4 October 1779
Letter 61. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Monday, 4 October 1779.1
My dear little Girl,
I think I must make an observation or two, on your last letters, and by the by, were I to scold you too, ’tis no more than you deserve; some little allowance however, is to be made for the violence of that you gave me on Friday morning: you see I am inclined to be charitable! – You say, “you are confirmed in an opinion, that she who gives a man reason to suppose, that he has an ascendancy over her heart, subjects herself to be treated with a familiarity, bordering on contempt.” – With [f. 239] the generality of the coxcombs of the age, I allow it: but the generous man, the man of delicacy, must feel an additional warmth of passion from that knowledge; his ideas and sensations become more interesting towards the object of his love; he has less timidity perhaps, but his behaviour is as distant from contempt as ever. – No man of this description, I am convinced, would ever be induced to give his hand to a lady, to whom he thought himself indifferent; ’tis essential to him to know he has an interest in her heart. Could he (think you) be persuaded to deprive himself of that sublimest of pleasures; “the awakened power of giving joy?”2 – His life, however amiable his partner, would be a scene of misery. – When a disinterested passion reigns, the first principle of the heart, is to render happy the object of that passion; and can a man suppose, that the woman who regards him in the same light with the rest of his sex, will ever be happy with him? Rather has he not every reason to suppose she will be most unhappy? – But setting aside theory, let me speak what I know: I feel, I should be amazingly uneasy, were I not absolutely certain of – you know not what. – You cannot accuse me of being conceited, for you yourself said, “I had a certain little friend somewhere about you, that was forever pleading in my behalf.” – I am much obliged to him.
How could you accuse me of disturbing your repose? If I was near your bed, (as I believe I was) it was with thoughts of peace and love, and not to terrify you; ’twas to keep care and disquiet away, [f. 240] and not to render you uneasy with the idea of quarrelling, broken vows, and separation. – Believe me I shall never visit you under those frightful forms; stop! – I had almost forgot; I mean unless I come to haunt you for your infidelity and for hastening me to an untimely end; then you may expect me in the most hideous forbidding shapes. – I rather suppose it was your own guilty conscience troubled you; sensible how much you had wronged poor, innocent me, in vain you courted the God of peaceful slumbers; he refused his aid and rejected all your assiduities; “the wretched,” that is, “the cruel and hard-hearted he forsakes.”3 – The next time you affront me, you may expect one of the furies for a bedfellow: – the prayers of the righteous you know, are of great avail.4 – I hardly know what to make of that vacancy, which you imagine absence would produce; in case of an accident, I would advise you only to eat and drink a little heartier; should that not remedy the complaint, it would be necessary to apply to some physician; but to be serious this idea can proceed from nought but love; hush! don’t be alarmed; the disease is not so shocking as you may suppose; ’tis only esteem (you know) a preference, a friendship, &c. all commendable virtues, when bestowed on a deserving object such as _______ Sans vanité, though, I really cannot help believing you ----- me. – Votre definition de l’amour est extremement jolie; je l’admire avec la plus grande admiration. – There’s French enough for one letter I think; perhaps you think nonsense enough too; well a little more, down to the bottom of this page, [f. 241] and then I’ll try to play a tune on the reverse. – So you won’t allow me to know any thing at all of that simple passion (love) yet I dare say now, you think I have given you many a simple look, and have sometimes exhibited a simple spectacle, and really (to tell the truth) I have often felt myself extremely simple: for instance, I have, (I suppose) at least two hundred times, walked two miles, on purpose to pass your window and look in, but when I came by, you, the very identical person I wanted to see, happening to be there, so confounded me, that I always turned my head just the contrary way; so that I had my labor for my pains; is not that very simple? – With many other simple things, too tedious to mention. – But stop! I have infringed on the design of this page; this is for the serioso, sapiento, &c. – You know it is necessary I should begin a new paragraph; not by any means that I may arrive safely at the bottom sooner, but in order to separate the righteous from the wicked. – Now then –
I once more invite you to go to Lark-hall; the weather perhaps will be favorable a few days; those have been our most pleasing walks, and I sincerely wish for one more of them this season; I know you won’t deny me. – I enjoy that walk the more because you expressed so much satisfaction in it the first time you went there; and, believe me, my Maria, I have no pleasures but what are yours too; I feel an aversion to every one besides; my faculties are not organized [f. 242] to admit as pleasures, those which entertain the gay and sensual. – I feel an unspeakable delight too, in the idea, that my notions of pleasure are so similar to yours, that what you love, I also love. – ’Tis a great satisfaction too, that I always wish to have my ideas in every respect conformable to yours; these are not presages of unhappiness; no, you shall be the happiest of all Marias, so far as it is in my power to make you so, I have the highest opinion of that reciprocity of affection, described by your favorite;
“Thought meeting thought, and will preventing will
With boundless confidence” -------5
But I must leave off, otherwise I shall lose sight of you; Adeiu!
I am faithfully yours
J: Eccles. –
Octr. 4th: 1779. –
P.S. Your memory is treacherous, I think I gave you a few hints on love – You will recollect it – farewell. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 138-40; Wedd, Love Letters 115-17.
2 Line from Thomson's The Seasons, "Summer," ll. 1184-85.
3 Line from Young, The Complaint, "Night the First" (p. 1).
4 Paraphrase of James 5:16 -- "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
5 Lines from Thomson's The Seasons, "Spring," ll. 1120-21.