19 August 1779 (2)
Letter 24. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Thursday, 19 August 1779.1
Thursday August 19th 1779.
My dearest Polly,
Had I not seen you this morning, in all probability, instead of this, you would have received a letter of a more doleful cast – The fears I conceived from Mrs S-----s2 unwelcome visit, with what I heard this morning, had disturbed me much; I was complaining to myself that every thing militated against me, when, to dissipate my cares you appeared. – I am not superstitious, but believe me, when joined to the two [f. 92] reasons here mentioned, your “foreboding calmness” haunted me and gave me a great deal of anxiety – pray don’t prophesy any more. – You made one on the evening previous to the day on which I was sent for to your house; that was realized in a few hours; since then I dread them. – Could you suppose I would prefer any company, bent on schemes however pleasurable, to the luxurious entertainment now before me; shall I postpone writing to you because I am invited to be of a party of the day? – No; you could not imagine so. – If ever I am obliged to apologize for omitting it, it shall be for very substantial reasons; besides I would not wish to establish a precedent; your sex are very apt at excuses, and need not the protection of example. –
Now I am seriously going to be angry with you, therefore prepare yourself – After all the assurances I have made you, how unlimited the confidence is, which I repose in you; after all the professions of love, esteem, friendship and sincerity, yet you doubt me, and say “perhaps you fear I shall act unworthy the confidence you have reposed in me.” – I have no such fears; I never had; I never suspected you would in any thing act contrary to the dictates of honor; I have always considered you as truth herself. – Yet were I sure you would forget yourself; that every letter I have written to you would be exposed to the world, I would not wish to retain one of them; they breathe that love that unaffected passion which I should be proud to acknowledge my own, and [f. 93] which you by endeavoring to ridicule, would only render of more lasting worth, and more to be respected by the serious; by the thinking part of mankind. – But I know you will never triumph over me; you will never disdain those addresses which flow from the heart; which love at first directed, and which faithful love has, and ever shall continue. – I am too well assured of your honor, of the fidelity of your professed esteem, ever to doubt you in any respect – what ever I know, you shall know; and (with what delight do I speak it!) I am certain you will never betray my unreservedness. – I am happy to think I have one to whom I can speak with freedom; this seldom happens between two of different sexes; but as I have no secrets, nor ever shall have, which you need blush to know, our friendship will be supported with a delicacy which (I fancy) is rarely found between two of the same sex. In these latter friendships it often happens, that a too great freedom shuts out delicacy, and presently the friend sinks to the level of an indifferent person, and sometimes lower; – to be too inquisitive is a wound to friendship, as it supposes reserve where there ought to be none – Between friends there are no secrets, but there is a species of delicacy which is necessary to preserve a due respect from both; without which it is impossible for a sincere, generous friendship to subsist long – Between different sexes (particularly between you and me) where love also bears [f. 94] sway, many obstacles to faithful friendship are removed; we cannot be each others rivals, nor can we fear rivals in others; there can be no possible reason or inducement for one to betray the secrets of the other, for both are equally interested in them – and the difference of sex injures that respect which is the support of a virtuous friendship – though I hardly suppose it possible for two of different sexes long to entertain an unbounded friendship, without feeling something of a more tender nature, yet where love has already taken possession of the heart, nothing can be apprehended on that account – We ought never to venture our friendship to one of a different sex, where reason tells us we ought not to love; it has often been productive of unhappiness – Friendship increases and refines love – indeed one might on this theme, it is a subject which cannot be exhausted – They only can conceive it who feel it, and they only know its value – Some future letter I design to dedicate to love and another to friendship – perhaps they may entertain you – Adieu; believe I shall ever love you; shall ever be your tender friend,
I have inclosed you a copy of the verses you desired, and those ^I^ wrote on your birth day. –
To Miss Hays, April 21, 1779.
To her who lives forever in this breast,
For whom its passions rise, or gently rest,
With whom each beauteous scene, more beauteous grows,
And each new minute with new pleasure glows;
Whose presence is an antidote to care,
Whose smiles have charms to banish every fear:
To her, a muse untaught in flattery’s art,
Presents the homage of a faithful heart. –
Will my Maria leave more pleasing themes,
Soft love, sweet friendship, tender, sacred names!
Can she forget the pride and joys of youth,
And for awhile attend the voice of truth?
Of truth and love; (how seldom near allied!
How rarely in one bosom they abide!)
My heart informs me yes: then oh attend!
And think me not the lover, but the friend.
When Phoebus with malignant sultry ray,
Invades our earth, and burns the smiling day, [f.96]
T’ avoid his power and to allay his heat
Perhaps you seek some shady, cool retreat,
Where with the fan quick waving you may rest,
While the soft zephyrs play around your breast.
You find the pleasing change, and sit at ease,
And spite of envious Sol, feel as you please.
But when you leave the shade, and this gay toy
No more in task benign your hands employ,
Again th’ ungracious orb’s enkindled beams,
Pour on your head in unremitting streams.
To my Maria may I now impart,
From hence a lesson to the human heart!
When passion rises in its hateful forms,
Distorts each feature, and the whole frame deforms,
When the fierce look, the gathering storm portends,
To foes alike a terror, and to friends;
Wise is the man, the woman wise who checks
Th’ impending tempest, e’er its fury breaks,
Who looks within, and meditates retreat
To the cool shade, where conscience takes her seat;
Who plies the fan of reason, and who feels
The calm sensations, which her influence yields. [f. 97]
Where she presides, a heart felt peace she brings,
And looks alike, on beggar’s and on kings.
Who deviates from her path, will surely find,
That when neglected she can prove unkind,
’Tis she instructs her well taught feet to tread
Where virtue walks, nor vice dares shew her head.
Each votary, she with a calm sufferance fills,
And renders easy, life’s unwieldy ills.
How needful in this labyrinth of life!
Where pain and pleasure keep perpetual strife!
In vain we hope pleasure’s continued stay.
The phantom smiles, then vanishes away.
When most we court her, then she most deceives,
And in derision laughs at those she leaves.
Happy the soul, whose equal temper meets
The ills of life composed, and firm her station keeps.
Long time in quest of happiness I stray’d,
Through devious muses, sought the heavenly maid;
Sought her where reason points, in virtue’s ways,
And at length found her in the form of HAYS.
Did I say found her? make the assertion true,
Confirm it, for that power lives with you. [f. 98]
Be you but kind, and I am then most blest,
And to supernal wisdom, leave the rest.
Yet should good heaven my ardent wish compleat,
And in life’s era bring that happy date.
When I shall call Maria mine, and she
The empress of this heart shall ever be;
Will nothing interrupt the blissful scene?
Will no discolored shadings intervene?
Here stop my muse, nor further truths explore,
But wait the blessings heaven has in store;
Of blessings, she the dearest heav’n can bestow,
Of bliss, the ultimatum here below;
And when the business of this life is done,
Then HAYS and happiness, shall reign in one.
To Miss Hays, May 4th 1779.
Maria’s birth-day courts the Muse
For the well-wishing lay,
Nor can the heavenly maid refuse
To bless th’ auspicious day.
Bright day (she sings) at thy return
The virtues clap their wings,
Each smiling with a kind concern
Her grateful tribute brings.
Crouding around their patroness
The angelic forms appear,
With blooming health and happiness
To hail th’ opening year.
And may the gentle hours preside
To crown the welcome day,
May heaven forever be her guide,
And all her life be May. [f. 100]
I too, who feel your minutes move,
Who taste their joy or pain,
Touch’d by the tender ties of love
Would pen some melting strain.
But faint is language, to express
Th’ emotions that arise,
And beat within my glowing breast
When I would speak your praise.
Wishes I have, and they are yours.
For you to heaven they fly,
Ceaseless they throng your3 azure doors,
And pierce the inmost sky.
May you the choicest blessings prove
That mortals can enjoy,
Hence may your life be peace, and love
And bliss, that ne’er can alloy.4
From hence may real pleasure glide,
In ever purling streams. [f. 101]
To chear your days, and be your guide
To ever blissful realms.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 72-76; Wedd, Love Letters 53-55.
3 you] MS
4 aloy] MS