4 August 1779
Letter 12. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Wednesday, 4 August 1779.1
Why will you doubt the continuance of my esteem? be assured neither time nor circumstances can ever make any alteration in my sentiments to you – were I of so fickle, so giddy a disposition, I should be unworthy of your regard. – Believe me Mr Eccles, I am truly sensible of the value of the heart, you offer me – convinced of its faithfulness, and sincerity – I ask no more. – “The vulgar of every rank expect happiness in the ideal advantages of splendor and dissipation, but those who dare to think, those minds who partake of the celestial fire, seek it in the real, solid pleasures of nature, and soft affection.”2 –
You are afraid your letters should prove tiresome to me – indeed I am more than half angry with you for supposing so – from whence could such a supposition arise? – have I not called myself your friend – and have written to you with all the freedom and tenderness which friendship could dictate! – to what then can I impute these doubts? – they are unworthy both of you, and me. –
Thursday approaches! how my heart flutters at the idea! – its emotions do not proceed from want of confidence in you, nor from false delicacy, or female pride – but from a native diffidence, a [f. 50] bashfulness which I cannot overcome. – Meet me with composure – with the tranquil tenderness of friendship – let the shades, the solitude, the silence of the Park, diffuse a soft serenity over our minds, and calm the turbulence of passion. –
“Though vulgar souls may sink beneath misfortune!
’Tis nobly great, and worthy admiration,
To meet with wond’rous courage, mighty ills,
And struggle hard with fortune. –”3
Disappointment is the lot of mortals – this world is a deceiver – viewed at a distance it appears a parterre of flowers – when nearer seen it proves a brake of thorns – with what pleasure could I retire from it; (had I been educated in the roman catholic religion) and have spent my days in the secluded cloyster – a solitude which though devoid of pleasure, is exempt from those exquisite, those heart-rending distresses which in the world so frequently occur. – There well pleased,
Religious hardships I would learn to bear,
To fast and freeze at midnight hours of prayer.
Nor think it hard within a lovely cell;
With melancholy speechless saints to dwell.4
I was young, but not unacquainted with misfortune – the first I [f. 51] was capable of feeling was the loss of a parent – the best, the most indulgent of father’s! – oh Mr Eccles, I cannot tell you half his worth – if perfection could dwell with human nature, it was in him – his soul was an emanation of the divinity – he possessed every heroic sentiment – every tender sensibility – and unbounded benevolence – a universal charity – he was pious without affec^ta^tion – the gentleman, as well as the christian – the tenderest of husbands – the most pleasing – the most faithful of friends – think then what must be our loss – but the subject is so affecting, I cannot proceed. – “Sensibility thou source of human woes, but for thee I had been happy.”5 – Yet strange infatuation – I cannot wish to be divested of thee – there is a certain melancholy pleasure in sighing – a luxury (if I may so express myself) in distress, which the stoick can have no idea of – which while it wounds amends6 the heart! – the tears which flow are grateful as soft showers to the parched plain. – Pardon these reflections, they arose from my heart, and would flow to my pen – perhaps I am wrong in giving way to them. –
Fear not that your epistles should be tiresome to me – be assured they never can be so – I feel the sweetest satisfaction while reading them – the confidence you repose in me is truly pleasing, continue then to write with freedom the real dictates of your heart – friendship should have no reserves. – I will see you to morrow at [f. 52] the time appointed. – Adieu! believe me (begone affectation) I will say it
ever yours – 7
Wednesday August 4th 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 52-54; Wedd, Love Letters 34-36.
2 Lines from Brooke, Emily Montague, 2.37.
3 Source not known.
4 Lines from Nicholas Rowe's The Fair Penitent, Act III, scene 1 (p. 40); quotation marks missing in MS.
5 See the opening sentence of "Descant on Sensibility" (unsigned), in the London Magazine 45 (May 1776), p. 263. The entire sentence reads: "Sensibility, thou source of human woes, thou aggrandiser of evils, had I not been possessed of thee, how calmly might my days have passed! yet would I not part with thee for worlds."
6 ammends] MS
7 it ever yours] MS. The transcriber may have misread this. It would seem the preceding sentence should close with “I will say it” and the closing line would then be “ Ever yours.” Wedd has it this way, and the reading makes sense.