30 July 1779
Letter 6. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Friday, 30 July 1779.1
You desire my sentiments on Prudence; you shall have them: you have a right to desire any thing of me. To act with prudence is to act with propriety; propriety is a word of very extensive import; it varies with every person and under every circumstance; decorum is a word of the like meaning. – Of this propriety or decorum almost every one supposes himself a judge; but as in the most trivial accidents of life we see many deviate from its maxims; so we naturally conclude that all have not ^attained^ the summit; hardly the threshold of prudence – Here is both definition and logic for you; tiresome reading I know to a Lady. – But perhaps you will say, whilst I am pleading against others, I am looking at them with false, or at best ill judging eyes, and that I have very little of prudence myself; – that I must leave – but if I might speak of my own discernment, I should say with infinite satisfaction – but hold you know I never praise myself; and now I recollect, that would not be altogether prudent. – However, to act like Miss J---- is not to act with decorum; nor is it to act like Miss Hays, to act with indecorum; is not this sufficient? but lest2 you [f. 19] should think the last words inconclusive, I add, that if I am allowed to know what this etiquettic word (I hope I may be allowed to coin one word too) would mean, I cannot deserve an error from it in your character, or at least but one – Remember that reserve is not always prudence. – I confess myself guilty of this fault, but mine arose at first from my particular circumstances; perhaps they can scarcely justify it – I thought you believed me sincere enough to speak my sentiments, even though on a fault; the latter is a hard task, but yet I am afraid I am always more ready to blame, than to praise; at least I am sensible I am frequently wanting in bestowing those praises which you – I was going to say deserve; well let it be so – Yet if my praises are deficient my memory is not; it treasures up innumeral ideas of actions and words which deserved praise, and adds to the vast store of charms which I must have been blind not to see and adore.
I promise myself a most delightful walk this evening, and to add to it, by moon-light too – I shall leave it to you to provide a moon; otherwise we shall have none – and it is the first time I knew it in your power to raise one – stars I knew you had – well if you cannot muster up a moon only bless me with the light of them, and I shall not be disappointed. – [f. 20]
I have been wanting to see you ever since Tuesday evening, but have constantly been disappointed; I have some questions to ask you about something I heard after leaving you; yet I give you notice that I don’t think it was spoken with my generous intention, nor is it any thing that you need be anxious about till you see me. –
Now to conclude, but how? – never more doubt your own prudence, nor propose to yourself any patterns to walk by, not Miss J---- Miss D----- nor even Mrs Ch-----3 if you do, you will be worse for the imitation – continue in the line in which you have long walked and let the world blame you if they can – now I have said enough of prudence, and almost enough for my paper, and quite enough for your patience, and shall therefore conclude with saying that I am – shall I follow your example? – I think I will not. – that I am
with invariable affection
Fryday July 30th 1779. [f. 21]
The day after the foregoing letter had passed, some malevolent and ill grounded aspersions being related to my family, they determined (if possible) to put an end to our connection, which determination they acquainted me with. – The distress in which it involved me may be easily imagined by those who have felt the real powers of the affections! – but before I acquiesced in their commands, I insisted on having one more interview with the object of my tenderness – which interview was allowed; and is described in the following letter to my friend Mrs Collier.4
1 Brooks, Correspondence 38-39; Wedd, Love Letters 19-21.
2 least] MS
3 Miss James, Dunkin, and Chissel.
4 This passage by Hays is not in Brooks, Correspondence, or Wedd, Love Letters.