4 November 1779
Letter 87. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Thursday morning, 4 November 1779.1
Talk not of obligations my dearest Eccles, you owe me none; love is involuntary – besides you merit my utmost tenderness. – Let us not repine at the perverseness of fortune: your heart is infinitely dearer to me than all the wealth of the Indies; while possessed of that, I envy not the great; nor could the whole world with its riches and allurements,2 tempt me to resign my interest there. – I am happy – continue to love me, and with a placid serenity can I meet all the ills of life. – The latter part of your letter startled me – Consider – were I possessed of affluence and independence, “with my heart I would give thee all”3; I would despise the world, and all its censures, and enjoy the inexpressible pleasure of bestowing happiness on the man, for whom I have professed the tenderest esteem; but alas! – by consenting to be yours (at present) I should only involve you in fresh difficulties, and have nothing but my heart to bestow, for the trifle that might be mine by marrying contrary to the perfect approbation of my friends, is intirely in their power; and even though they should not withhold it from me, yet is so small a sum that it could be of little service; neither would my Eccles, I am persuaded, wish me to incur the displeasure of my relations, and the ill-natured aspersions of an unfeeling censorious world; but if he requires it as a proof of my affection, I will for him suffer [f. 333] or risque any thing; and with a philosophical composure meet every storm of adverse fate! – Cowardly and timid as I am by nature, yet for your sake, your Maria would without a murmur suffer ruin, and every complicated distress – Tell me if you require the sacrifice? – But will it not be better to wait with patience a change of circumstances? – Constancy must sooner, or latter, be rewarded. – Let us live in this hope, and let us merit happiness by our fidelity, and virtue. – In the mean time, your little girl is ready to confirm her vows of eternal affection, by every sacred and solemn obligation. – Ah! how tenderly, how sincerely do I l--- you; my fate is in your hands, and should you desert me (my God! how dreadful is the thought) Oh no! – I am convinced you never will – I have no doubts – my heart reposes an intire confidence in your honor and affection. – But why did you say at the beginning of your last epistle, “that you knew not what to write” – surely you can have no restraints, in conversing with your Maria; she wishes you to write with the utmost freedom – you need not fear a critic, when writing to her; and she has no employment productive of such heartfelt delight, as the reading those repeated proofs of your attachment to her; – yet never write, when you don’t find an inclination to do so; or when it interferes with any other employment; I would deprive myself of any satisfaction, rather than it should prove in the least tiresome to you. – Your little girl is not of a selfish disposition but in one particular, [f. 334] that is, she requires the whole, the undivided possession of your affection – there she can admit of no partner – there she must engross all. –
Let not Mr and Mrs Parker’s behaviour concern you, – ’tis the way of the world; I envy her not her situation; a cottage with my Eccles, would be preferred to a palace with any other man, by his faithful affectionate,
Maria Hays. –
Thursday morn; Novr 4th 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 180-81; Wedd, Love Letters 157-58.
2 allurments] MS
3 Similar to a line in Shakespeare's Othello, Act I, scene 3: "With all my heart, I give you that thing which, if you didn’t already have it, I’d try with all my heart to keep from you."