[1 October] 1779

Letter 58. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Friday, 31 September [1 October] 1779.1


    I shall be unhappy till I see you; the tender expressions in your letter this morning touched me; you know not how much they affected me. – Can you forgive my petulancy? I am never angry with you a moment without feeling the deepest contrition; think not I can ever be insensible of your love; oh no; ’tis impossible; my whole heart is yours; have I not often told you so? – here then I confirm the gift; surely you will not refuse it. – Were I capable of inconstancy I should despise myself; but how can I be inconstant? Is there another Eccles in the world? is there another for whom I could feel those sweet emotions of approbation and esteem with which I have long regarded you? – When I can divest myself of them, I shall indeed be the last of my sex, and deserve to be forever precluded from the tender social pleasures which flow from a reciprocal affection, from a union of souls. – But I have given too many proofs of the steadiness of my attachment for you to doubt it; an attachment which is my pride, and which took its rise from the noblest principle; a conviction of worth, and of the [f. 228] tender sincerity of your heart. – I know you amiable, I know you generous, or could I thus freely disclose my sentiments? – “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.” – Will you then forgive every severe expression in my letter this morning? – I did not intend to give ^it^ you; it was the first emotions of a chagrin2 which your conversation gave me (perhaps unintentionally) and I had determined to commit it to the flames. – “You think me soon offended.” I plead guilty to the charge – but does not that susceptibility of an affront, prove of how much consequence your heart is to me? Every appearance of a slight alarms my fears; conscious of my demerits, and that the only charm I possess is a heart faithful and sincere, unstained with coquetry, incapable of dissimulation, I cannot help sometimes doubting my ascendancy over you; but when I reflect on the many trials you have sustained, the many difficulties you have struggled with, the many expressions of tenderness you have lavished upon me, I am angry with myself for those doubts, and determine to banish them for ever. –

      I am going to Southend to day, but shall be uneasy all the time I am out. – How can I taste pleasure, when I have caused you disquiet? – Yet to a mind not perfectly at ease, there is something extremely soothing in the stillness of the country; it is like the [f. 229] artificial repose which is acquired by opiates after long watching; like that too, though it neither strengthens nor nourishes, it allows us time to recover our faculties. – But every prospect, every pleasing scene will remind me of you; will make me wish you a partaker of it, and perhaps cause a sigh on the reflection of the distance between us. – You complained of a gloom on your spirits, conceal not from me the cause, of whatever nature it may be; have I not the right to participate in all your sorrows? – Deny me not the delightful task of being your comforter; let me not be mortified with the supposition that it is not in my power. Your Maria has no satisfaction equal to that of giving you pleasure, to soften the ills of life, which may fall to your lot shall ever be her study, her dearest employment; let her then be a sharer in your every distress. – I am not sorry that my going to Balam3 is deferred, as I flatter myself it will be pleasing to you; indeed I would make many sacrifices to give you pleasure; but I cannot help thinking that they have not treated me with politeness, they have behaved to me as if I was beneath them, a sort of humble friend, to be put off with every trifle; I own I feel my pride a little touched; they shall court me to come now, or I will stay away. –

     I almost dread seeing your next letter – don’t chide me too severely – But I know you will have compassion on your poor little girl, for she is a sincere penitent for her fault. – Adieu! You [f. 230] still love me don’t you? – I will not be so capricious any more, but ever with the tenderest the most affectionate esteem be all your own.

                                                   Maria Hays

Fryday Sepr: 31st: 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 133-34; Wedd, Love Letters 109-10; the letter is incorrectly dated.

2 shagrin] MS

3 Balham is a section of South London in the Borough of Wandsworth. Ann Lepard Parker is now living there; in the early part of the next century Hays's brother, Thomas, will live nearly a decade on Wandsworth Common.