late February 1780
Letter 118. Mary Hays to John Eccles at Fordingbridge [late February 1780].1
I am half inclined to chide you; did I not love you a little too much, I should do so. – I waited yesterday with the utmost anxiety for the postman, opened your letter with trembling impatience, – but it did not banish my suspense, I have still two or three days longer to wait; – may your next epistle bring me the intelligence I wish. I cannot help entertaining a thousand doubts and fears; heaven grant they may prove groundless! How dear is my Eccles’s interest to his Maria! Her whole soul is his!
And did you really feel so many pains at parting with me on thursday? Sweet assurance, which I would not disbelieve for Empires! …
I love your sisters for their concern and affection for you. Amiable girls! May they be happy in the accomplishment of their dearest wishes, – may they never feel a thousandth part of those uneasinesses which we have experienced these last two years: yet I will not murmur, for the prospect now seems brightening, and my heart is expanding with hope! Shall I not e’er long see you with the sweetest sentiments of pleasure, without incurring the disapprobation of those to whom I owe every duty – they already know and esteem your worth – they speak of you in terms that give me the most heart-felt satisfaction; something whispers, we shall yet be happy! …..
If you should be detained (in the country) longer than you expect, let me hear from you on fryday, – I am anxious to know the result of the consultation with Mr. Gifford.
We are here freezing beneath the frigid zone; how do you find it at Fordingbridge?
Have you been to see Polly yet? Don’t start – I am not going to teaze you with my jealousies, – I shall ever remember the lesson you gave me on that head, – besides I will never doubt an affection on which my happiness depends.
My brother Tommy was yesterday inoculated for the smallpox, and behaved with great heroism! The same day my sister Hills was safely delivered of a fine girl, – here is all the news I can at present recollect.2 My Mamma etc. desire their compliments. Adieu! my dearest Eccles, with unfeigned regard I am your own girl
1 Brooks, Correspondence 212-13; Wedd, Love Letters 191-93. Wedd's title: "Mary Writes Again to Fordingbridge."
2 Thomas Hays was born in 1772, so he was about 8 years of age at the time of the above inoculation. Mary's sister, Sarah Hays Hills, had married Thomas Hills in August 1776. Her daughter, Elizabeth, was baptized at the Independent meeting in White's Row, Spitalfields, on 23 March 1780, the record noting her birth in February, as recorded in the above letter. Elizabeth was baptized by Nathaniel Trotman, the minister at the time, the same church in which Benjamin Flower was raised and in which he was still a member. He would later become known to Mary Hays and became, like her, a devoted follower of Robert Robinson in the 1780. Both Hays and Flower attributed their movement into Unitarianism to the influence of Robinson. See White's Row, Spitalfields, Baptism Book, London Metropolitan Archives, microfilm X099/303; N/C025/001, 1756-1891.