15 October 1779

Letter 70.  John Eccles to Mary Hays, Friday, 15 October 1779.1

My dearest Maria,

    I hope all our disagreeable foibles petites are quite at an end; if we both oppose them, they are so; and a bad habit once conquered, seldom returns; we are both convinced, that neither deserved to be treated with coldness by the other; ’tis with remorse, I reflect on my affected indifference to my little girl, but she is satisfied, ’twas only assumed, and that whilst I looked on her with a countenance dégagée,2 the warmest perplexities reigned within. – How bitterly have [f. 277] I often reproached myself for rendering you uneasy; ’tis the greatest pain I can endure; and how solicitous have I been, after thinking I had offended you, ’till I could see you again; but my Maria has known my sorrow. – I will not disown that I have been too much governed by pride, but hear me: – had I been a man of fortune, I should have been more humble; but conscious of my deficiency there, and jealous of the little influence I had gained in my Maria’s esteem, I was too apt to misconstrue her words and actions; a lover (a sincere one) thinks he sees, what is concealed and invisible to the whole world but himself: coldness, aversion, disdain with all the busy tribe of attendants, are presented to his view, from the most trivial and unmeaning circumstance. – ’Tis a principle I possess too, to be more attentive to any thing which has the appearance of neglect, in one by any means superior to me, than in my equals or inferiors: in those ’tis more painful, and I take fire at it; it implies a consciousness of their more exalted station, and love and friendship acknowledge no superiors. – I know in these thoughts, I have wronged you; but what is there we are sometimes persuaded to believe? – And what false colourings, how opposite to their real ones, will a distracted imagination, put on things? – You must then pardon what is past, and consider that however I erred, I at the time, thought I was only acting with justice to myself; and my heart was yours, fixed as the pillars of fate. – I have been too inquisitive into your behaviour; I have perhaps, sought to understand in it, what I believe was farthest from [f. 278] your thoughts; I have fancied, you esteemed the man, whilst you despised him for what fortune allotted him. – I used to pique myself on the integrity of my intentions, and with the warmth of a man have often repeated these lines:

         “Honor and shame, from no condition rise,

         Act well your part, ’tis there the honor lies.”3

But be gone, ye vexatious, ye unworthy intrusions, for I am my Maria’s for ever, without another doubt. – Nor shall mean suspicions ever haunt my heart again. –  How much more happy are those days, and how much more pleasing on reflection, which we have passed unembittered by vain, trifling quarrels, than those which have been clouded by indifference. – I can with the sincerest, with a heart-felt delight, think of wednesday evening; how sweet are the minutes, when love alone bears sway! – And how soothing to the mind that has felt afflictions! – They vanish like a dream, and are forgotten; there is a charm in the soft voice of a lover, which lulls every care to rest, “and love alone is waking.”4 – Were it not for love and friendship, what a scene of horrors would this world be; there would be nothing in it worth living for. – What is there, could render the vicissitudes and troubles of life supportable, but the consolation and hopes I derive from the thoughts of my Maria? – But she can sweeten even anguish itself. – I shall be ashamed to give you this short epistle: I hope you won’t open it till I have left you; you will call it [f. 279] shabby again I suppose: I was not at home till rather late last night, and expect to see you peep out at the window every minute; and I am the worst in the world to write, under the influence of expectation: – Will you not pardon me? Adieu!

                I am ever my Maria’s

                                    J. Eccles. –

Friday, Octr. 15th. 1779. –

1 Brooks, Correspondence 155-57; Wedd, Love Letters 131-32. 

2 disengageé] MS

3 Lines from Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle IV, ll. 193-94.

4 Lines adapted from Mark Akenside's The Pleasures of the Imagination, Book I, ll. 131-32.