18 September 1779 (2)
Letter 47. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday, 18 September 1779.1
I shall always reflect with pleasure on our excursion to Lark Hall;2 ’tis the prettiest romantic spot I ever saw; I perfectly long to pay the old lady another visit; I never spent a more agreeable afternoon. – Shall I praise you – yes I will, for you deserve it – your whole behavior3 yesterday gave me the sincerest pleasure; it was tender, obliging, attentive, in short, it was every thing I could wish! – your sentiments, your observations, charmed me – because, they intirely coincided with my own; a very good reason you must allow. – Before I knew you, I imagined men4 were perfect strangers to [f. 180] that delicate, that refined way of thinking, which women in general possess; I concluded that your educations being different, gave a different turn to your pursuits, and your ideas also; and that your souls were incapable of feeling those exquisitely sweet sensations, those tender instillations of nature, which alone is productive of heart felt delight! – I am now convinced of my error, a conviction that gives me inexpressible satisfaction. – Continue ever what you are at present, and my heart will be intirely your own; I shall be proud of its attachment to you, as it will be a proof that I am not incapable of distinguishing worth. – Don’t, however, be too conceited with my commendations; perhaps I am partial; if I am excuse the friend. – I have not heard you talk of going to Fordingbridge lately; (I had almost said) I hope that scheme was laid aside, I don’t know why neither – ’tis silly I own – but if you wish to go, I should be very sorry that any nonsensical fears of mine, should prevent your doing any thing that might be for your advantage; I have your real interest at heart. – But now I am talking of my follies, shall I tell you another of them – No, I won’t – ’tis an ungenerous idea, and I will banish it from my mind – pardon my mentioning of it – but I believe I must explain myself lest I should unwittingly give you pain by exciting your curiosity – Well then, know – that I have sometimes felt a painful emotion, when reflecting on the beauty and amiable qualities of Mrs C------5 [f. 181] and that you was once attached to her, lest6 any remains of that attachment should still lie lurking in your heart (though perhaps undiscovered by yourself,) for I am persuaded you would not intentionally deceive me; or if that passion should be intirely extinguished, (which I trust it is) yet I doubt whether it be possible for a man really to love twice – to love with fervency, with the warm animated, entire affection of the soul, with every faculty of it. – I know you esteem me; I know you love me; but do you feel those same solicitudes, anxieties; those thrilling sensations on my account, which you experienced for the aforementioned lady. – I blush on the reperusal of what I have written – yet – I must have your whole, your undivided heart! – I am a little covetous hussey – but – I know you will forgive me – I depend on your often experienced indulgence. – Do not think me void of delicacy for making such undisguised avowals of my sentiments; I have been always used to “let my heart dictate and my pen obey,” and cannot now learn the art of dissimulation; if it is necessary instruct me – though I flatter myself you are equally a stranger to it. –
I long to take Miss Dunkin to our cottage7 – I think she will be charmed with ^it^; if I judge of her from myself I am sure she will; I should like to live in such a sweet little retirement, “The world forgetting,8 by the world forgot.”9 – I am [f. 182] certain I should be better in such a situation than I am at present; there is something in the country, in the serene enjoyments of nature, which raises the mind to heaven –
“These are thy glorious works parent of good
Almighty, thine this universal frame;
Thus wondrous10 fair; thy self how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, who sitteth11 above these heavens
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.”12
I am now writing by candle-light; ’tis with regret I see the days shorten so considerably, and the winter approach so fast, the season of consolation; it will deprive us of our walks, and of all the pleasing train of ideas which flow from them – and what amends will it bring for such deprivations; Alas! none – its charms are only for the gay, the dissipated – let them enjoy their pleasures unenvied by me; still shall we have this consolation of conversing to each other upon paper – and next to the satisfaction which the company of a friend gives us, is that of writing to them; it is now become so habitual to me to take up my pen and scribble13 to you at every leisure hour, that I don’t know whether I could live without [f. 183] it; it can never prove a task, because I write with freedom, without the least constraint; secure of your indulgence to my prattle, for how often have you repeated how much you love your
Sepr 18th 1779. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 113-14; Wedd, Love Letters 88-90.
2 Lark Hall was situated just to the south of Vauxhall and Lambeth Bridge; a park remains in its vicinity to this day, with Larkhall now a ward of Lambeth. Below is an image of Lark Hall in 1780, the same time that Eccles and Hays visited there. In later letters (53, 57, 68) they will refer a resident at the Hall as "the old lady." She may have been the owner, but her role at the Hall is never specified.
3 behavour] MS
4 the men] MS
6 least] MS
7 Apparently the Hays family owned, or at least had access to, a cottage in the nearby countryside that Eccles had previously visited.
8 forgeting] MS
9 A famous line from Pope's Eloisa to Abelard (1717).
10 wonderous] MS
11 sitth] MS
12 Lines from Milton's Paradise Lost, Book V.
13 scrible] MS