9 August 1779

Letter 16. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Monday, 9 August 1779.1


[f. 63]

     Shall I confess the pleasing sensations I experienced while reading your letter? – certainly it cannot be inconsistant with delicacy to be sensible to such repeated proofs of your tenderness – a tenderness I would not doubt for worlds – the assurance of it diffuses a placid serenity to my spirits – a gentle calmness to my mind, which is inexpressibly pleasing. – You ask me if you shall quit the neighbourhood – what can I say – how advise? – do what will be most conducive to your happiness – but if it will be more convenient to you to quit it, let no considerations of what the world may impute it to, prevent you – conscious of the purity of my own heart – of the sincerity of your attachment, their censures or their praises I equally condemn – but I do not command you to leave me, I never can – perhaps I wish you to stay. –

     You affected me yesterday – why will you wear that pensive air? – indulge hope – let her soft smiling influence exhilarate your spirits – let hilarity once more sparkle in your eyes—though the dark clouds of adversity appear to surround you, though they threaten total obscurity to every pleasing idea – yet, is not the gloom thickest before the dawn of day. – The life of man is marked [f. 64] by vicissitudes!2 – when pleasure expands the heart, and enlivens the countenance ’tis often prophetic of approaching ill – so when anguish predominates, and the bosom heaves with sighs – the storm from which we feared inevitable shipwreck, serves but to hasten us to the desired port. –

“Submit thy fate to heaven’s indulgent care,

Tho’ all seems lost, ’tis impious to despair:

The tracts of providence like rivers wind,

Here run before us, there retreat behind;

And tho’ immerg’d in earth from human eyes,

Again break forth and more co^n^spicuous rise.3

You promise ever to be mine – may that day never arrive when you shall wish to retract this promise! – Consider – can you resist the fascinating, the powerful glance of beauty – joined to the many insnaring charms which the artful of our sex put in practice, when they wish to seduce the hearts of yours! – at sight of which (too often) all other engagements

            “Spread their light wings, and in a moment fly.”4

Then perhaps my artless inexperienced attachment will be forgot, or looked on with indifference, as a conquest too easily won. – If that day should [f. 65] ever arrive – feign not an affection for me, which you no longer feel, but frankly tell me the change, ^and^ I will give you back your vows to ensure your happiness. – These are ideas I love not to indulge – though they will sometimes intrude – it is not that I doubt your sincerity – no, I believe you love me at present – but if you find the obstacles still continue – if you should meet with mortifications – if we should be separated, will not you endeavor to erase from your heart a passion which has caused you so much uneasiness, and which affords so little prospect of happiness. – I hardly dare flatter myself that your constancy would stand the test of these trials – can I expect you will waste your youth in pursuit of an object, which if attained will fall infinitely short of perfection – you will then perhaps wonder at your own infatuation in placing all your earthly happiness in the possession of one who has so little merit to justify your choice. –

     There was one thing in your last letter which I did not rightly understand – “After saying modesty and diffidence were amiable and becoming in our sex” – you add, “but here I will not flatter you, let it suffice to say I am satisfied.” – have I then swerved from the paths of delicacy – if I have, point out to me in what I have erred that I may correct myself – your reproofs I shall ever take as a mark of your affection – for [f. 66] when we love – we wish to see the object of our affection all amiable – flattery can never make them so. – Come rather earlier on thursday, than you did on saturday – it was near ten oclock – Good night – I am your friend in the tenderest sense of the word,

                                         Maria Hays.


I like the name,5 and shall henceforward sign myself so. I had almost forgot to thank you for the fruit. –


Monday evening August 9th 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 58-60; Wedd, Love Letters 41-42. 

2 vississitudes] MS

3 Lines from Hays's story, "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).

4 Line adapted from Pope's Eloisa to Abelard, l. 76.

5 Not particularly exotic for a pastoral nom de plume (like "Myrtilla," for instance) but "Maria" was an immensely popular choice.