31 July 1779 (2)
Letter 8. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday, 31 July 1779.1
’Tis midnight! silence and darkness surround me – best hour of musing for a mind deprest! – We must part – perhaps an eternal separation! – It has been a fatal attachment – a source of distress from its commencement! – my heart bleeds for you! – would to God, it was in my power to extricate you from the difficulties in which you are involved – Fortune is unjust – rightly is she depicted as a blind Goddess, since merit cannot influence her.2 – But give not yourself up to despair; hope for happier days, and expect them – adversity is often the forerunner of felicity; and when we suppose ourselves at the extreme of wretchedness, the cloud may suddenly disperse and the sun of prosperity arise “with healing under his wings.”3 – This night I dedicate to the desire of consoling you – for sleep seems fled from my eyelids. – If it will give you any satisfaction, I here promise never to be the wife of any other, while you remain single – a promise which I owe to your sufferings. – They endeavor to persuade me that you never loved me – but it is a vile insinuation which I never wish to believe. – I have thought you possessed of every noble, of every generous sentiment; nor shall I easily be brought to alter my opinion – look upon [f. 26] me as one of the best of your friends – one who is anxious for your welfare, and who would sincerely rejoice to hear of your happiness. – The watchman is now going past one – Your eyes are perhaps closed in slumber – sleep on, and may the Angel of peace watch over you. – I suppose you will not remain long in this neighborhood – you have no reason to like it – it is perhaps best for both to separate; for what prospects are there – no favorable ones I am sure – you Mr Eccles, must know, must be convinced there is but little hope – but if you request it I will correspond with you – th letters need not come to the house, but may be conveyed to me by Mr S------4 or any other way that you may think safest. – This is perhaps going too far – but I cannot help making the sacrifice as we may never see each other again, and I flatter myself it may contribute a little to your peace of mind. (perhaps I only imagine so.) – I think I have heard you lament that you had no friend to whom you could unbosom yourself – make me that friend, and I will look on you as a brother, and as a sister, endeavor to give you consolation under every disappointment, and by sympathizing in your sorrows, hope I may in some measure relieve them. – I dread seeing you tomorrow evening – I fear you will be too much affected! but rely on a kind Providence, an all wise deity whose wisdom is [f. 27] unsearchable – every thing is order’d for the best. –
The tracts of Providence like rivers wind,
Here run before us, there retreat behind;
And tho’ immerg’d in earth from Common eyes,
Again break forth and more conspicuous rise.5
My Mamma is the best the tenderest of parents – she is sincerely concerned – and though she cannot in prudence wish the continuance of our interviews at present as things are situated, yet I am sure it would give her the greatest pleasure to hear that you succeeded in the world. – I wish you not to go into the navy I confess – for there death and danger fly too thick, besides preferment is very slow. – Have you not friends who could get you a place – if it were but for an hundred a year at first. Have you left Mr J----- yet, or when do you leave him – have you any thing else in view – You see I question you with the freedom of a sister – I love the relation, and intend henceforward to style myself your third sister – and be assured your influence shall be as sacred as truth – sole curiosity is not my motive, but a real concern for your happiness. – I shall never walk in the grove (as I used to call it) without feeling a painful sensation – a thousand remembrances6 will seem, each object will [f. 28] remind me of past conversations – conversations that never will return – Our Vauxhall, our Greenwich scheme all gone – “And like the baseless fabrick of a vision leaves not a wreck behind.”7
Alas! How weak are mortal men, to Heaven alone,
The event of actions, and our fates are known.8
I shall not go to Mrs Collier’s on saturday as I think you would not like to join us – ’tis not yet three o’clock, how tedious are the hours – the world now is hushed in sleep; at least the careless and the happy—for he “his ready visit pays where fortune smiles, the wretched he forsakes; swift on his downy pinions flies from woe, and lights on lids unsully’d with a tear.”9 – How fleeting – how transitory are this world’s enjoyments – young as I am I am disgusted with them – had I been a roman catholic, with what pleasure should I have flown to a cloister, and dedicated my hours to that being who formed me – but here should I <–> be deprived of my Mamma, (which heaven avert) I have no asylum – I should be thrown on the world unprotected – on a world I despise and hate. – Ah! Eccles, you have perhaps seen me for the last time – when we talked of parting a few days ago, you little imagined it was so near – but fate must be obeyed. – I write this [f. 29] letter with an intention of leaving it with you to morrow night, if it should be well enough to come which I almost doubt, for I am but very poorly at present, and sitting up (as I am not used to it) will do me no good. – There is some opiate standing by me which I believe I shall take, and endeavor to compose myself for an hour or two, as the day is now just beginning to break – my head aches intolerably, and my eyes are almost blind. – When I wrote to you a few hours ago, I little imagined on what subject my next would be.—I am unhappy, and stand in need of that consolation I am trying to give – believe me I feel for you, and participate in your distress, and wish from my soul I could alleviate it. – Adieu! a long – long adieu! my dear brother (for am I not your friend – your third sister10) – sometimes remember there was such a person as
It is between three and four oclock; I will lay down for a little while that I may be able to keep my appointment with you – Once more adieu . . M: H.. [f. 30]
[Written in the cover of the foregoing letter]
Let me hear from you soon, though I must not see you –
Heaven first taught letters for some wretched maid,
Some banish’d lover, or some captives aid.11
Absence is the touchstone of love – will your constancy stand the test – but I mean not to fetter you, perhaps another attachment may afford you more happiness then this has done. – May the woman to whom you give your hand be every way amiable – may she be possessed of every virtue, and by the sweetness of her disposition, and the tenderness of her affection render you supremely blessed. –
Friday July 31st 1779. [f. 31]
1 Brooks, Correspondence 41-44; Wedd, Love Letters 23-25.
2 Roman Goddess Fortuna was often depicted as blindfolded.
3 Taken from Malachi 4.2.
4 Possibly a Mr. Sansom, a prominent Southwark family at that time, who had some connection with John Dunkin, Sr. See Anne Andrews to Maria Grace Andrews, 2 February 1796, Anne Andrews, at that time living with her father in Isleworth, informs her sister, Maria Grace, on 2 February 1796 that ‘Mrs Sansom . . . last Saturday became the Mother of a fine little Girl James was here on Monday to superintend some business [which] is in hand for Messrs Dunkin & Brown – he told me that tho’ on the whole she had been better than usual she was very poorly when he left her.’ See Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, 6.118.
5 Lines taken from Mary Hays's "The Hermit; an Oriental Tale," which appeared in The Universal Magazine 78 (April 1786), 204-09 (part 1), and May (1786), 234-38 (part 2).
6 rememberances] MS
7 Lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1.
8 Lines taken from Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey, Book XXII.
9 Lines from the opening stanza of Young's The Complaint, “Night the First” (p. 1).
10 John Eccles had two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.
11 Lines from Pope's Eloisa to Abelard, ll. 51-52.