11 August 1779
Letter 18. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Wednesday, 11 August 1779.1
Why will you continue to entertain these doubts? – Why will you talk of other beauty, other charms and arts? – My heart is adamant to them; they can never make any impression there. – What other assurances can I give you, than I have already done; I can only repeat them! – I fear I have unknowingly given you some cause for these fears; if I have, tell me freely – As to obstacles, I bid defiance to any baneful effects they can produce in me; I congratulate the impressions they have already made on me; they have bound me to you, by ties of indissoluble affection; they have shewn you to me, more amiable than before; I see them to have been necessary for the past, but oh! ’tis hard to acquiesce in the continuance of them. –
How am I sunk, how fallen in your opinion! – you could once think me capable of persevering affection; how have I now degraded myself? – Have my eyes been wandering on other objects? or have they looked with cold indifference on you? – Surely you will acquit me of both these crimes – Never give way to those causeless apprehensions; they will only perplex you. – I had [f. 71] almost said it would be an ungenerous thought, to suppose I can ever forget you; but I know you don’t think so. –
You paint beauty as irresistible; it is so, I feel its power; it is beauty I am enamoured with: but what is beauty?
“ . . . Truth and good are one
And beauty dwells with them.”2
When I can stoop so low as to prefer the beauties of the body to those of the mind, may I be plagued with the first, but never feel the consoling endearments which perpetually flow from the latter; these can insure love, peace and tranquility to the soul when external beauty is no more – May this sentiment of beauty ever remain with me; –
“The body charms, because the mind is seen.”3
I know your ideas of your own person are humble; in this you differ much from the general opinion of your sex; you think too lowly of yourself. – Did you not know how averse I am to compliment and flattery, and were you not possessed of the highest good sense, my company must long ago have been displeasing to you; but adulation is not in my character; (nor happy for me,) is it consistent [f. 72] with your ideas of the dignity of a woman. – Well then, since you never knew a compliment from me, you will not expect any now, nor can you think what I am going to say, one: I am pleased with the beauty of your person; it is every thing I wish; when you want to cool the passion that now warms me, endeavor by art, to make yourself handsomer,4 and I know not but then you may render yourself – forbidding. – I would not speak thus freely, but I know you well on this point. –
You bid me entertain the charmer, hope; she supports me; I live now in hope of seeing you this evening, then I shall live in hope of seeing you on saturday, and after that on some future time, hope tells me I shall see you, never to be parted from you again. – Knowing well how variable are the scenes of life, how fluctuating and subject to extremes, I am naturally led to hope for the opposite extreme to what I now experience – So you see, I hope every thing, I wish. –
You do not understand an expression I used in my last letter; I will explain it; after saying modesty and diffidence are amiable qualities, I said, “but even here I will not flatter you,” even here, where your nice delicacy deserves the warmest praises; it was so I meant – The whole sentence depends on the word even, I [f. 73] hope I did not omit it, if so, do insert it for me. –
I shall have many things to say to you on saturday, which, as I now can speak to you without reserve, will be better than to write them. – What a pleasure, is liberty! Even the liberty of speaking one’s mind is a great happiness, especially with the object of one’s love – Something of an unnatural delicacy used to hinder me from speaking with that openness which is in my nature. – It proceeded from the difficulties and struggles I had then encountered with; it would have pained me to repeat them; and it would have been insinuating a degree of merit on my part; this I detested – but this is past, and I see my error. – Experience tells me, I owe you unbounded and undissembling confidence; you now have it; though I never was so mean as to dissemble with you. –
Though oppressed with adverse fortune, I promise myself much pleasure on saturday; I shall endeavor to please the company as far as it is in my power; chearfulness will contribute as much to that, as any quality what-ever – and in your company why should I not be chearful, even now? – The evening is appointed for pleasure; to pleasure then be it consigned. – I would not wish either Mr or Mrs –––––5 should see any difference in me; let me then forget myself – Besides if pleasure is ever more to fall to my lot, it must, [f. 74] it shall be with you, or it is only a name – Adieu, my dear Maria, may angels forever as faithfully guard you, as would
Your most affectionate lover
Wednesday even: August 11th 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 62-63; Wedd, Love Letters 44-45.
2 Lines taken from Mark Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination (1744), Book I, ll. 374-75.
3 Lines taken from Edward Young's Love of Fame, Satire VI.
4 handersomer] MS