22/23 October 1779

Letter 76. Mary Hays to John Eccles, 22/23 October 1779.1


    Having half an hour before breakfast again I take up my pen to dedicate it to you. – You affected me last night whilst talking of your will;2 ’tis folly, ’tis weakness I own, for those preparations cannot hasten death; but the idea, that we must one day lose all our valued, dearest friends, is painful; that you may survive your Maria [f. 297] is her wish, for she flatters herself that nothing but death can deprive her of you; tell me – am I not deluding myself with fancied happiness? with visionary dreams of fidelity, and constancy, of which perhaps, human nature is incapable? – Oh no! – the feelings of my own heart proves the contrary! – And will you ever love me? – shall neither prosperity nor adversity oblige, or influence you to quit your little girl? – her fate depends on you; to you she looks for happiness – I am convinced the soul of my Eccles, is every thing that is just and noble; he can never be ungrateful to that dependance, and entire confidence which she reposes in him. – I will now lay down my pen, not to resume ^it^ again till after I have seen you in the evening. – Adieu! – 

         Thursday even: I was really apprehensive that you was going to lose your Maria last night, I had every symptom of a fever coming on, but thank God I am much better to day – tell me; how could you have parted ^with^ your little girl? – would not a tear have forced its way, when reflecting how tender, how sincere her attachment had been to you? – You might have met with a woman possessed of more accomplishments to engage your admiration, but one who regarded you with such heart-felt emotions of esteem and affection, you could not easily find – ’twas you who taught me what it was to l--e – from you I catched the infection – were I to be deceived in my Eccles, never, never could my heart feel a second attachment – to love more than [f. 298] once is a prostitution of the word; at least, those who can entertain such an idea, must be void of all delicacy; I believe it very possible for a person to overcome a passion, where the object of it behaves unworthily, but to transfer that affection to another, can never be possible; devotion perhaps, is the only balm for disappointed love; the heart being too much softened by true tenderness to admit of any common cure. – Was you not a little alarmed last night – those two doors are very convenient. I intend to be like Miss Prudence another time, and not permit you to stay past your hour; though it was only my sister Dunkin3 – lecture was not done till some time after. – If you go into the country, don’t set off on a sunday, as I should like to have an opportunity of chatting with you the evening you go, for I shall have a hundred things to say to you, and a hundred charges to give you; besides – “there’s such sweet pain in parting.”4 – I should be unhappy all the time you was absent, if you did not take leave of me. – Indeed you must not stay more than a fortnight; your Maria will feel a thousand anxieties if you exceed that time, unless for very substantial reasons. – Had you not better set off on a monday (if the stages go out on that day) for I cannot allow you to desert Mr B—n5 on more than one Sunday – Am I not a little monopolizing girl, to confine you to time in this manner; but you must forgive me, for as Mrs Digby says – “I cannot bear a rival either in love, or friendship;”6 and I should consider every thing in that light, that could engage you to stay longer from your little [f. 299] girl, than could possibly be avoided. – Good-night! – may your dreams be such as I wish, and then they will represent sincerity and truth, centered in your own

                                     Maria Hays.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 164-66; Wedd, Love Letters 140-42.

2 Click here to see Eccles's will.

3 "Miss Prudence" is Miss Dunkin, younger sister of John Dunkin.

4 Phrase from Thomas Otway's The History and Fall of Caius Marius, Act II, scene 2 (p. 148).

5 Michael Brown, minister at the Baptist chapel in Gainsford Street.

6 Mrs. Digby is a friend of Mrs. Collier's at Tinwell. The quotation is a paraphrase of a line from Otway's The Orphan, Act I, scene 1 (p. 17).