15 November 1779
Letter 97. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Monday, 15 November 1779.1
I have heard something this morning which has shocked me so much I have scarcely yet recovered it; – ’tis the death of Mrs Bond,2 who has lain in about three weeks, and her friends vainly flattered themselves every danger was over. – Alas how uncertain is life! – how transitory our enjoyments here! – There is something so extremely shocking, to be thus taken3 off in life’s earliest bloom! – On Thursday she was quite charmingly. Her heart dilated (perhaps) with happiness, and glowing with every sweet emotion of conjugal felicity, and maternal tenderness: – Fortune smiled on [f. 361] them: – their prospects were unclouded, and every thing seemed to promise them lasting happiness; – but how soon did this flattering vision disappear! – Alas! how soon was every fond expectation blasted! –
Insatiate archer! could neither youth, nor beauty save?4 –
My heart bleeds for the husband; – he is (they say) almost distracted; – and no wonder, for theirs was a match of love; – she was a most amiable woman, and merited his utmost affection. – Think what a change in two days, (for she died on Sunday morning) – to be converted from the most happy, to the most miserable of men! – Good God! how dark – how intricate is thy providence, to the understand^ing^ of weak man! – How hard is it to acquiesce at all times in thy dispensations! – Religion, philosophy, reason, all, all are insufficient to bear up the soul under so severe a stroke of thy hand. – Can we wonder, that while the mind is suffering under such exquisite distress, that unable to support its own reflections, so many should seek to lose in oblivion every sense of pain? – In such circumstances, I dare not think the deity, whose favorite attribute is mercy, would eternally condemn the suicide! – To be deprived so suddenly of all we hold most dear – of the object on whom every affection of the soul was fixed – and in whom all our earthly happiness was centered – can human nature with the least degree of fortitude bear the deprivation? – Long illnesses prove a weaning time – but here how instantaneous the [f. 362] stroke! – What must be the feelings of the husband and the father on this melancholy event? – Let me draw a veil over the mournful scene; for expression cannot paint it! – This event has left a gloom on my spirits which I cannot shake off; – how uncertain is every enjoyment below the skies! – pleasure is imaginary; – pain is real; – in vain we build schemes of happiness for our future life, and anticipate the joys of tomorrow; for e’er that tomorrow arises we may be laid in the silent dust; –
“This is the state of man;
To–day he puts forth the tender buds of hope,
To–morrow blossoms, and bears his blushing
Honors thick upon him; – the third day comes
A frost, a killing frost – and when he thinks
Good easy man full surely his happiness is
Ripening – nips his root, and then he falls &c”5
Pardon the gravity of this epistle, I could not help it – its expression came from my heart, and would flow to my pen; – but assure yourself in ev^e^ry disposition I love you with the utmost tenderness; – dearer is my Eccles, to the fond heart of his little girl, than it is in her power to express. – Adieu! – Cease not to love you own
Maria Hays. –
Monday Novr 15th 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 194-95; Wedd, Love Letters 170-71.
2 Most likely the Bonds were attendants at the Gainsford Street Baptist Chapel where Hays and Eccles attended.
3 taking] MS
4 Compare with Young’s “Insatiate archer! could not one suffice,” in The Complaint, “Night the First.
5 Lines from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, Act III, scene 2.