3 November 1779

Letter 86. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Wednesday evening, 3 November 1779.1

My dearest Maria,

     Shall I confess I am at a loss what to write; and will you not be displeased at my saying so? – Perhaps your displeasure would be more painful than any thing that can possibly happen to me; indeed it would. – ’Tis your amiable, your endearing behavior overcomes me; its influence is unbounded, and cannot be conceived by minds of “vulgar stamp.” – I cannot write, but I feel you beat in every pulse. – I cannot tell you my heart; language is unequal to the task; but every sensation of love and gratitude reigns there. – Oh that it were in my power, to reward such unparalleled goodness as you are an example of; – fortune! – I ask thy [f. 327] gifts but for that; and canst thou reject a wish so generous; so disinterested? But thou art blind, thou canst not see her; thou distributest thy blessings indiscriminately, and without judgment. – Yet ’tis not in thy power to withhold her from me; thou canst not part us; she is mine, and I am hers by ties indissoluble as fate. – Why should I complain then? – Is she not more precious than crowns and tiaras? – She is dearer to my soul than all the blessings of heaven; and the world without her would not be worth a thought. – You cannot conceive how difficult I find it to leave you, after having been in your company two or three hours; – it seems like going away from myself; – and to endeavor to entertain myself with others, would be vain indeed, for they are really troublesome, and all their attempts to please disgusting; the only refuge I have is my chamber, and a book, or some of your letters. – Those I read always with a new and sincere pleasure; they can soften the bitterest moments. – Nor is this an unpleasing employment; it has many charms; it is perhaps productive of some satisfaction to you; you will read these lines with some agreeable emotions; I feel the same in writing them; – were I to neglect it I should reproach myself with ingratitude; on the contrary I now feel all the “pleasures of pleasing.” – From comparing you with the rest of the world, I derive new sources of enjoyment; – its insincerity and fickleness shews your dispositions and conduct with a new lustre; – I see your constancy and affection with an heartfelt, inexpressible delight. – The fears and doubts which formerly tormented me, are dispersed by the kind assurances you have so [f. 328] repeatedly made me, and I am more at ease; – secure of my Maria’s heart, what more can I hope for? – I am confident I shall never be deprived of that, whatever else may happen to me. – Mutual love has joys which are beyond the joys of fortune; – may they ever be my Maria’s and mine, and I ask no more. – When I was younger, worldly ambition actuated me; I would have sacrificed almost any thing to it; now I see my folly, and despise it. – Now let me make you happy, and my desires are completed. –

    I have been reflecting on Mr and Mrs Parker’s behavior to you. – I am not able to account for their coldness; I wish to think it was because I was there, they appeared so grave and reserved; yet from their former affability and complaisance I have no reason to think so. – I am in the dark and must remain so. – They certainly treated you in an unbecoming manner; yet I hope you value yourself too much to regard it. – One circumstance which I noticed was so particular that I must mention it; the very minute you proposed going away, Mrs P. and Miss L.2 got up, without asking you either to stay to supper, or so much as to sit down again; Mr P. was instantly called, and they seemed to hasten us out of the house. – I was last night inclined to be charitable, but it now appears to me to have been design from the beginning to the end. – I did something yesterday which vexed me very much, yet however it was, I was not disposed to be grave; had they been at all sociable, I should have been very chearful; I went there on purpose. – [f. 329] They owed you the greatest attention, yet paid you very little; but let it not trouble us; the blame is on their side, let us leave it to them. –

         I saw Mrs Ludgater3 was at the window last night when we came home, looking out with the greatest attention; – she saw you get out of the coach just before I knocked at the door. – I expected to hear from her that you and I were married, but – not a word; ’tis a subject on which she grows rather timid. – This brings to my recollection one or two of your letters which I was reading the day before yesterday; what a bl––kh––d4 was I not to accept your offers! – but I believe you did it only to tempt me; twice you offered me your hand; beware of the third time; for if you refuse me then, I shall run away with you against your consent. – Really though, I am perfectly shocked at my dullness, that I did not take you at your word, and conduct you to the temple of Hymen sans cérimonie; but remember I shall perfectly understand you the next time, and whether you are in earnest or not, it will be the same, for go you must and shall; – I shall not easily bear a refusal. – Yet sure you could not be so hard-hearted as first to raise me to the summit of hope, and then hurl me head long to the pit of despair? No, no; ’tis impossible to treat so faithful a swain with cruelty; am I not right? – I know you think so. – But stop – matrimony might make a change in you; I have seen one instance of it; and I cannot hope for a change in you for the better; – what is to be done [f. 330] then? – I’ll hazard the change, for sure I am, my dear little girl can change nothing but her name. – I have sent you the verses which I addressed to you some time ago, as you wished to have them – Adieu!

                            J. Eccles. –

Wednesday even: Novr 3d 1779. –

                    To Miss Hays, on seeing a Statue of Venus with

                             Cupid by her side, July 21st 1779



                    I come not with a suppliant voice

                        Your kindness to implore;

                    Grateful I thank you: in my choice

                        Happy; can ye give more?


                    Twice has the radiant orb of day

                        His annual round fulfil’d,

                    Since ye first listen’d to my lay;

                        Ye heard, ye look’d, ye smil’d.

 [f. 331]

                    Propitious were ye to my prayers,

                        My warmest hopes ye blest;

                    With pity, for my heartfelt cares,

                        Ye touch’d Maria’s breast.


                    The maid is form’d with every grace

                        Which can delight impart;

                    Expression kindles in her face;

                        Soft emblem of her heart.


                    She looks, and oh! her beaming eyes

                        Such softness can convey,

                    Wild passion in their presence dies,

                        And fury melts away.


                    Your favors, heavenly powers, demand

                        A doubly grateful heart;

                    Goodness, I bless thy guiding hand,

                        And Cupid’s welcome dart.


                    And when to Hymen’s sacred grove

                        Ye lead the trembling fair,

                    Again, to thank you for my love,

                        I’ll surely meet you there. –

1 Brooks, Correspondence 178-80; Wedd, Love Letters 156-57. 

2 Miss Lepard, most likely Ann Lepard Parker's sister.

3 Eccles's landlady.

4 Blockhead.