31 July 1779

Letter 7. Mary Hays to Mrs Collier, Saturday, 31 July 1779.1


    “What have been my engagements” – you ask my dear Madam. – Sighs – tears – and the extreme of wretchedness! – my fate is now I believe determined! – one interview was allowed us! – a parting one! – last night he came. Good God, what a scene! – he held me in his arms – sobs stopped2 his voice – he trembled – changed hot and cold alternately – then broke from me – walked about the room, and lifted up [f. 22] his eyes to heaven in a speechless agony? – What could I do? I was softened beyond expression – I endeavored to console him – promised never to be the wife of any other – pressed his hand to my heart – my lips to his forehead – he was insensible – stupified – tears, heartrending sighs were all the answer he could make – he looked up to me with a countenance in which distress, love and gratitude were strongly painted! – the scene was too much for me – I fell back in my chair and gave vent to a torrent of tears – I had not been in bed the night before, nor broke my fast for four and twenty hours. – My Mamma, came into the room – she talked to him – he could not answer—she thought he would not, was vexed, and spoke harshly – how my heart bled for him! She again left the room – and I endeavored to talk him into more composure – he complained of a stupidity – all his faculties seemed benumbed – all recollection – it was a stupor that foreboded an excess of agony – he must see me again, he had ten thousand things to say to me – I told him he had better not – it would only renew the distress, it could answer no other purpose – he was relapsing into his former emotions – I was obliged to give him hope – he said if he was obliged to quit the place, he should still haunt me where ever I went. – He talked wild and incoherent – at last I persuaded him to [f. 23] leave me – yet not till I had promised to see him once more. I must and will keep my promise – no power upon earth shall prevent me – I would not but see him again for ten thousand worlds!

Hope’s I have none – those by that fatal day were 

          banish’d quite

But from my soul to chuse, (while weeping memory 

         there stains her seat),

Thoughts which the purest bosom might have cherish’d,       

         once my delight,

Now even in anguish charming – is more alas! than I 

          can ever promise.3 

You pity me – I am sure you do! – I cannot give him up – no, I never will – I have him with a wild excess of tenderness – to madness love him. – Keep my secret my dear Madam – my Mamma must not know I shall again see him – if you tell her, I shall be drove to desperation – for I am determined to see him – once more, nothing upon earth shall prevent it – it will be the last time perhaps – I shall be easier afterwards. –

       I cannot see my dearest Mrs Collier to day – I am quite unfit for company – neither shall I go out to morrow – be not too much concerned for me – I am easier since I saw him, than I was before – while [f. 24] convinced of his affection, I can bear any thing – he does love me! – my heart beats transport at the idea! – unutterable4 pleasure.

I have no reason left that can assist me! and none would have,

My love’s a noble madness, which shews the cause deserves it;

Moderate sorrow, fits moderate love – and for a vulgar man.

But I have lov’d with such transcendant passion –

I soar’d at first quite out of reasons view,

And now am lost above it.5

       Make excuses for me in the afternoon, tell them any thing but the real cause – that I entrust to you alone – every thought of my heart is yours – doubt not of my affection – it pains me – my friendship for you is unbounded – in adversity, in prosperity it is yours,

                         I am your own Girl –

                                     I ever will be so

                                                M. Hays.


Saturday morn. July 31. 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 39-41; Wedd, Love Letters 21-22.

2 stopt] MS 

3 Source unknown.

4 unuterable] MS

5  Adapted from John Dryden's All for Love: or, the World Well Lost, Act II, scene 1, from The Works of Mr. John Dryden, vol. 2 (London: W. Strahan, 1776), original text from the 1692 edition of the play by H. Herringman, p. 18.