25 August 1779
Letter 28. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday, 25 August 1779.1
What changes a little time makes! – a fortnight ago you would not have omitted2 writing to me on any consideration – but I see how it is, like the rest of your sex indulgence spoils you – makes you grow careless and indifferent. – What a set of wrong ideas have I entertained – frankness, and tenderness is not the method to treat the Gentlemen of this polite age with – ’tis quite unfashionable; I wonder where I required such antiquated notions – I will certainly turn over a new leaf.
“Ungenerous sex! to scorn us if we’re kind,
And yet t’ upbraid us if we seem severe.”3
Well but seriously, you are very idle, to say no worse – and the misfortune is I cannot be angry with you long – that you perceive and [f. 113] therefore take advantage of my pacific disposition. – Tell me now seriously, whether I am not the best of all possible good girls – hush! – I will not hear a word to the contrary, for I know you think so – therefore ’tis in vain to deny it. – Pardon this flippancy, ’tis so like the Misses, I am quite ashamed of it. –
Your sentiments on friendship are very just; as indeed they are on most subjects – every letter increases my esteem, and convinces me that I have not erred in the opinion I formed of your understanding. You seem to be an advocate for friendship between the different sexes – such I own stand the chance of being the most animated, and tender –
“Where friendship full, exerts her softest power;
Perfect esteem, enliven’d by desire ineffable.
And sympathy of soul.”4
But are they not dangerous – especially to women – virtuous less from reasoning and fixed principle, than from elegance, and a lovely delicacy of mind, naturally tender even to excess – carried away by a romance of sentiment, the helpless sex are too easily seduced by engaging their confidence, and piquing their generosity – guileless5 and unsuspicious they fear not that treachery in others, of which themselves are inculpable.6 – How cruel, how lost to every sense of honor must that man be who could [f. 114] act unworthy7 of such a trust. – But this species of ingratitude I am assured you are a stranger to – convinced of your sincerity – convinced of your affection – my whole heart – every thought of it shall be yours –
“No time shall find me wanting to my truth.”8
I will ever esteem you with the purest, the most refined friendship – a friendship which having virtue, and reason for its basis, cannot be liable to any change. – You have promised to dedicate two letters to friendship, and love – I remind you of your promise, because I expect both entertainment and pleasure from them – but notwithstanding the satisfaction I experience while reading your epistles, I will dispense with your writing to me more than twice a week, as I fear you find three times too much, it may make it rather a task, as you find so many other employments and engagements, that you can hardly spare time for it – besides I cannot bear the idea that it should be in the least troublesome to you. – When Mrs Collier goes into the country (which will be in about a fortnight) you must not expect more than two letters a week from me, as I am to write to her once, and three is quite as much as my head can furnish – that is a great deal (I think) for letters of mere sentiment, where there is no narrative9 in the case. –
This hot weather is in the highest degree dullifying – it really demolishes every spark of one’s wit. –
“The syrian star
Barks from afar,
And with his sultry breath infects the sky.
The shepherd drives his fainting flock
Beneath the covert of a rock,
And seeks refreshing rivulets nigh.
The sylvans to their shades retire,
Those very shades and streams, new shades and
And want a cooling breath of wind to fan
the raging fire.”10
I am quite in distress for pens – are you not shocked at my extravagance; I am really ashamed of being so troublesome, but will make no apologies – they would too much fatigue me this warm weather – besides it will be better to reserve them till I get a new supply, till then I cannot write another word; but that I am with unfeigned esteem all your own –
Maria Hays. –
Saturday even: August 25. 1779.
A letter is here missing – in which giving way to despondency, Mr Eccles seemed to doubt of my affection to him – charges women with mutability and inconstancy – and quotes several authors as proofs of his assertion – enumerates the many difficulties I may have to encounter, from my attachment to him; and imagines that my affection will never stand the test. – Incensed11 at what I supposed illiberal insinuations, I wrote him a short severe note, charging him with raising difficulties only as a pretence for deserting me – which note he had not received, when (repenting of the suggestions which he had raised in a gloomy moment) he wrote the letter which follows in quite a different style from the former, to prevent the impressions which he feared it might make on my mind – two epistles in which appeared such a contrast,12 and which immediately followed each other, perplexed me exceedingly, and occasioned letter 30. –
Maria Hays. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 81-83; Wedd, Love Letters 60-62.
2 omited] MS
3 Lines from Letter II of Samuel Richardson's novel, Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady (1748).
4 Lines from Thomson's The Seasons, "Spring," ll. 1117-19.
5 guiless] MS
6 incupable] MS
7 unworty] MS
8 From Dryden's translation of Vergil's Aeniad, Book IX, in The Works of the British Poets, vol. 12 (1795), p. 485.
9 narritive] MS
10 Lines from Dryden's Horatian Ode, no. 29, to the Earl of Rochester, in Dryden's The Second Part of Miscellany Poems, 5th ed. (1727), p. 73.
11 Incenced] MS
121 constrast] MS