Background.

Sketches by Boz
  • He was young in his profession, and had not yet witnessed enough of the miseries which are daily presented before the eyes of its members, to have grown comparatively callous to human suffering” is a quotation from Sketches by Boz, Tales, Chapter 6 (The Black Veil).

Context.

This quotation is a description of a young doctor featured in the tale, The Black Veil.

The Charles Dickens sketch, The Black Veil, was specially written for Volume 2 of Sketches by Boz, published in February 1836. A macabre tale set at the turn of the nineteenth century, The Black Veil tells the story of a young doctor who is visited by a strange woman dressed in black mourning clothes seeking help for what appears at first glance to be her gravely ill son. However the doctor is told not to visit until the following day for a reason that will become apparent when he arrives.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in the sketch The Black Veil:

‘And you are ill?’ added the surgeon, compassionately, for the tone was that of a person in pain.

‘I am,’ was the reply—‘very ill; not bodily, but mentally. It is not for myself, or on my own behalf,’ continued the stranger, ‘that I come to you. If I laboured under bodily disease, I should not be out, alone, at such an hour, or on such a night as this; and if I were afflicted with it, twenty-four hours hence, God knows how gladly I would lie down and pray to die. It is for another that I beseech your aid, sir. I may be mad to ask it for him—I think I am; but, night after night, through the long dreary hours of watching and weeping, the thought has been ever present to my mind; and though even I see the hopelessness of human assistance availing him, the bare thought of laying him in his grave without it makes my blood run cold!’ And a shudder, such as the surgeon well knew art could not produce, trembled through the speaker’s frame.

There was a desperate earnestness in this woman’s manner, that went to the young man’s heart. He was young in his profession, and had not yet witnessed enough of the miseries which are daily presented before the eyes of its members, to have grown comparatively callous to human suffering.

‘If,’ he said, rising hastily, ‘the person of whom you speak, be in so hopeless a condition as you describe, not a moment is to be lost. I will go with you instantly. Why did you not obtain medical advice before?’

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He was young in his profession, and had not yet witnessed enough of the miseries which are daily presented before the eyes of its members, to have grown comparatively callous to human suffering.
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