1 November 1779

Letter 85. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Monday evening, 1 November 1779.1

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     There’s a riddle for you; if you can explain it, I’ll reward you with a k--s; I think I am pretty safe; what do you say to it? – but you ought to have some punishment in case you prove dull of comprehension: what shall it be? – let me consider a little – a pinch will be a very proper opposite to what I mentioned before; – but then Miss Dunkin shall bestow it, for I could not find resolution to hurt you; though on second thoughts I shall be afraid to trust her, lest she should not be merciful, and your little girl could not bear to see you ill used, for she does l--e you a little; though she don’t know why – can you inform her? – I did not call your letter shabby on Sunday, the reason why – I was afraid to do so; – you really keep your Maria in a sort of subjection; she will be early initiated into the mystery of honor and obey3; but she already submits with pleasure to your ^every^ command, that is reasonable.

     I anticipate the satisfaction I shall experience tomorrow, for I can with sincerity say, there is no society so pleasing to me as my Eccles’s; – is it not hard that friends who so tenderly esteem each other, [f. 325] should have so few opportunities of meeting? – You say “you will never resign me, and that no power on earth shall force me from you;” keep to that resolution, whatever may happen; for be assured I never will give you up; my attachment is fixed as fate; I blush not to own it; your constancy, your tenderness merits every return; whatever efforts may be made to part us must prove ineffectual; for while you continue to love me, and express pleasure at seeing me, I will always find methods of continuing our interviews; I mention this that you may not be uneasy at any little perverse accidents that may occur; such (for instance) as last friday night; though I know of nothing at present, to give us the slightest apprehension, but ’tis best to provide against the worst, as well as hope for the best; but are you sure that nothing can ever induce you to quit your little girl? – She could not support a separation now! Pardon the question – I cannot, will not doubt you; – I have an intire confidence in your honor and fidelity; I believe you to be the best, the most amiable of men, or I should not thus tenderly have regarded you; – you need never be jealous – ’tis not in nature to form two Eccles’s, and – I won’t say any more, lest I should make you vain – if I am partial, excuse the sister – don’t you remember, I was to be your third sister. – I have been looking out, and can’t see any light in your room – beware – I shall begin to think you grow dilatory; – your Maria, accounts it one of the ^most pleasing^ amusements of her life to scribble to you; – can then my Eccles, think it a task? – [f. 326] No – I am convinced he does not; be not angry at the supposition, for you know how much I am terrified at your displeasure; I never will incur it if I can possibly help it. – Adieu! – May the blessings of heaven be showered upon you prays your own little girl

                                                 Maria Hays. –


Monday evening Novr. 1st. 1779.


1 Brooks, Correspondence 177-78; Wedd, Love Letters 154-56. 

2 A riddle based upon letters replaced by a numbering system. The two lines actually say, “Kings fight for kingdoms, madmen for applause, / But love for love alone, this crowns the lover’s cause.”

3 The phrase "to love, honor, and obey" have long been a traditional staple of Christian wedding vows.