31 August 1779 (2)
Letter 32. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Tuesday, 31 August 1779.1
Again you try to soothe – and I again to believe. – How easy are we to credit what we wish – I will not doubt your love, because the sensations occasioned by those doubts, are too painful to be indulged. “Your heart is mine (you say) and that is all you have to offer.” – and that is all I require – empires, and crowns when set in competition with the real sincere affections of the soul, are of little worth,
“For what is fortune to the wish of love?
A miserable bankrupt – oh, ’tis poor, ’tis scanty all
What e’er we can bestow; the wealth of kings
Is wretchedness and want.”2
“You suggested those difficulties, to prove the firmness of my constancy” – Could you then doubt it? – have I not too plainly shewed how very tenderly I esteem you, to need any further trials – Ah! Mr Eccles, consider – was that indeed all you meant, and is there not some hidden meaning still lurks beneath that letter – it would be cruel to delude me further – be honest – be just – tell me all that lays on your mind without disguise. – If you wish to quit thy place, do – For your advantage – for your ease, I can give up every thing. If I am destined to be unhappy, let me have the sweet, the soothing [f. 127] satisfaction to think, that by it I insure your felicity – that would be a consolatory idea through all the ills of life. – My attachment for you is disinterested – intirely divested of self – ’tis of that nature, that were I free’d from mortality would influence me to watch over you as a guardian Angel,
Perhaps the soft thought of your breast,
With rapture more favour’d to warm;
Perhaps when with sorrow opprest,
That sorrow with patience to arm.
Then, then in the tenderest part,
May I whisper3 thy Celia was true;
And mark if a heave of the heart,
The thoughts of thy Celia pursue.”4
You must return me my letters – three of them (I think) you have now got – that of sunday afternoon I want to see again – It alarmed me so much, that I hurried over the contents with such rapidity, that I hardly know what was in it – (only I was too sure it was very unpleasing.) – I had not power to read it twice – I blush while I own it – that in the evening was sprightly and clever – I must insist upon having it again. – What a difference between the two letters – and yet so immediately following each other – you are an unaccountable [f. 128] creature – I really don’t know what to make of you. – Your reflections on women were illiberal – even Virgil does not think them altogether so mutable – his Dido is a proof to the contrary – she died a victim to her love – but think of the business, the ingratitude of Eneas, who treacherously deserted a queen, who had sacrificed her honor, her happiness, her all to him.5 – Does not my favorite Thomson, warn us to beware of your sex.
“Dare not the infectious sigh, the pleading look
Downcast and low, in meek submission drest,
But full of guile.”6
“Trust not a man, we are by nature false, dissembling,
Cruel and inconstant. – When a man talks
Of love, with caution trust him; but if he
Swear’s he’l certainly deserve you.”7
Dryden also says,
“Man ever is inconstant, various still,
There’s no tomorrow in him like to day; [f. 129]
Perhaps the storms rolling in his brain,
Make him think honestly this present hour,
The next a swarm of base ungrateful thoughts
May mount aloft.”8
You deserved this – ’tis only a little recrimination; but there is no rule without an exception – let me find you are one – I sincerely wish it – for you are too dear to me, not ^to^ do so. – Adieu! shall I hear from you on thursday, or saturday, as there are some questions at the beginning of this letter, which I want resolved. – Yet still I am your own girl (unless you reject me)
Tuesday morning August 31st 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 86-87; Wedd, Love Letters 65-67.
2 Source unknown.
3 wisper] MS
4 Source unknown.
5 The story of Aeneas and Dido can be found in Virgil's Aeneid, Book IV.
6 Lines from Thomson's The Seasons, "Spring," ll. 972-74.
7 Lines from Otway's The Orphan, Act II, scene 1 (p. 36).
8 Lines adapted from Dryden's Cleomenes the Spartan Hero, Act III, scene 1, in The Works of Mr. John Dryden, vol. 3 (London: J. Tonson, 1695), original text from the 1692 edition by Jacob Tonson, p. 25.