16 August 1779
Letter 21. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Monday, 16 August 1779.1
Monday August 16th 1779.
My dearest Polly,
You bid me write my thoughts freely as they rise, when I write of you, I always do; when I only write to you, I sometimes do not. – My first and last thoughts every day are of you; they represent you most amiable, and “altogether lovely.”2 Sometimes the obstacles that part us, either intirely vanish, or else appear very diminutive; the next moment perhaps, they are aggrandized to a prodigious magnitude; so that a minute will frequently see me both happy and unhappy; so sudden are the transitions of thought. Borne on the airy, delusive wings of imagination how often have I fancied myself possessed of every joy life can afford; of the tenderest intercourse of love; of social bliss pure as the friendship of souls; how enraptured the minutes seemed to fly, fraught with delights unspeakable! – But soon the vision disappears, and I sink from the summit of ideal enjoyment, to real, heart-felt woe; difficulties almost insurmountable stare me in the face and ^make^ me shudder; I give myself ^up^ to despair. – Then I endeavor to look into futurity for comfort, and hope, soft hope succeeds,
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast
Man never is, but always to be blest.”3 [f. 86]
Oh! were my present hopes gratified, were they exchanged for the possession of their object, what would remain for me to hope for then? – Nothing on this side eternity; nothing in this state of existance would be worth a hope. – I could then look forward to a future state, without any anxiety for the present; – we could then assist each other to make preparations to live in a world, where only happiness reigns; where there are no disappointments, no baffled hopes, no false joys, nor false friends – there at least, we shall be happy – fate itself cannot prevent it. –
Had my addresses to you been founded on principles of dishonesty; swayed by interest, had I made use of the false arts of deceit; had I made pretensions, which I had no right to think justifiable, and at the same time had I loved you as I now do; (the idea terrifies me) oh! what now would be my situation! – how much severer pangs must I have endured! – despised by those who have now no right to despise me; rejected, perhaps detested by4 you; and nought but a conscience stained with guilt, to fly to. – All this I should then have deserved, and more. – Compared to this, how happy ought I now to think myself – let me make the comparison – Despised I now may be – that I can bear – ’tis for you – But you yourself neither desert, nor despise me. – What contrary dispositions, what contrary sensations, does my heart [f. 87] flatter me, you feel for me! – I am deeply affected with the goodness, with the partiality of, your heart; I know not in what terms to acknowledge it; but be assured I can never forget it; my life shall testify with what gratitude, with what tenderness I remember it. – Yet had you too forsaken me, even then I could have appealed to the rectitude of my intentions. – Conscious how disinterested they were, and how superior to the meanness of contempt, I could have found consolation within. – Insulted love might have found revenge in honorable pride. – In minds truly noble and generous, there is a dignity in love, which will not submit to insult – that might have been my refuge. – but you were never formed to disdain what was dictated by honor; to refuse, and to despise its offers, bear a wide distinction. – Prudence may sometimes require the one, but never the other. –
I would not exchange my pains for all the pleasures of the gay and thoughtless. – indeed we should be both losers; for neither could they feel my pains, nor could I taste their pleasure, as such – with this difference – their pleasures would not only be insipid, but burthensome to me; – whilst my cares would cause no sensations at all to them; – it is a species of pain for which their souls have no receptacle. – Though oppressed, though pensive and melancholy, I wish not to be otherwise; – I [f. 88] enjoy it – there is more pleasure in sitting alone, and writing to you, than millions of worlds could give – this is a pleasure which never tires me – can the unthinking multitude say as much for their pleasures? – they are frequently disappointed, and drink the cup of bitterness for the sweet – it is the contrary with me, nothing can deprive me of the felicity, the tranquil sensations, the calmness I feel while thus conversing with you; – circumstances frequently add to it. – I am now thinking this letter may entertain you a few minutes; this is productive of ideas truly consoling – perhaps too you are this minute writing to me; I anticipate the emotions it will to morrow evening inspire me with; thus I enjoy and improve5 solitude. –
O! lost to virtue, lost to manly thought!
Lost to the noble sallies of the soul!
Who think it solitude to be alone;
Communion sweet, communion large and high!6
I think you said I should see you rather before ten this evening; if it is convenient come; if not stay till ten; I shall be ready. – Tell me too at what time this comes, then I shall for the future know when to give them to the post. – Farewell! – believe me to be with the sincerest affection ever yours,
1 Brooks, Correspondence 68-70; Wedd, Love Letters 50-52.
2 Song of Solomon 5:16.
3 Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle I, ll. 95-96.
4 by by] MS
5 emprove] MS
6 Taken from the opening lines of Young's The Complaint, "Night the Third" (p. 30).