28 October 1779
Letter 82. John Eccles to Mary Hays, Thursday evening, 28 October 1779.1
I am much concerned at what you said last night, just before I left you: that you should “reflect on the conduct of that evening”; – don’t be uneasy yourself, nor make me so, for am I not a sharer of every painful sensation which my dear Maria suffers? – And is there real cause for any? – There is not; I do not merit to be treated with reserve; and I have seen too many instances of the nicest delicacy in you, ever to doubt the principles of your heart. – I am perfectly satisfied you are all innocence, truth, and goodness; I know you never harbored a notion, which fell short of the purest ideas of modesty. – Never more then talk to me in a strain, which hurts me beyond measure. – My reflections on the past evening are most tender, and interesting; its minutes were filled up with the truest enjoyment; I feel it still afresh, and cannot, will not permit you to make me repent it; – I only regret that they come so seldom. – In other company, time moves slowly and heavily along, with leaden feet, but with you it passes delightfully; new hours bring new pleasures, which can never cloy.
You gave me a little history of yourself yesterday, suppose I return the compliment, by giving you mine in miniature. – I shall begin with the first time I saw a little girl with <–> ^dark^ hair, and features soft as those of the peaceful messengers of heaven. – I cannot express what I then thought (and shall I say still think?) – but I saw every thing that was engaging and amiable in her face; she fascinated me I believe; I could think of no one nor any thing but her; “she engrossed me all,”2 yet I was afraid to look at her, or ask who she was, for fear it should be thought I loved her; a thought replete with the most serious consequences; I considered that possibly she might laugh at me, though I found I could not laugh in return; I could not bear to think of being trifled with, by her. – In this situation, weeks passed on, and I wished yet durst not speak to her. – Many times did I follow her, or contrive to meet her, fully resolved at least to look at her; but vain were all my efforts; my eyes could not risqué the sight, and my tongue was motionless. – In these circumstances, I one day summoned up all my resolution and asked who she was; yet with the most careless and indifferent air; it was a matter of no concern at all. – It was told me, and though I seemed not to listen at all, yet I caught it, and never forgot it afterwards. – I was going to tell you the name, but ’tis so nearly like yours, that to prevent the least shadow of a mistake, I shall omit it – After this I haunted her a good deal, but without speaking (a perfect ghost) till at length assuming a more than mortal courage, I opened my mouth and (strange to tell) it refused not utterance, though [f. 317] its words were rather inarticulate and but just intelligible. – Emboldened by degrees, I looked at her and spoke again; she did not frown nor look at all displeased. – Yet after the first success, I was very timid and feared much lest I should offend her; I met with trembling steps, and my tongue faultered more than before; I was greatly afraid lest she should think I went on purpose to vex her; but in spite of every fear, I could not persuade myself not to go, where I knew she was. – In a little time I began not to be afraid of her, and we became familiar, till at last I was seriously in love with her; all the desires of my heart were for her; the beauties of her mind and person were ever before my view; she was the guide, she influenced all my actions; I did nothing without consulting within myself whether it would be pleasing or displeasing to her, and every time I saw her, she was more lovely than before,
“Soft as it roll’d along, shewed some new charm.”3
And I still regard her with the same sentiments of unfeigned love; my heart is stedfastly hers; my affections are unchangeably the same. Not once have I ever repented of my attachment to her; it is forever growing stronger, and were the whole world to oppose me, she shall be mine. – You must not be jealous of her, for assure yourself, my [f. 318] little dear, I love you equally as well as her, and shall not be wanting in the least attention to you; I’ll look at you with the same eyes, and with the same heart-felt satisfaction as ever, and feel towards you with as warm emotions. – You shall keep possession of the same breast, and engage all its affections; only you must allow the before-mentioned lady a small habitation there, and promise to live on good terms with her, for I am resolved never to quarrel with either of you. – Farewell; if you approve of these conditions, I am
Good night! heaven protect my little girl from harm, and restore her to me in the morning.
Thursday even: Octr: 28th: 1779. –
1 Brooks, Correspondence 173-74; Wedd, Love Letters 150-51.
2 Source unknown.
3 Lines from Thomson’s The Seasons, “Spring,” ll. 1144-45.