21 September 1779

Letter 49. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Tuesday, 21 September 1779.1


     Disappointment seems inscribed in the book of fate for us this afternoon – I almost wish I had not seen you to day, for I do not love to give you uneasiness if I can help it. – I am almost certain I cannot go to the cottage even if it should be fine weather, for my Mamma’s foot is so bad that she intends sending to Mrs Dunkin2 to put off the visit. – Upon second thoughts I believe you deserve to be tired3 a little for your behaviour on Sunday evening – indeed if you are so saucy you shall not see me so often; for as I find talking to you has no effect, I must try if a little absence will bring you to order; though I have a notion that will not give you any great concern; for often when I have told you, that I would not go out with or see you at such [f. 189] a time; you have threatened in your turn – this is a very pretty fancy – I have a great mind to try whether you will dare venture to put your threats into execution; though I think you could without making any very extraordinary effort – have I not a right to conclude so; and if I wrong you, I know you will forgive me; this you cannot help doing, notwithstanding I am such an impertinent girl, for I believe you love me a little; but a very little though.—But to be serious if I can – You conjectured right when you said I should be pleased with the Indian Philosopher; it is very pretty, the idea is new, and has great delicacy in it. – Was Dr. Watts ever married?3 he would certainly have made an excellent husband, I mean had he met with his kindred mind. A marriage where not only esteem, but love is kept awake, is I am convinced the most perfect state of sublunary happiness; but it requires the greatest care to keep this tender plant alive, especially on the mens side; women (as I observed once before) are naturally, or if you please by education more constant; the husband who has the politeness, the attention, the delicacy of a lover (there are but few such I believe) will always be beloved; the same is generally, but not always true on the other side; I have sometimes seen the most amiable, the most delicate of our sex fail in keeping the affections of their husbands. – I am well aware that we are not to expect a life of continued rapture; in [f. 190] the happiest marriages there is danger of some languid moments – to avoid these as much as possible should be our study, and I am certain they are in a great measure to be avoided; the tumults of passion will undoubtedly grow less after marriage; hopes and fears alone keep it in its first violent state; but though it subsides, it gives place to a tenderness still more pleasing; to a soft, (and if you will allow the expression) a voluptuous tranquility; the pleasure does not cease, does not even lessen, it only somewhat changes in its nature.4 – The only equality to which parents in general attend, is that of fortune, whereas a resemblance in age, in education, understanding and sentiments, are the only foundation for that lively taste, that tender friendship, without which no union deserves the sacred name of marriage. – And now let me take breath, I think I have been wise a great while, I am quite tired – did not you imagine5 I was giving you a sermon – If you don’t say it is cleverer than Mr B----’s, I will be affronted; I love to be flattered sometimes; perhaps you may think there is no need of that – why if I am a little conceited, I can plead a precedent; besides, “there’s nothing profits more than self esteem, founded on what is just”;6 the last part of the quotation might as well have been left out, don’t you think so? – The clouds seem breaking away, but if they should disperse, I fear I shall not be able to go to Lark Hall this afternoon; yet I want very [f. 191] much to see the good old lady again; I have taken an affection to her; if I have any skill in physiognomy, that woman possesses all the domestic virtues; there is the greatest goodness and humanity expressed in the traits of her countenance; I may be mistaken, my judgement is not a criterion, and human creatures are the most difficult to judge of – the vilest heart often lurks under the most benevolent set of features; but ’tis pleasing to think the best of every body,

“Blest is the man, how e’en his cates may taste;

Who harbour’s not with foul suspicion.”7

This paper sinks so, ’tis quite disagreeable8 to write upon it, it spoils me more pens than enough, I think you will be tired of mending them for me very soon; when you are you must bid me write seldomer. – But I have said nothing yet of your last letter – what can I say? – I am satisfied! – You are a flatterer, though I won’t chide you for that, for I honestly confess your flattery is too agreeable9 to displease me; those repeated assurances of your affection give me a satisfaction that can only be felt, not described; my heart feels all the powers of it – it is wholly yours; when your Maria, ceases to be sensible of your worth, to your love, punish [f. 192] her by a desertion that – but I will not tell you how much it would distress her –

                 Adio! is not that Italian,

                             Maria Hays.


Tuesday morning Sepr: 21st: 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 116-18; Wedd, Love Letters 93-95.

2 Possibly the wife of John Dunkin, Sr., although it is possible Hays is referring to her sister, Joanna Dunkin, her neighbor. 

3 Wedd has "tried," but MS is definitely "tired."

4 Isaac Watts did not marry. 

5 Passage taken from Brooke, Emily Montague, 3.210.

6 imaging] MS

7 Lines from Milton's Paradise Lost, Book 8.

8 Source unknown.

9 disagreable] MS

10 agreable] MS