William Jones writes in his book “Finger-ring Lore”:
The veneration for a wedding-ring is shown in the instance
of the great lexicographer, Dr. Samuel Johnson.
He writes under date March 28, 1753: ‘I kept this day as the
anniversary of my Letty’s death, with prayers and tears
in the morning. In the evening I prayed for her conditionally,
if it was lawful.’ Her wedding-ring was preserved by
him, as long as he lived, with an affectionate care, in a little
round wooden box, and in the inside of which was a slip of
paper inscribed : ‘ Eheu ! Eliz. Johnson, nupta Jul. 9,
1736 ; mortua, eheu ! Mart. 17, 1752.’
The Latin phrase means: “Alas! Eliz. Johnson, born on Jul.9 1736, died, alas! on March 17, 1752.” Unless my math is failing me Dr. Johnson’s wife expired at a tender age of 16. I am not familiar with conventions of the time regarding marriage. My amazement is therefore primarily caused by the degree of affection that Dr. Johnson had for his wife whom he could not have known for a very long time.