6 November 1779

Letter 90. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Saturday, 6 November 1779.1


     Oh no; by no means do I require, or even wish my little girl to sacrifice her happiness, and the affection of her friends; I would be [f. 341] first to oppose it; – nothing but circumstances of absolute necessity, could ever induce me to advise my dear Maria, to leave her home, unless I could offer her an equal one; – too tenderly am I her friend. – It would break my heart to see you in distress; – I could not support the shock. – To see your friends, and acquaintance forsake you, would be a source of much woe. – No, let us do nothing, of which there is any probability, we may in time repent; – we know not what is in the bosom of futurity; – let us then hope the best. – I knew long ago, that your fortune was yours only conditionally; – had it been in your own power, I should not have written to you so freely as I did in my last letter, for I detest the very idea of any thing which has but the appearance of interest on it; and I could not bear even the world to suppose, I acted towards you with any other than the principles of love. – I wish you and every one to think I love you only for your own sake; for which reason I would never urge any persuasions in which I am at all concerned. – But in whatever situation I am, ever will my affections be stedfastly your’s; they are unalterably fixed; neither time or circumstance will be able to erase those impressions which you have engraved on my heart. – Every thought, every wish is yours; – I am sensible of your kindness; – I feel your tenderness; – your assurances inspire a new ardor, a brighter glow of affection. – What in2 all the world can promise or give, in comparison to those enjoyments which flow from a reciprocal attachment? – I am dead to the pleasures of the world; – to you I look for happiness; – in you all my hopes are centered; – [f. 342] amusements, nor society, have any relish, unless you are a party in them; – in whatever company, or wherever I am, there is always a vacancy in my bosom, which none but you can supply; – and with you alone, I have all the company in the world; – I have no desires beyond that; – whilst you smile on me, I can smile at the frowns of the vain, and undiscerning crowd. –

     You frequently reproach me with being negligent, but I am sure ’tis without reason, for although I could not possibly write to you, from Sunday last to Wednesday, yet you see before the week is finished, I have anticipated my time; – rather I think you ought to say, I am remarkably assiduous and attentive – Indeed I thought to have been beforehand with you; I intended to give you this, this evening; – and I thought you could not have written your’s by then, at least I did not expect you would give it me before Sunday. – I must say, that since Mrs Collier’s absence, although you have wrote to her once a week, you have deserved my highest praise, and thanks; you have ever been true to your time; – There, I think you ought to praise me, now I have set you an example, but I dare say you will not. – Let me not find that when Mrs Collier returns, her company makes you remiss; – if it does, you may depend upon it I shall be jealous. –

      What a stupid question was that to be disputed on [f. 343] Thursday last, at Coach–makers’ Hall;3 “Whether considering the manners of the present age, a married or a single life is most conducive to happiness”; – as though the manners of the age, could have any tendency to interrupt the harmony which subsists between two souls, linked together by the tenderest union. –

“_ _ _ _ _ _ What is the world to them

“Its pomp its pleasure and its nonsense all!

“Who in each other clasp, whatever fair

“High fancy forms, or lavish beauty can wish.”4

For men of sense to dispute on such questions, is I think downright nonsense. – Do you think that were no other obstacles in the way, manners or customs of men, could take from you and me the power of being happy in a married state, nay of being far more so than in single life? – I know that with me you think the contrary. – My little girl knows ’tis the perfection of happiness below; – ’tis what gives the most refined enjoyment of social life; – I mean where the real, sincere, dignified passion of love, glows within each bosom, where “each is to each a dearer self.”5 – Why do you talk so much of being afraid of offending or displeasing me; I cannot bear it, – be assured that nothing involuntary can do it. – Should there be such a thing as fear between us; – should there be any kind of [f. 344] restraint on my dear Maria when she speaks to me? – No; let there be none; – whilst you continue what you now are, it is impossible I can be offended; – I know you never intend to do it, so I am perfectly easy. – Be free then, and speak to me what you think, without any disquieting apprehensions, for ever will you be regarded with the warmest affection by yours

                                      J. Eccles. –

Saturday Novr 6th 1779.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 184-86; Wedd, Love Letters 161-63. 

2 is] MS

3 Coachmaker's Hall, located in Addie Street near Aldermanbury, across the Thames from Southwark, had become one of London's leading debating societies at this time, and was especially popular among Dissenters. They met on Thursday evenings, so the debate in question in this letter occurred on 4 November. 

4 Lines from Thomson’s The Seasons, “Spring,” ll. 1134-37.

5 Ibid., “Summer,” l. 1183.