18 October 1779

Letter 73. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Monday evening, 18 October 1779.1

      You ask me, my Maria, what are my intentions after leaving Mr James’s?2 – Really I hardly know; I cannot determine how to dispose of myself; or rather, I am afraid I shall not be able to procure any appointment which will give, even a temporary satisfaction. But upon the whole, I think a merchants counting house would be the most eligible situation for me at present; and even that perhaps, will be obtained with difficulty. – I am in an uncertainty how to act: I wish to qualify myself for future, shall I say better days? – I wish [f. 287] I could hope so; but I know not what to do. – I am formed with (I believe) the requisites for an active life; in such a scene would I gladly engage; but how, or where, or when? – Were I inclined to follow my father’s business, he and I, are quite opposites as to the manner of conducting it; he is too cold, too timid and too irresolute for trade; he creeps along in one dull line, and sees no advantages till others have laid hold of them; and to cover his inactivity, he pleads his aversion to the cares of life: this was one reason why I left him. – When I have been endeavoring to improve and enlarge his business, I have been checked, and reproved, as ambitious and proud; my father wishes to see his family in every respect very humble. – He and I can never live near each other, and agree; nor would his business at all suit me, were all other obstacles removed; and he has so little of the spirit of a generous man, that so long as I continue not to be burthensome to him, he will be satisfied, nor give himself any concern about what I am to do in future. – This is my discouraging situation; what prospects, what hopes then have I? Yet I sometimes suffer myself to be deluded. – You said something to me once, about the public offices (I believe) but did you know as much of them as I do, you would not advise me to think of any employment in them; their salaries are at first very low; in seven or eight years, if you have friends, your salary may be raised to £100 pr annum; and should you live to 60 or 70 years, and are very fortunate; to recompense the services of a long life, you may have 150 or at furthest 200 a year. These are the only emoluments to be expected from thence, unless you are brought [f. 288] forward by some extraordinary means. – I suffer the greatest anxiety on my little girls account; would you not have been much happier had we never seen each other; and do you not on the whole think it an unfortunate circumstance? Yet no, ’tis an ungenerous supposition, and could never enter my Maria’s breast. – Yet in whatever employment I may be engaged, I foresee I shall be deprived of your company (perhaps all the week, sundays excepted) and how am I to bear that? The thought pains me beyond expression; I have no other dislike to confinement, than that it will rob me of my dearest treasures; minutes and hours which I should otherwise have passed with you. – I am afraid I shall never be able to bear it; tell me what I must do; I’ll engage in nothing without your consent; for should I be closely confined and have scarcely any opportunities of seeing you, will you not sometimes impute ^it^ to coldness and indifference? I have been always used to conform myself to your leisure, will you not think it cruel if I refuse you any thing; of if I at any time tell you I cannot come? – To deny your requests, will pierce my heart. – But you must have compassion on me; that will sooth my troubles; and in return, not a minute that I can spare, but shall be yours, in whatever way will be most convenient to you; I will undertake nothing that will oblige me to leave this part of the town; I am attached to the place that bears only the footsteps of my little girl; and the idea that I am near you, has in it some consolation. – I am convinced, that were I doomed to a perpetual absence from you, I could not live; I should then have lost every thing that could induce me to wish for life, it would then become burthensome. –

    I severely feel the malice of fortune, in denying to me that affluent state, which would have authorized me to ask my Maria’s hand, without the dread of a refusal; – how happy should I have been to present all her wishes, but instead of this – ah! – perhaps I have prevented her happiness; had it not been for me, she had now perhaps been like her friend Mrs P–––r, blest with a man in every shape worthy of her. – Yet you must not blame me; – had it been possible I <---> could search into the book of fate,3 when I first beheld your eyes, how I should have lamented your destiny, but even then, it would have been too late. – I saw something in my little girl even then, which entangled all my affections, and I soon found my poor heart had left me; since then it has been all yours; – deign then now to keep it forever, in spite of misfortune. – But let us look beyond misfortune; let it not have the power to vex us; let us bear it as becomes us; who can say there is not a happy day reserved for us? Even at this minute I am full of hope; I know not what, whispers me, “thy Maria shall be thine.” Good heaven, grant me the dearest blessing, and can I ask for more? – Is she not all the wishes of my heart? – Goodnight! Soft peace hover round my Maria’s bed. –

                                     J. Eccles. –

Monday even: Octr: 18th: 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 160-61; Wedd, Love Letters 135-37.

2 Mrs James] MS   Text seems to be in error here. Mr John James, cornfactor, is Eccles's employer, operating it appears in Lambeth at that time but by 1791 in Gainsford Street.  

3 See Pope's Essay on Man, "Epistle 1."