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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Black Veil

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 19 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6633
  1. John A S Beard, general practice registrar,
  2. Charles Chubb, general practitioner, The Rycote Practice, Thame Health Centre, Thame OX9 3JZ
  1. Correspondence to: J A S Beard johnbeard{at}

In addition to his many novels, Charles Dickens also compiled several short pieces that were published largely in newspapers and magazines. His first collection of these, Sketches by “Boz” was released in 1836 when he was just 24 years old. The publication gave vivid descriptions of both fictional and non-fictional London life. Of the former, “The Black Veil” stands out as a chillingly macabre tale.

Dickens introduces a young metropolitan doctor struggling to find work in the crowded medical marketplace of the early 19th century. He awaits the custom of his first patient one cold winter’s evening …

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