15 August 1779

Letter 20.  John Eccles to Mary Hays, Sunday morning, 15 August 1779.1

[f. 78]

Sunday  August 15th 1779.

My dearest Maria,

       How few amongst the gay, whom we last night saw, can this morning reflect with the pleasure of a rational being, on the different characters they exhibited. – In such a motley collection, we may suppose every virtue, as well as every vice to have made a part – Virtue in public places, is not so conspicuous as her opposite, consequently it is less in our power to learn to practise virtue, than to shun the snares of vice there. – Those who go with minds open to instruction, unbiassed, and capable of discernment, may find improvement as well as amusement; others, at best can only be amused. – If actions done in public, deserve to be branded with the appellation of vice, we naturally are apt to judge hard of the private life of such, who are guilty of them; to be very severe in censuring, is, however wrong, as many allowances ought to be made for the gaiety of the heart; and the elevation of the spirits at such times. – Good sense knows how to make allowances, and to observe with an impartial eye, the amiable and the odious; to cull with careful hand the flowers of virtue, and to reject the baneful weeds of vice. – [f. 79] Will not an utter detestation of vice arise in the minds of the ingenuous and virtuously inclined, from the shameless conduct of those who expose the black parts of their characters to the public eye? – To go with good dispositions into public company where restrictions are observed, is pleasing and instructive; to go with the contrary dispositions, and where each individual is to act according to his own inclinations, is displeasing, and often of bad tendency – yet these kinds2 of entertainments ought not to engross too much of our attention; we ought, I think, to enjoy for the time, without letting them disturb us either before or afterwards; for this reason, to frequent them is generally is hurtful, as it begets an inclination which is too often attended with much anxiety. –

       Oh! my Polly, every day, every hour, every time I see you, affords fresh motives, to those I before felt, for loving you. – Not a word escapes your lips, which has not charms to move my heart; not an action of yours, but has a thousand endearments in it. – The more I compare you with the rest of your sex, the lovelier you appear; and the oftener I examine my heart, its3 attachment grows tenderer and more pure. – I am wholly yours; my heart beats but for you. – Oh! were I possessed of thousands, with what eagerness would I fly to give them to you; how much happier should I then be – no, [f. 80] stop – I should not be happier; they could not make me love you more; can riches refine the affections; can they dignify the passions? No, they cannot – Yet from the want of them, I feel there must be pleasure in presenting them to you; however as it is a pleasure denied to me, let me not examine into its source. –

       When I wrote to you last, you will recollect, I said I had many things to say to you – don’t you think me an odd being not to have mentioned one of them – I’ll tell you the reason; I was afraid they would affect me too much, and so damp the pleasures of the evening – Not that they are now of any consequence, but they contain a painfully pleasing remembrance of what is past. – Another opportunity, and when I find myself in fit spirits I’ll tell you. –

       You ask me if I approve of the manner of spending my leisure hours, as you have allotted4 them? the only objection is, that they will not then be all yours; and (worse still) none of them are to be made happy with your company – Oh! how then can I amuse myself? To whom can I fly to unbosom myself?

       I see you are going to lecture so must haste to conclude; I shall write to you again tomorrow for tuesday – [f. 81]

      I am with unchanging affection ever yours

                                       J. Eccles.

P.S.  I hope I am no prophet, but I fear for you. – Mrs S-----5 is at your house; perhaps to tell I was at Vauxhall with you. –


1 Brooks, Correspondence 60-61; Wedd, Love Letters 42-43.

2 kind] MS

3 it] MS

4 alloted] MS

5 Sansom.