19 October 1779
Letter 74. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Tuesday morning, 19 October 1779.1
Why will my dearest Eccles, ask his little girl, “if she would not have been happier had she never seen him?” –’Tis an idea which I will not for a moment admit; no; rather would I suffer the severest pains, than be deprived of the heart of him who is dearer to my soul than peace. – Your letter gave me the most heart-felt anguish; your complaints distress me beyond expression; – be assured whatever is your situation in life, the heart of your Maria will remain unchangeably all your own. I would prefer poverty with all its attendant miseries with you, before the most unbounded affluence with any other man. – By all that is sacred I swear, by heaven, and its Almighty lord, ever to be faithful and constant to you: –No persuasions, expostulations, time nor circumstances, shall have power to shake my affection. – Should you leave your poor little girl, what would become of her? for
“What a dreary void, this world would be
Any employment that should offer, which may appear advantageous, embrace immediately, without consulting my advice; and if it should prevent me from seeing you so frequently, I must acquiesce if it is for your interest; but do not quit the place if you can possibly [f. 291] avoid it; still let me have the satisfaction of being near you; our interviews shall be suited to your time – on sundays I shall always expect to see you, and if your employment should prevent you writing so often, I will not avail myself of that excuse for discontinuing3 our correspondance, but will as usual fill three sheets in a week, and give you them altogether on a sunday, for this employment of scribbling to you, is productive of so much sincere delight, and is now become so habitual to me, that I could not bear to leave it off – it is to me, the most pleasing manner of filling up every leisure hour, because I flatter myself it gives you satisfaction, as well as gratifies my own inclination. – Again I repeat it, you must not leave Gainsford Street – should you leave this part of the town, I should despair of ever seeing you again – my heart sinks at the idea; indeed your Maria cannot part with you; she tenderly esteems you; deny her not the consolation of sharing your every disquiet; your sorrows shall be her sorrows; your joys shall be hers: – her sympathetic tears shall mingle with yours; she will endeavor to alleviate those distresses which she cannot remove; and with the most attentive affection sooth your every care; through life you shall find her the tenderest, the faithfulest friend; all that she can do to make you happy she will; even if you request it as a proof of her sincerity, she will unite her fate to yours, and with you undaunted meet all the ills of life. – Do not dwell too much on the shades of providence; all may yet be well; indulge hope, cherish her; let not your little girl be mortified with finding her [f. 299] attempts to console you, have been in vain; will not the many assurances she has given you of her immutable esteem, in some measure soften the anxieties under which you labor? – Five, ten, twenty years even her whole life she will not think too long to wait a favorable turn of fortune; she will be your friend in the tenderest sense of the word. – Who knows what changes time may produce (as I once before observed) the darkness is the thickest before the dawn of day; even now perhaps the cloud may be preparing to disperse; and though it should not, still we may be happy in this reciprocation of tenderness to each other; but I am persuaded the merit like yours, cannot go long unrewarded; never again tell me of superiority, all my fears are, that I am unworthy of you.
“’Tis not wealth, it is not birth,
“Can value to the soul convey;”4
For what is fortune, to the wish of love? – Tell me you are in better spirits; assure me that your heart will always be intirely your Maria’s, and I can then leave the rest to providence. – Adieu! – with the tenderest friendship, with the sincerest love,
I am eternally your’s
M: Hays. –
Tuesday morn: Octr: 19th. 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 161-63; Wedd, Love Letters 138.
2 Lines taken from an account of the play, The Earl of Essex, which appeared in the Universal Magazine 28 (January 1761), 30. The play was being performed at that time at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. See also Letter 54.
3 discontinueing] MS
4 Lines from Air XXXIII (p. 60), in Love in a Village: A Comic Opera (1767), by Isaac Bickerstaff (see letter 21).