13 July 1780

Letter 122. Mary Hays To Mrs Collier, Saturday, 13 July 1780.1

     Pheby has just brought me your letter; for the postman by an unaccountable whim, chose to convey it to your house instead of ours.

     Thank you, my Mamma, for the anxieties you was in to hear from me; and ten thousand times I thank you for the affectionate concern you take in the happiness of your girl; the obligations I owe to you are inexpressible, and I sink under the weight of them; how unworthy am I of the tender preference which you give me; yet if the most ardent, the most faithful friendship which ever animated the human heart, can in any degree repay them, it is yours – your s forever! never will I cease to love you, till I cease to exist.

     The affair which I mentioned to you in my last letter, remains much in the same situation; a meeting is appointed early in the approaching week, between my mamma, Mr Hills, Mr Davis, and Mr Eccles,1 in which I suppose something will be determined on. God grant success! Gifford is indeed a sordid wretch, and unworthy the sacred title of friend. – Mr Hills was as much surprized at his refusal, as you possibly could be, and desired another friend of his, who is a relation of Mr. Gifford’s, to ask him (not as from our family), whether he had any reason for his denial? He said “none at all, but that it was inconvenient to him, for that he knew Mr Eccles to be a very worthy, sober young man, and heartily wished him success.” How very selfish is he then; how cruel; for when my Eccles appeared dejected, and distressed at his excuses, and told him he had deprived him of all hopes of happiness, and that he would quit the kingdom, he said coolly, “it would be the best thing he could do.” But enough of this man; I will not sully my paper by mentioning him any more. I hope we shall be able to do without his assistance.

      You cannot imagine what a splendid excursion I had yesterday; Miss Dunkin, my sister Betsy, Mr Eccles and myself were the party; we walked to the Isle of St Helena,2 and had a sillibub; the weather was delightful beyond expression; the gardens enchanting; the society most pleasing; your girl was in such spirits, she was quite a little made thing; so playful and sportive, that I felt as if I had wings, and walked on air. I am in love with the country, and feel its powers just as the poets paint them; don’t smile, I am not such an ignoramus as you think me.

     I must bid my Mamma good-night, as it begins to grow dark, and I have several things to do before supper. – May the angel of peace watch over you, prays your own Maria.


Monday morn: I am just expiring with heat; how is it at Tinwell? Much the same I dare say; yet the weather is so exceeding pleasant, that I can hardly wish it less warm. Do you know, my dear Mamma, I am in so stupid a humor this morning, that I fear I shall tire you with my insipidity; I am fit for nothing at this moment but to lie me down on the sopha and indulge; this is the natural consequence of the weather; don’t you always find it so? We have so much company coming this afternoon that I dread the idea of it. I think Miss –– a most agreeable woman, she looks sentiment and sensibility; I very much admire her; how infinitely superior is she to Mrs –– there is not a comparison between them; there is something in the latter so pert, so vulgar, so unfeeling, that I cannot endure her; she says: “she never knew what it was to be low spirited in her life.” I envy not her insensibility; rather would I suffer all the pain and anguish of the affectionate and impassioned heart. I know your sentiments coincide with your girl’s on this subject.

     You give a very pretty account of the Hamford Misses. – Miss Johnson must not think of displaying her airs there, she will be totally eclipsed; though she seems to possess so large a share of vanity, that she will not be sensible of it. Are not such people very happy? For it must give equal satisfaction to themselves, to possess every accomplishment in idea, as in reality.

     When do you expect Mrs Brooke at Tinwell?3 I hope she will be there before your return, and that from a very selfish motive; for indeed I cannot allow of intruders when I get you to London again; ah! when will that time arrive? But don’t answer me for I dread to know. You must not let Miss Roberts know the day; I do not like her coming home with you; I always think her presence a check on the affectionate emotions of my dear Mamma’s heart; you really have spoilt me for all society but your own; when I go into your company, I feel a void, which you have used me to; no one seems to take that lively interest in whatever concerns me; however, few are capable of friendship! hardly one in a thousand. I never think of you and Mrs Digby, without revering the long and faithful attachment which has subsisted between you; is it not then the height of presumption in such a young thing as I am, to solicit a second place in a friendship so sacred, so long tried? I plead guilty; but yet cannot repent, nor ever will attempt to reform; I must therefore throw myself on your mercy.

     Adieu! my dearest Mamma. All friends desire to be remembered to you. Make my compliments acceptable to Mrs Digby. I shall expect to hear from you on saturday, don’t delay it, for I cannot give up that day entirely. My Eccles desired to be most cordially remembered to you; God bless him and you; the heart of your Maria is divided between you!

                    Maria Hays


Saturday, July 13, 1780

1 Brooks, Correspondence 216-17; Wedd, Love Letters 196-98. Wedd's title: "Mary to Mrs. Collier."

2 Thomas Hills (1753-1803) married Sarah Hays, Mary's sister, in 1776. The Mr. Davis remains unidentified.                                                              

3 Not to be confused with the Isle of St. Helena, the reference here is to the St. Helena Gardens of Rotherite, which opened in 1770 and continued into the early 1880s when they gave way to increased London urban development. Music and dancing were added to the garden's evening attractions in 1776. 

4 Though Hays was enamoured at this time by the novels of Frances Brooke, it seems unlikely it is the novelist who is visiting Mrs. Collier at Tinwell. It is more likely that this is the Mrs. Brooke who also lived in Gainsford Street and most likely attended the Baptist chapel in Gainsford Street with the Hays family and, most likely, Mrs. Collier. This may be the same Brooke (Mrs. or Mr.) who was in the dinner party at the Dunkin residence at Paragon Place, Walworth, in May 1795 with Godwin, Dyer, Stephen Weaver Browne, and others. See Hays's letters to Godwin on 6 and 7 May 1795, and Godwin's entry in his diary for 14 May 1795.