20 February 1780
Letter 117. John Eccles at Fordingbridge to Mary Hays, Saturday evening, 20 February 1780.1
I got safe home last night about six o’clock, after a disagreeable and tiresome journey. I was much inclined to drowsiness, which the roughness of the stage-coach travelling rendered of painful consequence; every time I nodded, my head was jolted against the side of the coach, which gave me such a head-ach as I have not been able to get rid of; another night’s rest will probably restore me. I am not inclined to give you the history of my journey, nor of my companions; suffice it to say, that the former was tedious, and the latter were all males, and involved in dullness like myself; – could anything entertaining spring from such society?
You desired me to be particular, in relating every circumstance I could by this time learn, of the affair for which I am come. I can yet say nothing with certainty; I have neither seen Mr Gifford, nor have I had any opportunity of conversing with my father (saturday being a very busy day with him). When I passed through Salisbury, Mr Gifford was from home, and it was uncertain if I could see him before night; and as I judged it of no material consequence whether I saw him before or after I had been with my father, I thought it best to go directly home. From what I am able to conjecture, I have the pleasing hopes of success before me; yet ’tis no more than conjecture; I am informed by my sisters, that my father proposed to go to consult Mr Gifford, on the subject of the last letter written by Mrs Hays and me, from whence I conclude that he was not determined not to coincide with the proposals contained in it – perhaps when I explain them more fully to him, he may be persuaded to agree to them; I rather think he will – though I am speaking merely from the opinion I have of the above circumstance. You may think this is a weak foundation whereon to build any sanguine hopes: I own it; but how easy is it to hope what we ardently wish! I know not what more I can say on this subject, except that I will endeavor to give you some information on wednesday next (you shall have a letter then I mean) if I can contrive to send; though don’t by any means depend on it, as I told you how hazardous the postage is in these days. Perhaps my father and I shall be at Salisbury on tuesday; if so, be assured I shall embrace that opportunity to tell you all I know, but I again repeat, don’t depend on it.
Would my Maria be dissatisfied were I here to conclude? Does she wish I should write anything more? She does; and how sincerely can I once more reassure her that she possesses my whole soul! This absence shows me how great is her power; I feel I love you, beyond the power of expression.
What strange, what frightful ideas will fancy sometimes give way to! After parting from you on thursday evening, you cannot conceive what torments I endured! I began to fancy you in extreme danger; some cruel disorder had hurried you to the point of death; I felt every agony; I arrived to see the last gasp; I saw you breathless (’twas well ’twas dark, or my companions in the coach would have thought me a strange being).
A sudden recollection chaced all these painful ideas from me, and the hopes of seeing my Maria again shortly, gave me inexpressible pleasure. I shall see you again with the warmest, with redoubled tenderness, and repay those tears which flowed for me at parting. I expect to be in town on friday next as I appointed, if nothing happen to prevent it, which I am not at present aware of; yet if you don’t see me then, you may be assured of receiving a letter instead, which will inform you of the reason.
I have been interrupted about fifty times since I began this letter, with people coming to enquire for me; and when I go to them, they have nothing to say to me but “how do you do?” Is not this very vexatious? And to compleat all, I have the worst paper, the most abominable pens, and the filthiest ink I ever wrote with in my life; I shall provide myself better before I write again.
Present my respects to Mrs Hays, and accept the kindest love from
Your invariable affectionate
Saturday even: Feb 20, 1780.
1 Brooks, Correspondence 211-12; Wedd, Love Letters 189-91. Wedd's title: "Eccles Writes From Fordingbridge."