16 October 1779 (2)

Letter 72. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday evening, 16 October 1779.1

         Are not the distributions of providence, rather unequal? – to some she gives a life of felicity unmixed, almost a superfluity of happiness, whilst others are led through a sad variety of woe. I have been led into a train of melancholy ideas, by reflecting on the pleasing prospects which my friend’s Mr and Mrs Parker, seem to have before them; and the sad reverse which in all probability may be our fate; not that I repine at their happiness; God forbid! – rather [f. 284] shall my prayers be, that they may be blest with a long continuance of it, and no envious cloud intervene to dash the cup of joy from their lips; may prosperity ever attend them, they are worthy of it; formed to be happy together, from a unison of sentiment, a harmony of soul, may that felicity attend them, which ever waits on virtuous love –

                    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “Whilst they look around,

                    And nothing strikes their eye but sights of bliss;

                    All various nature pressing on their hearts;

                    An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, &c”2

Has not our attachment my dear Eccles, been equally tender, equally refined? – but yet alas! – will it be alike fortunate? – But let us not murmur; shortsighted mortals that we are, the nearest link in the chain only is revealed to us;3 perhaps the attainment of our wishes (might instead of procuring happiness,) be productive of a contrary effect; don’t start; at present it seems to me impossible, unless you should find your Maria less amiable on a more intimate acquaintance, or (all difficulties being removed) the ardor of your affection should cool, and the tenderness which you at present profess for your little girl, should give place to indifference – Pardon the supposition – ’tis ungenerous, and shall have no place in my bosom. – Will you be angry if I just touch upon what passed between us this morning? – don’t look serious! – I am not in the least angry with you, and though what you said (I believe inadvertently) gave me a sudden shock, yet I was not displeased, as it opened my eyes to the impropriety of my conduct; I cannot blame you for taking liberties, which my passiveness gave too much encouragement to; I cannot recollect my behaviour without feeling a painful confusion; you must not be displeased if I should pay a greater regard to delicacy for the future; I will not act the prude; I will not be reserved to you; neither will I deny you any innocent freedom; – I think I told you once before, that I looked upon you, as the man to whom I was to give my hand, that I regarded myself as yours, and wholely yours by the strictest vows of eternal fidelity, a fidelity which I will ever keep inviolate – Will not these many assurances, and proofs of tenderness, convince you of the sincerity of my affection? – they will! – My Eccles has too much honor, too much love for his own little girl, to wish her in the least to swerve from that modesty he thinks so adorable4 in women – if I have sometimes a little deviated from it, when too much softened by <---> the persuasive eloquence of a favored lover, let not those deviations lessen me in your esteem; let the sensibility of my heart plead my excuse, and for the future assist ^me^ in behaving with that delicate tenderness which ought to be the distinguishing characteristic of every woman of honor. – Do not be angry with your Maria, for mentioning this subject, she could not help it; knowing you to have so just a sense of propriety and decorum – she was unhappy lest her conduct in the morning, had lessened that esteem, which it shall be the [f. 285] study of her life to deserve. – Bon soir – may every good angel protect you, wishes your faithfulest friend &c –


1 Brooks, Correspondence 159-60; Wedd, Love Letters 134-35. 

2 Lines similar to a passage from Thomson's The Seasons, "Spring," ll. 1155-58.

3 An allusion to the idea of the "Great Chain of Being" popularized by Pope in his Essay on Man, Epistle I, ll. 17-76.

4 adoreable] MS