late July 1779

Letter 4. John Eccles to Mary Hays, undated [late July 1779].1


My dear,

       You will believe me when I say I have been deprived of a great deal of pleasure in not seeing you this evening, and I the more sensibly feel the disappointment, [f. 14] from a knowledge of its cause – That you are ill and I in health, distresses me! how happy should I be, to be the afflicted in your stead. – Any pains would be trivial, nay would be delicious, under the consoling thought that they were for you. – But since that is impossible, ought I not to endeavor to alleviate the ills I cannot bear? – To you I owe every thing. – I am sensible of infinite obligations to you, which you have never heard from my mouth, but not a spark of your goodness is ever lost on me, nor ever passes unperceived or unfelt. –

       Though I have walked solitary this evening and pensive, yet it administers me some comfort, that you have been the sole object of my serious thoughts – In every beauteous prospect, you have appeared more beautiful – In every pleasing idea, on the extensive scenery presented to my view, you have been there to render every thing complete – The calm delightful evening served to introduce you in colors still more delightful – And the beauteous appearance of the unclouded sun, resembled those unsullied virtues which I have so often been the attentive witness of – You have been and ought to be in all my thoughts – I hope you are not so ill but I shall see you tomorrow morning; but if you should not be out in the morning, don’t come in the afternoon, and I will [f. 15] see you. – If it will be any pleasure to my Polly to think that she will be in every thought till I see her, and that my most ardent wishes are that, “softest sleep with downy wings may rest on her eyelids,”2 and restore her to the morning, to health and to me, how sincerely does she possess them all. – I could write much more, but am afraid I shall not see Miss Betsy3 to deliver this, if I stay longer.—

                   I am ever

                        and only yours

                                     J. Eccles.


Sunday evening 


1 Brooks, Correspondence 37; Wedd, Love Letters 17-18.

2 Exact source is not known, but the lines are remarkably similar to a line in Mary Tighe's Psyche; or, The Legend of Love (1805):  "While sleep his downy wings had o'er her eyelids spread."

3 Elizabeth Hays, approximately thirteen years of age.