Background.

Sketches by Boz

Context.

Description of a victim of domestic violence, who is dying in a hospital bed.

The Hospital Patient, was originally published in The Carlton Chronicle on Saturday, 6 August 1836. A poignant tale, this short sketch recalls a scene from around twelve months previously of a pickpocket being humorously transported in the Covent Garden area of London to custody at a nearby police station. Following the action, at the station the narrator finds there is a young man being questioned about ill-treating a woman. The woman is so badly injured that two magistrates visit her hospital bed later that evening to see if she will confirm the identity of the perpetrator.

Sketch produced by George Cruickshank for The Hospital Patient, showing the scene of a pickpocket being carted off to the Police Station.
Sketch produced by George Cruickshank for The Hospital Patient, published in the 1836 collected work Sketches by Boz, showing the scene of a pickpocket being carted off to the Police Station.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in the sketch The Hospital Patient:

The object of the visit was lying at the upper end of the room.  She was a fine young woman of about two or three and twenty.  Her long black hair, which had been hastily cut from near the wounds on her head, streamed over the pillow in jagged and matted locks.  Her face bore deep marks of the ill-usage she had received: her hand was pressed upon her side, as if her chief pain were there; her breathing was short and heavy; and it was plain to see that she was dying fast.  She murmured a few words in reply to the magistrate’s inquiry whether she was in great pain; and, having been raised on the pillow by the nurse, looked vacantly upon the strange countenances that surrounded her bed.  The magistrate nodded to the officer, to bring the man forward.  He did so, and stationed him at the bedside.  The girl looked on with a wild and troubled expression of face; but her sight was dim, and she did not know him.

‘Take off his hat,’ said the magistrate.  The officer did as he was desired, and the man’s features were disclosed.

The girl started up, with an energy quite preternatural; the fire gleamed in her heavy eyes, and the blood rushed to her pale and sunken cheeks.  It was a convulsive effort.  She fell back upon her pillow, and covering her scarred and bruised face with her hands, burst into tears.  The man cast an anxious look towards her, but otherwise appeared wholly unmoved.  After a brief pause the nature of the errand was explained, and the oath tendered.

‘Oh, no, gentlemen,’ said the girl, raising herself once more, and folding her hands together; ‘no, gentlemen, for God’s sake! I did it myself—it was nobody’s fault—it was an accident. He didn’t hurt me; he wouldn’t for all the world. Jack, dear Jack, you know you wouldn’t!’

Her sight was fast failing her, and her hand groped over the bedclothes in search of his. Brute as the man was, he was not prepared for this. He turned his face from the bed, and sobbed. The girl’s colour changed, and her breathing grew more difficult. She was evidently dying.

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Her face bore deep marks of the ill-usage she had received.
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