17 August 1779

Letter 22.  Mary Hays to John Eccles, Tuesday, 17 August 1779.1


     Your reflections on our saturday night’s amusement pleased me – my heart assented to the justness of them – the pleasure that arises from those scenes of gaiety and dissipation,2 are not really satisfying – it is an intoxication of the senses. – the music – the lights, and the succession of objects that passed before us, kept the spirits in a giddiness and agitation, that cannot please on reflection, – “’twas noise, ’twas madness.” – How different were the sensations I experienced when I came home, to those I have often felt, after returning from an evening walk – the shades, – the fields, – the stillness, and perhaps the society of an amiable friend diffused a delightful [f. 82] serenity through my mind – a sensation which the gay and dissipated3 never felt, and which soothes3 the soul to peace and harmony. –

“Oh! for some grot whose rustic sides declare;

Ease, and not splendor, was the builders care;

Where happy silence lulls the quiet soul,

And makes it calm as summer waters roll;

Here let me learn to check each growing ill,

And bring to reason disobedient will;

Here no reproaches grate the wound’d ear,

We see delighted – and transported hear;

Grief waits without, and melancholy gloom,

Come chearful hope, and fill the vacant room;

Come every thought which virtue gave to please,

Come smiling health! with thy companion ease.”5

I am a perfect enthusiast in my approbation of the country, as indeed I am of every thing – there is no exertion of the human mind, no effort of the understanding, imagination, or heart without a spark of this divine fire – without enthusiasm, genius, virtue, pleasure, even love itself languishes – all that refines, adorns, softens, exalts, ennobles life, has its source in this principle.6 – [f. 83]

     I do not wish you to go to Mr ---. I would rather you would take some opportunity of settling, when you meet him at any other place than his own house – You know not Mr Eccles, half the meanness,7 the treachery of them – ’tis one of the hardest tasks of my life to keep up an appearance of friendship with people who oblige me to despise them – they insinuate themselves into my favor, and endeavor to gain my confidence – but when I am absent, they join with my enemies, in every every illnatured observation – this however is of very little consequence – for libels, and scandal make an impression only on weak, and badly organised heads – and we may observe the most vicious, and spotted8 characters, are always the most ready to believe calumny. – Conscious of the rectitude of my own heart – of the superiority of my soul I look down on them with pride – with contempt – how is it possible they can have any idea of the motives which actuate those whose sentiments being more enlarged, more refined, move quite in a different sphere from themselves. – Don’t you think I have a fine spirit! – beware! – I am a little proud slut – but remember I have given you warning! –

    How flattering is your last epistle – be assured that those marks of tenderness are not lost upon me – I blush not to confess they give me a heart-felt satisfaction. – Wish not for the [f. 84] advantages of fortune, “it is not wealth, it is not birth, can value to the soul convey.”9 – When riches or splendor can have any influence on me, may I never taste those blessings which flow from a tender lively friendship, that reciprocation of esteem, that mixed sensation which the libertine never felt, and which only can bestow happiness. – My ideas, by the sensual, and the cold, may be termed romantic, but they are not the less just, nor the less in nature for that – a blind man may as well judge of colors as the mass of mankind of the sentiments of those hearts who are not blunted to the finer feelings.10

     When you return me Akensides Pleasures of the imagination – mark those parts which pleased you most.  Adieu!

        With the tenderest esteem I am your friend,

                             Maria Hays.


My spirits are more tranquil to day than they have been for some time – I hope this calm does not forbode a storm – but why should I make myself uneasy with imaginary ills! –


Tuesday morning August 17th 1779. –   


1 Brooks, Correspondence 67-68; Wedd, Love Letters 48-50. 

2 disipation] MS

3 disipated] MS

4 sooths] MS

5 Passage taken from Mary Leapor's poem, "A Summer's Wish," in Poems on Several Occasions, Vols 1-2 (1748), p. 22.  The passage above begins on line 9 and ends with line  27, omitting lines 11-12, 17-18, 21-22. 

6 Passage taken partially from Brooke, Emily Montague, 4.71. 

7 meaness] MS

8 spoted] MS

9 Lines from Air XXXIII (p. 60), in  Love in a Village: A Comic Opera (1767), by Isaac Bickerstaff.

10 Passage adapted from Brooke, Emily Montague, 3.162.