1 September 1779

Letter 34.  John Eccles to Mary Hays, Wednesday, 1 September 1779.1


[f. 132]

     You ask me if there is not yet some secret purpose lurking within my breast; if there are not other reasons besides what I have already mentioned, for my saying so many difficulties, and representing them to you – I answer none at all. – There is not a thought of my heart, which you are unacquainted with; with you I know no secrets. – Not an idea enters my mind, not a wish finds harbor there, which has not you for its source or end. – Whatever purposes were lodged in my bosom, were it possible they could by any means render you unhappy, they should instantly be banished from thence, and never more find access there. – To make you happy, is the sole pleasure I am capable of; deprive me not then of that pleasure, by so often doubting my sincerity – To apologize for the letter I wrote to you on sunday, let me plead its good intent; ’twas to induce you to examine your heart, to prove how far your constancy would bear you up, whether you would rise superior to, or sink beneath the weight of difficulties; – ’twas to fortify, and arm you against any trying circumstances or misfortunes – Are you not satisfied? – Could you seriously imagine, I meant to leave you? – After reigning so long unrivalled in my heart, could you suppose me capable of admitting another passion there? – You know your power too well. – Then you say [f. 133] I am a most unaccountable creature, for writing two letters so different in their contents in one day; I’ll explain the paradox – the first was written partly on saturday night, and partly on sunday morning; at each of these times my spirits were far below par; besides, in the morning, ’twas too late to repent of what was written the previous evening; I had not time to begin afresh, and I thought you would consider it full as great a crime, to neglect writing to you (particularly as I had not written since the tuesday before) as to give you a letter with two or three unpleasing sentences in it; besides I endeavored as much as possible to soften them towards the end. – The last letter (written immediately after) was designed on purpose to prevent the progress of those ideas, which I was then apprehensive would arise in your mind, from perusing the former letter, and to assure you that “no change of sentiment” had taken place in me. – I could not indure the thought of continuing you in suspence a whole night – I know you are now satisfied. – Well, what else have I now to say to you? – You know (without any repetition) that I love you – Oh! ’tis real, ’tis a heartfelt affection; ’tis a permanent, ’tis an eternal flame;

-----------“When I love her not

Chaos is come again” -------------- 2

I would not think I could ever look on you with indifference, for [f. 134] all the treasures of Peru – ’tis a thought that would make life itself insufferable; but ’tis a thought which I have ^not^ the least dread of. –

     I am afraid you will think me too good for writing again to day, especially should I have any opportunity of giving it you this evening. – Three times in two days! – tis astonishing! – but you supplied me with themes pretty abundantly to expatiate on. – I bless my good genius for opening the pores of my head and brain, to let out some of the dross – stop, don’t be mistaken, this is the real refined ore – what pity the dross should evaporate into air; but I have nobody to talk to me to day – My tongue is now just tuned for talking; volubility sits on its tip, ready to begin the ceaseless harangue; think then what a mortification it is to have no other company than chains and tables. – I have been wishing for you here all day (at Lambeth) but, “vanity of vanities,” wishing is altogether vanity.3 – I have been talking with you all the morning, asking you many questions, all which (by your officious proxy) you answered to my entire satisfaction; but indeed I never listen to any unsatisfactory answers; ’tis quite “out of my way.” – Don’t you think me a most consummate poet? – Not a single qualification wanting? – I anticipate your answer in the affirmative. – Without the least alloy of vanity – you must say I am very modest; and that I have put only such words in your mouth, as proceeded [f. 135] from the inmost recesses of your heart. – That dull rogue, Time, is for ever interrupting me; he frightened five or six very pretty fancies out of my head last night, which (to your great grief) are irrecoverably gone. – I had intended too, humbly to intercede for your company, without leaving you the privilege “to deny it me.” – I forgot likewise to ask by what means I was to give you this letter; whether it was to ascend to your window by the power of attraction, or to lie in ambush, and catch you returning from some visit; to the latter way I give the preference. – But to be serious – I want to see [you] either some evening, or morning, which suits you best – it must be some day this week – time and place I leave to you. – I fancy you were lazy this morning, though indeed I was not at home after half past seven. –

     I was going to finish, but cannot help making one observation first, on the power of conceit – On sunday evening, after remarking on the coolness of my two last letters, “you said you could plainly see a difference in my behaviour too; an apparent coolness.” – this was at a time when my heart was fluttering with all the tender anxieties of love; when I was only solicitous to drive from your bosom every fear that perplexed it; when I was agitated beyond expression for having (though innocently) disturbed your peace – and yet your suspicions painted a coolness in [f. 136] my countenance. – For the future be ever assured I am yours,

         With unalterable affection.

                                                 J. Eccles. –


Wednesday September 1st 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 90-92; Wedd, Love Letters 68-70.

2 Lines by Othello in Shakespeare's Othello, Act III, scene 3.

3 Ecclesiastes 12:8.