30 September 1779
Letter 57. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Thursday, 30 September 1779.1
All things considered, I think I am a good kind of a young man; I don’t wish to catch at excuses; whatever little [f. 224] ailments I labor under, still I feel myself inclined to scribble a few lines to you; you must accept them this time, though they are but few, otherwise you are a very ungrateful girl; and it would pain me to think you could ever deserve to be reproached with ingratitude. – I should be obliged to entertain quite a different opinion of you, from what I do now; I rank you now the first of your sex, perhaps then you would be the last. – I am too partial in your praise; have you no faults; or am I really blind? I wish to be truly informed; yet it would not be welcome information to undeceive me, if I am in the wrong. – I believe I have a tincture of prejudice in me, for those who speak to me in your favor, are my best friends; those who would endeavor to dispraise you are my worst foes; these are the feelings of my heart. Oh! my dearest Maria! still continue, as you ever have done, to deserve my sincerest, my warmest acknowledgments, my liveliest affections: my whole soul is set on you; should you (but ’tis impossible) ever give me room to suppose I have been rashly lavish of my love, where shall I fly for refuge? Who of all your sex, will ever be able to console me? Yet, I am contented; I know your heart; it cannot be a false one; no; ’tis true as heaven, and I shall ever be happy. – You have not learned to be artful and treacherous; first to engage our hearts and then abandon them; ’tis a triumph beneath the generous mind, and such a one I know you possess; this is my protection against every fear.
Thursday evening. – I have been musing almost an hour on what subject I should write to you to fill this paper, but I cannot yet determine; so you must take at hazard whatever comes. – I am in a very gloomy humor; yet I will not write anything to displease you, for that would displease myself; I always feel a keen remorse, when either by my temper or inadvertently I have rendered you uneasy, which is an ample punishment for the offence. – I am always dispirited when you are from home, yet I don’t wish you to refrain from visiting your acquaintance; that perhaps would give me greater pain, were it on my account you neglected them; but I wish, yet cannot accompany you; this makes me unhappy, yet I will not give way to it; ’tis best to bear up with courage under misfortunes we cannot avoid; patience is an admirable virtue; it renders the path of difficulty more smooth and easy; it softens our afflictions, and we find them more sufferable. – Yet what afflictions can I not endure, whilst you are kind and good? To that asylum I can fly for consolation, when every other source avails nothing. – It has been a fine day; I regret our not being able to visit the old ladie’s cottage; we should have spent an agreeable afternoon: how imperceptible does time glide along in the company of those we admire! whilst absence turns minutes into hours. – What are all the pleasures of this trifling world? But deceptions, phantoms. – He who vainly pursues them grasps at a glittering shadow; it [f. 226] eludes his eager appetite. – Young as I am, I can look on the world and its delights, (I hope) in their proper point of view; I esteem them all as gay, as splendid nothings. – They have no enticements for me; the happiness they promise is fixed on an unstable basis; ’tis not solid and permanent. – I am sometimes amazed at the folly and madness of those who haunt every part of the town where any public amusement is announced; as though happiness were certain to be found there; but time even there hangs heavy on their hands. – My dear Maria, when with you, ’tis then I feel the faculties of my mind, soaring in their native element; ’tis then all harmony within; no discord unhinges the passions, but all act in concert with each other. Oh! may it ever be so; may the same sentiments that now influence us, ever reign in our hearts, unsullied by the venomous tongues of the malicious or the envious. – Adieu! Yours,
Thursday Sepr: 30th: 1779.
I am almost ashamed of this short epistle; but I am not often guilty of wasting paper, so I may be excused for this once. I think you played the rake last night; unless I am mistaken I heard you coming home about 12 quite intoxicated – with laughter. [f. 227] The street echoed to the sound of your violent paroxysms. – Pity the watchman had not taken you into custody as a public disturber. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 132-33; Wedd, Love Letters 107-08.