8 December 1779

Letter 109. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Wednesday, 8 December 1779.1


     I liked both the copies of verses you gave me very well, but was not a little mortified to find the first more animated and tender than the latter. Who is this Corydon?2 Tell me to whose sensibility I am beholden for your partiality to me? I own I am a little humbled on the occasion; but still, I’ll leave the unpleasing subject; perhaps in these lines you only meant to display your lively fancy; they were perhaps the product of a few romantic moments. – You see I can flatter myself. –

        I have been unhappy since sunday evening last; – ’Twas but in the afternoon at church I had been looking at you, and pronounced it impossible I should ever think of you a moment without feeling the kindest sensations; how warm was my heart in your praise! Every idea that arose blessed you. Will you not be vain when I tell you, you appeared your sex’s perfection? Like Adam speaking of his Eve, I said within myself:

                    “Grace is in all her steps, heaven in her eye,

                    In every feature dignity and love.”3

And could it be conceived a few hours could convert a heart which had been yours with such tenderness, to coldness and indifference? – Oh no! no power can change its affections; they are unalterably yours. … Be not uneasy then at any little extravagances in my disposition; be assured they are only momentary; perhaps they give me more exquisite distress than you. I have been many times fearful lest you should think it sullenness; but ’tis what I cannot describe, and ’tis what not one but my Maria ever had the power of making me feel. – Banish every uneasiness from your mind, and be happy; you have the sincerest wishes of your invariably affectionate

                                J. Eccles


Wednesday, Dec. 8, 1779.

You will call this a shabby letter, but I shall give you good reasons for its brevity.

1 Brooks, Correspondence 206-07; Wedd, Love Letters 182-83. Wedd's title: "Eccles is Uneasy."

2 One of many names (Philander, Sylvia, Corinna, etc.) used to represent characters (and sometimes the poets themselves) in pastoral poetry during the 17th and 18th centuries. 

3 Lines derived from Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book VIII, ll. 489-90.