25-26 October 1779 (2)

Letter 80. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Monday and Tuesday, 25-26 October 1779.1

[f. 308]

Monday even: Octr. 25th: 1779. –


My dearest Maria,              

    I have been some time considering whether I should take up Petrarch or my pen; the latter has prevailed, though I am not in a fit disposition either for writing or reading; my spirits want that tranquility, that composure, which is so requisite for both: you have not given me a glimpse of you today. – I passed by your house twice, and looked from my window till yours were shut, but in vain, you was not to be seen. – Why do you leave me so in suspence? – You know I have no way to enquire after you: had I seen you once, but for a moment, at the window, I should at least have had the satisfaction of thinking you were not worse than you was yesterday; but what can I suppose now? – I know not what; – I am afraid to think; – I am under the greatest solicitude. – I am absolutely at a loss what to write, whether to address you as under severe2 illness, or in health; – my ideas run from one extreme to the other; – sometimes I think you are confined to your bed, and consequently cannot come to the window; – at other times I flatter myself that you are better, but then I am obliged to conclude you have forgotten me intirely, or that you think it is a matter of indifference to me how you are; two circumstances equally mortifying I assure you. – But why, my dear little girl would you [f. 309] not shew me your face? – I know you don’t wish to load my mind with anxiety, yet indeed you have done it. – I cannot write even to you with pleasure, as I used to do, nor if I lay down my pen, can I read; and as for company, there is none I can enjoy whilst you are in pain. – I shall be distressed till tomorrow morning comes: – to be suspended between hope and fear, is the most tormenting state of mind, that can possess us. –

     Tuesday even: 26th – Now I am a little more at ease than I was last night, and perhaps shall be able to fill this paper; had I not seen you this morning, I know not what would have been the consequence. – The mind is generally too apprehensive of danger; where it is tenderly attached, and has the smallest circumstance to countenance it, it is too apt to dwell on the dark side of things. – How many real torments do we undergo from only fictitious evils! I was at a loss on Sunday evening how to act; I knew you was alone, and wished to accompany you; but the kind behavior of Mrs Hays forbad me. – Perhaps you will think it an excess of prudence in me; yet whether I did right or wrong, I can plead my motives. – Mrs Hays’s generosity had promised to connive at my seeing you once, and I could not be ungrateful; yet indeed modern gallantry disregards gratitude: well then, so far as I have deviated from it, I give up the title of a gallant man. – My conscience tells me “one good turn deserves another”. – I was at a pause on Sunday evening after service was concluded; I stayed behind much [f. 310] longer than usual, intending to walk home with Miss Betsy, but your family stopped to speak with some acquaintance, and I was left in Mr Abbot’s pew with not a soul near me, so I was at last to walk off alone; yet I was honored with a ladie’s hand afterwards. – This brings to my mind something you mentioned in your letter this morning: pray, Miss, what do you mean by having a little jealousy in your composition &c. – When I give you cause, I shall allow you to be jealous; but really at present I have such an opinion of myself, that I can entertain none but ideas of eternal constancy, so I beg you not to be suspicious. – Ah! there was a time when I wished to forget you, when if I could, I would have left you; but ’twas before I knew my Maria’s heart; <--> ’twas when I thought I was encountering obstacles for nothing; I thought you looked on my success or disappointment with almost an equal eye. – But now, after receiving repeated proofs of tenderness, having experienced the goodness of your heart, and conscious of the sincerity of the esteem with which you regard me, could I be so much a brute as to forsake you? – Could I be so cruel as to look on you with indifference? – No; you need not doubt me, for certain it is I love you with the purest ardor; with the most inviolate affection; my little girl’s empire in this heart is fixed on the surest basis; – on disinterested, heart-felt love. – Kingdoms and crowns would be worse than vanity, were they to be purchased with those delightful emotions, with that ineffable thrill of the heart which I feel for my dear Maria. [f. 311] No charms no powers on earth besides yours can ever influence me; I am dead to every idea of pleasure beside. – Oh my God! give me only her, and I shall be content; chearfully would I resign every thing else to fate. – Every day shews you lovelier than before, convinces me of your improving worth. – I can never be false to you, till you are false to yourself. – All the attention of my soul is yours; all its cures are for you; I feel your pains and enjoy your pleasures. – In sickness I wish to support and console you; in health to enjoy and participate with you the blessings and innocent pleasures of life. – My wishes on earth are circumscribed within a narrow circle, a moderate competency, a decent retreat, and to sweeten them, my little girl, are all I desire; – and what monarch could possess more? – His desires could only be gratified, and mine would then lose their existence in enjoyment. – Adieu! blessings attend my lovely girl! So prays her faithfully affectionate

                                             J. Eccles. –

1 Brooks, Correspondence 170-71; Wedd, Love Letters 146-48. 

2 sever] MS