The Life of Johnson
1780: AETAT. 71.]--In 1780, the world was kept in impatience for the completion of his
Lives of the Poets, upon which he was employed so far as his indolence allowed him to
His friend Dr. Lawrence having now suffered the greatest affliction to which a man is
liable, and which Johnson himself had felt in the most severe manner; Johnson wrote to
him in an admirable strain of sympathy and pious consolation.
'To Dr. Lawrence.
'DEAR SIR,--At a time when all your friends ought to shew their kindness, and with a
character which ought to make all that know you your friends, you may wonder that you
have yet heard nothing from me.
'I have been hindered by a vexatious and incessant cough, for which within these ten days
I have been bled once, fasted four or five times, taken physick five times, and opiates, I
think, six. This day it seems to remit.
'The loss, dear Sir, which you have lately suffered, I felt many years ago, and know
therefore how much has been taken from you, and how little help can be had from
consolation. He that outlives a wife whom he has long loved, sees himself disjoined from
the only mind that has the same hopes, and fears, and interest; from the only companion
with whom he has shared much good or evil; and with whom he could set his mind at
liberty, to retrace the past or anticipate the future. The continuity of being is lacerated; the
settled course of sentiment and action is stopped; and life stands suspended and
motionless, till it is driven by external causes into a new channel. But the time of
suspense is dreadful.
'Our first recourse in this distressed solitude, is, perhaps for want of habitual piety, to a
gloomy acquiescence in necessity. Of two mortal beings, one must lose the other; but
surely there is a higher and better comfort to be drawn from the consideration of that
Providence which watches over all, and a belief that the living and the dead are equally in
the hands of God, who will reunite those whom he has separated; or who sees that it is
best not to reunite. I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate, and most humble servant,
'January 20, 1780.'
On the 2nd of May I wrote to him, and requested that we might have another meeting
somewhere in the North of England, in the autumn of this year.