2 September 1779
Letter 35. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Thursday, 2 September 1779.1
A very pretty fancy are these same verses of your[s] – a little conceited though, I think – but poetical licence extends very far – however I confess I am not displeased with them, or it is so long since you gave me a specimen of your abilities in this way, that I began to fear the Muses had forsaken you – but as I find they have not, pray treat the Ladies with2 civility – count them as assiduously as you please, I promise I will not be jealous. – Were I an equal favorite with Apollo,3 you might expect some pretty poetical compliment on your cleverness, but as that is not the case you must be content with my telling you in plain prose, that I am always pleased with what you write – is not this being civil – yet now I recollect I ought to have made some [f. 137] exceptions – no, I won’t, for they are past and gone, and I am satisfied with your apologies – a very meek good sort of a girl – am I not. – I admire at your thinking yourself too good for writing to me so often this week – (I suppose it is meant as a hint to me) – beside as you was alone all day, and in such a prating humor too, you was constrained by necessity to take up your pen, or address your conversation to the chairs and tables. – “You had been in idea talking to me all the morning” – and my answers were very satisfactory – too satisfactory perhaps – I don’t much like giving my sentiments by proxy. – “Are you not a most consummate poet (you ask)” – why – yes – pretty tolerable – only methinks you seem too conscious of it – to be sure, we are all apt to have pride equal to our merit, and some of us rather beyond it, which is my friends case sometimes. – Pardon me, I am a little saucy this morning. –
But are you really going into the country – I think if you go they will prevail on you to stay – I own I don’t much like it – I seem to feel a presentiment – but ’tis folly – ’tis weakness – I will not begin to prophesy – therefore don’t let my foolish fears and apprehensions prevent you – but you must promise not to stay beyond the fortnight, or I shall begin to have a thousand odd fancies respecting you. – I am ashamed of the last paragraph – [f. 138] scratch it over for me. – You ascribed to the power of conceit, my thinking there was a coolness in your behaviour34 on sunday night – consider, it was too dark to see you, and your silence joined to the letter I had received might easily cause the mistake – don’t you remember you stood just at the brink of the water. – I had a great mind to have pushed you in for your obstinacy in not speaking – but I believe it was low tide – if I had I should have expected to have seen your apparition the next night coming to me dripping5 wet, like that in Ariosto6 – take care how you offend me again – in that place especially – but you are not much afraid of me I believe – you know I am too silly to hurt you. –
These pens are not half so good as the others were – you grow monstrous7 idle; I desire for the future you will go for them yourself, or I shall send you such scralls, as you will scarcely be able to make out. – I must now bid you adieu! – Have I not tired you with my flippancy – but thats rather a foolish question, for you will hardly be so unpolite as to answer it in the affirmative. – Believe that I am with the most affectionate esteem your own
Thursday morn. Sepr 2d 1779.
I exhausted all my gravity in my last two letters, you must therefore make allowances for the idle chat in this. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 92-93; Wedd, Love Letters 70-72.
2 with with ] MS
3 Apollo, the Greek god of poetry.
4 behavour] MS
5 driping] MS
5 Reference is to the popular work by Ludivico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (1516).
6 monsterous] MS