7 September 1779

Letter 38.  John Eccles to Mary Hays, Tuesday, 7 September 1779.1


     You have been so very idle for a few days past, that I believe I am acting beyond the bounds of strict rule in writing to you; ’tis inclination prompts me to except against rule, and in spite of all its remonstrances still I must write – Yet all condescension as I am, I must abuse you a little; you deserve it – Well then you are a little tormenting hussey, and yet I love you too. – How could you send me home yesterday with such expectations; I could hardly keep my fingers from my pocket till I got up upstairs, but no sooner was I there, than I snatched out your paper, when behold, at the bottom, Margate 17762  [f. 147] first attracted my eyes. – I always allowed you were bewitching, yet I never considered you as a witch; I never supposed you could transport yourself so many miles in an instant, much less did I think you could alter the contents of a letter in my pocket – The date too puzzled me yet I thought that might be a mistake – I looked out for Maria, but no such soft word was there; –however after perusing a few lines I quickly perceived there was no witchcraft in the case, and concluded that you had over slept yourself in the morning, and reduced your senses to so low an ebb that you could not pen a single syllable. – Do you suppose I can ever pardon such negligence and such imposition too? – You are so engaging, so insinuating a girl, that were I ever so violently enraged against you, one look would entirely disarm me. – I am proof against the severest frowns but not against your smiles. –

     Tuesday morn: – I think I have over slept myself a little this morning – ’tis now half past seven o’clock, yet if I should not finish this letter to day, you must be silent, you cannot have a word to say against me; your example countenances me. – What a happy ^thing^ is it to have a precedent to act by; yet you see I don’t like to follow lazy precedents; if I did, I should not now be writing. – But the truth is, I cannot find in my heart to refrain from writing to you; I could not apologize to myself for [f. 148] omitting it; my conscience on that point is amazingly tender; it can admit of no dispensations. – Perhaps the pleasures I derive from it, so far prepossess me, that I sit down to write to you, for my own satisfaction; to gratify my own inclinations. – Yet no; it cannot be; ’tis an idea overflowing with self-love; ’tis an interested thought. – Let me examine my heart; sure I am incapable of such meanness.3 – I never could place my own happiness in competition with yours; – no I acquit it; – it could never be guilty of such businesss. – ’Tis for you I write; – to add to your enjoyments; that end obtained, is the pleasure that compensates the labor of writing; for could there be any pleasure in writing to no purpose? – But I am doubly recompensed; I feel a double satisfaction; – first that which arises from the persuasion, that you rank it amongst your pleasures, to read my letters; and next, an inward, independent tranquility flows from a consciousness that while writing to you, my time is employed to the best of purposes – besides a something, a generous glow warms my breast; there is inspiration in the idea that I am writing to you; it has an indescribable pleasure, which can only be felt; – yet ’tis such, that the heart trembles with delight; it melts with ten thousand soft sensations; it dissolves with the tenderest sensibility. – Oh! ’tis love which causeth these emotions; they tell me that I unfeignedly love you; that to part with you [f. 149] would be death; that years of pain would be more than repaid with your smiles; that your love, your friendship ought to be infinitely prized, as they are of infinite worth. – Well! what have I to return for your kindness, for the partiality you profess for me? – Only that flame which you first lighted in me; only the sincere wishes of a heart that rejoices to be yours. – Does that content you? – I know it does. – Adieu! believe me to be

         My dearest Maria most

                         Affectionately yours,

                                                J. Eccles. –


Sepr 7th 1779.


I beg your pardon; I should write more, but then I shall be too late for the post – I’ll make you amends the next time I write – Adieu! –   


1 Brooks, Correspondence 97-98; Wedd, Love Letters 75-76.

2 Margate was a popular seaside village, located just north of Dover and Canterbury. 

3 meaness] MS