themselves before us, and know not but ourselves may fall the next victim to the insatiate archer.8

            “Eternity then reigns alone!

Awful eternity! offended queen!

And her resentment to mankind how just!

With kind intent soliciting access,

How often has she knock’d at human hearts!

How often call’d, and with the voice of God!

Yet bore repulse, excluded as a cheat!9

Adieu! believe me ever your sincere, your faithful friend

                                     Maria Hays.


Friday even: August 13th 1779. 

1 Brooks, Correspondence 64-45; Wedd, Love Letters 46-47.

2 enterance] MS

3 vissisitude] MS

4 Lines taken from Part III of Palamon and Arcite, or, The Knight's Tale, in John Dryden's Fables Antient and Modern, 2 vols (Glasgow: R. and A. Foulis, 1771), p. 128.  Dryden's poem was widely anthologized in the 18th century. 

5 As Brooks notes, the preceding sentence taken from several places in Brooke's Emily Montague.

6 vegitable] MS 

7 Lines taken from Thomson's The Seasons, "Spring," ll. 1151-53.

8 The use of "insatiate archer" probably derived from Young's Complaint, "Night the First" (p. 6). 

9 Lines taken from Young's Complaint, "Night the Ninth" (pp. 191-92).