5 October 1779
Letter 62. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Tuesday, 5 October 1779.1
’Tis so cold this morning I am obliged to creep down to the fire to write. – I perceive (by your curtain, which is my oracle) you are still solacing yourself in your bed; are you not ashamed to be so lazy? – when too, you had commanded your Maria, to get up early and write; and she dared not disobey, know^ing^ you to be such a Ty----2 I am afraid to make out the words, but I dare say you can pretty nearly guess what it is I mean. – You grow such a pedant with your languages, that I shall expect your next letter in greek or hebrew perhaps, and must be obliged to have recourse to an interpreter. – How could you give such a definition of my vacancy – you alarmed me beyond expression! “in love” – oh shocking! – I would not be in love for ^all^ the riches of Peru – let me examine my heart – surely it cannot be; you certainly are mistaken; I esteem you, I prefer you to all your sex (I don’t know why) but is that any proof of my being in love? – I often think, and often dream of you, but that may be owing to our being so intimately acquainted, and our correspondence;3 I should be uneasy if I saw you take any notice of any other woman; but that is pride I believe. I catch myself sighing when I have not seen you for two or three days, and that I imagine to be mere habit; I had rather stand [f. 244] well in your opinion, than in the whole worlds besides; but that’s because I think highly of your understanding, and your judgement; I am always happy in rural excursion with you; because I think your taste and ideas similar to my own; I am angry, and account as my enemies all who speak ill of you; (what can that be owing to) friendship certainly! – And now what reason can you to suppose I love? – My heart has passed the scrutiny, and come off with honor as you may perceive. – It possesses all the feelings of humanity; it knows how to distinguish worth and esteem it; without being troubled with that same simple passion L--- for simple you allow it to be, and describe some very simple effects of it; yet at the same time tax me with being under its influence – Do you think I am not shocked at your want of politeness (though that is nothing new) – But seriously ’tis the simplicity of it that pleases me; a man who addresses a woman with eloquence and volubility, gives no proofs that he loves her. –
“The story is for words too delicate,
Let your eyes tell her of your heart;
A look, a broken sigh she’ll understand,
Or the soft trembling pressure of the hand.”4
But I shall again draw upon myself suspicions; you will certainly conclude me to be an adept in the science; in theory perhaps I am. [f. 245] There are books enough to make us wise on this subject – Apropos – when am I to have the Fatal Friendship?5 – You are a man of your word, that is beyond the shadow of a doubt. – You ask me when we are to go to Lark-hall, I am almost afraid, not this season. – I find it is expected that I should go to my sister’s on Thursday, or there will be an affront taken, as both Miss Dunkin and myself are particularly invited. – I confess I am sorry, as an afternoon at our cottage would have given me more pleasure; but alas! fate will be obeyed. –
I want now to have a little serious talk with you; but don’t call me a prude for it, for I detest the character; yet cannot help thinking I was too passive last night (you know what I mean) I cannot reconcile my conduct to those strict rules of delicacy, which I had determined ever to adhere to; I look upon you as the man to whom I am to give my hand (because I am determined no other shall ever obtain it) I am yours, and wholly6 yours, by the solemnest vows, by every tender engagement of nature and soft emotion; my destiny is involved with yours, our interest cannot be separate; but then ought I not to behave as to deserve your esteem, and perfect confidence, as well as your love; that I am convinced cannot be done without blending tenderness with propriety and delicacy; if by indulging you in freedoms, I act inconsistent with these sentiments; what assurance can you [f. 246] have, that I should not be equally frail if assaulted by other temptations? ’tis your honor I am solicitous about; seek not then to render me unworthy of your affection, by making me in the least swerve from that modesty which is the ornament, and glory of our sex; I frankly own that you are very dear to me – No obstacles or opposition shall ever prevent my giving you every proof of it which innocence and artless affection can suggest; I will take every opportunity of seeing you, because your conversation gives me real pleasure; but then you must behave so, that our interviews (on reflection) may also give us pleasure; treat me with the most endearing tenderness (I am no advocate for awful distance, or stiff formality) but let those endearments be tempered with that decorum which is ever attendant on true affection; fear of offending often prevents my repulsing those liberties, which are indeed improper. Reflect a little seriously – Should you love me better for allowing them? – answer me from your heart; I know you are not unacquainted with what is amiable in our sex; I shall therefore expect your concurrence with my sentiments, or disapprobation of them; I can refer them to your decision from a knowledge of your superior understanding. – You are not angry with your Maria? – indeed she cannot bear your displeasure, it gives her the sincerest pain; you must ever love her, ever be her friend, her protector; if you desert her, in whom can she put her trust. – Good-night; may the blessings [f. 247] of heaven attend you; may peace and tranquility be yours on earth, and felicity in eternity prays your sincerely affectionate,
Maria Hays. –
Octr: 5th: 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 140-42; Wedd, Love Letters 117-19.
3 corrispondance] MS
4 Source unknown.
5 The Fatal Friendship. By a Lady. 2 vols (London: Lowndes, 1770), another work of sentimental fiction read and shared by Eccles and Hays.
6 wholy] MS