31 August 1779
Letter 31. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Tuesday morning, 31 August 1779.1
Little did I ever think, I should be obliged to apologize to my dearest Maria, for acting ungenerously, or unkindly to her; yet you will have it so, and I must beg your pardon for writing letters, which were never meant to convey any sentiment, incompatible with the warmest affection, with the purest love. – No, I would not exchange my interest in your heart, for the possession of kingdoms, nor could empires ever tempt me to undervalue your esteem; I am too deeply sensible of its worth. – Set aside these doubts for ever, and do not join yourself with my enemies. – In the depression of my heart, though I suggested a multitude of fears, yet if you remain unshaken by them, be confident they never will have any weight with me. – If by laying before you difficulties (I wish to suppose some of them ideal) to prove the firmness of your constancy, I gave you pain, yet think I had my share of suffering the while. – I am not devoid of feeling; to give you any uneasiness, inflicts its own punishment, as to be the [f. 123] means of wooing to your pleasures, brings its own reward. – Can any distress dwell in that loved bosom, disturbing its peace, and I not join the sympathetic sigh? – My heart rises and enervates the idea. – To mitigate your sorrows is pleasure, to heighten your pleasures, is real delight. – Never suspect my constancy; could I suppose myself capable of ingratitude so black; of inconstancy so cruel, as ever to desert you, how would my pride be humiliated! – I should despise myself. – No, I’ll ever love you – for ever keep you in my heart – none but you shall ever find access there, and you will know the way to it. – Oh! ’tis all yours; ’tis not a divided heart; you shall ever reign there. – But remember I have nothing more to offer you; yet were I possessed of honors, and a fortune independent, I am assured I should feel an additional pleasure in presenting them to you; yet let me not indulge the thought, ’tis an unpleasing one; does it not tend to envy? at least its tends to infelicity. – Since then it is out of my power, let me philosophize. –
“Can wealth give happiness? look round and see
What gay distress! What splendid misery!”2
’Tis in vain to wish for what is denied us; besides no doubt ’tis withheld for infinitely wise ends. – Who knows what a change riches might make in me? – I might be vain; might love you (yet [f. 124] heaven forbid) though not with less tenderness, yet with less assiduous attention. – If ’tis for this, I readily acquiesce in the want of them –
“The ways of heaven, are dark and intimate,
Puzzled in mazes, and perplex’d with error;
Lost and bewilder’d in the fruitless search
Our understanding traces them in vain;
Nor sees with how much art the windings run,
Nor where the regular confusion ends.”3
So far then I am satisfied; convinced all is for the best, I resign myself to the will of providence; ’tis wisdom, ’tis virtue to do so.
I have read your letter; ’tis answered in what I have already written; much I repent of the anxiety I have caused you, yet believe me ’twas unintentional; could I have foreseen what has been the consequence, to atoms would I have torn the scroll, that now hurts your peace. – I am glad the former part of this letter is an answer to yours, otherwise you might have thought pity dictated that consolation, which love refused – Yet I have not been used to deceive you. – I am affected with your complaining; its reproaches are too tender; why then did I ever deserve them? Believe me, I never have deserved them; yet you will think so, [f. 125] and I must bear them. – conscious I have ever loved you – that I have not bestowed a single thought on any one but you – that my unreserved heart has long been yours; I feel your words with the temper of innocence – I bear them without repining, because you think me false. (Oh! hard) Yet be convinced, be assured my affections are as lively as ever – my heart still glows with as bright a flame – still do I feel the same thrilling sensations playing around it – at thought of you, I still feel the same pleasurable emotions – my heart beats with a quicker impulse. – Time instead of extinguishing the fire of love, refines it and makes it burn the clearer – Be satisfied then of my eternal truth and constancy – never, never can I sustain the thought of forsaking you – I entertain not a wish but for your happiness – You guide every thought of my heart. – As I intend to give you this, if possible, before I go out this morning, I must leave off – Never more doubt, my dearest Maria, that my affections,
that I am all your’s
J. Eccles. –
Tuesday morn: August 31st 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 86-87; Wedd, Love Letters 64-65.
2 Lines from Edward Young's Satire V, a part of his larger work, Love of Fame.
3 Lines from Addison's Cato, Act 1, scene 1.