21 November 1779
Letter 102. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Sunday morning, 21 November 1779.1
Was you not a little cruel last night? – a little ungenerous? – My Eccles is not ignorant of his power; – why then make any farther trials of it? – Your Maria loves you with the [f. 376] most unbounded tenderness; her whole soul is yours; she cannot bear the appearance of indifference; is not her conduct a sufficient proof of the feelings of her heart? – has it not always been artless, and void of dissimulation? – I have despised the little acts of my sex, and avowed my esteem without disguise, glorying in my attachment for an amiable man, an attachment founded on the noblest principles – “A flame so holy and so pure” &c.2 – do not then my dearest Eccles, endeavor to give anxiety to the too susceptible heart of your little girl – but I will quit the subject, the tenderness of your epistle has entirely removed every emotion of resentment from my heart, and it now glows with every sentiment of soft affection – only for the future mix no acid with the sweet. ––– I finished your books last night; – the catastrophe is truly dreadful; ’tis impossible to read it without being most sensibly affected, although3 we know it to be fiction. – The tears which flow from reading a tragical tale, are not unpleasing, they soften while they distress. – Sensibility be thou ever mine! – “Teach me to mourn with the unhappy, and with the happy to rejoice.”4 – ’Tis only those who have known misfortunes themselves, can properly feel for others; – adversity is the school of virtue; prosperity too often hardens the heart, and renders it callous to the emotions of sympathy and tenderness; – is it possible they can have any ideas of those sensations they never experienced? – How seldom do we meet the feeling heart in the man on whom fortune smiles, and whose days have been marked for enjoyment. – Does not the behaviour of Mrs Parker to me, prove the justice of these observations? Her life has been a series of pleasure and tranquility – she has known [f. 377] nothing but prosperity, and is therefore incapable of a sympathetic tenderness; how often has she professed an eternal friendship for your Maria, and affected to lament my situation; – but now, when the whole world is smiling upon her, when her heart is dilated with happiness; – behold the fallacy of all her professions for me!5 – But I forgive her; her conduct is not of consequence to excite more than a momentary indignation. – Though all should forsake and slight me, I can bear it, while my Eccles continues faithful; – ’tis to him I look for happiness; his tenderness is of more worth to me than millions of worlds; on him I intirely depend. – Ah! never leave me; – never doubt my affection; – ’tis inexpressible! – What is there I would not do to contribute to your happiness! – ’tis infinitely dearer to me than my own; – never more even for a moment look with indifference on your
Maria Hays. –
Sunday morning Novr 21st 1779. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 201-02; Wedd, Love Letters 176-77.
2 Source unknown.
3 al’though] MS
4 Line derived from Romans 12:15.
5 Mrs Parker's bliss will end in a few short years with the death of her husband, thus linking her and Hays together in ways they did not foresee in 1779.