16 August 1779

Letter 21. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Monday, 16 August 1779.1

[f. 85]

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,

                                     J. Eccles. 



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).