14 September 1779 (2)

Letter 45. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Tuesday, 14 September 1779.1

    As I gave you but half a sheet this morning, I take up my pen again to employ the few leisure moments I have in a manner that is most pleasing to me, because I flatter myself it is so to you. – How obliging, how soothing is the first part of your epistle? – my heart feels all the powers of it – your tenderness is a cordial to my spirits – but you must regret Mrs Collier’s absence on her own account as well as mine; she has acted generously by us both – few in her situation, would have been thus tender – I shall ever love her with the warmest affection – ingratitude is a stranger to my soul; it can have no entrance2 there. – What malevolent, what little minds do the world in general possess! – In what have you ever offended Mr Y----3 that he should be so severe; merely for the pleasure of detraction, it can be for nothing else – mean sordid wretches, how to despise them! – But your character rises superior to all their invidious attempts – it rather increases than lessens the esteem I entertain for you – how unworthy should I be of your love, if I could for one moment credit their ridiculous aspersions. –

       I thank you in the name of my sex, for the compliment you paid us in your quotation this morning – and am glad [f. 173] you would that the censures you cast on them before, were illiberal – why will you be so very severe on poor Mr B---- it is not a pleasing subject to me – I own with you, that I do not think he is qualified to be a teacher; but I believe him to be a good man; as such let us respect him – he has not had the advantage of education – his natural understanding is not bad, that you must allow with all your prejudices. – But religion is so seldom met with in this age of dissipation,4 that we ought to pay respect to it (as well in the illiterate as in the scholar) wherever it is found. –

     You have been petitioning the God of love for a fine day – I have a notion your prayers have been lost in empty air. – ’Tis a little capricious urchin always changing – and contrary to the nature of a just deity, takes delight in teazing those who are his most faithful votaries – 

            “Love like other little boys,

            Cries for hearts, as they for toys;

            Which when gain’d in childish play,

            Wantonly are thrown away.

            Basely flying when most priz’d;

            Meanly fawning when despis’d;

            Flatt’ring or insulting ever,

            Generous, and grateful never.”5

[f. 174]

     What think you of my quotation – very just is it not. – by the latter part of your letter, I imagine you think me a true woman – pleased to be flattered at another’s expence – indeed I am half angry with you; could you not compliment me without detracting from Mrs --- –  Think not I can take pleasure in such flattery – yes, flattery, I repeat it; for I do not pretend to vie with her in person; such vanity would be absurd – If I am more pleasing in your eyes, that is all I desire; I only wish for beauty; whilst you think me amiable, I am content; ever love me, and what I want in personal attractions, I will endeavor to make up by a strict attention to your precepts – a just sensibility of your worth, and an eternal constancy –

                 “No time shall find me wanting in my truth.”6

I have always treated you with the most unfeigned sincerity – I know you esteem me not the less for this – My heart knows no guile, it has not a thought or sentiment

                     “Which virgins might not tell, or angels hear”7

why then should it attempt disguise – it shall ever be unreservedly [f. 175] open to you; you shall direct its motions;

                     “Friendship and love, how seldom near ally’d;

                     “How rarely in one bosom they reside.8

If I recollect right those are your own lines. – Adieu, my dear friend – with the tenderest esteem I am all your own

                                         Maria Hays.


Tuesday Sepr 14th 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 108-110; Wedd, Love Letters 85-86.

2 enterance] MS

3 Most likely a Mr. Yates.

4 disipation] MS

5 Lines from John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, "A Dialogue between Strephon and Daphne" (1691).

6 From Dryden's translation of Vergil's Aeniad, Book IX, in The Works of the British Poets, vol. 12 (1795), p. 485.

7 A line from Matthew Prior's poem, Henry and Emma (1709), which actually reads, "Which angels might not hear, and virgins tell." See Henry and Emma, a New Poetical Interlude, altered from Prior's Nut Brown Maid .... As Performed  on Wednesday, April 13, 1774, at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden ... (London: T. Davies, 1774), p. 8. 

8 Source unknown.