21 August 1779

Letter 25. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday, 21 August 1779.1

      The unreserved manner in which I write, the frankness with which I have avowed my esteem, might expose me to the contempt of a coxcomb – but on the man of feeling the man of sense it will have quite a contrary effect – the very high opinion I have ever entertained of your honor, and understanding, has induced me to sacrifice many of those punctilios which seem necessary to be observed between the sexes – the particular manner in which we were circumstanced might perhaps be another reason for it – I saw the difficulties you had to struggle with, and said to myself “his constancy will never stand the test, his pride will make him give me up, though it should cost his heart a pang.” – I had been taught to imagine, that fidelity, and disinterested affection amongst the men, existed only in the legends of romance – that [f. 102] they were “by nature false, dissembling, cruel and inconstant”2 – if ever I ventured to argue on the point I was called a romantic girl, and told not to expect in real life to meet with those heroic virtues, and sentiments, which had charmed me so much in books – when you first professed an attachment for me, insinuations were not wanting (especially by Mrs ------3) to persuade me your motives were interested – that it was convenience, not love which actuated you; and though I would not give ear to them now, yet time would convince me that they were right in their opinions – that it was from friendship they gave me these admonitions, and a real concern for my happiness – it was in vain I urged the firm belief I had of your sincerity – I was told I knew nothing of the world – that it was very easy for men to pretend an affection, they never felt – and for a girl of my turn to be imposed upon by an affectation of sentiment, which only existed in my own romantic imagination, and that I should e’er long see the fallacy of those ideas – my conduct was often called into question – I have been taxed with indelicacy, and impropriety – the censures of the world have been strongly enforced, and a thousand little spiteful anecdotes related to me – some of them, (by the before mentioned lady) to your disadvantage, who took care to insinuate every thing that could possibly give me pain. – Thus situated – can you wonder that I have so often expressed doubts of the permanency of your affection – a [f. 103] consciousness that I possessed so few personal attractions, was another reason for those doubts – but you have intirely dissipated them all – convinced of your sincerity – convinced of your truth, from henceforward I place an intire confidence in you. – I have chosen you for my friend, and though you should cease to love me, (for our affections are not always in our own power) yet still I shall expect your friendship – still shall you possess my tenderest esteem! – for if I could ^not^ make you happy, I would never by haughtiness, or reproaches disturb your peace. –

“Celestial happiness; when e’er she stoops to visit earth,

One shrine the Goddess finds, and only one

To make her sweet amends, for absent heaven,

The bosom of a Friend, where soul, meets soul,                                            reciprocally soft

Each others pillar to repose divine.”4

  Let not what the world may say, have power to give you one moments uneasiness – I have long learned to regard its censures with a philosophical composure –

“Slander, that worst of poisons only finds

An easy entrance5 in ignoble minds.”6   [f. 104] 

They only can hurt me through my friends – ’tis there alone I am susceptible to their malice. –

     Can you believe it; I was pleased with your anger instead of being terrified at it – am I not very saucy? be ever angry with me when I doubt the continuance of your regard – that will convince me that my fears are needless – I must confess I felt an unaccountable reluctance at returning your letters – a thousand strange imaginations7 took possession of my head, (they did not descend to my heart) but a little reflection soon dispersed them into air, and convinced me of the folly of indulging such absurd ideas. –

     Why did you not go to Mr James’s on thursday – you might have written to me on friday instead – I don’t like you should stand upon such ceremony8 – ’tis unlike the freedom which ought to subsist between friends – therefore banish it – beside I wish you to be amused. – How lazy you are this fine morning – I was up at little after six – I have learnt to be an early riser of late, and find more pleasure in the two hours before breakfast, then all the rest of the day – “Sweet is the breath of morn.”9 Adieu! be assured that I am (what shall I say) all your own

                                 Maria Hays.


August 21st 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 76-78; Wedd, Love Letters 56-57.

2 Line from Thomas Otway's The Orphan: Or, the Unhappy Marriage (1768 edition), Act II, scene 1 (p. 136).

3 Mrs Lepard

4 Lines taken from Young's The Complaint, "Night the Second" (p. 24). 

5 enterance] MS

6 Lines from Juvenal's Satire IX, originally translated by Dryden but incorporated in many editions of the Works of the British Poets (36 vols) by such editors as Stephen Harvey and Thomas Park.

7 immaginations] MS

8 cerimony] MS

9 Line from Milton's Paradise Lost, IV. 641.