19 August 1779
Letter 23. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Thursday, 19 August 1779.1
“On eagle’s wings immortal scandal flies!”2
I am astonished beyond expression at what you told me – how the Lepards3 came by their intelligence is to me a mystery. I am well assured they never had it from our family – I am concerned for it on your account – how many mortifications have you borne for me – it pains me to reflect on them, and perhaps you have many more yet to suffer. – Oh fly me! – leave me forever! – I may be unhappy – but cannot bear to be ungrateful. – Ah! what am I saying – but if an eternal constancy can repay what you have suffered – be assured that neither absence, time, nor circumstances can ever make any alteration in my sentiments. – this is all the recompence I can make you – this is all it is in my power to do for you – <---------> if it is not sufficient leave me to my fate, and you will in time regain your peace of mind, in time forget there was such a person in the world as her who is now writing to you – but I recall my words: – pardon what I have said, I will not, I do not think so – No, I am convinced of the sincerity of your attachment – convinced, that you cannot be [f. 90] unfaithful – but if you should give me up – if you should give up a pursuit which has ever been a source of pain – I will not reproach you; may you be happy – may the choicest blessings of Heaven be showered on your head. –
How impertinently inquisitive is the world – so eager to know every bodies affair’s – and of what consequence can it be to them – surely none – ’tis really amazing to me! – But in general (I believe) those are the best people whose characters have been most injured by slander, as that is always the best fruit which the birds have been pecking at.4 –
I dread the idea of going into company to day, I am not at all disposed for it. – “I am sick of this bad world.” – Oh! that I had been born amongst savages “where free to follow nature was the mode.”5 – I am a perfect misanthrope, I almost hate society – I wish to fly from it, “to some ^far^ distant clime,
“And there in solitude to spend my time.”6
But our company is come, so I must lay down my pen – don’t be uneasy about this foolish affair – ’tis not worthy that you should – let us learn to despise the [f. 91] censures of an ignorant, illiterate set of people, whose understandings being too weak to furnish proper topics for conversation are obliged to find a resource in cards or scandal to prevent down right insipidity – Adieu! – I know not what I have written – I dare not read it over again. –
Believe me ever your sincere friend –
Thursday August 19th 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 70-72; Wedd, Love Letters 52-53.
2 Lines from the Roman poet Juvenal, attributed to a translation by George Stepney in an article on "Conversation" in the London Magazine 34 (March 1765), 128.
3 For more on the Lepard family, see their entry in the Biographical Index.
4 Passage taken from Brooke, Emily Montague, 4.172-73.
5 Line from Thomson's The Seasons, "Autumn," l. 223.
6 Lines spoken by Sir James, a character in a short dramatic piece titled "Aurelia, or a History for the Fair Sex," which appeared in The Lady's Magazine 6 (December, 1775), 654.