11 October 1779 (2)
Letter 68. John Eccles to Miss Hays, Monday, 11 October 1779.1
I had intended to date a letter to you from Lark-Hall today, but the good old lady could not furnish me with a sheet of paper; she offered to send to Clapham for some, but that would have detained me longer than I designed to stay; besides, the uneasiness of expectation, would perhaps have driven the spirit of inspiration away; so I deferred the pleasure of writing to you till I came home. – The old lady was extremely happy to see me, and asked very kindly after you; I thanked her, and told her, I was not without hopes she would see you before the close of the week; at which she expressed herself very much pleased. – Suppose then I join her solicitations to my own; can you refuse us both? Surely the eloquence of two such powerful pleaders will be persuasive. – Indeed, Maria, go you must, and no excuses are admissible. – I wish you could contrive to engage Miss Prudence; I have a particular desire that she and Miss Betsy2 would go with us once, and I much fear we shall not be able, after this time, to go there this season again. – You will perhaps wonder I want their company; you think I ought to be content, and most happy in yours alone: so I always am, but I would have them see I really love you, and that I am not profession only: that will be a fair [f. 268] opportunity; our minds are always in unison when we take a country walk. That softness which always appears in rural scenes, is suitable to us both; it wins on the passions, and refines them; the mind is open for the reception of exalted, of generous ideas. – Every thing looks as if raised on purpose to give us delight. – There is something in the charms of nature (to those who are enamoured with her) which has an inexpressible efficacy, in elevating our hearts to the divine being, with wonder, love and gratitude. Let those who will, despise this sensibility of soul, call it enthusiasm, or romantic; let the rigid, insist on worshipping the creator, in forms laid down by men, and reprobate the ardor of the passions in religion, and let the unfeeling, ridicule pleasures, which he is so infatuated as to suppose imaginary; I am infinitely satisfied with the enthusiasm; when the passions are as it were drawn heavenwards, they are converted to their proper use, and ’tis then they are gratified: who then dares say they were only given us to be moderated? – Let them be guided to their proper object, and they are the greatest blessings. – Those who can look unmoved on the works of creation, without admiring and venerating their author, and without feeling something like a religious satisfaction arising from it, are – “groveling souls of earthly mould,”3 and ought to be imprisoned for life; these are religious by prejudice and fear, whilst those who feel the works of the Almighty, worship him from real conviction and love. – I am well pleased with your romantic head, [f. 269] or heart (which shall I call it?) You imagine there are many real pleasures, which others suppose ideal, and those which they term ideal, are according to your conceptions, the most sensible and interesting; to them, they are only ideal, because they have hearts incapable of feeling them; but, my dear Maria, there are (I feel it must be so) such delicious enjoyments in a perfect union of minds, and the tender intercourses of sincere and unrestricted love, as are only bestowed on a “favoured few”4; ’tis then the conjugal state is a state of unspeakable bliss, and ’tis then only it can be expected;
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “The seasons then,
As ceaseless round a jarring world they roll,
Still find them happy; &c. &c. &c.”5
To such souls as these, each day instead of decreasing, improves their love, and supremely happy in each other, they taste pleasures which can be only known to themselves: ’tis not fancy, ’tis not the effects of a deluded imagination, but the sincere rapture which flows from a harmony of souls. – These sincere, heart felt pleasures, my dear Maria, let us yet hope will be secured to us; they are now only faint and broken; we cannot arrive at the full enjoyment of them, whilst surrounded with fears and difficulties; the wisdom of heaven may see fit to remove them all, and we shall be led to a completion of our utmost hopes and wishes. – Hymen [f. 270] may yet look on us, and confirm our vows, and heighten and perfect that union of heart, which is the source of sublunary bliss. – Let us not damp the few moments we have to spend together, with coldness and ill-natured caprice any more; we have both severely felt it; it pains us both to the heart, and why should we render ourselves and each other unhappy; we have other sufferings to lament, and would it not be more affectionate to support each other with kindness, rather than afflict by aversion? – Heaven knows that to give my Maria a moment’s pain, inflicts on me the keenest torment I am able to bear: we have been both in fault, let us shew our sorrow, in our future amendment; let what is past, be covered with the mantle of oblivion, and let us employ our care to endeavor to be obliging to each other; surely this cannot be a difficult task. – In the warmth of my heart, I was first led into error; I tenderly loved you, and could not bear to spend an hour from you, which I had at leisure; I sometimes too, thought you refused me your company, when it was in your power to oblige me; but I am now convinced, and am resolved never more to appear indifferent to my Maria; ’twas always an assumed indifference, and gave me the bitterest reflections. – Here then I acknowledge and for ever renounce my faults. – I know you will pardon them all; will you not? – There is a pleasure in forgiving the errors of those we esteem. – But you know I said I wished Miss D. and Miss Betsy could go with us to Lark-Hall; Miss D. has seen our foibles; let her see too, we have intirely forgotten them, and are perfectly reconciled; let her see too, we are resolved [f. 271] never more to disquiet each other for a moment. – I am quite ashamed of my past conduct, and never more will think myself offended by you; – I have been distressed all day, because I shewed you that letter in the morning; but you must not think of it; ’twas the produce of a hasty minute, and I never designed to give it you; you have forgot it; have you not? – If the other ladies cannot go to Lark-Hall, don’t let that be a hindrance to you, if you have opportunity; – if they can go, I shall be glad, for the reasons I have given, but if not I am satisfied. – Adieu! with the sincerest affection, I am my dearest girl
J. Eccles. –
Monday Octr: 11th: 1779. –
I think I wrote you but a short epistle last, so resume my pen, not to tire you, I hope, at least, ’tis not with that intent. – You told me, I think, you was apprehensive I grew tired of a pursuit, which afforded so few prospects of success, and that I therefore treated you with coldness; but be satisfied my Maria, I shall never desert you, so long as the breath of life animates this body; I have not an inclination or desire which is not yours: my affections have long been unreservedly yours; and shall I start at a few obstacles? – No: not if they were ten thousand times greater. [f. 272] So long as I possess an interest in that bosom, not a world of difficulties can in the least alienate my heart; – I have given it to you (at least you have taken it from me) and so long as you think it worth the keeping, it is yours; only treat it kindly, and it will ever be faithful; the thoughts of leaving you would bereave me of every ray of comfort. – Besides is it not a6 natural and just conclusion that the greater difficulties we meet with in the attainment of any end, the greater is the felicity attendant on the enjoyment of that end when acquired? – and is it not proper we should meet with some opposition in our pursuits, in other to ascertain their strength and their sincerity? – Perhaps too, had it been otherwise, I should never have discerned half your amiable qualities; you might not have had opportunities to discover them. – I have hardly a doubt, but that every misfortune I have been tried with, will in the end prove to be fortunate. – I am of your opinion that all is for the best.
“In spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite
One truth is clear; ‘Whatever is, is right.’7
’Tis thus I philosophise, to drive away despair, which is sometimes rather difficult; ’tis hard sometimes to resign, and acquiesce in the ways of providence; they seem to wind, and lead through such by paths, that we are scarcely persuaded to submit to their guidance; they seem to lead us from, rather than towards our hopes; yet I am confident, that hopes founded on [f. 273] disinterested virtue, purity of intention, and sincerity of the heart, must in the end be successful. – There; does not this amazing long epistle, atone for all my enormities; it is impossible but you must forgive me. – I hope you cannot have the heart to scold me; though I shall open your letter this evening with a doubting fear. – Adieu! be assured I sincerely love my Maria. – J. E. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 151-54; Wedd, Love Letters 128-30.
2 Miss Dunkin and Elizabeth Hays.
3 A slightly altered version of the phrase appears in Letter 1 of John Newton's Authentic Narrative (1761): "earthly and groveling souls." Newton's Narrative was immensely popular among Dissenters, so a copy being in the possession of or within easy reach of either Eccles or Hays is not unlikely in 1779.
4 Phrase taken from Thomson's The Seasons, "Spring," l. 946.
5 Ibid, "Spring," ll. 1163-65.
6 an] MS
7 Famous closing lines of Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle 1.