Any good direction

I found this quote from Charles Dickens on the first page of Samuel Barondes’ book Mood Genes. It is both sage advice and reassuringly optimistic.

To lighten the affliction of insanity by all human means is not to restore the greatest of divine gifts; and those who devote themselves to the task do not pretend that it is… Nevertheless, reader, if you can do a little in any good direction – do it. It will be much, some day.

Dickens himself was no stranger to mental distress. Despite being recognised as one of the greatest writers of his generation, he reportedly suffered severe bouts of depression.

Unfortunately, Barondes’ book doesn’t mention the source of the quote, so if anyone knows which of Dickens’ works it comes from, do let me know.

UPDATE: An answer gratefully received from crabbydad. Grabbed from the comments:

Apparently, the quote is from “A Curious Dance Round a Curious Tree,” an essay written by Dickens after a visit to St. Luke’s hospital, a hospital for the “impoverished mentally ill.” You can find more info here.

As well as the commentary linked to above, the full text of Dickens’ article is also available online.

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