18 November 1779
Letter 99. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Thursday evening, 18 November 1779.1
’Tis so very cold, I believe I shall write you but a short epistle this evening; – you cannot be angry if I do, because you know I can plead a precedent; but I will not avail myself of that excuse, unless I am absolutely too much frozen to hold my pen; – what say you to that – am I not “the best of all possible” good girls? – But of that, you must long e’er this have been sensible. – Pardon this flippancy! –
Shall I confess to my Eccles, that I felt a momentary pain yesterday upon hearing of our neighbor’s good fortune!2 – I wished you to have been a partaker of it, that you might have had it in your power to convince the world of the sincerity of your attachment; for I am well assured that no change of fortune, could make any alteration in your sentiments to your Maria; – yet since Providence has ordained it otherwise, let us not murmur: – perhaps it is for the best, it should be so; – was you Emperor of the universe your Maria could not love ^you^ with a sincerer, with a more fervent affection; – a cottage with you could make ^me^ happy; – and a palace without you would appear a dreary void. – How swiftly flew the time yesterday! – Surely the society of those to whom our heart is attached has charms [f. 368] which the world with all its riches and advantages cannot bestow: –
“Where thought meets thought reciprocally soft.”3
I love you, my dear, Eccles! – Ah! what an encrease of tenderness! – Words would do injustice to the sentiments of my soul! – The heart of your little girl is firmly yours, and must be so in prosperity, and in adversity; – not all the powers of heaven and earth shall erase your image from my bosom; though you should cease to look on me with an eye of fond partiality, and banish your Maria from your heart; – still would she bend before the Almighty’s4 throne, in supplications for your happiness! – How grateful (to me) was your last letter! – How refined your ideas! – I felt the truth of your observations; – my heart assents to all your sentiments. – Always lead your little girl, in the paths of rectitude; for even error would come with a degree of persuasive eloquence was you to plead its cause! – But I know your virtues, and have an intire confidence in your understanding. – You may be proud of my approbation, for there are few (I assure you) to whom I will allow a superiority on this head; – you may perceive I am a little conceited, – but we all have pride equal (at least) to our merit; – I will own to you, that in general I have but an indifferent opinion of the natural capacities of your sex; – had the women half your advantages, depend upon it they would make more shining figures in the world of literature – there are undoubtedly exceptions on both sides, and [f. 369] perhaps I think you are one! – Yes, I will own, that is one great cause of my partiality,
For of all the various wretches love has made,
How few have been by men of sense betray’d.5
Pardon me for being a little saucy, for be assured I esteem and love my Eccles more than I dare own – and am your
Maria Hays. –
Thursday evening Novr 18th 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 197-98; Wedd, Love Letters 172-73.
2 According to A. F. Wedd in Love Letters (p. 172), a neighbor of the Eccles family in Fordingbridge, had won the £20000 lottery John coveted. This may be the same Mr Gifford who comes to London to claim a large amount of money shortly thereafter and who will be applied to for a source of funding for John Eccles to begin his career and marry Hays. Unfortunately, Gifford declines, much to Eccles's dismay.
3 As Brooks notes (Correspondence, 197), the line seems adapted from Young’s The Complaint (“Where heart meets heart, reciprocally soft”) and Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard (“Ev’n thought meets thought ere from the lips it part”).
4 Almighties] MS
5 Lines from Rowe's The Fair Penitent, Act II, scene 2 (p. 33) (see also Letter 37).