21 August 1779 (2)
Letter 26. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Saturday, 21 August 1779.1
Oh! love, how pleasing is thy bondage! – How enchanting the fetters that bind the union of souls! – Though in minds softened by the delicate touch of sensibility, thou art too often accompanied by wounds of keenest smart, yet do thy smiles administer the balm of comfort, under every affliction; thy kindly officious care, oft repels the bitter tear, e’er it arrives at the portals of light, and alleviates those griefs which reason in vain attempts to over-come. – Without thee what were life, but an insipid existence; a scene altogether unenviable; incapable of exciting hope or fear; desire or disgust. – ’Tis thou that renders life truly valuable; supported by thee, let the world frown on, and multiply its insults; the soul rises superior to all its invidious attacks. –
How engaging do you appear in your last letter; – how flattering are its expressions, and how replete1 [sic] with consolation! – As the burning sands of Lybia imbibe the reviving showers of rain, so did my heart expand to drink in the enlivening draughts it conveyed. – One day after another, demonstrates to me that I am bound to you, not only by the most sacred ties of love, but by the ties of almost innumerable obligations. – Oh! for expressions [f. 106] equal to the love, to the gratitude that lives within my breast; but it is inexpressible, and words are nothing – You feel for the mortifications, which I can now pass over without the least disagreeable sensation; the mind knows not its powers till they be tried; I am not mortified at all – It is true Mrs L-----’s2 busy talk was rather unexpected, and amazed me at first, but on maturer reflection I saw how fruitless it would be either to be grieved or offended at it; wherever she procured her information, she discovers a great weakness in publishing it; and if it gave me any painful considerations on my own account, I should discover a mind equally depraved. – But will not these tales affect you most; will not the reflections of the world be severer against you than me? – What can I think of it? – The generality of people are more bitter in their censures on the conduct of your sex than ours; perhaps ’tis because they think you unable to take any revenge on them; they are cowards, and fearful to attack us: and this is an age by no means remarkable for knight-errantry; gentlemen can hear their Mistresses abused, and treated contemptuously, without being fired at the insult; however I am not of that tame order; no one, except the gossips, of your own sex, shall endeavor to cast a blot on your character without being accountable for it – As for myself, so far from being mortified as I thought, at any little disagreeable incidents which I might experience, I rather enjoy them; I consider them as small debts I owe you, and which [f. 107] I ought to take a real pleasure in discharging. – Besides, the few years I have lived in the world, have taught me to expect, and always be prepared to meet disappointment – and young as I am too, I have learnt to brave the malice and envy of little minds, and to regard the meannesses of their tongues and actions, with a conscious superiority, and the dignity of decent pride. – Sensible I am to your repeated acts of indulgence, and to the partiality of the opinion you entertain of me; and certain I am, that you must feel some real mortifications on my account – shall I then repine at the trivial hints and insinuations of the vulgar? – Shall I murmur that they will be inquisitive, and anxious to repeat all the ill-natured things they hear? – Oh, no, let them talk till the theme tire them.
I expect to see you this evening; how I look forward and count the time, and how tedious the minutes pass – ’tis now five o’clock; I have four hours longer to wait; I consider nine o’clock as a point of time highly to be distinguished; it stands as the bounds of this day’s hope; surely it is marked for enjoyment. – Yet let me not be too certain; let me not be too sanguine; disappointment is ever at hand – I am not a stranger to it – yet it is not necessary I should anticipate it – Let me only be continually prepared to meet its shocks with ^the^ fortitude of a man. – However, whether prosperity or diversity attend me, either state will find me ever devoted to you; whether elated or depressed, my heart shall ever acknowledge itself yours – When it ceases to [f. 108] beat only for you, I forever disclaim it. – My dearest Maria good night. – Believe I shall ever love you, as sincerely as whilst I now write
Yours for ever – J: Eccles. –
Saturday August 21st 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 78-79; Wedd, Love Letters 57-59.
2 repleate] MS
3 Mrs. Lepard