13 September 1779
Letter 43. Mary Hays to John Eccles, [13 September 1779].1
You bid me to remember, “that love claims a distinction beyond indifference; there is a tenderness (you say) due in return which insures our power far beyond the acts of reserve generally practised by our sex.” – And do I need this caution? – If I have erred, it has rather been in shewing too much of that tenderness! – I have sometimes thought you would love me better if you was less assured of my esteem. – The best of men like to have some difficulties to conquer – there is a sort of contradiction in your sex, that the more you are repulsed, the more ardently you pursue – opposition encreases your affection! – Pardon me, I know I am wronging you – I am well assured you have not enough of the coxcomb to think lightly of a woman for discovering a sensibility which must ever render her more amiable, which must ever endear her to the man of sense, and sentiment. – A woman of honor ^and delicacy^ never appears to more advantage, or displays half so many virtues, as when sensible to the merit of a man who deserves her affection. –
I am now going to chide you a little – so prepare yourself for it – Is there not something like affectation, or vanity, in taking such great care, not to look at me on a sunday, and [f. 166] afterwards telling me of it – as if you imagined it was of such great consequence to me – are you afraid I should be like the basilisk, fascinate2 you with my eyes – or do you take pride in shewing an indifference, in hopes to give me pain – the latter I believe it to be – Oh vanity! vanity! – Next time (I think) I’ll sit with my back to you – though to be sure, I might as well keep my seat, there is no danger of my spoiling your devotion either way – I congratulate you on your philosophy, and would not for the world discompose it. – I wish you would give me a few lessons, it would be of infinite service – such a philosophical lover! – how I shall be envied! – Solomon Eccles,3 shall your name be for the future – it really has a magnificent sound. – Forgive this trifling – I own I am a saucy girl – but you cannot be angry, because you know you deserved it. –
Miss Lepard has just sent word she will come to see me this afternoon – That she can leave her swain4 is astonishing – these sweethearts (as the people call them) are troublesome things – it is his fault (I dare say though) – for – ladies are never in the wrong – do you think they are – there’s a good man – I knew you was of my opinion – always be so, and then you will be sure of being right. – I can only spare you this half sheet of paper to day, for I shall see you to morrow [f. 167] and have a long chat; besides I am in so foolish a humor, that I should tire you with my nonsense. – I have not room on the other side, so must tell you on this, that I am seriously (as much as you wish me to be) your own,
Maria Hays. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 105-06; Wedd, Love Letters 82.
2 facinate] MS In mythology, the basilisk, a small snake, could kill with one look.
3 Reference is the Jewish king Solomon, known for his great wisdom
4 A George Parker, of George Yard, Tooley Street, joined the Baptist congregation in Carter Lane, where the Lepards worshiped, on 30 September 1781; most likely he is the future husband of Ann Lepard. He may have been the son or a relation of James Parker who lived in Gainsford Street near the Hays family. See Horsley-down and Carter Lane Church Book, 1719-1808, MS., Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle, London, f .51.