...he carried to his studies in London, Edinburgh, and Paris, the conviction that the medical profession as it might be was the finest in the world; presenting the most perfect interchange between science and the art; offering the most direct alliance between intellectual conquest and the social good. Lydgate's nature demanding this combination: he was an emotional creature, with a flesh-and-blood sense of fellowship which withstood all the abstractions of special study.
He meant to be a unit who would make a certain amount of difference towards that spreading change which would one day tell appreciably upon the averages, and in the meantime have the pleasure of making an advantageous difference to the viscera of his own patients. But he did not simply aim at a more genuine kind of practice than was common. He was ambitious of a wider effect: he was fired with the possibility that he might work out the proof of an anatomical conception and make a link in the chain of discovery.
'If I had not taken that turn when I was a lad,' he thought, 'I might have got into some stupid draught-horse work or other, and lived always in blinkers. I should never have been happy in any profession that did not call forth the highest intellectual strain, and yet keep me in good warm contact with my neighbours. There is nothing like the medical profession for that: one can have the exclusive scientific life that touches the distance and befriend the old fogies in the parish too...'
He was saved from hardening effects by the abundant kindness of his heart and his belief that human life might be made better.