30 October 1779
Letter 83. Mary Hays to John Eccles, Saturday morning, 30 October 1779.1
A most foolish affair that certainly was, last night; if you had been ruled by me, it would not have happened; but you men are so headstrong, there is no managing of you; I have half a mind to scold you a little, did not three considerations withhold [f. 319] me; the first, because it passed off so well; the second, because it was I who called you down; and the third, I will not tell you – if you have any penetration, perhaps you will guess. – But I will not be so gentle in another affair that you so frequently offend me in; need I say ’tis that extreme freedom with which you treat me – indeed it is not consistent with propriety, and positively I will not allow it; nor would you, I am persuaded, have a good opinion of me if I should. – You tell me, “you do not merit to be treated with reserve”; nor do I wish to treat you so; – I have no reserves to you; I never will have any; – you are infinitely too dear to me, to be treated either with reserve or distance; – but is there not a medium? – do you wish me to forfeit my own esteem at least, if not yours; – when you are present I have not courage to resist you; and when you are absent, I am continually uneasy lest your affection should be weakened by my (what shall I say) want of delicacy. – I love you – (too well you know it) more than the whole world besides; can I then act so as to sink in your opinion? – Oh no! – not for empires. –
“That I do love you, oh all ye host of heaven
Be witness! that you are dear to me,
Dearer than day, to one whom sight must leave;
Dearer than life, to one who fears to die;
Oh thou bright power be judge, whom we adore; [f. 320]
Be witness of my truth, be witness of my love.”2
Do not then be angry if I sometimes repulse you; no endearments that are consistant with that delicacy I owe myself, and you, will I deny you; for is there any pleasure equal to pleasing those we love? and I can truly say, I taste no satisfaction equal to that of contributing to your happiness; through life shall it be my first concern; your every distress will I be a sharer in; and shall I not likewise be a participator in all your joys? – Surely one day these obstacles3 will be removed, and I shall be yours by every tender, sacred obligation; let me then be worthy of you! – Need I say your last letter gave me pleasure; you flatter so agreeably, that I cannot help being pleased with you – too well you know the way to my heart; the ascendancy you have gained there, is of a durable nature, subject to no decay or change. – Don’t you remember at the commencement of our acquaintance, my telling you “if I was once attached (which I believed would not be hastily) that no time or circumstances would have power to weaken my affection; unless the unworthiness of the object of my regard.” – In which case I must be wretched indeed; beyond relief – beyond redress; I am by nature constant; whilst you continue to love me, you will always find your Maria faithful and tender; should you ever leave her, her heart would never own a second passion; she will then [f. 321] seek a retirement to spend the remainder of her days in, “the world forgetting, by the world forgot,”4 and endeavor in shades and solitude, in some measure to regain her tranquility, and devote her time to friendship, reading and contemplation – But my Eccles is incapable of falsehood; convinced of his sincerity, I ask no more; let the world smile or frown, ’tis indifferent to me; all my hopes, all my happiness is centered in him, who must ever be dear to his faithful, his affectionate
Saturday morn: Octr. 30th: 1779.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 174-76; Wedd, Love and Letters 152-53.
2 Lines from Nathaniel Lee’s Mithradates, King of Pontus, Act 1, scene 1 (London: R. Bentley, 1693), p. 5.
3 obsticales] MS
4 Phrase is from Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard, l. 208; see also Letter 47.