6 September 1779
Letter 37. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Monday, 6 September 1779.1
Mrs Brooke says, “Reconciliation is the tenderest part of love and friendship; the soul here discovers a kind of elasticity, and being forced back returns with an additional violence.”2 – Am I intirely forgiven – you smile assent – well then that affair is settled – and now I have half a mind to be angry in my turn – can you guess for what, or shall I assist your memory – Sunday night – indeed you are too free – positively I won’t allow it. –
Your letter on saturday was amazing clever – wise – sentimental – and so forth – seriously it was charmed with it. – In this frivolous dissipated age, where did you acquire so just a way of thinking. – Let me hope they were the real sentiments of your heart – but I am persuaded they were so – I will not for one moment doubt it. – While you continue to write with such tenderness, such delicacy, fear not that my esteem for you can ever lessen – that I can ever prove inconstant – ’tis impossible – the fineness of your understanding, and the sensibility of your soul fixes yours forever. – When I can prefer the fulsome adulation of a coxcomb, to the real sincere attachment of a man of merit, may I be treated with that contempt I should so justly deserve. – Shall I own the impression you have made on my heart? [f. 144] Would it not be false delicacy now to attempt to hide it; it would I believe be a fruitless one, for you too well know how very dear you are to me. –
“Were you ye fair, but cautious whom you trust,
So many of our sex would not in vain,
Of broken vows, and faithless men complain.
Of all the various wretches love has made;
How few have been by men of sense betray’d?
Convinced by reason, they your power confess,
Pleas’d to be happy, as you’re pleas’d to bless,
And conscious of your worth can never love you less.”3
Be content with this frank avowal of my esteem, and seek not to obtain such proofs of it, as are inconsistant with delicacy to grant, and which you in your cooler moments, divested of passion, would esteem me less for. – Confess honestly should you not. – No, you must be the guard of my honor – of my character. – It pains me to repulse or chide you – don’t make it necessary for me to do so. – Assure yourself, that every thing I can do, to contribute to your happiness (consistant with delicacy) <--> I will – pleasing you I account one of the greatest pleasures of my life – to ensure your happiness, I would willingly give up my own – my affection for you is pure – ’tis disinterested – ’tis a refined a tenderer species of friendship! – You will not love me less for confessing [f. 145] it – A stranger to dissimulation, in vain I seek to hide the feelings of my heart! – Yet why should I attempt concealments – there is not a thought, or an idea which I need blush to own, nor which the severest could condemn – is sensibility criminal – no, certainly – nor is it a crime to be susceptible to merit in either sex, notwithstanding the narrow percepts which are instilled into our minds – but what my friend, were those precepts occasioned by – was it not from the faithlessness, and ingratitude of the men, were they not – Alas! – I fear – but no, I will not fear – there is a meanness in suspicion which I cannot bear the appearance of – if I am deceived in my sentiments, I shall still have the satisfaction of a conscience void of guile, which being itself incapable of disguise, fears it not in others. – But I know you will never deceive me; and though the storms of adverse fortune beat keen and heavy on my head; yet shall they ^not^ have power to discompose me – with a placid serenity will I regard them, and smile amid the wreck. – I am called to breakfast Adieu! –
There has been a message this morning from Miss Lepard, to desire I would spend the day with them on thursday – I hardly know what to say to it – I long to see Miss L–– but can scarcely be civil to her Mamma – but I will go if the weather is favorable; I shall set out at half-past ten – if that hour suits, I shall expect to see you – it will be better than walking before [f. 146] breakfast, don’t you think so – I will appoint where you shall meet me on my return, as I would not by any means have you come to Mr L— Adieu, ma chere amie! –
Monday morning Sepr 6th 1779.
On perusing this letter, I am almost ashamed to give it to you. – I don’t know how ^to^ regulate my conduct – one moment I am afraid of disgusting with my forwardness, and the very next of offending you by my shyness.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 95-97; Wedd, Love Letters 73-74.
2 Passage from Brooke, Emily Montague, 4.155.
3 Closing lines from Rowe's The Fair Penitent, Act II, scene 2 (p. 33).