John Eccles's Will
All are subject to casualties, and from the certain stroke of death, no human being can be exempted; ’tis the unavoidable end of man. When, where, or by what means he shall meet his fate, are circumstances unknown to him; perhaps he may suddenly be arrested, and forced into other unexplored regions, without leave to speak or look a last adieu to his dearest friends; does it not then behove every man to make preparations for this grand event, and to set his house in order?
Few, yet invaluable are the treasures I possess; they are contained in letters and other papers; to my dear Miss Mary Hays I bequeath them all; I give her back those assurances, which whilst living I would not have resigned nor even doubted for worlds; but my heart is now too cold to be sensible of them; yet in eternity I shall not forget her. Books and papers of every kind (bills and receipts only excepted) I desire may be hers. I beg also that a mourning ring, value two guineas, may be given her.
To my two sisters, as remembrances of a brother who always held them dear, I give as follows; viz: to my eldest, my watch; and to my youngest a snuff-box, rendered of inestimable worth by the giver; – it was from Miss Hays.
Whatever else I may leave behind me, I give to my father, to dispose of as he shall think fit: to him also I leave the direction of my interment. Of this last circumstance I am not at all careful, being well assured that when the immortal part of me has left its tenement, it is of little consequence where the latter moulders; whether it be consigned to the tomb with pomp and ceremony, or pass unnoticed and unhonored to oblivion. I request it of my father too, to satisfy every just demand on me; unless I die suddenly, I shall take particular care of this myself; yet however I leave the world, I hope by the blessing of heaven, that whilst I continue in my present situation, I shall never owe more than five pounds, and shall leave such bills and receipts as will make everything clear and easy. In life these are my wishes, who can oppose them in death.
When this is read, I shall have done with “all these transitory things”; your praise, or censure, my friends, will be both equal; be favorable to my errors, and if anything in me was praiseworthy, imitate it. I now bid you adieu! To my father and eldest sister I leave the execution of this my last will.
Signed November 24, 1779.
Taken from Wedd, Love Letters 202-03; Brooks, Correspondence 589-90.