The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Life of Florence Nightingale vol. 1 of 2, by 
Edward Tyas Cook

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: The Life of Florence Nightingale vol. 1 of 2

Author: Edward Tyas Cook

Release Date: July 16, 2012 [EBook #40057]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Jeannie Howse, Jens Nordmann, Bryan Ness and
the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian





see caption

Mrs. Nightingale and her daughters
from a water-colour drawing in the possession of Mrs. Cunliffe








Men and women are divided, in relation to their papers, into hoarders and scatterers. Miss Nightingale was a hoarder, and as she lived to be 90 the accumulation of papers, stored in her house at the time of her death, was very great. The papers referring to years up to 1861 had been neatly done up by herself, and it was evident that not everything had been kept. After that date, time and strength to sort and weed had been wanting, and Miss Nightingale seems to have thrown little away. Even soiled sheets of blotting-paper, on which she had made notes in pencil, were preserved. By a Will executed in 1896 she had directed that all her letters, papers, and manuscripts, with some specific exceptions, should be destroyed. By a Codicil executed in the following year she revoked this direction, and bequeathed the letters, papers, and manuscripts to her cousin, Mr. Henry Bonham Carter. After her death the papers were sorted chronologically by his direction, and they have formed the principal foundation of this Memoir.

Of expressly autobiographical notes, Miss Nightingale left very few. At the date of the Codicil above mentioned she seems to have contemplated the probability of some authoritative record of her life; for in that year she wrote a short summary of what she called “My Responsibility to India,” detailing her relations with successive Secretaries of State, Governors-General, and other administrators. Her memory in these matters was still accurate, for the summary is fully borne out by letters and other papers of the several dates: it adds some personal details. In private letters she sometimes recounted, at later times, episodes or experiences in her life, but such references are[vi] few. Nor, except for a few years, did Miss Nightingale keep any formal diary; and during the Crimean episode she was too incessantly busy with her multitudinous duties to find time for many private notes.

The principal authority for Miss Nightingale's Life is thus the collection of papers aforesaid, and these are very copious in information. The records, in one sort or another, of her earlier years are full. The papers relating to her work during the Crimean War are voluminous, and I have supplemented the study of these by consulting the official documents concerning Miss Nightingale's mission which are preserved, among War Office papers, in the Public Record Office. Her papers relating to public affairs during the years 1856 to 1861 are also very voluminous. After the latter date she seems, as already stated, to have kept almost everything, even every advertisement, that she received. She often made notes for important letters that she sent, and sometimes kept copies of them. Of official documents, of printed memoranda, pamphlets, reports, and returns, she accumulated an immense collection. And though she was not a regular diarist, she was in the habit of jotting down on sheets of notepaper her engagements, impressions, thoughts, meditations, as also in many cases reports of conversations.

The collection of letters received by Miss Nightingale, and of her notes for letters sent by her, has been supplemented, through the kindness of many of her correspondents or their representatives, by letters which were received from her. I am more especially indebted in this respect to the care of the late Sir Douglas Galton, whose docketed collection of letters from Miss Nightingale, taken in conjunction with a long series of his letters to her, forms a main authority for much of the record of her activity in public affairs. Her letters to Julius and Mary Mohl, returned to her after the death of the latter, are, in another way, of peculiar interest. I am particularly indebted, among the lenders of letters addressed to nursing friends, to Miss Pringle and to the father of the late Mrs. Daniel Morris (Miss Rachel Williams). Miss Pringle has also favoured me with personal reminiscences.

For permission to print letters written to Miss Nightingale,[vii] I am indebted to many of her relations, friends, and correspondents, or their representatives; to so many, indeed, that I ask them to accept here a general acknowledgment. I am especially indebted to the King, who has been pleased to permit the publication of letters from Queen Victoria and some other members of the Royal Family. The German Emperor has graciously given a like permission in the case of correspondence with the Empress Frederick. The Dowager Grand Duchess (Luise) of Baden has allowed me to quote from a long series of letters addressed by her to Miss Nightingale.

Next to the letters and other papers, above described, the most valuable material for the Life of Miss Nightingale is contained in her own printed writings—many of them published, some (and these, from the biographical point of view, the most important) privately printed. In the case of the Crimean War, material under both of these heads is particularly abundant. Her published Notes on Hospitals and Notes on Nursing and other works relating to those subjects, together with her privately circulated Addresses to Probationers, supplement her private records. For her inner life, her privately printed book, Suggestions for Thought, is of special importance.

A List of Miss Nightingale's Printed Writings (whether published or privately circulated) is given at the end of the second volume (Appendix A). My purpose in compiling this List was biographical illustration, not bibliographical minuteness. I have not included every scrap from Miss Nightingale's pen which has appeared in print, but have given every piece which is directly or indirectly referred to in the Memoir, or which is of any importance. The List will, I hope, serve a double purpose. It enables me to abbreviate in the text the references to my authorities; and it provides, in chronological order, a conspectus of Miss Nightingale's varied activities, so far as they were reflected in her printed writings.

Lastly, there is much biographical material, not only in Blue-books and official reports, but in writings about Miss Nightingale. Except in the case of the Crimean War,[viii] where many eye-witnesses recorded their observations or impressions, this material is not all of great value. Throughout her subsequent life, Miss Nightingale was screened from the public gaze; a somewhat legendary figure grew up, and it is that which for the most part appears in books about her. This, however, is a subject fully dealt with in an Introductory chapter. In Appendix B I give a short List of Writings about Miss Nightingale. Here, again, the purpose is not bibliographical. There is a great mass of such writing, and a complete list would have been altogether outside the scope of a biography. I have included only first-hand authorities or such other books, etc., as for one reason or another (explained in the notes upon each item) seemed relevant to the Memoir. This second List also serves the purpose of simplifying references in the text.

In a third Appendix (C) I have enumerated the principal portraits of Miss Nightingale. Notes on those reproduced in this book will there be found. I am indebted to the kindness of Sir William Richmond and Sir Harry Verney for the inclusion of the portrait which forms the frontispiece to the second volume, and to Mrs. Cunliffe for the frontispiece to the present volume.

To Miss Nightingale's executors I am indebted for the confidence which they have shown in entrusting her Papers to my discretion. A biography is worth nothing unless it is sincere. The aim of the present book has been to tell the truth about the subject of it, and I have done my work under no conscious temptation to suppress, exaggerate, extenuate, or distort. From Miss Nightingale's executors, and from other of her friends and relations, I have received help and information which has been of the greatest assistance. More especially I am indebted to her cousin, Mrs. Vaughan Nash, who has been good enough to read my book, both in manuscript and in proof, and who has favoured me throughout with valuable information, corrections, suggestions, and criticisms. This obligation makes it the more incumbent upon me to add that for any faults in the book, whether of commission or of omission, I alone must bear the blame.



Introductory xxiii
ASPIRATION (1820–1854)
Name, ancestry, and parentage. II. Her father's circumstances—Her early homes—Lea Hurst (Derbyshire)—Mrs. Gaskell's description—Embley Park (Hampshire). III. Early years—Country life—Domestic interests—A morbid strain. IV. Mr. Nightingale's education of his daughters—History, the classics, philosophy—Anecdotes of Florence's supposed early vocation to nursing—The date of her “call to God”. (1837). V. The Grand Tour (1837–9)—Interest in social and political conditions—Italian refugees at Geneva—Talks with Sismondi—Visit to Florence—Gaieties and music. VI. A winter in Paris (1838–9)—Friendship with Mary Clarke (Madame Mohl)—Madame Récamier's salon. Social “temptations” 3
A struggle for freedom. Life in London—Music—The Bedchamber Plot. II. Country-house life—The charm of Embley—Contrast between Florence and her sister. III. The family circle—Florence's “boy”—Florence as “Emergency Man”—Her old nurse—Letter to Miss Clarke on the death of M. Fauriel—Theatricals at Waverley Abbey—Florence as stage-manager. IV. Friends and neighbours—Lord Palmerston—Louisa Lady Ashburton—Mrs. Bracebridge. V. [x]Florence's conversation—Social attractiveness—Personal appearance: descriptions by Lady Lovelace and Mrs. Gaskell. VI. Dissatisfaction in social life—Desultoriness of a girl's life at home—The misery of being read aloud to—Housekeeping. VII. Increasing sense of a vocation—Private studies—Thoughts of nursing—A first dash for liberty (1845): failure 23
Dejection. Friendship with Miss Nicholson: religious experiences and speculations—Letters to Miss Nicholson and Miss Clarke. II. The reality of the unseen world—The conviction of sin—The pains of hell—Hunger after righteousness—“All for the Love of God.” III. Independent development of Miss Nightingale's religious thought—The service of God as the service of man—Her testing of religious doctrine by practical results—Her attitude to Roman Catholicism—Desire for a church of works, not doctrines 46
“Disappointment's dry and bitter root.” Pursuit of her ideal—Obstacles to her adoption of nursing—Social prejudices—Low esteem of nurses at the time—The Kaiserswerth “Institution for Deaconesses.” II. Increasing distaste for the routine of home life. III. Social distractions (1847)—Jenny Lind—The British Association at Oxford—Marriage of Miss Clarke—Country visits 59
A tour that confirmed a vocation. Sight-seeing in Rome—Admiration for Michael Angelo—The revelation of the Sistine Chapel—The obsession of Rome. II. Italian politics—Pio Nono as Patriot Hero. III. The convent of the Trinità de' Monti—Study of Roman doctrine and ritual—Friendship with the Madre Sta. Colomba—A retreat in the convent—The secret of devotion. IV. Meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Herbert and with Manning—The London season—Friendship with Lord Shaftesbury—Self-reproaches. V. A projected visit to Kaiserswerth (1848): disappointment again—Acquaintance with Guizot—Ragged school work in London 69
Another fruitless distraction. A winter in Egypt—Thebes—Condition of the people—Impressions of Egyptian scenery. II. Athens—Doric architecture—Greek scenery. III. Political affairs—The “Don Pacifico” crisis—The Ionian Islands: a day with the High Commissioner. IV. American missionaries at Athens—Dresden—Visit to Kaiserswerth. V. The literary “temptation”—Her view of literary art—Her Letters from Egypt 84
The three paths. Why Florence Nightingale did not marry—Her criticism of Dorothea in Middlemarch. II. Offers of marriage—Her ideal of marriage—The threefold nature. III. Self-devotion to her vocation—Determination to throw open new spheres for women 96
The struggle for independence resumed. Want of sympathy between her and her parents and sister—Unhappiness at home—A “starved” life. II. Growing spirit of revolt—The need of apprenticeship. III. Second visit to Kaiserswerth—Origin of the Institution—Account of its work—Her life there. IV. Craving for sympathy from her relations—Their hope that the apprenticeship would be only an episode 104
The turning-point. Patience and serenity: waiting for an opportunity. II. With her father at Umberslade—The water cure—Death of her Aunt Evans—Meeting with George Eliot and Mrs. Browning—Visits to Dublin and to Birk Hall (Sir James Clark). III. Literary “Works”—Converse with her “Aunt Mai”—A new religion for the artizans. IV. A little piece of diplomacy—Florence to be free at some future specified time. V. A last attempt to keep her at home 116
(1853–October 1854)
Visit to Paris—Study in the hospitals—Return to England: death of her grandmother. II. Miss Nightingale invited to take charge of an institution in Harley Street. III. Return to Paris—Study with the Sisters of Charity—Illness. IV. Superintendent of the Harley Street “Hospital for Gentlewomen”—The gentle art of managing committees—Her vocation found—A last attempt to call her back. V. A holiday at Lea Hurst—Visit from Mrs. Gaskell—Outbreak of cholera: return to London. VI. Limited scope at Harley Street—Proposal to Miss Nightingale to become matron at King's College Hospital—Lady Lovelace's prophecy 127
THE CRIMEAN WAR (1854–1856)
(October 1854)
The Battle of the Alma—The Times special correspondent—State of the hospitals at Scutari—Popular indignation—An appeal for nurses. II. Answer to the appeal—Lady Maria Forester and Miss Nightingale—Sidney Herbert and Miss Nightingale. III. Letters that crossed—Miss Nightingale's offer: Sidney Herbert's suggestion—Miss Nightingale's official instructions. IV. Co-operation of the Times Fund—Selection of nurses for the expedition. V. Miss Nightingale's demeanour—A pocket-book and some letters 145
Start of the expedition—Failure to obtain Sisters of Charity in Paris—Reception of the expedition in France—Departure from Marseilles. II. Popular enthusiasm in England—Account of Miss Nightingale in the newspapers—Public subscriptions—Other nurses volunteering. III. Miss Nightingale's plans—Importance of her experiment—Difficulties ahead—Military prejudice: Sir Anthony Sterling's letters—Medical jealousy: Sir John Hall's letters—Religious rivalries—Miss Nightingale's policy 162
Arrival at the Golden Horn. The Scutari hospitals—The General Hospital—The Barrack Hospital: quarters of Miss Nightingale and her staff—The Palace Hospital—The Koulali Hospitals. II. State of the hospitals when Miss Nightingale arrived—Report of the Roebuck Committee—Terrible death-rate—The root of the evil: division of responsibility—Need of individual initiative 171
The Battle of Balaclava. Miss Nightingale's reception at Scutari: letter from Lord Raglan—Difficulties with the doctors—Miss Nightingale at work in the wards—Difficulties with the nurses. II. Dispatch of a second party of nurses under Miss Stanley, accompanied by Mr. Jocelyne Percy—Miss Nightingale's indignant surprise—Mr. Herbert's promise not to send out more nurses except at her requisition—Danger of ruining the experiment—Medical opposition—Aggravation of the religious difficulty—Arrangements for placing the Stanley party—Significance of the episode in relation to the novelty of the experiment. III. Deficiency of requisites in the hospitals—Miss Nightingale's appeal to the British Ambassador—Her washing reforms—Her “Extra Diet” Kitchens—Alexis Soyer—Sorry plight of the camp-followers—Establishment of a lying-in hospital—Dr. Andrew Smith and the female eye 181
Miss Nightingale's varied functions. Purveyor-Auxiliary to the hospitals—Ignorance of the Ambassador as to the true state of things—Deficiencies in the stores—Miss Nightingale's caravanserai in “The Sisters' Tower”—Her supplies issued only on medical requisition—Delays in obtaining access to Government stores—Miss Nightingale's resourcefulness in obtaining supplies—Her gifts to the French and Sardinian hospitals—Absurdities of the purveying regulations. II. Clothier to the wounded—Cause of the deficiency of shirts: 50,000 issued from Miss Nightingale's stores. III. Builder—Miss Nightingale's preparation of new wards for additional patients from the Crimea. IV. Her shouldering of responsibility—Strictness of her administration—Almoner of the Queen's “Free Gifts”—Rules and exceptions—Value of her initiative—Sidney Herbert's approval—Mr. Kinglake and “the woman's touch” 199
Miss Nightingale as an inspirer of reform—Sources of her influence—Favour of the Court—Letter from Queen Victoria: her gifts to the soldiers. II. Miss Nightingale's reports to Sidney Herbert—Character of her letters. III. Her urgent appeals for stores—Dispatch of an executive Sanitary Commission—Miss Nightingale's reforms in the handling of Government stores—Other reforms due to her. IV. Her suggestion for systematic reorganization—Suggested improvements in the medical service. V. Miss Nightingale's demeanour at Scutari—Description by S. G. O.—Range of her influence—The efficacy of “going to Miss Nightingale” 213
Dual position of Miss Nightingale: administrator and nurse. Prodigious power of work—Her attention to the sick and wounded—Her midnight vigils—The famous lamp—The soldiers kissing her shadow—Idolization by the men. II. Correspondence with relatives and friends of the wounded soldiers. III. Strain upon Miss Nightingale's powers—Burden of correspondence—Her helpers—Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge. IV. Schemes for helping the soldiers—Mr. Augustus Stafford—The Orderlies and Miss Nightingale 233
Nature of the religious difficulty. Rivalry between the churches—Various claims for “representation” among the nursing staff—“Anti-Puseyite” attacks. II. Miss Nightingale's attitude in the squabble. III. The difficulty increased by the advent of Miss Stanley's party—Charges of proselytism—Lord Panmure's instructions misinterpreted. IV. Aggravation by the religious feuds of the difficulty of obtaining efficient nurses—Worry caused to Miss Nightingale 244
(May–August 1855)
Siege of Sebastopol. The hospitals in the Crimea—Miss Nightingale's authority there not explicitly defined—Her arrival at Balaclava. II. Visit to the front—Sir John McNeill. III. Work in the hospitals—Attacked by “Crimean fever”—Anxiety[xv] in England and in the hospitals—Visit from Lord Raglan.
IV. Miss Nightingale advised to return to England—Her refusal—Return to Scutari—Gradual recovery—“The heroic dead”
Sympathy in England caused by Miss Nightingale's illness. The popular heroine: letters from Lady Verney. II. The poetry of Seven Dials, verses, songs, lives, portraits, etc.—Miss Nightingale's view of it all. III. Public memorial to her—The Nightingale Fund—Speeches at the public meeting—Nature of the memorial—Subscriptions from the army—Medical jealousy—Presentation of a jewel by the Queen 264
Miss Nightingale's ministrations to the moral welfare of the soldiers—Her belief in the possibility of reforms. II. Her letter to the Queen on drunkenness in the army: considered by the Cabinet—Miss Nightingale's Money Order Office at Scutari—Government offices opened—The “Inkerman Café”—Sir Henry Storks—Miss Nightingale's influence with the soldiers. III. Establishment of reading-rooms and class-rooms 276
(September 1855–July 1856)
Fall of Sebastopol: Miss Nightingale's second and third visits to the Crimea. Hardships of her work in the Crimea—Her “carriage”—The hospital huts on the heights above Balaclava—Her Extra Diet Kitchens. II. Opposition to her in military and medical quarters—Sir John Hall's opposition—Difficulties with the nuns—Miss Nightingale's authority disputed. III. Her appeals to home for support—Correspondence with Sidney Herbert—Dispatch from the Secretary of State defining her full authority in the Crimea promulgated in General Orders—Exhausting labours in the Crimea: testamentary dispositions. IV. Hard work at Scutari—Letters from the aunt who was with Miss Nightingale—Christmas Day at the British Embassy—Colonel Lefroy 283
(July–August 1856)
The Peace. Return of the nurses—Miss Nightingale's tribute to her “mainstays.” II. The Government's thanks to Miss Nightingale—Gratitude of the soldiers—Offer of a man-of-war[xvi] for her return—Lord Ellesmere's speech in the House of Lords. III. Return of Miss Nightingale—Publicity avoided—Her “spoils of war.” IV. Her Crimean work a starting-point 299
(August–November 1856)
“Muddling through a war”: the favourable moment for reform. Advantage taken of the opportunity after the Crimean War for the better sanitation of the British Army—Co-operation of Sidney Herbert and Miss Nightingale. II. Her passionate desire to lessen preventable mortality in the future—Examination of the figures of mortality in the army during peace—Her admiration of the heroism of the British soldier—Her opportunity and sense of responsibility. III. A short holiday at Lea Hurst—Acquaintance with Mr. Kinglake—Invitation from Sir James Clark to Ballater—A visit from Queen Victoria likely—Miss Nightingale's preparations: consultation with Sir John McNeill and Colonel Lefroy—Miss Nightingale's plan of campaign. IV. First visit to Balmoral—Visit from the Queen at Sir J. Clark's—Conversations with the Queen and the Prince Consort—Miss Nightingale requested to remain to see the Secretary for War. V. Awaiting Lord Panmure—Advice from Sir J. McNeill—“Command visit” to Balmoral—Conversations with Lord Panmure—Appointment of a Royal Commission promised—Establishment of an Army Medical School favoured—Miss Nightingale to report on her experiences. VI. Conferences of Miss Nightingale's “Cabinet”—Provisional selection of Royal Commissioners: draft of their instructions—Interview with Lord Panmure in London: points won and lost—The personnel of the Commission 311
(November 1856–August 1857)
Power of departmental passive resistance: delay in setting up the Commission. Lord Panmure's gout—“The Bison is bullyable”—Miss Nightingale's weapon in reserve: her potential command of the public ear. II. The “Chelsea Board”: the McNeill-Tulloch affaire—Parliamentary pressure on the Government. III. Miss Nightingale's friendship with Lord Stanley—Miss[xvii] Nightingale and the China expedition—The Netley Hospital—Her negotiations with Lord Panmure—Visit to Lord Palmerston—Her “fight for the pavilion.” IV. Her preparation for the Royal Commission by writing her own official Report—Lord Panmure's instructions—This Report, the most remarkable of her works—Account of it. V. The experts and Miss Nightingale—Her inspection of hospitals and barracks—Visit to Chatham—Reform at Chelsea—Miss Nightingale and Robert Lowe—The proposed Army Medical School—Her suggestions of soldiers' reading-rooms. VI. The Royal Commission set up—Interview with Lord Panmure—Her revision of the instructions—Mr. Herbert's industry as chairman—Miss Nightingale's assistance—Dr. Sutherland—Her interviews with witnesses, suggestions for their examination—Her own evidence. VII. Report of the Commission—Its salient feature, the high rate of mortality in the barracks—Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale resolved on securing prompt reforms 334
(August–December 1857)
Frequent futility of Royal Commissions. Mr. Herbert's and Miss Nightingale's plans for averting the danger—Proposed series of Sub-Commissions to settle the details of reform—Lord Panmure off to Scotland—Departmental objections—Delay in appointing the Sub-Commissions—Miss Nightingale's labours. II. Over-work—Dr. Sutherland's expostulations—Her refusal to rest. III. The Indian Mutiny—Miss Nightingale's offer to go out. Her life at this period—Miss Nightingale's daily work with her allies—Ill-health—Testamentary dispositions 362
Fruits of Miss Nightingale's labours. Publication of the Report of the Royal Commission—Her measures for calling attention to the rate of mortality; for securing reviews of the Report. II. Resignation of Lord Palmerston's Government—General Peel, the new Secretary for War—Miss Nightingale's anxiety about a new director-general of the Army Medical Department—Disappointed with General Peel—Miss Nightingale's ill-health—Her sister's marriage—Mr. Herbert overworked. III. Work of the Barracks and Hospitals Commission: Miss Nightingale and the kitchens—Work with Mr. Herbert and Dr. Sutherland in connection with other Sub-Commissions—Netley Hospital again—Miss Nightingale's papers on Hospital Construction (1858). IV. Private circulation of her Report to[xviii] Lord Panmure—Miss Nightingale and the Duke of Cambridge—Harriet Martineau's co-operation with Miss Nightingale—Her Contribution to the Sanitary History of the British Army (1859). V. Resignation of Lord Derby's Government—Mr. Herbert, Secretary for War—Reforms in the barracks—Appointment of a permanent Barracks Works Committee (afterwards called Army Sanitary Committee)—School of cookery—Improved Army Medical Statistics—Establishment of an Army Medical School: Miss Nightingale as its founder: the present college—Other reforms due to her. VI. Results of Mr. Herbert's reforms—Miss Nightingale's tribute to him—Their co-operation 375
Break-down of Mr. Herbert's health. His interview with Miss Nightingale (December 1860): decision to give up the House of Commons—Created Lord Herbert of Lea—Her insistence that he should reform the War Office—His abandonment of the attempt—Establishment of the General Military Hospital at Woolwich—Introduction of female nursing—His last letter to Miss Nightingale—His death (August 2)—“Our joint-work unfinished.” II. Miss Nightingale's grief—Obituary notices of him—Mr. Gladstone's interview with her—Her memorandum on Lord Herbert's reforms—Her endeavour to interest Mr. Gladstone in their completion—His reply—Public meeting to promote a Herbert Memorial. III. The friendship between Sidney Herbert and Miss Nightingale 401
Miss Nightingale's work with Sidney Herbert carried on at the same time with other work. Her place as a Sanitarian—Her prestige as an authority on hospitals—Her Notes on Hospitals—General condition of hospitals at the time—Influence of her book—Miss Nightingale widely consulted on the construction of hospitals, at home and abroad. II. The Manchester Royal Infirmary, and Mr. Joseph Adshead—St. Thomas's Hospital, London: the battle of the sites—Miss Nightingale and the Prince Consort 415
Statistics as a passion. Miss Nightingale's study of the works of Quetelet—Careless statistical records in the Crimean War—Her model Hospital Statistical Forms—Advantage to be derived from such data—International Statistical Congress in London (1860)—Miss Nightingale's alliance with Dr. Farr—Adoption of her Forms—Her reception of the delegates—Circulation of her paper—Partial adoption of her scheme by London and other hospitals. II. Her advocacy of the better utilization of Government statistics—Her efforts to extend the scope of the Census of 1861—Correspondence with Mr. Lowe and Sir George Lewis—An appeal to the Lords 428
Three great contributions of the 19th century to the relief of human suffering in disease. Miss Nightingale's place in the history of nursing—The founder not of nursing, but of modern nursing—Her peculiar fitness for directing tendencies of the time towards improved nursing. II. Condition of nursing at the time—Miss Nightingale's influence in raising it from a menial occupation to a trained profession. III. Force of her example—Enthusiasm excited by her among women. IV. Force of her preceptNotes on Nursing (1859–60)—The text-book of the New Model in Nursing—Popularity of the book—Reminiscences of the Crimea in it—“Minding Baby.” V. Some characteristics of the book—General grasp of principles, combined with minuteness of detail—Delicacy of observation, and fineness of sympathy—Epigrammatic expression. VI. Importance of training in the art of nursing—The Notes as a prelude to practice 439
Importance of the Nightingale Training School—Early history of the “Nightingale Fund”—Accumulation of the money during Miss Nightingale's absorption in other work—Appointment of a working committee (1859)—Decision to found a Training School in connexion with St. Thomas's Hospital—Character of Mrs. Wardroper, matron of the hospital. II. Essential principles of Miss Nightingale's scheme: (1) technical, a Training School; lectures, examinations, reports, etc.; (2) moral, a home. III. Miss Nightingale's supervision—Favourable start of the[xx] school. IV. Further application of the Nightingale Fund to the training of midwives. V. Wide influence of the Nightingale School—Novelty of the experiment—Medical opposition at the start—From paradox to commonplace 456
The religious sanction behind Miss Nightingale's life of work—Resumption of her theological speculations—Printing of her Suggestions for Thought—General character of the book. II. Miss Nightingale and John Stuart Mill—Her introduction to Benjamin Jowett—The book submitted to them—Mill's advice that it should be published, Jowett's that it should not—Literary imperfections—Her impatience of literary revision. III. Scope of the book—Vehemence of style—Explanation of Mill's and Jowett's contrary advice. IV. Origin of the book—Sketch of her theological system—Thoughts on Prayer—God as Law—Influence of Quetelet—Doctrine of human perfectibility as explaining the existence of evil—Freewill and Necessity—Belief in a future life—The philosophy of history—Motive for human conduct. V. Miss Nightingale's attitude to current creeds, Protestant and Catholic. VI. Spiritual intensity with which she held her creed 468
(1858 1861)
Continued ill-health—Serious illness and expectation of early death—Yet constant work—Doctor's opinions—Necessity for husbanding her strength. II. Consequent manner of life—A laborious hermit—Help from her friends—A. H. Clough—Her uncle, Mr. S. Smith, and her private correspondence. III. Her places of residence—Highgate and Hampstead—The Burlington Hotel in London—The Queen's offer of rooms in Kensington Palace: why declined—Her cats. IV. Reading and music—Her Italian sympathies. V. Seclusion from visitors, friends and relations—Miss Nightingale and her father. VI. Correspondence with her friends—Associations of the Burlington Hotel 491



Mrs. Nightingale and her two Daughters: 1828. (From a water-colour drawing in possession of Mrs. Cunliffe) Frontispiece
Florence Nightingale about 1845. (From a pencil drawing by her cousin, Miss Hilary Bonham Carter, in possession of Miss B. A. Clough) 38
Florence Nightingale: about 1858. (From a photograph by Goodman) 394



Among Miss Nightingale's memoranda on books and reading, there is this injunction: “The preface of a book ought to set forth the importance of what it is going to treat of, so that the reader may understand what he is reading for.” The saying is typical of the methodical and positive spirit which, as we shall learn, was one of the dominant strains in Miss Nightingale's work and character. She wanted to know at every stage precisely what a person, or a book, or an institution was driving at. “Of all human sounds,” she said, “I think the words I don't know are the saddest.” Unless a book had something of definite importance to say, it had better, she thought, not be written; and in order to save the reader's time and fix his attention, he should be told at once wherein the significance of the book consists. This, though it may be a hard saying, is perhaps not unwholesome even to biographers. At any rate, as Miss Nightingale's biographer, I am moved to obey her injunction. I propose, therefore, in this Introductory chapter to state wherein, as I conceive, the significance and importance of Miss Nightingale's life consists, and what the work was that she did in the world.


“In the course of a life's experience such as scarcely any one has ever had, I have always found,” said Miss Nightingale,[1] “that no one ever deserves his or her character. Be it better or worse than the real one, it is always unlike the real one.” Of no one is this saying more true than of herself. “It has been your fate,” said Mr. Jowett to her once, [xxiv]“to become a Legend in your lifetime.” Now, nothing is more persistent than a legend; and the legend of Florence Nightingale became fixed early in her life—at a time, indeed, antecedent to that at which her best work in the world, as she thought, had begun. The popular imagination of Miss Nightingale is of a girl of high degree who, moved by a wave of pity, forsook the pleasures of fashionable life for the horrors of the Crimean War; who went about the hospitals of Scutari with a lamp, scattering flowers of comfort and ministration; who retired at the close of the war into private life, and lived thenceforth in the seclusion of an invalid's room—a seclusion varied only by good deeds to hospitals and nurses and by gracious and sentimental pieties. I do not mean, of course, that this was all that anybody knew or wrote about her. Any such suggestion would be far from the truth. But the popular idea of Florence Nightingale's life has been based on some such lines as I have indicated, and the general conception of her character is to this day founded upon them. The legend was fixed by Longfellow's poem and Miss Yonge's Golden Deeds. Its growth was favoured by the fact of Miss Nightingale's seclusion, by the hidden, almost the secretive, manner in which she worked, by her shrinking from publicity, by her extreme reticence about herself. It is only now, when her Papers are accessible, that her real life can be known. There are some elements of truth in the popular legend, but it is so remote from the whole truth as to convey in general impression everything but the truth. The real Florence Nightingale was very different from the legendary, but also greater. Her life was built on larger lines, her work had more importance, than belong to the legend.

The Crimean War was not the first thing, and still less was it the last, that is significant in Miss Nightingale's life. The story of her earlier years is that of the building up of a character. It shows us a girl of high natural ability and of considerable attractions feeling her way to an ideal alike in practice and in speculation. Having found it, she was thrown into revolt against the environment of her home. We shall see her pursuing her ideal with consistent, though with self-torturing, tenacity against alike the obstacles and the[xxv] temptations of circumstance. She had already served an apprenticeship when the call to the Crimea came. It was a call not to “sacrifice,” but to the fulfilment of her dearest wishes for a life of active usefulness. Such is the theme of the First Part, which I have called “Aspiration.”

Many other women have passed through similar experiences. But there is special significance in them in the case of Florence Nightingale—a significance both historic and personal. The glamour that surrounded her service in the Crimea, the wide-world publicity that was given to her name and deeds, invested with peculiar importance her fight for freedom. To do “as Florence Nightingale did” became an object of imitation which the well-to-do world was henceforth readier to condone, or even to approve; and thus the story of Miss Nightingale's earlier years is the history of a pioneer, on one side, in the emancipation of women.

For the understanding of her own later life, the earlier years are all-important. They give the clue to her character, and explain much that would otherwise be puzzling or confused. Through great difficulties and at a heavy price she had purchased her birthright—her ideal of self-expression in work. On her return from the Crimea she was placed, on the one hand, owing to her fame, in a position of special opportunity; on the other hand, owing to illness, in a position of special disability. She shaped her life henceforward so as to make these two factors conform to the continued fulfilment of her ideal. I need not here forestall what subsequent chapters will abundantly illustrate. I will only say that the resultant effect was a manner of life and work, both extraordinary, and, to me at least, of the greatest interest.

The Second Part of the Memoir is devoted to the Crimean War. The popular conception with regard to Miss Nightingale's work during this episode in her life is not untrue so far as it goes, but it is amazingly short of the whole truth as now ascertainable from her Papers. The popular imagination pictures Florence Nightingale at Scutari and in the Crimea as “the ministering angel.” And such in very truth[xxvi] she was. But the deeper significance of her work in the Crimean War lies elsewhere. It was as Administrator and Reformer, more than as Angel, that she showed her peculiar powers. Queen Victoria, with native shrewdness and a touch of humour, hit off the truth about Miss Nightingale's services in the Crimea in concise words: “Such a clear head. I wish we had her at the War Office.”

The influence of Miss Nightingale's service in the Crimea was great. Some of it is obvious, and on the moral side Longfellow's poem said the first, and the last, word. She may also be accounted, if not the founder, yet the promoter of Female Nursing in war, and the Red Cross Societies throughout the world are, as we shall hear, the direct outcome of her labours in the Crimea. The indirect, and less obvious, results were in many spheres. From a sick-room in the West End of London Miss Nightingale played a part—and a much larger part than could be known without access to her Papers—in reforming the sanitary administration of the British army, in reconstructing hospitals throughout the world, in founding the modern art of nursing, in setting up a sanitary administration in India, and in promoting various other reforms in that country.

Miss Nightingale's return from the Crimea, it will thus be seen, was not the end of her active life. In a sense it was the beginning. The nursing at Scutari and in the Crimea was an episode. The fame which she shunned, but which nevertheless came to her, gave her a starting-point for doing work which was destined, as she hoped, and as in large measure was granted, to be of permanent service to her country and the world. The first chapter of the Third Part shows her laying her plans for the health of the British soldier, and the subsequent chapters tell what followed. This is the period of Miss Nightingale's close co-operation with Sidney Herbert. To the writer this later phase of Miss Nightingale's life—with its ingenious adjustment of means to ends, its masterful resourcefulness, its incessant industry, and then with its perpetual struggle against physical weakness and its extraordinary power of devoted concentration—has seemed not less interesting than the Crimean episode.[xxvii]

The Fourth Part describes, as its main themes, the work which Miss Nightingale did, concurrently with that described in the preceding Part, as Hospital Reformer and the Founder of Modern Nursing. Other chapters introduce two topics which might at first sight seem widely separate, but which were yet closely associated in Miss Nightingale's mind. They deal with her, respectively, as a Passionate Statistician and as a Religious Thinker. The nature of her speculations is fully explained in the latter chapters, and elsewhere in the memoir. It will be seen that Miss Nightingale had thought out a scheme of religious belief which widely differed from the creeds of Christian orthodoxy, whether Catholic or Protestant, but which yet admitted of accommodation to much of their language and formularies. It admitted also, as will appear in due course, of close alliance with mysticism. Miss Nightingale believed intensely in a Personal God and in personal religion. The language which expressed most adequately to her the sense of union with God was the language of the Greek and Christian mystics. But “law” was to her “the thought of God”; union with God meant co-operation with Him towards human perfectibility; and for the discovery of “the thought of God” statistics were to her mind an indispensable means.

In the Fifth Part we are introduced to a new interest in Miss Nightingale's life, a new sphere of her work. For forty years she worked at Indian questions. She took up the subject at first through interest in the army. It was a natural supplement to her efforts for the health of the British soldier at home, to make a like attempt on behalf of the army in India. Gradually she was drawn into other questions, and she became a keen Indian reformer all along the line. Her assiduity, her persistence, her ingenuity were as marked in this sphere as in others; it was only her immediate success that was less.

In relation to the primary object with which she began her Indian campaigns, Miss Nightingale's life and work have great importance. The Royal Commission of 1859–63, which was due to her, and the measures taken in consequence of its Report, were the starting-point of a new era in sanitary[xxviii] improvement for the army. The results have been most salutary. Miss Nightingale's friendship with Lord Stanley and with Sir John Lawrence here served her somewhat as that with Mr. Herbert served in the earlier campaign. In the wider sphere of Indian sanitation generally Miss Nightingale's efforts were not so successful. The field was perhaps too vast, the conditions were too adverse, for any great and immediate success to be possible. Yet this and her other efforts for India were the part of Miss Nightingale's life and work to which she attached most importance, and by the record of which she set most store. Even in the Will (afterwards revoked) directing her Papers to be destroyed, she made exception of those relating to India; and, as already stated in the preface, one of her few pieces of autobiographical record related to her Indian work. Perhaps it was the special affection which a mother often feels for the least robust or least successful child. Perhaps it was that she took long views; and that, foreseeing a future time when many of the reforms for which she had toiled might be accomplished, she desired to be remembered as a pioneer. “Sanitation,” said a high authority in 1894, “is the Cinderella of the Indian administrative family.”[2] The difficulty of finding money and a reluctance to introduce Western reforms in advance of Eastern opinion are objections with which we shall often meet in the correspondence of Indian officials with Miss Nightingale, and they are still raised in the present day.[3] On the other hand, the Under-Secretary for India, in his Budget Statement for 1913, declared that “the service which has the strongest claim after education on the resources of the Government is sanitation,” and explained that “the Budget estimate of expenditure for sanitation comes this year to nearly £2,000,000, showing an increase of 112 per cent over the expenditure of three years ago.” So perhaps Cinderella is to go to the ball; if ever the glass slipper is[xxix] found, let it be remembered, as this Memoir will show, that Miss Nightingale was the good fairy.

Her Indian work continued as long as she was able to work at all, and from 1862 onwards it forms one of the recurring themes in our story. The Sixth Part, while continuing that subject, introduces another sphere in which Miss Nightingale's life and work have important significance. From the reform of Hospital Nursing she turned, in conjunction with the late Mr. William Rathbone, to the reform of workhouse nursing. And as one thing led to another, it will be seen that Miss Nightingale deserves to be remembered also as a Poor Law Reformer.

The Seventh Part comprises the last thirty-eight years of Miss Nightingale's life (1872–1910), and a word or two may here be said to explain an apparent alteration of scale. In a biography the scale must be proportionate not to the number of the years, but to their richness in characteristic significance. After 1872, the year in which (as Miss Nightingale put it) she went “out of office,” her life was less full than theretofore in new activities. The germinant seeds had all been sown. But these later years, though they have admitted of more summary treatment, were full of interest. The chapters in which they are recorded deal first with Miss Nightingale's literary work, and more especially with her studies in Plato and the Christian mystics. These studies were in part a result of her close friendship of thirty years with Mr. Jowett. Then, too, occasion is found for an endeavour to portray Miss Nightingale as the Mother-Chief (for so they called her) of the Nurses. It is only by access to her enormous correspondence in this sort that the range and extent of her personal influence can be measured. Her ideal of the nursing vocation stands out very clearly from the famous “Nurses' Battle” which occupied much of her later years. She found an opportunity during the same period to start an important experiment in Rural Hygiene. At the same time she was preaching indefatigably the need of Health missionaries in Indian villages. And then came the end. To the time of labour, there succeeds in every life,[xxx] says Ruskin, “the time of death; which in happy lives is very short, but always a time.” In the case of Miss Nightingale the time was long. She lived for many years after the power to labour was gone.


So much, by way of preface, in explanation of the significance of Miss Nightingale's life and work. But this book endeavours to depict a character, as well as to record a career. There has been much discussion, in our days as in others, of the proper scope and method of biography, and various models are held up, in one sense or another, to practitioners in this difficult art. The questions are propounded, whether biography should describe a person's life or his character? his work or how he did it? If the person did anything worthy of record, a biography should, surely, describe alike the life and the character, the work and the methods. The biographer may fail in his attempt; but in the case of Miss Nightingale the attempt is peculiarly necessary, because all that she did and the manner in which she did it were, as it has seemed to me, characteristic of a strongly-marked personality behind them.

This book is, however, a biography and not a history. It is not a history of the Crimean War, nor of nursing, nor of Indian administration. Something on all these matters will be found in it; but only so much of detail as was necessary to place Miss Nightingale's work in its true light and to exhibit her characteristic methods. So, also, many other persons will pass across the stage—persons drawn from a great many different classes, occupations, walks in life; but the book does not aim at giving a detailed picture of “Miss Nightingale's circle.” Her relations, her friends, her acquaintances, her correspondents only concern us here in so far as their dealings with her affected her work, or illustrate her character.

Here, again—to revert to what has been said above—it will be found, I think, that this book possesses a certain significance as correcting, or supplementing, a popular legend. A preacher, in an obituary sermon upon Miss Nightingale, said that all her work was done “by force of[xxxi] simple goodness.” Assuredly Miss Nightingale was a good woman, and there was also a certain simplicity about her. But there was much else. A man of affairs, who in the course of a long and varied life had come in contact with many of the acutest intellects and greatest administrators of the time, said of Miss Nightingale that hers was the clearest brain he had ever known in man or woman. Strength of head was quite as marked in her as goodness of heart, and she had at least as much of adroitness as of simplicity. Her character was in fact curiously many-sided. A remarkable variety of interests, motives, methods will be found coming into play in the course of this record. The Florence Nightingale who will be shown in it—by her acts, her methods, her sayings, her ways of looking at things and people—is a very different person from Santa Filomena. Miss Nightingale has been given a place among the saints in the popular calendars of many nations; and she deserves the canonisation, but not entirely for the popular reasons. Her character, as I have endeavoured to depict it, was stronger, more spacious, and, as I have felt, more lovable than that of The Lady with the Lamp.


[1] In a letter to Madame Mohl, December 13, 1871.

[2] Sir Auckland Colvin in the Journal of the Society of Arts, May 11, 1894, p. 515.

[3] As, for instance, in some of the speeches in the House of Lords on June 9, 1913, and in a leading article in the Times of the following day. The speech of Lord Midleton, in introducing the subject, was, on the other hand, upon Miss Nightingale's lines, being founded upon the Report of her Royal Commission of 1859–63. Some pages (194–197) in Mr. George Peel's The Future of England (1911) are on similar lines.




I go to prove my soul!
I see my way as birds their trackless way.
I shall arrive—what time, what circuit first,
I ask not; but unless God send his hail
Or blinding fire-balls, sleet, or stifling snow,
In some time, his good time, I shall arrive:
He guides me and the bird. In his good time.

Browning: Paracelsus.




I found her in her chamber reading Phaedon Platonis in Greek, and that with as much pleasure as some gentlemen would read a merry tale in Bocace.
Roger Ascham.

To the tender sentiment and popular adoration that gathered around the subject of this Memoir, something perhaps was added by the beauty of a name which linked together the City of the Flowers and the music of the birds. Her surname suggested to Longfellow the title of the poem which has carried home to the hearts of thousands in two continents a lesson of her life. The popularity of “Florence”—in the Middle Ages a masculine name—as a Christian name for English girls is noted by the historian of that subject as due to association with the heroine of the Crimea.

Both of her names were the result of circumstance. Her father came of the old Derbyshire family of Shore of Tapton, and changed his name in 1815 from William Edward Shore to William Edward Nightingale on succeeding to the property of his mother's uncle, Peter Nightingale of Lea, in the same county. Mr. William Nightingale was fond of travel, and the close of the French war, shortly before his marriage (1818), had thrown the Continent open to the grand tour. Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale's only children, two daughters, were born during a sojourn in Italy. The elder was born at Naples in 1819, and was named, firstly, Frances,[4] after her mother, and, secondly, after the old Greek settlement on the site of her birthplace, Parthenope. She afterwards became the second wife of Sir Harry Verney.[4] The younger daughter, the subject of this Memoir, was also named after her birthplace. She was born at Florence on May 12, 1820, in the Villa Colombaia, near the Porta Romana, as a memorial-tablet now affixed to the house records; and there on the 4th of July she was baptized by Dr. Trevor, Prebendary of Chester. The place-names became in familiar intercourse “Parthe” or “Pop,” and “Flo.”

“The surprises of sainthood,” said a speaker at a Congress on Eugenics, “are no less remarkable than those of genius. St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, and Florence Nightingale could no more have been predicted from their ancestry than Napoleon, Beethoven, Michael Angelo, or Shakespeare.” But the peculiarities of tissue on which some physical characteristics are held to depend can, at any rate, be inherited. Florence Nightingale's mother was one of the eleven children of William Smith of Parndon Hall, Essex, of whom Sir James Stephen said: “When he had nearly completed four score years, he could still gratefully acknowledge that he had no remembrance of any bodily pain or illness, and that of the very numerous family of which he was the head every member still lived to support and gladden his old age.” This statement is not absolutely correct, for one child did not long survive its birth; but of the other sons and daughters of William Smith, none died at an earlier age than 69, two lived to be more than 75, six to be more than 80, and one to be more than 90. This last was Frances, Mrs. Nightingale, who lived to be 92. On the father's side there was longevity also. Mr. Nightingale himself lived to be 80. His mother lived to be 95; he had an aunt who lived to be 90; and “your uncle,” wrote his father, “young at 82, enters into politics of the present moment with all the ardour of 22.” Of the children of Mr. and Mrs. William Nightingale, Parthenope lived to be 75, and Florence, though (or, in part,[5] perhaps, because) she lived for 53 years the life of an invalid, attained the age of 90.

Florence Nightingale, whether saint or not, was certainly conscious of a “call”; but there was nothing in her descent or inheritance which encouraged her parents to allow it to become readily effectual. Because she was a woman, her early life was one long struggle for liberation from circumstance and social prepossessions. Yet there were features in her mental equipment and intellectual outlook which may well have been inherited, and which certainly owed much to environment. Sir James Stephen adds to the remarks quoted above that if William Smith “had gone mourning all his days, he could scarcely have acquired a more tender pity for the miserable, or have laboured more habitually for their relief.” In politics he was a follower of Fox. He was a friend of Wilberforce, with whom he co-operated in the House of Commons in the Abolitionist and other humanitarian movements. Of Wilberforce, as of Thomas Clarkson, “he possessed the almost brotherly love, and of all their fellow-labourers there was none who was more devoted to their cause, or whom they more entirely trusted.”[5] In religion a Unitarian, he was a stout defender of liberty of thought and conscience, a persistent opponent of religious tests and disabilities. The liberal opinions, alike in Church and State, which were thus traditional in the family of Florence Nightingale's mother, were shared by that of her father. Her grandfather Shore, in a letter to his son in 1818, referred to “one of the finest pieces of eloquence either in ancient or modern times, given by Sir Samuel Romilly in the Court of Chancery on a motion respecting the right of Jews to the benefit of a charity in Bedford. It does honour to the man and to human nature.” Florence Nightingale's father was also a Unitarian; and in politics he was a Whig. “How I hate Tories,” he wrote to his wife; and in another letter, after the election of 1835, in which the hated ones had gained ground, he explained that they were mighty only “by Beer, Brandy, and Money.” The Whigs, as is[6] well known, were not all lacking in the latter equipment for political success, and Mr. Nightingale was a frequent subscriber to electoral funds on the Whig side. He was an ardent supporter of Parliamentary Reform. He held that “Bentham has taught great moral truth more effectually than all the Christian divines.” At a later time he was a follower of Lord Palmerston, of whom he was also a neighbour in the country. One of the earliest notices which I find of Florence Nightingale's interest in politics is in a letter from her father describing a meeting at Romsey to which he had taken her. “Florence,” he says, “approved very much Palmerston's exposition of his foreign policy.”

Something else Florence Nightingale owed to, or shared with, her father. He, like some other members of his family, was of a reflective temperament, interested in speculative problems. There is a letter written by him to his wife from his father's sick-room (Sept. 1822) which shows the bent of his thoughts:—

I sit by his bedside and look at him as one would at a sleeping man, the idea of death only now and then flashing across my mind. I have been studying Mad. de Staël on the feeling of conviction, which exists more or less in different people and different nations, on the subject of soul as independent of external ideas. My imagination is a dull one, for it certainly required study with me to feel the full force of conviction that soul does and must exist quite separately from, though influenced by, external circumstances. You will say, I know, with a firm belief in Scripture and religion, Leave all philosophical speculation to the wild imaginations of the Germans. Nothing can change your reliance on religion. The perversity of my nature refers me to experience and analogies, though I begin to think that the study of the creation displayed before our faculties will exalt me into a conception of Divinity completely pervading the whole, but particularly that part of man which enables him to feel the difference between right and wrong independently of the ideas which he derives from external circumstances.

Florence Nightingale's mother accepted the religious standpoint of the day without question. Unitarianism was dropped by her and by her elder daughter; by Florence it was, as we shall hear, transcended. The mother's essential bent was practical, though the scope of it was somewhat[7] limited. The mind of her daughter Florence found room in equal measure for practice and for contemplation. She inherited her mother's organising capacity, though she turned it to directions of her own. It was from her father that she inherited the taste for speculative inquiry which absorbed a large part of her life.


From the worldly circumstances of her parents Florence came to draw conclusions little sympathetic, in some respects, with existing usages and conventions. She accepted, indeed, the position of worldly wealth into which she was born without any fundamental questioning. In later years a young friend, on being urged to visit the villagers around one of Miss Nightingale's country homes, explained that she did not like the relation, she could not bring herself to go from a big comfortable house to instruct poor people how to live. Miss Nightingale laughed, and said, “You surely don't call Lea Hurst a big house.” It had only about fifteen bedrooms. She took for granted the position into which she was born. But she thought that wealth should only be used as a means of work. The easy, comfortable, not very strenuous conditions of her home life as a girl fixed the nature of her earlier years, but her soul did not become rooted in them. They sowed seeds which grew, as the years passed, not into acquiescence, but into revolt. Mr. Nightingale had inherited his great-uncle's property when nine years old. It accumulated for him, and a lead mine added greatly to its value. By the time of his marriage he was blessed (or, as his younger daughter came to think, afflicted) by the possession of a considerable fortune. Whether it were indeed a blessing or an affliction, it involved him in much uncertainty of mind. He and his wife returned from the Continent with their infant daughters in 1821, and the question became urgent, Where to live? The landed property which he inherited from his great-uncle was a comparatively small estate at and around Lea Hall in Derbyshire. To this property he added largely. The Hall, the old residence of his great-uncle, was discarded (it is now used as a farm-house), and[8] Mr. Nightingale built a new house, called Lea Hurst. The charm of its situation and prospect is described in a letter by Mrs. Gaskell:—

“High as Lea Hurst is, one seems on a pinnacle, with the clouds careering round one. Down below is a garden with stone terraces and flights of steps—the planes of these terraces being perfectly gorgeous with masses of hollyhocks, dahlias, nasturtiums, geraniums, etc. Then a sloping meadow losing itself in a steep wooded descent (such tints over the wood!) to the river Derwent, the rocks on the other side of which form the first distance, and are of a red colour streaked with misty purple. Beyond this, interlacing hills, forming three ranges of distance; the first, deep brown with decaying heather; the next, in some purple shadow, and the last catching some pale, watery sunlight.” “I am left alone,” continued Mrs. Gaskell, “established high up, in two rooms, opening one out of the other—the old nurseries.” (The inner one, in which Mrs. Gaskell slept, was, when Parthenope grew up, her bedroom.) “It is curious how simple it is. The old carpet doesn't cover the floor. No easy chair, no sofa, a little curtainless bed, a small glass. In the outer room—the former day nursery—Miss Florence's room when she is at home, everything is equally simple; now, of course, the bed is reconverted into a sofa; two small tables, a few bookshelves, a drab carpet only partially covering the clean boards, and stone-coloured walls—as cold in colouring as need be, but with one low window on one side, trellised over with Virginian creeper as gorgeous as can be; and the opposite one, by which I am writing, looking over such country!”[6]

The sound of the Derwent was often in Florence's ears. When she was in the Hospital at Scutari any fretting in the Straits recalled it to her. “How I like,” she said on a stormy night, “to hear that ceaseless roar; it puts me in mind of the dear Derwent; how often I have listened to it from the nursery window.”

Lea Hurst became one of Florence Nightingale's earliest homes in England, but it was not the earliest of all. The house was not built when the family returned from the Continent, and Mr. Nightingale took Kynsham Court,[9] Presteigne, in Herefordshire. The place, it seems, was “more picturesque than habitable,” and negotiations for the purchase of it, with a view to improvements, fell through. Mr. Nightingale liked Derbyshire, and was fond of his new house; but the rich, as well as the poor, have their perplexities. “The difficulty is,” wrote Mr. Nightingale to his wife, “where is the county that is habitable for twelve successive months?” And, again, “How would you like Leicestershire? For my part, I think that, provided I could get about 2000 acres and a house in some neighbouring county where sporting and scenery were in tolerable abundance, and the visit to Lea Hurst were annually confined to July, August, September, and October, then all would be well.” While Mrs. Nightingale stayed at Kynsham, or took the children for change of air to the seaside or Tunbridge Wells, Mr. Nightingale divided his time between the management of his property in Derbyshire and the search for a second home elsewhere. Ultimately he found what he wanted at Embley Park in the parish of Wellow, near Romsey. This estate was bought in 1825, and Kynsham was given up. Embley is on the edge of the New Forest, and the rich growth of its woods and gardens is much favoured by sun and moisture. Old oaks and beeches, thickets of flowering laurel and rhododendron, and a profusion of flowers and scents, contrast with the bare breezy hills of Derbyshire. Its new owners had here the variety they wished for, and a full scope for their taste. The most praised of its beauties is a long road almost shut in by masses of rhododendron. One of the occasional pleasures of Miss Nightingale's later life in London was a drive in the Park, in rhododendron-time, “to remind her of Embley.”


From her fifth year onwards Florence Nightingale had, then, for her homes Lea Hurst in the summer months and Embley during the rest of the year. The family usually spent a portion of the season in London. The sisters led, it will thus be seen, a life mainly in the country, and Florence as a child became fond of flowers, birds, and beasts. A neatly printed manuscript-book is preserved, in which she made a catalogue[10] of her collection of flowers, describing each with analytical accuracy, and noting the particular spot at which it was picked. Her childish letters contain many references to animal companions. She made particular friends with the nuthatch. She had a pet pig, a pet donkey, a pet pony. She was fond of riding, and fond of dogs. “A small pet animal,” she said many years afterwards, “is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.” “The more I see of men,” wrote a cynic, “the more I love dogs.” Florence Nightingale, in the same piece from which I have just quoted, drew a like moral from her experience of some nurses. “An invalid,” she said, “in giving an account of his nursing by a nurse and a dog, infinitely preferred that of the dog. ‘Above all,’ he said, ‘it did not talk.’”[7] There were no babies in the Nightingale family after the arrival of Florence herself, but most of her mother's many brothers and sisters married and had families; and as Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale's houses were often visited by these relations, there was seldom wanting a succession of babies, and in them and their christenings, and teethings, and illnesses, and lessons, Florence took that interest which is often strong in little girls.

Sometimes a baby died, and her letters show that Florence was as much interested in a death as in a birth. She rejoiced in “the little angels in heaven.” One of her favourite poems at this period was The Better Land of Mrs. Hemans, which she copied out for a cousin as “so very beautiful.” The earliest letter which I have seen, written when she was ten, strikes mingled notes. She is staying with Uncle Octavius Smith at “Thames Bank” (a house which then adjoined his distillery at Millbank), and writes to her sister, who is on a visit with the maid to another set of cousins:—

Give my love to Clémence, and tell her, if you please, that I am not in the room where she established me, but in a very small one; instead of the beautiful view of the Thames, a most dismal one of the black distillery, and, whenever I open my window, the nasty smell rushes in like a torrent. But I like it pretty well notwithstanding. There is a hole through the wall[11] close to my door, which communicates with the bath-room, which is next the room where Freddy[8] sleeps, and he talks to me by there. Tell her also, if you please, that I have washed myself all over and feet in warm water since I came every night. I went up into the distillery to the very tip-top by ladders with Uncle Oc and Fred Saturday night. We walked along a great pipe. We have had a good deal of boating which I like very much. We see three steam-boats pass every day, the Diana, the Fly, and the Endeavour. My love to all of them except Miss W——. Give my love particularly to Hilary. Your affect and only sister. Dear Pop, I think of you, pray let us love one another more than we have done. Mama wishes it particularly, it is the will of God, and it will comfort us in our trials through life. Good-bye.

Was Miss W—— an unsympathetic governess? Whoever she was, the exception in her disfavour shows an unregenerate impulse which contrasts naïvely with the following good resolve towards her sister. To a year earlier belongs a little note-book, entitled “Journal of Flo, Embley.” It begins with the reminder, “The Lord is with thee wherever thou art.” And then an entry records, “Sunday, I obliged to sit still by Miss Christie till I had the spirit of obedience.” As a child, and throughout all the earlier part of her life, Florence was much given to dreaming, and in some introspective speculations written in 1851 she recalled the pleasures of naughtiness. “When I was a child and was naughty, it always put an end to my dreaming for the time. I never could tell why. Was it because naughtiness was a more interesting state than the little motives which make man's peaceful civilized state, and occupied imagination for the time?” To Miss Christie, her first governess, Florence became greatly attached, and the death of the lady a few years later threw her into deep grief. She was a sensitive, and a somewhat morbid child; and though she presently developed a lively sense of humour, to which she had the capacity of giving trenchant expression, it was the humour of intellect rather than the outcome of a[12] joyous disposition. Her early letters contain little note of childish fun. They are for the most part grave and introspective. She was self-absorbed, and had the shyness which attends upon that habit. “My greatest ambition,” she wrote in some private reminiscences of her early life, “was not to be remarked. I was always in mortal fear of doing something unlike other people, and I said, ‘If I were sure that nobody would remark me I should be quite happy.’ I had a morbid terror of not using my knives and forks like other people when I should come out. I was afraid of speaking to children because I was sure I should not please them.” Meanwhile, she was perhaps at times, even as a child, a little “difficult” at home. “Ask Flo,” wrote her father to his wife in 1832, “if she has lost her intellect. If not, why does she grumble at troubles which she cannot remedy by grumbling?”


The appeal to his daughter's intellect was characteristic of Mr. Nightingale. He was himself a well-informed man, educated at Edinburgh, and Trinity, Cambridge; and, like some others of the Unitarian circle, he held views much in advance of the average opinion of his time about the intellectual education of women. The home education of his daughters was largely supervised by himself; it included a range of subjects far outside the curriculum current in “young ladies' seminaries”; and perhaps, like Hannah More's father, he was sometimes “frightened at his own success.” Letters and note-books show, it is true, that his daughters were duly instructed in the accomplishments deemed appropriate to young ladies. We hear of them learning the use of the globes, writing books of elegant extracts, working footstools, and doing fancy work. They studied music, grammar, composition, modern languages. “We used to read Tasso and Ariosto and Alfieri with my father,” Florence said; “he was a good and always interested Italian scholar, never pedantic, never a tiresome grammarian, but he spoke Italian like an Italian and I took care of the verbs.” Mr. Nightingale added constitutional history, Latin, Greek, and mathematics. By the time Florence was sixteen, he was[13] reading Homer with his daughters. Miss Nightingale used to say that at Greek her sister was the quicker scholar. Their father set them appointed tasks to prepare. Parthenope would trust largely to improvisation or lucky shots. Florence was more laborious; and sometimes would get up at four in the morning to prepare the lesson. Her knowledge of Latin was of some practical use in later years. In conversations with abbots and monks whom she met during her travels she sometimes found in Latin their only common tongue. Among Florence's papers were preserved many sheets in her father's handwriting, containing the heads of admirable outlines of the political history of England and of some foreign states. Her own note-books show that in her teens she had mastered the elements of Latin and Greek. She analysed the Tusculan Disputations. She translated portions of the Phaedo, the Crito and the Apology. She had studied Roman, German, Italian, and Turkish history. She had analysed Dugald Stewart's Philosophy of the Human Mind. Her father was in the habit, too, of suggesting themes on which his daughters were to write compositions. It was the system of the College Essay. “Florence has now taken to mathematics,” wrote her sister in 1840, “and, like everything she undertakes, she is deep in them and working very hard.” The direction in which Florence Nightingale was to exercise the faculties thus trained was as yet hidden in the future; but to her father's guidance she was indebted for the mental grasp and power of intellectual concentration which were to distinguish her work in life.

It is a natural temptation of biographers to give a formal unity to their subject by representing the child as in all things the father of the man; to date the vocation of their hero or heroine very early in life; to magnify some childish incident as prophetic of what is to come thereafter. Material is available for such treatment in the case of Florence Nightingale. It has been recorded that she used to nurse and bandage the dolls which her elder sister damaged. Every book about the heroine of the Crimea contains, too, a tale of “first aid to the wounded” which Florence administered to Cap, the shepherd's collie, whom she found with a broken leg on the downs near Embley. “I wonder,” wrote[14] her “old Pastor”[9] to her in 1858, “whether you remember how, twenty-two years ago, you and I together averted the intended hanging of poor old Shepherd Smithers's dog, Cap. How many times I have told the story since! I well recollect the pleasure which the saving of the life of a poor dog then gave to your young mind. I was delighted to witness it; it was to me not indeed an omen of what you were about to do and be (for of that I never dreamed), but it was an index of that kind and benevolent disposition, of that I Cor. xiii. Charity, which has been at the root of it.” And it is certainly interesting and curious, if nothing more, that the very earliest piece in the handwriting of Florence Nightingale which has been preserved should be a medical prescription. It is contained in a tiny book, about the size of a postage-stamp, which the little girl stitched together and in which the instruction is written, in very childish letters, “16 grains for an old woman, 11 for a young woman, and 7 for a child.” But these things are after all but trifles. Florence Nightingale is not the only little girl who has been fond of nursing sick dolls or mending them when broken. Other children have tended wounded animals and had their pill-boxes and simples. Much, too, has been written about Florence's kindness as a child to her poorer neighbours. Her mother, both at Lea Hurst and at Embley, sometimes occupied herself in good works. She and her husband were particularly interested in a “cheap school” which they supported at their Derbyshire home. “Large sums of money have been paid,” wrote Mr. Nightingale to his wife in 1832, “to your schoolmistress for many praiseworthy purposes, who works con amore in looking after the whole population, young and old.” Florence took her place, beside her mother, in visiting poor neighbours, in arranging school-treats, in giving village entertainments. But thousands of other squires' daughters, before and after her, have done the like. And Florence herself, as many entries in her diaries show, was not conscious of doing much, but reproachful of herself for doing little. The constant burden of her self-examination, both at this time and for many years to come, was that she was for ever “dreaming” and never “doing.”[15] She was dreaming because for a long time she did not clearly feel or see what her work in life was to be; and then for yet another period of time because, when she knew what she was called to do, she could not compass the means to do it. Her faculties were not brought outwards, but were left, by the conditions of her life, to devour themselves inwardly.

The discovery of her true vocation belongs, then, to a later period of our story; and it was not the result of childish fancy, or the accomplishment of early incident; it was the fruit of long and earnest study. What did come to Florence Nightingale early in life—perhaps, as one entry in her autobiographical notes suggests, as early as her sixth year—was the sense of a “call”; of some appointed mission in life; of self-dedication to the service of God. “I remember her,” wrote Fanny Allen in 1857 to her niece Elizabeth Wedgwood, “as a little girl of three or four, then the girl of sixteen of high promise. When I look back on every time I saw her after her sixteenth year, I see that she was ripening constantly for her work, and that her mind was dwelling on the painful differences of man and man in this life, and on the traps that a luxurious life laid for the affluent. A conversation on this subject between the father and daughter made me laugh at the time, the contrast was so striking; but now, as I remember it, it was the Divine Spirit breathing in her.”[10] In an autobiographical fragment written in 1867 Florence mentions as one of the crises of her inner life that “God called her to His service” on February 7, 1837, at Embley; and there are later notes which still fix that day as the dawn of her true life. But as yet she knew not whither the Spirit was to lead. For three months, indeed, as she notes in another passage of retrospect, she “worked very hard among the poor people” under “a strong feeling of religion.”


Presently, however, a new direction was given to her thoughts and interests. She was now seventeen, her sister eighteen. Their home education had been far advanced, and might seem to require only such “finishing” as masters and society in France and Italy could supply. Mr. Nightingale[16] had, moreover, decided to carry out extensive alterations at Embley. With his wife and daughters, he crossed from Southampton to Havre on September 8, 1837, and they did not return to England till April 6, 1839. Those were days of leisurely travel, such as Ruskin describes, in which “distance could not be vanquished without toil, but in which that toil was rewarded, partly by the power of deliberate survey of the countries through which the journey lay, and partly by the happiness of the evening hours, when from the top of the last hill he had surmounted, the traveller beheld the quiet village where he was to rest, scattered among the meadows beside its valley stream; or, from the long-hoped-for turn in the dusty perspective of the causeway, saw, for the first time, the towers of some famed city, faint in the rays of sunset—hours of peaceful and thoughtful pleasure, for which the rush of the arrival in the railway station is perhaps not always, or to all men, an equivalent.” There were many such hours during the journeys which the Nightingales took with a vetturino through France and Italy; and Florence, writing at a later date, when all her life was fixed on doing, noted that on this tour there was “too much time for dreaming.” Yet it is clear from her diaries that she entered heartily, and with a wider range of interest than some English travellers show, into the life of foreign society and sight-seeing. A love of statistical method which became one of her most marked characteristics may already be seen in an itinerary which she compiled; noting, in its several columns, the number of leagues from place to place, with the day and the hour both of arrival and of departure. They went leisurely through France, visiting, besides many other places, Chartres, Blois, Tours, Nantes, Bordeaux, Biarritz, Carcassonne, Nîmes, Avignon, and Toulon, and then going by the Riviera to Nice. There they stayed for nearly a month (Dec. 1837–Jan. 1838). A month was next spent at Genoa, and two months were given to Florence. The late spring and summer were devoted to travel in the cities of Northern Italy, among the lakes, and in Switzerland. They spent the month of September in Geneva, and reached Paris on October 8, 1838. Miss Nightingale preserved her diary of the greater part of the tour, and it shows her keenly interested[17] alike in scenery and in works of art. It contains also, what records of sentimental pilgrimages often lack, an admixture of notes and statistics upon the laws, the land systems, the social conditions and benevolent institutions of the several states or cantons. Her interest in the politics of the day was keen wherever she was; and the society of many refugees into which she was thrown at Geneva gave her a particularly ardent sympathy with the cause of Italian freedom. The diary contains many biographical notes upon Italian patriots, whose adventures she heard related by their own lips. “A stirring day,” she wrote on September 12 (1838), “the most stirring which we have ever lived.” It was the day on which the news reached Geneva that the Emperor of Austria had declared an amnesty in Italy. The Nightingales attended an evening party at which the Italian refugees assembled and the Imperial decree was read out amidst loud jubilation; which, however, was afterwards abated when it turned out that the “general amnesty” contained many conditions and some exceptions. The Nightingales had the entrée to all the learned society of Geneva. Florence records an evening spent with M. de Candolle, the famous botanist; and the diary gives many glimpses of Sismondi, the historian, who was then living in his native city. He escorted the Nightingale party up the Salève. They made that not very formidable ascent first on donkeys and then “in a sledge covered with straw and drawn by four oxen.” Florence was present on another occasion when “all the company gathered round Sismondi who, sitting on a table, gave us a lecture on Florentine history.” The conscientious Florence made a full note in her diary of the great man's discourse. “All Sismondi's political economy,” she also noted, “seems to be founded on the overflowing kindness of his heart. He gives to old beggars on principle, to young from habit. At Pescia he had 300 beggars at his door on one morning. He feeds the mice in his room while he is writing his histories.” Presently there was a new excitement in Geneva. “What a stirring time we live in,” Florence wrote on September 18; “one day to decide the fate of the Italians, to-morrow to decide the fate of Switzerland.” “To-morrow” was the day fixed for the meeting of the Conseil Représentatif[18] which was to take into consideration the demand of Louis Philippe for the expulsion of Louis Napoleon, the future Emperor. Many pages of Miss Nightingale's diary are given up to this affair. She analysed all the pros and cons, and recorded day by day the course of the debate. Sismondi thought that the refugee ought to be surrendered—on principle because he was a pretender, in expediency because Geneva would be unable to withstand a French assault. He “spoke for an hour” in this sense. The Genevois radicals, on the other hand, while entertaining no great love for the pretender, thought that, cost what it might, “the sacred right of asylum” should be maintained. And so the debate continued. The French Government began to move troops from Lyons; the Genevois, to throw up fortifications. Whereupon Mr. Nightingale, like many other English visitors, thought it time to take his family across the frontier. Miss Nightingale's diary written en route to Paris shows her excitement to obtain news of the crisis. When she learnt that it had been solved by Louis Napoleon being given a passport for England, she did not see that Louis Philippe had gained very much; the pretender would be nearer, and not less dangerous, in London than in Geneva—a very just prediction. Not every girl of eighteen, when taking her first tour abroad, shows so lively an interest in political affairs.

Politics and social observations mingle in the diary with artistic and architectural notes. The city which seems most to have appealed to her imagination was not Florence; though she said that she “would not have missed it for anything,” and, curiously, her sojourn in her birthplace was the occasion of a characteristic incident. An English lady, who afterwards became Princess Reuss Köstritz, was staying in the same lodgings and fell ill, and Florence Nightingale volunteered to nurse her. But the city which she most admired was Genoa La Superba. She notes indeed the excessive indolence of the nobles and excessive poverty of the people, but the palaces “realized an Arabian Nights story” for her. Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale had many friends and brought many introductions. In the various towns where they stayed they mixed in the best society, and their[19] daughters were thrown into a lively round of picnics, concerts, soirées, dancing:

Balls and masks begun at midnight, burning ever to mid-day,
When they made up fresh adventures for the morrow—

There were Court balls at which Grand Dukes were “exceedingly polite” to Florence Nightingale and her sister. They went to an evening Court at Florence, and found “everyone most courteous and agreeable.” There was a ball at the Casino in Genoa, at which, writes Florence in her diary, “my partner and I made an embrouillement, and a military officer came up with a very angry face to challenge me for having refused him and then not dancing.” But the music was not all to the tune of “A Toccata of Galuppi's.” What gave Florence the greatest pleasure on this tour was the Italian opera. In those days the reigning singers were Grisi, Lablache, Rubini, and Tamburini. Florence Nightingale heard them all. Her Italian diary is nowhere so elaborate as in descriptions of the operas and in notes on the performers. She kept a separate book in which she wrote tabulated details of all the performances. “I should like to go every night,” she said in her diary; and for some time after her return from the Continent she was, as she wrote to Miss Clarke, “music-mad.” She took music-lessons at Florence, and in London studied under German and Italian masters. She played and sang. It was as yet uncertain whether “the call”—to what, as yet also unknown—might not be drowned in the tastes, interests, and pursuits which fill the life of other young ladies in her position.


The fascination of social life must have been brought vividly before her during the winter (1838–39) which they spent in Paris, in apartments in the Place Vendôme (No. 22). She was now introduced into the brilliant circle of the last of the salons. Mary Clarke, afterwards Madame Mohl, was by descent half Irish, half Scottish; by education and residence, almost wholly French. “A charming mixture,” said Ampère of her, “of French vivacity and English originality.”[20] Full at once of esprit and of espièglerie, well read and artistic yet wholly devoid of pedantry, without regular beauty of feature, but alert and piquante, Mary Clarke had gathered round her what Ticknor in 1837 had found the most intellectual circle in Paris. For seven years she and her mother lived in apartments in the Abbaye-au-Bois, adjoining those of Madame Récamier, and Mary was a daily visitor to the famous salon during the reign of Chateaubriand, whose closing years she did much to brighten and amuse. At the time when the Nightingales arrived in Paris, Mrs. and Miss Clarke had left the Abbaye-au-Bois and established themselves in those apartments in the Rue du Bac which for nearly forty years were a haunt of all that was brilliant in the intellectual life of Paris. Mary Clarke took most affectionately to the Nightingale family, who, with some of their connections, remained for long years among her closest friends. She used to pay a yearly visit to Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale, either at Embley or at Lea Hurst, generally staying three weeks or a month; and to her many of Florence's most interesting letters were, as we shall find, addressed. To her other and more superficial qualities, Mary Clarke added great warmth of lasting affection for her intimate friends, and her sympathetic kindness to the Nightingale circle was unfailing. The attraction of Paris to Florence lay principally in its hospitals and nursing sisterhoods, but partly also in that it was the home of “Clarkey,” as they called her. And it was the same with other members of the family. There is a letter from Lady Verney to Clarkey which describes how some one asked Mr. Nightingale, “Are you going to Paris?” “Oh, no,” he replied; “Madame Mohl is ill.” “Then does Paris mean Madame Mohl?” “Yes, certainly,” he replied gravely. During the winter of 1838–39 Miss Clarke, writes Lady Verney, was “exceedingly kind to Florence and me, two young girls full of all kinds of interests, which she took the greatest pains to help. She made us acquainted with all her friends, many and notable, among them Madame Récamier. I know now, better than then, what her influence must have been thus to introduce an English family (two of them girls who, if French, would not have appeared in society) into that jealously guarded[21] sanctuary, the most exclusive aristocratic and literary salon in Paris. We were asked, even, to the reading by Chateaubriand, at the Abbaye-au-Bois, of his Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe, which he could not wait to put forth, as he had intended when writing them, until after his death—desiring, it was said, to discount the praises which he expected, but hardly received. This hearing was a favour eagerly sought for by the cream of the cream of Paris society at that time.”[11] In Miss Clarke's own apartments, the Nightingales met many distinguished men. The intimates who were always there, and who assisted their hostess in making the tea, were MM. Fauriel and Mohl—Claude Fauriel, versed in mediæval and Provençal lore, a man exceedingly handsome, who had captivated Madame de Staël and other ladies besides Mary Clarke in his friendships; and Julius Mohl, one of the first Orientalists in Europe, a more ardent lover whom, after a probation of eighteen years, Miss Clarke married in 1847. M. Mohl was once asked by Queen Victoria why, loving Germany so much, he had given up his native country for France. “Ma foi, madame,” he replied, “j'ètais amoureux.” With M. Mohl, no less than with his wife, Florence Nightingale was on terms of affectionate friendship. Among the frequent visitors whom she and her sister met at Miss Clarke's were Madame Tastu (the poetess), Élie de Beaumont (the geologist), Roulin (the traveller and naturalist), Cousin, Mignet, Guizot, Tocqueville, Barthélemy St. Hilaire, and Thiers. The last-named was one of Miss Clarke's earliest admirers; and many years later, after the Franco-German war, when Thiers was at the head of affairs, Lady Verney heard M. Mohl say to his wife, “Madame, why did you not marry M. Thiers instead of me, for now you would have been Queen of France?”

In such circles as that which gathered around Miss Clarke, Florence Nightingale was well qualified to hold her own and even to play a brilliant part. Her life of gaiety on the Riviera and in Italy must have rubbed away much of the shyness from which she had suffered. If not beautiful, she was elegant and distinguished. She was both widely and deeply read. She had many and varied interests. She[22] had powers of expression, in which clearness was not unmixed with a note of humorous subacidity. These are social advantages, and she was not without the inclination to use them. She chose in the end another path—a path which was beset by many obstacles of circumstance; but there were obstacles in herself also, and one of the last “temptations” to be overcome, before she was free to interpret her call and to act upon it, was (as she wrote in many a page of confession and self-examination) “the desire to shine in society.”




Her passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self.—George Eliot: Middlemarch.

The home life to which Florence Nightingale returned in April 1839 was rich in possibilities of social pleasure, and might have seemed to promise every happiness. She was well fitted by nature and by education to be an ornament of any country house; to shine in any cultivated society; to become the wife, as many of her best friends hoped and believed, of some good and clever man. But Florence, as she passed from childhood to womanhood, came to form other plans. Her life, as she ultimately shaped it, her example, which circumstances were destined to render far-shining, have been potent factors in opening new avenues for women in the modern world. Thousands of women in these days are, in consequence of Florence Nightingale's career, born free; but it was at a great price, and after long and weary struggles, that she herself attained such freedom. During the years with which, in this Part, we shall be concerned, she lived in some sort the life of a caged bird.

The cage, however, was pleasantly gilded. Florence was not always insensible of the gilding; there were times when[24] she was tempted to chafe no longer at its bars, and to accept a restricted life within the conventional lines. I do not propose to detail, as might be done from her letters, diaries, and other materials, the precise succession of her goings and comings, her visits, and her home pursuits. She herself gives an excellent reason in one of her diaries. “Our movements are so regular,” she said; one year was very like another. The setting of Florence Nightingale's life during this period was such as many women have enjoyed, and many others have envied. The lines of the Nightingale family were laid in pleasant places. Their summer months were spent, as in preceding years, at Lea Hurst. A portion of the season was spent in London, and the rest of the year at Embley. On their return from the Continent in 1839, the Nightingales spent some weeks in London, when the two girls were presented at Court, and a letter to Miss Clarke shows Florence absorbed in music, but not so completely as to conquer a lively interest in the politics of the Bedchamber Plot:—

Carlton Hotel, Regent Street, June 1 [1839].… We are enjoying ourselves much, for the Nicholsons, our cousins, came up to town the day after we did, and are living in the same hotel with us in Regent Street, the best situation in London, I think, but some people call it too noisy. As Marianne Nicholson is as music-mad as I am, we are revelling in music all day long. Schulz, who is a splendid player, and Crivelli, her singing master, give us lessons, and the unfortunate piano has been strummed out of tune in a week, not having even its natural rest at nights, as there are other masters as well. We went to Pauline Garcia's début at the opera in Otello. She was exceedingly nervous and trembled all over, but her great improvement towards the end promised well. Her lower notes are very fine indeed, and two shakes she made low down, though too much like instrumental to be agreeable, were very extraordinary. Her voice, however, is excessively unequal, and sometimes her singing is quite commonplace. She makes too much of her execution, which is very uneven. It is very easy to say that she will be another Malibran, but if they were side by side the difference would be seen; so say wiser judges than we. Even Grisi is quite superior to her in Desdemona, although P. Garcia's voice is the most powerful, but then P. Garcia was excessively frightened. We have heard her sing a duet with Persiani in which both were perfect, and I heard Dohler for the[25] first time at the same concert. I was nowise disappointed, although I had heard so much of him at Paris, his execution is extraordinary, but I think one would soon grow tired of it, for both his music and his style are very inferior to Thalberg's. Have you heard Batta on the violoncello at Paris? His playing approaches more nearly to the human voice than anything I ever heard. We are going to hear charming Persiani to-night in the Lucia di Lammermoor. Tamburini, the most good-natured of mortals, has volunteered to come and sing two or three hours with my cousin Marianne every season, whenever she thinks herself sufficiently advanced. We are going to hear him at a private concert on Monday.

Now there has been enough and too much of musical news, but political news is scarce.… London was in a perfect whirlwind of excitement for the few days that the Melbourne ministry was out, but that is stale already. Our little Queen, who was sadly unpopular when we first came to England, recovered much of her former favour with the Whig party after the firmness she showed in this affair. She was cheered and called forward at the opera, which had not been done for months, and again returning from chapel. And the birthday drawing-room was overflowing, whereas at the two first she gave this season, there were hardly forty people! The story of this last fracas is that on Tuesday, the day of Lord Melbourne's resignation, the Queen dined upstairs with her mother, Baroness Lehzen, and Lady F. Hastings, which she had never done since her accession, and it is supposed that the amende honorable was then made to Lady Flora, and that in this partie carrée was also arranged the course which was to be pursued with Sir Robert Peel. The poor little Queen was seen in tears by several people who told us in the course of the three days, and struggled for her Ladies, as you see, manfully. However matters may turn out now, it is said that she has taken so tremendous a dislike to Sir R. Peel in this affair, that she will never send for him again.

Since that, the House has been adjourned for a fortnight and only met last Monday when the Speaker was elected, Abercromby going up to the House of Peers. We are rejoicing in the election of Shaw Lefevre, by a majority of eighteen; rather less than was expected, however, Spring Rice arriving half an hour too late to vote, which has made rather a commotion. Shaw Lefevre is a great friend of ours, and a very agreeable man, which is his chief qualification for the chair. Macaulay is not likely to come into the Ministry; Lord Melbourne says that it is impossible to get on with a man who talks so fast. So he is now writing history, and saying that it is the only thing worth doing, except, however, standing for Edinburgh in Abercromby's room[26] against Crawford. Macaulay has made an admirable speech in favour of ballot there.

The Queen is vibrating between popularity and unpopularity, and it is not yet known which way the scale will turn between the two parties; she was very much applauded, and Lord Melbourne too, at Ascot yesterday. He is likely to keep the upper hand, as the Tories have not such a man as Lord John Russell in all their party, and the nine obstreperous Radicals have had a sop and give in their adhesion for the present. Papa is shocked to hear that M. Guizot has declared himself so anti-English.…

We always talk of you and all that you did for us at Paris. I heard yesterday that Gonfalonieri was coming to London in a month. Is he at Paris now? I have just been reading the account of M. Mignet's éloge of Talleyrand. I hope you were there, for it must have been very interesting, but did not he make rather an extraordinary defence of Talleyrand's political tergiversation, and of his conduct while the Allies were at Paris? extraordinary to our ideas of political integrity. We met “ubiquity” Young and Mr. Babbage yesterday at dinner at the E. Strutts', who told all sorts of droll stories about Lord Brougham, who seems to have fairly lost his wits. He had Lord Duncannon to dine with him the other day, which is new, he having formerly stipulated when he went out to dinner that he should see none of his former colleagues. He sends his carriage to stand before Lord Denman's house for hours while he goes and walks in the Park, or even while he is out of town, to give the idea that they are very intimate.…

In another letter to Miss Clarke (Sept. 18), some further gossip is given. Miss Nightingale was on her way back to London from Lea Hurst, and had broken the journey at Nottingham:—

The next day we went up to town by rail in six and a half hours, notwithstanding that the engine was twice out of order and stopped us. We had very agreeable company on the road, a neighbour of ours and equerry to the Queen,[12] who was full of her virtues and condescensions. How much pleasanter it is travelling by these public conveyances than in one's own stupid carriage. He said that Lord Melbourne called the Queen's favourite terrier a frightful little beast, and often contradicted her flat, all which she takes in good part, and lets him go to sleep after dinner,[27] taking care that he shall not be waked.[13] She reads all the newspapers and all the vilifying abuse which the Tories give her, and makes up her mind that a queen must be abused, and hates them cordially.


The Nightingales had taken up their residence at Embley in September 1839, and remained there, in accordance with their wont, till the early summer following. The charm of the place is vividly described in a letter from Florence's sister to her cousin, Miss Hilary Bonham Carter:—

My Love—It is so beautiful in this world! so very beautiful, you really cannot fancy anything so near approaching to Eden or fairy-land, or il paradiso terrestre as depicted in the 25th Canto, stanza 40 something; so very, very lovely that we cannot resist a very strong desire that you should come down and see it. My dear, I assure you we are worth seeing. I never, though blest with many fair visions (both in my sleeping and my waking hours), conceived anything so exquisite as to-day lying among the flowers, such smells and such sounds hovering round me! Flo reading and talking so that my immortal profited too, and she comforted me when I said I must have much of the beast in me to be so very happy in the sunshine and the flowers, by suggesting that God gave us His blessings to enjoy them. So I am comforted, and set to work to enjoy with all my might, and succeed à merveille. Still the garden is big, there are many clumps of rhododendrons and azaleas, and showers of rosebuds, and I cannot be all round them at once; so we want you to come and help, not so much for your pleasure as to relieve the weight of responsibility, you see.… My love, I am writing perched on a chair on the grass, nightingales all round, blue sky above (such long shadows sleeping on the lawn), and June smells about me. Will you not come? The rhododendrons are early this year, and will be much passed in another ten days. Will you not come? If you ask learned men they will tell you June at Embley is a poetry ready made; and the first thing I shall do when I get to heaven (you'd better set about getting there Miss Pop directly, you're a very long way off at these[28] presents), where I expect to have the gift of language, is to celebrate the pomps and beauties of the garden in this wicked world, than which I never wish for a better.

Florence and her sister loved each other, but their characters were widely different, as we shall hear, and their love at this time was not that of perfect sympathy, but rather of wistful admiration on the one side, and half-pitying fondness on the other. Parthenope looked upon Florence as upon some strange being in another world, whose happiness she passionately longed to see, and whose rejection of it she could but dimly understand. Florence, on her side, regarded her elder sister's contentment in the beauties of art and nature, and in the world as she found it, with the tender pity which one may feel for a happy child. “It would be an ill return for all her affection,” wrote Florence to one of her aunts, “to drag down my White Swan from her cool, fresh, blue sea of art into our baby chicken-yard of struggling, scratting[14] life. How cruel it would be, as she is rocked to rest there on her dreamy waves, for anybody to waken her.” The difference in temperament between the sisters comes out very clearly in their several descriptions of Embley. Florence was sensible of its beauties, but they came to her with thoughts of a better world beyond, or with echoes from the still sad music of humanity in the world that now is. “I should have so liked you to see Embley in the summer,” she wrote,[15] “for everything is such a blaze of beauty. I had such a lovely walk yesterday before breakfast. The voice of the birds is like the angels calling me with their songs, and the fleecy clouds look like the white walls of our Home. Nothing makes my heart thrill like the voice of the birds; but the living chorus so seldom finds a second voice in the starved and earthly soul, which, like the withered arm, cannot stretch forth its hand till Christ bids it.” A[29] very different note, it will be observed, from that which Parthenope—and Pippa—heard from “the lark on the wing.” And so, too, with regard to the house at Embley. Mr. Nightingale had found it a plain, substantial building of the Georgian period. He enlarged it into an ornate mansion in the Elizabethan style. His wife and elder daughter were much occupied with the interest of furnishing it appropriately, and Mr. Nightingale was greatly pleased with his alterations. “Do you know,” said Florence, as she walked with an American friend on the lawn in front of the drawing-room, “what I always think when I look at that row of windows? I think how I should turn it into a hospital, and just how I should place the beds.”[16]


Embley was now a large house, with accommodation enough to receive at one time, as Florence recorded in a letter, “five able-bodied married females, with their husbands and belongings.” The large number of Mr. Nightingale's brothers and sisters, some of whom had many sons and daughters, made the family circle of the Nightingales a very wide one. Between four of the families the intercourse was particularly close—the Nightingales, the Nicholsons, the Bonham Carters, and the Samuel Smiths. One of Mrs. Nightingale's sisters married Mr. George Thomas Nicholson, of Waverley Abbey, near Farnham, Surrey.[17] Among their children, Marianne was as a girl a great friend of her cousin Florence. In 1851 Miss Nicholson married Captain (afterwards Sir) Douglas Galton, who, some few years later, became closely and helpfully connected with Miss Nightingale's work. To Mr. Nicholson's sister, “Aunt Hannah,” Florence was greatly attached. Another of Mrs. Nightingale's sisters married Mr. John Bonham Carter, of Ditcham, near Petersfield, for many years M.P. for Portsmouth. His eldest daughter, Joanna Hilary, was a particular friend of Florence Nightingale, who said that of all her contemporaries[30] within her circle, her cousin Hilary was the most gifted. One of the sons, Mr. Henry Bonham Carter, was, and is, Secretary of the Nightingale Fund, and Miss Nightingale appointed him one of her executors. Between the Nightingales and the Samuel Smiths the relationship was double. Mrs. Nightingale's brother, Mr. Samuel Smith, of Combe Hurst, Surrey, married Mary Shore, sister of Mr. Nightingale; moreover, their son, Mr. William Shore Smith, was the heir (after his mother) to the entailed land at Embley and Lea Hurst, in default of a son to Mr. Nightingale. The eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Smith, Blanche, married Arthur Hugh Clough, the poet, who, as we shall hear, was closely associated with Miss Nightingale. There were many other relations; but without being troubled to go into further details, which might tax severely even the authoress of the Pillars of the House, the reader will perceive that Florence Nightingale was well provided with uncles, aunts, and cousins.

The fact is of some significance in understanding the circumstances of her life at this time, and the nature of her struggle for independence. Emancipated or revolting daughters are sometimes pardoned or condoned if they can aver that they have few home ties. To Mrs. Nightingale it may have seemed that in the domestic intercourse within so large a family circle, any comfortable daughter might find abundance of outlet and interest. And so, in one respect at least, her daughter Florence did. The maternal instinct in her, for which she was not in her own person to find fruition, went out in almost passionate fulness to the young cousin, William Shore Smith, mentioned above. He was “her boy,” she used to say, from the day on which he was put as a baby into her arms when she was eleven years old. Up to the time of his going up to Cambridge, he spent a portion of his holidays in every year at Lea Hurst or Embley. Florence's letters at such times were full of him. She was successively his nurse, playfellow, and tutor. “The son of my heart,” she called him; “while he is with me all that is mine is his, my head and hands and time.”

It generally happens in any large family circle that there is one woman to whom all its members instinctively turn[31] when trouble comes or help is needed. Florence was the one in the Nightingale circle who filled this rôle of Sister of Mercy or Emergency Man—taking charge of one household when an aunt was away, or being dispatched to another when illness was prevalent. In 1845 she spent some time with her father's mother, who was threatened with paralysis, and whom she nursed into partial recovery. “I am very glad sometimes,” she wrote from her grandmother's sick-room to her cousin Hilary, “to walk in the valley of the shadow of death as I do here; there is something in the stillness and silence of it which levels all earthly troubles. God tempers our wings in the waters of that valley, and I have not been so happy or so thankful for a long time. And yet it is curious, in the last years of life, that we should go down-hill in order to climb up the other side; that in the struggle of the spiritual with the material part of the universe, the material should get the better, and the soul, just at the moment of becoming spiritualised for ever, should seem to become more materialised.” She made a similar reflection a little later in the same year (1845), when tending her old nurse, Gale, in her last illness. “The old lady's spirit,” she wrote, “was in her pillow-cases, and one night when she thought she was dying, and I was sitting up with her, she said, ‘Now, Miss Florence, mind you have two new cases made for this bed, for I think whoever sleeps here next year will find them comfortable.’” The death-bed of the nurse of the Queen of Nurses deserves some note. The last words of Mrs. Gale, as reported in other letters, were, “Don't wake the cook,” “Hannah, go to your work,” and “Miss Florence, be careful in going down those stairs.” If the spirit of this old servant was materialised at the moment of passing, the materialising took the form at any rate of faithful service and of consideration for others.

Florence's sympathy with those in distress is shown in the letter of condolence which she wrote to Miss Clarke upon the death of M. Fauriel:—

Embley, July 1844. I cannot help writing one word, my dear Miss Clarke, after having just received your note, though I know I cannot say anything which can be of any comfort. For there are few sorrows I do believe like your sorrow, and few[32] people so necessary to another's happiness of every instant, as he was to yours.… How sorry I am, dear Miss Clarke, that you will not think of coming to us here. Oh, do not say that you “will not cloud young people's spirits.” Do you think young people are so afraid of sorrow, or that if they have lively spirits, which I often doubt, they think these are worth anything, except in so far as they can be put at the service of sorrow, not to relieve it, which I believe can very seldom be done, but to sympathise with it? I am sure this is the only thing worth living for, and I do so believe that every tear one sheds waters some good thing into life.… Dear Miss Clarke, I wish we had you here, or at least could see you and pour out something of what our hearts are full of. That clever man of Thebes, one Cadmus, need never have existed, for any good that that cold pen and ink of his ever did, in the way of expressing oneself. The iron pen seems to make the words iron, but words are what always takes the dust off the butterfly's wings.… What nights we have had this last month, though when one thinks that there are hundreds and thousands of people suffering in the same way, and when one sees in every cottage some trouble which defies sympathy—and there is all the world putting on its shoes and stockings every morning all the same—and the wandering earth going its inexorable tread-mill through those cold-hearted stars in the eternal silence, as if nothing were the matter;—death seems less dreary than life at that rate. But I did not mean to say that, for who would know the peace of night, if it were not for the troubles of the day, “the welcome, the thrice-prayed-for, the most fair, the best beloved night,” when one feels, what at other times one only repeats to oneself, that the coffin of every hope is the cradle of a good experience, and that nobody suffers in vain. It is odd what want of faith one has for one's friends. We know what soft lots we would have made for them if we could; and that we should believe ourselves so infinitely more good-natured than God, that we cannot trust their lots with Him!

It must not be supposed, however, that Florence was in request among the family circle only at times of sad emergency. She sometimes took her place no less effectually on festive occasions. Waverley Abbey, the house of Uncle Nicholson aforesaid, was the scene of family reunions at Christmas-time; and in letters to Miss Clarke from both Mrs. Nightingale and her daughter Parthe, there is a lively account of private theatricals there in 1841. The Merchant of Venice was chosen, and Macready volunteered some assistance.[33] Parthe's artistic gifts were requisitioned, and she was “scene-painter, milliner, and cap-and-fur maker.” The powers of command and organization, which Florence was afterwards to exhibit in another field, seem to have been divined by her cousins, for she was unanimously appointed stage-manager. Miss Joanna Horner, who was one of the party, remembers that the usual little jealousies about parts and costumes used to disappear in presence of Florence. “Flo very blooming,” reported Mrs. Nightingale. “The actors were not very obstinate, and were tolerably good-tempered,” wrote Parthe, “but it was hard work for Flo. There was a Captain Elliot, fresh from China, who could by no means be brought to obey. He was Antonio, and would burst out laughing in the midst of his most pathetic bits, to the horror of Shylock, who was very earnest and hard-working.” The Lady-in-Chief in later years in the Crimea had a rather peremptory way with obstructive military gentlemen. On this occasion, however, she was perhaps satisfied with the assurance given at a well-known pantomime rehearsal, that it would “be all right on the night.” But it was not. “Your flame, Uncle Adams,”[18] continues the letter to Miss Clarke, “was very fine in Lancelot! but, oh, desperation, forgot his Duke's part in the most flagrant way, tho' Flo had been putting it into him with a sledge-hammer all the week.” In the intervals of rehearsing, the girls and their cousins danced and sang, and took large walks, sixteen together. After the performance, dancing was kept up till five in the morning. “Next day,” continues Lady Verney, “we were debating whether ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ went on with a bag or a pocket full of rye; and warming on this interesting subject, we young ones dragged in all the old people, sought recruits high and low, and had a regular election scene. Uncle Adams made a hustings speech, giving both parties hopes of his vote; then the boys slunk out after the counting, and came in with large outcries to be counted a second time, with many other corrupt practices much used at such times; then we bribed a little boy to go and make disturbances in the other faction; but you will be happy to hear the pockets had it by a large majority,[34] and we beat the base baggites out of the field. After the holloaing was over, and the alarming rushings and screamings we had made, M. Kroff (a Bohemian), who had listened and assisted, came to Mama, and said, ‘This do give me the great idea of the liberty of your land, your young people are brought up so to understand it in your domestic life; if we were to make such a noise we should have the police in with swords and cutlasses to divide us!’”


The Nightingales had as many friends without as within the family circle. Their two homes brought them in touch with county society alike in Derbyshire and in Hampshire, and acquaintanceships made in London were often ripened in the country, or vice versa. In Derbyshire their friends included the Strutts, and Richard Monckton Milnes, who afterwards took a cordial interest in the Nightingale Fund. In London, Florence and her sister went out a great deal, and saw all that was interesting to well-educated young persons. A letter from Florence to one of her aunts shows her occupied in politics, in literature, in astronomy, with something, perhaps, of the note of a blue; yet with her mind already set on a purpose in life:—

(Miss F. Nightingale to Miss Julia Smith.) June 20 [1843]. A cold east wind, forty-one days of rain in the last month! as our newspaper informs us to prove that '43 is worse than any preceding year. Du reste, the world very pleasant—people looking up in the prospect of Peel's giving them free trade and all radical measures in the course of one or two years. Carlyle's new Past and Present, a beautiful book. There are bits about “Work,” which how I should like to read with you! “Blessed is he who has found his work: let him ask no other blessedness. He has a work, a life-purpose: he has found it and will follow it.…” Sir J. Graham is going to be obliged to give up his Factories Education Bill for this year; O ye bigoted Dissenters! but I am going to hold my tongue and not “meddle with politics” or “talk about things which I don't understand,” for I tremble already in anticipation, and proceed at once to facts.… The two things we have done in London this year—the most striking things—are seeing Bouffé[35] in Clermont, the blind painter (you have seen him, so I need not descant on his entire difference from anybody else); and going under Mr. Bethune to Sir James South's at Kensington,[19] where we were from ten o'clock till three the next morning. Mr. Bethune is certainly the most good-natured man in ancient or modern history. You will fancy the first going out upon the lawn on that most beautiful of nights, with the immense fellow slung in his frame like a great steam-engine, and working as easily; and the mountains of the moon striking out like bright points in the sky, and the little stars resolving themselves into double and even quadruple stars.… Those dialogues of Galileo are so beautiful. Mr. Bethune lent them us to read in the real old first edition.

At Embley the Nightingales saw something of the Palmerstons and the Ashburtons. With Miss Louisa Stewart Mackenzie, who afterwards became the second wife of the second Lord Ashburton, Florence formed a friendship which was one of the solaces and supports of her life at this time. Other friends who played a yet larger part in her life were Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge[20] of Atherstone, near Coventry. Florence sketches the character of some of her friends in a letter to her cousin Hilary (April 1846):—

Mrs. Keith, Miss Dutton, and Louisa Mackenzie, may be shortly described as the respective representatives of the Soul, the Mind, and the Heart. The first has one's whole worship, the second one's greatest admiration, and the third one's most lively interest. Mrs. Bracebridge may be described as all three; the Human Trinity in one; and never do I see her, without feeling that she is eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. Many a plan, which disappointment has thinned off into a phantom in my mind, takes form and shape and fair reality when touched by her Ithuriel's spear (for there is an Ithuriel's spear for good as well as for evil).

Dr. Richard Dawes, Dean of Hereford, who was an educational reformer, and Dr. Fowler of Salisbury, who anticipated the open-air treatment, and was otherwise a man of marked originality, were among those whose friendship she valued. If Florence Nightingale was to find her[36] home life empty and unprofitable, it was not for lack of congenial friends.

She saw much, too, of general society, and Embley was often the scene of entertaining. We get a glimpse of its parties from an invitation which Mr. Nightingale sent to Miss Clarke (Oct. 1843) to bring her friend Leopold von Ranke with her on a visit:—

Pray send him a sly line to the effect that he will find Notabilities here on the 24th—to wit, the Speaker (Shaw Lefevre), the ex-Foreign Secretary (Palmerston), the Catholic Weld (future owner of Lulworth and nephew of the Cardinal of that ilk), and mayhap a Queen's Equerry or two, a Baron of the Exchequer (Rolfe), an Inspector, or rather Engineering Architect, of the new prisons,[21] and a couple of Baronets. He should think well on this. Yours, quizzically, but faithfully,W. E. N.

“Papa is quizzing the Baronets,” added Florence, “who are not wise ones. Provided you come, I care for nobody, no not I, and shall be quite satisfied. As M. de Something said to the Staël, ‘Nous aurons à nous deux de l'esprit pour quarante; vous pour quatre et moi pour zéro.’”

There were return invitations to great houses, and occasionally Florence retails their gossip, or her own reflections, for the benefit of cousins or aunts:—

(To Miss Hilary Bonham Carter.) 1845 (or early '46). What is the secret of Lady Jocelyn's sublime placidity? I never saw anything so lovely as she is, and she has lived four-and-twenty years of more excitement, I suppose, than ever fell to anybody's lot but an actress, all the young peerage having proposed to her. What gives her such a fulness of life now and makes her find enough in herself? It is not that she talks to Lord Palmerston or Lord Jocelyn, for she never does; and though she is very fond of her baby, she told me herself she did not care to play with it. Perhaps you will say it is want of earnestness, but, good gracious, my dear, if earnestness breaks one heart, who is fulfilling most the Creation's end—she who is breaking her heart, or this woman who has kept her serenity in the midst of excitement and her simplicity in unbounded admiration? The Palmerstons are certainly the most good-natured people under the stars to their guests.


We have been since to Sir William Heathcote's to meet the Ashburtons. I wish you had been there for the sake of the pictures, and also for the sake of the artistical dinner which, even I became aware, was such a dinner and such plate as has seldom blessed my housekeeping eyes. The Palmerstons, too, have had down all their pictures from London—such a Rembrandt, Pilate washing his hands. Lord Ashburton does not look much like a settler of a Boundary question.[22] She is an American, and we swore eternal friendship upon Boston; I having, you know, much curious information to give her upon that city and its inhabitants. She had a raspberry-tart of diamonds upon her forehead worth seeing. Then Mesmerism, and when we parted, we had got up so high into Vestiges[23] that I could not get down again, and was obliged to go off as an angel. The Ashburtons were the only people asked to meet the Queen at Strathfieldsaye (of her society). It was the most entire crash ever heard of, and the not asking the Palmerstons considered almost a personal insult; but they say the old Duke now cares for nothing but flattery, and asks nobody but masters of hounds. He almost ill-treated the Speaker. After dinner, they all stood at ease about the drawing-room, and behaved like so many soldiers on parade. The Queen did her very best to enliven the gloom, but was at last over-powered by numbers, gagged, and her hands tied. The only amusement was seeing Albert taught to miss at billiards.


Florence's remark that she would only provide the zéro of esprit to Miss Clarke's quatre, is by no means to be taken literally. She was attractive, and she attracted both men and women. She talked well, and often laid herself out to interest her companions, and sometimes confounded them with learning. In 1844 Julia Ward Howe was in England with her husband, Dr. Howe, and they visited the Nightingales at Embley. “Florence,” writes Mrs. Howe in her reminiscences, “was rather elegant than beautiful; she was tall and graceful of figure, her countenance mobile and expressive, her conversation most interesting.”[24] A reminiscence of a later date records an encounter with Sir Henry de la[38] Bèche, the pioneer of the Geological Map of England. Warrenton Smythe and Sir Henry dined at Mr. Nightingale's, and Florence sat between them. “She began by drawing Sir Henry out on geology, and charmed him by the boldness and breadth of her views, which were not common then. She accidentally proceeded into regions of Latin and Greek, and then our geologist had to get out of it. She was fresh from Egypt, and began talking with W. Smythe about the inscriptions, etc., where he thought he could do pretty well; but when she began quoting Lepsius, which she had been studying in the original, he was in the same case as Sir Henry. When the ladies left the room, Sir Henry said to Smythe, ‘A capital young lady that, if she hadn't floored me with her Latin and Greek.’”[25] “I have been dowagering out with Papa,” wrote Florence to Miss Clarke (March 1843), “in the big coach to a formal dinner-party, where, however, Mr. Gerard Noel and I were very thick, he inquiring tenderly after you and your whereabouts.”

see caption

Florence Nightingale as a girl: about 1845
from a drawing by Miss Hilary Bonham Carter

Of Miss Nightingale's personal appearance in early womanhood, there are pen-pictures by very competent hands. Lady Lovelace, in her verses entitled A Portrait, Taken from Life, emphasises a certain spiritual aloofness in her friend:—

I saw her pass, and paused to think!
She moves as one on whom to gaze
With calm and holy thoughts, that link
The soul to God in prayer and praise.
She walks as if on heaven's brink,
Unscathed thro' life's entangled maze.
I heard her soft and silver voice
Take part in songs of harmony,
Well framed to gladden and rejoice;
Whilst her ethereal melody
Still kept my soul in wav'ring choice,
'Twixt smiles and tears of ecstasy.…
I deem her fair,—yes, very fair!
Yet some there are who pass her by,
Unmoved by all the graces there.
Her face doth raise no burning sigh,
Nor hath her slender form the glare
Which strikes and rivets every eye.
Her grave, but large and lucid eye,[39]
Unites a boundless depth of feeling
With Truth's own bright transparency,
Her singleness of heart revealing;
But still her spirit's history
From light and curious gaze concealing.…

Mrs. Gaskell's picture in prose gives some lighter touches. “She is tall; very straight and willowy in figure; thick and shortish rich brown hair; very delicate complexion; grey eyes, which are generally pensive and drooping, but when they choose can be the merriest eyes I ever saw; and perfect teeth, making her smile the sweetest I ever saw. Put a long piece of soft net, and tie it round this beautifully shaped head, so as to form a soft white framework for the full oval of her face (for she had the toothache, and so wore this little piece of drapery), and dress her up in black silk, high up to the long, white round throat, and with a black shawl on, and you may get near an idea of her perfect grace and lovely appearance. She is so like a saint.”[26] She dressed becomingly; but had a saint's carelessness in such things, somewhat to her elder sister's despair. “Make Flo wear her white silk frock to-night,” she wrote on one occasion to her mother. Many years later, when stores and comforts were being sent out to the East under cover to the Lady-in-Chief, Lady Verney insinuated “one little gown for Flo,” and who will not love her for it? “When in 1849 she started to winter in the East, her mother says”—I quote again from Mrs. Gaskell—“they equipped her en princesse, and when she came back she had little besides the clothes she had on; she had given away her linen, etc., right and left to those who wanted it.”


Those who have social gifts often find sufficient happiness in their exercise; but Florence, though she sometimes enjoyed the intercourse of intellectual society, reproached herself all the while for doing so. She felt increasingly that she had other gifts which were more properly hers, and that[40] the life of society was a distraction into the wrong path. She found even the London season more congenial than the life of the hospitable country-house. “People talk of London gaieties,” she wrote to Miss Nicholson (“Aunt Hannah”); “but there you can at least have your mornings to yourself. To me the country is the place of ‘row.’ Since we came home in September, how long do you think we have been alone? Not one fortnight. A country-house is the real place for dissipation. Sometimes I think that everybody is hard upon me, that to be for ever expected to be looking merry and saying something lively is more than can be asked mornings, noons, and nights.”

When she was alone with her parents and her sister, she hardly found the life at home more satisfying. This was partly, as she confessed in many a page of self-examination, the result of her own shortcomings. “Ask me,” she wrote to “Aunt Hannah,” “to do something for your sake, something difficult, and you will see that I shall do it regularly, which is for me the most difficult thing of all.” Let those who reproach themselves for a desultoriness, seemingly incurable, take heart again from the example of Florence Nightingale! No self-reproach recurs more often in her private outpourings at this time than that of irregularity and even sloth. She found it difficult to rise early in the morning; she prayed and wrestled to be delivered from desultory thoughts, from idle dreaming, from scrappiness in unselfish work. She wrestled, and she won. When her capacities had found full scope in congenial work, nothing was more fixed and noteworthy in her life and work than regularity, precision, method, persistence. But in part, the failings with which she reproached herself were the fault of her circumstances. The fact of the two country homes militated against steady work in either. Her parents were not, indeed, careless or thoughtless beyond others in their station, but rather the reverse. Mr. Nightingale was a careful landlord and zealous in county business, and his wife took some interest, as I have already said, in village schools and charities. But to Florence's parents, these things were rather graces rightly incidental to their station, than the main business of life. Florence's more[41] eager temperament and larger capacity craved for greater consistency in the energies of life. She was expected to play the part of Lady Bountiful one day, and to be equally ready to play that of Lady Graceful the next. A friend who visited at Lea Hurst recalls how Florence would often be missing in the evening, and on search being made she would be found in the village, sitting by the bedside of some sick person, and saying she could not sit down to a grand seven o'clock dinner while this was going on.[27] But by the time she had schooled herself to any regularity of work at Lea Hurst, the hour had come for moving to Embley. By the time she had settled down to work amongst her poor at Embley, the hour of the London season had struck. “I should be very glad,” she wrote to her aunt from Embley, “if I could have been left here when they went to London, as there is so much to be done, but as that would not be heard of, London is really my place of rest.”

The companionship which Florence had at home was sometimes wearisome to her. The sisters, as we have already seen, were not in full sympathy. The parents were not unintellectual persons, but, again, much the reverse. Mrs. Nightingale was a woman of bright intelligence, and of much social charm. Mr. Nightingale was a highly intellectual man, sensitive, too, and refined. He shot and hunted, but he was not ardently devoted to either sport, and was interested in many things. Perhaps in too many, and yet not enough in any. Florence Nightingale in her later years used sometimes to describe with a twinkle of affectionate humour the routine of a morning in her home life as a girl. Mama, we may suppose, was busy with housekeeping cares. Papa was very fond of reading aloud, and in order to interest his daughters, would take them through the whole of The Times, with many a comment, no doubt, by the way. “Now, for Parthe,” Miss Nightingale used to say, “the morning's reading did not matter; she went on with her drawing; but for me, who had no such cover, the thing was boring to desperation.” “To be read aloud to,” she wrote, “is the most miserable exercise of the human intellect. Or rather, is it any exercise at all? It is like lying on one's back, with[42] one's hands tied, and having liquid poured down one's throat. Worse than that, because suffocation would immediately ensue, and put a stop to this operation. But no suffocation would stop the other.”[28] As the younger daughter of a busily efficient mother, Florence was not often entrusted with household duties; but on one occasion at any rate, she was left in command, and that, during the important season of jam-making. “My reign is now over,” she wrote to her cousin Hilary, who was an art-student (Dec. 1845); “angels and ministers of grace defend me from another! though I cannot but view my fifty-six pots with the proud satisfaction of an Artist, my head a little on one side, inspecting the happy effect of my works with more feeling of the Beautiful than Parthe ever had in hers.” And even housekeeping brought obstinate questionings with it to Florence. She describes a bout of it on another occasion in a letter to Madame Mohl (July 1847):—

I am up to my chin in linen and glass, and I am very fond of housekeeping. In this too-highly-educated, too-little-active age it, at least, is a practical application of our theories to something—and yet, in the middle of my lists, my green lists, brown lists, red lists, of all my instruments of the ornamental in culinary accomplishments which I cannot even divine the use of, I cannot help asking in my head, Can reasonable people want all this? Is all that china, linen, glass necessary to make man a Progressive animal? Is it even good Political Economy (query, for “good,” read “atheistical” Pol. Econ.?) to invent wants in order to supply employment? Or ought not, in these times, all expenditure to be reproductive? “And a proper stupid answer you'll get,” says the best Versailles service; “so go and do your accounts; there is one of us cracked.”


Florence was an affectionate and dutiful daughter. She obeyed and yielded for many years. She strove hard to think that her duty lay at home, and that the trivial round and common task would furnish all that she had any right, before God or man, to ask. But as the sense of a vocation elsewhere strengthened and deepened in her mind, she may[43] well have thought that, as her elder sister was contented to stay at home, a life of activity outside might for the other daughter not be inconsistent with affection for her parents.

She had, indeed, intellectual interests of her own. She read a great deal in English, French, German; in devotional works, in poetry, history, philosophy. And what she read she marked, and inwardly digested. A copy (unfortunately not complete) is preserved of the first edition of Browning's Paracelsus, which she annotated with remarks, paraphrases, and illustrative cases as she read. The first scene of the poem—“Paracelsus Aspires”—contains many a passage which aroused a sympathetic echo in her heart. The key-note is struck early. “Pursuing an aim not to be found in life,” is her comment, “is its true misery.” Then she kept commonplace-books, in which, under heads alphabetically arranged—such as Age of Reason, Bigotry, Creeds, Death, Education, and so forth—she copied out passages which struck her. She was accumulating stores of information and reflection. In some remarks upon Lacordaire in one of her note-books I find this passage copied out:—

I desire for a considerable time only to lead a life of obscurity and toil, for the purpose of allowing whatever I may have received of God to ripen, and turning it some day to the glory of His Name. Nowadays people are too much in a hurry both to produce and consume themselves. It is only in retirement, in silence, in meditation, that are formed the men who are called to exercise an influence on society.

For her own part, as her powers of reflection were strengthened, so did her sense of a vocation become more insistent with every year. In some autobiographical notes, Miss Nightingale records May 7, 1852, as the date at which she was conscious of “a call from God to be a saviour”; but the thought of devoting herself to be a nurse came much earlier. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, in the reminiscences quoted above, describes how during the visit of herself and her husband to Embley in 1844, Florence had taken Dr. Howe aside and asked him this question: “If I should determine to study nursing, and to devote my life to that profession, do you think it would be a dreadful thing?” Dr. Howe, it will be remembered, was of wide repute as a philanthropist,[44] and Miss Nightingale thought much of his opinion. It was favourable to her wish. “Not a dreadful thing at all,” he replied; “I think it would be a very good thing.” “My idea of heaven,” she wrote a little time afterwards, “is when my dear Aunt Hannah and I and my boy Shore and all of us shall be together, nursing the sick people who are left behind, and giving each other sympathies beside, and our Saviour in the midst of us, giving us strength.” But, meanwhile, she hoped to realize some little piece of the heaven on earth. She pursued other inquiries, laid her plans, kept her own counsel, and then made a first bid for freedom. The nature of her plans, the nipping of them in the bud by maternal frost, and her following dejection are told in a letter to her cousin Hilary (Dec. 11, 1845):—

Well, my dearest, I am not yet come to the great thing I wanted to say. I have always found that there was so much truth in the suggestion that you must dig for hidden treasures in silence or you will not find it; and so I dug after my poor little plan in silence, even from you. It was to go to be a nurse at Salisbury Hospital for these few months to learn the “prax.”; and then to come home and make such wondrous intimacies at West Wellow, under the shelter of a rhubarb powder and a dressed leg; let alone that no one could ever say to me again, your health will not stand this or that. I saw a poor woman die before my eyes this summer because there was no one but fools to sit up with her, who poisoned her as much as if they had given her arsenic. And then I had such a fine plan for those dreaded latter days (which I have never dreaded), if I should outlive my immediate ties, of taking a small house in West Wellow.—Well, I do not like much talking about it, but I thought something like a Protestant Sisterhood, without vows, for women of educated feelings, might be established. But there have been difficulties about my very first step, which terrified Mama. I do not mean the physically revolting parts of a hospital, but things about the surgeons and nurses which you may guess. Even Mrs. Fowler[29] threw cold water upon it; and nothing will be done this year at all events, and I do not believe—ever; and no advantage that I see comes of my living on, excepting that one becomes less and less of a young lady every year, which is only a negative one. You will laugh, dear, at the whole plan, I daresay; but no one but the mother of it knows how precious[45] an infant idea becomes; nor how the soul dies between the destruction of one and the taking up of another. I shall never do anything, and am worse than dust and nothing. I wonder if our Saviour were to walk the earth again, and I were to go to Him and ask, whether He would send me back to live this life again, which crushes me into vanity and deceit. Oh for some strong thing to sweep this loathsome life into the past.

And so ended for the time the dash of the caged bird for liberty.




Though the outward man may perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.—St. Paul.

The failure of her plan left Florence in a state of great dejection. “The day of personal hopes and fears,” she wrote, “is over for me. Now I dread and desire no more.” This was but a passing mood; and very soon, as we shall hear in the next chapter, she resumed, with increased determination, her struggle for freedom and self-expression in a life of action. But for the moment, and at many recurring moments in later years, the dejection was intense. It was not merely the disappointment of an eager mind denied its appropriate energy; it was the exceeding bitter cry of an intensely religious soul, tempted in its perplexity to ask, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

In some autobiographical notes Miss Nightingale recorded under the year 1843 “an illness and an acquaintance I made with a woman to whom all unseen things seemed real, and eternal things near, awakened me” [from dreaming]. The woman to whom she referred was, it may safely be conjectured, Miss Hannah Nicholson. They met once or twice a year—when Miss Nicholson visited Embley or Miss Nightingale stayed with Miss Nicholson's brother at Waverley. At other times they exchanged a voluminous correspondence, and this was almost entirely devoted to religious experiences[47] and speculations. “Aunt Hannah” had inexhaustible sympathy with her self-torturing young friend. She did not chide or discourage Florence; but the burden of her message was the claim of the spiritual life, the message of Paul to the Corinthians. “Your whole life,” wrote Florence in one of many bursts of affectionate gratitude to Miss Nicholson, “seems to be love, and you always find words in your heart which, without the pretension of enlightening, yet are like a clearing up to me. You always seem to rest on the heart of the divine Teacher, and to participate in His mysteries.” “Your letters,” she said on another occasion, “stay by me and warm me when the dreams of life come one after another, clouding and covering the realities of the unseen.” To this sympathetic and (in some limited respects) kindred soul, Florence poured out unreservedly the experiences of her spiritual life; as also, sometimes, though with more conscious art of literary expression, to Miss Clarke in Paris.


A few letters, selected from a great number, will serve to trace the course of her religious thoughts. They resumed, it will be seen, the spiritual experiences and convictions of the saints who have served mankind. The Reality of the Unseen World is the subject of a letter to Miss Clarke (August 1846), in which, after a page of family news, she continues:—

But I think you must be tired of all this, for I fancy that you live much more in the supernatural than the natural world. I always believe in Homer; and in St. Paul's “cloud of witnesses”; and in the old Italian pictures, which have a first story, where the Unseen live au premier, with a two-pair back, where the Père Eternel's shadow is half seen peeping out, and a ground floor where poor mortals live, but still have a connexion with the establishment above stairs. I like those books, where the Invisible communicates freely with the Visible Kingdom; not that they ever come up to one's idea, which is always so much brighter than the execution (for the word is only the shadow cast by the light of the thought); but they are suggestive. I always believe in a multitude of spirits inhabiting the same house with ourselves; we are only the entresol, quite the most insignificant of its lodgers, and too busy with our pursuit of daily[48] bread, too much confined with hard work, and too full of the struggle with the material world, to visit the glorious beings immediately about us—whom we shall see, when the present candle of our earthly reason is put out, which blinds us just as the candle end, left burning after one is in bed, long prevents us from seeing the world without, lit up by the full moon. It trembles and flickers and sinks into its socket, and then we catch a bright stripe of moonlight shining on the floor; but it flares up again, and the silvery stream is gone “as if it could not be, as if it had not been,” and we can see nothing but the candle, and hardly imagine any other light—till at last it goes quite out, and the flood of moonlight rushes into the room, and every pane of the casement window, and every ivy leaf without, are stamped, as it were, upon the floor, and a whole world revealed to us, which that flickering candle was the means of concealing from us. This is what Jesus Christ meant, I suppose, when He said that He must go away in order to be with His friends in His spirit, that He would be much nearer to them after death than in the flesh. In the flesh, we were separated from our friends by their going into the next room only—a door, a partition divided us; but what can separate two souls? Often I fancy that we can perceive the presence of a good spirit communicating thoughts to us: are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto us? When Jesus Christ warns us not to despise any one, because that in Heaven their angels do always behold the face of His Father, perhaps He thought that our beloved ones, who are gone, might be these our “angels,” who must therefore have communion with men.

It is here, where a cold and false life of conventionalism and prejudices and frivolity is often all that reaches our outward senses, that we are sometimes baffled in seeing into the life which lies beneath; it is here, amidst the tempers and little vexations, which are the shadows that dim the brightest intercourse, it is here that we fail sometimes in having intimate communion with souls, and we stop short at the dead coverings; but between the soul which is free, and our soul, what barrier, what restraint can there be? Human sympathy is indeed necessary to our happiness of every moment, and the absence of it makes an awful void in our life. Every room becomes a grave, and every book we used to read together a monument to the one we love. But some one says, that we need an idée merveilleuse to preserve us from the busy devils, which imagination here is always conjuring up. This idée merveilleuse, I think, is the idea of the loving presence of spirits. Those dear ones are safe, and yet with us still, for truly do I believe that these senses of ours are what veil from us, not discover to us, the world around (which is[49] sometimes revealed to us in dreams, or in moments of excitement, as at the point of death, either our own or a friend's, or by mesmerism, or by faith). Faith is the real eye and ear of the soul, and as it would be impossible to describe the harmony and melody of Music to one who was born deaf, or to make a blind man perceive the beauty of the effects of colour, so without faith the spiritual world is as much a hidden one to the soul as the Art of Painting to the blind man. On a dark night the moon, when at last she rises, reveals to us, just at our feet, a world of objects, of the presence of which we were not aware before. We see the river sparkling in the moonbeams close beside us, and the tall shadows sleeping quietly on the grass, and the sharp relief of the architectural cornices, and the strong outline of the lights and shades, so well defined that we can scarcely believe that a moment ago, and we did not see them. What shall we say if, one day, the moon rises upon our spiritual world, and we see close at hand, ready to hold the most intimate communion with us, those spirits, whom we had loved and mourned as lost to us? We are like the blind men by the wayside, and ought to sit and cry, Lord that we may receive our sight! And, when we do receive it, we shall perhaps find that we require no transporting into another world, to become aware of the immediate presence of an Infinite Spirit, and of other lesser ones whom we thought gone. What we require is sight, not change of place, I believe.

The struggle which absorbed Florence's mind and heart was to establish some harmony between her dealings in the world of sense and her communion with the unseen world. She reproached herself for impatience, for selfishness, for lack of confidence in the good time of God. Happy are they who have no more occasion than she to deem themselves unprofitable servants! But the condition of attainment to comparative sinlessness is, I suppose, the Conviction of Sin; and this was intensely present to Florence Nightingale. “I have read over your letters many times again and again since I have been here,” she wrote from Tapton (her grandmother Shore's house) in 1845. “Ah, my dear Aunt Hannah, you are like the white swan on your cool, fresh, blue lake, rocked to peace and rest by the sweet winds of your faith and love, and you cannot be dragged down into our busy chicken-yard of struggling, scratting life.[30] You do not know what it is, when one has sinned with such[50] aggravation as I have. No one has had such advantages, and I have sinned with all these, and after having been made to know what sin was, and what my obligations were. No one has so grieved the Holy Spirit. I have sinned against my conviction, and, as it were, standing before God's judgment-seat.” In many of Miss Nightingale's religious outpourings, both in letters and in private diaries, there is a note which borders on the morbid; but the danger-point is averted, sometimes by practical good sense, and sometimes by a saving sense of humour. The letter, just given, was soon followed by another (from Embley, Oct. 1845), containing this account of a scene at the bedside of her favourite little cousin:—“One night when I was reading to Shore the verse about the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and we were agreeing that the temptations of the flesh were liking a great deal of play and no work, and lying long bed, and the temptations of the world liking to be praised and admired, and be a general favourite, and so on, more than anything else, and we were both very much affected, he said before I left him, ‘Now I may lie in bed to-morrow, and you won't call me at six, will you?’ And I too went away to dream about a great many things which I had much better not think about. Oh, how I did laugh at the results of all our feelings! To think and to be are two such different things!”

To bring thought and action into harmony, to make the presence of the Unseen a guide through the path of this present world: that is the problem of the practically religious life. To Florence Nightingale, communion with the Unseen meant something deeper, richer, fuller, more positive than the fear of God. The fear of God is the beginning, but not the end, of wisdom, for perfect love casteth out fear. It was for the love of God as an active principle in her mind, constraining all her deeds, that she strove. When she was conscious of falling away from this grace, she knew the pains of hell, here and now, as the state of a soul in estrangement from the Eternal goodness:—

(To Miss Nicholson.) Embley, Christmas Eve [undated]. Think of me to-morrow at the Sacrament. I have not taken it since I last took it with you, except once, with a poor woman[51] on her death-bed. Time has sped wearily with me since then, Aunt Hannah. If, when the plough goes over the soul, there were always the hand of the Sower there to scatter the seed after it, who would regret? But how often the seed-time has passed, it is too late, the harrow has gone over, the time of harvest has come and the harvest is not.… Give me your thoughts to-morrow, my dear Aunt Hannah; I want them sadly; and take me with you to the Throne of Grace. Bless me too, as poor Esau said. I have so felt with him, and cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, Bless me, even me also, O my Father; but He never has yet, and I have not deserved that He should.

(To Miss Nicholson, May 1846.) “The sorrows of hell compassed me about.” We learn to know what these are beforehand, when we cannot command our thoughts to pray, when all our omissions give themselves form and life, and shut us up within a wall over which there is no looking, no return: when they hold us down with a resistless power, and we are hemmed in with our remembrances, like a cell compassing us about. What can the future hell be other than this? The Unspeakable Presence may be joy and peace unspeakable, but it may be a Horror, a Dweller on our Threshold, a Spirit of Fear to the stricken conscience. Jesus Christ prayed on the Cross not for life or safety, but only for the light of His countenance: Why hast Thou forsaken me? And all sorrows disappear before that one. Let those who have felt it say if it is not so, and if there is any sorrow like unto that sorrow. How willingly would we exchange it for pain, which we almost welcome as a proof of His care and attention. Grief in itself is no evil; as making the Unseen, the Eternal, and the Infinite present to our consciousness, it is rather a good. But when all one's imaginations are wandering out of one's reach, then one realizes the future state of punishment even in this world. Pray that He will not leave my soul in hell. How little can be done under the spirit of fear; it is the very sentence pronounced upon the serpent, “Upon thy belly shalt thou go all the days of thy life.” Oh, if any one thinks that, in the repentance of fear, this is the time for the soul to open to the Infinite goodness, to the spirit of love and of power and of a sound mind, in the heart's death to live and love,—let him try how hard it is to collect oneself out of distraction—let him feel the woes of saying To-morrow, when God has said To-day; and then when he has found how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem all the uses of the world, let him try with a dead heart to live unto God, to love with all his strength when all energy to love is gone.

The state of perfect love, expressing itself in perfect[52] rightness of thought and deed, may be unattainable on earth, but nothing lower than the search for this ideal can satisfy the yearnings of a soul such as was Florence Nightingale's. She had the Hunger for Righteousness. “The crown of righteousness!” she wrote to Miss Nicholson (May 1846). “That word always strikes me more than anything in the Bible. Strange that not happiness, not rest, not forgiveness, not glory, should have been the thought of that glorious man's mind, when at the eve of the last and greatest of his labours; all desires so swallowed up in the one great craving after righteousness that, at the end of all his struggles, it was mightier within him than ever, mightier even than the desire of peace. How can people tell one to dwell within a good conscience, when the chief of all the apostles so panted after righteousness that he considered it the last best gift, unattainable on earth, to be bestowed in Heaven?”

To do All for the Love of God was the ideal which she sought to attain. “The foundation of all must be the love of God. That the sufferings of Christ's life were intense, who doubts? but the happiness must also have been intense. Only think of the happiness of working, and working successfully too, and with no doubts as to His path, and with no alloy of vanity or love of display or glory, but with the ecstasy of single-heartedness! All that I do is always poisoned by the fear that I am not doing it in simplicity and godly sincerity.” This was one of the constant dreads throughout her life. When she had become famous, and was praised and courted by the popular breath, she shrank, with an abhorrence which some may have considered almost morbid and which was certainly foreign to the fashion of the world, from any avoidable publicity. This was no pose or affectation; it was part of her religion. It was a counsel dictated by her earnest striving to dissociate her work for God from any taint of worldliness.


The world which came to owe much to the life and example of Florence Nightingale, owes something to Miss[53] Nicholson, whose gentle sympathy brought to her young friend much strength and peace. But the world may also be glad, I think, that Miss Nightingale's religious thought worked itself out in the end on lines of her own. Florence Nightingale has been enrolled by the popular voice among the saints; but there are saints and saints—saints contemplative or mystic, and saints active and ministering. In all ages of the world there have been godly women whose passion of religious spirit has led them to lives of professional pieties, rather than of practical service; who have spent in ecstasies of pity, or in tortures of self-abasement at the foot of the Cross, powers which might have gone to redeem and save the world. Florence Nightingale had, as we have sufficiently seen, a profound sense of personal religion. She felt, as all the saints must feel, that a religious life means a state of the soul; but she attained also to the conviction, which became ever stronger within her, that a state of the soul can only be approved by its fruits, and that thus the Service of God is the Service of Man:—

(To Miss Nicholson.) Embley, Sept. 24, [1846]. I am almost heart-broken to leave Lea Hurst. There are so many duties there which lie near at hand, and I could be well content to do them there all the days of my life. I have left so many poor friends there whom I shall never see again, and so much might have been done for them.… I feel my sympathies are with Ignorance and Poverty. The things which interest me interest them; we are alike in expecting little from life, much from God; we are taken up with the same objects.… My imagination is so filled with the misery of this world that the only thing in which to labour brings any return, seems to me helping and sympathizing there; and all that poets sing of the glories of this world appears to me untrue: all the people I see are eaten up with care or poverty or disease. I know that it was God who created the good, and man the evil, which was not the will of God, but the necessary consequence of His leaving free-will to man. I know that misery is the alphabet of fire, in which history, with its warning hand, writes in flaming letters the consequences of Evil (the Kingdom of Man), and that without its glaring light, we should never see the path back into the Kingdom of God, or heed the directing guide-posts. But the judgments of nature (the law of God), as she goes her mighty, solemn, inflexible march, sweeps sometimes so fearfully over[54] man that though it is the triumph, not the defeat of God's truth and of His laws, that falsehood against them must work misery, and misery is perhaps here the strongest proof that His loving hand is present,—yet all our powers, hopes, and fears must, it seems to me, be engrossed by doing His work for its relief. Life is no holiday game, nor is it a clever book, nor is it a school of instruction, nor a valley of tears; but it is a hard fight, a struggle, a wrestling with the Principle of Evil, hand to hand, foot to foot. Every inch of the way must be disputed. The night is given us to take breath, to pray, to drink deep at the fountain of power. The day, to use the strength which has been given us, to go forth to work with it till the evening. The Kingdom of God is coming; and “Thy Kingdom come” does not mean only “My salvation come.”

“To find out what we can do,” she wrote as an annotation in Browning's Paracelsus, “one's individual place, as well as the General End, is man's task. To serve man for God's sake, not man's, will prevent failure from being disappointment.” Florence Nightingale sought then to save her soul by serving others.

It was by this same test of practical service that she came to try and to weigh the various forms of religious doctrine. Her father was, as I have said, a Unitarian, and several other members of her family circle were of the same persuasion. But she and some others of that circle conformed in practice to the services of the English Church. And so, in some degree, Miss Nightingale continued to conform to the end of her life; though, as we shall find later on, she departed widely from the doctrines of the Church as ordinarily received, did not care about “going to church,” and framed a creed of her own. But she always had a tolerant mind for any faith that issued in good works, and an impatience with any that did not. It is for this reason that she seemed to be all things to all men in religious matters. Her mission to the Crimea involved, as we shall learn, some religious bickerings. Protestants thought her too indulgent to Roman Catholics, and Catholics were sore that she did not go further with them. But her real attitude is perfectly clear, and was entirely consistent. If she looked with a favouring eye on Roman Catholics, it was on account, not of their dogmas, but of their deeds. Two letters to[55] Madame Mohl, ten years apart in date, suggest what was always Miss Nightingale's point of view:—

Lea Hurst, Sept. [1841]. We are very anxious to hear, dearest Miss Clarke, how you are going on, and how Mrs. Clarke is, some day when you are able to write. We are just returned from the Leeds Consecration, and a more curious or interesting sight I never saw. Imagine a procession of 400 clergymen, all in their white robes, with scarfs of blue and black and fur and even scarlet, so that I thought some of them were cardinals, headed by the Archbishop of York,[31] the Bishop of Ripon, &c., and most curious of all the Bishop of New Jersey to whom Dr. Hook (who is,—you know, perhaps,—the Puseyite vicar of Leeds) had written to ask him to come over from America, expressly to preach the consecration sermon. Imagine all this procession, entering the church, repeating the 24th Ps.—and then filling the space before the altar and the Transept—and all responding aloud through the service, so that the roll and echo of their responses through the Transept, without being able to see them, was the most striking thing I ever heard. It was quite a gathering-place for Puseyites from all parts of England. Papa heard them debating, whether they should have lighted candles before the Altar, but they decided no, because the Bishop of Ripon would not like it—however they had them in the evening and the next morning when he was gone—and Dr. Hook has the regular Catholic jerk in making the genuflexion every time he approaches the altar. The church is a most magnificent one, and every one has contributed their best to it, with a true Catholic spirit; one gave the beautiful painted window, another the Correggio for the Altar piece, the Queen Dowager the Altar-cloth, another the bells, &c., &c. Dr. Hook gives a service every morning and evening at ½ p. 7, and the Sacrament every Sunday; and the aisle is all occupied by open seats. During the consecration I wished to have been a clergyman, but when Mrs. Gaskell[32] (whom I was with, she is a good Tory and half a Puseyite and withal the most general favourite and generally lenient person in England)—when she and I came down afterwards for the Sacrament, I could not help looking in the faces of the clergymen, for the impression I expected to see, as they walked down the aisle, and wandered about, (this immense crowd) after the Sacrament—and oh! I was woefully disappointed—they looked so stupid; and I could not help thinking, If you had been Catholics, you would[56] all have been on your knees during the service, without minding your fine gowns and the cold stones.

Embley, Feb. 7 [1851].… I suppose you know how the two churches have been convulsing themselves in England in a manner discreditable to themselves and ridiculous to others. The Anglican Ch. screamed and struggled as if they were taking away something of hers, the Catholic Ch. sang and shouted as if she had conquered England—neither the one nor the other has happened. Only a good many people (in our Church) found out they were Catholics and went to Rome, and a good many other people found out they were Protestants, which they never knew before, and left the Puseyite pen, which has now lost half its sheep. At Oxford the Puseyite volcano is extinct.… You know what a row there will be this Session in Parliament about it. The most moderate wish for a Concordat, but even these say that we must strip the R.C. Bishops of their new titles. Many think the present Gov. will go out upon it, because they won't do enough to satisfy the awakened prejudices of dear John Bull. I used to think it was a mere selfish quarrel between red stockings and lawn sleeves; but not a bit of it; it's a real popular feeling. One would think that all our religion was political by the way we talk, and so I believe it is. From the rising of the sun until the going down of the same, you hear our clergy talking of nothing but Bishops versus Vicars General—never a word of different plans of education, prisons, penitentiaries, and so on. One would think we were born ready made as to education, but that Art made a Church.

I feel little zeal in pulling down one Church or building up another, in making Bishops or unmaking them. If they would make us, our Faith would spring up of itself, and then we shouldn't want either Anglican Ch. or R.C. Church to make it for us. But, bless my soul, people are just as ignorant now of any law in the human mind as they were in Socrates' time. We have learnt the physical laws since then; but mental laws—why, people don't even acknowledge their existence. They talk of grace and divine influence,—why, if it's an arbitrary gift from God, how unkind of Him not to give it before! And if it comes by certain laws, why don't we find them out? But people in England think it quite profane to talk of finding them out, and they pray “That it may please Thee to have mercy upon all men,” when I should knock you down if you were to say to me “That it should please you to have mercy upon your boy.” I never had any training; and training to be called “training,” (as we train the fingers to play[57] scales and shakes)—I doubt whether anybody ever gets from other people, because they don't know how to give it according to any certain laws. I wish everybody would write as far as they can A Short Account of God's Dealings with them, like the old Puritans, and then perhaps we should find out at last what are God's ways in His goings on and what are not.

Arthur Stanley (afterwards the Dean) once asked her to use her influence in preventing a friend of his and of hers from taking the step, supposed to be imminent, of joining the Roman Communion. In a long reply which Miss Nightingale wrote with great care (Nov. 26, 1852), she promised to do what she could, but explained that this might not be much. She herself remained in the Anglican Communion “because she was born there,” and because the Roman Church offered some things which she personally did not want. She feared their friend might consider that such arguments as she could urge against the Roman Church applied equally against the Anglican. And, on the other hand, she had never concealed her opinion that the Roman Communion offered advantages to women which the Church of England (at that time) did not. “The Catholic orders,” she wrote, “offered me work, training for that work, sympathy and help in it, such as I had in vain sought in the Church of England. The Church of England has for men bishoprics, archbishoprics, and a little work (good men make a great deal for themselves). For women she has—what? I had no taste for theological discoveries. I would have given her my head, my heart, my hand. She would not have them. She did not know what to do with them. She told me to go back and do crochet in my mother's drawing-room; or, if I were tired of that, to marry and look well at the head of my husband's table. You may go to the Sunday School, if you like it, she said. But she gave me no training even for that. She gave me neither work to do for her, nor education for it.”

The latter part of the second letter to Miss Clarke shows Miss Nightingale's interest in speculations about the basis of moral law; but so far as the rivalry of Churches was concerned, it was by works that she tried them. “In all the dens of disgrace and disease,” she wrote in one of her[58] note-books (1849), “the only clergy who deserve the name of pastors are the Roman Catholic. The rest, of all denominations—Church of England, Church of Scotland, Dissenters—are only theology or tea mongers.” “It will never do,” she once said to a friend, “unless we have a Church of which the terms of membership shall be works, not doctrines.”[33]

She was interested, however, in doctrines also. If she was resolved to dedicate her life to the Service of Man, she was no less convinced that such service could only be rendered, at the best and highest, in the light, and with the sanction, of Service to God. Herein may be found an underlying unity and harmony through the many and diverse interests of her life. We shall see that she who opened new careers and standards of practical benevolence in the modern world, spent also years of thought upon the less manageable task, if not of providing the world with a new religion, at any rate of giving to old doctrines a new application, and, as she hoped, a more acceptable sanction.




There are Private Martyrs as well as burnt or drowned ones. Society of course does not know them; and Family cannot, because our position to one another in our families is, and must be, like that of the Moon to the Earth. The Moon revolves round her, moves with her, never leaves her. Yet the Earth never sees but one side of her; the other side remains for ever unknown.—Florence Nightingale (in a Note-book of 1847–49).

A poet of our time has counted “Disappointment's dry and bitter root” among the ingredients of “the right mother-milk to the tough hearts that pioneer their kind.” If it indeed be so, Florence Nightingale was well nurtured. The spiritual experiences and speculations, recorded in the last chapter, worked round to a justification, as we have seen, of her chosen plan of life. Religion thus brought no consolation for the failure of her scheme to escape in December 1845. “My misery and vacuity afterwards,” she wrote in an autobiographical retrospect, “were indescribable.” “All my plans have been wrecked,” she wrote at the time, “and my hopes destroyed, and yet without any visible, any material change.” She faced the new year and its life on the old lines in a mood of depression which, with some happier intervals, was to grow deeper and more intense during the next few years.

She did not, however, abandon her ideal. We shall see in subsequent chapters that neither foreign travel distracted her from it, nor did opportunities for another kind of life allure her from the chosen path. The way was dark[60] before her; the goal might never be reached, she often thought, in this present sphere; but she felt increasingly that only in a life of nursing or other service to the afflicted could her being find its end and scope. “The longer I live,” she wrote in her diary (June 22, 1846), “the more I feel as if all my being was gradually drawing to one point, and if I could be permitted to return and accomplish that in another being, if I may not in this, I should need no other heaven. I could give up the hope of meeting and living with those I have loved (and nobody knows how I love) and been separated from here, if it would please God to give me, with a nearer consciousness of His Presence, the task of doing this in the real life.”

Meanwhile she pursued her inquiries. Now that the fruits of Florence Nightingale's pioneer work have been gathered, and that nursing is one of the recognized occupations for gentlewomen, it is not altogether easy to realize the difficulties which stood in her way. The objections were moral and social, rooted to large measure in conventional ideas. Gentlewomen, it was felt, would be exposed, if not to danger and temptations, at least to undesirable and unfitting conditions. “It was as if I had wanted to be a kitchen-maid,” she said in later years. Nothing is more tenacious than a social prejudice. But the prejudice was in part founded on very intelligible reasons, and in part was justified by the level of the nursing profession at the time. These are considerations to which full weight must be allowed, both in justice to those who opposed Miss Nightingale's plans, and in order to understand her own courage and persistence. The idea was widely prevalent at the time that for certain cases in hospital practice a modest woman was, from the nature of things, unsuited to act as a nurse. Mr. Nightingale, who desired to do what was right by his daughter, made many inquiries, and consulted many friends. There is a letter to him from a Brighton doctor arguing against the prevalent belief, and maintaining stoutly that “women of a proper age and character are not unfit for such cases. Age, habit, and office give the mind a different turn.” But the whole of this letter shows a degree of broad-mindedness with regard to the education and sphere of[61] women which was in advance of the average opinion at the time. And in any case, whether women were fit or unfit by nature, it was certain that many, perhaps most, of the women actually engaged in nursing were unfit by character, and that a refined gentlewoman, who joined the profession, might thus find herself in unpleasant surroundings. We shall have to consider this matter more fully in a subsequent chapter. Here it will suffice to say that though there were better-managed hospitals and worse-managed, yet there was a strong body of evidence to show that hospital nurses had opportunities, which they freely used, for putting the bottle to their lips “when so disposed,” and that other evils were more or less prevalent also.[34] Reports from Paris and its famous schools of medicine and surgery were no better. One who had been through it said that life at the “Maternité” was very coarse. In the clinique obstétricale at the École de Médecin, “the élèves have the reputation of being pretty generally the students' mistresses.” The difficulties in the way of a refined woman, who sought to obtain access to the best training, were very great. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, a pioneer among woman-doctors in America, told Miss Nightingale of a young girl who had planned, as the only feasible way of studying surgery in Paris, to don male attire. “Pantaloons will be accepted as a token she is in earnest, while a petticoat is always a flag for intrigue. She has a deep voice, and I think will pass muster exceedingly well among a set of young students, but I shall be quite sorry for her to sacrifice a mass of beautiful dark auburn hair! What a strange age we live in! What singular sacrifices and extraordinary actions are required of us in the service of truth! An age of reform is a stirring, exciting one, but it is not the most beautiful.” The more she heard of the worst, the more was Florence Nightingale resolved to make things better; but the more her parents heard, the greater and the more natural was their repugnance. Somebody[62] must do the rough pioneer work of the world; but one can understand how the parents of an attractive daughter, for whom their own life at home seemed to them to open many possibilities of comfortable happiness, came to desire that in this case the somebody should be somebody else.

Miss Nightingale herself was so much impressed by the difficulties and dangers in the way of women nurses, that she was inclined at first to the idea that the admission of gentlewomen into the calling could best be secured, either in special hospitals connected with some religious institution, or in general hospitals under cover of some religious bond. “I think,” wrote Monckton Milnes to his wife, “that Florence always much distrusted the Sisterhood matter,”[35] and such was the case. Her inner thought was that no vow was needed other than the nurse's own fitness for the calling and devotion to it. But she was engaged in the crusade of a pioneer, and had to consider what was practically expedient and immediately feasible, as well as what was theoretically reasonable. Dr. Blackwell was of the same opinion. She did not like religious orders in themselves; they only “become beautiful,” she said, “as an expedient, a temporary condition, an antidote to present evils.” Miss Nightingale was therefore intensely interested in the Institution for Deaconesses, with its hospital, school, and penitentiary, which a Protestant minister, Pastor Theodor Fliedner, had established some years before at Kaiserswerth. Her family were great friends with the Bunsens, and the Baron had sent Florence one of Pastor Fliedner's Annual Reports.[36] Her interest in it was twofold. It was the kind of institution to which Protestant mothers might not object to send their daughters. It was also in some sort a school of nursing where, whatever wider scope might afterwards be attainable, gentlewomen could serve an apprenticeship to the calling. “Flo,” wrote her sister to a friend in 1848, “is exceedingly[63] full of the Hospital Institutions of Germany, which she thinks so much better than ours. Do you know anything of the great establishment at Kaiserswerth, where the schools, the reform place for the wicked, and a great hospital are all under the guidance of the Deaconesses?” Two years before (June 1846) Florence herself had written to Miss Hilary Bonham Carter, begging her to ask Mrs. Jameson about “the German lady she knew, who, not being a Catholic, could not take upon herself the vows of a Sister of Charity, but who obtained permission from the physician of the hospital of her town to attend the sick there, and perform all the duties which the Sœurs do at Dublin and the Hôtel Dieu, and who had been there fifteen years when Mrs. Jameson knew her. I do not want to know her name, if it is a secret; but only if she has extended it further into anything like a Protestant Sisterhood, if she had any plans of that sort which should embrace women of an educated class, and not, as in England, merely women who would be servants if they were not nurses. How she disposed of the difficulties of surgeons making love to her, and of living with the women of indifferent character who generally make the nurses of hospitals, as it appears she was quite a young woman when she began, and these are the difficulties which vows remove which one sees nothing else can.” Perhaps it was as a result of these inquiries that Florence Nightingale became acquainted, through Baron von Bunsen, with the institution at Kaiserswerth; though, as appears from a letter given below, Madame Mohl had also sent her some information about it. It is certain that by the autumn of 1846 she was in possession of its Reports, and that the place had become the home of her heart. During these years she was also quietly pursuing studies on medical and sanitary subjects.


With such thoughts in her mind, the routine of home life became more than ever empty and distasteful. Here are two typical extracts from her diary of 1846:—

Lea Hurst, July 7. What is my business in this world and what have I done this last fortnight? I have read the Daughter at Home[64] [37] to Father and two chapters of Mackintosh; a volume of Sybil to Mama. Learnt seven tunes by heart. Written various letters. Ridden with Papa. Paid eight visits. Done company. And that is all.

Embley, Oct. 7. What have I done the last three months? O happy, happy six weeks at the Hurst, where (from July 15 to Sept. 1) I had found my business in this world. My heart was filled. My soul was at home. I wanted no other heaven. May God be thanked as He never yet has been thanked for that glimpse of what it is to live. Now for the last five weeks my business has been much harder. They don't know how weary this way of life is to me—this table d'hôte of people.… When I want Erfrischung I read a little of the Jahresberichte über die Diakonissen-Anstalt in Kaiserswerth. There is my home; there are my brothers and sisters all at work. There my heart is, and there I trust one day will be my body; whether in this state or in the next, in Germany or in England, I do not care.

The “happy six weeks at Lea Hurst” were a time, as appears from the letter to Miss Nicholson already given (p. 53), when she found opportunity to do much sick-visiting. “One's days pass away,” she added in the same letter, “like a shadow, and leave not a trace behind. How we spend hours that are sacred in things that are profane, which we choose to call necessities, and then say ‘We cannot’ to our Father's business.” At Embley the opportunities for work among the poor were less favourable. The distances were greater. Florence interested herself, so far as she was able, in the school at Wellow; and amongst her papers of 1846 there is an able discussion of the defects of elementary education as she had there observed them. But the distractions were many. There was a constant round of company at home; and, as has been said before, the migrations of the family between London, Lea Hurst, and Embley were fatal to concentration of effort.


The year 1847 was one of much social movement in Miss Nightingale's life. In the spring she was in London[65] “doing the exhibitions and hearing Jenny Lind; but it really requires a new language to define her.” Then she went with her parents to the meeting of the British Association at Oxford, where Adams and Leverrier, the twin discoverers of Neptune, were the lions of the day. She wrote many lively accounts of the meeting to her friends, from which a passage or two may be given:—

Here we are in the midst of loveliness and learning; for never anything so beautiful as this place is looking now, my dearest, have I seen abroad or at home, with its flowering acacias in the midst of its streets of palaces. I saunter about the churchyards and gardens by myself before breakfast, and wish I were a College man. I wish you could see the Astronomical Section—Leverrier and Adams sitting on either side of the President, like a pair of turtle-doves cooing at their joint star and holding it between them.… We work hard. Chapel at 8, to that glorious service at New College; such an anthem yesterday morning! and that quiet cloister where no one goes. I brought home a white rose to-day to dry in remembrance. Sections from 11 to 3. Then Colleges or Blenheim till dinner time. Then lecture at 8 in the Radcliffe Library. And philosophical tea and muffins at somebody's afterwards. The Fowlers, Hamilton Grays, Barlows and selves are the muffins; Wheatstone, Hallam, Chevalier, Monckton Milnes and some of the great guns occasionally are the philosophy.…

and so forth, and so forth; with particulars of “church every two hours” on Sunday, and of a luncheon with Buckland and his famous menagerie at Christ Church, when Florence petted a little bear, and her father drew her away, but Mr. Milnes mesmerised it. “And one thing more,” she adds; “Mr. Hallam's discovery that Gladstone is the Beast 666 (in the Revelations) came to him one day by inspiration in the Athenæum, after he had tried Pusey and Newman, and found that they wouldn't do.”

Miss Nightingale paid many visits during the same year with her father. They went, for instance, to Lord Sherborne, whose daughter, Mrs. Plunkett, became a great friend of hers; and they spent a couple of days with Lord Lovelace. Lady Lovelace, Byron's daughter, conceived a great admiration for Florence Nightingale, which found expression in the verses already quoted. It was in this year that Miss[66] Clarke married her old admirer, M. Mohl. Florence's letter of congratulation was not without significance upon the state of her own feelings, as will be seen in a later chapter:—

Embley, October 13 [1847]. Dearest Friend—To think that you are now a two months' wife, and I have never written to tell you that your piece of news gave me more joy than I ever felt in all my life, except once, no, not even excepting that once, because that was a game of Blind-man's-Buff,—and in your case you knew even as you were known. I had the news on a Sunday from dear Ju, and it was indeed a Sunday joy and I kept it holy, though not like the city, which was to be in cotton to be looked at only on Sundays. As has often been said, we must all take Sappho's leap, one way or other, before we attain to her repose—though some take it to death, and some to marriage, and some again to a new life even in this world.

Which of them to the better part, God only knows. Popular prejudice gives it in favour of marriage. Should we not look upon marriage, less as an absolute blessing, than as a remove into another and higher class of this great school-room—a promotion—for it is a promotion, which creates new duties, before which the coward sometimes shrinks, and gives new lessons, of more advanced knowledge, with more advanced powers to meet them, and a much clearer power of vision to read them. In your new development of life, I take, dearest friend, a right fervent interest, and bless you with a right heartfelt and earnest love.

We are only just returned to Embley, after having passed through London, on our way from Derbyshire. News have I none, excepting financial, for no one could talk of anything in London excepting the horrid quantity of failures in the City, by which all England has suffered more or less. Why didn't I write before? Because I thought you would rather be let alone at first and that you were on your travels.

And now for my confessions. I utterly abjure, I entirely renounce and abhor, all that I may have said about M. Robert Mohl, not because he is now your brother-in-law, but because I was so moved and touched by the letters which he wrote after your marriage to Mama; so anxious they were to know more about you, so absorbed in the subject, so eager to prove to us that his brother was such a man, he was quite sure to make you happy.

And I have not said half enough either upon that score, not anything that I feel; how “to marry” is no impersonal[67] verb, upon which I am to congratulate you, but depends entirely upon the Accusative Case which it governs, upon which I do wish you heartfelt and trusting joy. In single life the stage of the Present and the Outward World is so filled with phantoms, the phantoms, not unreal tho' intangible, of Vague Remorse, Tears, dwelling on the threshold of every thing we undertake alone, Dissatisfaction with what is, and Restless Yearnings for what is not, cravings after a world of wonders (which is, but is like the chariot and horses of fire, which Elisha's frightened servant could not see, till his eyes were opened)—the stage of actual life gets so filled with these that we are almost pushed off the boards and are conscious of only just holding on to the foot lights by our chins, yet even in that very inconvenient position love still precedes joy, as in St. Paul's list, for love laying to sleep these phantoms (by assuring us of a love so great that we may lay aside all care for our own happiness, not because it is of no consequence to us, whether we are happy or not, as Carlyle says, but because it is of so much consequence to another) gives that leisure frame to our mind, which opens it at once to joy.

But how impertinently I ramble on—“You see a penitent before you,” don't say “I see an impudent scoundrel before me”—But when thou seest, and what's more, when thou readest, forgive.—You will not let another year pass without our seeing you. M. Mohl gives us hopes, in his letter to Ju, that you won't, that you will come to England next year for many months, then, dearest friend, we will have a long talk out. If not, we really must come to Paris—and then I shall see you, and see the Deaconesses too, whom you so kindly wrote to me about, but of whom I have never heard half enough.…

The Bracebridges are at home—she rejoiced as much as we did over your event—Parthe is going at the end of November to do Officiating Verger to a friend of ours on a like event.—Her prospects are likewise so satisfactory, that I can rejoice and sympathize under any form she may choose to marry in. Otherwise I think that the day will come, when it will surprise us as much, to see people dressing up for a marriage, as it would to see them put on a fine coat for the Sacrament. Why should the Sacrament or Oath of Marriage be less sacred than any other?

The letter goes on to speak of a visit recently paid to Mrs. Archer Clive, well known in her day as the authoress of Poems by V. and of Paul Ferroll, a sensational novel of some force,—a lady whose powers of heart and mind were housed in an infirm body. Miss Nightingale admired her talents and her character, and valued her friendship.[68]

But new friendships and varied interests did not bring satisfaction to Miss Nightingale. She was still constantly bent on pursuing a vocation of her own. Her parents caught eagerly at an opportunity which offered itself at the end of this year (1847), for giving, as they hoped, a new turn to her thoughts.




Six months of Rome and happiness.—Florence Nightingale (1848).

It was an event of some importance in the Nightingale family when Florence set out with Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, in the autumn of 1847, to spend the winter at Rome. The attraction to her was the society of Mrs. Bracebridge, the friend of whom she spoke as “her Ithuriel.” Moreover the mental unrest from which Florence constantly suffered at home was beginning to tell upon her health. “All that I want to do in life,” she wrote to her cousin Hilary, in explaining the motive of the tour, “depends upon my health, which, I am told, a winter in Rome will establish for ever.” She took the foreign tour as a tonic to enable her the better to fulfil her vocation. By her parents and her sister the tour was regarded as a tonic which might divert her from it. They hoped that foreign travel would distract her thoughts, and dispel what they perhaps considered morbid fancies. She would enjoy pleasant companionship. She would see famous and beautiful things. She might return converted to the more comfortable belief that her duty lay in accepting life as she found it. The point of view comes out clearly enough in a letter from her sister to Miss Bonham Carter:—

Embley, October [1847]. It is a very great pleasure to think of her with such a companion, one who, she says, lives always with the best part of her; one who has all the sense and discretion and the warm-hearted sympathy and the quick enjoyment and the taste and the affection which will most give her happiness; who will value her and take care of her, and do[70] her all the good mentally and bodily one can fancy. Yes, dear, God is very good to provide such a pleasant time, and it will rest her mind, I think, entirely from wearing thoughts that all men have at home when their duties weigh much on their consciences, while she will feel she is wasting nothing; for Mrs. Bracebridge has not been at all well and Flo will feel herself a comfort and a help to her, I hope, for I know she is a great one.… Though it is but for so short a time, yet it seems to me a great event, the solemn first launching her into life, and my heart is very full of many feelings, but yet the joy is greatest by an incalculable deal, for one does not see how harm can come to her. Yet when one loves a great deal, one cannot but be a little anxious.… It is so pretty to see Papa wandering over the big map of Rome remembering every corner, and Mama over Piranesi, and both over all the fair things that dwell there as tho' they had just left them.

And Florence herself did find comfort and pleasure in the tour; but it was destined not to divert, but to strengthen, her purpose, as also to lay a train of circumstances which was to lead her to the Crimea.

Florence and her companions reached Paris on October 27, took ship at Marseilles for Civita Vecchia, and stayed in Rome—in the Via S. Bastinello (No. 8)—from the beginning of November till March 29, 1848. Florence entered heartily into all the pursuits and occupations of elegant tourists in Rome. She studied the ruins; explored the catacombs; copied inscriptions; visited the churches and galleries; spent a morning in Gibson's studio and another in Overbeck's; collected plants in the Colosseum; rode in the Campagna, and bought brooches, mosaics, and Roman pearls. Her father had drawn out a programme of famous sights and pretty walks and drives; and the methodical Florence duly ticked them off on the list. She read her own thoughts and aspirations into many of the works of art. She greatly admired the Apollo Belvedere, seeing in it the type of triumphant Free Will. “We can never lose the recollection of our poor selves while we still do things with difficulty, while we are still uncertain whether we shall succeed or not. The triumph of success may be great and[71] delightful, but the divine life—eternal life—is when to will is to do, when the will is the same thing as the act, and therefore the act is unconscious.” Of the Jupiter of the Capitol, again, she says: “Jupiter is that perfect grace in power where the divine Will, pure from exertion, speaks, and It is done.” But what chiefly interested her, what really impressed her mind and stimulated her imagination, was the genius of Michael Angelo:—

(To her Sister.) December 17 [1847]. Oh, my dearest, I have had such a day—my red Dominical, my Golden Letter, the 15th of December is its name, and of all my days in Rome this has been the most happy and glorious. Think of a day alone in the Sistine Chapel with Σ [Selina, Mrs. Bracebridge], quite alone, without custode, without visitors, looking up into that heaven of angels and prophets.… I did not think that I was looking at pictures, but straight into Heaven itself, and that the faults of the representation and the blackening of the colours were the dimness of my own earthly vision, which would only allow me to see obscurely, indistinctly, what was there in all its glory to be known even as I was known, if mortal eyes and understandings were cleared from the mists which we have wilfully thrown around them. There is Daniel, opening his windows and praying to the God of his Fathers three times a day in defiance of fear. You see that young and noble head like an eagle's, disdaining danger, those glorious eyes undazzled by all the honours of Babylon. Then comes Isaiah, but he is so divine that there is nothing but his own 53rd chapter will describe him. He is the Isaiah, the “grosse Unbekannte” of the Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people. I was rather startled at first by finding him so young, which was not my idea of him at all, while the others are old. But M. Angelo knew him better; it is the perpetual youth of inspiration, the vigour and freshness, ever new, ever living, of that eternal spring of thought which is typed under that youthful face. Genius has no age, while mind (Zechariah) has no youth. Next to Isaiah comes the Delphic Sibyl, the most beautiful, the most inspired of all the Sibyls here; but the distinction which M. Angelo has drawn even between her and the Prophets is so interesting. There is a security of inspiration about Isaiah; he is listening and he is speaking; “that which we hear we declare unto you.” There is an anxiety, an effort to hear even, about the Delphian; she is not quite sure; there is an uncertainty, a wistfulness in her eyes; she expects to be rewarded rather in another stage than this for her struggle to gain the prize of her high calling, to reach[72] to the Unknown that Isaiah knows already. There is no uncertainty as to her feeling of being called to hear the voice, but she fears that her earthly ears are heavy and gross, and corrupt the meaning of the heavenly words. I cannot tell you how affecting this anxious look of her far-reaching eyes is to the poor mortals standing on the pavement below, while the Prophets ride secure on the storm of Inspiration.… I feel these things to be part of the word of God, of the ladder to Heaven. The word of God is all by which He reveals His thought, all by which He makes a manifestation of Himself to men. It is not to be narrowed and confined to one book, or one nation; and no one can have seen the Sistine without feeling that he has been very near to God, that he will understand some of His words better for ever after; and that Michael Angelo, one of the greatest of the sons of men, when one looks at the dome of St. Peter's on the one hand and the prophets and martyrs on the other, has received as much of the breath of God, and has done as much to communicate it to men, as any Seer of old. He has performed that wonderful miracle of giving form to the breath of God, wonderful whether it is done by words, colours, or hard stones.…

The thoughts and emotions which have been suggested by the contemplation of the vault of the Sistine Chapel are countless. None are more enthusiastic than those which it inspired in Florence Nightingale, and few have been so discriminating. It is at once the privilege and a mark of consummate works of art to be capable of as many meanings as they may find of competent spectators. Each man brings to the study of them the insight of which he is capable; and each, perchance, finds in them some image of himself or of his own experience. “There are few moments, most probably,” Florence Nightingale went on to say, “which we shall carry with us through the gate of Death, few recollections which will stand the Eternal Light.” She felt as she came out of the Sistine Chapel that her first sight of Michael Angelo's stupendous work would be one of those few for her. We may surmise that the wistful uncertainty which she found in the face of the Delphic Sibyl had especially appealed to her in its truth to life as she had experienced it; conscious as she was of a call from God, conscious also as she could not but have been of great powers, and yet doubtful whether on this side of the gate of Death it would be[73] given to her to interpret the Divine voice aright. She retained to the end of her life the same reverential feeling for Michael Angelo. She had photographs and engravings of the Sistine ceiling hanging in her rooms, and she sent some framed and inscribed photographs of the symbolical figures on the Medici tombs to hang at Embley on the little private staircase, where her father fell and died. Those at her home were bequeathed specifically in her Will.

The afternoon of the day on which the revelation of the Sistine Chapel came to her was spent by Florence and her friend in walking up the Monte Mario, to enjoy the famous view from the Villa Mellini, not then, as now, included within a fort:—

“We spent an exquisite half-hour,” she wrote, “mooning, or rather sunning about; the whole Campagna and city lying at our feet, the sea on one side like a golden laver below the declining sun, the windings of the Tiber and the hills of Lucretilis on the other, with Frascati, Tivoli, Tusculum on their cypress sides, for in that clear atmosphere you could see the very cypresses of Maecenas' villa at Tivoli; with long stripes of violet and pomegranate coloured light sweeping over the plain like waves; one stone pine upon the edge of our Mellini hill; and Rome, the fallen Babylon, like a dead city beneath, no sound of multitudes ascending, but the only life these great crimson lights and shadows (for here the shadow of a red light is violet) like the carnation-coloured wings of angels, themselves invisible, flapping over the plain and leaving this place behind them. We rushed down as fast as we could for the sun was setting, and we reached St. Peter's just as the doors were going to close. We had the great Church all to ourselves, the tomb of St. Peter wreathed with lights. It felt like the times when a Christian knight watched by his arms before some great enterprise at the Holy Sepulchre; and one shadowy white angel we could see through the windows over the great door; and do you know he quite made us startle as he stood there in the gloaming. Of course it was the marble statue on the facade; and there were workmen still laughing and talking at the extreme end, and their sounds, as they were repeated under the long vaults, were like the gibbering of devils, and their lanthorns, as they wavered along close to the ground, were like corpse-lights. I thought of St. Anthony and holy knights and their temptations. And at last the Sacristan took us out of that vast solemn dome through a tomb! and we glided into the silvery moonlight, and walked home over Ponte St. Angelo, where I made a little[74] invocation to St. Michael to help me to thank; for why the Protestants should shut themselves out, in solitary pride, from the Communion of Saints in heaven and in earth, I never could understand. And so ended this glorious day.”

The obsession of Rome, which sooner or later comes upon every intelligent visitor to the Eternal City, dated in the case of Florence Nightingale from this golden-letter day. She surmounted the sense of confusion which sometimes oppresses the traveller. “I do not feel,” she wrote, “though Pagan in the morning, Jew in the afternoon, and Christian in the evening, anything but a unity of interest in all these representations. To know God we must study Him as much in the Pagan and Jewish dispensations as in the Christian (though that is the last and most perfect manifestation), and this gives unity to the whole—one continuous thread of interest to all these pearls.”


The politics of modern Italy interested her no less than the ruins of ancient Rome or the monuments of mediæval art. She had met many Italian refugees, both at Geneva and in the salon of Madame Mohl in Paris, and was a whole-hearted enthusiast in the cause of Italian freedom. Her present visit to Rome synchronized with that curious and short-lived episode in the struggle during which Pio Nono was playing “the ineffectual tragedy of Liberal Catholicism.” All Rome seemed seized with sympathy for the cities beyond the Papal states, which were fighting for liberty, and within the states themselves Pio Nono's offerings of mild benevolence sufficed to call forth “floods of ecstatic, demonstrative Italian humanity, torchlight processions, and crowds kneeling at his feet.”[38] Miss Nightingale saw the Roman nobles, Prince Corsini, Prince Gaetano, and others, presiding at “patriotic altars,” which had been set up in the public squares for the receipt of gifts in money and in jewellery. She heard the famous Father Gavazzi preach the crusade in the Colosseum. She cheered as the Tricolor of Italy was hoisted on the Capitol. “I certainly was born,” she wrote[75] to her cousin Hilary, “to be a tag-rag-and-bob-tail, for when I hear of a popular demonstration, I am nothing better than a ragamuffin.” She heard the rumble of a distant drum, and rushed up for Mr. Bracebridge, and he and she broke their own windows because they were not illuminated; stayed to see the torchlight procession of patriots singing the hymn to Pio Nono, and were rewarded by the crowd crying “God save the Queen,” as they passed the English “milord” and his companion. “Very touching,” she said; “though royalty was the very last thing I was thinking of”; for at this time, as she often avowed in her letters, her sympathies were Republican. “When this memorable year began with all its revolutions,” she wrote later to Madame Mohl, after disillusion had come (June 27), “I thought that it was the Kingdom of Heaven coming under the fate of a Republic. But alas! things have shown that more of us must slowly ripen to angels here, before the régime of the angels, i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven, will begin.” But for the moment everything seemed radiant. She recorded with pleasure in February that a deputation of Romans had gone up to the Pope to express their “complete confidence in him.” In her note-books she collected particulars of his life and character; and when in March he granted what can only be called a sort of a Constitution, she wrote to Madame Mohl: “My dear Santo Padre seems doing very well. He has given up his Temporal Power. No man took it from him; he laid it down of himself. I think that he will reign in history as the only prince who ever did, and that his character is nearer Christ's than any I ever heard of.” History will hardly confirm this saying; but if Miss Nightingale's words seem ill-balanced in the light of subsequent events, let it be remembered that, as Mr. Trevelyan says, “the cult of Pio Nono was for some months the religion of Italy, and of Liberals and exiles all over the world. Even Garibaldi in Monte Video, and Mazzini in London, shared the enthusiasm of the hour.” A year later, when the Roman Republic had been declared and the Pope had fled, and the French troops besieged Rome on his behalf, Miss Nightingale had only pity for Pio Nono; her anger she reserved for the French “cannibals,” for the one[76] Republic that was devouring another. “I must exhale my rage and indignation,” she wrote in a diary (June 30, 1849), “before I have lost all notions of absolute right and wrong. It makes my heart bleed that the French nation, the nation above all others capable of an ideal, of aspiring after the abstract right, should have lent itself to such a brutal crime against its own brother—one may say its own offspring, for the Roman Republic sprang from the French; it is purest cannibalism; this breaks my heart. When I think of that afternoon at Villa Mellini (now occupied by a French general), of Rome, bathed in her crimson and purple shadows, lying at our feet, and St. Michael spreading his wings over all—the Angel of Regeneration as we thought him then—my eyes fill with tears. But he will be the Angel of Regeneration yet.” The French, she said, might reduce the city and occupy it; but the heroic defence of the Republic “will have raised the Romans in the moral scale, and in their own esteem.” They would never sink back to what they had been. Sooner or later, Rome would be free. She was especially indignant at the talk which she heard on all sides in cultivated society at home about the “vandalism” of the Romans in exposing their precious monuments of art to assault. She loved those monuments, as we have seen; but if the defence of Rome against the French required it, she would have been ready to see them all levelled to the ground. “They must carry out their defence to the last,” she cried. “I should like to see them fight the streets, inch by inch, till the last man dies at his barricade, till St. Peter's is level with the ground, till the Vatican is blown into the air. Then would this be the last of such brutal, not house-breakings, but city-breakings; then, and not till then, would Europe do justice to France as a thief and a murderer, and a similar crime be rendered impossible for all ages. If I were in Rome, I should be the first to fire the Sistine, turning my head aside, and Michael Angelo would cry, ‘Well done,’ as he saw his work destroyed.” It was not only in relation to the restraints of conventional domesticity that Florence Nightingale was a rebel.



During her own stay in Rome, however, there was something which interested her more than Roman politics or Roman monuments. It was the philanthropic work of a Convent School. Every visitor to Rome knows the Trinità de' Monti. The flight of steps between the church and the Piazza di Spagna is celebrated alike for its own beauty and for the flower-girls and women in peasant-costume who frequent it. The church itself contains many fine works of art, and the choral service is one of the attractions of ecclesiastical Rome. The neighbourhood is rich in artistic and literary associations. Florence Nightingale had sympathetic eyes and ears for all these things; but what attracted her most was the convent attached to the church, with its school for girls, and (in another part of the city) its orphanage. She was broad-minded, as we have seen in an earlier chapter, in relation to church creeds. It was by works, not faith, or at any rate by faith issuing in works, that she weighed the churches. It was characteristic of the thoroughness of her mental character that during this sojourn in Rome she made a methodical study of Roman doctrine and ritual. Among her papers and note-books belonging to this time, there are careful analyses of the theory of Indulgence, of the Real Presence, of the Rosary, and so forth. She made, too, a careful collation of the Latin Breviary with the English Prayer-Book. She summed up her comparative study of the churches in this generalization: “The great merit of the Catholic Church: its assertion of the truth that God still inspires mankind as much as ever. Its great fault: its limiting this inspiration to itself. The great merit of Protestantism: its proclamation of freedom of conscience within the limits of the Scriptures. Its great fault: its erection of the Bible into a master of the soul.” Her deep sense of the self-responsibility of every human soul kept her free from any inclination to Roman doctrine; but she was profoundly impressed by the practical beneficence of Roman sisterhoods. An example of such beneficence she found in the school and orphanage of the Dames[78] du Sacré Cœur. She had picked up a poor girl called Felicetta Sensi, and procured her admission as a free boarder, paying for her care and education for many years. She formed a warm attachment to the Lady Superior, the Madre Sta. Colomba. She studied the organization, rules, and methods of the large school, and for ten days she went into Retreat in the Convent.[39] Her intercourse with the Madre Sta. Colomba, of whose talk and spiritual experiences she made full and detailed notes, made a very deep impression on her mind. She studied rules and organization, but, as in all her studies, she was seeking a motive, as well as, and indeed more than, a method. Many years later, a friend wrote to her: “It seems to me that the greatest want among nurses is devotion. I use the word in a very wide sense, meaning that state of mind in which the current of desire is flowing towards one high end. This does not presuppose knowledge, but it very soon attains it.”[40] This was a profound conviction of her own, often expressed, as we shall hear, in her Addresses and Letters of Exhortation in later years. What she set herself to study at the Trinità de' Monti was the secret of devotion. She made notes of the Lady Superior's exhortations; of the spiritual exercises which were enjoined upon novices; of the forms and discipline of self-examination. She sought to extract the secret, and to apply it to the inculcation of the highest kind of service to man as the service of God. For many years the thought in her mind was to be the foundation of some distinctive order or sisterhood; and though in the end she came to be glad that she had not done this, she never abandoned the high ideal which was behind her thought. Nor, though in some ways and in some cases she came to be disillusioned about nursing sisterhoods, did she ever cease to speak with admiration of what she had seen and learnt in some of them. She thought more often, and with more affectionate remembrance, about the spirit[79] of the best Catholic sisterhoods than of Kaiserswerth, or indeed of anything else in her professional experience.

In such studies upon the Trinità de' Monti in the winter of 1847–48, she was taken, as she said in a note of self-examination, out of all interests that fostered her “vanity”; it was her “happiest New Year.” “The most entire and unbroken freedom from dreaming I ever had,” she wrote at a later time. “Oh, how happy I was!” And so again, looking back after twenty years, she wrote: “I never enjoyed any time in my life so much as my time at Rome.”[41]


Another incident of Miss Nightingale's sojourn in Rome was destined, though she knew it not at the time, to have a far-reaching influence upon her career. Among the English visitors who spent the winter of 1847–48 in Rome were Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Herbert. Mr. Herbert had already been Secretary at War under Peel, a post to which he was afterwards to return under Aberdeen. The resignation of Peel's Cabinet in 1846 released Mr. Herbert from official work. Later in the year he married a lady with whom he had been long acquainted, Elizabeth à Court, daughter of General Charles Ashe à Court; and in the following year he and his wife set out for a long Continental tour. Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge were friends of the Herberts, and thus Florence Nightingale made their acquaintance in Rome. In her retrospect she specially recalled the beginning there of her friendship with Sidney Herbert “under the dear Bracebridges' wing.” Compatriots who meet in this way in any foreign resort are apt to see a good deal of each other, and from this winter dates the beginning of a friendship which was to be a governing factor in the life of Florence Nightingale. Sidney Herbert, when they met in galleries or at soirées, or rode together in the Campagna, must have been struck by Miss Nightingale's marked abilities, and for Mrs. Herbert she formed an affectionate attachment. She noted “the great kindness, the desire of love, the magnanimous generosity”[80] of her new friend. Mr. and Mrs. Herbert saw much of Archdeacon Manning (the future cardinal), who was also spending the winter in Rome, and Miss Nightingale was on friendly terms with him.[42] This also was an acquaintance which had some influence on her future career. Sidney Herbert, aided by the ready sympathy of his wife, was devoting much thought, now liberated from official duties, to schemes of benevolence among the poor on his estates. “He felt strongly the disadvantage at which the poor were placed in being compelled after illness, and perhaps after undergoing painful operations, to return in the earliest stage of convalescence, without rest or change, to their accustomed labour.”[43] He was full of a scheme for a Convalescent Home and Cottage Hospital (such as is now no rarity, but was then almost unknown), and it can be imagined with what zest Miss Nightingale shared his thoughts. One of the first things which she records in her diary after return from the Continent is “an expedition with Mrs. Sidney Herbert to set up her Convalescent Home at Charmouth”; but this was only a passing incident, and return to the habitual home life, after the distraction of foreign travel, left her no more contented than before.

On her return to London in the early summer of 1848 she sent her friends occasionally the talk of the town:—

(To Madame Mohl.) July 26 [1848]. In London there have been the usual amount of Charity Balls, Charity Concerts, Charity Bazaars, whereby people bamboozle their consciences and shut their eyes. Nevertheless there does not seem the slightest prospect of a revolution here. Why, would be hard to say, as England is surely the country where luxury has reached its height and poverty its depth. Perhaps it is our Poor Law, perhaps the strength of our Middle Class, perhaps a greater degree of sympathy between the rich and poor, which is the conservative principle. Lord Ashley had a Chartist deputation with him the other day, who stayed to tea and talked with him for five hours. “That a man should ride in a carriage and have twenty thousand a year is contrary to the laws of Nature,” said their leader, and slapped his leg. “I could show you, if you would go with me to-night,” said Lord Ashley, “people who would say to you,[81] that a man should go in broadcloth and wear a shirt-pin (pointing to the Chartist's shirt) is contrary to the laws of Nature.” The Chartist was silent. “And it was the only thing I said,” says Lord Ashley, “after arguing with them for five hours which made the least impression.”

Her acquaintance with Lord Ashley (afterwards Lord Shaftesbury) brought her in touch with Ragged School work. But society grew more and more distasteful to Miss Nightingale. She explained the reasons in a letter to her “Aunt Hannah.” Why could she not smile and be gay, while yet biding her time and not forsaking her ultimate ideals? It was, she said, because she “hated God to hear her laugh, as if she had not repented of her sin.” There is something obviously morbid in such words, and they might be multiplied indefinitely, if there were good reason for doing so, from her letters, diaries, and note-books. The sins of which she most often convicted herself were “hypocrisy” and “vanity.” She prayed to be delivered from “the desire of producing an effect.” That was the “vanity”; and it was “hypocrisy,” because she was playing a part, responding to friends' conception of her, though all the while her heart was really set on other things, and her true life was being lived elsewhere. The morbidness was a symptom of a mind at war with its surroundings. Then again the kind “Aunt” reminded her, in the spirit of George Herbert, that anything and everything may be done “to the glory of God.” But Miss Nightingale at this time was deep in the study of political economy; and “can it be to the glory of God,” she asked, “when there is so much misery among the poor, which we might be curing instead of living in luxury?”


In the autumn of 1848 an opportunity occurred which promised the realization of the dearest wish of her heart, but once more she was doomed to disappointment. Her mother and sister had been advised to go to Carlsbad for the cure. M. and Madame Mohl were to be at Frankfurt, and they were all to meet in that city. Frankfurt is near[82] to Kaiserswerth, and Florence was to be allowed to go there. But at the very moment disturbances broke out in Frankfurt, and the whole plan was abandoned. “I am not going to consign to paper for your benefit,” she wrote to Madame Mohl (October 1848), “all the cursings and swearings which relieved my disappointed feelings; for oh! what a plan of plans I had made out for myself! All that I most wanted to do at Kaiserswerth, Brussels, and Co., lay for the first time within reach of my mouth, and the ripe plum has dropped.” Florence accompanied her mother to the cure at Malvern instead, where, with many prayers for humility under the will of God, she lived for several weeks upon the dry and bitter fruit of disappointment. During the winter of 1848–49 Miss Nightingale saw something of M. Guizot and his family. The Minister had escaped to London after the fall of Louis Philippe, and was living in a modest house in Brompton. He found in Miss Nightingale “a brave and sympathetic soul, for whom great thoughts and great devotions had a serious attraction.”[44]

During the next year she found some congenial work in London. She inspected hospitals. She worked in Ragged Schools. She spoke of her “little thieves at Westminster” as her “greatest joy in London.” But these unconventional attractions of the London season set her all the more against the life of country houses. “Ought not one's externals,” she wrote in her diary (July 2, 1849), “to be as nearly as possible an incarnation of what life really is? Life is not a green pasture and a still water, as our homes make it. Life is to some a forty days' fasting, moral or physical, in the wilderness; to some it is a fainting under the carrying of the crop; to some it is a crucifixion; to all, a struggle for truth, for safety. Life is seen in a much truer form in London than in the country. In an English country place everything that is painful is so carefully removed out of sight, behind those fine trees, to a village three miles off. In London, at all events if you open your eyes, you cannot help seeing in the next street that life is not as it has been made to you. You cannot get out of a carriage at a party[83] without seeing what is in the faces making the lane on either side, and without feeling tempted to rush back and say, ‘Those are my brothers and sisters.’” She longed to rush back, to be able to go out freely into the slums, to comfort some old woman who was dying unattended, or rescue some child who was going astray untaught. But the proprieties prevented. “It would never do,” she was told, “for a young woman in her station in life to go out in London without a servant.” In the autumn of 1849 the distraction of another foreign tour was offered. Her parents and her sister hoped once more that Florence would return a different and a more comfortable woman. Those with whom we are cast into the nearest intimacy sometimes understand us least.




When o'er the world we range
'Tis but our climate, not our mind, we change.


In the autumn of 1849 Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, who were to spend some months in the East, again proposed that Miss Nightingale should travel with them, and again the offer was gladly accepted. Her sister was delighted. The expedition to Rome had not done what was hoped, but here was a second chance. The sister reported to her friends that “Flo had taken tea with the Bunsens to receive the dernier mot on Egyptology,” and that she was going out “laden with learned books.” Perhaps Florence would become absorbed in such studies, and adopt a life of gracefully learned leisure. The literary temptation did, it is true, assail Florence, but she put it behind her.

The party started in October, bound for Egypt, where the winter was to be spent. Thence they were to proceed to Athens, where Mr. Bracebridge had property. The return journey in the summer of 1850 was to be made through Germany, and Kaiserswerth was to be visited. Florence, we may surmise, looked forward most to the last stage in the journey. On November 18 the travellers landed at Alexandria. On the 27th they reached Cairo. On December 4 they started in a dahabiah for the Nile voyage. The boat was christened in honour of Florence's sister.[85] “My work,” she wrote, “is making the pennant, blue bunting with swallow tail, a Latin red cross upon it, and ΠΑΡΘΕΝΟΠΗ in white tape. It has taken all my tape, and a vast amount of stitches, but it will be the finest pennant on the river, and my petticoats will joyfully acknowledge the tribute to sisterly affection, for sisterly affection in tape in Lower Egypt, let me observe, is worth having.” They went up the river as far as Ipsambul (Abu-Simbel), a little below Wady Halfy; on the return journey they spent several days at Thebes. The letters which Florence sent home show that Egypt appealed strongly to her imagination. What struck her most was the solemnity of the country. “Nothing ever laughs or plays. Everything is grown up and grown old.” The letters are full too of Egyptology; for she had made tables of dynasties, copied plans of temples, and analysed the leading ideas in Egyptian mythology as expounded by the best writers of the time:—

Abu-Simbel, January 17 [1850].… I passed through other halls, till at last I found myself in a chamber in the rock, where sat, in the silence of an eternal night, four figures against the further end. I could see nothing more; yet I did not feel afraid as I did at Karnak, though I was quite alone in these subterranean halls; for the sublime expression of that judge of the dead had looked down on me, the incarnation of the goodness of the deity, as Osiris is; and I thought how beautiful the idea which placed him in the foremost hall, and then led the worshipper gradually on to the more awful attributes of the deity; for here, as I could dimly see through the darkness, sat the creative power of the mind—Neph, “the intellect”; Amun, “the concealed god”; Phthah, “the creator of the visible world”; and Ra, “the sustainer,” Ra, “the sun” to whom the temple is dedicated.… I turned to go out, and saw at the further end the golden sand glittering in the sunshine outside the top of the door; and the long sand-hill, sloping down from it to the feet of the innermost Osirides, which are left quite free, all but their pedestals, looked like the waves of time, gradually flowing in and covering up these imperishable genii, who have seen three thousand years pass over their heads and heed them not. In the holiest place, there where no sound ever reaches, it is as if you felt the sensible progress of time, not by the tick of a clock, as we measure time, but by some spiritual pulse which marks to you its onward march, not by[86] its second, nor its minute, nor its hour-hand, but by its century hand. I thought of the worshippers of three thousand years ago; how they by this time have reached the goal of spiritual ambition, have brought all their thoughts to serve God or the ideal of goodness; how we stand there with the same goal before us, only as distant as the star, which, a little later, I saw rising exactly over that same sand-hill in the centre of the top of the doorway, but as sure and fixed; how to them all other thoughts are now as nothing, and the ideal we all pursue of happiness is won; not because they have not probably sufferings, like ours, but because they no longer suggest any other thought but of doing God's will, which is happiness. I thought, too, three thousand years hence, we might perhaps have attained—and others would stand here, and still those old gods would be sitting in the eternal twilight.…

Thebes, February 10 [1850].… The Valley of the Kings seems, though within a mile of Thebes, as if one had arrived at the mountains of Kaf, beyond which are only “creatures unknown to any but God,”—so deep are the ravines, so high and blue the sky, so absolutely solitary and unearthly, so utterly uninhabitable the place. One look at that valley would give you more idea of the supernatural, the gate of Hades, than all the descriptions, sacred or profane. What a moment it is, the entering that valley, where in those rocky caverns, the vastness and the gloomy darkness of which are equally awful, the kings of the earth lie, each in his huge sarcophagus, with the bodies of his chiefs, each in their chamber, about him; and where, about this time, they are to return, to find their bodies and resume their abode on earth,—if purified by their three thousand years of probation, in a higher and better state; if degraded, in a lower. I thought I met them at every turn in those long subterraneous galleries,—saw their shades rising from their shattered sarcophagi, and advancing once more towards the light of day, which shone like a star, so distant and so faint, at the end of that opening; the dead were stirred up, the chief ones of the earth.… Well, these Pharaohs are perhaps now here, again in the body, their three thousand years having just elapsed to some of them,—that is, if they have philosophized sincerely, or, together with philosophy, have “loved beautiful forms.” … And if I were a Pharaoh now, I would choose the Arab form, and come back to help these poor people; and I am going to-morrow to a tomb of Rameses, B.C. 1150, to meet him and tell him so.…

It was no wonder that Miss Nightingale pitied the poor[87] people; for the Egypt in which she travelled was as Mehemet Ali, the Lion of the Levant, had left it. She saw girls sold in the open slave market “at from £2 to £9 a head.” She heard how justice was sold to the highest bidder; and “everybody,” she noted, “seems to bastinado everybody else.” “Every man,” she noted further, “is a conscript for the army, and mothers put out their children's right eye to save them from conscription, till Mehemet Ali, who was too clever for them, had a one-eyed regiment, who carried the musket on the left shoulder.” Miss Nightingale was fond of escaping from the dahabiah in order to wander about the desert, “poking my own nose,” as she wrote home, “into all the villages,” and seeing for herself how “these poor people” lived. “They call me ‘the wild ass of the wilderness, snuffing up the wind,’ because I am so fond of getting away.” Egyptian impressions stayed long in her memory, and they recurred to her thirty years later in connection with her Indian studies.[45] As on her earlier visit to Rome, so now in Egypt she utilized all such opportunities as came in her way for studying the work of religious Sisterhoods. At Alexandria she passed her days, she wrote, “much to my satisfaction, as I had travelled with two Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul from Paris to Auxerre, who gave me an introduction to the Sisters here; and I have spent a great deal of time with them in their beautiful schools and Miséricorde. There are only 19 of them, but they seem to do the work of 90.”


In April 1850 Miss Nightingale went with her friends to Athens. Their house was in Eucharis Street, and Florence “slept in the library, which opens on to a terrace looking[88] upon the back of the Acropolis.” She had little taste for the topographical research and nice distinctions between different masters of sculpture which absorb the interest of many modern travellers and students. She was interested in broader speculations. The soul of a people, as expressed in their art, was the object to which she directed her observation, and around which she loved to let her imagination play. In her note-books and letters she discusses the spiritual conceptions embodied in the worship of the several Greek gods; she traces the symbols of Greek mythology to their sources in Greek scenery; she pictures the genius of Aeschylus (her favourite tragedian, preferred by her even to Shakespeare) or of Sophocles developing in relation to local conditions and surroundings. Of the statues, the pensive beauty of the sepulchral bas-reliefs most arrested her attention; and in architecture, she loved most the Doric, for its severity, its simplicity, its perfection of proportion, its image of the ideal republic:—

Only a republican could have conceived it, and it is sin for any other government to imitate it. Look at each column—man, I mean—rearing its noble head; yet none has a separate base. Each man stands upon the common base of his country. Look at the simplicity of the fluting of the capital. No man thinks of his own adornment, but only of the glory of the whole. The fluting does not look like its ornament, but its drapery. I do love the old Doric as if it was a person. Then comes the Ionic, light and elegant and airy, it is true, like the Attic wit, but somewhat luscious to the taste; it soon palls; the fluting is too laboured, too semicircular, like the people sitting in a semi-circle to hear the wit of Aristophanes; it does not look as if it belonged to the column; and that ridge between the flutes, what is it doing there? It looks like the interval while the next interlocutor is thinking of a repartee. Then that rich beading round the base, like one of Euripides' choruses which have nothing to do with the piece. Give me the Ionic to amuse me, but the Doric to interest me. The Corinthian is like the worship of Dionysus, like the illustration of Nature by Art—a bad conjunction, I think, which in any other hands would become Art run mad, but modified by the exquisite artistic perceptions of the Greeks is exquisitely beautiful, but it is not architecture. The Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian are the ethical, the poetical, and the aesthetic views of life. But look at the workmanship of these things. How mathematically exact it is—the very poetry of number.


It was characteristic of the philosophical bent of her mind that she sought to refer the charm of the scenery to some general law:—

Athens, June 8. I have been taking some lovely rides with Mr. Hill on Hymettus, along the Daphne road, and to Karà. How lovely the scenery is, would be difficult to describe, and why it is so lovely. I begin to think that it is the proportion, and that there must be proportion in the things of Nature as of Art. I am talking nonsense, I believe, but nobody minds me, you know. In the valleys of Switzerland the height is too great for the width, and it looks like a bottle. In the valleys of Egypt the width is too great for the height, and it looks like a tray. For this reason clouds are provided in Switzerland and Scotland; the height would become intolerably out of proportion unless it were covered in at the top. For this reason clear sky is in Egypt, or you would feel in a shelf. But here, where the clear sky is meant, they say, to be perpetual (tho' I cannot say I have seen much of it since I came), the proportion observed has been perfect, the exact curve is always there, the exact slope which you want; and if a line were to change its place, you feel the effect would be spoilt. You feel towards it as to an architectural building. I believe that in this lies the great peculiarity of the Athenian views. Otherwise, for colouring, I must declare I have seen nothing like the evenings of the Campagna.

Of the Parthenon by moonlight she wrote that it was “impossible that earth or heaven could produce anything more beautiful.” In other letters she dwells on the beauty of the view from Lycabettus, and the glory of the sunset from Hymettus. One day upon the Acropolis she found some boys with a baby owl that had just fallen from its nest in the Parthenon. She bought it from them and kept it. It used to travel in her pocket, and lived at Embley.


Public affairs in Greece interested her also. She had arrived in Greek waters at the height of the “Pacifico crisis.” There had been a rupture between England and Greece, which threatened also the relations between England and France, and which convulsed political parties at Westminster, over the claims of Mr. Finlay, the historian of modern Greece, and Don Pacifico, a native of Gibraltar.[90] Lord Palmerston had ordered the Mediterranean Fleet to the Peiraeus to enforce the British claims, and Miss Nightingale was sitting beside Mr. Wyse, the British Minister at Athens, at dinner on board H.M.S. Howe, when the submission of the Greek Government was brought to him. Her home letters throw much light on the ins and outs of this affair, which, however, is now only remembered as the occasion of Lord Palmerston's vindication in the House of Commons with its famous peroration about Civis Romanus sum. Miss Nightingale now, as earlier, was a strong Palmerstonian. “The friends of Broadlands,” she wrote to her parents, “need never have been less uneasy for his reputation”; and if parliamentary success be a sufficient test, she was entirely right. She found herself again in the thick of political discussion on leaving Greek waters. Her party sailed from Athens on June 17, and went to Trieste by Corfu—“that fairy island,” she wrote, “where every flower grows twice as big as it does anywhere else, and where no frost can touch the olive and the pomegranate.” She and her parents were acquainted with Sir Henry Ward, then Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. Sir Henry, who had been an active Liberal at home, had felt himself obliged to adopt sternly repressive measures in the islands. Miss Nightingale was opposed to his policy, as also to the British occupation. He invited her and her friends to the Palace. She went to proffer excuses. “He came out, said that I had often called him ‘Tyrant,’ and took me in his arms like a father, and stood over me in the character of Tyrant (he said) till I had written a letter compelling them all to come, which he then sealed and I sent. So the whole posse comitatus of us spent the day there, they sending the carriage for us, and I am really glad to have seen what is my idea of Eastern luxury.” The tyrant placed his accuser next to him at dinner, deplored his “false position,” and so forth, and they made some sort of peace; though not perhaps till Miss Nightingale had sought to bring him to a conviction of sin for his executions and arbitrary arrests, for she was armed, as her letters show, now as ever, with all the facts and figures marshalled in Blue-book precision.



Her mind was interested in all these things, but her heart was elsewhere. “Wherever thou art,” said a famous statesman, “it is with the poor that thou should'st live.” It was so with Florence Nightingale's inmost thoughts. Her greatest pleasure in Athens was found in the society of the American missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Hill, who conducted a school and orphanage. Of Mrs. Hill she wrote, “From heaven she comes, in heaven she lives.” In charge of the mission school was a Greek refugee from Crete, Elizabeth Kontaxaki, and with her too Florence Nightingale formed a warm friendship. Elizabeth had lived an adventurous life before she found security at Athens. Her father had fallen by a Turkish bullet. Her mother had made an heroic escape from a Turkish captor, and the first years of the child's life were spent in the fastnesses of Mount Ida. “Alas,” wrote Miss Nightingale, “how worthless my life seems to me by the side of these women.” A mood of great dejection appears in her diary of this time, to which an attack of low-fever no doubt contributed. She could not find satisfaction in the interests of foreign travel. She was tortured by unsatisfied longings which could find outlet only in a world of dreams. An entry in her diary for June 7 is in these words: “Grotto of the Eumenides. Will this Fury go on increasing till by degrees my mind is more and more taken off the outer world with all its claims, and I am no longer able to command my attention at all?”

Miss Nightingale and her friends landed at Trieste at the end of June, and thence made their way to Dresden and Berlin. The pictures which most impressed her were Raphael's “Sistine Madonna” and the “Reading Magdalen,” then attributed to Correggio. A year later her mother and sister were at Dresden, and she enjoined them, above all things, to see “the Magdalen, the queen of pictures.” “How I feel that picture now,” she wrote to them (August 26, 1851), “dark wood behind, sharp stones in front, nothing to look back upon, nothing to look forward to, clinging to the present as she does to the book, which[92] beams bright light upon me. Oh what a history that picture contains in its little canvass; and how well it hangs near that glorious Sistine Virgin. All that woman might be, all that she will be, near what she is; for it is not a Magdalen, in the common sense of the word, or rather it is in the common sense of what woman commonly is—not what we mean by a Magdalen.” At Dresden Miss Nightingale was still in much dejection. “I have never felt so bad,” she wrote (July 7); “the habit of living not in the present but in a future of dreams is gradually spreading over my whole existence. It is rapidly approaching the state of madness when dreams become realities.” And now when the goal of Kaiserswerth was near, she felt almost unmanned; almost inclined to turn back and follow another path. “It seemed to me now (July 10) as if quiet, with somebody to look for my coming back, was all I wanted.” But this was only a moment of passing weakness. At Berlin her spirits revived; for her vital interests were satisfied, and she spent some days in inspecting the hospitals and other benevolent institutions. On July 31 she reached Kaiserswerth. “I could hardly believe I was there,” she wrote in her diary. “With the feeling with which a pilgrim first looks on the Kedron, I saw the Rhine, dearer to me than the Nile.” She stayed a fortnight with the Pastor and his wife and the Deaconesses, studying their institutions. “Left Kaiserswerth,” says the diary (August 13), “feeling so brave as if nothing could ever vex me again.”[46] She rejoined her friends at Düsseldorf. “They stayed at Ghent actually for me to finish my MS.” (August 17). “Finished my MS. They read it. Mr. Bracebridge corrected it and sent it off” (August 19). Next day they returned to England.[93] The manuscript was of the pamphlet describing “The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine,” which was issued anonymously soon after Miss Nightingale's return.[47] Some notice of the pamphlet will be found in a later chapter in connection with her longer sojourn at Kaiserswerth in 1851. It was printed by the inmates of the Ragged School at Westminster in which she was interested. She described in it the work of the Deaconesses, and ended with an appeal to Englishwomen to go and do likewise. The fire burnt within her, and she returned home more than ever resolved to consecrate her life to the service of the sick and sorrowful.


Foreign travel, it will thus be seen, had worked no such cure, had created no such diversion, as her family desired. Their hope, even their expectation, was not unreasonable. Florence Nightingale was a woman of learning, and her foreign travels had stimulated her alike to research and to imaginative thought. At home, too, during all the years of restless and unsatisfied yearning for some other life, she had been a diligent reader and student. She had a real gift for literary expression, as her letters may already have indicated, and as her later writings were to prove more decisively. She had, moreover, the instinct for self-expression. She was a constant letter-writer and note-taker. She communed with herself not only in speechless thought, but in written memoranda. Had another impulse not been stronger within her, she might easily have become a literary woman of some distinction. But though she was fond of writing for her own satisfaction, she had a profound distrust of it as a substitute for action. Like one of George Eliot's heroines, “she did not want to deck herself with knowledge—to wear it loose from the nerves and blood that fed her action.” “You ask me,” she had written to Miss Clarke in 1844, “why I do not write something. I think what is not of the first class had better not exist at all; and besides I had so much rather live than write; writing is only a supplement for living. Would you have one go away and[94] ‘give utterance to one's feelings’ in a poem to appear (price 2 guineas) in the Belle Assemblée? I think one's feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions, and into actions which bring results. Do you think a babe would ever learn to walk if it were to talk about its living in such ‘strange times,’ ‘I must learn to use my legs,’ and so on? Or do you think anybody ever did anything, who did not go to it with a directness of purpose, which prevented him from frittering away his impressions in words?” She was of Ibsen's persuasion:—

What is Life? a fighting
In heart and in brain with trolls.
Poetry? that means writing
Doomsday-accounts of our souls.[48]

She held in great suspicion and dislike what she called the “artist-like way of looking upon life.” It reduces all religions, she said, and most inward and spiritual feelings “into a sort of magic-lantern, with which to make play for the amusement of the company.” Her mother used to praise her “beautiful letters,” was proud of the “European reputation” she had won among learned men, and wanted to know why she could not be happy in cultivating at home the gifts which God had given her. To Florence Nightingale these things were not gifts to be cultivated, but rather temptations to be subdued. She read with some attention in 1846 a book called Passages from the Life of a Daughter at Home, a religious work containing counsels of submission for women dissatisfied with their home life. “Piling up miscellaneous instruction for oneself,” she wrote in one place in the margin; “the most unsatisfactory of all pursuits!” She strove to say to God, as she wrote in another place, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord! not Behold the handmaid of correspondence, or of music, or of metaphysics!” “That power of always writing a good letter whenever one likes,” she said in one of her pages of self-examination, “is a great temptation”—a temptation, if such it be, to which, it must be confessed, she continually succumbed. But she wished to win no repute from her fall. In 1854 her sister printed the “beautiful letters” from[95] Egypt,[49] and issued a few copies for private circulation. Florence was not pleased, but acquiesced, and corrected the proofs.

Any dreams, then, which she may have harboured of literary distinction, she had put resolutely away from her. “Oh God,” she had written in her diary at Cairo, “thou puttest into my heart this great desire to devote myself to the sick and sorrowful. I offer it to thee. Do with it what is for thy service.” But there was still one other temptation to be subdued.




The craving for sympathy, which exists between two who are to form one indivisible and perfect whole, is in most cases between man and woman, in some between man and God. This the Roman Catholics have understood and expressed under the simile, Christ the bridegroom, the Nun married to Him, the Monk married to the Church; or as St. Francis to poverty, or as St. Ignatius Loyola to the divine mistress of his thoughts, the Virgin. This sort of tie between man and God seems alone able to fill the want of the other, the permanent exclusive tie between the one man and the one woman.—Florence Nightingale: Suggestions for Thought.

“I had three paths among which to choose,” wrote Miss Nightingale in a diary of 1850: “I might have been a literary woman, or a married woman, or a Hospital Sister.” We have seen how she turned away from the first path. Why did she reject the second?

“Our dear Flo,” wrote Mrs. Bracebridge to Miss Clarke in 1844, “has just recovered from a severe cold, but I hear nothing of what I long for, i.e. some noble-hearted, true man, one who can love her as she deserves to be loved, prepared to take her to a house of her own.” And three years later another friend, Fanny Allen, in describing a visit to Embley, said of Florence: “What a wife she would make for a man worthy of her! but I am not sure I yet know the mate fit for her.” The two Nightingale girls, she surmised, would experience a “difficulty in finding any one they would like well enough to forsake such a home.”[50] In the case of Florence, the position was ill understood by outsiders. To her the home was not a happy garden which she would be[97] very reluctant to forsake, but rather a gilded cage from which she eagerly sought a way of escape. To us who have the means of knowing her inmost thoughts and feelings, the question thus presents itself in another light than that in which it appeared to her friends at the time. She craved for a larger, fuller life than she could find at home. Why could she not, or why did she not, seek it in marriage? It is love that sometimes “frees the imprisoned spirit,” that enables it to find and to express itself. That Miss Nightingale remained single was not the result of lack of opportunity to marry. The reason is to be found elsewhere—in feelings, thoughts, and ideals, in reasoned convictions and aspirations, which, if I can present them aright, will illuminate her character and her career.

In 1873 Miss Nightingale, like the rest of the world, was reading Middlemarch, and a paper which she wrote in that year contained some notice of George Eliot's heroine.[51] “A novel of genius has appeared. Its writer once put before the world (in a work of fiction too), certainly the most living, probably the most historically truthful, presentment of the great Idealist, Savonarola of Florence. This author now can find no better outlet for the heroine—also an Idealist—because she cannot be a ‘St. Teresa’ or an ‘Antigone,’ than to marry an elderly sort of literary impostor, and, quick after him, his relation, a baby sort of itinerant Cluricaune (see Irish Fairies) or inferior Faun (see Hawthorne's matchless Transformation). Yet close at hand, in actual life, was a woman—an Idealist too—and if we mistake not, a connection of the author's, who has managed to make her ideal very real indeed. By taking charge of blocks of buildings in poorest London, while making herself the rent-collector, she found work for those who could not find work for themselves; she organized a system of visitors; … she brought sympathy and education to bear from individual to individual, … so that one might be tempted to say, ‘Were there one such woman with power to direct the flow of volunteer help, nearly everywhere running to waste, in every street of London's East End, almost might the East End be persuaded to become Christian.’ Could not the[98] heroine, the ‘sweet sad enthusiast,’ have been set to some such work as this? Indeed it is past telling the mischief that is done in thus putting down youthful ideals. There are not too many to begin with. There are few indeed to end with—even without such a gratuitous impulse as this to end them.” In this passage, as in much that Florence Nightingale wrote, there is an autobiographical note. She did not marry because she held fast to an ideal—an ideal nearer to that of Octavia Hill than to that of Dorothea Brooke.


For two or three years Florence Nightingale was in much trouble of mind from an attachment which one of her cousins had formed for her. In no case would she have thought it right to marry him. “Accident or relationship,” she wrote some years later,[52] “throw people together in their childhood, and acquaintance has grown up naturally and unconsciously. Accordingly in novels it is generally cousins who marry; and now it seems the only natural thing, the only possible way of making an intimacy. And yet we know that intermarriage between relations is in direct contravention of the laws of nature for the well-being of the race.” It was supposed by some of the family circle at the time that this was the only objection to an engagement; but there were others. Florence was in no mood, then or afterwards, to marry for the sake of marrying. Marriage, she had written to Miss Clarke (p. 66), was not an absolute blessing; and though she liked her cousin, she was in no sense in love with him. She felt relief, intense and unmixed, as she recorded in her private meditations, when she learnt that the young man had at last forgotten her. But though this episode left her heart-whole, it had a great and painful influence upon her mind. “Cleanse all my love from the desire of creating an interest in another's heart” is the burden of many of her meditations.

Among other attachments of which Florence Nightingale was the object, there was one which had a deeper effect and called for a more difficult and searching choice in life.[99] She was asked in marriage by one who continued for some years to press his suit. It was a proposal which seemed to those about her to promise every happiness. The match would by all have been deemed suitable, and by many might have been called brilliant. And Florence herself was strongly drawn to her admirer. She had not come to this state of mind in hasty inclination. She was on her guard against any such temptation. Many years before, in a letter to her “brother Jonathan,” as she called Miss Hilary Bonham Carter, she had written:—

It strikes me that in all the most unworldly poetry (both prose and verse) la passion qu'on appelle inclination is treated in a very extraordinary way. When one finds a comparative stranger becoming all of a sudden more essential to one than one's family (via flattery, in general, of one sort or another), one is content with saying to oneself, “Oh! that's love,” instead of saying, “How unjust and how blind this feeling is.” I wonder whether if people were to examine—for, as Socrates says, the life unexamined is not a living life—they would not find that (whatever it may ripen to afterwards) this feeling at first is generally begun by vanity or jealousy or self-love; and that what is very much to be guarded against, instead of submitted to, is the stranger's admiration (and I suppose everybody has been susceptible at one time of their lives) having more effect upon one than one's own family's.

In this case, however, the stranger's admiration had stood the test. She felt drawn to him, not by vanity or self-love; but because she admired his talents, and because the more she saw of him the greater pleasure did she find in his society. She leaned more and more upon his sympathy. Yet when the proposal first came, she refused it; and when it was renewed, she persisted. Then, it may be said, she cannot have been “in love” with him. And in one sense that is, I suppose, quite true; for love, as the poets tell us, does not reason, and Florence Nightingale reasoned deeply over her case. But it is certain that she felt at least as much affection as suffices to make half the marriages in the world. She turned away from a path to which she was strongly drawn in order to pursue her Ideal.

In one of the many pages of autobiographical notes which she preserved in relation to this episode in her life,[100] Miss Nightingale thus explained her refusal to marry. “I have an intellectual nature which requires satisfaction, and that would find it in him. I have a passional nature which requires satisfaction, and that would find it in him. I have a moral, an active nature which requires satisfaction, and that would not find it in his life. I can hardly find satisfaction for any of my natures. Sometimes I think that I will satisfy my passional nature at all events, because that will at least secure me from the evil of dreaming. But would it? I could be satisfied to spend a life with him combining our different powers in some great object. I could not satisfy this nature by spending a life with him in making society and arranging domestic things.… To be nailed to a continuation and exaggeration of my present life, without hope of another, would be intolerable to me. Voluntarily to put it out of my power ever to be able to seize the chance of forming for myself a true and rich life would seem to me like suicide.”

Florence Nightingale was no vestal ascetic. A true and perfect marriage was, she thought, the perfect state. “Marrying a man of high and good purpose, and following out that purpose with him is the happiest” lot. “The highest, the only true love, is when two persons, a man and a woman, who have an attraction for one another, unite together in some true purpose for mankind and God.”[53] The thought of God in instituting marriage was “that these two, when the right two are united, shall throw themselves fearlessly into the universe, and do its work, secure of companionship and sympathy.” Miss Nightingale recognized also that for many women marriage, even though it may fall short of this ideal state, is the proper lot in life. But she held, on the other hand, that there are some women who may be marked out for single life. “I don't agree at all (she wrote in 1846) that a woman has no reason (if she does not care for any one else) for not marrying a good man who asks her, and I don't think Providence does either. I think He has as clearly marked out some to be single women as He has others to be wives, and has organized them accordingly for their vocation. I think some have every reason for not[101] marrying, and that for these it is much better to educate the children who are already in the world and can't be got out of it, than to bring more into it. The Primitive Church clearly thought so too, and provided accordingly; and though no doubt the Primitive Church was in many matters an old woman, yet I think the experience of ages has proved her right in this.” And again: “Ours is a system of Christianity without the Cross”; the single life was the life of Christ. “Has Heaven bestowed everlasting souls on men, and sent them upon earth for no better purpose than to marry and be given in marriage? True, there is in this world much more waiting to be done; but is it the man leading a secular life who will do it? He is apt to see nothing beyond himself and the fair creature he has chosen for his bride.” And, as with men, so with women. There are women of intellectual or actively moral natures for whom marriage (unless it realizes the perfect ideal) means the sacrifice of their higher capacities to the satisfaction of their lower. “Death,” she wrote (again in a note-book of 1846), “is often the gateway to the Garden where we shall no longer hunger and thirst after real satisfaction. Marriage, on the contrary, is often an initiation into the meaning of that inexorable word Never; which does not deprive us, it is true, of what ‘at their festivals the idle and inconsiderate call life,’ but which brings in reality the end of our lives, and the chill of death with it.”

In her own case, Miss Nightingale was conscious of capacities within her for “high purposes for mankind and for God.” She could not feel sure that the marriage which was offered to her would enable her to employ those capacities to their best and fullest power. And so she sacrificed her “passional” nature to her moral ideal. “I am 30,” she wrote on her birthday in her diary of 1850; “the age at which Christ began His mission. Now no more childish things, no more vain things, no more love, no more marriage. Now, Lord, let me only think of Thy will.” And amongst her sayings in another book, I find this: “Strong passions to teach the secrets of the human heart, and a strong will to hold them in subjection, these are the keys of the kingdom in this world and the next.” Florence Nightingale[102] turned away from marriage in order that she might remain entirely free to fulfil her vocation.


It was not a sacrifice which cost her little. If, as some may hold, she was not in love, yet she confessed to herself many of a lover's pangs, and there were moments when, as she met her admirer again, or as she thought of him, she was half inclined to repent of her choice of the single life. And the sacrifice, moreover, was of an immediate satisfaction to an ideal which after all she might never be able to realize. The legends of the saints tell of many virgins and martyrs who have crucified the flesh and sacrificed worldly happiness for the love of Christ. But when the sacrifice was made, the love which seemed to them far better was already theirs. In the ears of St. Agnes the Divine Voice had sounded with sweet assurance, and she had tasted of the milk and honey of His lips. St. Dorothea was already espoused in a garden where celestial fruits and roses that never fade surrounded her. And to Florence Nightingale also happiness was to be given, filling all her life for some years, so that she “sought no better heaven”; but at the time when she made her choice, and renounced all else to follow her ideal, the way before her was still dark and uncertain. She was conscious of a call, but she had no assurance of appointed work. To have entered into a marriage which gave no sure promise of her ideal, would have been, she felt, the suicide of a soul; yet, when she was called to choose between the two paths, her present life was starvation.

Perhaps it was the price which she had paid for her ideal that led to what, in later years, some considered a certain hardness in her. When once a woman had devoted her life to the work of nursing, Miss Nightingale had little sympathy with any turning back. She seemed sometimes in such cases to regard marriage as the unpardonable sin.

But another and a loftier train of thought was prompted by her experience. At the end of one of her meditations upon marriage, and her refusal of it, I find these significant words: “I must strive after a better life for woman.” She[103] did not mean a better life than marriage; she meant also a life that should make the conditions of marriage better. In the world in which she lived, daughters, she wrote, “can only have a choice among those people whom their parents like, and who like their parents well enough to come to their house.” One may doubt whether in the mid-Victorian or in any age, young men paid calls only because they liked the parents; but unquestionably restriction in the employments of women involves also limitation in the opportunities for choice in marriage. And at the same time the lack of interest and variety in the lives of girls at home makes many of them inclined to marriage as a mere means of escape. By throwing open new spheres of usefulness to women, Miss Nightingale hoped at one and the same time to improve the lot of those who were marked out to be wives, and to find satisfaction for those marked out for the single life.




The only happiness a brave man ever troubled himself with asking much about was, happiness enough to get his work done. It is, after all, the one unhappiness of a man, that he cannot work; that he cannot get his destiny as a man fulfilled.—Carlyle.

Foreign travel had, as we have seen, in no way changed Florence Nightingale's resolve to devote herself to a life of nursing. She had turned away deliberately from marriage, and was bent upon finding a new field of usefulness for unmarried women. But ways and means of doing this were not yet apparent. She had no independent fortune of her own. She returned to a family circle which understood her cravings no better than before. The call of domestic duties was the same as before. There were aunts and a grandmother to be visited, company at home to be entertained, a sister to be humoured, a father and mother to be pleased.

But she could not please them, because she herself could find no pleasure in their life. She did not say to herself that she was better than they. Still less did she thank God that she was not as they were. But she felt with piteous keenness the gulf that separated her alike from her parents and from her sister. She loved her father, and admired his good impulses and amiable character. But she perceived that his contentment in a life of busy idleness made him constitutionally unable to enter fully into her state of mind. She loved her mother, and considered that she was,[105] within her range, a woman of genius. “She has the genius of order,” she wrote in a character-sketch of her mother, “the genius to organize a parish, to form society. She has obtained by her own exertions the best society in England.” What pained the daughter was the inability to please the mother. “When I feel her disappointment in me, it is as if I was becoming insane.” She loved her sister also, and, I think, yet more tenderly. But as the sister once wrote: “The natures God has given us differ as widely as different races.” Florence was deeply sensible of the attractive side of her sister's character. Lady Verney had indeed a most attractive mind; she was very vivacious, inquiring, and highly gifted, both as an artist and as a writer. She was a perfect hostess, and her memory is pleasant to all who knew her. If she lacked some of her sister's stronger English characteristics, she had a light touch which Florence did not possess. And Florence felt the charm of all this. “No one less than I,” she wrote, “wants her to do one single thing different from what she does. She wants no other religion, no other occupation, no other training than what she has. She has never had a difficulty except with me; she knows nothing of struggle in her own unselfish nature.” But for that very reason she could not sympathize with, because she could not understand, her sister's difficulties. In a passage which is doubtless autobiographical, Florence wrote: “Very few people can sympathise with each other in any pursuit or thought of any importance. If people do not give you thought for thought, receive yours, digest it, and give it back with the impression of their own character upon it, then give you one for you to do likewise, it is best to know what one is about, and not to attempt more than kindly, cheerful outward intercourse. Some find amusement in the outward, do not suffer inwardly, because the attention is turned elsewhere.”[54] Meanwhile Florence felt that everything she said or did was a subject of vexation to her sister, a disappointment to her mother, a worry to her father. “I have never known a happy time,” she exclaimed to herself, “except at Rome and that fortnight at Kaiserswerth. It is not the unhappiness[106] I mind, it is not indeed; but people can't be unhappy without making those about them so.”

She strove to attain happiness. She tried to submit her will to what her spiritual confidantes told her must be taken to be the will of God; to trust that in His own good time He would make her vocation sure; in such confidence to find relief, and to throw herself meanwhile into the round of immediate duties. But the more she struggled, the more she failed. She could not subdue the imperious longing to be up and doing which surged within her. “The thoughts and feelings that I have now,” she wrote, “I can remember since I was six years old. It was not that I made them. A profession, a trade, a necessary occupation, something to fill and employ all my faculties, I have always felt essential to me, I have always longed for, consciously or not. During a middle part of my life, college education, acquirement, I longed for, but that was temporary. The first thought I can remember, and the last, was nursing work; and in the absence of this, education work, but more the education of the bad than of the young. But for this I had had no education myself.” Finding no outlet in active reality, she lived more than ever in a land of dreams. “Everything has been tried,” she exclaimed to herself; “foreign travel, kind friends, everything.” And again, “My God! what is to become of me?” Eighteen months before she had resolved on a great effort to crucify her old self, “to break through the habits, entailed upon me by an idle life, of living, not in the present world of action, but in a future one of dreams. Since then nations have passed before me, but have brought no new life to me. In my 31st year I see nothing desirable but death.” She was perishing, as she put it, for want of food; and she could find no impulse to activity. Her habit of late rising grew upon her; for what had she to wake for? “Starvation does not lead a man to exertion, it only weakens him. O weary days, O evenings that seem never to end! For how many long years, I have watched that drawing-room clock and thought it would never reach the ten! And for 20 or 30 more years to do this!” And again, “Oh, how I am to get through[107] this day, to talk through all this day, is the thought of every morning.… This is the sting of death. Why do I wish to leave this world? God knows I do not expect a heaven beyond, but that He would set me down in St. Giles's, at a Kaiserswerth, there to find my work and my salvation in my work.”


Such cries from the heart, cries for the food for which she was hungering and which her parents could or would not let her take, filled many a sheet of Florence Nightingale's diaries, letters, and memoranda. “Mountains of difficulties,” as she says in one place, were “piled up” around her. Looking forward to a New Year (1851) she could see nothing in front of her but the same unsatisfying routine. “The next three weeks,” she said, in one of her written colloquies with herself, “you will have company; then a fortnight alone; then a few weeks of London, then Embley; then perhaps go abroad; then three months of company at Lea Hurst; next the same round of Embley company.” And then, with a humorous transition not infrequent in her musings, she asks, “But why can't you get up in the morning? I have nothing I like so much as unconsciousness, but I will try.” As the year advanced a more decided spirit of revolt begins to appear in her diaries. One of her perplexities hitherto had been a doubt whether the “mountains of difficulties” were to be taken as occasions for submission to God's will, or whether they were piled up in order to try her patience and her resolve, and were to be surmounted by some initiative of her own. She now began to interpret God's will in the latter sense. “I must take some things,” she wrote on Whitsunday (June 8, 1851), “as few as I can, to enable me to live. I must take them, they will not be given me; take them in a true spirit of doing Thy will, not of snatching them for my own will. I must do without some things, as many as I can, which I could not have without causing more suffering than I am obliged to cause any way.” She would cease looking for the sympathy and understanding of her mother and sister. “I have been so long treated as a child and have so long allowed[108] myself to be treated as a child.” She would submit to such tutelage no longer.

Various plans had at different times found place in her dreams. She would collect funds for founding a sisterhood, an institution, a hospital; but one thing she saw clearly and consistently. If she were ever to have an opportunity of doing good work in nursing or otherwise in service to the poor, she must first learn her business. There is a long letter of 1850 from her to her father in which she argues the point, not specifically with reference to herself, but as a general proposition. Something more than good intention is necessary in order to do good. Philanthropy is a matter of skill, and an apprenticeship in it is necessary. An opportunity occurred sooner than she had dared to hope which enabled her to serve such an apprenticeship. Her sister was still in bad health, and a visit to Carlsbad was again proposed. She insisted on being allowed to start with her mother and her sister, and to spend at Kaiserswerth the time that they would spend upon the cure and subsequent travels.

She reached Kaiserswerth early in July and stayed there as an inmate of the Institution until October 8.


Kaiserswerth is an ancient town on the Rhine, on the right bank, six miles below Düsseldorf. In its Church of the twelfth century a reliquary is shown, in which are preserved the bones of St. Suitbertus, who came there from Ireland to preach the Gospel in 710. Eleven centuries later, a Protestant pastor of Kaiserswerth repaid the debt to the British Isles by founding the famous Institution for Deaconesses which was now to give Florence Nightingale an important part of her training. The order of deaconesses, as she was careful to point out in her account of Kaiserswerth, was known in the Primitive Church; and long before St. Vincent de Paul established the Sisters of Mercy in 1633, Protestant communities had in 1457 organized “Presbyterae,” since “many women chose a single state, not because they expected thereby to reach a super-eminent degree of[109] holiness, but that they might be better able to care for the sick and young.” It was in 1823–24 that the young pastor of Kaiserswerth, Theodor Fliedner, set out on a journey to Holland and England to beg for funds to relieve his parish, which had been ruined by the failure of a silk-mill. In England, the little Princess Victoria headed his list of subscribers. In London he met Mrs. Elizabeth Fry and was greatly impressed with her work in Newgate. Shortly after his return he founded (1826) the Rhenish-Westphalian Prison Association. Presently he met a kindred spirit in Friederike Münster, a woman in comparatively easy circumstances who was devoting herself to reformatory work. They married, and in 1833—in a tiny summer-house in the pastor's garden—a refuge was opened for the reception of a single discharged prisoner. Three years later, they added, on an equally modest scale at first, an Infant School, and a Hospital in which to train volunteer-nurses as deaconesses. From these humble beginnings has grown a great congeries of institutions, the fame of which has spread throughout the philanthropic world. There are thirty branch or daughter houses in various parts of Germany. They are to be found also at Jerusalem, Alexandria, Cairo, Beirut, Smyrna, and Bucharest. “Not only its own daughter houses, but all independent institutions for deaconesses, owe their existence to Kaiserswerth, for all subsequent work wrought by deaconesses whether in France, Switzerland, or America, whether Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopalian, has been the fruit of the Kaiserswerth tree.”[55]

But the forest began as a tiny acorn. Pastor Fliedner started his work not with grandiose schemes or full-fledged programmes, but with individual cases and personal devotion. This was a point to which Miss Nightingale called particular attention in her account of the place. “It is impossible not to observe,” she said, “how different was the beginning from the way in which institutions are generally founded—a list of subscribers with some royal and noble names at the head—a double column of rules and regulations—a collection of great names begin (and end) most new enterprises. The[110] regulations are made without experience. Honorary members abound, but where are the working ones? The scheme is excellent, but what are the results?” Miss Nightingale's intensely practical genius had ever a holy horror of prospectuses. In some notes written on June 15, 1848, I find this passage:—

Eschew Prospectuses; they're the devil, and make one sick. It is like making out a bill of fare when you have not a single pound of meat. What do the cookery books say? First catch your hare. All the instances on the Continent have begun in one of two ways. At Kaiserswerth, a clergyman and his wife have begun, not with a Prospectus, but with a couple of hospital beds, and have offered, not an advertisement, but a home to young women willing to come. At Berne, a Mdlle. Würstenberger, a woman of rank and education, goes to Kaiserswerth to learn, and her friend to Strassburg. They return and open a hospital with two rooms, increase their funds, others join them and are taught by them.… To publish first is as bad a practical bull as is the name of the Prospective Review.

A few years were to pass, and Florence Nightingale herself was to begin her work in the world not with a programme, but with a deed.

The institutions of Kaiserswerth, when she was there in 1851, were still on a comparatively modest scale. They comprised, as she enumerates them, a Hospital (with 100 beds), an Infant School, a Penitentiary (with 12 inmates), an Orphan Asylum, and a Normal School for schoolmistresses. There were in all 116 deaconesses, of whom 94 were “consecrated,” the remainder being still on probation. The “consecration” consisted only of “a solemn blessing in the Church, without vows of any kind.” Of the 116 deaconesses, 67 were on service in other parts of Germany, or abroad; the rest were engaged in working the various institutions at Kaiserswerth itself. After six months' trial they received a modest salary, just enough to provide their clothes. There was no other reward, except that the Mother House stood open to receive those who might fall ill or become infirm in its service. Everything was clean and well ordered, but there was no luxury; the board was simple to the verge of roughness. The place was pervaded by two notes. It was a place of[111] training, and a place of consecrated service. The training was both in practice and by precept. Every week the pastor gave a conversational lecture to the deaconesses, finding out from each the difficulties she might have experienced in her work, and suggesting how they could best be met. The education of the young, the ministration of the sick, the art of district visiting, the yet more difficult work of rescue and reformation, all were taught.

In such a place as this, Florence Nightingale found by actual experience, as already she had learnt to expect from reading the reports, the realization in some degree of her most earnest desires. The training in nursing was, it is true, not particularly good; it fell far short of the professional standard which the Nightingale School was afterwards to set up. She objected strongly in later years to current statements that her own training was confined to Kaiserswerth. “The nursing there,” she wrote, “was nil. The hygiene horrible. The hospital was certainly the worst part of Kaiserswerth. I took all the training that was to be had—there was none to be had in England, but Kaiserswerth was far from having trained me.” On the other hand “the tone was excellent, admirable. And Pastor Fliedner's addresses were the very best I ever heard. The penitentiary out-door work and vegetable gardening under a very capable Sister were excellently adapted to the case. And Pastor Fliedner's solemn and reverential teaching to us of the sad events of hospital life was what I have never heard in England.”[56] But here, at Kaiserswerth, Miss Nightingale found “a better life for women,” a scope for the exercise of “morally active” powers. And here, though the field was limited, was provided in some sort the training which alone could fit women for larger responsibilities elsewhere. Here was “the service of man” organized as “the service of God”; here was opportunity for the Dedicated Life, as she had found it also in the Trinità de' Monti.

Her manner of life at Kaiserswerth and her joy in it were told in letters to her mother:—

On Sunday I took the sick boys a long walk along the Rhine;[112] two Sisters were with me to help me to keep order. They were all in ecstasies with the beauty of the scenery, and really I thought it very fine too in its way—the broad mass of waters flowing ever on slowly and calmly to their destination, and all that unvarying horizon—so like the slow, calm, earnest, meditative German character.

The world here fills my life with interest, and strengthens me in body and mind. I succeeded directly to an office, and am now in another, so that until yesterday I never had time even to send my things to the wash. We have ten minutes for each of our meals, of which we have four. We get up at 5; breakfast ¼ before 6. The patients dine at 11; the Sisters at 12. We drink tea (i.e. a drink made of ground rye) between 2 and 3, and sup at 7. We have two ryes and two broths—ryes at 6 and 3, broths at 12 and 7; bread at the two former, vegetables at 12. Several evenings in the week we collect in the Great Hall for a Bible lesson. The Pastor sent for me once to give me some of his unexampled instructions; the man's wisdom and knowledge of human nature is wonderful; he has an instinctive acquaintance with every character in his place. Except that once I have only seen him in his rounds.

The operation to which Mrs. Bracebridge alludes was an amputation at which I was present, but which I did not mention to——, knowing that she would see no more in my interest in it than the pleasure dirty boys have in playing in the puddles about a butcher's shop. I find the deepest interest in everything here, and am so well in body and mind. This is Life. Now I know what it is to live and to love life, and really I should be sorry now to leave life. I know you will be glad to hear this, dearest Mum. God has indeed made life rich in interests and blessings, and I wish for no other earth, no other world but this.

The room in which Miss Nightingale slept during her residence at Kaiserswerth was in the Orphan Asylum. She took her meals with the Deaconesses. The Spartan severity, but no less the beautiful spirit of the place, were clear in her recollection nearly half a century later. In 1897 the authorities of the British Museum applied to her for a copy of the pamphlet on Kaiserswerth which she had printed in 1851. The pencilled note which she sent with a torn copy of the pamphlet, the only one she could find, is preserved in the Museum Library. “I was twice in training there myself,” she wrote (September 24, 1897). “Of course[113] since then, Hospital and District nursing have made giant strides. Indeed District nursing has been invented. But never have I met with a higher tone, a purer devotion, than there. There was no neglect. It was the more remarkable because many of the Deaconesses had been only peasants—none were gentlewomen (when I was there). The food was poor. No coffee but bean-coffee. No luxury; but cleanliness.” Pastor Fliedner told a visitor to Kaiserswerth that “no person had ever passed so distinguished an examination, or shown herself so thoroughly mistress of all she had to learn, as Miss Nightingale.”[57]


Happy as Miss Nightingale was at Kaiserswerth, there was yet one thing lacking. She wished, it is true, for no other earth; she had found her pictured heaven; her life was full and rich. Yet with all her self-reliance, and even in the moment of first victory in her long struggle for self-expression, she yearned, woman-like, for sympathy. Nay, and not only woman-like. “Not till we can think,” said Carlyle, “that here and there one is thinking of us, one is loving us, does this waste earth become a peopled garden.” It was not enough to Florence that she should have had her way and that her parents should have acquiesced. Her loving heart craved for their positive sympathy; her mind, half leaning for all its masterfulness, demanded that what she had decided should be accepted by those dear to her as their choice also. “I should be as happy here,” she wrote to her mother (August 31), “as the day is long, if I could hope that I had your smile, your blessing, your sympathy upon it; without which I cannot be quite happy. My beloved people, I cannot bear to grieve you. Life and everything in it that charms you, you would sacrifice for me; but unknown to you is my thirst, unseen by you are waters which would save me. To save me, I know would be to bless yourselves, whose love for me passes the love of women. Oh how shall I show you love and gratitude in return, yet[114] not so perish that you chiefly would mourn! Give me time, give me faith. Trust me, help me. I feel within me that I could gladden your loving hearts which now I wound. Say to me, ‘Follow the dictates of that spirit within thee.’ Oh my beloved people, that spirit shall never lead me to anything unworthy of one who is yours in love.”[58] But her mother and her sister, though they loved and admired her, or perhaps from their point of view because they did so, were unable to give any such active sympathy as that for which she craved. Her sister hoped that the visit to Kaiserswerth would be only an episode. It was a good thing, she had written to her mother, for Florence to go there, “as we can get her back sooner to Lea Hurst.” To Florence herself she wrote affectionately, but yet with gentle irony. She sent a lively letter describing in detail the birth of a friend's twins: “I tell you, as you are going to be a sage femme, I suppose.” Mrs. Nightingale, for her part, had acquiesced in the visit to Kaiserswerth, but was already wondering what people would think of her daughter's escapade. “I have not mentioned to any one,” wrote Florence (July 16), “where I am, and should also be very sorry that the old ladies should know. With regard, however, to your fear of what people will say, the people whose opinion you most care about, it has been their earnest wish for years that I should come here. The Bunsens (I know he wishes one of his own daughters would come), the Bracebridges, the Sam Smiths, Lady Inglis, the Sidney Herberts, the Plunketts, all wish it; and I know that others—Lady Byron, Caroline Bathurst, Mr. Tremenheere, Mr. Rich (whose opinions however I have not asked)—would think it a very desirable thing for everybody.… With regard to telling people the fact (afterwards) of my having been here, I can see no difficulty. The Herberts, as you know, even commissioned me to do something for them here. The fact itself will pain none of them.” Mr. and Mrs. Herbert, who were at Homburg, presently paid her a visit at Kaiserswerth.

Mrs. Nightingale and her elder daughter reached Cologne[115] on their way home in October 1851, and there Florence rejoined them. “Our dear child Florence,” wrote the mother to Madame Mohl (October 9), “came to us yesterday, and is gone this morning to visit certain Deaconesses and others. I long to be at home and among our people. Daily and hourly I congratulate myself that our home is where it is. Oh what a land of justice and freedom and all good things it is, compared to what we have seen, and how surprising that with all our advantages and our freedom won we should not be so much better than other people. Well, I hope Florence will be able to apply all the fine things she has been learning, to do a little to make us better. Parthe and I are much too idle to help and too apt to be satisfied with things as they are.”




Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.—Byron.

The three months which Miss Nightingale spent at Kaiserswerth in 1851 were a turning-point in her career, but they were not immediately effectual in altering the tenor of her life. The battle for freedom was not yet completely won; but the “mountains of difficulty” in her way had been turned, and henceforth the resistance offered to her was but a rear-guard action.

A note of serenity, in marked contrast to the storm and distress of earlier years, now appears in some of her letters. She had firmly resolved on taking her life into her own hands; and at Kaiserswerth she had already served some apprenticeship. She was resolved no less firmly to follow up the advantage; and, though there were still to be some difficulties ahead, she could afford to be patient for a while:—

(To Miss H. Bonham Carter.) Umberslade, Jan. 8. Brussels Sprouts is at it already, I mean at correspondence. I mention it to show how little women's occupations are respected, when people can think that a woman has time to spin out long theories with every young fool who visits at her house. This place is grand—Inigo Jones, and Papa is content.… I like Dr. Johnson; but I can always talk better to a medical man than to any one else. They have not that detestable nationality which makes it so difficult to talk with an Englishman. I suppose the habit of examining organisations gives them this.… Poor Cassandra has found an unexpected ally in a young surgeon[117] of a London hospital, a son of Dr. Johnson who sits next Papa at the table d'hôte. The account he gives of the nurses beats everything that even I know of. This young prophet says that they are all drunkards, without exception, Sisters and all, and that there are but two nurses whom the surgeon can trust to give the patients their medicines. I thought you would be pleased to hear how bad they are, so I tell you. Johnson is extraordinarily careful, but he does not strike me as having genius like Gully. The company is of a nature which would give Mama some hopes of me that I should learn “the value of good society” by the contrast.…

(To her Father.) May 12 [1852]. On my 32nd birthday I think I must write a word of acknowledgment to you. I am glad to think that my youth is past, and rejoice that it never, never can return—that time of follies and bondage, of unfulfilled hopes and disappointed inexperience, when a man possesses nothing, not even himself. I am glad to have lived; though it has been a life which, except as the necessary preparation for another, few would accept. I hope now that I have come into possession of myself. I hope that I have escaped from that bondage which knows not how to distinguish between “bad habits” and “duties”—terms often used synonymously by all the world. It is too soon to holloa before you are out of the wood; and like the Magdalen in Correggio's picture, I see the dark wood behind, the sharp stones in front only with too much clearness. Of clearness, however, there cannot be too much. But, as in the picture, there is light. I hope that I may live; a thing which I have not often been able to say, because I think I have learnt something which it would be a pity to waste. And I am ever yours, dear father, in struggle as in peace, with thanks for all your kind care, F. N.

When I speak of the disappointed inexperience of youth, of course I accept that, not only as inevitable, but as the beautiful arrangement of Infinite Wisdom, which cannot create us gods, but which will not create us animals, and therefore wills mankind to create mankind by their own experience—a disposition of Perfect Goodness which no one can quarrel with. I shall be very ready to read you, when I come home, any of my “Works,” in your own room before breakfast, if you have any desire to hear them.—Au revoir, dear Papa.


There were various reasons for the comparative serenity of Miss Nightingale's mind during this period of pause. One[118] was the obvious call of filial duty for the moment. Her father was in poor health, and had been advised to take the water-cure under Dr. Johnson at Umberslade Park, in Worcestershire. Florence, being herself convalescent at the time from an attack of the measles, was the more ready to companion her father. She was at Umberslade with him for some weeks at the beginning, and again at the end, of the year. Her observation of some of the patients there, as in a former year at Malvern, was the origin of an epigrammatic definition which I find in one of her note-books: “The water-cure: a highly popular amusement within the last few years amongst athletic invalids who have felt the tedium vitae, and those indefinite diseases which a large income and unbounded leisure are so well calculated to produce.” Then, again, towards the end of the year, her kinswoman, “Aunt Evans,” was smitten down. She was the sister of her father's mother, and died at the age of ninety. Florence attended her in her last illness, and as emergency-man made all the arrangements for her funeral. George Eliot was, I believe, distantly connected with “Aunt Evans's” family; and it was in this year that she and Florence met. “I had a note from Miss Florence Nightingale yesterday,” wrote George Eliot in July 1852; “I was much pleased with her. There is a loftiness of mind about her which is well expressed by her form and manner.”[59] Florence also at this time called upon Mrs. Browning, who in a letter to a friend, three years later, said: “I remember her face and her graceful manner and the flowers she sent me afterwards. She is an earnest, noble woman.”[60] In August 1852 Miss Nightingale visited Ireland, and inspected the Dublin hospitals, somewhat, it seems, to her disappointment. She went in September with her father to stay with Sir James Clark, Queen Victoria's physician, at Birk Hall, near Ballater. She always got on well, as we have just heard, with medical men, and the opportunity of discussing her plans and thoughts with so eminent a physician must have pleased her greatly.



The letter to her father, given above, refers to Miss Nightingale's “Works”; and herein is to be found a second explanation of this peaceful interlude in her life. She had, as I have said, renounced a literary career; but she drew a sharp distinction between what she called literature for its own sake, and writing as subservient to action. She was intensely anxious to find some theological sanction, less assailable than she deemed the popular creeds to be, for her religion of practical service. Again, as I have also said, she was determined to open up a new sphere of usefulness for women. These were the subjects of her “Works,” which comprised “a Novel” and a book on “Religion.” Of the novel, no manuscript has been found among her papers. But in one of three volumes of Suggestions for Thought, which she printed privately in 1860, there is a section entitled “Cassandra,” dealing with the life at home of an ordinary English gentlewoman. It may be conjectured that the form of the novel was abandoned after 1852, and the theme treated instead in the pages of “Cassandra.” The manuscript book on “Religion” was doubtless enlarged between 1852 and 1860 into the main portion of the Suggestions for Thought, of which the first volume was dedicated “To the Artizans of England.”

Already in 1851, in a sheet of good resolutions, Miss Nightingale had planned to devote some portion of her life at home to giving “a new religion to the Tailors.” The hero of Alton Locke, published in 1850, was, it will be remembered, a tailor. Miss Nightingale herself had some acquaintance with operatives in the North of England and in London, “among those of what are called ‘Holyoake's party.’”[61] She met these latter through Mr. Edward Truelove, whom some readers of earlier generations may still remember as a publisher and vendor of radical and “free-thinking” literature. “The Literary and Scientific Institution” in John Street, Fitzroy Square, was in the 'forties the headquarters of Owenite Socialists, the Secularists[120] (whose chief prophet was George Jacob Holyoake) and other “advanced” persons. In 1846 Mr. Truelove had come up from “Harmony Hall,” the Owenite community at Tytherley in Hampshire, to act as Secretary of the Institution in John Street; and in a small house next door he set up his shop—afterwards removed, successively, to the Strand and High Holborn. A west-end lady, who did not at first give her name, used to pay occasional visits to the shop in John Street, and have long conversations with the wife of the proprietor. The lady was Miss Nightingale, and the acquaintance developed into a friendship with Mrs. Truelove, which extended over many years. Mr. Truelove was an unworldly man, conducting his affairs with entire disregard for “business principles,” conventional opinions, and constituted authorities. His shop, as Mr. Holyoake said, was one of the “fortresses of prohibited thought, not garrisoned without daring”; and provisioned, it may be added, scantily enough. Miss Nightingale continued to see Mrs. Truelove from time to time in later years; wrote to her occasionally; sent her books and various presents regularly; and in times of her husband's difficulties and (literally) trials, never withheld sympathy.

Miss Nightingale's object, in her first expeditions to John Street, had been to discover and discuss the kind of literature affected by the more intelligent working-men. The conclusion at which she arrived was that “the most thinking and conscientious of the artizans have no religion at all.”[62] She set to work, accordingly, to find a new religion for them. In this undertaking she took much counsel with one of her aunts. This was “Aunt Mai,” her father's sister, Mary Shore, married to Mr. Samuel Smith, her mother's brother. A large number of her letters on religious subjects was preserved by Miss Nightingale. They show spiritual insight, and a considerable talent in speculative thought. The postscript of Miss Nightingale's letter to her father, given above, contains one of the fundamental ideas in her scheme of theology—the idea of Perfect Goodness, willing that mankind shall create mankind by man's own experience. The same idea was suggested by Aunt Mai when she wrote[121] to her niece: “The purpose of God is to accomplish the welfare of man, not as a gift from Him, but as to be attained for each individual and for the whole race by the right exercise of the capabilities of each.”

During 1851 and 1852 aunt and niece corresponded at great length on these high matters, and by the end of the latter year Miss Nightingale had her new religion ready for the criticism of her friends. “Many thanks,” she wrote (Nov. 19) to her cousin Hilary, “for your letter of corrections and annotations, all of which I have adopted. I should much like to have a regular talk with you about the Novel. I have not the least idea whether I shall have to remodel the Novel and ‘Religion’ entirely; for I am so sick of it that I lose all discrimination about the ensemble and the form.” Her object is explained in a letter of about the same date to another friend:—

(To R. Monckton Milnes.) I am going abroad soon. Before I go, I am thinking of asking you whether you would look over certain things which I have written for the working-men on the subject of belief in a God. All the moral and intellectual among them seem going over to atheism, or at least to a vague kind of theism. I have read them to one or two, and they have liked them. I should have liked to have asked you if you think them likely to be read by more; but you are perhaps not interested in the subject, or you have no time, which is fully taken up with other things. If you tell me this, it will be no surprise or disappointment.[63]

Lord Houghton read the manuscript attentively, and did not forget it. Several years later, when Miss Nightingale was ill, and thought likely to die, he wrote to her suggesting that if she had made no other arrangements for the preservation and possible publication of her essay, she might think of entrusting it to him. “I have often thought,” he said (March 11, '61), “of asking you what you meant to do with the papers you have written on social and speculative subjects. They surely should not be destroyed; and yet I hardly know to whom you will entrust them, who would not misunderstand, misinterpret, and misuse them. If you were to leave them in my hands, they would be, at any rate,[122] safe from irreverent handling or crude exposure, and could be used in any way more or less future that you might think fit.” By that time, however, the work had been submitted to the judgment of other men of letters; and to that later period further reference to the subject had better be postponed.


The formulating of a religion, whether for the tailors or others, is no short task, and Miss Nightingale's “Works” must have well filled her mind during otherwise unoccupied hours in 1852. But the “Works” were only bye-work. Her main concern was to continue her apprenticeship in nursing. Some vexatious delays and difficulties were still to be encountered, but she faced them with a brighter confidence than before, and the last stage of the struggle wears an aspect more of comedy than of tragedy. She had successfully asserted her independence once in going to Kaiserswerth. In an imaginary dialogue with her mother, she makes herself say, “Why, my dear, you don't suppose that with my ‘talents’ and my ‘European reputation’ and my ‘beautiful letters,’ and all that, I'm going to stay dangling about my mother's drawing-room all my life! I shall go and look out for work, to be sure. You must look upon me as your son. I should have cost you a great deal more if I had married or been a son. You must now consider me married or a son. You were willing to part with me to be married.” In presenting the case in this light to her parents, Florence had now a valuable ally in her Aunt Mai. Something of a diplomatist, as well as of a philosopher, was within the powers of that excellent woman. Without any interference which could be resented, by insinuating a word here, suggesting a phrase there, and pouring oil upon troubled waters everywhere, Aunt Mai did a good deal to smooth the last stages in her niece's struggle for independence.

Like all good diplomatists, the aunt sought first for a basis of compromise. She was able to sympathize with both sides. She was wholly favourable to her niece's aspirations and claims. But as a mother herself, she could enter into the case of her brother and his wife. It was not[123] that they were selfishly obstructive; it was that, finding so much interest and enjoyment themselves in their own way of life, they desired in all love that the daughter should not deprive herself of the same privileges. But could not a compromise be arranged? Let it be agreed that Florence should spend part of each year in pursuit of what the mother considered her daughter's fancies, and spend another part at home. This was the arrangement which was in fact now in force.

The compromise served well enough for a while, but Florence wanted something more; and here, again, Aunt Mai's diplomacy prepared the way. With a good strategic eye, she saw that Mrs. Nightingale held the key of the position. Mr. Nightingale in his heart was at one with Florence. He admired her and believed in her; he was quite willing that she should go her own way, and was not reluctant to make her some independent allowance, such as would enable her to conduct a mission or an institution. But, as he said to his sister, whenever he broached anything of the kind to his wife and elder daughter, he found them united against him. Mr. Nightingale was one of those amiable men who are inclined to take the line of least resistance. It was Mrs. Nightingale's opposition, therefore, that had to be overcome. “Your mother,” reported the aunt, “would, I believe, be most willing that you undertake a mission like Mrs. Fry or Mrs. Chisholm,[64] but she thinks it necessary for your peace and well-being that there should be a Mr. Fry or Captain Chisholm to protect you, and in conscience she thinks it right to defend you from doing anything which she thinks would be an impediment to the existence of Mr. F. or Captain C.” A good many mothers, even in these days, will, I doubt not, be on Mrs. Nightingale's side. But Aunt Mai, having made her sister-in-law define the position, pressed the advantage in an ingenious way. Florence was already thirty-two; and a time comes soon after that age when even the most sanguine mother begins to despair. It was agreed, accordingly, that “at some future specified age” Florence[124] should be free to do the work of a Mrs. Fry or a Mrs. Chisholm without the protection of a Mr. F. or a Captain C. There was even some talk of obtaining a written agreement to that effect, specifying the age; but Aunt Mai thought better of such a plan, and contented herself with calling in another witness to the verbal understanding. This was the lady—Mrs. Bracebridge—who two years later was to accompany Miss Nightingale on a mission more renowned even than that of Mrs. Fry or Mrs. Chisholm. But from the point gained by Aunt Mai's diplomacy and Florence's own persistence, a logical consequence followed. Presently, at some future unspecified age, Florence was to be free to control some philanthropic institution; but what would be the use of being free to do so, unless she were also trained and qualified?


Having lived and learnt among the Protestant Deaconesses in Germany, Miss Nightingale was next determined to do the like among the Catholic Sisters in France. She sought the good offices of Manning, whose acquaintance she had made in Rome five years before, and who had now lately been received into the Roman Communion. Manning put himself into communication with his friend, the Abbé Des Genettes, in Paris. The Abbé obtained leave from the Council of the Sisters of Charity for the English lady to study their institutions. It had been explained to him that Miss Nightingale was also desirous of studying the hospitals in Paris. The Abbé accordingly selected a House belonging to the Sisters which would offer every advantage in this respect. Her cousin, Miss Hilary Bonham Carter, who was intent on the study of art and had been invited to stay with M. and Madame Mohl, was to accompany her to Paris; and Lady Augusta Bruce was also to be of the party. It was in the salon of Madame Mohl that Lady Augusta met her future husband, Dean Stanley.

Thus, then, it had been arranged. The necessary authorization from the Sisters had been obtained in September. The start was to be made in November. But as the time approached, Mrs. Nightingale drew back. She wrote[125] of the plan, not as something agreed upon, but as a new proposition. “I am afraid,” she said to Aunt Mai, “that Flo is thinking of some new expedition, perhaps to Paris. I cannot make up my mind to it.” Florence was staying at a friend's house in London. Her father came in, and reported that her mother was greatly distressed. There was company coming to Embley, and could Florence have the heart to leave her mother? “Parthe would be in hysterics.” Every one would be in despair. Could she not delay? An aged kinswoman, moreover, was ill, as already related. Florence yielded, perhaps more to this last consideration than to the others, and the start was postponed. There was a lingering hope that the expedition to Paris might be abandoned, and a suggestion was made to that end. Why must Florence go to the Sisters, and Roman Catholic Sisters, too—abroad? Why should she not stay at home, and conduct some small institution on her own account? There was a house available for such a purpose at Cromford Bridge, close to their own Lea Hurst, and Mr. Nightingale would provide the necessary funds. In this way the best might be made of both worlds—of theirs, and of hers. Florence was touched, but remained of her own mind:—

(To her sister.) January 3. Oh, my dearest Pop, I wish I could tell you how I love you and thank you for your kind thoughts as received in your letter to-day. If you did but know how genial it is to me, when my dear people give me a hope of their blessing and that they would speed me on my way! as the kind thought of Cromford seems to say they are ready to do. I will write to Mama about Paris and Cromford. My Pop, whether at one or the other, my heart will be with thee. Now if these seem mere words, because bodily I shall be leaving you, have patience with me, my dearest. I hope that you and I shall live to prove a true love to each other. I cannot, during the year's round, go the way which (for my sake, I know) you have wished. There have been times when, for your dear sake, I have tried to stifle the thoughts which I feel ingrained in my nature. But, if that may not be, I hope that something better shall be. If I ask your blessing on a part of my time for my absence, I hope to be all the happier with you for that absence when we are together.

Miss Nightingale refused Cromford Bridge House: it[126] was most unsuitable for the purpose; the only more unsuitable place was the “Forest Lodge” at Embley, which her sister Parthe had suggested. In the following year, Florence joined the Sisters of Charity in Paris. And thus, after many struggles and delays, was she launched upon her true work in the world.



(1853–October 1854)

Lo, as some venturer from his stars receiving
Promise and presage of sublime emprise,
Wears evermore the seal of his believing
Deep in the dark of solitary eyes.

F. W. H. Myers.

The institution in which Florence Nightingale was to serve her apprenticeship in Paris was the Maison de la Providence, belonging to the Sœurs de la Charité in the Rue Oudinot (No. 5), Faubourg St. Germain. The Abbé Des Genettes described in a letter to Manning the attractions which it would offer to his protegée. The principal House, managed by twenty Sisters, received nearly two hundred poor orphans, and also conducted a crêche. A hospital was attached to it, next door, for aged and sick women. Within ten minutes' walk Miss Nightingale would find two other hospitals, one a general hospital, the other a children's hospital. The English demoiselle would conform, in accordance with her desire, to the rules of the House as a postulante, rendering all necessary service to the sick. The only restrictions were that she would not be able to enter the refectory or the dormitory of the Sisters. She would have to sleep and take her meals in her own room. But she would be free to visit the poor in company with the Sisters, to serve the sick under their direction in various hospitals and infirmaries, and to assist in the care of the orphans alike in class and at play.

Such was the life in Paris to which Miss Nightingale was looking forward eagerly. She left London for Paris on February 3, 1853, with her cousin, Miss Bonham Carter, and[128] they stayed with M. and Madame Mohl in the Rue du Bac. Before entering the Maison de la Providence, Miss Nightingale desired to visit and study other institutions in Paris. She was armed with a comprehensive permit from the Administration Générale de l'Assistance Publique to study in all the hospitals of the city. She availed herself indefatigably of this permission, spending her days in inspecting hospitals, infirmaries, and religious houses, and having the advantage of seeing the famous Paris surgeons at their work. Now, as at all times, she was a diligent collector and student of reports, returns, statistics, pamphlets. Among her papers of this date are elaborately tabulated analyses of hospital organization and nursing arrangements both in France and in Germany, and a circular of questions bearing on the same subjects which she seems to have addressed to the principal institutions in the United Kingdom. Her evenings were spent in company with her host and hostess. There were soirées dansantes in the Rue du Bac. She went once or twice with Madame Mohl to balls elsewhere, and also to the opera. She met many English visitors and distinguished Parisians. Having completed her general inquiries into the Paris hospitals, she presented herself to the Reverend Mother of the Maison de la Providence, and had arranged a day for her admission, when she was suddenly recalled to England by the illness of her grandmother, who died at the age of ninety-five. “Great has been the occasion for Flo's usefulness,” wrote Mr. Nightingale to his wife. And “I shall never be thankful enough,” wrote Florence herself to her cousin in Paris, “that I came. I was able to make her be moved and changed, and to do other little things which perhaps smoothed the awful passage, and which perhaps would not have been done as well without me.” A family event of a different kind interested Miss Nightingale at this time. Her cousin Blanche Shore Smith had become engaged to Arthur Hugh Clough. Miss Nightingale greatly liked him. As a long engagement seemed likely, Miss Nightingale interested herself in the future of the young couple; discussing the proper limits of parental allowances in such matters; drawing up elaborately detailed estimates of household expenditure,[129] not forgetting to include future charges for a young family, as by the statistics of the average birth-rate they might be calculated. Statistics were already almost a passion with her.


Negotiations were now on foot for Miss Nightingale to take charge of a benevolent institution in London, and Madame Mohl advised her to keep in their places the great ladies who were concerned in it. Neither now, nor at any time, was she much in love with committees, but not every word in the following account of the negotiations need be taken very seriously:—

(To Madame Mohl.) Lea Hurst, April 8. In all that you say I cordially agree, and if you knew what the “fashionable asses” have been doing, their “offs” and their “ons,” poor fools! you would say so ten times more. I shall be truly grateful if you will write to Pop—my people know as much of the affair now as I do—which is not much. You see the F.A.S. (or A.F.S., which will stand for “ancient fathers” and be more respectful, as they are all Puseyites), the F.A.S. want me to come up to London now and look at them, and if we suit to come very soon into the Sanatorium, which, I am afraid, will preclude my coming back to Paris, especially if you are coming away soon, for going there without you would unveil all my iniquities, as the F.A.S. are quite as much afraid of the R.C.'s as my people are. It is no use telling you the history of the negotiations, which are enough to make a comedy in 50 acts. They may be summed up as I once heard an Irish shoeless boy translate Virgil: Obstupui, “I was althegither bothered”—steteruntque comae, “and my hair stood up like the bristles of a pig”—vox faucibus haesit, “and divil a word could I say.” Well, divil a bit of a word can I say except that you are very good, dear friend, to take so much interest, and that I shall be truly glad if you will write to Pop, … dans le sens du muscle.

All your advice, which I sent to Mrs. Bracebridge, I give my profoundest adhesion to—I would gladly point the finger of scorn in the liveliest manner at the F.A.S. and ride them roughshod round Grosvenor Sq. I will even do my very best—but I am afraid it is not in me to do it as I should wish. It would be only a poor feint—a mean Caricature. But I will practise and you shall see me.

My people are now at 30 Old Burlington Street, where I shall be in another week. Please write to them there, and if you can[130] do a little quacking for me to them, the same will be thankfully received, in order that I may come in, when I arrive, not with my tail between my legs, but gracefully curved round me, in the old way in which Perugino's Devil wears it, in folds round the waist.

I am afraid I must live at the place. If I don't, it will be a half and half measure which will satisfy no one. However, I shall take care to be perfectly free to clear off, without its being considered a failure, at my own time. I can give you no particulars, dearest friend, because I don't know any. I can only say that, unless I am left a free agent and am to organize the thing myself and not they, I will have nothing to do with it. But as the thing is yet to be organized, I cannot lay a plan either before you or my people. And that rather perplexes them, as they want to make conditions that I shan't do this or that. If you would “well present” my plans, as you say, to them, it would be an inestimable benefit both to them and to me.… Hillie will tell you all I know—that it is a Sanatorium for sick governesses managed by a Committee of fine ladies. But there are no surgeon-students nor improper patients there at all, which is, of course, a great recommendation in the eyes of the Proper. The Patients, or rather the Impatients, for I know what it is to nurse sick ladies, are all pay patients, poor friendless folk in London. I am to have the choosing of the house, the appointment of the Chaplain and the management of the funds, as the F.A.S. are at present minded. But Isaiah himself could not prophesy how they will be minded at 8 o'clock this evening.

What specially annoyed Miss Nightingale was that some of the fashionable ladies in the course of gossip had begun to wonder whether her appointment would have the approval of her family. Some officious friend had suggested that “it would be cruel to take her away from her home.” This difficulty was disposed of by Miss Nightingale's assurance that the appointment would be submitted to the approval of her mother and father. Her father now agreed to make her an independent allowance, paid quarterly in advance. It was on a scale sufficiently liberal to enable her to offer her services to the Institution entirely gratuitously. She also agreed to pay all the charges (board and lodging included) of the matron (Mrs. Clarke), whom she was to bring with her. Another difficulty was then raised. The superintendent of a nursing-home ought to be present when the doctors went their rounds and when operations were performed. But would it be seemly for a gentlewoman[131] to do this? Miss Nightingale insisted, and an agreement was arrived at in April. She was to enter upon her duties as superintendent as soon as new premises had been secured, and meanwhile she was free to resume her studies in Paris.


She returned to Paris on May 30, and after a week spent with M. and Madame Mohl, during which she again inspected various hospitals, she entered the Maison de la Providence in the Rue Oudinot on June 8. From Paris she kept up correspondence with regard to the new premises for the institution in London. “The indispensable conditions of a suitable house are,” she wrote to Lady Canning (June 5), “first, that the nurse should never be obliged to quit her floor, except for her own dinner and supper, and her patients' dinner and supper (and even the latter might be avoided by the windlass we have talked about). Without a system of this kind, the nurse is converted into a pair of legs. Secondly, That the bells of the patients should all ring in the passage outside the nurse's own door on that story, and should have a valve which flies open when its bell rings, and remains open in order that the nurse may see who has rung.” The letter continues for some pages to describe other requirements—about a hot-water supply and the like; points which are now in the A B C of hospitals or nursing-homes, but which then were novel counsels of perfection. The idea of a lift, in particular, was new; inquiries were made by the ladies in various parts of the country, and there were many hitches before a suitable apparatus was installed. The correspondence is significant of the attention to practical detail which characterized all Miss Nightingale's work. Meanwhile her work with the Sisters of Charity among the poor came to a tiresome pause. The nurse had herself to be nursed. The nature of the calamity is described in a letter to Madame Mohl, who was paying visits in England at the time:—

Back Drawing-room at Madame Mohl's, Rue du Bac 120, June 28. My Dearest Friend—Do you see where I am? Here's a “go”! Has M. Mohl told you? Here am I in bed[132] in your back drawing-room. Poor M. Mohl appears to bear it with wonderful equanimity and recueillement, like his danseuse. Not so I. It is the most impertinent, the most surprising, the most inopportune thing I have ever done—me established in a lady's house in her absence, to be ill. If M. Mohl had any sins, I should think I was the avenging Phooka appointed to castigate him—as he has none, I am obliged to arrest myself at the other supposition that it is for my own. It was not my fault though really. Here is how the things have happened.…

I have had the measles at the Sœurs. And, of all my adventures, of which I have had many and queer, as will be (never) recorded in the Book of my Wanderings, the dirtiest and the queerest I have ever had has been a measles in the cell of a Sœur de la Charité. They were very kind to me—and dear M. Mohl wrote to me almost every day, and sent me tea (which, however, they would not let me have), and he lastly, in his paternity, would have me back (where I came yesterday), and established me in the back drawing-room, to my infinite horror, and now I am getting better very fast, and mean to be out again in a day or two. I had got rid of the eruption and all that before I came. M. Mohl is so kind and comes to see me and talk, which I suppose is very improper, but I can't help it, and he has been like a father to me and never was such a father! I really am so ashamed of all his kindness, and the trouble I give them, that my brazen old face blushes crimson, and I assure you this paper ought to be red. Julie [the servant] is very kind to me. But I hope not to be long on their hands. As to my calamity itself, it is like the Mariage de Mademoiselle: who could have foreseen it? It really was not my fault. There was no measles at any of my posts, and I had had them not eighteen months ago, so that, erect in the consciousness of that dignity, I should not have kept out of their way, if I had seen them. The Dr. would not believe I could have had them before. Well, I'm so ashamed of myself that I shall lock myself up for the rest of my life, and never go nowhere no more. For you see, it's evident that Providence, who was always in my way, and who, as the Supérieure said, is très admirable (meaning wonderful) in having done this, does not mean me to come to Paris nor to the Sœurs, having twice made me ill when I was doing so—and given you all this trouble. For me to come to Paris to have the measles a second time, is like going to the Grand Desert to die of getting one's feet wet, or anything most unexpected.… Please write to M. Mohl, and comfort him for his disaster. I am so repentant that I can say nothing—which, the Catholics tell me, is the “marque” of a true “humiliation.” Thank you a thousand times for all your kindness. I come to England next week. F. N.


M. Mohl required no comfort. Miss Nightingale's father wrote to thank him for his kindness to her. The kindness, he gallantly replied, was on her side in giving him the advantage of her society and conversation. “Her gentle manner,” he wrote (July 25), “covers such a depth and strength of mind and thought, that I am afraid of nothing for her, but that her health should fail her.”


Convalescence was rapid. On July 13 she returned to London, and a month later, on August 12, 1853, Miss Nightingale went into residence in her first “situation.” The place in question, already briefly described in one of her letters to Madame Mohl, was that of Superintendent of an “Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness.” This institution had been founded a few years before, at 8 Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, to give medical assistance and a home to sick governesses and other gentlewomen of narrow means. It was managed by a Council, which in its turn appointed a “Committee of Ladies” and a “Committee of Gentlemen.” We need not trouble ourselves with the relations between the two committees, though they much troubled Miss Nightingale; but it is characteristic of the ideas of the time that the ladies made over to the gentlemen “all payments, contracts, and financial arrangements,” as also “the selection of medical officers and male servants.” Some years later Kinglake devoted several pages of his most elaborate satire to a comparison of the male pretensions and the female performances in their respective spheres in the hospitals of the Crimea; but on the present occasion Miss Nightingale found the ladies more difficult than the gentlemen. The institution had languished in Chandos Street. She was called in to give it new life. Suitable new premises had been found at No. 1 Upper Harley Street, and there Miss Nightingale lived, with a few brief intervals, until October 1854. She had also a pied-à-terre in some lodgings taken for her by her aunt in Pall Mall, where she occasionally saw her friends, and whither she resorted on Sunday mornings, in order not to scandalize the patients in Harley Street by being known[134] not to go to church. She had stipulated for extensive powers of control, and she was not one to let any agreed powers suffer diminution from desuetude. The ladies on the Council and the Committee included (besides Lady Canning already mentioned) Lady Ellesmere, Lady Cranworth, Lady Monteagle, Lady Caroline Murray, and others well known in the worlds of society and philanthropy. Miss Nightingale had her special friends and allies among them, such as Lady Canning and Lady Inglis, and Mrs. Sidney Herbert presently joined the Committee in order to lend her support. Since their meeting in Rome, Mrs. Herbert and Miss Nightingale had seen much of each other, for Wilton House was within calling distance of Embley. Miss Nightingale had assisted at the birth of one of Mrs. Herbert's children; and amongst Miss Nightingale's papers belonging to this period is a “Syllabus of Religious Teaching for a Girls' School,” which they had adapted from the Madre S. Colomba's lessons to girls. Mrs. Herbert now wrote from Wilton, offering to come up to a committee meeting: “I thought some wicked cats might be there who would set up their backs; and if so, I should like to have mine up too.” And, again: “I hope you will write to me, dearest Flo, should any little difficulties arise whilst we are out of town.”

Difficulties did arise in plenty, but Miss Nightingale was sometimes peremptory, and at other times showed herself a master in the gentle art of managing committees:—

(To Madame Mohl.) 1 Upper Harley St., August 20.… Clarkey dear, I would write, but I can't. I have had to prepare this immense house for patients in ten days—without a bit of help but only hindrance from my Committee. If M. Mohl would write a book upon English societies, I would supply him with such Statistics as would astonish even him. But it's no use talking about these things, and I've no time. I have been “in service” ten days, and have had to furnish an entirely empty house in that time. We take in patients this Monday, and have not got our workmen out yet.

My Committee refused me to take in Catholic patients—whereupon I wished them good-morning, unless I might take in Jews and their Rabbis to attend them. So now it is settled, and in print, that we are to take in all denominations whatever, and allow them to be visited by their respective priests and[135] Muftis, provided I will receive (in any case whatsoever that is not of the Church of England) the obnoxious animal at the door, take him upstairs myself, remain while he is conferring with his patient, make myself responsible that he does not speak to, or look at, any one else, and bring him downstairs again in a noose, and out into the street. And to this I have agreed! And this is in print!

Amen. From Committees, charity, and Schism—from the Church of England and all other deadly sin—from philanthropy and all the deceits of the Devil, Good Lord, deliver us.

In great haste, ever yours overflowingly. It will do me so much good to see a good man again.

(To her Father.) 1 Upper Harley St., December 3 [1853]. Dear Papa—You ask for my observations upon my line of statesmanship. I have been so very busy that I have scarcely made any résumé in my own mind, but upon doing so now for your benefit, I perceive:—

When I entered into service here, I determined that, happen what would, I never would intrigue among the Committee. Now I perceive that I do all my business by intrigue. I propose in private to A, B, or C the resolution I think A, B, or C most capable of carrying in committee, and then leave it to them, and I always win.

I am now in the hey-day of my power. At the last General Committee they proposed and carried (without my knowing anything about it) a resolution that I should have £50 per month to spend for the House, and wrote to the Treasurer to advance it me. Whereupon I wrote to the Treasurer to refuse it me. Lady——, who was my greatest enemy, is now, I understand, trumpeting my fame through London. And all because I have reduced their expenditure from 1s. 10d. per head per day to 1s. The opinions of others concerning you depend, not at all, or very little, upon what you are, but upon what they are. Praise and blame are alike indifferent to me, as constituting an indication of what myself is, though very precious as the indication of the other's feeling.…

Last General Committee I executed a series of Resolutions on five subjects, and presented them as coming from the Medical Men:—

1. That the successor to our House Surgeon (resigned) should be a dispenser, and dispense the medicines in the house, saving our bill at the druggist's of £150 per annum.

2. A series of House Rules, of which I send you the rough copy.

3. A series of resolutions about not keeping patients, of which[136] I send you the foul copy.

4. A complete revolution as to Diet, which is shamefully abused at present.

5. An advertisement for the Institution, of which I send the foul copy.

All these I proposed and carried in Committee, without telling them that they came from me and not from the Medical Men; and then, and not till then, I showed them to the Medical Men, without telling them that they were already passed in committee.

It was a bold stroke, but success is said to make an insurrection into a revolution. The Medical Men have had two meetings upon them, and approved them all nem. con., and thought they were their own. And I came off with flying colours, no one suspecting my intrigue, which of course would ruin me were it known, as there is as much jealousy in the Committee of one another, and among the Medical Men of one another, as ever what's his name had of Marlborough.

I have also carried my point of having good, harmless Mr.—— as Chaplain; and no young curate to have spiritual flirtations with my young ladies.

And so much for the earthquakes in this little mole-hill of ours.

(To her Father.) … I send you some more documentary evidence—the tail of my Quarterly Report. My Committee are such children in administration that I am obliged to tell them such obvious truths as are contained in what I make the Medical Men say. This place is exactly like the administering of the Poor Law. We have cases of purely lazy fits and cases deserted by their families. And my Committee have not the courage to discharge a single case. They say the Medical Men must do it. The Medical Men say they won't, although the cases, they say, must be discharged. And I always have to do it, as the stop-gap on all occasions.

By such arts, and by such readiness to shoulder responsibility, Miss Nightingale reduced chaos to order, and her management of the Institution won praise in all quarters. It was hard work, for the Lady Superintendent was here, there, and everywhere, shepherding those who had cure of souls, managing the nurses, assisting at operations, checking waste in the coal-cellar or the larder. When a thing wanted to be done, she did it herself. Mrs. Herbert[137] heard with anxiety that her friend had strained her back by lifting a patient, though she was suffering from lumbago at the time. There were smaller worries too. The British workman, and the British tradesman also, tried her sorely. “The chemists,” she wrote to her father, “sent me a bottle of ether labelled S. spirits of nitre, which, if I had not smelt it, I should certainly have administered, and should have had an inquiry into poisoning. And the whole flue of a new gas-stove came down the second time of using it, which, if I had not caught it in my arms, would certainly have killed a patient.” Then there were the anxieties necessarily incident to a nursing home. “We have had an awful disappointment,” she wrote to her father (1854), “in a couching for a cataract, which has failed. The eye is lost (through no fault of Bowman's), and I am left, after a most anxious watching, with a poor blind woman on my hands, whom we have blinded, and with a prospect of insanity. I had rather ten times have killed her. These are the cases, not those like the poor German who died, which make our lives so anxious.” What was afterwards to characterize her work in a larger field was already observed in Harley Street. It was the combination of masterful powers of organization with womanly gentleness and sympathy. Letters of gratitude, which she received from patients after their discharge from Harley Street, speak of her “unwearied and affectionate attention.” They were often addressed to her as “My good, dear, and faithful Friend,” or “My darling Mother.” And a friend and mother she was indeed to many of the young women who came under her care. She had a large and influential circle of friends and acquaintances, and she was indefatigable in finding convalescent homes or sympathetic care, or openings in the Colonies, for those who stood in need of such assistance. She was much interested in the scheme for Female Emigration, which Sidney Herbert had started in 1849, and in which he and his wife superintended every detail.[65]

Though the work was hard and the anxieties many, Miss Nightingale did not lose heart. “Our vocation is a difficult one,” she wrote to Miss Nicholson (Jan. 10, 1854), “as you,[138] I am sure, know; and though there are many consolations, and very high ones, the disappointments are so numerous that we require all our faith and trust. But that is enough. I have never repented nor looked back, not for one moment. And I begin the New Year with more true feeling of a happy New Year than ever I had in my life.” She had found her vocation. But her family had not yet quite fully accepted it. On their side there was still some looking back. Her father, indeed, took pride in his daughter's success, and the correspondence between them at this time is very pleasant. He was himself a county magistrate, concerned in the administration of hospitals and asylums; and he followed every move in his daughter's strategy with lively interest. He admired her masterfulness, but was not quite sure that she might not carry it too far. “You will have,” he wrote, “to govern by a representative system after all. In England we go this way to work, and a good way it is, for a good autocrat is only to be found at intervals. Despots do nothing in teaching others. Republicans keep teaching each other all day long.” He was most sympathetic in her difficulties, but he was not sure that those about him would be so. There is a postscript in one of his letters which tells a good deal between the lines: “Better write to me at the Athenæum so as not to excite inquiry.” Her mother and sister seem to have thought that while they were in London Florence might have lived at home, or, at any rate, have often been with them. Why should she be wearing herself out away from them? Their point of view was put by Madame Mohl, who was the affectionate friend of both sisters:—

(To Madame Mohl.) Harley Street, August 27 [1853].… I have not taken this step, Clarkey dear, without years of anxious consideration. It is the result of the experience of years and of the fullest and deepest thought; it has not been done without advice, and it is a step, which, being the growth of so long, is not likely to be repented of or reconsidered. I mean the step of leaving them. I do not wish to talk about it—and this is the last time I shall ever do so, but as you ask me a plain question, Clarkey dear, I will give you a plain answer. I have talked matters over (“made a clean breast,” as you express it) with Parthe, not once but thousands of times. Years and years have[139] been spent in doing so. It has been, therefore, with the deepest consideration and with the fullest advice that I have taken the step of leaving home, and it is a fait accompli. With regard to “my sacrificing my peace and comfort,” it is true that I am here entirely for their sakes. But to serve my country in this way has been also the object of my life, though I should not have done it in this time or manner. But it is not a sacrifice any more than that I have done a thing in a bad way, which I should fain have done in a good one. For this is sure to fail. So farewell, Clarkey dear, don't let us talk any more about this. It is, as I said before, a fait accompli.

Having at so great difficulty won her freedom, Florence clearly felt that any policy of half-and-half now might necessitate in the future a renewal of the struggle. Her sister was still in very delicate health, and Florence was advised, by the family doctor himself, that her visits involved much disturbing excitement. Besides, the work at Harley Street, if it was to be done efficiently, required constant residence and unremitting attention. And it was written: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”


In August 1854 Miss Nightingale took a few days' holiday at Lea Hurst, where Mrs. Gaskell, the authoress, was on a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale. It was then that Mrs. Gaskell wrote the description of Florence's personal appearance, which has already been given (p. 39). Mrs. Gaskell was struck no less by the beauty of her character. She gave a sketch of Miss Nightingale's career, and then continued: “Is it not like St. Elizabeth of Hungary? The efforts of her family to interest her in other occupations by allowing her to travel, etc.—but the clinging to one object! She must be a creature of another race, so high and angelic, doing things by impulse or some divine inspiration, not by effort and struggle of will. But she seems almost too holy to be talked about as a mere wonder. Mrs. Nightingale says with tears in her eyes (alluding to Andersen's Fairy Tales), that they are ducks, and have hatched a wild swan. She seems as completely led by God as Joan of Arc. I never heard of any one like her. It makes me feel the livingness of[140] God more than ever to think how straight He is sending His Spirit down into her as into the prophets and saints of old.…” And in another letter:[66] “I am glad that Miss—— likes North and South. I did not think Margaret was so over good. What would she say to Florence Nightingale? I can't imagine! for there is intellect such as I never came in contact with before in woman!—only twice in man—great beauty, and of her holy goodness who is fit to speak?” A famous writer has said of the saints, that the greatest and most helpful of them have always shown some wit or humour;[67] and of Florence Nightingale Mrs. Gaskell noted further: “She has a great deal of fun, and is carried along by that, I think. She mimics most capitally.”

Miss Nightingale cut short her holiday on hearing that an epidemic of cholera had broken out in London. She volunteered to give help with the cholera patients in the Middlesex Hospital. She was up day and night receiving the women patients—chiefly, it seems, outcasts in the district of Soho—undressing them, and ministering to them. The epidemic, however, subsided, and she returned to her normal work in Harley Street.


The work there did not fail within its appointed scope, but in another way the failure which Miss Nightingale had predicted in her letter to Madame Mohl soon became apparent. The scale of the undertaking was more restricted than Florence had desired, and she saw no means of widening it. She had wanted to receive patients of all classes, to enrol many volunteer nurses, to have opportunities for training them. Among a wide circle, both at home and abroad, her knowledge and her talents were well understood; and already, in her correspondence for a year or two past, she appears as a woman to whom reference was made as to one speaking with authority. A missionary in Paris applied to her for two well-qualified matrons. “Alas,” she had to reply, “I have no fish of that kind.” She was[141] making the most of her present opportunity, but it was narrow. Some of her friends had thought from the first that she was wasting her powers on unsuitable soil in Harley Street. Monckton Milnes, who paid a visit to Embley in December 1853, wrote to his wife: “They talk quite easily about Florence, but her position does not seem very suitable. I wish we could put her at the head of a Juvenile Reformatory.”[68] Her own primary object was to train nurses; and other friends—Mrs. Bracebridge among the number—advised her to leave Harley Street, since there she found no scope for so doing. King's College Hospital had just been rebuilt, and another friend, Miss Louisa Twining, opened negotiations in August 1854 for securing Miss Nightingale's appointment as Superintendent of Nurses there. Some of the medical men, who had been impressed at Harley Street with her rare combination of gifts, were most anxious that she should consent to take up such a post. Dr. William Bowman in particular strongly pressed her, and was confident that, if she agreed, he could get the appointment en train in the autumn. Miss Nightingale's mother and sister sought as strongly to dissuade her. The sister laid stress on Florence's “doubtful health.” The mother added objections on the score of the medical students. They both urged that, if she must do something of the kind, Great Ormond Street and work among children were more suitable and convenient. Florence herself was greatly drawn to King's College Hospital, and began devising plans, on the model of Kaiserswerth, for enrolling a staff of nurses among farmers' daughters.

But the immediate future hid in it another fate for Florence Nightingale. “Thy lot or portion in life,” said the Caliph Ali, “is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it.” So Miss Nightingale may have read in Emerson; and in homelier phrase her good Aunt Mai had said to her, “If you will but be ready for it, something is getting ready for you, and will be sure to turn up in time.” Which things Florence, I doubt not, laid up in her heart. When news began to arrive from the East, did she recall a prophecy which had been made about her by a friend long[142] before the Crimean War was dreamt of? Lady Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, the “Ada sole daughter of my home and heart,” had, before her death in 1852, written a poem in honour of her friend, Florence Nightingale. I have quoted some of it already. The piece ends with a presage:—

In future years, in distant climes
Should war's dread strife its victims claim,
Should pestilence, unchecked betimes,
Strike more than sword, than cannon maim,
He who then reads these truthful rhymes
Will trace her progress to undying fame.


[4] To avoid confusion, I sometimes refer to her before her marriage as “Lady Verney,” reserving “Miss Nightingale” throughout for Florence.

[5] Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, “The Clapham Sect,” pp. 543–544 (ed. 1860). Miss Nightingale referred to this association of her grandfather with Wilberforce and Clarkson in one of her Addresses to Probationers (1875).

[6] From a letter to Catherine Winkworth, October 20, 1854, kindly communicated by Miss Meta Gaskell. Mrs. Gaskell had gone to stay at Lea Hurst with the understanding that she was to have a quiet time for writing, remaining in the house as long as she might wish after the family had left it. For other passages from the letter, see pp. 39, 41, 139.

[7] Notes on Nursing, ed. 1860, p. 147 n.

[8] Freddy, who was a bright, promising boy, went with Sir George Grey on his journey of exploration in Australia, and there died of starvation. In Rees's Life of Sir George Grey a note was made, by Sir George's desire, as to his having “met the death of a martyr in the cause of science and discovery, led on by personal friendship and affection for Sir George himself.”

[9] The Rev. J. T. Giffard.

[10] A Century of Family Letters, vol. ii. p. 174.

[11] Julius and Mary Mohl, p. 29.

[12] General Sir Frederick Stovin, G.C.B. He was groom-in-waiting to Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1860.

[13] Many stories of Lord Melbourne and the “dull dog” are now accessible in the Queen's own diaries, but he made friends with the pets in the end. The Queen may have forbidden others to wake her Minister; but she herself objected sometimes, though with a pretty playfulness, to his snoring. See The Girlhood of Queen Victoria, vol. ii. p. 240.

[14] An expressive, old English word, which often occurs in Miss Nightingale's letters. “As we say in Derbyshire,” she sometimes added. George Eliot, also of Derbyshire, often uses it.

[15] Miss Nightingale took great pains with most of her letters. She often made a rough draft in a note-book, and then used the same words in letters to different correspondents, or used part of the original passage in a letter to one correspondent, and part in a letter to another. Here, as in one or two other cases, I reunite passages from two letters. One of them was addressed to the same cousin to whom Parthenope wrote.

[16] Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's Pioneer Work, 1895, p. 185.

[17] The annals of the Cistercian Abbey (of which ruins remain) are said to have suggested to Sir Walter Scott the name of his first novel.

[18] William Adams Smith, an unmarried brother of Mrs. Nightingale.

[19] Sir James South, astronomer (1785–1867), had a famous observatory on Campden Hill.

[20] Née Mills, cousin of Mr. Arthur Mills, M.P.

[21] Sir Joshua Jebb, surveyor-general of prisons, designed the “model prison” at Pentonville. Miss Nightingale valued his friendship greatly, and appointed him a member of the Council of the Nightingale Fund.

[22] A reference to the “Ashburton Treaty” concluded at Washington in 1842. Alexander Baring, first Baron Ashburton, was the English commissioner.

[23] Vestiges of Creation, by Robert Chambers, had been published in the preceding year (1844).

[24] Reminiscences, 1819–1899, by Julia Ward Howe, 1900, p. 138.

[25] Caroline Fox, Memories of Old Friends, 1882, pp. 311–312.

[26] From a letter to Catherine Winkworth, written in 1854; for other passages in the letter, see pp. 8, 41, 139.

[27] Letter of Mrs. Gaskell to Catherine Winkworth, Oct. 20, 1854.

[28] Suggestions for Thought, vol. ii. p. 385.

[29] The wife of Dr. Richard Fowler, physician to the Salisbury Infirmary, mentioned above, p. 35.

[30] The reader will note the recurrence here of some phrases already used in another letter. It is an instance of a point there noted (p. 28).

[31] Edward Vernon Harcourt.

[32] Née Brandreth (not Mrs. Gaskell, the authoress).

[33] Life of Lord Houghton, by T. Wemyss Reid, vol. i. p. 524.

[34] See Miss Nightingale's letter, printed below (p. 117). Similarly she wrote to her father in 1854 (Feb. 22), that the head nurse in a certain London hospital told her that “in the course of her large experience she had never known a nurse who was not drunken, and that there was immoral conduct practised in the very wards, of which she gave me some awful examples.”

[35] Life of Lord Houghton, vol. i. p. 524.

[36] In many accounts of Kaiserswerth and of Florence Nightingale, it is stated that her knowledge of the institution came from Elizabeth Fry. It was a pleasant temptation to establish such a link between these two famous women, but Mrs. Fry was dead (1845) before Miss Nightingale had ever heard, so far as her papers show, of Kaiserswerth.

[37] See below, p. 94.

[38] G. M. Trevelyan, Garibaldi's Defence of the Roman Republic, p. 65.

[39] The Convent was giving hospitality at this time to the Abbess of Minsk (in Lithuania), whose persecution by the Russian Government formed the subject of much debate. Miss Nightingale wrote a long account of the extraordinary adventures which the Abbess related to her. She was advised in 1853 to print this, but I cannot find that she did so.

[40] Letter from R. Angus Smith, July 7, 1859.

[41] Letter to M. Mohl, Nov. 21, 1869.

[42] Purcell's Life of Manning, vol. i. p. 362.

[43] Sidney Herbert: a Memoir, by Lord Stanmore, vol. i. pp. 97–98.

[44] See the “Lettre de M. Guizot” prefixed to the French translation of Notes on Nursing (1862).

[45] E.g. in an article in Good Words, August 1879: “Whoever in the glorious light of an Egyptian sunset—where all glows with colour, not like that of birds and flowers, but like transparent emeralds and sapphires and rubies and amethysts, the gold and jewels and precious stones of the Revelations—has seen the herds wending their way home on the plain of Thebes by the colossal pair of sitting statues, followed by the stately woman in her one draped garment, plying her distaff, a naked, lovely little brown child riding on her shoulder, and another on a buffalo, can conjure up something of the ideal of the ryot's family life in India.”

[46] In the Album of the Pastor's eldest daughter, Miss Nightingale left this inscription:—

“Vier Dinge, Gott, habe ich dir zu bieten,
Die sich in all deinen Schatzkammern nicht finden:
Meine Nichtigkeit, meine traurige Armut,
Meine verderbliche Sünde, meine ernste Reue.
Nimm diese Gaben an und nimm den Geber hin.

Kaiserswerth, den 13 August 1850. Fl. N., die mit überfliessendem Herzen sich immer der Güte all ihrer Freunde in lieben Kaiserswerth erinnern wird. Ich bin ein Gast gewesen, und ihr habt mir beherbergt” (Eine Heldin unter Helden, 1912, p. 45).

[47] Bibliography A, No. 1.

[48] Lyrics and Poems from Ibsen, translated by F. E. Garrett.

[49] Bibliography A, No. 2.

[50] A Century of Family Letters, vol. ii. pp. 106, 107.

[51] Fraser's Magazine, May 1873.

[52] Suggestions for Thought, vol. ii. p. 401.

[53] Suggestions for Thought, vol. ii. pp. 229, 231.

[54] Suggestions for Thought, vol. ii. pp. 236, 237.

[55] History of Nursing, vol. ii. p. 4.

[56] Letter to Mrs. C. S. Roundell, August 4, 1896.

[57] Mr. Sidney Herbert's speech at the Nightingale Fund Meeting, Nov. 29, 1855.

[58] Much of this appeal was suggested to Florence, in almost identical words (as an extant letter shows), by her Aunt Mai.

[59] George Eliot's Life as Related in her Letters and Journals, edited by J. W. Cross, vol. i. p. 285.

[60] Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, vol. i. p. 188.

[61] Letter to Sir John McNeill, May 17, 1860.

[62] Letter to Sir John McNeill, May 17, 1860.

[63] Life of Lord Houghton, vol. i. p. 475.

[64] Caroline Jones (1808–77) married Captain Chisholm, 1830; opened orphan schools in Madras, 1832; befriended female emigrants to Australia, 1841–66. Miss Nightingale had correspondence with her in 1862.

[65] See Stanmore, vol. i. pp. 111–120.

[66] To Catherine Winkworth, Jan. 1, 1855.

[67] See Ruskin's Works, vol. xxxi. p. 386, vol. xxxii. p. 72.

[68] Life of Lord Houghton, vol. i. p. 491.



Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
—It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought…
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need.




(October 1854)

Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Walt Whitman.

On September 20 the Battle of the Alma was fought, and the country, as Greville noted, was “in a fever of excitement.” The disembarkation of the allied British and French forces for the invasion of the Crimea had begun on the 14th. Their advance was not resisted until they reached the bank of the Alma, where the Russian commander was awaiting attack, in so strong a position that he was confident of victory. In less than three hours the allied troops had driven the enemy from every part of the ground. Lord Raglan, the Commander of the Forces, congratulated the troops on “the brilliant success that attended their unrivalled efforts in the battle, on which occasion they carried a most formidable position, defended by large masses of Russian infantry, and a most powerful and numerous artillery.” The river which the Russian commander had hoped to make the grave of the invaders became famous in the annals of British valour:—

Thou, on England's banners blazoned with the famous fields of old,
Shalt, where other fields are winning, wave above the brave and bold;
And our sons unborn shall nerve them for some great deed to be done,
By that twentieth of September, when the Alma's heights were won.
O thou river! dear for ever to the gallant, to the free,
Alma! roll thy waters proudly, proudly roll them to the sea!

Nearly forty years had passed since the British army[146] had been engaged in European warfare. The Battle of the Alma, though it disclosed little tactical skill, and though it was not followed up as it might have been, had at any rate shown the desperate courage of the British soldier. The note of exultation which inspired the verses of Archbishop Trench expressed the popular mood.

Presently there was a change. The number of killed and wounded was very large; but though many homes were thrown into mourning, it was felt, in the words of the official bulletin, that such a victory “could not be achieved without a considerable sacrifice.” The country did not at the time grudge the sacrifice; but Lord Raglan's dispatch was followed by another. The Crimean War was the first in which the “Special Correspondent” played a conspicuous part, and the dispatches sent to the Times by Mr. William Howard Russell availed even to overthrow a Ministry. In the Times of October 9, attention was drawn to the futility of the nursing arrangements on the British side. The old pensioners, who had been sent out for such service, were “not of the slightest use”; the soldiers had to “attend upon each other.” On the 12th a long letter from “Our Special Correspondent,” dated “Constantinople, September 30,” ended with the following passage:—

It is with feelings of surprise and anger that the public will learn that no sufficient preparations have been made for the proper care of the wounded. Not only are there not sufficient surgeons—that, it might be urged, was unavoidable; not only are there no dressers and nurses—that might be a defect of system for which no one is to blame; but what will be said when it is known that there is not even linen to make bandages for the wounded? The greatest commiseration prevails for the sufferings of the unhappy inmates of Scutari, and every family is giving sheets and old garments to supply their wants. But why could not this clearly foreseen want have been supplied? Can it be said that the Battle of the Alma has been an event to take the world by surprise? Has not the expedition to the Crimea been the talk of the last four months? And when the Turks gave up to our use the vast barracks to form a hospital and depot, was it not on the ground that the loss of the English troops was sure to be considerable when engaged in so dangerous an enterprise? And yet, after the troops have been six months[147] in the country, there is no preparation for the commonest surgical operations! Not only are the men kept, in some cases, for a week without the hand of a medical man coming near their wounds; not only are they left to expire in agony, unheeded and shaken off, though catching desperately at the surgeon whenever he makes his rounds through the fetid ship; but now, when they are placed in the spacious building, where we were led to believe that everything was ready which could ease their pain or facilitate their recovery, it is found that the commonest appliances of a workhouse sick-ward are wanting, and that the men must die through the medical staff of the British army having forgotten that old rags are necessary for the dressing of wounds. If Parliament were sitting, some notice would probably be taken of these facts, which are notorious and have excited much concern; as it is, it rests with the Government to make inquiries into the conduct of those who have so greatly neglected their duty.

On the following day a further letter from the “Special Correspondent” was published. “It is impossible,” he wrote, “for any one to see the melancholy sights of the last few days without feelings of surprise and indignation at the deficiencies of our medical system. The manner in which the sick and wounded are treated is worthy only of the savages of Dahomey.… The worn-out pensioners who were brought as an ambulance corps are totally useless, and not only are surgeons not to be had, but there are no dressers or nurses to carry out the surgeon's directions, and to attend on the sick during the intervals between his visits. Here the French are greatly our superiors. Their medical arrangements are extremely good, their surgeons more numerous, and they have also the help of the Sisters of Charity, who have accompanied the expedition in incredible numbers.[69] These devoted women are excellent nurses.” These scathing attacks changed the mood of the country. There was still exultation in victory, and still readiness to pay its price; but the “Special Correspondent's” charges of neglect towards the sick and wounded raised a feeling of bitter resentment—of resentment against the authorities, but also of pity for the victims. The Times accompanied the “Special Correspondent's” letter on October 12 by a leading article, making appeal to its readers, who were[148] sitting comfortably at home, to bestir themselves, and render such help as might be possible to the soldiers in the East. A letter was published next day from Sir Robert Peel, who had enclosed £200 to start a fund for supplying the sick and wounded with comforts. Other contributions were quickly forthcoming, and on October 14 a letter was published asking: “Why have we no Sisters of Charity? There are numbers of able-bodied and tender-hearted English women who would joyfully and with alacrity go out to devote themselves to nursing the sick and wounded, if they could be associated for that purpose, and placed under proper protection.”


There were those among the ladies of England who had not waited to be stung into action by such appeals. On the first news of the failure of the British nursing arrangements, they had asked themselves whether they might not help, not merely by money, but by personal service. One of the first to move was Lady Maria Forester. She must have read and marked the letter in the Times on October 9, for already by October 11 she had placed herself in communication with Miss Nightingale, offering money to send out some trained nurses. “I was so anxious something should be done,” she said to Lady Verney, “that I would have gone myself, only I knew that I should not have been the slightest use.” Happily the minds of those who could be of the greatest use were moving in the same direction. If a party of women nurses were to be sent out to the East with any prospect of success, there were two persons in England whose co-operation was essential, and by fortunate chance they were personal friends.

One was Mr. Sidney Herbert, the Secretary at War. The preposition which I have placed in italics must be noted. The reader would not thank me for entering at length into all the intricacies of War Office organization, disorganization, and reorganization, which went on during the Crimean War, and have continued to our own day. But this much it is necessary to remember, that in 1854 there was a Secretary for War (the Duke of Newcastle) and a Secretary at War[149] (Mr. Sidney Herbert). The curious part of the arrangement was that the Secretary at War had nothing to do with war, as such; he was, technically, only a financial and accounting official. But Mr. Sidney Herbert, in the emergency created by the Crimean War, stepped courageously beyond the strict bounds of his office. He had already shown himself by many beneficent measures of practical reform to be the Soldiers' Friend. He was deeply interested, as we have heard (p. 80), in the care of the sick. He knew how over-worked was his colleague, the Duke of Newcastle, and in this matter of hospitals he assumed the position of volunteer delegate of the Secretary of State. “I wish,” wrote Mr. Gladstone to Monckton Milnes (Oct. 15, 1855), “that some one of the thousand who in prose justly celebrate Miss Nightingale would say a single word for the man of ‘routine’ who devised and projected her going.”[70] Lord Stanmore has said not a word, but a volume, in that sense; what was truly admirable was “the man of routine's” bold departure from routine. The employment of female nurses in the army was in this country entirely novel. It would probably excite some jealousy in the medical profession; it was sure to be criticized by the military men. The Cabinet had much else to think of. The Duke of Newcastle had more on his hands than any one human being could properly accomplish. Mr. Herbert, from his influence in the Cabinet, from his winning manner and general popularity, was the man to carry through the new departure. He had pondered long over the problems of nursing, both in military hospitals and in civil life. He could see no reason why a task, which in civil life was entrusted almost exclusively to women, should in the case of military hospitals be confined to men. The French Government had sent out fifty Sisters of Mercy. Mr. Herbert could see no reason why England should not do something of a like kind. He determined to make the experiment.

He was strengthened in his resolve by the fact that he was intimately acquainted with the character and the powers of the second indispensable person. He knew Miss Florence Nightingale. The preceding Part of this volume[150] has shown by “what circuit first” her life had been one long preparation for precisely such work as was now wanted. She and the Minister had read the dispatch in the Times with equal, if different, interest. To Mr. Herbert it came as a call for something to be done, if the Ministry were to avoid dangerous criticism; and to this motive, which must rightly actuate every Minister, there was added the conscience of a high-minded man, sincerely and eagerly anxious to do all that was possible to improve the treatment of the sick and wounded soldiers. To Miss Nightingale, as she read the dispatch, and the stirring appeal which accompanied it, the words came with something of the force of a call from Above. For nearly ten years of her life she had consciously yearned, and half-consciously for a much larger period, after ample scope in which to exercise her power of organization, and her desire to serve the sick and suffering. During many of those years she had been training herself so as to be ready to use her opportunity when it should occur. And here was the opportunity at hand, in which patriotism confirmed her personal aspirations. “God's good time” had come.

The minds of the Minister and of Miss Nightingale were kindled together. They reached the flash-point of action at almost an identical moment. Private initiative forestalled official overtures only by a few hours. Working in harmony, they carried the scheme into operation with an unparalleled rapidity.


Within two days of the publication of the dispatch from Constantinople, Miss Nightingale and her friends had made their plans. She submitted them to the Minister in the following letter addressed to his wife:—

(Miss Nightingale to Mrs. Herbert.) 1 Upper Harley Street, October 14 [1854]. My Dearest—I went to Belgrave Square this morning for the chance of catching you or Mr. Herbert even, had he been in town.

A small private expedition of nurses has been organized for Scutari, and I have been asked to command it. I take myself out and one nurse.

Lady Maria Forester has given £200 to take out three others.[151] We feed and lodge ourselves there, and are to be no expense whatever to the country. Lord Clarendon has been asked by Lord Palmerston to write to Lord Stratford for us, and has consented. Dr. Andrew Smith of the Army Medical Board, whom I have seen, authorizes us, and gives us letters to the Chief Medical Officer at Scutari.

I do not mean to say that I believe the Times accounts, but I do believe that we may be of use to the wounded wretches.

Now to business.

(1) Unless my Ladies' Committee feel that this is a thing which appeals to the sympathies of all, and urge me, rather than barely consent, I cannot honourably break my engagement here. And I write to you as one of my mistresses.

(2) What does Mr. Herbert say to the scheme itself? Does he think it will be objected to by the authorities? Would he give us any advice or letters of recommendation? And are there any stores for the Hospital he would advise us to take out? Dr. Smith says that nothing is needed.

I enclose a letter from E. Do you think it any use to apply to Miss Burdett Coutts?

We start on Tuesday if we go, to catch the Marseilles boat of the 21st for Constantinople, where I leave my nurses, thinking the Medical Staff at Scutari will be more frightened than amused at being bombarded by a parcel of women, and I cross over to Scutari with some one from the Embassy to present my credentials from Dr. Smith, and put ourselves at the disposal of the Drs.

(3) Would you or some one of my Committee write to Lady Stratford to say, “This is not a lady but a real Hospital Nurse,” of me? “And she has had experience.”

My uncle went down this morning to ask my father and mother's consent.

Would there be any use in my applying to the Duke of Newcastle for his authority?

Believe me, dearest, in haste, ever yours, F. Nightingale.

Perhaps it is better to keep it quite a private thing, and not apply to Govt. qua Govt.

This letter was posted on Saturday. Mr. Herbert had left London to spend Sunday at Bournemouth, and thence, unaware of the communication which was on its way to him from Miss Nightingale, he addressed the following letter to her:—

(Sidney Herbert to Miss Nightingale.) Bournemouth, October 15 [1854]. Dear Miss Nightingale—You will have[152] seen in the papers that there is a great deficiency of nurses at the Hospital at Scutari.

The other alleged deficiencies, namely of medical men, lint, sheets, etc., must, if they have really ever existed, have been remedied ere this, as the number of medical officers with the army amounted to one to every 95 men in the whole force, being nearly double what we have ever had before, and 30 more surgeons went out 3 weeks ago, and would by this time, therefore, be at Constantinople. A further supply went on Thursday, and a fresh batch sail next week.

As to medical stores, they have been sent out in profusion; lint by the ton weight, 15,000 pairs of sheets, medicine, wine, arrowroot in the same proportion; and the only way of accounting for the deficiency at Scutari, if it exists, is that the mass of stores went to Varna, and was not sent back when the army left for the Crimea; but four days would have remedied this. In the meanwhile fresh stores are arriving.

But the deficiency of female nurses is undoubted, none but male nurses having ever been admitted to military hospitals.

It would be impossible to carry about a large staff of female nurses with the army in the field. But at Scutari, having now a fixed hospital, no military reason exists against their introduction, and I am confident they might be introduced with great benefit, for hospital orderlies must be very rough hands, and most of them, on such an occasion as this, very inexperienced ones.

I receive numbers of offers from ladies to go out, but they are ladies who have no conception of what an hospital is, nor of the nature of its duties; and they would, when the time came, either recoil from the work or be entirely useless, and consequently—what is worse—entirely in the way. Nor would these ladies probably ever understand the necessity, especially in a military hospital, of strict obedience to rule. Lady M. Forester (Lord Roden's daughter) has made some proposal to Dr. Smith, the head of the Army Medical Department, either to go with or to send out trained nurses. I apprehend she means from Fitzroy Square, John Street, or some such establishment. The Rev. Mr. Hume, once chaplain to the General Hospital at Birmingham (and better known as author of the scheme for transferring the city churches to the suburbs), has offered to go out himself as chaplain with two daughters and twelve nurses. He was in the army seven years, and has been used to hospitals, and I like the tone of his letters very much. I think from both of these offers practical effects may be drawn. But the difficulty of finding nurses who are at all versed in their business is probably not known to Mr. Hume, and Lady M. Forester probably has not[153] tested the willingness of the trained nurses to go, and is incapable of directing or ruling them.

There is but one person in England that I know of who would be capable of organizing and superintending such a scheme; and I have been several times on the point of asking you hypothetically if, supposing the attempt were made, you would undertake to direct it.

The selection of the rank and file of nurses will be very difficult: no one knows it better than yourself. The difficulty of finding women equal to a task, after all, full of horrors, and requiring, besides knowledge and goodwill, great energy and great courage, will be great. The task of ruling them and introducing system among them, great; and not the least will be the difficulty of making the whole work smoothly with the medical and military authorities out there. This it is which makes it so important that the experiment should be carried out by one with a capacity for administration and experience. A number of sentimental enthusiastic ladies turned loose into the Hospital at Scutari would probably, after a few days, be mises à la porte by those whose business they would interrupt, and whose authority they would dispute.

My question simply is, Would you listen to the request to go and superintend the whole thing? You would of course have plenary authority over all the nurses, and I think I could secure you the fullest assistance and co-operation from the medical staff, and you would also have an unlimited power of drawing on the Government for whatever you thought requisite for the success of your mission. On this part of the subject the details are too many for a letter, and I reserve it for our meeting; for whatever decision you take, I know you will give me every assistance and advice.

I do not say one word to press you. You are the only person who can judge for yourself which of conflicting or incompatible duties is the first, or the highest; but I must not conceal from you that I think upon your decision will depend the ultimate success or failure of the plan. Your own personal qualities, your knowledge and your power of administration, and among greater things your rank and position in Society give you advantages in such a work which no other person possesses.

If this succeeds, an enormous amount of good will be done now, and to persons deserving everything at our hands; and a prejudice will have been broken through, and a precedent established, which will multiply the good to all time.

I hardly like to be sanguine as to your answer. If it were “yes,” I am certain the Bracebridges would go with you and give you all the comfort you would require, and which their[154] society and sympathy only could give you. I have written very long, for the subject is very near my heart. Liz [Mrs. Herbert] is writing to Mrs. Bracebridge to tell her what I am doing. I go back to town to-morrow morning. Shall I come to you between 3 and 5? Will you let me have a line at the War Office to let me know?

There is one point which I have hardly a right to touch upon, but I know you will pardon me. If you were inclined to undertake this great work, would Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale give their consent? The work would be so national, and the request made to you proceeding from the Government who represent the nation comes at such a moment, that I do not despair of their consent. Deriving your authority from the Government, your position would secure the respect and consideration of every one, especially in a service where official rank carries so much weight. This would secure to you every attention and comfort on your way and there, together with a complete submission to your orders. I know these things are a matter of indifference to you except so far as they may further the great objects you have in view; but they are of importance in themselves, and of every importance to those who have a right to take an interest in your personal position and comfort.

I know you will come to a wise decision. God grant it may be in accordance with my hopes! Believe me, dear Miss Nightingale, ever yours, Sidney Herbert.[71]

There was no hitch, such as Sidney Herbert half feared, from reluctance on the part of Miss Nightingale's parents. Her uncle, Mr. Samuel Smith (husband of her Aunt Mai, of whose helpfulness we have heard), had already half obtained their consent to her going as a volunteer. All hesitation was removed when the news came that she was asked to go by and for the Government itself:—

My Love,” wrote Miss Nightingale's sister to a friend (Oct. 18), “Government has asked, I should say entreated, Flo to go out and help in the Hospital at Scutari. I am sure you will feel that it is a great and noble work, and that it is a real duty; for there is no one, as they tell her, and I believe truly, who has the knowledge and the zeal necessary to make such a step succeed.”

And to the same friend a day or two later:—[155]

Before, in Harley Street, I did not feel sure that she was right, there seemed so much to be done at home; but now there is no doubt that she is fitted to do this work, and that no one else is, and that it is a work. I must say the way in which all things have tended to and fitted her for this is so very remarkable that one cannot but believe she was intended for it. None of her previous life has been wasted, her experience all tells, all the gathered stores of so many years, her Kaiserswerth, her sympathy with the R. Catholic system of work, her travels, her search into the hospital question, her knowledge of so many different minds and different classes, all are serving so curiously—and much more than I have time for.

Yes, and perhaps even the difficulties which affectionate solicitude had placed in Florence Nightingale's way might have been counted among her preparations for a task involving great power of will and determination.

Miss Nightingale saw Mr. Herbert on Monday, October 16, and the matter was arranged between them. Mrs. Sidney Herbert and the other ladies of the Harley Street Committee readily released their Superintendent. Her faithful friends, Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, agreed to accompany her. Mr. Herbert had assured Miss Nightingale of their willingness, without any previous consultation—a fine instance, surely, of friendly confidence. The Duke of Newcastle, who had some slight personal acquaintance with Miss Nightingale, and the other members of the Cabinet cordially approved the initiative of their colleague, and three days later Miss Nightingale received her official appointment and instructions:—

(The Secretary-at-War to Miss Nightingale.) War Office, October 19 [1854]. Madam—Having consented at the pressing instance of the Government to accept the office of Superintendent of the female nursing establishment in the English General Military Hospitals in Turkey, you will, on your arrival there, place yourself at once in communication with the Chief Army Medical Officer of the Hospital at Scutari, under whose orders and direction you will carry on the duties of your appointment.

Everything relating to the distribution of the nurses, the hours of their attendance, their allotment to particular duties, is placed in your hands, subject, of course, to the sanction and approval of the Chief Medical Officer; but the selection of the[156] nurses in the first instance is placed solely under your control, or under that of persons to be agreed upon between yourself and the Director-General of the Army and Ordnance Medical Department, and the persons so selected will receive certificates from the Director-General or the principal Medical Officer of one of the General Hospitals, without which certificate no one will be permitted to enter the Hospital in order to attend the sick.

In like manner the power of discharge on account of illness or of dismissal for misconduct, inaptitude, or other cause, is vested entirely in yourself; but in cases of such discharge or dismissal the cost of the return passage of such person home will, if you think it advisable and if they proceed at once or so soon as their health enables them, be defrayed by the Government.

Directions will be given by the mail of this day to engage one or two houses in a situation as convenient as can be found for attendance at the Hospital, or to provide accommodation in the Barracks if thought more advisable. And instructions will be given to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to afford you every facility and assistance on landing at Constantinople, as also to Dr. Menzies, the Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital at Scutari, who will give you all the aid in his power and every support in the execution of your arduous duties.

The cost of the passage both out and home of yourself and the nurses who may accompany you, or who may follow you, will be defrayed by the Government, as also the cost of house rent, subsistence, &c., &c.; and I leave to your discretion the rate of pay which you may think it advisable to give to the different persons acting under your authority.

In the meanwhile Sir John Kirkland, the Army Agent, has received orders to honor your drafts to the amount of One Thousand Pounds for the necessary expense of outfit, travelling expenses, &c., &c., of which sum you will render an account to the Purveyor of the Forces at Scutari.

You will, for your current expenses, payment of wages, &c., &c., apply to the Purveyor through the Chief Medical Officer, in charge of the Hospital, who will provide you with the necessary funds.

I feel confident that, with a view to the fulfilment of the arduous task you have undertaken, you will impress upon those acting under your orders the necessity of the strictest attention to the regulations of the Hospital, and the preservation of that subordination which is indispensable in every Military Establishment.

And I rely on your discretion and vigilance carefully to guard against any attempt being made among those under your authority, selected as they are with a view to fitness and without[157] any reference to religious creed, to make use of their position in the Hospitals to tamper with or disturb the religious opinions of the patients of any denomination whatever, and at once to check any such tendency and to take, if necessary, severe measures to prevent its repetition.

I have the honor to be, Madam, your most obedient servant,
Sidney Herbert.

The instructions promised in this letter were duly sent to the Commander of the Forces, the Purveyor-in-Chief, and the Principal Medical Officer;[72] and the way was smoothed for Miss Nightingale, as they thought in Downing Street, by supplementary letters to some of the officials. A letter was sent to the Purveyor-General (Oct. 19), in which “Mr. Sidney Herbert trusts that you will use every endeavour to assist Miss Nightingale in the performance of the arduous duties she has voluntarily undertaken, the success of which must necessarily depend upon the assistance and co-operation of others, and cannot fail to be of great benefit to those Gallant Men who have suffered in the service of their country.” Similarly Sir Charles Trevelyan, Assistant-secretary to the Treasury, remarking that the commissariat officers are the bankers and stewards of the army, wrote, as he told Miss Nightingale (Oct. 20), “to Commissary-General Filder and Deputy-Commissary-General Smith, the Senior Officer at Scutari, to request that they will from the first give you all the support they are able, and instruct their officers of every grade to do the same.” Any difficulties which might confront her would not be caused, it seemed, by lack of support at home.


Private support was forthcoming as readily as official. Mr. Henry Reeve, an old friend of Miss Nightingale and her family, rejoicing that she had now “an opportunity of action worthy of her,” spoke to the great Delane, and requested him to direct Mr. Macdonald—who was being sent out to administer the Times Fund—to co-operate with Miss Nightingale. Mr. Macdonald was a man, as Mr. Reeve testified, and as Miss Nightingale was to discover—to the[158] great advantage of their common cause,—“of remarkable intelligence and activity.”

Two days after the receipt of her official instructions, five days after her interview with Mr. Herbert, Miss Nightingale and her party left London (Oct. 21). The amount of work which fell upon Miss Nightingale during the ten days (Oct. 12–21) was enormous, and some of the details she was obliged to delegate to others. The headquarters of the expedition during its outfit were established at Mr. Sidney Herbert's house in Belgrave Square, and there Miss Mary Stanley and Mrs. Bracebridge interviewed applicants. Miss Nightingale, foreseeing (only too truly, as the event was to show) the difficulty both of finding suitable women and of supervising them, was inclined to limit the number to twenty. Mr. Herbert, thinking that such a new departure should be made on a considerable scale, proposed a larger number, and Miss Nightingale gave way. Forty was the number agreed upon; but the material which offered itself was not promising. “Here we sit all day,” wrote Miss Stanley; “I wish people who may hereafter complain of the women selected could have seen the set we had to choose from. All London was scoured for them. We sent emissaries in every direction to every likely place.… We felt ashamed to have in the house such women as came. One alone expressed a wish to go from a good motive. Money was the only inducement.”[73] Ultimately thirty-eight nurses were obtained.

Mr. Herbert, in the concluding passage of his Instructions, relied on Miss Nightingale's vigilance to prevent religious “tampering.” This was an instruction which she had discussed with him, for she foresaw (again only too well) the odium theologicum that might confront her. She was primarily concerned to get the best nurses as such, but she was anxious also that the different churches or shades should be represented. In this desire she was in large measure disappointed. Application was made both to St. John's House, an institution inclined towards Tractarianism, and to the Protestant Institution for Nurses in Devonshire Square. In each case the answer was returned that nurses[159] could only be supplied if they were to be subject to their own Committees; the Government's condition of subjection to Miss Nightingale's control was rejected. The authorities of St. John's House proposed that their nurses should be accompanied by the Master of the House, to act as “their guardian.” It will readily be imagined how impossible Miss Nightingale's position would have been on such terms. The proposal shows incidentally how little some people understood of the conditions of discipline necessary in a military hospital. Mr. Sidney Herbert, the Chaplain-General of the Forces, and Miss Nightingale met the Council of St. John's House; the point of Miss Nightingale's exclusive control was conceded, and the Master stayed at home. The Lady Superior of St. John's House at this time was Miss Mary Jones, who to the end of her life remained one of the most valued and tenderly devoted of Miss Nightingale's friends.[74] The authorities in Devonshire Square, on the other hand, would not surrender the point of separate control, and accordingly no nurses were supplied by the distinctively Protestant institution. “We are only vexed,” wrote Lady Verney, “because Flo so earnestly desired to include all shades of opinion, to prove that all, however they differed, might work together in a common brotherhood of love to God and man.”

The party, as ultimately recruited, was composed of ten Roman Catholic Sisters (five from Bermondsey and five from Norwood), eight Anglican Sisters (from Miss Sellon's Home at Devonport), six nurses from St. John's House, and fourteen from various English hospitals. It has often been supposed that the nurses who accompanied Miss Nightingale were ladies of gentle birth, but, with a few exceptions, this was not the case. On the eve of their departure, the nurses were addressed by Mr. Herbert in his dining-room. He told them that if any desired to turn back, now was the time of decision, and he impressed upon them that all who went were bound implicitly to obey Miss Nightingale in all things. “All started on their ways,” we are told,[75] “strengthened[160] by his heart-stirring words, and cheered no less by the sunny brightness of his presence than by his kindly and unfailing sympathy.” Unhappily the effect was not in all cases permanent, as we shall hear.


“Do not answer this,” wrote a Minister to Miss Nightingale; “for I am sure you must have more on your hands now than a Secretary of State.” But what struck those about her was her perfect calm. “No one is so well fitted as she to do such work,” wrote Lady Canning to Lady Stuart de Rothesay (Oct. 17); “she has such nerve and skill, and is so wise and quiet. Even now she is in no bustle and hurry, though so much is on her hands, and such numbers of people volunteer services.” She had only one worry. Her pet owl had died. When her family were leaving Embley to see her off, the feeding of the owl was forgotten in the hurry and flurry. It was embalmed, and “the only tear its mistress shed through that tremendous week,” says her sister, “was when I put the little body into her hands. ‘Poor little beastie, it was odd how much I loved you.’”[76] For the rest, she was “as calm and composed in this furious haste,” wrote her sister (Oct. 19), “with the War Office, the Military Medical Board, half the nurses in London to speak to, her own Committee and Institution, as if she were going out for a walk.” She was quiet because, like Wordsworth's Happy Warrior, in the heat of excitement, she “kept the law in calmness made, and saw what she foresaw.” Like the character drawn by another master-hand, “in the tumult she was tranquil,” because she had pondered when at rest.

A small black pocket-book is preserved in which were found, at Miss Nightingale's death, a few of the many letters received just before she left England for the East. Perhaps they were the very last letters received; perhaps they were there for other reasons. One spoke of a mother's love:—

Monday morning. God speed you on your errand of mercy,[161] my own dearest child. I know He will, for He has given you such loving friends, and they will be always at your side to help in all your difficulties. They came just when I felt that you must fail for want of strength, and more mercies will come in your hour of need. They are so wise and good, they will be to you what no one else could. They will write to us, and save you in that and in all ways. They are to us an earnest of blessings to come. I do not ask you to spare yourself for your own sake, but for the sake of the cause.—Ever Thine.

Another letter reminded her of the love of God:—

God will keep you. And my prayer for you will be that your one object of Worship, Pattern of Imitation, and Source of consolation and strength may be the Sacred Heart of our Divine Lord. Always yours for our Lord's sake,
Henry E. Manning.

And a third among them was from the friend whose life she had declined to share, but whose sympathy was still precious to her:—

My dear Friend,” he wrote (Oct. 18), “I hear you are going to the East. I am happy it is so, for the good you will do there, and the hope that you may find some satisfaction in it yourself. I cannot forget how you went to the East once before, and here am I writing quietly to you about what you are going to do now. You can undertake that, when you could not undertake me. God bless you, dear Friend, wherever you go.”




On the ocean no post brings us letters which we are compelled to answer. No newspaper tempts us into reading the last night's debate in Parliament. The absence of distracting incidents, the sameness of the scene, and the uniformity of life on board ship, leave us leisure for reflection; we are thrown in upon our own thoughts, and can make up our accounts with our consciences.—Froude.

Miss Nightingale and her party left London on Saturday, October 21. Among those who saw them off was her cousin, Arthur Hugh Clough. The principal halts were made in Paris and Marseilles. At Paris, Miss Nightingale had hoped to recruit some Sisters for nursing service. She went to the headquarters of the Order of St. Vincent de Paul, furnished with letters from the British Government and the French military authorities, and accompanied by the British Ambassador's private secretary in order to strengthen her application; but it was refused.[77] At Marseilles, with what turned out to be admirable forethought, she laid in a large store of miscellaneous provisions. Her uncle, Mr. Sam Smith, accompanied the party to Marseilles, and from his letters we obtain vivid glimpses of the expedition en route:—

“Kindly received everywhere,” he wrote (Oct. 26), “by French and English. Still it was very hard work for Flo to keep 40 in good humour; arranging the rooms of 5 different sects each night, before sitting down to supper, took a long time; then calling all to be down at 6 ready to start. She bears all wonderfully—so calm, winning everybody, French and English.”

A correspondent wrote to the Times from Boulogne,[163] describing how the arrival of the party there caused so much enthusiasm, that the sturdy fisherwomen seized their bags and carried them to the hotel, refusing to accept the slightest gratuity; how the landlord of the hotel gave them dinner, and told them to order what they liked, adding that they would not be allowed to pay for anything; and how waiters and chambermaids were equally firm in refusing any acknowledgment for their attentions. Lady Verney, in a letter to a friend, acutely noted a yet more remarkable thing, “the railroad would not be paid for her boxes.”

At Marseilles the expedition excited lively interest, and its Chief was overwhelmed with attentions:—

“Where she was seen or heard,” wrote the proud uncle, “there was nothing but admiration from high and low. Her calm dignity influenced everybody. I am sure the nurses quite love her already. Some cried when she exhorted them at the last, and all promised well. Blessings on her! She makes everybody who joins with her feel the good and like it (instead of disposing them against it, as some well-meaning oppositious spirits do).”

And again in another letter:—

Words cannot tell Mrs. Bracebridge's devotion to Flo, nor Flo's to the cause. Neither sat down but for a hurried meal. Shopkeepers, visitors, nurses, servants, every single instant. Flo never crossed the threshold. There she was, receiving in her little bedroom (not at bedtime) the Inspector-General, the Consul and Agent, a Queen's Messenger, Times Correspondent, and two or three shopkeepers with the same serenity as if in a drawing-room quite désœuvrée. Her influence on all (to captain and steward of boat) was wonderful. The rough hospital nurses, on the third day after breakfasting and dining with us each day, and receiving all her attentions, were quite humanized and civilized, their very manners at table softened. “We never had so much care taken of our comforts before; it is not people's way with us; we had no notion Miss N. would slave herself so for us.” She looked so calm and noble in it all, whether waiting on the nurses at dinner in the station (because no one else would), or carrying parcels, or receiving functionaries. The Bracebridges are fuller than ever of admiration of her, as I am. She looked better and handsomer than even the day she sailed. I went back with the literary public of Marseilles, all full of admiration. It was very doleful sitting in Flo's deserted room.

She sailed from Marseilles on board the Vectis on Friday,[164] October 27, loudly cheered from an English vessel in the harbour, carrying with her, as a friend had written, “the deep prayers and gratitude of the English people.”


From the moment when public announcement of her mission was made, she had, indeed, become a popular heroine. Though well known in Society, she had been as yet a stranger to public fame; so much so that the Times itself, in printing the announcement (Oct. 19), said: “We are authorised to state that Mrs. Nightingale,” etc. Delane cannot have kept his eye on the news-columns, for not until some days had elapsed was it discovered to the public that “Mrs.” Nightingale was in fact “Miss.” “Who is ‘Mrs.’ Nightingale?” was a heading in the Examiner (Oct. 28), and the question was answered in a biographical article. Some passages of it deserve record here, for it went the round of the press throughout the world, and was the source from which, from that day to this, the popular idea of Florence Nightingale has been derived. The article stated succinctly, and with substantial accuracy, the course of her life; dwelt upon the facts that she was “young, graceful, feminine, rich, and popular”; enlarged, with less accuracy, upon her delight in the “palpable and heart-felt attractions” of her home; described her forsaking the “assemblies, lectures, concerts, exhibitions, and all the entertainments for taste and intellect with which London in its season abounds,” in order to sit beside the sick and dying; and concluded thus: She had set out for the scene of war

… at the risk of her own life, at the pang of separation from all her friends and family, and at the certainty of encountering hardship, dangers, toils, and the constantly renewing scene of human suffering, amid all the worst horrors of war. There are few who would not recoil from such realities, but Miss Nightingale shrank not, and at once accepted the request that was made her to form and control the entire nursing establishment for all sick and wounded soldiers and sailors in the Levant. While we write, this deliberate, sensitive, and highly-endowed young lady[165] is already at her post, rendering the holiest of women's charities to the sick, the dying, and the convalescent. There is a heroism in dashing up the heights of Alma in defiance of death and all mortal opposition, and let all praise and honour be, as they are, bestowed upon it; but there is a quiet forecasting heroism and largeness of heart in this lady's resolute accumulation of the powers of consolation, and her devoted application of them, which rank as high and are at least as pure. A sage few will no doubt condemn, sneer at, or pity an enthusiasm which to them seems eccentric, or at best misplaced; but to the true heart of the country it will speak home, and be there felt that there is not one of England's proudest and purest daughters who at this moment stands on so high a pinnacle as Florence Nightingale.

The discovery by the public that the head of the Nursing Expedition was not “Mrs.” Nightingale, a matron, but a young lady, “graceful, rich, and popular,” added to the enthusiasm which her devotion called forth. Her services were rendered gratuitously; her necessary expenses were to be defrayed by the Government, and officialdom opined that no voluntary contributions, either in money or in kind, were needed. Happily for the comfort of our soldiers in the East, private individuals took a different view, and—in addition to the Times Fund—donations were sent to Miss Nightingale personally, both by her friends and by the general public. An account rendered after her return[78] from the East shows that from the general public she received nearly £7000 in money. This fund, added to the help which she obtained from the Times, and supplemented by expenditure out of her private purse, enabled Miss Nightingale greatly to extend the scope of her work. The statement that she was rich requires some qualification. Her father was rich, but the personal allowance which he had made to her, when she declared her independence in 1853, was £500 a year, and it remained at this figure for several years. During her mission to the East she devoted the whole of it to her work.

Gifts in kind and offers of personal service also poured in. Now that Miss Nightingale was at sea, the task of dealing with such matters was undertaken by her sister and a friend. The Nightingale family had taken a house for the time in[166] Cavendish Square (No. 4), which became the headquarters of a charitable bureau.

“I am well nigh writ out,” wrote Lady Verney to Madame Mohl (Nov. 6), “170 letters to answer in the last fortnight, and very difficult ones, some of them. I should like you to hear a batch of the offers of all kinds we receive, some so pretty, some so queer. Old linen is abating, I am happy to say; even knitted socks are slacker; but nurses, rabble and respectable, ladies, and very much the reverse, continue to rain. It is tremendous; however, having reached No. 276, we are going to shut the door. Mary Stanley and I sit daily at the receipt of custom, and funny things do we see and hear! Human nature is a wondrous work, whether of God Almighty I sometimes begin to doubt.”

It is worth noting, in view of an unfortunate dispute that presently arose, that both Lady Verney and Miss Stanley distinctly understood that additional nurses would only be sent “if Flo asks.” All applicants were so informed; but so keen was the desire to serve, that “many ladies,” so Lady Verney wrote, “are undergoing hospital training on chance.”


Miss Nightingale, meanwhile, was at sea on her way to Constantinople, revolving many things in her mind. She had been called to a mission upon which issues very near to her heart depended. If it succeeded, then, as Mr. Herbert had written to her, not only would an enormous amount of good be done now to the sick and wounded, but “a prejudice would have been broken through, and a precedent established, which would multiply the good to all time.” And so, as we all know, it was destined to be. But at the time the fate of the experiment was doubtful. It was Mr. Herbert's conviction that no one except Florence Nightingale could make it succeed, but it was by no means certain that even she could do so. She took in her hands the reputation of the Minister who trusted her, and her own; and not her reputation only, but the hopes, the aspirations, the ambitions which had ruled her life.

She determined to succeed, and she counted the difficulties which would confront her. Writing two years later[167] and giving account of her stewardship, she paid her tribute of thanks to those “among the officials, medical as well as military, to whose benevolence, ability, and unselfish devotion to duty she was indebted for facilities, without which, in a position such as hers, new to the service, and exposed to much criticism and difficulty, she would have been utterly unable to perform the work entrusted to her.”[79] She saw from the start that she would be exposed, in the very nature of the case, to some medical jealousy and much military prejudice.

The idea of employing female nurses at Scutari had been mooted before the army left for the East, but was abandoned, as the Duke of Newcastle explained, because “it was not liked by the military authorities.”[80] Of the military prejudice against the intrusion of women, even for the gentle office of nursing, into the rough work of war, some entertaining illustrations are happily on record. Lieutenant-Colonel Sterling, afterwards Sir Anthony Sterling, K.C.B., was on active service during the Crimean campaign, first as brigade-major, and afterwards as assistant adjutant-general to the Highland division. He was an elder brother of Carlyle's John Sterling, and himself possessed of some literary skill. “A solid, substantial man,” Carlyle calls him; he was also a man who loved to stand by the ancient ways. He wrote a series of lively letters during the campaign, and in his will directed that they should be published. Nowhere, so clearly as in Sterling's Highland Brigade in the Crimea, have I found contemporary evidence of the prejudices against which the experiment of Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale had to contend. During Miss Nightingale's visit to Balaclava in 1855, some dispute arose among the nurses. “Miss—— has added herself,” wrote Colonel Sterling, “to the hospital of the 42nd; and will not acknowledge the voice of the Nightingale, who has written an official letter to Lord Raglan on the subject. I suppose he will order a court-martial composed of nurses, who will administer queer justice.” Our Colonel is something of a wag. He cannot help laughing at “the Nightingale,” because, as he explains, he has such “a keen sense of the[168] ridiculous.” He is so pleased with his quip about the female court-martial that he returns to it in another letter. He is tickled, too, by a saying of the mess-room, that “Miss Nightingale has shaved her head to keep out vermin.” One can almost hear the honest Colonel's guffaw as he wonders whether “she will wear a wig or a helmet?” Women, he supposes, imagine that “war can be made without wounds”; they will be teaching us how to fight next; and as for their ideas of nursing, why some of the ladies actually took to “scrubbing floors”! It amused him, but angered him no less. He has to admit that he believes “the Nightingale” has been of some use; but he bitterly resents her “capture” of orderlies for mere purposes of nursing, and when he is asked, “When will she go home?” answers with Christopher Sly, “Would it were done.” “However,” he writes, “—— (presumably Sidney Herbert) is gone; and I hope there is not to be found another Minister who will allow these absurdities.” Miss Nightingale read Sir Anthony's book when it came out in 1895, and made some severe marginalia upon it; remarking upon his “absolute ignorance of sanitary things,” noting the “misprints as a fair index to the whole,” and finally dismissing the book as “one long string of Seniority complaints.” But I protest that she need not have been so angry. And, indeed, perhaps she was not so angry as she seemed, for her caustic pen was not always a true index of her mind. For my part I take my hat off to Sir Anthony Absolute. His honest, old-fashioned outbursts let in a flood of light upon one side of the difficulties which were to confront Miss Nightingale upon landing at Scutari.

She pondered much also upon the possibilities of friction with the medical officers; and here, too, our Colonel has some light to give us. “The Chief Medical Officer out here,” he wrote, “ought to have been intrusted with Nightingale powers.” The Service in all its branches stuck together, it will be seen, and no blame to it for that! But if a fighting colonel smarted under what he deemed a slight upon an army medical officer, how much more might the Medical Service itself be expected to resent any encroachment upon its appointed province! How keenly it did resent such[169] encroachment may be gathered from the Life and Letters of Sir John Hall, M.D., by Mr. Mitra, whose book supplies us with the same kind of illustration in regard to the army doctors that we may gather from Colonel Sterling's in regard to the soldiers. Sir John, like Sir Anthony, thought the whole thing “very droll.” He was stationed in the Crimea, and we shall hear something of the strained relations between him and Miss Nightingale, when we follow her thither. But at Scutari also, there were some few medical officers who retained even to the last a ridiculous jealousy of any “meddling” by Miss Nightingale and her staff.[81] She foresaw this danger, and made up her mind to avert it by every means in her power.

And there was a third danger which she foresaw also. Not only had she to overcome military prejudice and to avert medical jealousy, but she had also to prevent religious disputation. This last task was beyond her powers, as it has ever proved beyond those of men, women, and angels; for by this cause even the angels fell. No work, however beneficent, has ever yet been found beyond the capacity of the odium theologicum to mar and embitter. Miss Nightingale's mission did not escape the common lot, as we shall hear; but she was keenly sensible of the danger.

Miss Nightingale pondered over all these things as the ship sped on its way to the Golden Horn; and the more she pondered, the more she was driven to decide upon a course of action, very different from what many people supposed that she would adopt, but entirely consonant with the bent of her own mind. She saw quite clearly that, if she was to avoid the rocks ahead of her, what was needed was not so much genial, impulsive kindness, reckless of rules and defiant of constituted authority, but rather strict method, stern discipline, and rigid subordination. The criticisms to which she exposed herself in the superintendence of her nurses were based, not upon laxity, but upon her alleged severity.[82] As for her own conduct, she supposed that her work, when she landed, would be that of the matron of a hospital. If, as it turned out, she became rather (as she[170] put it) mistress of a barrack, it was because she found herself in the midst of conditions which the constituted authorities at home had not foreseen, and before which those on the spot stood powerless. Miss Nightingale was happily possessed of an original mind and a resolute will. She saw evils which cried out for remedies; and new occasions taught new duties.




Dearth of creative brain-power showed itself in our Levantine hospitals, for there industrious functionaries worked hard at their accustomed tasks, and doggedly omitted to innovate at times when not to be innovating was surrendering, as it were, at discretion to want and misery. But happily, after a while, and in gentle, almost humble, disguise, which put foes of change off their guard, there acceded to the state a new power.—Kinglake.

Miss Nightingale reported the arrival of her expedition at Constantinople in a short note to her parents:—

Constantinople, November 4, on board Vectis.—Dearest People—Anchored off the Seraglio point, waiting for our fate whether we can disembark direct into the Hospital, which, with our heterogeneous mass, we should prefer.

At six o'clock yesterday morn I staggered on deck to look at the plains of Troy, the tomb of Achilles, the mouths of the Scamander, the little harbour of Tenedos, between which and the mainshore our Vectis, with steward's cabins and galley torn away, blustering, creaking, shrieking, storming, rushed on her way. It was in a dense mist that the ghosts of the Trojans answered my cordial hail, through which the old Gods, nevertheless, peered down from the hill of Ida upon their old plain. My enthusiasm for the heroes though was undiminished by wind and wave.

We made the castles of Europe and Asia (Dardanelles) by eleven, but also reached Constantinople this morn in a thick and heavy rain, through which the Sophia, Sulieman, the Seven Towers, the walls, and the Golden Horn looked like a bad daguerrotype washed out.

We have not yet heard what the Embassy or Military Hospital have done for us, nor received our orders.

Bad news from Balaclava. You will hear the awful wreck of our poor cavalry, 400 wounded, arriving at this moment for us to nurse. We have just built another hospital at the Dardanelles.[172]

You will want to know about our crew. One has turned out ill, others will do.

(Later) Just starting for Scutari. We are to be housed in the Hospital this very afternoon. Everybody is most kind. The fresh wounded are, I believe, to be placed under our care. They are landing them now.

The Hospital, to which Miss Nightingale refers, was to be the chief scene of her labours for the next six months, and a few particulars about it and other hospitals, in which the nursing was under her superintendence, must be given in order to make future proceedings intelligible. The principal hospitals of the British army during the Crimean War—four in number—were at Scutari (or in its immediate neighbourhood), the suburb of mournful beauty which looks across to Constantinople from the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus.

The first hospital to be established was in the Turkish Military Hospital. This was made over to the British in May 1854, and was called by them The General Hospital. Having been originally designed for a hospital, and being given up to the English partially fitted, it was, wrote Miss Nightingale, “reduced to good order early, by the unwearied efforts of the first-class Staff Surgeon in introducing a good working system. It was then maintained in excellent condition till the close of the war.”[83] It had accommodation for 1000 patients, but the Battle of the Alma showed that much larger accommodation would be wanted.

North of the General Hospital, and near to the famous Turkish cemetery of Scutari, are the Selimiyeh Barracks—a great yellow building with square towers at each angle. This building was made over to the British for use as a hospital after the Battle of the Alma, and by them was always called The Barrack Hospital. This is the hospital in which Miss Nightingale and her band of female nurses were first established, and in which she herself had her headquarters throughout her stay at Scutari. It is built on rising ground, in a beautiful situation, looking over the Sea of Marmora on one side, towards the Princes' Islands on[173] another, and towards Constantinople and up the Bosphorus on a third. “I have not been out of the Hospital Walls yet,” wrote Miss Nightingale ten days after her arrival, “but the most beautiful view in all the world, I believe, lies outside.” Her quarters were in the north-west tower, on the left of the Main Guard (or principal entrance). There was a large kitchen or storeroom, of which we shall hear more presently, and out of it on either side various other rooms opened. Mr. Bracebridge and the courier slept in one small room; Miss Nightingale and Mrs. Bracebridge in another. The nurses slept in other rooms. The whole space occupied by Miss Nightingale and her nurses was about equal to that allotted to three medical officers and their servants, or to that occupied by the Commandant. “This was done,” she explained, “in order to make no pressure for room on an already overcrowded hospital. It could not have been done with justice to the women's health, had not Miss Nightingale later taken a house in Scutari at private expense, to which every nurse attacked with fever was removed.”[84] The quarters were as uncomfortable as they were cramped. “Occasionally,” wrote Miss Nightingale, “our roof is torn off, or the windows are blown in, and we are under water for the night.” The Hospital was infested also with rodents and vermin; and, among other new accomplishments acquired under the stress of new occasions, Miss Nightingale became an expert rat-killer. This skill was afterwards called into use at Balaclava. In the spring of 1856, one of the nuns whom she had taken with her to the Crimea—Sister Mary Martha—had a dangerous attack of fever. Miss Nightingale nursed the case; and one night, while watching by the sick-bed, she saw a large rat upon the rafters over the Sister's head; she succeeded in knocking it down and killing it, without disturbing the patient.[85] The condition of physical discomfort in which, surrounded by terrible scenes of suffering, she had to do her work, should be remembered in taking the measure of her fortitude and devotion.[86]

The maximum number of patients accommodated at[174] any one time (Dec. 23, 1854) in the Barrack Hospital was 2434. It was half-an-hour's walk from the General Hospital, and an invalided soldier records that he used to accompany Miss Nightingale from one hospital to another in order to light her home on wet stormy nights, across the barren common which lay between them.

Farther south of the General Hospital, in the quarter of Haidar Pasha, was what was known as The Palace Hospital, consisting of various buildings belonging to the Sultan's Summer Palace. These were occupied as a hospital in January 1855. Miss Nightingale had no responsibility here; but in the summer of 1855, the female nursing of sick officers, quartered in one of these buildings, was placed under the superintendence of Mrs. Willoughby Moore, the widow of an officer who had died a noble death in the war, and four female nurses, sent out specially from England.

Finally, there were hospitals at Koulali, four or five miles farther north, upon the same Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus. These hospitals were opened in December 1854. The nursing in them was originally under Miss Nightingale's supervision, but she was presently relieved of it (p. 193 n.). The hospitals were broken up in November 1855, when, of the female nursing establishment, a portion went home, and the rest passed under Miss Nightingale into the hospitals at Scutari.

There were also five hospitals in the Crimea, but particulars of these may be deferred till the time comes for following Miss Nightingale upon her expeditions to the front. For the nursing in the Civil Military Hospitals (i.e. hospitals controlled by a civilian medical staff) at Renkioi (on the Dardanelles) and at Smyrna, and for the Naval Hospital at Therapia, Miss Nightingale had no responsibility, though there is voluminous correspondence among her papers showing that she was constantly consulted upon the site and arrangements of these hospitals. The medical superintendent of the hospital at Renkioi was Dr. E. A. Parkes, with whom Miss Nightingale formed a friendship which endured to the end of his life.



The state of the hospitals when Miss Nightingale arrived requires some description, which, however, need not be long. The treatment of the sick and wounded during the Crimean War was the subject of Departmental Inquiries, Select Committees, and Royal Commissions, which, when they had finished sitting upon the hospitals, began sitting upon each other. Enormous piles of Blue-books were accumulated, and in the course of my work I have disturbed much dust upon them. The conduct of every department and every individual concerned was the subject of charge, answer, and countercharge innumerable. Each generation deserves, no doubt, the records of mal-administration which it gets; but one generation need not be punished by having to examine in detail the records of another. Some of the details of the Crimean muddle will indeed necessarily be disinterred in the course of our story; but all that need here be collected from the heaps aforesaid are three general conclusions.

The reader must remember, in the first place, that, apart from controverted particulars, it was made abundantly manifest that there was gross neglect in the service of the sick and wounded. The conflict of testimony is readily intelligible. It was easy to give an account based upon the facts of one hospital or of one time which was not applicable to another. At Scutari, for instance, the General Hospital was from the first better ordered than the Barrack Hospital. Then, again, different witnesses had different standards of what was “good” in War Hospitals; to some, anything was good if it was no worse than the standard of the Peninsular War. Of Sir George Brown, who commanded the Light Division in the Crimea, it was said: “As he was thrown into a cart on some straw when shot through the legs in Spain, he thinks the same conveyances admirable now, and hates ambulances as the invention of the Evil One.”[87] Miss Nightingale had much indignant sarcasm for those who seemed content that the soldier in hospital should[176] be placed in the condition of “former wars,” instead of perceiving that he “should be treated with that degree of decency and humanity which the improved feeling of the nineteenth century demands.” But the principal reason for the conflict of testimony was that the very facts of protest and inquiry put all the officials concerned upon the defensive. Any suggestion of default or defect was resented as a personal imputation. There is a curious illustration in the letter which the Head of the Army Medical Department wrote to his Principal Medical Officer in view of the Roebuck Committee. “I beg you to supply me, and that immediately”—with what? with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? No—“with every kind of information which you may deem likely to enable me to establish a character for it [the Department], which the public appear desirous to prove that it does not possess.”[88] But though there was much conflict of evidence, the final verdict was decisive. What Greville wrote in his Journal—“the accounts published in the Times turn out to be true”—was established by official inquiry and admitted by Ministers. In consequence of the indictment in the Times, a Commission of Inquiry was dispatched to the East by the Secretary of State. The Commission arrived at Constantinople simultaneously with Miss Nightingale, and four months later it reported to the Duke of Newcastle.[89] I need not trouble the reader here with many particulars of its Report; for they were adopted and confirmed by a Select Committee of the House of Commons a few months later (the famous “Roebuck Committee”), which pronounced succinct sentence that “the state of the hospitals was disgraceful.” The ships which brought the sick and wounded from the Crimea were painfully ill-equipped. The voyage from Balaclava to Scutari usually took eight days and a half. During the first four months of the war, there died on a voyage, no longer than from Tynemouth to London, 74 out of every 1000 embarked. The landing arrangements added to the men's sufferings. To an unpractised eye the buildings used as[177] hospitals at Scutari were imposing and convenient; and this fact accounts for some of the rose-coloured descriptions by which persons in high places were for a time misled. Even the Principal Medical Officer on the spot was naïvely content with whitewash as a preparation to fit the Barrack for use as a hospital. In fact, however, the buildings were pest-houses. Underneath the great structures “were sewers of the worst possible construction, loaded with filth, mere cesspools, in fact, through which the wind blew sewer air up the pipes of numerous open privies into the corridors and wards where the sick were lying.”[90] There was also frightful overcrowding. For many months the space for each patient was one-fourth of what it ought to have been. And there was no proper ventilation. “It is impossible,” Miss Nightingale told the Royal Commission of 1857, “to describe the state of the atmosphere of the Barrack Hospital at night. I have been well acquainted with the dwellings of the worst parts of most of the great cities in Europe, but have never been in any atmosphere which I could compare with it.” Lastly, hospital comforts, and even many hospital necessaries, were deficient.[91] The supply of bedsteads was inadequate. The commonest utensils, for decency as well as for comfort, were lacking. The sheets, said Miss Nightingale, “were of canvas, and so coarse that the wounded men begged to be left in their blankets. It was indeed impossible to put men in such a state of emaciation into those sheets. There was no bedroom furniture of any kind, and only empty beer or wine bottles for candlesticks.” Necessary surgical and medical appliances were often either wanting or not forthcoming. There was no machinery, until Miss Nightingale came, for providing any hospital delicacies. The result of this state of things upon patients arriving after a painful voyage in an extreme state of weakness and emaciation, from wounds, from frost-bite,[178] from dysentery, may be imagined, and it is no wonder that cholera and typhus were rife. In February 1855 the mortality per cent of the cases treated was forty-two. No words are necessary to emphasize so terrible a figure.

Mr. Herbert had not waited for the reports of Commission and Committee to reach the conclusion that things were wrong:—

“I have for some time,” he wrote on December 14, 1854, to the Commandant at Scutari, “been very anxious and very much dissatisfied as to the state of the hospital. I believe that every effort has been made by the medical men, and I hear that you have been indefatigable in the conduct of the immediate business of your department. But there has been evidently a want of co-operation between departments, and a fear of responsibility or timidity, arising from an entire misconception of the wishes of the Government. No expense has been spared at home, and immense stores are sent out, but they are not forthcoming. Some are at Varna, and for some inexplicable reason they are not brought down to Scutari. When stores are in the hospital, they are not issued without forms so cumbrous as to make the issue unavailing through delay. The Purveyor's staff is said to be insufficient. The Commissariat staff is said to be insufficient, your own staff is said to be insufficient,” etc.

By admission, then, and by official sentence, there were things amiss at Scutari which urgently called for amendment. This is the first general conclusion which has to be remembered in relation to Miss Nightingale's work.

To what individuals the disgrace of “a disgraceful state of things” attached, it is happily no concern of ours here to inquire. But as I have called Mr. Sidney Herbert as a witness to the fact of the disgrace, I must add my conviction that his own part in the business was wholly beneficent. Some research among the documents entitles me, perhaps, to express entire agreement with Mr. Kinglake's remark upon “what might have been if the Government, instead of appointing a Commission of enquiry on the 23rd of October, had then delegated Mr. Sidney Herbert to go out for a month to the Bosphorus, and there dictate immediate action.” At home, Mr. Herbert was a good man struggling in the toils. The fact is that, though there were some individuals palpably to blame, the real fault was everybody's or nobody's. It[179] was the fault of a vicious system, or rather the vice was that there was no system at all, no co-ordination, but only division of responsibility. The remarks of Mr. Herbert, just quoted, point to the evil, and on every page of the Blue-books it is written large. There were at least eight authorities, working independently of each other, whose co-operation was yet necessary to get anything well done. There was the Secretary of State; there was the War Office (under the Secretary-at-War); there were the Horse Guards, the Ordnance, the Victualling Office, the Transport Office, the Army Medical Department, and the Treasury. The Director-General of the Medical Department in London told the Roebuck Committee that he was under five distinct masters—the Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of State, the Secretary-at-War, the Master-General of Ordnance, and the Board of Ordnance. The Secretary of State said that he had issued no instructions as to the hospitals; he had left that to the Medical Board. But the Medical Director-General said that it would have been impertinent for him to take the first step.[92] If I were writing the history of the Crimean War, or of the Government Offices, other fundamental reasons for the disgraceful state of things in the hospitals—notably the miscalculated plan of military campaign—would have to be taken into account; but I am writing only the life of Miss Nightingale, and all that under this head the reader need be asked to bear in mind is this: That the root of the evils which had to be dealt with was division of responsibility, and reluctance to assume it.

The third conclusion of the official inquiries, which I want to emphasize, is contained in a passage in the Roebuck Committee's Report, which prefaced a reference to Miss Nightingale's mission: “Your Committee in conclusion cannot but remark that the first real improvements in the lamentable condition of the hospitals at Scutari are to be attributed to private suggestions, private exertions, and private benevolence.”

So, then, we see that there were disgraceful evils at Scutari needing amendment, and that in order to amend them what was needed was bold initiative. This it was that[180] Miss Nightingale supplied. The popular voice thought of her only or mainly as the gentle nurse. That, too, she was; and to her self-devotion in applying a woman's insight to a new sphere, a portion of her fame must ever be ascribed. But when men who knew all the facts spoke of her “commanding genius,”[93] it was rather of her work as an administrator that they were thinking. “They could scarcely realize without personally seeing it,” Mr. Stafford told the House of Commons, “the heartfelt gratitude of the soldiers, or the amount of misery which had been relieved” by Miss Nightingale and her nurses; and, he added, “it was impossible to do justice, not only to the kindness of heart, but to the clever judgment, the ready intelligence, and the experience displayed by the distinguished lady to whom this difficult mission had been entrusted.” These were the qualities which enabled her to reform, or to be the inspirer and instigator of reforms in, the British system of military hospitals. She began her work, where it lay immediately to her hand, in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari. She did the work in three ways. She applied an expert's touch and a woman's insight to a hospital hitherto managed exclusively by men. She boldly assumed responsibility, and did things herself which she could find no one else ready to do. And, thirdly, she was instant and persistent in suggestion, exhortation, reproaches, addressed to the authorities at home. It will not be possible to keep these three branches of our subject entirely distinct; but in the main they will form the topics successively of the next three chapters.




Write that, when pride of human skill
Fell prostrate with the weight of care,
And men pray'd out for some strong will,
Some reason 'mid the wild despair,—
The loving heart of Woman rose
To guide the hand and clear the eye,
Gave hope amid the sternest woes,
And saved what man had left to die.

R. M. M.: “A Monument for Scutari,”
Times, Sept. 10, 1855.

Miss Nightingale arrived at Scutari, as we have seen, on November 4, and was immediately in the midst of heavy work in nursing. The Battle of Balaclava was fought on October 25; and on the day after her arrival, the Battle of Inkerman.

“Miss N. is decidedly well received,” reported Mr. Bracebridge to Mr. Herbert (Nov. 8). A few days later, the Commander of the Forces, in a letter dated “Before Sevastopol, Nov. 13th, 1854,” bade her a hearty welcome, tendering to her a “grateful acknowledgment for thus charitably devoting yourself to those who have suffered in the service of their country, regardless of the painful scenes you may have to witness.” With some of the military officers she had difficulties; from the Commander she received nothing but courtesy, sympathy, and support.

“Miss Nightingale cannot but here recall,” she wrote after the war, “with deep gratitude and respect, the letters of support and encouragement which she received from the late Lord Raglan, who invariably acknowledged all that was attempted,[182] for the good of his men, with the deepest feeling, as well as with the high courtesy and true manliness of his character. No tinge of petty jealousy against those entrusted with any commission, public or private, connected with the Army under his command, ever alloyed his generous benevolence.”[94]

The behaviour of some (but not all) of the military officers, and of the men who caught their manners from the officers, was at first different. There was sometimes ill-disguised jealousy, and consequent sulkiness. Outwardly, there was politeness; but difficulties were put into the way of “the Bird,” as some of them called her behind her back, and she was left to shift for herself, when a little help might have eased the burden. “It is the Bird's duty,” they would say. Miss Nightingale, however, kept perfect command of her temper. “She was always calm and self-possessed,” says one of the Roman Catholic Sisters; “she was a perfect lady through everything—never overbearing. I never heard her raise her voice.”

Upon most of the medical men on the spot she made a good impression at once, because she proved herself to be efficient and helpful. She applied the expert's touch. But there were doctors and doctors. Some welcomed her and her staff, and made as much use of them as possible. Others resented their presence, and threw obstacles in their way. There was one ward in which the junior medical officers had been advised by their superior to have as little to do with Miss Nightingale as possible. She showed exemplary patience under this kind of opposition, and gradually won her way into the confidence of most of the doctors.[95] “Miss Nightingale told us,” says one of her staff, “only to attend to patients in the wards of those surgeons who wished for our services, and she charged us never to do anything for the patients without the leave of the doctors.”[96] “The number of nurses admitted into each division of a hospital depended,” Miss Nightingale herself explained, “upon the medical officer of that division, who sometimes accepted them, sometimes refused them, sometimes accepted them after they had been refused; while the duties they were permitted[183] to perform varied according to the will of each individual medical officer.”[97] That this ill-defined state of things called constantly for tact and diplomacy on the part of the Lady Superintendent, and often for severe self-restraint, will readily be perceived.

On the first arrival of Miss Nightingale and her staff, the wounded were pouring in fast, and the nurses were told off to the worst surgical cases:—

“Comfort yourselves,” wrote Mr. Bracebridge to her parents (Nov. 20), “that what the good Flo has done and is doing is priceless, and is felt to be so by the medical men—the cleanliness of the wounds, which were horribly dirty, the general order and arrangement. There has not been half the jealousy I expected from them towards her.”

“As to Miss Nightingale and her companions,” wrote Mr. Osborne to Mr. Herbert (Nov. 15), “nothing can be said too strong in their praise; she works them wonderfully, and they are so useful that I have no hesitation in saying some 20 more of the same sort would be a very great blessing to the establishment. Her nerve is equal to her good sense; she, with one of the nurses and myself, gave efficient aid at an amputation of the thigh yesterday. She was just as cool as if she had had to do it herself.”[98]

A letter from Miss Nightingale herself to her friend of Harley Street, Dr. Bowman, the ophthalmic surgeon, gives a lively account of some of her difficulties, and a vivid picture of the horrors amid which her work was done (Nov. 14):—

I came out, Ma'am, prepared to submit to everything, to be put upon in every way. But there are some things, Ma'am, one can't submit to. There is the Caps, Ma'am, that suits one face, and some that suits another. And if I'd known, Ma'am, about the Caps, great as was my desire to come out to nurse at Scutari, I wouldn't have come, Ma'am.”—Speech of Mrs. Lawfield.—Time must be at a discount with the man who can adjust the balance of such an important question as the above, and I for one have none: as you will easily suppose when I tell you that on Thursday last we had 1715 sick and wounded in this Hospital (among whom 120 Cholera Patients), and 650 severely wounded in the other Building called the General Hospital, of which we also have charge, when a message came to me to prepare for 510 wounded[184] on our side of the Hospital who were arriving from the dreadful affair of the 5th November from Balaklava, in which battle were 1763 wounded and 442 killed, besides 96 officers wounded and 38 killed. I always expected to end my Days as Hospital Matron, but I never expected to be Barrack Mistress. We had but half an hour's notice before they began landing the wounded. Between one and 9 o'clock we had the mattresses stuffed, sewn up, laid down—alas! only upon matting on the floor—the men washed and put to bed, and all their wounds dressed. I wish I had time. I would write you a letter dear to a surgeon's heart. I am as good as a Medical Times! But oh! you Gentlemen of England who sit at Home in all the well-earned satisfaction of your successful cases, can have little Idea from reading the newspapers of the Horror and Misery (in a Military Hospital) of operating upon these dying, exhausted men. A London Hospital is a Garden of Flowers to it.

We have had such a Sea in the Bosphorus, and the Turks, the very men for whom we are fighting, carry in our Wounded so cruelly, that they arrive in a state of Agony. One amputated Stump died 2 hours after we received him, one compound Fracture just as we were getting him into Bed—in all, twenty-four cases died on the day of landing. The Dysentery Cases have died at the rate of one in two. Then the day of operations which follows.…

We are very lucky in our Medical Heads. Two of them are brutes, and four are angels—for this is a work which makes either angels or devils of men and of women too. As for the assistants, they are all Cubs, and will, while a man is breathing his last breath under the knife, lament the “annoyance of being called up from their dinners by such a fresh influx of wounded”! But unlicked Cubs grow up into good old Bears, tho' I don't know how; for certain it is the old Bears are good. We have now four miles of Beds, and not eighteen inches apart.

We have our Quarters in one Tower of the Barrack, and all this fresh influx has been laid down between us and the Main Guard, in two Corridors, with a line of Beds down each side, just room for one person to pass between, and four wards. Yet in the midst of this appalling Horror (we are steeped up to our necks in blood) there is good, and I can truly say, like St. Peter, “It is good for us to be here”—though I doubt whether if St. Peter had been here, he would have said so. As I went my night-rounds among the newly wounded that first night, there was not one murmur, not one groan, the strictest discipline—the most absolute silence and quiet prevailed—only the steps of the Sentry—and I heard one man say, “I was dreaming of my friends at Home,” and another said, “I was thinking of them.” These[185] poor fellows bear pain and mutilation with an unshrinking heroism which is really superhuman, and die, or are cut up without a complaint.

The wounded are now lying up to our very door, and we are landing 540 more from the Andes. I take rank in the Army as Brigadier General, because 40 British females, whom I have with me, are more difficult to manage than 4000 men. Let no lady come out here who is not used to fatigue and privation.… Every ten minutes an Orderly runs, and we have to go and cram lint into the wound till a Surgeon can be sent for, and stop the Bleeding as well as we can. In all our corridor, I think we have not an average of three Limbs per man. And there are two Ships more “loading” at the Crimea with wounded—(this is our Phraseology). Then come the operations, and a melancholy, not an encouraging List is this. They are all performed in the wards—no time to move them; one poor fellow exhausted with hæmorrhage, has his leg amputated as a last hope, and dies ten minutes after the Surgeon has left him. Almost before the breath has left his body it is sewn up in its blanket, and carried away and buried the same day. We have no room for Corpses in the Wards. The Surgeons pass on to the next, an excision of the shoulder-joint, beautifully performed and going on well. Ball lodged just in the head of the joint and fracture starred all round. The next poor fellow has two Stumps for arms, and the next has lost an arm and a leg. As for the Balls they go in where they like and come out where they like and do as much harm as they can in passing. That is the only rule they have.…

I am getting a Screen now for the amputations, for when one poor fellow, who is to be amputated to-morrow sees his comrade to-day die under the knife, it makes impression and diminishes his chance. But, anyway, among these exhausted Frames, the mortality of the operations is frightful. We have Erysipelas, fever and gangrene, and the Russian wounded are the worst.

We are getting on nicely though in many ways. They were so glad to see us. The Senior Chaplain is a sensible man, which is a remarkable Providence.… If you ever see Mr. Whitfield, the House Apothecary of St. Thomas', will you tell him that the nurse he sent me, Mrs. Roberts, is worth her weight in gold.… Mrs. Drake is a Treasure. The four others are not fit to take care of themselves, but they may do better by and bye if I can convince them of the absolute necessity of discipline. We hear there was another engagement on the 8th and more wounded, who are coming down to us. This is only the beginning of things.

The Senior Chaplain had the sense, among other things, to appreciate Miss Nightingale. “The Chaplain says,”[186] wrote Mr. Nightingale to a friend (Dec. 12), “‘Miss Nightingale is an admirable person; none of us can sufficiently admire her. A perfect lady, she wins and rules every one, the most rugged official melts before her gentle voice, and all seem glad to do her bidding.’”

Florence Nightingale had that “excellent thing in woman”: Lady Lovelace, in the poem already quoted, spoke of her friend's “soft, silvery voice”; but it could command, as well as charm, unless indeed it were the charm that commanded. “She scolds sergeants and orderlies all day long,” wrote Mr. Bracebridge to her parents (Nov. 20); “you would be astonished to see how fierce she is grown.” That was written, of course, in fun; but there was always a note of calm authority in her voice. A Crimean veteran recalled her passing his bed with some doctors, who were saying, “It can't be done,” and her replying quietly, “It must be done.” “I seem to hear her saying it,” writes one who knew her well; “there seemed to be no appeal from her quiet conclusive manner.”

With regard to the nurses, Miss Nightingale, as may be gathered from the letter to Dr. Bowman, found them rather a difficult team to drive, and this fact should be remembered in considering an episode presently to be related (II.). She had to send one nurse back to England at once, filling the vacancy by a German Sister from the Kaiserswerth colony at Constantinople. Of the six nurses supplied by St. John's House, “four, alas! returned shortly from Scutari, not being prepared to accept the discipline and privations of the life out there.”[99] We need not be too impatient with Mrs. Lawfield (who turned out an excellent nurse) for her objection to the cap. The uniform, devised on the spur of the moment, seems to have been very much less becoming than that of the “Staff Nurse, New Style,” with her “gown of silver gray, bright steel chain, and chignon's elegant array.”[100] The Nightingale nurses in the East wore “grey tweed wrappers, worsted jackets, with caps and short woollen cloaks, and a frightful scarf of brown holland, embroidered[187] in red with the words, ‘Scutari Hospital.’”[101] Such is the description of the costume worn by the seculars which is given by one of the Roman Catholic Sisters, not without some pity as she thought of her own religious habit. But the short cloak should not be so contemptuously dismissed. “The red uniform cape worn by the ladies of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service is modelled on that originally introduced by Florence Nightingale for the nurses whom she took with her to Scutari. This cape may therefore be regarded as a memorial to the great founder of military nursing.”[102] As for the “frightful scarf” some such distinctive badge was a very necessary precaution amid the rough-and-tumble of a military depot and its camp-followers. A raw new-comer was seen to approach one of the nurses in the street. “You leave her alone,” said his mate, “don't you see she's one of Miss Nightingale's women?” Their cloth was respected throughout the camps; but Miss Nightingale had to dismiss two or three for levity of conduct. On arriving at Scutari, she had placed ten in the General Hospital and twenty-eight in the Barrack Hospital, and in neither did she find it easy to maintain discipline. From time to time she transferred nurses, sending the best to other hospitals, keeping the less trustworthy under her own eye; and sending some home, who were unwilling to stay or found incompetent, as other recruits arrived. Of the thirty-eight in the first party, she considered that not more than sixteen were really efficient, whilst five or six were in a class of excellence by themselves.

The difficulties—including the great Dress Question—which Miss Nightingale had with her staff, appear clearly enough in the “Rules and Regulations for the Nurses attached to the Military Hospitals in the East,” which Miss Nightingale presently sent home to Mr. Herbert, who had them printed, and handed to every candidate for appointment as nurse. “As it has been stated,” says the preamble, “that the nurses who have gone to the hospitals in the East,[188] have in some instances complained of being subject to hardships and to rules for which they were not previously prepared, and of having to do work differing from what they expected, it has been thought desirable to state distinctly the regulations relative to the outfit, clothing, duties, and position of nurses in military hospitals.” The nurses, it is then set forth, “are required to appear at all times in the regulation dress with the badge, and never to wear flowers in their bonnet-caps, or ribbons, other than such as are provided for them, or are sanctioned by the superintendent.” Another rule defines the precise quantities of spirituous liquor which a nurse will be allowed; a third states that “no nurse will be allowed to walk out except with the housekeeper, or with a party of at least three nurses together, and never without leave previously obtained.” The whole code shows the necessity which Miss Nightingale had found for enforcing strict discipline.[103] And even with these new regulations to back her, she still found discipline hard to enforce. Her official letters to the War Office complain of unsuitable recruits being sent out to her, and of the greater number of them as being “wholly undisciplined.”


In December 1854 Miss Nightingale was astonished to receive an announcement that a party of forty-seven more nurses, under the care of her friend, Miss Mary Stanley, were on their way to join her. She remonstrated, and threatened to resign:—

“You have sacrificed the cause so near my heart,” she wrote to Mr. Sidney Herbert (Dec. 15); “you have sacrificed me, a matter of small importance now; you have sacrificed your own written word to a popular cry. You must feel that I ought to resign, where conditions are imposed upon me which render the object for which I am employed unattainable, and I only remain at my post till I have provided in some measure for these poor wanderers.”

Mr. Herbert replied, as his biographer states, in terms[189] of courtesy and kindliness, and without any trace of the bitterness which Miss Nightingale's vehemence might have evoked in a smaller-minded man. There is a letter to Mrs. Bracebridge (Dec. 27) in which Mrs. Herbert says: “I am heart-broken about the nurses, but I do assure you, if you send them all home without a trial, you will lose some really valuable women.” The Minister had authorized Miss Nightingale, if on full consideration she thought fit, to return Miss Stanley's party to England at his own private expense. Her good sense soon showed her that such a course would be, as she wrote, “a moral impossibility”; and in the end she made the best she could of what she considered a bad job—to the great advantage, as it was to turn out, of the wounded soldiers, though at a great increase to her own responsibilities and difficulties.

Much has been made in some quarters[104] of this episode, and it may be well here to explain Miss Nightingale's position clearly; for the affair throws strong light upon the difficulties of her task. It is essential to know, in the first place, that Mr. Herbert had distinctly stated that the selection of nurses was to be exclusively in Miss Nightingale's hands. This is implied in his official instructions (p. 156), and was stated with the utmost emphasis in a letter “to a correspondent,” which he had caused to be inserted in the newspapers of October 24. Already the cry had been raised that more nurses should be sent, and volunteers were clamouring for enlistment. Mr. Herbert thereupon wrote:—

War Office, October 21 [1854].… The duties of a hospital nurse, if they are properly performed, require great skill as well as strength and courage, especially where the cases are surgical cases and the majority of them are from gunshot wounds. Persons who have no experience or skill in such matters would be of no use whatever; and in moments of great pressure, such as must of necessity at intervals occur in a military hospital, any person who is not of use is an impediment. Many ladies, whose generous enthusiasm prompts them to offer their services as nurses, are little aware of the hardships they would have to encounter, and[190] the horrors they would have to witness, which would try the firmest nerves. Were all accepted who offer, I fear we should have not only many inefficient nurses, but many hysterical patients themselves requiring treatment instead of assisting others.…

No additional nurses will be sent out to Miss Nightingale until she shall have written home from Scutari and reported how far her labours have been successful, and what number and description of persons, if any, she requires in addition.… No one can be sent out until we hear from Miss Nightingale that they are required.

Miss Nightingale had not written home in that sense at all, but Mr. Herbert had sent the nurses. That was what she meant when she said that he had “sacrificed his own written word.” “Had I had the enormous folly,” she wrote to Mr. Herbert (Dec. 15), “at the end of eleven days' experience, to require more women, would it not seem that you, as a statesman, should have said, ‘Wait till you can see your way better.’ But I made no such request.” She was an expert, and did not wish to be inundated with amateurs. Moreover, everybody at Scutari knew, as she wrote, the terms of Mr. Herbert's letter to the newspapers, and the medical men knew that she had not asked for any more nurses. Yet here was a new party sent out; and, to make the encroachment on her domain the more marked, Miss Stanley had received instructions to, and reported herself to, not the Superintendent of the Nurses, but other officials. Miss Nightingale felt that her authority had been flouted, her position undermined. But personal considerations were not the cause of her vexation. It was not a case of “pique,” as some people in England imagined. Mr. Herbert and she were engaged in making a new experiment. It was full of difficulties, and the only chance of success lay in the maintenance of undivided responsibility and clearly established authority. Miss Nightingale could not quietly have accepted the new situation without sacrificing the key of the position. Had she acquiesced, she would have admitted that Mr. Herbert might henceforth send out nurses without consulting her, and without placing them expressly under her orders. She would have left herself at the mercy of any well-meaning person in England who thought that this or that might be[191] helpful to her. Her judgment would no longer have been the governing factor; while yet for any confusion or failure that might follow, she would be held responsible. Mr. Herbert thought, no doubt, that already the experiment had been a great success, as indeed it was, and he was eager to increase the scale of it. He might not unreasonably think that, as the number of the wounded increased, so should the number of female nurses be increased also. Mr. Osborne's remark, cited above (p. 183), must have confirmed him in such an opinion. But to Miss Nightingale on the spot the case wore a very different aspect. We must remember the severe mental strain of her position; the high pressure of work and emotion at which she was living, all the higher to one of her intensely sensitive conscientiousness; the continual failure (to her critical mind) of attempts to reform cruel abuses; the danger of real, acknowledged failure always present. In such a position, the arrival of a fresh batch of nurses, unexpected and unsolicited, must have seemed to her the break-up of all her plans, the destruction of the standard of nursing which she was painfully creating, the gravest peril to an experiment, still on its trial, and ever subject to hostile criticism.

Immediate and practical difficulties were also great. There was no accommodation in the hospitals at Scutari available for additional female nurses. “The 46,” wrote Mr. Bracebridge to Mr. Smith (Dec. 18), “have fallen on us like a cloud of locusts. Where to house them, feed them, place them, is difficult; how to care for them, not to be imagined.” The Principal Medical Officer flatly refused to have any more, and Miss Nightingale herself felt that she could not manage any more:—

“I have toiled my way,” she wrote (Dec. 15), “into the confidence of the Medical Men. I have, by incessant vigilance, day and night, introduced something like system into the disorderly operations of these women. And the plan may be said to have succeeded in some measure, as it stands.… But to have women scampering about the wards of a Military Hospital all day long, which they would do, did an increased number relax the discipline and increase their leisure, would be as improper as absurd.”

And there was a further objection. A considerable[192] number of the second party were Roman Catholics, and Miss Stanley herself (as Miss Nightingale well knew) was on the verge of joining the Roman Communion. How much this factor in the case added to the force of Miss Nightingale's objections, we shall learn in a later chapter. Mr. Herbert thought, I suppose, that the additional nurses would be welcome to her because they came under the escort of a friend. But so strongly did Miss Nightingale feel on the subject, that Miss Stanley's part in the affair rankled the more. It was in the house of her friends, she felt, that she had been wounded. Their personal relations were further embittered by the case of a nurse whom Miss Nightingale (with the concurrence of the other authorities) felt obliged to dismiss, but whom Miss Stanley believed to be ill-used. Miss Nightingale's friendship with Mr. and Mrs. Herbert was in no way impaired. They had confessed themselves in the wrong; and so she was deeply touched, as she wrote, by their kindness and generosity. But between her and Miss Stanley the breach was never healed. Their later lives took different directions, and they did not meet again.

Miss Nightingale's resentment was perfectly justified. Her remonstrances to Mr. Herbert were necessary. His well-intentioned action was calculated to undermine her authority, and to aggravate her difficulties; and, in both of these ways, to imperil the success of their joint experiment. Her handling of the crisis which had burst upon her was, perhaps, in relation to the subordinates unfortunate. Miss Stanley was accompanied by Dr. Meyer, a medical man, and Mr. Jocelyne Percy, who had gone out (as Mrs. Herbert wrote to Mrs. Bracebridge) devoted to Miss Nightingale, “saying he would be her footman, etc.”[105] “We picked out,” added Mrs. Herbert plaintively, “the two men in England who, we thought, would help Flo most,” and they returned sad and sore at their cold reception. Miss Nightingale, acting on advice she received on the spot, asked them to sign notes of their conversation with her;[106] this rankled[193] with them, and Mr. Percy made a grievance of it in England. Mrs. Herbert, in reporting all this to Mrs. Bracebridge (Jan. 7, 1855), made the final reflection: “Perhaps it is wholesome for us to be reminded that Flo is still a mortal, which we were beginning to doubt.” Mortals have to deal with entanglements as best they may on the spur of the moment; and those at a distance hardly made enough allowance for the difficulties with which Miss Nightingale was suddenly confronted, for the danger which Mr. Herbert's dispatch of unsolicited reinforcements involved, and, therefore, for the importance which she attached to having all the conditions defined in black and white.

Her practical genius and good sense speedily triumphed, however, over the difficulties of the case. In agreement with the medical authorities, the number of female nurses at Scutari was raised to 50, and Miss Nightingale weeded out some of her original staff in favour of new-comers. Others of them were sent to the hospitals at Balaclava (p. 254); and others to those at Koulali (p. 174). Miss Stanley, whose intention it had been to return to England as soon as she had deposited her party, remained for several months in charge at the latter place, not administering the nursing service altogether according to Miss Nightingale's ideas,[107] but rendering aid to the afflicted of which her brother, the Dean, has left us so charming and sympathetic a memorial.[108]

In the end, then, the scope of Miss Nightingale's experiment was considerably enlarged; and the deeper significance of the episode is to be found in the emphasis which it throws upon the novelty and difficulties of Miss Nightingale's enterprise. In these days, nurses, trained and distinctively attired, are so much part of everyday life, women-nurses serving under the Red Cross are so normal a feature of war, and Territorial nurses, smartly uniformed, are so familiar a unit of auxiliary forces, that some effort of imagination is required to realize the conditions which existed sixty years[194] ago. We remember that a staff of nearly 800 female nurses was maintained for service in the South African War, and may be tempted to smile at the question between 20 and 40, or 40 and 90 for the Crimea. But it was Miss Nightingale who showed the way, and the way of the pioneer is rough. No one who reads this volume will suspect her of timidity, or think her wanting in self-confidence; yet so conscious was she of the difficulties that in this instance she under-rated her power, and was anxious to keep the experiment within much narrower limits than it assumed. Her original idea had been to limit the number of female nurses to 20, but at various dates after Miss Stanley's arrival she sent home for more nurses, and, before the war was over, she had had control of 125.


Miss Nightingale's reluctance to assume the superintendence of additional nurses will be the more readily understood when we pass to the multifarious duties which circumstances led her to discharge.

“Having understood,” she wrote to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe (Nov. 7), “that Your Excellency has the power of drawing upon Government for the uses of the sick and wounded, I beg to state that there is at present a great deficiency of linen among the men in the Hospitals until the Government Stores can arrive and be appropriated to them. A hundred pairs of sheets and 200 shirts might be applied to such a temporary purpose, and would never be de trop. Also a few American stoves, upon which we might prepare delicate food for the worst cases, who require to be fed every two or three hours, which is of course impossible for the Medical Officers and Orderlies to attend to; many deaths are necessarily the consequence.”

This suggestion to the Ambassador, made on the third day after Miss Nightingale's arrival, serves to introduce two main directions in which she applied a woman's insight to the condition of things at Scutari. Efficient nursing requires, she well knew, cleanliness and delicately cooked food. She set herself with characteristic energy to supply these necessities. She found “not a basin, nor a towel, nor a bit of soap, nor a broom,” and instantly requisitioned 300[195] scrubbing brushes. "The first improvements took place," said Mr. Macdonald, “after Miss Nightingale's arrival—greater cleanliness and greater order. I recollect one of the first things she asked me to supply was 200 hard scrubbers and sacking for washing the floors, for which no means existed at that time.”[109] Miss Nightingale had foreseen that washing would be one of the first things necessary. During the voyage out, as the ship was approaching Constantinople, one of the party went up to her and said earnestly, “Oh, Miss Nightingale, when we land, don't let there be any red-tape delays, let us get straight to nursing the poor fellows!” “The strongest will be wanted at the wash-tub,” was the reply. Until Miss Nightingale arrived, the number of shirts washed during a month was six.[110] Up to the date of her arrival, the Purveyor-General had contracted for the washing of the hospital bedding, and of the linen of the patients. Simultaneously, however, with the arrival of the wounded from Inkerman, it was found that the contractor had broken down in the latter part of his contract. And even with regard to the former part, the bedding was washed, Miss Nightingale discovered, in cold water. She insisted upon hot; the more since it was found, as the Duke of Newcastle's commissioners reported, that many of the articles sent back from the wash as clean, had to be destroyed as being in fact verminous. Miss Nightingale accordingly took a Turkish house, had boilers supplied in it by the Engineer's Office, employed soldiers' wives to do the washing, and thus gave the sick and wounded the comfort of clean linen. All this was paid for partly out of her private funds and partly by the Times fund.

Yet more important, perhaps, to the comfort and recovery of the sick, were Miss Nightingale's “Extra Diet Kitchens.” When she came to the Barrack Hospital she found that all the cooking was done in thirteen large coppers, situated at one end of the vast building. The patients' beds extended over a space of from three to four miles (including,[196] of course, both wards and corridors); it took three or four hours to serve the ordinary dinners, and there were no facilities whatever for preparing delicacies between times. Within ten days of her arrival, Miss Nightingale had remedied this defect. She opened two “extra diet kitchens” in different parts of the building, and had three supplementary boilers fixed on one of the staircases for the preparation of arrowroot and the like. As explained more fully below (p. 201), nothing was supplied except in accordance with medical directions; and she met the doctors' requisitions out of her private stores only when the government stores failed. “It is obvious,” she explained, “that Miss Nightingale would have shielded herself from heavy responsibility by adhering, and by obtaining the adherence of the medical officers, to the strict precedents of Military Hospital Regulations, according to which the materials for the Extra Diets would have been sent in to her by the purveyor without requisition, in the same manner as is practised in the case of the ordinary diets; but she felt that in doing so she would most frequently be defeating the object she was sent to carry out, for in the majority of cases the purveyor had either no supply, or a supply of a very indifferent quality of the articles required.”[111] It is safe to say that many lives were saved by the application by Miss Nightingale of the good housewife's care to the kitchen of the hospitals. The woman's eye was not above distinguishing between bone and gristle and meat in the men's dinner, and she wanted to have the meat issued from the stores boned, so that one patient should not get all bone, another all gristle, and another all meat. But on this point she was beaten. The Inspector-General informed her that it would require a new “Regulation of the Service” to “bone the meat”!! The notes of exclamation are hers.[112] In the culinary department an invaluable volunteer arrived in 1855 in the person of Alexis Soyer, once famous as the chef of the Reform Club, and still alive as M. Mirobolant in Thackeray's Pendennis. M. Soyer rearranged and partly superseded Miss Nightingale's kitchens at Scutari. We shall meet with him and his good work again when we accompany her to the Crimea.

Miss Nightingale was not long at Scutari without being[197] touched by the pitiable condition of the women camp-followers, separated often from their regiments, and in a very forlorn state. Miss Nightingale deputed the care of them in large measure to Mrs. Bracebridge, who, with her husband, collected and administered a separate fund for giving assistance to the wives, women, and children of soldiers at Scutari. A Lying-in Hospital was organized; and Miss Nightingale found employment for many of the women, both in washing as aforesaid, and in making up old linen into various hospital requisites. Here, too, helpful volunteers presently arrived. The Rev. Dr. and Lady Alicia Blackwood were moved after the Battle of Inkerman to go out to Scutari and see if they could be of use. Dr. Blackwood asked and obtained an appointment as a military chaplain; and, on their arrival, Lady Alicia went straight to Miss Nightingale and asked what she could do to help:—

“The reply she gave me,” wrote Lady Alicia, “or rather the question she put me in reply, after a few seconds of silence, with a peculiar expression of countenance, made an indelible impression. ‘Do you mean what you say?’ ‘Yes, certainly; why do you ask me?’ ‘Because I have had several such applications before, and when I have suggested work, I found it could not be done, or some excuse was made; it was not exactly the sort of thing intended, it required special suitability, &c.’ ‘Well,’ I replied, ‘I am in earnest; we came out here with no other wish than to help where we could.’ ‘Very well, then, you really can help me if you will. In this Barrack are now located some two hundred poor women in the most abject misery. A great number have been sent down from Varna; they are in rags, and covered with vermin. My heart bleeds for them; but my work is with the soldiers, not with their wives. Now, will you undertake to look after them? If you will take them as your charge, I will send an orderly who will show you their haunts.’”[113]

Lady Alicia went, and with her husband was of great assistance. Miss Nightingale was mindful also of the families of her nurses. Some of them were wives and widows[198] who had left children at home. “Many things turn up,” wrote Lady Verney to a friend, “for us to do for Florence; as in looking after the children of her nurses.” And Mrs. Nightingale wrote similarly (April 1855):—

Flo has been writing incessantly lately about her nurses' families, for whom the best seem getting very anxious, and she scarcely mentions anything else. We have seen and heard much in visiting them which is a great pleasure to us.

Before the Roebuck Committee, Dr. Andrew Smith, the head of the Army Medical Department in London, was asked, “What do you think was the result of Miss Nightingale's mission?” “I daresay,” he answered, apparently with some reluctance, “it was very advantageous”; and then, pulling himself together like a man and seeking to be just, he added: “There is no doubt about it; because females are able to discover many deficiencies that a man would not think of, and they will look at things that a man will have no idea of looking to.” A very true statement; and perhaps as much as could reasonably be expected from an official on the defensive. But I think we shall find in the next chapter that some of the things which Miss Nightingale saw and did were not unworthy of the more comprehensive sweep claimed by Dr. Smith for the male faculty of vision.




I have no hesitation in saying that Miss Nightingale has exhibited greater power of organization, a greater familiarity with details, while at the same time taking a comprehensive view of the general bearing of the subject, than has marked the conduct of any one connected with the hospitals during the present war.—Sidney Herbert (speech at Willis's Rooms, Nov. 29, 1855).

Ostensibly, and by the strict letter of her original instructions, Miss Nightingale was only Superintendent of the Female Nursing establishment. In fact, and by force of circumstances, she became a Purveyor to the Hospitals, a Clothier to the British Army, and in many emergencies a Dea ex machina.

She became, first, Purveyor-Auxiliary to the hospitals at Scutari. My statements under this head might seem to be the inventions of a satirist if I did not disclaim credit for such ingenuity by adding that they are in every case extracted from official sources. Of the ignorance existing in high places of the true state of things at Scutari, the best illustration is the answer which the British Ambassador gave when he was asked by the Commissioner of the Times Fund what things were most needed in the hospitals. “Nothing is needed,” said Lord Stratford, and the only suggestion he could make to the Times was that it should devote its fund to building an English Church at Pera. Miss Nightingale thought that the service of God included the service of man, and Mr. Macdonald, the Times Commissioner, agreed with her. Between them, they established not a church, but a store. The Ambassador of course formed his conclusions from what he was told; and the Principal Medical Officer at[200] Scutari “stated that he wanted nothing in the shape of stores or medical comforts at a time when his patients were destitute of the commonest necessaries. Assistance which had been discouraged as superfluous was eventually found essential for the lives of the patients.”[114]

“I am a kind of General Dealer,” wrote Miss Nightingale to Mr. Herbert (Jan. 4, 1855), “in socks, shirts, knives and forks, wooden spoons, tin baths, tables and forms, cabbage and carrots, operating tables, towels and soap, small tooth combs, precipitate for destroying lice, scissors, bedpans and stump pillows. I will send you a picture of my Caravanserai, into which beasts come in and out. Indeed the vermin might, if they had but 'unity of purpose,' carry off the four miles of beds on their backs, and march with them into the War Office, Horse Guards, S.W.”

The caravanserai was the large kitchen aforesaid (p. 173). “From this room,” wrote one of the lady volunteers, “were distributed quantities of arrowroot, sago, rice puddings, jelly, beef-tea, and lemonade upon requisitions made by the surgeons. This caused great comings to and fro; numbers of orderlies were waiting at the door with requisitions. One of the nuns or a lady received them, and saw they were signed and countersigned before serving. We used, among ourselves, to call this kitchen the tower of Babel. In the middle of the day everything and everybody seemed to be there: boxes, parcels, bundles of sheets, shirts, and old linen and flannels, tubs of butter, sugar, bread, kettles, saucepans, heaps of books, and of all kinds of rubbish, besides the diets which were being dispensed; then the people, ladies, nuns, nurses, orderlies, Turks, Greeks, French and Italian servants, officers and others waiting to see Miss Nightingale; all passing to and fro, all intent upon their own business, and all speaking their own language.”[115]

There was also in “The Sisters' Tower,” as this part of the Barrack Hospital came to be called, a small sitting-room; and in it “were held those councils over which Miss Nightingale so ably presided, at which were discussed the measures necessary to meet the daily-varying exigencies of the hospital. From hence were given the orders which regulated the female staff. This, too, was the office from[201] which were sent those many letters to the Government, to friends and supporters at home, telling of the sufferings of the sick and wounded.”[116] In the Report of the Duke of Newcastle's Commission, as also in Miss Nightingale's Statement to Subscribers, the full list of articles supplied by her may be found, tabulated with a precision and amplitude of detail characteristic of her. It included the miscellaneous utensils, etc., enumerated above, and also various articles of food required for the “extra diets” mentioned in the preceding chapter. The supplies were furnished partly by the Times Fund, partly out of moneys sent to her by benevolent persons, and partly out of the private purse of herself and her immediate friends. Much of the expenditure was ultimately refunded to her by the Government. The sick and wounded soldiers at Scutari would, I fear, have felt ill requited for the lack of linen, sheets, utensils, and extra diet by hearing that a beautiful new church was being built at Pera.

But, it may be asked, were the things which Miss Nightingale procured and issued really wanted? May they not have been her fads? and was not hers perhaps a work of supererogation, for could not the official Purveyor have supplied them? Such statements were widely made at the time, and one can readily understand the reason. By drawing upon her own stores, Miss Nightingale not only furnished the soldiery with the things they were needing, but “administered to the defaulting administrators a telling, though silent, rebuke; and it would seem that under this discipline the groove-going men winced in agony, for they uttered touching complaints, declaring that the Lady-in-Chief did not choose to give them time (it was always time the males wanted), and that the moment a want declared itself, she made haste to supply it herself.”[117] But such complaints were entirely unfounded; for it was[202] shown by the Duke of Newcastle's Commission that she never issued anything from her stores, nor did she allow any one else to do so, except upon the demand of the medical officers, and after inquiry of the Purveyor if he could supply them. I find among Miss Nightingale's papers a few of the original requisitions from medical officers. Here is one of them:—

Palace Hospital, 18th January 1855. Madam—I have the honor to forward a requisition for 50 shirts and 50 warm flannels. The Purveyor has none. Knowing the extensive demand, I have limited my request to meet the urgent requirements of the most serious cases in my charge. I have the honor to be, Madam, your most obedient humble servant,
Edward Menzies, Staff Surgeon in Charge.

The list, said the commissioners drily, “must not be regarded as conclusive proof that the articles mentioned in it were invariably wanting in the [Government] stores.” Goods, they explained, “have been refused, although they were, to our personal knowledge, lying in abundance in the store of the Purveyor.” Why refused? Because the Purveyor took it upon himself to override the requisition of the medical officers? Not at all. “This was done because they had not been examined by the Board of Survey. On one occasion, in the month of December last [1854], we found that this was the case with respect to Hospital rugs, and it is probable that this has not been the only instance of such an occurrence.” Miss Nightingale's letters to Mr. Herbert show that it was a frequent occurrence. For instance, in February 1855, she received a requisition from the medical officers at Balaclava for shirts. She knew that 27,000 shirts had at her instance been sent by Government from home, and they were already landed. But the Purveyor would not let them be used; “he could not unpack them without a Board.” Three weeks elapsed before the Board released the shirts. The sick and wounded, lying shivering for want of rugs and shirts, would have expressed themselves forcibly, I fear, if it had been explained that they must shiver still until the Board of Survey's good time had arrived.

Miss Nightingale's impatience at such delays was the origin, doubtless, of a story which had wide currency at[203] the time that on one occasion she ordered a Government consignment to be opened forcibly, while the officials wrung their hands at the thought of what the Board of Survey might presently say. The story was mentioned in the Roebuck Committee; and, though it was not confirmed, I think that Miss Nightingale was quite capable of the dreadful deed. Certainly she often insisted on obtaining first-hand evidence for herself, instead of trusting to the report of others; for in one of her letters to Mr. Herbert (Dec. 21, 1854), I find this passage: “This morning I foraged in the Purveyor's Store—a cruise I make almost daily, as the only way of getting things. No mops, no plates, no wooden trays (the engineer is having these made), no slippers, no shoe-brushes, no blacking, no knives and forks, no spoons, no scissors (for cutting the men's hair, which is literally alive), no basins, no towelling, no chloride of zinc.” Then she enumerates the things which Mr. Herbert should send from London, adding, “The other articles mentioned above as not now in store can be had at Constantinople” or Marseilles; whence, I imagine, she proceeded to get them. Shopping at Scutari was not an afternoon's easy amusement:—

“English people,” she wrote to Mr. Herbert (Dec. 10), “look upon Scutari as a place with inns and hackney-coaches, and houses to let furnished. It required yesterday, to land 25 casks of sugar, four oxen and two men for six hours, plus two passes, two requisitions, Mr. Bracebridge's two interferences, and one apology from a quarter-master for seizing the araba, received with a smile and a kind word, because he did his duty; for every araba is required on Military store or Commissariat duty. There are no pack-horses and no asses, except those used by the peasantry to attend the market 1¼ miles off. An araba consists of loose poles and planks, extended between two axle-trees, placed on four small wheels, and drawn by a yoke of weak oxen.… Four days in the week we cannot communicate with Constantinople, except by the other harbour, 1¼miles off, to which the road is almost impassable.”

But, somehow or other, Miss Nightingale was able to supply from her stores in hand, or to obtain from Constantinople or Smyrna or elsewhere, many things which the Purveyor-General could not, or would not, obtain. She[204] had the forethought, as already related, to lay in at Marseilles on her way out a large supply of articles which she deemed likely to be useful; and at Scutari Mr. Macdonald of the Times was untiring and resourceful. In the course of time, as funds continued to pour in, and the Government purveying became more efficient, Miss Nightingale was able on emergency to supply, not only the British, but their allies. In the spring of 1856, when the scourge of typhus committed sad ravages among the French, and the amour propre of the Intendance prevented the acceptance of the humane offer of medical comforts as a loan from the British Government, Miss Nightingale paved the way in overcoming this scruple by sending, as a present to the French Sisters and Medical Officers, large quantities of wine, arrowroot, and meat-essence. The Sardinian Sisters of Mercy also experienced much kindness at her hands when the destruction of a supply-ship by fire had left them without many things needed by their patients. She sent supplies also to the Prussian Civil Hospital, where many Britishers were treated; for this good office she received a letter of thanks from the king of Prussia (Sept. 1856). To her quarters at Scutari, the Turks, too, often resorted for medicine and advice. In her, says an eye-witness, the sickly and needy of all nations found an active friend.[118] “She embraced in her solicitude,” said a French historian of the Crimean War, “the sick of three armies.”[119]

Miss Nightingale's initiative was further useful in extracting needed articles which were contained in the Government store, but yet had not been forthcoming, either because nobody else had asked for them, or because somebody had not been lucky enough to hit upon the right moment for asking. The system in force was most ingeniously contrived to bring about such a state of things. Articles were only supplied to the hospitals by the Purveyor on the requisition of a medical officer. The medical officers were overburdened with work, and perhaps omitted to send in a[205] requisition. Or they sent in a requisition, and the form was returned, marked “None in store.” The articles may subsequently have been obtained or have arrived from England, but no note was kept in the Purveying Department of unfulfilled requisitions, and unless the medical officers requisitioned again, the articles were not supplied. The Commissioners found that from this cause patients were sometimes left without beds, though there were bedsteads in store at the time. Happily Miss Nightingale had laid in a good many at Marseilles.


There was another sphere in which Miss Nightingale came to the rescue of the sick and wounded from the blunders of official administration. She clothed them, 50,000 shirts in all having been issued from her store. The history of this private clothing department is curious. The regulations of the War Office assumed that every soldier brought with him into hospital an adequate kit, and it was no part of the Purveyor's duty to supply such a thing as a shirt. But three of the four generals of division in the Crimea had decided not to disembark the men's knapsacks. Sebastopol, it was confidently expected, would fall in a few days' time, and the men were to march light. In most cases they never saw their knapsacks again.[120] Hence the sick and wounded who arrived at Scutari immediately after the Battle of the Alma were destitute of all clothing except what was on their persons, and that was in many cases fit only for the furnace. No regulation existed whereby, if the soldier had for military reasons been deprived of his kit, the deficiency could be made good. The supply of a change of linen for the sick and wounded while in hospital, and of clean shirts to wear when invalided home or returned to the front, was perhaps a better allocation of benevolent funds than a supply of altar-cloths for a new church at Pera. At any rate Miss Nightingale thought so; and thus she and her coadjutors were in some measure the clothiers as well as the purveyors of the wounded soldiers.



Miss Nightingale assumed responsibility on one occasion as a builder, and this was at the time the usurpation which was most condemned in some quarters and the most commended in others. Some wards in the Barrack Hospital were in so dilapidated a condition as to be unfit for the reception of patients. The Commander-in-Chief had warned the hospital authorities that additional sick and wounded might shortly be upon their hands. The uninhabited wards might by prompt expenditure be made capable of accommodating 800 cases. The expenditure, however, would be considerable, and no one seemed willing to incur it without superior authority. Miss Nightingale stepped into the breach. With the concurrence of Dr. McGrigor, a senior medical officer of the hospital, she represented the urgency of the case to Lady Stratford de Redcliffe. The Ambassador had been empowered, as we have seen, to incur expenditure; and his wife, as she had given Miss Nightingale to understand, was the authorized intermediary between the Ambassador and the authorities of the hospitals. Lady Stratford saw the urgent necessity of the work, and Mr. Gordon, the chief of the engineering staff, was instructed to put it immediately in hand. The workmen, 125 in number, presently struck, whereupon Miss Nightingale, on her own authority, succeeded in engaging 200 other workmen, and the work was rapidly completed. Lord Stratford subsequently disclaimed any responsibility,[121] and Miss Nightingale paid the bill out of her own private resources. The War Department, when the affair came to their knowledge, approved her action, and reimbursed her. This instance of “the Nightingale power” made a great impression, and she herself regarded it as the most beneficent thing she did in the East. The fame of the affair was noised abroad, and reached the British camp at Balaclava, where our unfailing friend, Colonel Sterling, heard of it with hot indignation. Miss Nightingale, he wrote, “coolly draws a cheque. Is[207] this the way to manage the finances of a great nation? Vox populi? A divine afflatus. Priestess, Miss N. Magnetic impetus drawing cash out of my pocket!” In normal times it would certainly not be the way to manage the finances of a great nation. And even in times of emergency the way which would of course have occurred to any well-regulated slave of routine was that Miss Nightingale should have spoken to some officer on the spot, that he should have represented the case to the Director-General of the Army Medical Department in London, that the Director-General should have moved the Horse Guards, and the Horse Guards the Ordnance, that the Ordnance should then have approached the Treasury, and that after process of minuting and countersigning, the work should in due course have been officially ordered. But meanwhile Lord Raglan's wounded would have arrived at the hospital, and there would have been no wards ready to receive them. As it was, “the wards were ready,” as Miss Nightingale reported to Mr. Herbert (Dec. 21), “to receive 500 men on the 19th from the ships Ripon and Golden Fleece. They were received in the wards by Dr. McGrigor and myself, and were generally in the last stage of exhaustion. I supplied all the utensils, including knives and forks, spoons, cans, towels, etc., clearing our quarters of these.”


In all these things Miss Nightingale may be warmly commended, but the officials need not be too hotly condemned. They were but doing their duty, as they had learnt it; and for the rest, it was the system, or want of system, that was at fault. Just as in London there was no co-ordination among the Departments, so at Scutari there was no unity of action, and no clear personal responsibility. “It is a current joke here,” wrote Miss Nightingale from Scutari, “to offer a prize for the discovery of any one willing to take responsibility.” It was never awarded, for Miss Nightingale herself was, I suppose, “barred.” In writing to Mr. Herbert, she called many of the officials at Scutari by very hard names, but in other letters she admitted that[208] the ultimate fault lay elsewhere. “The grand administrative evil,” she said (Dec. 10), “emanates from home—in the existence of a number of departments here, each with its centrifugal and independent action, uncounteracted by any centripetal attraction, viz. a central authority capable of supervising and compelling combined effort for each object at each particular time.” Mr. Herbert might write, but the officials would not act. The force of custom was too strong. Miss Nightingale showed the Purveyor a letter from the Minister. “This is the first time,” he said, “I have had it in writing that I was not to spare expense. I never knew that I might not be thrown overboard.” “Your name,” she had told Mr. Herbert (Nov. 25), “is continually used as a bug-bear. They make a deity of cheapness, and the Secretary at War stands as synonymous here with Jupiter Tonans, whose shafts end only in a brutum fulmen. The cheese-paring system, which sounds unmusical in British ears, is here identified with you by the officers who carry it out. It is in vain to tell the Purveyors that they will get no kudos by this at home.”

It should not be supposed, however, that Miss Nightingale was a spurner of rules, and a despiser of discipline, routine, and subordination. The very reverse is the case. Her whole career makes it probable, the character of her mind suggests it, and the administration of the funds placed at her disposal, with which the present chapter has mainly been concerned, proves it. If she shocked and staggered some official minds by her daring innovations, it was her strictness and insistence upon rules and regulations that was most criticized in unofficial quarters. She explained the matter very clearly in her final Statement to Subscribers. She had been placed by the Government in two positions of trust, each independent of the other. She had been appointed superintendent of the nursing establishment; and she further had received authority, as almoner of the “Free Gifts” (as the Royal Bounty was called), to apply them, and any other gifts derived from private sources, in the War Hospitals. In the second of these capacities, she could, if she had chosen, have administered her stores solely at her personal discretion, and have delegated a like discretion to[209] other superintendents, sisters, or nurses appointed by her. But, except in a few special cases, which it were superfluous to enumerate, she rejected the liberty of personal discretion, and administered her funds only upon the requisition of medical officers. (She lays repeated stress on this fact, but I daresay that she herself was often the originating source of the requisitions. We have seen that in Harley Street she had learnt the art of managing overworked doctors.) Her statement of the reasons which governed her action is characteristic of her good sense. The exercise of personal discretion alone would have been the easier course; but the objections to it were “the abrogation of ordinary rule; the impossibility of preventing irregular issues, or at least of disproving the charge, and the unfitness of a large proportion of the women, who efficiently discharge the duty of the Nurses, to be the judges of the wants of soldiers and distribution of supplies to them; and, farther, the abuse which some would undoubtedly make of the power. To those to whom the charge of dishonesty would not apply, religious partiality either would, or, what in matters of this kind is only less mischievous, would be believed to, apply.” Next, there was the danger of patients being given other food than what the medical officers ordered. “It is needless to state to any sensible person, even without hospital experience, the manifold dangers of issuing to Nurses, whether ‘Ladies, Sisters, or Nurses,’ stores or facilities for procuring stores, to be distributed at their own discretion through the Wards. It is to be remembered that the employment of women in Army Hospitals is recent, that many experienced and able Surgeons are opposed to it, that, among these, some are honestly, and some are unscrupulously prone to find objections to it, and to exaggerate mischiefs arising from it; that the Surgeon can, to a considerable extent, allow the Nurse to be useful, or force her to be comparatively useless, in his Wards; that the War Hospitals are a bad field for investing the Nurse with powers and offices which she never exercises in Civil Hospitals. On these grounds, as strict an adherence to existing rules as was possible appeared to be the only course.… Miss Nightingale exacted and she rendered adherence to rules to a large extent, and she strictly reverted[210] to them when any emergency, during which, at the instance of authorities, she had departed from them, had ceased. A position such as hers necessarily exposes the holder to attacks from different quarters upon opposite grounds. While previously existing authorities are disposed to complain of all novel expenditure as lavish, and tending to the relaxation of discipline by over-indulgence, others, who feel themselves checked or restrained by regulations in the distribution of comforts according to their ideas of benevolence, will naturally object to the obstruction, in their view unnecessarily, interposed to the current of public liberality. While the experience of all who have conducted the operations of any extensive charity proves that the application of the ordinary axioms of business is the only road to success, it also sufficiently shows that such application is surely attended by no small measure of unpopularity.”[122]

She saw the value of rules, and respected them, sometimes even when they were ridiculous. On a cold night in January 1856, she was by the bedside of a dying patient; whose feet she found to be stone cold. She requested an orderly to fetch a hot-water bottle immediately. He refused, on the ground that his instructions were to do nothing for a patient without directions from a medical officer. Miss Nightingale stood corrected, and trudged off to find a doctor and make requisition for the bottle in due form. On a night in the following month, there was an unusually cold east wind, with a heavy snowfall. The patients in the ward attended by a civilian doctor were exposed to the wind and complained bitterly of the cold, but the regulation supply of fuel had given out. As the Government store was closed, Miss Nightingale waived the rule about applying first to the Purveyor, and gave the doctor fuel from her private stores. Next day the civilian doctor requisitioned in due form for an extra supply of fuel. He was refused. He carried his case to the Inspector-General. That official pleaded that he could not depart from the regulations which allowed only a certain[211] quantity of wood for each stove. But, urged the civilian, exceptional cold calls for an extra allowance. Possibly, replied the Inspector-General with exemplary gravity, but “a Board must first sit” upon the question. The civilian smiled good-humouredly, and begged the great man to supply the wood first, and let the Board sit upon it when the weather was milder. The Inspector-General consented. These little incidents[123] throw a flood of light upon the difficulties through which Miss Nightingale had to thread her way. She was a firm believer in rules; but she was one of those able administrators who have the sense to know, and the courage to act upon the knowledge, that rules sometimes exist only to be broken.

And this was precisely the kind of initiative that the state of things in the hospitals at Scutari demanded. Miss Nightingale's adherence to rules may have brought unpopularity upon her from some of her subordinates or subscribers; but her departure from rules, on due cause of emergency, and her cutting of knots—perhaps even her breaking open of consignments—brought from her official superior, Mr. Sidney Herbert, nothing but commendation and support. One sees this sometimes in his letters to herself, sometimes in those which he addressed to others, and which reflect the impression made upon him by her vigour and resource. “Pray recollect,” he wrote to the senior medical officer (Dec. 1, 1854), “in your demands upon us here, whether for more men, more comforts, or more necessaries, that there is no question of pounds, shillings and pence in such matters, but that whatever can be got must be got.” And to the Purveyor-General he wrote: “This is not a moment for sticking at forms, but for facilitating the rapid and easy transaction of business. There is much mischief done to the public service by the stickling for precedence and dignity between departments.” Thus he wrote to many others also; but he confessed to Mr. Bracebridge that he had “small hopes of these men. I have been writing in this sense before, and in vain; but I trust there is some improvement. They are so saturated with the cheese-paring economy of forty years' peace, that there is no getting[212] them to act up to a great occasion.”[124] Miss Nightingale's initiative alone saved the situation.

I have in this chapter separated various illustrations of that initiative from others which, in the preceding chapter, were attributed to “the woman's insight.” But perhaps the separation, though convenient, is imaginary, and all the cases of Miss Nightingale's administrative energy are ascribable to the same cause. Such was Mr. Kinglake's opinion; yet I have always suspected that the exceeding prominence given by him to the woman's touch in Miss Nightingale's work may in part have been caused by a desire to heighten the contrasts, and to barb with deadlier point his brilliant satire upon incompetence in official places. Let those who believe that it is possible to make a sharp delimitation between the “masculine” and the “feminine mind” settle this matter as they may. It seems to me that as there are old women of both sexes, so in both sexes there are men of business. My object in this chapter has been to show that Miss Nightingale brought to bear upon the task which confronted her at Scutari those high powers of the administrative mind, be they masculine or feminine, which, in moments of emergency, are capable of resource, initiative, decision.




We have made Miss Nightingale's acquaintance, and are delighted and very much struck by her great gentleness and simplicity, and wonderful, clear, and comprehensive head. I wish we had her at the War Office.—Queen Victoria (Letter to the Duke of Cambridge, 1856).

“When one reads such twaddling nonsense,” wrote Dr. Hall in November 1855 from the Crimea to Dr. Andrew Smith in London, “as that uttered by Mr. Bracebridge, and which was so much lauded in the Times because the garrulous old gentleman talked about Miss Nightingale putting hospitals, containing three or four thousand patients, in order in a couple of days by means of the Times funds, one cannot suppress a feeling of contempt for the man who indulges in such exaggerations, and pity for the ignorant multitude who are deluded by these fairy tales.”[125] The contempt and pity of the Inspector-General of the hospitals in the East were not unmixed, I think we may surmise, with a good deal of anger, which, we may also surmise, was shared by his friend, the Director-General of the Medical Department in London. Such feelings were in the course of human nature, and the exaggeration in the statements cited by Dr. Hall is palpable. Miss Nightingale was not a magician. It would be an idle fairy tale to represent that by her exertions, either in a couple of days, or a couple of months, she effected a complete transformation scene. And it would be unfair to attribute solely to Miss Nightingale the gradual improvements which, though largely due to her initiative and resource (as described[214] in preceding chapters), were in fact the result of the exertions of many persons both at home and in the East. “I have an unbounded admiration of Miss Nightingale's qualifications,” said a deputy medical inspector, “and of the manner she applies them, but I see dozens of things placed to her credit which I happen to know she had nothing to do with.”[126] Such was doubtless the case. Yet though in one sense Dr. Hall was perfectly right, in another he was profoundly wrong. Neither he, however, nor any of the other medical men who shared his views, need be blamed for their misapprehension. The facts of the case can only be fully understood now that access is obtainable to the private correspondence of Miss Nightingale and other actors in the drama.

She did many things herself, but she was also the inspirer and instigator of more things which were done by others. She was able of her own initiative to institute considerable reforms; but she was a reformer on a larger scale through the influence which she exercised. Though she was in truth no magician, there were men on the spot who, not being able to understand the secret and sources of her power, seemed to find something uncanny in it. Our good friend, Colonel Sterling, who hated the intrusion of petticoats into a campaign, was very much puzzled. The thing seemed to him “ludicrous,” as we have heard, but he had to admit that “Miss Nightingale queens it with absolute power”; and elsewhere he speaks of “the Nightingale power” as something mysterious and “fabulous.” The secret, however, is simple. “The Nightingale power” was due to causes of which some were inherent in herself and others were adventitious. The inherent strength of her influence lay in the masterful will and practical good sense which gave her dominion over the minds of men. The adventitious sources of her power were that she had both the ear and the confidence of Ministers, and the interest and sympathy of the Court. I have called this accession of influence “adventitious,” but it also accrued to her, in a secondary degree, from the inherent force of her character.

The influence of the Court in strengthening, in speeding[215] up, and sometimes in chiding Ministers, especially in military matters, was, during the reign of Victoria, very great, as all readers of memoirs of the time are aware.[127] And from an early period of Miss Nightingale's mission the Court had expressed a lively interest in it, and had intimated a wish that full consideration should be paid to her experiences and impressions. “Would you tell Mrs. Herbert,” wrote the Queen to Mr. Sidney Herbert (Dec. 6, 1854), “that I beg she would let me see frequently the accounts she receives from Miss Nightingale or Mrs. Bracebridge, as I hear no details of the wounded, though I see so many from officers, etc., about the battlefield, and naturally the former must interest me more than any one. Let Mrs. Herbert also know that I wish Miss Nightingale and the ladies would tell these poor, noble wounded and sick men that no one takes a warmer interest or feels more for their sufferings or admires their courage and heroism more than their Queen. Day and night she thinks of her beloved troops. So does the Prince. Beg Mrs. Herbert to communicate these my words to those ladies, as I know that our sympathy is much valued by these noble fellows.” Upon the receipt of the Queen's message, the chaplain went through the wards reading it to the men, and copies of it were also posted on the walls of the several hospitals. “The men were touched,” Miss Nightingale reported to Mr. Herbert (Dec. 25). “‘It is a very feeling letter,’ they said. ‘She thinks of us’ (said with tears). ‘Each man of us ought to have a copy which we will keep till our dying day.’ ‘To think of her thinking of us,’ said another; ‘I only wish I could go and fight for her again.’” The Queen's message was followed by more substantial proof of Her Majesty's interest, and here again Miss Nightingale was made the intermediary between the throne and the soldiers. Through Mr. Sidney Herbert, the Queen had ascertained from Miss Nightingale the kind of comforts which would be useful[216] to the wounded, and the following letter was sent to her by the Keeper of the Queen's Purse:—

Windsor Castle, December 14 [1854]. Madam—I have received the commands of Her Majesty the Queen to forward by the ship Eagle some packages containing some comforts and useful articles which Her Majesty wishes to be placed in your hands for distribution, as you may think fit, amongst the wounded and sick at Scutari.

Her Majesty has wished to mark by some private contribution from herself her deep personal sympathy for the sufferings of these noble soldiers, and her admiration of the patience and fortitude with which they have suffered both wounds and hardships.

The Queen has directed me to ask you to undertake the distribution and application of these articles, partly because Her Majesty wished you to be made aware that your goodness and self-devotion in giving yourself up to the soothing attendance upon these wounded and sick soldiers had been observed by the Queen with sentiments of the highest approval and admiration; and partly because, as the articles sent did not come within the description of Medical or Government stores, usually furnished, they could not be better entrusted than to one who, by constant personal observation, would form a correct judgment where they would be most usefully employed.

The Queen sent presents of warm scarves and the like to Miss Nightingale's nurses. The position of Almoner of the Free Gifts and the confidence thus shown by the Sovereign greatly extended the prestige of Miss Nightingale, who was already known to command influence with the Government, to have the favour of the Press, and to be the darling of popular opinion. Officials might feel sore, and old fogeys might grumble, but the fact became palpable that “the Nightingale power” had to be reckoned with.


It was, however, behind the scenes that Miss Nightingale's activity as a reformer was most powerfully exercised. In accordance with Her Majesty's command, reports from Miss Nightingale were forwarded to the Queen, and by her were sent on to the Duke of Newcastle. The Duke, writing to the Queen on December 22, 1854, assured Her Majesty that the condition of the Hospitals at Scutari, and the entire want of[217] all method and arrangement in everything which concerns the comfort of the army, were subjects of constant and most painful anxiety to him. “Nothing can be more just,” he added, “than all your Majesty's comments upon the state of facts exhibited by these letters, and the Duke of Newcastle has repeatedly, during the last two months, written in the strongest terms respecting them—but hitherto without avail, and with little other result than a denial of charges, the truth of which must now be considered to be substantiated.”[128] It remained for Ministers to do what was possible to remedy the evils.

Mr. Sidney Herbert, who (as already stated) had relieved the Duke of Newcastle of hospital matters, needed no compulsion to zeal, and Miss Nightingale's letters to him showed in what directions his zeal could most usefully be employed. The Government of Lord Aberdeen, defeated on the motion appointing the Roebuck Committee, resigned in January 1855, and Lord Palmerston became Prime Minister. The offices of Secretary for War and Secretary at War were amalgamated, and Lord Panmure became Secretary of State in place of the Duke of Newcastle. Mr. Herbert became for a short time Secretary of State for the Colonies, and then resigned. But Mr. Herbert begged Miss Nightingale to continue writing to him, promising to forward her representations to the proper quarters. Lord Palmerston knew her personally, and Lord Panmure paid deference to her wishes and opinions, so that the change of Government did not weaken her position. I have before me copies of a long series of letters addressed by Miss Nightingale to Mr. Herbert between November 1854 and May 1855. He had given her private instructions that she was to act as eye and ear for him in the East. Of her letters a few were printed by Lord Stanmore in his Memoir of Sidney Herbert, where also a series of Mr. Herbert's letters, both to her and to various officials concerned, is given. A comparison of the one set with the other shows very clearly how much of the improvements which the Government of Lord Aberdeen and its successor were able to effect was due to the suggestions, the remonstrances, the entreaties of Miss[218] Nightingale. Her letters are written with complete freedom and often in great haste. It would be possible to make isolated extracts from them which would suggest that the writer was a censorious and uncharitable scold. But such a selection would convey a misleading impression. Miss Nightingale wrote unreservedly about individuals, because she saw, as Mr. Herbert himself saw also, that the personnel was at fault, and that the most admirable instructions from home would be useless unless there were men of some initiative and vigour to carry them out on the spot. She wrote in anger, because she saw, what Mr. Herbert soon came to know, that such men were not forthcoming. “I write all this savagery,” she said (March 5, 1855), “because of the non-success of your unwearied efforts for the good of these poor Hospitals.” And then something must be allowed to the caustic humour which, when Miss Nightingale had a pen in her hand, could not be denied. “I shall make no further remark about him,” she writes of a certain individual, “than that he is a fossil of the pure Old Red Sandstone.” “Some newspaper has said of me,” she writes on another occasion, “that I am the fourth woman (query, Old Woman) that has had to do with the war. Who are the other three?” And she goes on for Mr. Herbert's amusement to nominate three of his principal subordinates for the distinction. It would argue a lack of humour to take such epistolary diversions with no grain of salt. But I do not propose to follow the example of a previous writer, who has had access to these letters, in recording Miss Nightingale's remarks on individuals. I desire rather to illustrate from the letters, and from other sources, first, the practical contributions to reform which Miss Nightingale made in some matters of detail, and then her firm grasp of the large principles of sound administration.


Miss Nightingale performed the duties, as we have seen, of a Purveyor to the sick and wounded portion of the British army. The duty was assumed by her only because the home authorities had been deficient in foresight, or the authorities on the spot were inefficient and hampered by official restrictions.[219] Hence her earlier letters to Mr. Herbert were largely filled with urgent suggestions for the sending of Government stores. She begs for “hair mattresses, or even flock, as cheaper.” The French hospitals were furnished throughout with hair mattresses; the British soldier was suffering terribly from bed-sores. She pleads for knives and forks: “the men have to tear their meat like wild beasts.” She suggests mops, plates, dishes, towelling, disinfectants, and so forth,—obvious requirements, no doubt, but, as Mr. Herbert said, the responsible authorities seem to have shrunk sometimes from making requisitions lest they should thereby confess the inadequacy of their preparations. It was Miss Nightingale, again, who suggested the need of carpenters to do odd jobs in the vast and imperfectly equipped Turkish buildings which served for the British hospitals. She expressed herself most gratefully for an “invaluable reinforcement” of them which Mr. Herbert had sent out; but their arrival necessitated a depletion in one department of her private stores. “These men,” she wrote (Feb. 19, 1855), “I had to find with knives, forks, and spoons, in default of the Purveyor, who besides would not provide them with rations unless the Officer of Engineers wrote ‘urgent’ and asked it ‘as a favour.’”

Some building operations, Miss Nightingale, as we have seen, took it upon herself to carry out; and some sanitary reforms she was able, by her personal influence with the orderlies, to effect.[129] “The instruction of the Orderlies in their business was,” she said,[130] “one of the main uses of us in the War Hospitals.” Other sanitary engineering works, on a larger scale, were ultimately carried out, thanks in part to her urgent and detailed representations to the authorities at home. She had pointed out repeatedly to them that the mere issuing of orders was insufficient; it was essential that executive powers should be placed in the hands of officials directly responsible for immediate action. When the Government was reconstituted after the fall of Lord Aberdeen, with Lord Panmure as Secretary for War, this lesson was taken faithfully to heart, and a Commission[220] of Three—Dr. John Sutherland, Dr. Hector Gavin, and Mr. Robert Rawlinson, C.E.—was sent out to the East with full executive powers. They received their instructions on February 19, 1855, and within three days they sailed. “The tone of the instructions,” says Kinglake, “is peculiar, and such as to make one believe that they owed much to feminine impulsion. The diction of the orders is such that, in housekeeper's language, it may be said to have ‘bustled the servants.’” The credit for the bustling at home belongs, however, to Lord Shaftesbury, who had pressed the appointment of the Commissioners upon Lord Panmure, and who was employed to draft their instructions.[131] The duties of these Sanitary Commissioners were laid down with a minuteness of detail which Miss Nightingale herself could not have excelled; and they were then told that “the utmost expedition must be used in the execution of all that is necessary at the place of your destination. It is important that you be deeply impressed with the necessity of not resting content with an order, but that you see instantly, by yourselves or your agents, to the commencement of the work and to its superintendence day by day until it is finished.”[132] It is from the Report of the Sanitary Commissioners that I drew many of the statements about the condition of the hospitals given in an earlier chapter. They set about the work of sanitary engineering with great dispatch, and the death-rate in the hospitals fell, as the result of their reforms, with remarkable rapidity.[133] “The sanitary conditions of the hospitals of Scutari,” Miss Nightingale told the Royal Commission of 1857, “were inferior in point of crowding, ventilation, drainage, and cleanliness, up to the middle of March 1855, to any civil hospital, or to the poorest homes of the worst parts of the civil population of any large town that I have ever seen. After the sanitary works undertaken at that date were executed (June), I know no buildings in the world which I could compare with them in these points, the original defects of construction of course excepted.” It was this Commission, as Miss Nightingale said afterwards[221] to Lord Shaftesbury, that “saved the British Army.” In Dr. Sutherland, the head of the Sanitary Commission, Miss Nightingale found a warm admirer and a stout supporter. During his stay at Scutari he acted as her physician. On her return to England she was on terms of intimate friendship with him and his wife; and Dr. Sutherland was, as we shall hear, one of her close allies in the battle for reform in army hygiene. With Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Rawlinson she also formed a friendship which lasted to the end of his life. Dr. Gavin died in the Crimea during the work of the Commission.

In the matter of stores, whatever suggestions or requisitions Miss Nightingale sent home were complied with by Government. But it was one thing to send stores out, and quite another to secure that they should arrive when and where they were wanted. “Sidney,” wrote Mrs. Herbert to Mrs. Bracebridge (Nov. 17, '54), “has sent heaps of armchairs, etnas, and other comforts, but is in terrible fear that they may have been carried on with the troops to Balaclava from some blunder.” Miss Nightingale's unerring eye for detail and perception of the point saw where the evil lay. First, there was no co-ordination among the departments at home in packing the things. The Prince (the wreck of which in the famous hurricane of November 14 was disastrous to the welfare of the soldiers) “had on board,” she wrote, “a quantity of medical comforts for us, which were so packed under shot and shell as that it was found impossible to disembark them here, and they went to Balaclava and were lost.” But there was a second obstacle. The army had encamped at Scutari as early as May 1854, but it had occurred to nobody to establish either there or at Constantinople an office for the reception and delivery of goods. Packages, intended for the army or the hospitals, if they arrived in merchant vessels, were detained in the Turkish Custom House, from which they were never extracted without much delay, difficulty, and confusion; many were partially or entirely destroyed; and many abstracted and totally lost. “The Custom House,” said Miss Nightingale, “was a bottomless pit, whence nothing ever issued of all that was thrown in.” In the case of ships chartered by the Government, great masses of goods were necessarily landed[222] together and stowed away promiscuously for want of time and space for sorting, and were often delayed by an unnecessary trip to Balaclava and back again. There were occasions in which vessels containing hospital stores, as well as munitions of war, made three voyages to and fro before the former were landed at Scutari. Sometimes when Miss Nightingale happened to hear of an incoming vessel betimes, she was able, by special petition to the military authorities, to intercept hospital stores; but she saw (what no one else seems to have done) that the whole system was at fault. “It is absolutely necessary,” she wrote, “that there should be a Government Store House, in the shape of a hulk, where stores for the British, from whatever ships, could be received at once from them, and be delivered on the ship-store-keeper's receipt. There are no store-houses to be had by the water's-edge, and porterage is very expensive and slow.” In March 1855 Miss Nightingale's solution was adopted.[134]

As Purveyor, Miss Nightingale was directly concerned only with the sick and wounded; but the condition in which the men arrived at Scutari enabled her to learn the state of things at the front, and she urged upon Mr. Herbert the necessity of sending out warm clothing to the army in the Crimea. “The state of the troops who return here, particularly those 500 who were admitted on the 19th, is frost-bitten, demi-nude, starved, ragged. If the troops who work in the trenches are not supplied with warm clothing, Napoleon's Russian campaign will be repeated here.” The terrible experiences of the British army before Sebastopol during the winter of 1854–55 were some fulfilment of her prediction. When opportunity offered she similarly sent suggestions to Lord Panmure; then, in reply to a letter of kind inquiries from him about her health (Aug. 1855), she called attention to the disproportionate number of patients which came from the Artillery, and threw out hints for economizing the men's labour.[135] On a matter of the soldiers' pay, she was the means of remedying a hardship which had struck her at Scutari. She pressed[223] earnestly upon Mr. Herbert that hospital stoppages against the daily pay of the sick soldier (9d.) should be made equal to the hospital stoppage against the wounded soldier (4½.), provided that the sickness be incurred while on duty before the enemy. She made this representation in December 1854, not only to Mr. Herbert, but to the Queen. On February 1, 1855, she heard with great satisfaction that her suggestion had been adopted, and that the soldiers' accounts were to be rectified in that sense as from the Battle of the Alma.


The Queen had asked Miss Nightingale to make suggestions as to what Her Majesty could do “to testify her sense of the courage and endurance so abundantly shown by her sick soldiers.” One of the suggestions submitted was the rectification just mentioned. Another suggestion was that a Firman should be immediately asked of the Sultan granting the military cemetery at Scutari to the British, and that Her Majesty should have it enclosed by a stone wall. “There are already, alas!” wrote Miss Nightingale, “about a thousand lying in this cemetery. Nine hundred were reported last week. We have buried one hundred in the last two days only. The spot is beautiful, overlooking the Sea of Marmora, and occupies the space between the General Hospital wall and the edge of the sea-cliff.” The suggestion must have gone straight to the Queen's heart, for Miss Nightingale was informed that Her Majesty had written on the subject both to Lord Clarendon, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and to the British Ambassador to the Porte. The Firman was obtained in due course, and the well-kept British enclosure attracts the attention of travellers to this day by contrast with the Oriental burial-places. It was again at Miss Nightingale's suggestion that a memorial obelisk, far seen in lonely splendour, was erected “by Queen Victoria and her people.”[136]

But I must not linger further over points of detail. Miss Nightingale's eye for detail did not prevent her from taking[224] comprehensive views, and from time to time she sent to Mr. Herbert schemes of reorganization. In the following letter, of January 8, 1855, she exposed the extent and nature of the evil in the hospitals, and the kind of reform which was needed to remedy them:—

As the larger proportion of the army (in which we are told that there are not two thousand sound men) is coming into hospital—as there are therefore thousands of lives at stake—as, in a service where the future of the official servants is dependent upon the personal interest of one man, these cannot be expected to peril that future by getting themselves shelved as innovators.

I feel that this is no time for compliments or false shame; and that you will never hear the whole truth, troublesome as it is, except from one independent of promotion.…

I subjoin a rough estimate of what has been given out by me during one month—the whole at the “requisition” of the Medical Men—all of which I have by me (merely in order to substantiate the facts of the destitution of these hospitals).

Since the 17th December, we have received 3400 sick, and I have made no sum total as yet of what has been done for these new-comers by us—excepting for one corridor, which I enclose.

(1) Thus the Purveying is nil—that is the whole truth, beyond bedding, bread, meat, cold water, fuel.

Beyond the boiling en masse in the great coppers of the general kitchen the meat is not cooked, the water is not boiled except what is done in my subsidiary kitchens. My schedule will show what I have purveyed.

I have refused to go on purveying for the third Hospital, the Sultan's Serail[137]—the demands upon me there having been begun with twelve hundred articles, including shirts, the first night of our occupying it. I refer you to a List of what was not in store, and to a copy of one requisition upon me sent last letter.

(2) The extraordinary circumstance of a whole army having been ordered to abandon its kits, as was done when we landed our men before Alma, has been overlooked entirely in all our system. The fact is, that I am now clothing the British Army. The sick were re-embarked at Balaclava for these Hospitals, without resuming their kits, also half-naked besides. And when discharged from here, they carry off, small blame to them, even my knives and forks—shirts, of course, and Hospital clothing also. The men who were sent to Abydos as convalescents were sent in their Hospital dresses, or they must have gone naked.[225] The consequence is that not one single Hospital dress is now left in store, and I have substituted Turkish dressing-gowns from Stamboul (three bales in the passage are marked Hospital Gowns, but have not yet been “sat upon”). To purvey this Hospital is like pouring water into a sieve; and will be, till regimental stores have been sent out from England enough to clothe the naked and refill the kit.

I have requisitions for Uniform trousers, for each and all of the articles of a kit, sent in to me.

We have not yet heard of boots being sent out; the men come into Hospital half-shod.

In a time of such calamity, unparalleled in the history, I believe, of calamity, I have a little compassion left even for the wretched Purveyor, swamped amid demands he never expected. But I have no compassion for the men who would rather see hundreds of lives lost than waive one scruple of the official conscience.

(3) The Hospital and Army Stores come out in the same vessels—and up go our stores to Balaclava, and down they never come again, or have not yet.

(4) The total inefficiency of the Hospital Orderly System as now is. The French have a permanent system of Orderlies, trained for the purpose, who do not re-enter the ranks. It is too late for us to organize this. But if the convalescents, being good Orderlies, were not sent away to the Crimea as soon as they have learnt their work—if the Commander-in-Chief would call upon the Commanding Officer of each Regiment to select ten men from each as Hospital Orderlies to form a depot here (not young soldiers, but men of good character), this would give some hope of organizing an efficient corps. Above all, that the class of Ward-Master I shall mention should be sent out from England.

We require:—

(1) An effective staff of Purveyors out from England—but beyond this,

(2) A head, some one with authority to mash up the departments into uniform and rapid action. He may as well stay at home unless he have power to modify the arrangements of departments made expressly by Sir C. Trevelyan with Mr. Wreford before he came away in May.

(3) We want Medical Officers.

(4) Three Deputy Inspectors-General (whereas we have only one).… It is obvious from what has been said in former letters who, if there are two Deputy Inspector-Generals made to these Hospitals, should be made Deputy Inspector-General of this Barrack Hospital, past and present efficiency being considered.

(5) We want discharged Non-Commissioned Officers, not[226] past the meridian of life—not the Ambulance Corps, who all died of delirium tremens or cholera—but the class of men employed as Ward-Masters of Military Prisons, or as Barrack Sergeants, or Hospital Sergeants of the Guards who can be highly recommended.

We want these men as Ward-Masters and Assistant Ward-Masters as Stewards. They must be under the orders of the Senior Medical Officer, removable by him; they must be well paid so as to make it worth their while,—say 5s. per day, 1st class, 2s. 6d. per day 2nd class—for they must be superior men, not the rabble we have now. (N.B.—There are three Ward-Masters to each division of this Hospital—of which there are three—containing 800 and odd sick in each.)

The book of Hospital regulations, admirable in time of peace, contains nothing for a time of war, much less a time of war like this, unexampled for calamity.

The Hospital Sergeants are, of course, up in the Crimea with their regiments,—and we have nothing but such raw Corporals and Sergeants as can be spared, new to their work, to place in charge of the divisions and wards. And these Lord Raglan complains of our keeping. We must have Hospital Sergeants if there is to be the remotest hope of efficiency among the Orderlies here.

(6) The Orderlies ought to be well paid, well fed, well housed. They are now overworked, ill fed, and underpaid. The sickness and mortality among them is extraordinary—ten took sick in one Division to-night.…

I had written a plan for the systematic organization of these Hospitals upon a principle of centralization, under which the component parts might be worked in unison. But, on reconsideration, deeming so great a change impracticable during the present heavy pressure of calamities here, I refrain from forwarding it, and substitute a sketch of a plan, by which great improvement might be made from within, without abandoning the forms under which the service is carried on.…

This further scheme may, however, be given more shortly from a later letter (Jan. 28):—

As the Purveying seems likely to come to an end of itself, perhaps I shall not be guilty of the murder of the Innocents if I venture to suggest what may take the place of the venerable Wreford. Cornelius Agrippa had a broom-stick which used to fetch water for his use. When the broom-stick was cut in two by the axe of an unwary student, each end of the severed broom, catching up a pitcher, began fetching water with all its might. Were the Purveyor here cut in three, we might conceive some[227] hope of having not only water, but food also, and clothing fetched us. Let there be three distinct offices instead of one indistinct one:—

(1) To provide us with food.

(2) With Hospital furniture and clothing.

(3) To keep the daily routine going.

These are now the three offices of the unfortunate Purveyor; and none of them are performed.

But the Purveyor is supposed to be only the channel through which the Commissariat stores pass. Theoretically, but not practically, it is so. (For practically Wreford gets nothing through the Commissary, but employs a contractor.)

Now, why should not the Commissariat purvey the Hospital with food? perform the whole of Purveyor's office, No. 1? The practice of drawing raw rations, as here seen, seems invented on purpose to waste the time of as many Orderlies as possible, who stand at the Purveyor's office from 4 to 9 A.M. drawing the patients' breakfast, from 10 to 12, drawing their dinner—and to make the patients' meals as late as possible—because it is impossible to get the diets, thus drawn, cooked before 3 or 4 o'clock. The scene of confusion, delay, and disappointment where all these raw diets are being weighed out by twos, and threes, and fours, is impossible to conceive, unless one has seen it, as I have, day after day. And one must have been, as I have, at all hours of the day and night in this Hospital to conceive the abuses of this want of system—raw meat, drawn too late to be cooked, standing all night in the wards, etc., etc., etc. Why should not the Commissariat send at once the amount of beef and mutton, etc., etc., required into the kitchens, without passing through this intermediate stage of drawing by Orderlies?

Let a Commissariat Officer reside here—let the Ward-Masters make a total from the Diet Rolls of the Medical Men—so many hundred full diets—so many hundred half-diets—so many hundred spoon diets, and give it over to the Commissariat Officer the day before. The next day the whole quantity, the total of all the Ward-Masters' totals, is given into the kitchens direct.

It should be all carved in the kitchens on hot plates, and at meal-times the Orderlies come to fetch it for the patients—carry it through the wards, where an Officer tells it off to every bed, according to the Bed-ticket, on which he reads the Diet, hung up at every bed. The time and confusion thus saved would be incalculable. Punctuality is now impossible; the food is half-raw, and often many hours after time. Some of the portions are all bone, whereas the meat should be boned in the kitchen, according to the plan now proposed, and the portions there carved contain meat only. Pray consider this.

There might be, besides, an Extra Diet Kitchen to each[228] division; a teapot, issue of tea, sugar, etc., to every mess, for which stores make the Ward-Master responsible; arrow-root, beef-tea, etc., to be issued from the Extra Diet Kitchens.

But into these details it is needless to enter to you.

(2) The second office of the Purveyor now is to furnish, upon requisition, the Hospital with utensils and clothing. But let the Hospital be furnished at once, as has been already described in former letters. If 2000 beds exist, let these 2000 beds have their appropriate complement of furniture and clothing, stationary and fixed. Whether these be originally provided by a Commissary or a storekeeper, let those who are competent decide. The French appear to give as much too much power to their Commissariat, who are the real chiefs of their Hospitals, while the Medical Men are only their slaves, as we give too little. But the Hospital being once furnished, and a store-keeper appointed to each division to supply wear and tear, let the Ward-Masters be responsible. Let an inventory hang on the door of each ward of what ought to be found there. Let the Ward-Masters give up the dirty linen every night and receive the same quantity in clean linen every morning. Let the Patient shed his Hospital clothing like a snake when he goes out of Hospital, be inspected by the Quarter-Master, and receive, if necessary, from Quarter-Master's store what is requisite for his becoming a soldier again. While the next patient succeeds to his bed and its furniture.

(3) The daily routine of the Hospital. This is now performed, or rather not performed by the Purveyor. I am really cook, housekeeper, scavenger (I go about making the Orderlies empty huge tubs), washer-woman, general dealer, store-keeper. The Purveyor is supposed to do all this, but it is physically impossible. And the filth, and the disorder, and the neglect, let those describe who saw it when we first came.…

Let us have a Hotel-keeper, a House-steward, who shall take the daily routine in charge—the cooking, washing and cleaning us—the superintending the housekeeping, in short, be responsible for the cleanliness of the wards, now done by one Medical Officer, Dr. M'Grigor, by me, or by no one—inspect the kitchens, the wash-houses, be what a housekeeper ought to be in a private Asylum.

With the French the chef d'administration, the Commissary, as we should call him, is the master of the Orderlies. And the Medical Men just come in and prescribe, as London physicians do, and go away again. With us the Medical Officers are everything, and have to do everything, however heterogeneous. The French system is bad, because, though there may be twenty things down on the Carte for the Medical Man to choose his patient's diet[229] from, nominally, the Chef d'Administration may have provided only two, and the Patient has no redress.

Whether, in any new plan, the House Stewards have the command of the Orderlies, or the Medical Man, which I am incompetent to determine, whichever it be let us have a Governor of the Hospital. As it is a Military Hospital, a Military Head is probably necessary as Governor.

On September 20, 1855, a Royal Warrant was issued, reorganizing the Medical Staff Corps, “for the better care of the sick and wounded,” revising the duties of the several officers, and improving their pay. Any one who cares to refer to this Warrant, and to compare it with Miss Nightingale's letters just given, will see that in large measure her suggestions were adopted by the War Department.

Miss Nightingale was careful, as we have seen, not to interfere with the doctors, and, though she thought that as administrators some of them were ineffective, she bore willing testimony to their skill and devotion (with some few exceptions) in their proper work. But she could not abstain from deploring one great omission, and she offered to subscribe largely towards repairing it:—

“One thing which we much require,” she wrote to Mr. Herbert (Feb. 22, 1855), “might easily be done. This is the formation of a Medical School at Scutari. We have lost the finest opportunity for advancing the cause of Medicine and erecting it into a Science which will probably ever be afforded. There is here no operating room, no dissecting room; post-mortem examinations are seldom made, and then in the dead-house (the ablest Staff Surgeon here told me that he considered that he had killed hundreds of men owing to the absence of these) no statistics are kept as to between what ages most deaths occur, as to modes of treatment, appearances of the body after death, etc., etc., etc., and all the innumerable and most important points which contribute to making Therapeutics a means of saving life, and not, as it is here, a formal duty. Our registration generally is so lamentably defective that often the only record kept is—a man died on such a day. There is a kiosk on the Esplanade before the Barrack Hospital, rejected by the Quarter-Master for his stores, which I have asked for and obtained as a School of Medicine. It is not used now for any purpose—£300 or £400 (which I would willingly give) would put it in a state of repair. It is not overlooked and is in every way calculated for the purpose I have named. The Medical teaching duties could not be carried[230] on efficiently with a less staff than two lecturers on Physiology and Pathology, and one lecturer on Anatomy, who will be employed in preparing the subject for demonstration, and performing operations for the information of the Juniors.”

This suggestion also was in part adopted. An excellent dissecting-room was built, provided with numerous instruments, microscopes and other apparatus.[138]


And so this woman of ideas went on, week by week, month by month, pouring in requisitions, hints, plans, to the Government at home; sometimes getting things done as she wanted, at others making suggestions which, had they been adopted, would still more have conduced to efficiency. Something of that calm and clear sagacity, which impressed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert when they made her personal acquaintance,[139] was reflected in her appearance and demeanour as observed by eye-witnesses at Scutari. “In appearance,” wrote Mr. Osborne, “Miss Nightingale is just what you would expect in any other well-bred woman, who may have seen perhaps rather more than thirty years of life; her manner and countenance are prepossessing, and this without the possession of positive beauty; it is a face not easily forgotten, pleasing in its smile, with an eye betokening great self-possession, and giving, when she wishes, a quiet look of firm determination to every feature. Her general demeanour is quiet and rather reserved; still, I am much mistaken if she is not gifted with a very lively sense of the ridiculous. In conversation, she speaks on matters of business with a grave earnestness one would not expect from her appearance. She has evidently a mind disciplined to restrain under the principles of the action of the moment every feeling which would interfere with it. She has trained herself to command, and learned the value of conciliation towards others and constraint over herself. I can conceive her to be a strict disciplinarian; she throws herself into a work as its head. As such she knows well how much[231] success must depend upon literal obedience to her every order.”[140]

It was soon perceived at Scutari that Miss Nightingale was a power. She mentioned incidentally at a later period a curious fact, which shows the way in which officers appealed to her as a kind of emergency-man. In 1862 she was pressing the War Office to separate the function of Banker from that of Purveyor, and she illustrated the confusion caused by the amalgamation from her own experience. Among the instances was this: “I had at Scutari thousands of sovereigns at a time in my bedroom, entrusted to me by officers who preferred making me their banker because of the perpetual discord. ‘Offend the Commissary or Purveyor, and you won't be able to get your money.’”[141] It was soon perceived also that Miss Nightingale was the person who, if any one, could get things done, and any official who had an idea took it to her. In the letters to Sidney Herbert she sometimes bids him know that what she says does not merely come from “poor me,” but represents the views “of all the best men here.” But she, I think, was the best man of them all.[142] Such was the opinion, at any rate, of a man among men, the redoubtable Sydney Godolphin Osborne. “Every day,” he wrote in describing his experience at Scutari, “brought some new complication of misery to be somehow unravelled. Every day had its peculiar trial to one who had taken such a load of responsibility, in an untried field, and with a staff of her own sex, all new to it. Hers was a post requiring the courage of a Cardigan, the tact and diplomacy of a Palmerston, the endurance of a Howard, the cheerful philanthropy of a Mrs. Fry. Miss Nightingale fills that post; and, in my opinion, is the one individual who in this whole unhappy war has shown more than any other what real energy guided by good sense can do to meet the calls of sudden emergency.”[143] And hence it was, too, that any official who felt the urgency of some[232] particular need in his own department carried his case to the Lady-in-Chief. Did a surgeon want some point represented with special urgency to the authorities at home? He went to Miss Nightingale. Did a purveyor want some special authority from the military to facilitate his task? He went to Miss Nightingale. The centre of initiative at Scutari was in the Sisters' Tower; and going to Miss Nightingale had something of the magic that in earlier days was found in “going to Mr. Pitt.”[144]




Then in such hour of need …
Ye, like angels, appear,
Radiant with ardour divine! …
Order, courage, return …
Ye move through the ranks, recall
The stragglers, refresh the outworn,
Praise, reinspire the brave!
Eyes rekindling, and prayers,
Follow your steps as ye go.

Matthew Arnold.

In the preceding chapters we have seen at work the impelling power of a brain and a will; but, with these, Florence Nightingale brought to her mission the tenderness of a woman's heart. She was the matron of a hospital no less than the mistress of a barrack. She was a resolute administrator; but also, as was said at the time in a hundred speeches, letters, articles:

When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou.

Upon those behind the scenes, upon ministers and officials, it was the former side of her activity that made the profounder impression. Some of them applauded what she did, recognizing that only the advent of a new force could have driven a way through the quagmire; others complained that in her methods there was something too imperious and masterful; all alike perceived her power and strength of will. But to the sick and wounded among whom she lived and moved, and to the great public at home which heard of her work, it was the softer side of her character that made the[234] more instant appeal. By them she was known and honoured not as the rigid disciplinarian or creative organizer, but as the compassionate and tender nurse. Those who had no means of knowing what other work she had to do supposed that ministration to the sick, in the narrower sense, comprised it all. But, in fact, as she wrote to Mr. Herbert (Jan. 14, 1855), nursing was “the least important of the functions into which she had been forced”; and those on the spot, who watched the arduousness of these other duties, wished that she could be persuaded to spare herself more of one kind of work or of the other. The marvel is that in unstinted measure she combined them both.

Her devotion and her power of work were prodigious. “I work in the wards all day,” she said, “and write all night”; and this was hardly exaggeration. A letter from Miss Stanley (Dec. 21, 1854) gives an interesting glimpse of Florence Nightingale at work in the Barrack Hospital:—

We turned up the stone stairs; on the second floor we came to the corridors of sick, on low wooden stands, raised about a foot from the floor, placed about 2 feet apart, and leaving 2 or 3 feet down the middle, along which we walked. The atmosphere worsened as we advanced. We passed down two or three of these immense corridors, asking our way as we went. At last we came to the guard-room, another corridor, then through a door into a large busy kitchen, where stood Mrs. Margaret Williams, who seemed much pleased to see me: then a heavy curtain was raised[145]; I went through a door, and there sat dear Flo writing on a small unpainted deal table. I never saw her looking better. She had on her black merino, trimmed with black velvet, clean linen collar and cuffs, apron, white cap with a black handkerchief tied over it; and there was Mrs. Bracebridge, looking so nice too. I was quite satisfied with my welcome.… A stream of people every minute. “Please, ma'am, have you any black-edged paper?” “Please, what can I give which would keep on his stomach; is there any arrowroot to-day for him?” “No; the tubs of arrowroot must be for the worst cases; we cannot spare him any, nor is there any jelly to-day; try him with some eggs.” “Please, Mr. Gordon [the Chief Engineer] wishes to see[235] Miss Nightingale about the orders she gave him.” Mr. Sabin comes in for something else. Mr. Bracebridge in and out about General Adams,[146] and orders of various kinds.[147]

The occasion described by Miss Stanley was post-day. Still busier were the awful days on which fresh consignments of sick and wounded arrived from the Crimea. Miss Nightingale has been known, said General Bentinck, to pass eight hours on her knees dressing wounds and administering comfort. There were times when she stood for twenty hours at a stretch, apportioning quarters, distributing stores, directing the labours of her staff, or assisting at the painful operations where her presence might soothe or support. She had, said Mr. Osborne, “an utter disregard of contagion. I have known her spend hours over men dying of cholera or fever. The more awful to every sense, any particular case, especially if it was that of a dying man, the more certainly might her slight form be seen bending over him, administering to his ease by every means in her power, and seldom quitting his side till death released him.”[148] “We cannot,” wrote Mr. Bracebridge to her uncle, Mr. Smith (Dec. 18, 1854), “prevent her self-sacrifice for the dying. She cannot delegate as we could wish; but the cases are so interesting and painful; who could leave them when once taken up?—boys and brave men dying who can be saved by nursing and proper diet.” It is recorded that on one occasion she saw five soldiers set aside as hopeless cases. The first duty of the overworked surgeons was with those whom there seemed to be more hope of saving. She asked to be given the care of the five men, and the surgeons consented. Assisted by one of her nurses, she tended the cases throughout the night, administering nourishment from her stores, and in the morning they were found to be in a fit condition for surgical treatment.[149] “Miss Nightingale,” said a Chelsea pensioner, in recalling his experiences at Scutari, “was always coming in and out. She used to attend to all the worst cases herself. Some of the new men were a bit shy at first, but many a time I've[236] heard her say, ‘Never be ashamed of your wounds, my friend.’”[150] “I believe,” wrote a Civilian doctor who saw her at work, “that there was never a severe case of any kind that escaped her notice, and sometimes it was wonderful to see her at the bedside of a patient who had been admitted perhaps but an hour before, and of whose arrival one would hardly have supposed it possible she could be already cognisant.”[151]

Sometimes when exhausted nature could not be denied repose, she would depute the last sad office to another lady. “Selina [Mrs. Bracebridge] is sitting up with a dying man. Florence at last asleep, 1 A.M.” Her days were always long; for she deemed it well not to allow any of her nurses to be in the wards after eight at night. And often, when all else was quiet, and she had been sitting up to finish her heavy correspondence, she would make a final tour of the wards. A lady volunteer, who two days after her arrival was sent for to accompany Miss Nightingale on such a tour, recalled the scene. “We went round the whole of the second story, into many of the wards and into one of the upper corridors. It seemed an endless walk, and it was one not easily forgotten. As we slowly passed along, the silence was profound; very seldom did a moan or cry from those deeply suffering ones fall on our ears. A dim light burned here and there. Miss Nightingale carried her lantern, which she would set down before she bent over any of the patients. I much admired her manner to the men—it was so tender and kind.”[152] The description of these midnight vigils, given by Mr. Macdonald, the commissioner of the Times Fund, became famous, by adaptation, throughout the world:—

Wherever there is disease in its most dangerous form and the hand of the despoiler distressingly nigh, there is that incomparable woman sure to be seen. Her benignant presence is an influence for good comfort, even amid the struggles of expiring nature. She is a “ministering angel” without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow's face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired[237] for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand,[153] making her solitary rounds.

Famous, too, became the words which one poor fellow sent home. “What a comfort it was to see her pass even. She would speak to one and nod and smile to as many more; but she could not do it to all, you know. We lay there by hundreds; but we could kiss her shadow as it fell, and lay our heads on the pillow again, content.” “Before she came,” said another soldier's letter, “there was cussin' and swearin', but after that it was holy as a church.” Mr. Sidney Herbert read out these letters at a public meeting in November 1855.[154] Lord Ellesmere used Mr. Macdonald's description in the House of Lords in May 1856.[155] And Longfellow, in the following year, made a poem of it all, one of the most widely known poems, I suppose, that have ever been written:—

Lo! in that hour of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.
And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow, as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.

The men idolized her. They kissed her shadow, and they saluted her as she passed down their wounded ranks. “If the Queen came for to die,” said a soldier who lost a leg at the Alma, “they ought to make her queen, and I think they would.” Her lively sense of humour, which Mr. Osborne had discerned in talks with her in the hospital, was appreciated also by the patients. “She was wonderful,” said one, “at cheering up any one who was a bit low,” “She was all full of life and fun,” said another, “when she talked to us, especially if a man was a bit down-hearted.”[156] Who can tell what comfort was brought by the sound of a woman's gentle voice, the touch of a woman's gentle hand, to many[238] a poor fellow racked by fever, or smarting from sores? And who can say how often her presence may have been as “a cup of strength in some great agony”? “The magic of her power over men was felt,” as Kinglake has described, “in the room—the dreaded, the blood-stained room—where operations took place. There perhaps the maimed soldier, if not yet resigned to his fate, might at first be craving death rather than meet the knife of the surgeon; but, when such a one looked and saw that the honoured Lady-in-Chief was patiently standing beside him, and—with lips closely set and hands folded—decreeing herself to go through the pain of witnessing pain, he used to fall into the mood for obeying her silent command, and—finding strange support in her presence—bring himself to submit and endure.”[157] And when the hour of death came, how often must the passing have been soothed by a presence which, with words of womanly comfort, may have carried the soldier's last thoughts back to home and wife, or child? A member of Parliament, well known in London Society, Mr. Augustus Stafford, went out during the recess of 1854 to Scutari, and made himself very useful to Miss Nightingale. “He says,” wrote Monckton Milnes (Jan. 1855), “that Florence in the Hospital makes intelligible to him the Saints of the Middle Ages. If the soldiers were told that the roof had opened, and she had gone up palpably to Heaven, they would not be the least surprised. They quite believe she is in several places at once.”[158] They were impressed by her power, no less than they were touched by her tenderness, and ascribed to the Lady-in-Chief the gifts of leadership in the field. “If she were at their head, they would be in Sebastopol in a week;” was a saying often heard in the hospital wards.


Of all the documents that have passed under my eyes in writing this memoir, none have touched me more than a bundle of letters to and from friends and relatives of Crimean soldiers. Miss Nightingale was careful to take note of any[239] dying man's last wishes or messages, and the letters in which she forwarded these, to wife or mother, must, by their touch of womanly sympathy, have brought balm to many a stricken heart. “My dear Miss,” writes one mother, “I feel the loss of my poor son's death very keenly, but if anything could help my grief it is the thought that he was looked to and cared for by kind friends when so many miles away from his native land.” “I beg,” writes a sister, “to return you my grateful thanks for all your kindness to my poor dear brother and for writing to tell me of his death. It is great consolation to know that both his soul and body were so kindly cared for.” “I can assure you,” writes another, “that you are beloved by every poor soldier I have seen.” Correspondence of this kind continued in the same manner when Miss Nightingale passed on from Scutari to the Crimea. One letter to a bereaved mother may be given as a representative of many:—

… The first time I saw your son was in going round the wards in the General Hospital at Balaklava. He had been brought in, in the morning.… He was always conscious, and remained so till the very last. He prayed aloud so beautifully that, as the Nurse in charge said, “It was like a sermon to hear him.” He asked “to see Miss Nightingale.” He knew me, and expressed himself to me as entirely resigned to die. He pressed my hand when he could not speak. He died in the night.… He was decently interred in a burial-ground we have about a mile from Balaklava. One of my own Sisters lies in the same ground, to whom I have erected a monument. Should you wish anything similar to be done over the grave of your lost son, I will endeavour to gratify you, if you will inform me of your wishes. With true sympathy for your loss, I remain, dear Madam, yours sincerely,
Florence Nightingale.

There is another bundle, hardly less touching, which contains letters of anxious inquiry addressed to Miss Nightingale from all parts of the United Kingdom, begging her to send, if she can, particulars of the whereabouts or of the illness or of the last hours of husband, brother, father, or son. “In order that you may know him,” writes one fond mother, “he is a straight, nice, clean-looking, light-complexioned youth.” “Died in hospital, in good frame of mind,” was Miss Nightingale's docket for the reply. Every letter was[240] carefully answered, and every message was, I doubt not, given whenever it was in her power to do so. Many are the blessings invoked on Miss Nightingale's head. Often the writer begins by explaining that the newspapers have told of her great kindness and so she will forgive the intrusion. Others show that they take all that for granted by beginning, “Dear Friend,” or ending, “Yours affectionately.” Many wives beg her to let the soldier know that the children are well and happy. And one letter sends a message to a wounded Lancer from the girl he left behind him, “If alive, please mention my name to him.”


The strain upon Miss Nightingale's physical and mental powers was incessant. Her health, as it proved in the end, was seriously impaired; but during all her work at Scutari, she was never absent from her post. “You had the best opportunities,” she was asked by the Royal Commission of 1857, “for observing the condition of the soldier when he entered the hospitals, while he resided in them, when he died and was sent to the cemeteries, when he was sent home as an invalid, and when he rejoined the army?” “Yes,” she answered; “I was never out of the hospitals.” During the worst time of cholera and typhus, three of her nurses died, and seven of the army doctors. Miss Nightingale tended two of the doctors in their last moments, and the thinning, for a while, of the medical ranks increased her labours. The amount of clerical work which devolved on her was, it may be well imagined, enormous. Lady Alicia Blackwood records that when she was starting a school in the women's and children's quarters at Scutari, Miss Nightingale said laughingly, “Oh, are you really going to do that unkind thing—to teach children to write? I am so tired of writing, I sometimes wish I could not write!” The laugh must have had a certain grimness in it, I fear. The extent of the correspondence which Miss Nightingale kept up with Ministers at home, with military and medical officers at the seat of war and at Scutari, may be gathered from the foregoing chapters. Her superintendence of the nurses entailed[241] in account-keeping and in letters to complainants among them, and to their relatives, another mass of correspondence. Then I find next, amongst her papers, piles of store-keeping accounts (mostly in her own handwriting), and other bundles of correspondence referring to offers of help in money or in kind. That Miss Nightingale ultimately broke down under the strain was natural; the marvel is that she bore up against it so long. She could not have coped with the mass of detail involved in her multifarious labours without a good deal of help. To Mr. Macdonald's assistance I have already referred; and like assistance was rendered for a time by the Rev. and Hon. Sydney Godolphin Osborne, the famous S.G.O. of letters to the Times. Mr. Kinglake devotes a charming page to “the enthusiastic young fellow who, abandoning his life of ease, pleasure, and luxury, went out, as he probably phrased it, to 'fag' for the Lady-in-Chief.” The reference is probably to Mr. Percy, mentioned in a previous chapter, or possibly to Mr. William Shore, a distant relative of Miss Nightingale's father; he was put in charge of a soldiers' library. But it was Miss Nightingale's old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, who rendered the longest and the most helpful aid. Mrs. Bracebridge shared alike her room and her labours, and with Mr. Bracebridge cared, as we have heard, for the soldiers' wives. But Mr. Bracebridge did much else. His knowledge of the East, and his persevering good humour, determined to help everybody about everything, were invaluable. Faithful, cheery, and indefatigable, no less now among the arduous labours of Scutari than in former days of sight-seeing at Rome and in Egypt, he fetched and carried for Miss Nightingale, wrote letters or orders for her, and kept minutes of her interviews; and, at times of less strain, relieved her of visitors or callers by taking them for excursions in the Straits or to Constantinople.


Miss Nightingale's thoughtfulness devised many practical ways of helping the men who were not too ill to think of their worldly affairs. In order to encourage them as[242] much as possible to occupy themselves and to keep up a communication with home, she supplied stationery and postage stamps to those in hospital. If a soldier was illiterate or too ill to write, she or one of her nurses, or some other volunteer, would write at the sick man's dictation. Mr. Augustus Stafford, as mentioned above, spent some portion of the autumn recess (Nov.–Dec. 1854) at Scutari, and he gave his experiences to the Roebuck Committee. He described the pitiable condition of the wounded on their arrival, “their thigh and shoulder bones perfectly red from rubbing against the deck” of the vessel which had brought them from the Crimea; but then Miss Nightingale's nurses came round, “and with a precision and rapidity which you would scarcely believe, would bring the soldiers arrowroot mixed with port wine, which was the greatest comfort; the men expressed themselves very thankfully, and said that they felt themselves in heaven.” But it was in writing letters for the soldiers that this “cherished, yet unspoilt, favourite of English society”[159] spent most of his time at Scutari. Of Miss Nightingale's reading-rooms some account will be found in another chapter (XI.).

She was much touched by the men's appreciation of these attentions, and she was no less impressed by the conduct of the orderlies in the hospitals. In describing to the Secretary of State certain sanitary reforms which she carried out in the hospitals of Scutari, she wrote: “I must pay my tribute to the instinctive delicacy, the ready attention of orderlies and patients during all that dreadful period; for my sake they performed offices of this kind (which they neither would for the sake of discipline, nor for that of the importance to their own health, which they did not know), and never was there one word nor one look which a gentleman would not have used; and while paying this humble tribute to humble courtesy, the tears come into my eyes as I think how, amidst scenes of loathsome disease and death, there rose above it all the innate dignity, gentleness, and chivalry of the men (for never, surely, was chivalry so strikingly exemplified), shining in the midst of what must be considered as the lowest sinks of human misery, and[243] preventing instinctively the use of one expression which could distress a gentlewoman.”[160]

Even in the lowest sinks of human misery there are chords which will respond to a sympathetic touch. It was the innate dignity of her bearing that struck every one who saw Florence Nightingale; and, amidst those scenes of loathsome disease and death, she was herself “the sweet presence of a good diffused.”




Your sectarians of every species, small and great, Catholic or Protestant, of high church or low, … these are the true fog children.—Ruskin.

Whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings.—St. Paul.

Every generation has its own “religious difficulty,” by which phrase is meant, not the difficulty which the individual soul or the collective soul of a nation may find in its religious beliefs themselves, but a difficulty which intrudes itself into allied or alien matters from the sphere of religious disputation. In the present day, the religious difficulty with which we are most familiar concerns questions of education. In the days of Miss Nightingale's mission to the East there was a religious difficulty in questions of nursing.

It was not enough that such a mission as hers was conceived in the very spirit of the Founder of Christianity: “I was sick, and ye visited me.” The question was eagerly and angrily canvassed under which of the rival Christian banners the visitation of the sick soldiers should be, and was being, carried on. The country had at the time hardly recovered its mental equilibrium after the shock administered to it by the Tractarian movement, and echoes of the “No Popery” cry of 1850 were still resonant in many quarters. The religious difficulty appeared at the very start of Miss Nightingale's Crimean work, and dogged her footsteps to the end of it. I have dealt already with the difficulties which her experiment encountered from social ideas, military prejudices, official routine; but I am not sure that of all her difficulties the religious one was not the most wearing[245] and worrying, as it was also assuredly the most unnecessary and the least excusable. It enveloped a noble undertaking in a fog of envy, strife, and futile railing.

Mr. Sidney Herbert, who was supposed to be of the High Church persuasion, had scented the difficulty from the first, as we have heard, and Miss Nightingale was keenly alive to it. They had desired to make the first party of nurses representative of all the leading sects; but owing to the abstention of a Protestant institution, the Roman Catholics and the High Church party were in a considerable majority among the thirty-eight nurses. This fact gave the alarm, and a sectarian hue-and-cry was immediately raised. It began, as I am sorry to have to say, in the Daily News; it was taken up, as goes without saying, in the so-called “religious press.” On October 28, 1854, when Miss Nightingale was on her way to Scutari, an attack upon her was given great prominence in the first-named paper. It was signed “Anti-Puseyite,” and it included the text of Mr. Herbert's letter which had somehow or other been obtained.[161] “Miss Nightingale recruited her staff of nurses from Miss Sellon's house [a High Church one] and from a Romanist establishment.” This awful fact explained “the party spirit which actuated the choice of Miss Nightingale for this important and responsible office, and which set aside Lady Maria Forester”—a lady, it seems, of Evangelical principles. It was not yet too late to remedy the offence “if the feeling of the nation be at once aroused and expressed.” “A Reader of the Bible” and other correspondents followed, and the controversy raged furiously. Mrs. Sidney Herbert's intervention, with an assurance that Miss Nightingale was somewhat Low Church, did not stop it. S. G. O. referred to it in his book. “I have heard and read,” he wrote, “with indignation the remarks hazarded upon her religious character. Her works ought to answer for her faith. If there is blame in looking for a Roman Catholic priest to attend a dying Romanist, let me share it with her—I did it again and again.”[162] An admirable avowal, but not calculated, I fear, to allay the anger of “No Popery” fanatics. The publication of Queen Victoria's letter of[246] December 6 (p. 215), showing the confidence which Her Majesty placed in Miss Nightingale, did something to stem the tide, but for many months the feud flowed on in the press.


Miss Nightingale's comment, when echoes of the storm reached her on the Bosphorus, was characteristic. “They tell me,” she wrote to Mr. Herbert (Jan. 28, 1855), “that there is a religious war about poor me in the Times, and that Mrs. Herbert has generously defended me. I do not know what I have done to be so dragged before the Public. But I am so glad that my God is not the God of the High Church or of the Low, that He is not a Romanist or an Anglican—or a Unitarian. I don't believe He is even a Russian, though His events go strangely against us. (N.B.—A Greek once said to me at Salamis, ‘I do believe God Almighty is an Englishman.’)” Excellent, too, was the answer given by an Irish clergyman when asked to what sect Miss Nightingale belonged. “She belongs to a sect which, unfortunately, is a very rare one—the sect of the Good Samaritan.” Miss Nightingale was by descent a Unitarian, by practice a communicant of the Church of England; but she was addicted neither to High Church nor to Low. Her God was the God of Moral Law, a God of infinite pity and benevolence, but also One who worked out His purpose by the free will of human instruments. Her service of God was the service of Man, and her service of Man mingled efficiency with tenderness. She applied only one kind of test to a nurse: Was she a good woman, and did she know her business? To be a good woman, a religious woman, a noble woman was not in itself sufficient. “Excellent, gentle, self-devoted women,” Miss Nightingale said in a note upon some of her staff, “fit more for Heaven than for a Hospital, they flit about like angels without hands among the patients, and soothe their souls, while they leave their bodies dirty and neglected. They never complain, they are eager for self-mortification. But I came not to mortify the nurses, but to nurse the wounded.” Therefore if a nurse was a good woman and knew her business, it was nothing that she was Romanist,[247] Anglican, High Church, Low Church, or Unitarian. If she was not a good nurse, the fact that she belonged, or did not belong, to this or that persuasion was no recommendation. Miss Nightingale was, it is true, desirous from the first to include Roman Catholics in her staff, and she did so, in spite of many difficulties, to the end. But her reasons therein were practical, not sectarian. In the first place, many of the soldiers were Roman Catholics; and, secondly, her apprenticeship in nursing had shown her the excellent qualities, as nurses, of many Catholic Sisters. But here efficiency was the test, and a Protestant Deaconess from Kaiserswerth was all one to her with a Sister from “a Romanist establishment.” And one practical advantage of vowed Sisters was that she did not lose them from marriage. One morning six nurses came in to Miss Nightingale, declaring that they one and all wished to be married. They were followed by six soldiers—sergeants and corporals—declaring their desire to claim the nurses as brides. This matrimonial deluge carried off six of her best nurses.[163]


Such, then, was Miss Nightingale's position; and one can understand the amused contempt with which she heard of the picture drawn of her in certain quarters as a conspirator in a Tractarian or Romanist plot. But she was a practical person, and, though herself broad-minded, took stock of a narrower world as she found it. She was intensely desirous of making her experiment of woman nurses a success, and she felt acutely the danger of wrecking it by even the suspicion of sectarian prejudice. This fact supplies a further explanation of the alarm with which she received the coming of the second party of nurses under Miss Stanley.[164] It included a batch of fifteen nuns. “The proportion of R. Catholics,” she wrote to Mr. Herbert, “which is already making an outcry, you have increased to 25 in 84. Mr. Menzies [the Principal Medical Officer] has declared that he will have two only at the General Hospital, and I cannot place them here [in the Barrack Hospital] in a greater[248] proportion than I have done, without exciting the suspicion of the Medical Men and others.” The difficulty was ultimately adjusted, but only at the cost of infinite trouble and worry to Miss Nightingale. Her letters to Mr. Herbert are full of references to the subject, some of them very amusing, and perhaps it was her lively sense of humour that helped to carry her through this religious difficulty. “Such a tempest,” she wrote (Dec. 25, 1854), “has been brewed in this little pint pot as you could have no idea of. But I, like the Ass, have put on the Lion's skin, and when once I have done that (poor me, who never affronted any one before), I can bray so loud that I shall be heard, I am afraid, as far as England. However, this is no place for lions; and as for asses, we have enough.” One proposition made to her was that, as the doctors did not want many more woman nurses, “ten of the Protestants should be appropriated as clerical females by the chaplains, and ten of the nuns by the priests, not as nurses, but as female ecclesiastics. With this of course I have nothing to do. It being directly at variance with my instructions, I cannot of course appropriate the Government money to such a purpose.” Miss Nightingale's own proposition was to allocate the party in various proportions to various hospitals; but the Superior of the new set of nuns objected that “it would be uncanonical” for any of her party to be separated from her. Then Miss Nightingale proposed sending some of the nuns, either of the first or of the second batch, back to England; but Father Cuffe said that to send them away would be “like the driving of the Blessed Virgin through the desert by Herod.” “I believe it may be proved as a logical proposition,” wrote Miss Nightingale in the midst of her religious difficulty, “that it is impossible for me to ride through all this; my caique is upset, but I am sticking on the bottom still.” Three days later she still despaired. “The fifteen New Nuns are leading me the devil of a life, trying to get in vi et armis, and will upset the coach; there is little doubt of that.” However, she held her ground. She had started with a Protestant howl at her; she was now prepared to face “a Roman Catholic storm.” Happily the Reverend Mother of the first party of nuns was on her side, and strove to[249] compose the canonical difficulty. To another Reverend Mother, who was less peaceably minded, Miss Nightingale often referred in her letters as “the Reverend Brickbat.” In any case, Miss Nightingale was resolved, as she wrote, “not to let our little Society become a hot-bed of Roman Catholic Intriguettes.” Ultimately it was arranged that five of the second party of nuns should go to the General Hospital, and ten to the newly opened hospital at Koulali. Miss Nightingale suspected some of the second party of a desire to proselytize; and presently she had to inform Mr. Herbert (Feb. 15, 1855) of “a charge of converting and rebaptizing before death, reported to me by the Senior Chaplain, by him to the Commandant, by him to the Commander-in-Chief.” She promptly exchanged the suspected nun.

The ingenuity of theological rancour was infinite. Having caught wind of the fact that there was some difference of view among the Roman Catholic Sisters, an Evangelical writer sought to fan the flame by denouncing the absurdity of “Catholic Nuns transferring their allegiance from the Pope of Rome to a Protestant Lady.” One of the Sisters, on hearing of this diatribe, playfully addressed Miss Nightingale as “Your Holiness,” who in turn dubbed the Sister “her Cardinal.”[165] I hereby give notice, in case Crimean letters from Miss Nightingale should chance to be printed (such as I have seen) in which she says, “I do so want my Cardinal,” that the expression signifies no dark and secret adhesion to any Prince of the Roman Church, but only a desire for the services of a particularly efficient nursing Sister. If a nurse was efficient, Miss Nightingale was on the friendliest terms with her, equally whether the nurse were Catholic or Protestant. Miss Nightingale herself was accused successively, and with equal absurdity in each case, of being prejudiced for, or against, Catholics and Protestants, and of being inimical to religious ministrations altogether.[166] The Protestant charges of proselytizing by Catholic nurses were of course met by counter-charges of attempts by Protestant nurses to convert Roman Catholic[250] patients; and finally a chaplain solemnly appealed to the War Department in London to remove one of Miss Nightingale's staff on the ground that the nurse had been heard to avow herself a Socinian. Miss Nightingale protested successfully against any such disciplinary measure, urging that the lady, whether Socinian or not, was an excellent nurse. Much of all this perverse disputing was born of sheer ignorance and intolerance. One of Miss Stanley's ladies was accused by a certain chaplain of “circulating improper books in the wards.” Particulars were asked, and it was found that the offending book was Keble's Christian Year.[167]

No sooner was any one phase of the religious difficulty adjusted than another appeared. There were Anglicans and Roman Catholics among the Nightingale nurses, and there were others selected from English hospitals, who, so far as their religious views were concerned, might be anything or nothing. But why, it was asked, were there no Presbyterians? Representations were made to the War Office. “I object,” wrote Miss Nightingale (Feb. 19, 1855), “to the principle of sending out any one, qua sectarian, not qua nurse. But this having already been done in the case of the R.C.'s, etc., I do not see how the Presbyterians can be refused. And therefore let six trained nurses be sent out, if you think fit, of whom let two-thirds be Presbyterians. But I must bar these fat drunken old dames. Above 14 stone we will not have; the provision of bedsteads is not strong enough. Three were nearly swamped in a caique, whom Mr. Bracebridge was conducting to the ship, and, had he not walked with the fear of the police before his eyes, he might easily have swamped them whole.” The stout old dames were not Presbyterians; but, sad to relate, two of the Presbyterian party did turn out to be over-fond of drink, and Miss Nightingale had to return them to England.[251] I regret to say that there were similar cases, not amongst the Presbyterians.

The charges and counter-charges of proselytism were referred by the chaplains to the Secretary of State. Lord Panmure, in reply (April 27, 1855), had “to say in the first place, that he has perused the correspondence with great regret, and that he deeply laments to find that religious differences have arisen to such an extent as to mar the united energies and labours of those who are devoting themselves with such disinterestedness and heroic courage and success to the relief of the sick and wounded.” The Minister then proceeded to promulgate instructions designed to prevent any proselytism by the nurses and Sisters. Unfortunately, his dispatch was so worded as to make things, from Miss Nightingale's point of view, no better, but rather worse. “The instructions,” she wrote to Lady Canning (Sept. 9, 1855), “have been so completely misunderstood that they have been my principal difficulty. The R.C.'s who before were quite amenable have chosen to construe the rule that they ‘are not to enter upon the discussion of religious subjects with any patients other than those of their own faith,’ to mean therefore with all of their own faith, and the second party of nuns who came out now wander over the whole Hospital out of nursing hours, not confining themselves to their own wards, nor even to patients, but ‘instructing’ (it is their own word) groups of Orderlies and Convalescents in the corridors, doing the work each of ten chaplains, and bringing ridicule upon the whole thing, while they quote the words of the War Office.” Lady Canning, who was at this time acting as Miss Nightingale's agent for the enlistment of nurses, had proposed to embody Lord Panmure's instructions in the printed Rules and Regulations. Miss Nightingale begged her to do no such thing. I doubt not that Miss Nightingale's own verbal instructions were less ambiguous. She was one who never failed to say exactly what she meant.



A great obstacle with which Miss Nightingale's work in the East had to contend throughout was the scarcity at the time of properly trained nurses. She had long ago formed a resolve to remedy this defect; the seriousness of it was still further enforced upon her mind by painful experience in the Crimean War; and her resolve was the more strengthened. The religious difficulty—demanding that nurses should be selected, to some extent, not qua nurses, but qua sectarians—accentuated the obstacle of inadequate training, which, however, would in any case have existed. The case is excellently put, in terms which doubtless reflect Miss Nightingale's own views, in a letter from Lady Verney to Mrs. Gaskell (May 17, 1855):—

Until women have gone through a real training, it is vain to hope that four or five weeks in a Hospital can fit them for one of the most difficult works that any one can be called on to undertake. I cannot tell you the details, you can guess many of them; but when I hear estimable people talking as if you could turn 40 women of all ranks, degrees of virtue, and intelligence, into a Military Hospital, with drunken orderlies, unmarried Chaplains, young Surgeons, &c., &c., and expect that they are not more likely to be unwise or tempted astray than the R.C. Sisters of Charity, who are bound by well-considered vows, love of their kind and the fear of Hell fire, then we feel that the “estimable people” have very little knowledge of human nature. F.'s form of Sisterhood is infinitely higher, I believe, than the R.C. and will be carried out, I doubt no more than in her own existence, but as it must exist without the checks and safeguards of the other and inferior form, so it requires higher elements in the actors and a more severe training and examination. Instead of which the loosest possible choice takes place by people most excellent but not in the least qualified to choose; goodwill and a “love of nursing” is enough for the Lady class.

It is the fact, though it is not popularly known, that Miss Nightingale was at this time strongly opposed to “lady” nurses. She objected to them, not because they were ladies, but because they were unlikely to be well trained. Pious and benevolent ladies were more given, she said, to “spiritual flirtations with the patients,” than apt[253] at the proper business of surgical nursing. It was the trained hospital nurses that she preferred. There were among the 125 women who passed through her hands in the East more efficient and less, and in so large a flock there were some black sheep. But amongst the band, in all classes and of all denominations, there were devoted and competent women, whose services deserve to be held in grateful remembrance beside those of their Lady-in-Chief. And as I have had to record Miss Nightingale's criticism upon some of the Roman Catholics among her flock, it should be added that of others she wrote to Mr. Herbert: “They are the truest Christians I ever met with—invaluable in their work—devoted, heart and head, to serve God and mankind—not to intrigue for their Church.” To the Reverend Superior, who came out from Bermondsey with the first party of nuns, Miss Nightingale was particularly attached. “She writes,” said Cardinal Wiseman, “that great part of her success is due to Rev. Mother of Bermondsey, without whom it would have been a failure.”[168]

The aspect of Miss Nightingale's work, touched upon in this chapter, adds another to the accumulation of difficulties with which she had to deal. It was the one which troubled her most. “In this sink of misery, in this tussle of life or death,” she felt the bitter futility of personal grievances and religious differences. It is worry, more than work, that kills; and the religious difficulty was perhaps the last straw which caused the Lady-in-Chief to break down, as we shall hear in the next chapter, under her heavy load of responsibility and care.



(May–August 1855)

For myself, I have done my duty. I have identified my fate with that of the heroic dead.—Florence Nightingale (private notes, 1855).

In the spring of 1855 Miss Nightingale decided to leave Scutari for a while in order to visit the hospitals in the Crimea. The conditions at Scutari were now greatly improved. Sanitary works had been executed. The hospitals were better supplied. The pressure in the wards, caused by the terrible winter before Sebastopol, was relieved. There were only 1100 cases in the Barrack Hospital, and of those only 100 were in bed. The rate of mortality had fallen from 42 per cent to 22 per thousand of the cases treated. The siege was likely soon to be accompanied by assaults, and the pressure might rather be in the hospitals at Balaclava, where the sick and wounded were if possible to remain, in order to avoid the sufferings of the sea passage to Scutari.

In the Crimea, besides the regimental hospitals, there were four general hospitals. There was the General Hospital at Balaclava, established after the British occupation in September 1854. There was the Castle Hospital, consisting of huts on the “Genoese heights” above Balaclava, opened in April 1855. There was the Hospital of St. George's Monastery, also consisting of huts, intended for convalescent and ophthalmic cases; and, lastly, there were the Hospitals of the Land Transport Corps, again consisting of huts, near Karani. All these hospitals had a complement of female nurses, though the Monastery Hospital not until December 1855,[255] and the Land Transport Hospitals not until 1856. In the spring of 1855, then, there were already female nurses at the General Hospital and the Castle Hospital, under their own superintendents, but all ultimately responsible to Miss Nightingale—as she apprehended, and as the War Office intended. She was now anxious to inspect these hospitals; to increase the efficiency of the female nursing establishments; and, in particular, to introduce those washing and cooking arrangements which had been productive of so much benefit at Scutari. Her visit of inspection was approved by the War Office; and, by instructions dated April 27, she was invested with full authority as Almoner of the Free Gifts in all the British Hospitals in the Crimea. But in other respects her position was somewhat ambiguous. The original instructions, issued by Mr. Herbert, had named her as Superintendent of the female nurses in all the British military hospitals in Turkey; and these words gave a standing-ground to her opponents in the Crimea. The intention of the War Office was to give her general superintendence, but to relieve her of direct responsibility for the nurses in the Crimea so long as she was at Scutari. The matter was not, however, cleared up till a later date,[169] and the indefiniteness of her position in the Crimea exposed her to infinite worry and intrigues.

On May 2, Miss Nightingale set forth from Scutari, where Mrs. Bracebridge was left in charge:—

“Poor old Flo,” Miss Nightingale wrote from the Black Sea, May 5, 1855, “steaming up the Bosphorus and across the Black Sea with four nurses, two cooks, and a boy to Crim Tartary (to overhaul the Regimental Hospitals) in the Robert Lowe or Robert Slow (for an exceedingly slow boat she is), taking back 420 of her patients, a draught of convalescents returning to their regiments to be shot at again. ‘A Mother in Israel,’ Pastor Fliedner called me; a Mother in the Coldstreams, is the more appropriate appellation. What suggestions do the above ideas make to you in Embley drawing-room? Stranger ones perhaps than to me, who, on the 5th May, year of disgrace 1855, having been at Scutari six months to-day, am in sympathy with God, fulfilling the purpose I came into the world for. What the[256] disappointments of the conclusion of these six months are no one can tell. But I am not dead, but alive.”

Miss Nightingale was accompanied to the Crimea by the faithful Mr. Bracebridge, willing as ever to serve her. Among the nurses was Mrs. Roberts, whose exceptional efficiency and personal devotion to the Lady-in-Chief were soon to be called in need. Of the cooks, the chief was Soyer the Great, from whose cheerfully gossiping and pleasantly egotistical pages[170] some details are drawn in this chapter. The “boy” mentioned in Miss Nightingale's letter was Thomas, a drummer, who, though only twelve years of age, used to call himself “Miss Nightingale's Man.” He was a regular enfant de troupe, says M. Soyer, full of activity, wit, intelligence, and glee. He would draw himself up to his full height, and explain that he had “forsaken his instruments in order to devote his civil and military career to Miss Nightingale.” She was attended also by a soldier invalided from the 68th Light Infantry, whom Mr. Bracebridge had picked out to serve as messenger. In 1860 he wrote a manuscript account of his experiences in the Crimea,[171] and this is another first-hand source from which particulars are drawn in the present chapter. The party arrived at Balaclava on May 5, and the decks of vessels in the harbour were crowded with spectators anxious to catch a glimpse of the famous Lady-in-Chief. There was no accommodation for her ashore; so her headquarters were on board the Robert Lowe, and when that vessel left, on the sailing transport London.


Miss Nightingale set to work immediately, and with characteristic energy. One of her first duties was a visit of ceremony to Lord Raglan. She was a good horsewoman,[257] and as a girl had been fond of riding. She was now mounted “upon a very pretty mare, which, by its gambols and caracoling, seemed proud to carry its noble charge, and our cavalcade produced an extraordinary effect upon the motley crowd of all nations assembled at Balaclava, who were astonished at seeing a lady so well escorted.” Was not the great Soyer himself among the escort? The Commander of the Forces was away, but Miss Nightingale was taken to the Three Mortar Battery, and the soldiers, as she passed, gave her three times three. This visit to the front made a profound and indelible impression upon her.[172] It is first recorded in a letter of May 10, which was forwarded to Windsor Castle.[173] “Fancy,” she wrote, “working five nights out of seven in the trenches! Fancy being 36 hours in them at a stretch, as they were all December, lying down, or half lying down, often 48 hours with no food but raw salt pork, sprinkled with sugar, rum, and biscuit; nothing hot, because the exhausted soldier could not collect his own fuel, as he was expected to do, to cook his own ration; and fancy through all this the army preserving their courage and patience as they have done, and being now eager (the old ones more than the young ones) to be led even into the trenches. There was something sublime in the spectacle.” “When I see the camp,” she wrote to Lady Canning (May 10), “I wonder not that the army suffered so much, but that there is any army left at all; but now all is looking up. Sir John M'Neill has done wonders.” With Sir John M'Neill, a doctor who afterwards entered the Political Service in the East, Miss Nightingale formed a great friendship. He, with Colonel Tulloch, had been sent out to the Crimea by Lord Palmerston's Government to report upon the Commissariat system.

Miss Nightingale, on this and her later visits to the Crimea, saw and heard of many deeds of heroism which she loved to tell. “I remember,” she wrote, “a sergeant, who was on picket, the rest of the picket killed, and himself battered about the head, stumbled back to camp, and on his[258] way picked up a wounded man, and brought him in on his shoulders to the lines, where he fell down insensible. When, after many hours, he recovered his senses, I believe after trepanning, his first words were to ask after his comrade, ‘Is he alive?’ ‘Comrade, indeed! yes, he's alive, it is the General.’ At that moment the General, though badly wounded, appeared at the bedside. ‘Oh, General, it's you, is it, I brought in, I'm so glad. I didn't know your honour, but if I'd known it was you, I'd have saved you all the same.’ This is the true soldier's spirit.”[174]


During the few days immediately after her arrival at Balaclava, Miss Nightingale carried on an active investigation of the hospitals, regimental and general; arranged various affairs in connection with the sisters and nurses; discussed the building of new huts; and, in conjunction with M. Soyer, planned the erection of several kitchens for extra diet. Here, as at Scutari, she was fearless of contagion, and tended patients stricken with fever. On return to her ship one evening she complained of great fatigue; and on the following morning, feeling no better, she sent for Dr. Anderson, Chief Medical Officer at the General Hospital. He called others of the medical staff into consultation, and a joint bulletin was issued to the effect that Miss Nightingale was suffering from Crimean fever. They advised that she should be removed from the ship, and she was carried on a stretcher by relays of soldiers to the Castle Hospital on the Genoese Heights. The hut in which she lay was immediately behind those of the wounded soldiers. The attack of fever was sharp, and she was, as she afterwards admitted to her friends, “very near to death.” There are scraps of manuscript among her papers (for even in illness she could not be kept from the use of her pen) which show a wandering mind.

The news of Miss Nightingale's illness was received with consternation in England, and the anxiety of her friends was intense, though Lord Raglan had thoughtfully arranged[259] that a telegraphic dispatch from him should not reach them till, after two or three days of the fever, the doctors were able to hold out hopes of recovery. “Sitting to-day,” wrote her sister to a friend, from Embley (May 27), “in the little Vicarage woodhouse, waiting for the people to come out from church (for we were not up to the whole service), in order to go in to the Communion which she loves so well, and which we always take with her and God, and which she is taking in spirit or reality to-day if she is alive, and if not is taking in a higher and happier sense—Mama said, 'I thank God she is ready for life or for death'; and in that, dear, we truly strive to rest, though the spirit would quail, I am afraid, if there were not hope at the bottom.” The anxiety in the War Hospitals was scarcely less. “The soldiers turned their faces to the wall,” said one, “and cried.” The crisis passed, and on May 24 Lord Raglan was able to telegraph home that the patient was out of danger, and three days later that she was going on favourably. The bulletins were forwarded to the Queen, and on May 28 Her Majesty, in writing to Lord Panmure, was “truly thankful to learn that excellent and valuable person, Miss Nightingale, is safe.”[175] At this time a horseman rode up to her hut, and the nurse, Mrs. Roberts, who had been enjoined to keep the patient quiet, refused to let him in. He said that he most particularly desired to see Miss Nightingale. “And pray,” said Mrs. Roberts, “who are you?” “Ah, only a soldier,” replied the visitor, “but I have ridden a long way, and your patient knows me very well.” He was admitted, and a month later was himself laid low and died. It was Lord Raglan.


Miss Nightingale, on becoming convalescent, was strongly advised by the doctors to take a voyage to England. She would not listen to such advice. Her work at the front had but just begun, and she was resolved to return to it after the shortest possible delay. The voyage to the Bosphorus was the longest that she could be induced to take. Her[260] good Mrs. Bracebridge had arrived from Scutari just in time to accompany her friend on the return voyage. Lord Ward, whose steam-yacht was in harbour at the time, pressed the use of it upon her, and in it she was taken to Scutari. When the yacht reached Scutari, all the high officials were present to meet it. One of the large barges, used to remove the sick and wounded, was brought alongside, and Miss Nightingale, in a state of extreme weakness and exhaustion, was lowered into it. At the pier soldiers were in readiness, who carried her on a stretcher to the chaplain's house, followed by a large and sympathetic crowd. “I do not remember anything during the campaign,” wrote the good-hearted Soyer, “so gratifying to the feelings as that simple though grand procession.” “Ah,” said a soldier, “there was no sadder sight than to see that dear lady carried up from the pier on a stretcher just like we men, and perhaps by some of the fellows she nursed herself.”[176] It was the same when she was presently moved from Scutari to the shore in order to go to Therapia, where the Ambassador had placed his summer residence at her disposal. She was carried in a litter by four guardsmen, but, though it was only five minutes' walk to the shore, there were two relays, and her baggage was divided among twelve soldiers, though two could easily have carried the whole,[177] so great was the desire of the men to share in the honour of helping the Lady-in-Chief.

Her recovery was gradual, and her weakness great. Mrs. Bracebridge described her as unable to feed herself or speak above a whisper. The extreme exhaustion was more from the previous overstrain on mind and body than from the fever, the doctors said, and they recommended complete change and rest. Mr. Sidney Herbert wrote, imploring her to come home for two months: “We are delighted,” wrote her mother (July 9), “to think of you at Therapia. Oh, my love, how I trust that you will, among the numerous lessons which your life has been spent in learning, be able to perfect that most difficult one of standing and waiting.” She was to be lessoned in that form of service, but not till[261] after many more years of arduous labour, and for the present she would not hear of any return to England. The feeling of the soldiers for her touched her so deeply that she could not bear, she said, to leave them. Gradually she recovered strength. “We have a charming account,” wrote her sister (Aug. 21), “from Lothian Nicholson just ordered out to Crimea, who is quite enthusiastic, dear old boy, about her good looks, which, as all her hair has been cut off, is good testimony—‘her own smile,’ he talks of, and says he can hardly believe she has gone through such a winter. The dear Bracebridges say that her improvement in the last week was delightful and wonderful.” Already, in July, her business letters were resumed. In August she was in the full rush of work again. The doctors and her friends still besought her to take rest. But her indomitable spirit would listen to no counsels of retreat. The end of the war was not yet in sight. Even Sebastopol had not yet fallen. So long as there remained sick and wounded in the Levant to be cared for, she was resolved to remain also. A soldier was told that the Lady-in-Chief would probably be sent home. “But how will they pairt with her,” he said, “what'll they do without her? they set all their hopes on she.” There were nurses, too, naturally anxious to rejoin their families or friends at home, who said that, if she went, they would go. The presence of Miss Nightingale, with her lofty ideals and inspiring self-devotion, was the attraction which kept many of these women at their posts. Some had already died. Mrs. Elizabeth Drake, one of the nurses whom Miss Nightingale had taken with her to the Crimea, died on August 9 of low fever at Balaclava. “I cannot tell you,” wrote Miss Nightingale to the Master of St. John's House (Aug. 16, 1855), “what I felt when I heard of her death, unexpected alike by all. Her two physicians thought her going on well, and I expected her in every convoy that came down from Balaclava, as she was coming to me to recruit. I have lost in her the best of all the women here. Once I proposed to her to go home, but she scouted the idea entirely and said her health was better here than in England. I feel like a criminal in having robbed you of one so truly to be loved and honoured. It seemed[262] as if it pleased God to remove from the work those who have been most useful to it. His will be done!” Nurse Drake's body was brought to Scutari, and Miss Nightingale erected a small marble cross over it in the cemetery. It was no time, when members of the rank-and-file were falling at the post of duty, for the chief to listen to counsels of medical prudence. Nor, indeed, at any time did Miss Nightingale harbour even a passing thought of what would have seemed to her an act of military desertion. She remained till the end of the war came, and till the last transport had sailed; working indefatigably as ever, and in some respects in new spheres of usefulness, both in the Crimea and at Scutari; to what good effect we shall hear in later chapters, but at great cost to her own comfort and bodily strength. She had been appointed, as she used to say, to a subsidiary post in the Queen's Army[178]; the humblest post, it might be, but still a post of duty. The men had dared and suffered; and Florence Nightingale was resolved to show that a woman too had strength to suffer and endure.

During the weeks of convalescence at Scutari, Miss Nightingale used sometimes to walk at evening on the shore, in full sight of that view which, when she had first come there, they told her was the finest in the world, but which, in the crush of work, she had no time to enjoy.[179] She sent a letter to her people at home describing one such evening walk, and it was read out in the family circle. Lady Byron, who was staying with them at the time, heard it read, and said that it was “like a hymn—simple and deep-toned.” She described how, on the opposite side, the city of Constantinople was defined against the burning sky of the setting sun, but the outline was changed by the fall of some mounds in an earthquake. Near her were the graves of the heroic dead, the thousands with whom, she said, she felt identified. “It went into my heart,” wrote Lady Byron, “as the poetry of fact—for she has made poetry fact.” The letter went on to speak of the British burying-ground[263] at Scutari, and Miss Nightingale added these lines:—

“They are not here!” No, not beneath that sod,
And yet not far away,
For they can mingle their new life from God
With living souls, not clay.
And they, “the heroic dead,” will softly pour
Into thy spirit's ear
A music human still, but sad no more,
To tell thee they are near—
Near thee with higher ministering aid
Thy heart-work to return,
So that each sacrifice that love has made
A victory shall earn![180]




Miss Nightingale looks to her reward from this country in having a fresh field for her labours, and means of extending the good that she has already begun. A compliment cannot be paid dearer to her heart than in giving her work to do.—Sidney Herbert.

The news of Miss Nightingale's illness spread sympathetic anxiety throughout Great Britain. Even more than when her mission of mercy was first announced, she became the popular heroine; and more than ever men and women of all classes sought means of showing their sympathy.

Lady Verney, whose depth of feeling is not concealed by the play of humour which sparkles pleasantly upon the surface, described, successively, the penalties and the pleasures of being the sister of a heroine:—

(Miss F. P. Nightingale to Miss Ellen Tollet.) Embley, Friday [Summer of 1855]. I am quite done with writing, a second blast of linen and knitted socks was nearly the death of me, and ‘hints,’ my dear!—oh, my horror of being asked for hints,—such as “can newspapers be put into the post free?” and such like niaiseries. How grateful I am to you for never once having inquired whether socks or muffetees are most required, and whether you are safe in sending 6 towels and an old tablecloth to London, or whether they had better come to us. It sounds very ungrateful, I am afraid, but when one's wrist aches over the two hundredth repetition of the matter, I do wish the public would apply to the nearest post office, or read that scarce and erudite work the Times, and use their sense not their pens.

However, these words are only when I am cross at having been prevented from writing to the folk I love, such as thee, of the progress of Scutari. Else generally the feeling in every soul, so wide and so deep, touches us more than I can tell, and helps us over the inevitable weight of the anxiety more than I thought[265] possible—heavy, redfaced, old fox-hunting Squires, who never had a “sentiment” in their lives, come with their eyes full of tears; narrow-minded Farmers with both eyes on the main chance are melted; young ladies who never got beyond balls and concerts are warmed. Dearest, I do feel of the feeling she has raised, it blesseth “him here who gives and those out there who take,” and will do good wider than one hoped. I can't so much as write for a dispatch box for her (thinking an official of her scale must want one for her papers) without its coming back full of pretty little match boxes as an offering, and wrapped in a large contribution of old sheets.… I must give you the cream of this last three or four days' letters. Firstly, Mr. Hookham, the bookseller, sending down a parcel, says he “trusts to hear of the return of Miss N., as he does not think, though convalescent, she can get well on the shores of Bosphorus or Black Sea; that a General or Admiral can be replaced, but there can be no successor to Miss N., her skill, her fortitude, her courage cannot be replaced. I speak of courage in the most exalted sense that it is possible to characterise the bravery and devotion of woman.” Then comes a letter from a shipowner in the north of Scotland going to launch a vessel, and wanting to call it after her, sends to have her name quite “correct.” Next, Lady Dunsany saying that “Joan of Arc was not more a creation of the moment and for the moment than F. Joan's was the same unearthly influence carrying all before its spirit might—Joan's was the same strange and sexless identity, which, belonging as it were neither to man nor woman, seemed to disembody and combine the choicest results of both, and then to sweep down conventionalities, prejudices, and pruderies, with the clear, cold, crystal sceptre of its majestic purity. Joan's mission, too, was the condensation of her country's moral and intellectual power in the person of a young and single woman when the men of that country were so many of them imbecile and effete! I think my parallel runs pretty close.” Lord Dunsany adds that he has no time to write, so he says, “ditto to Mrs. Burke,” and that I know he is “fanatico for Joan of Arc rediviva, God bless her.” Then a bit from Lady Byron, saying, “even her illness will advance her work as all things must for those who do all with His aid,” and more that is most beautiful. Then 2 copies of the History of Women, with portrait of Miss N. to be sent to her “from the author,” and a flaming extract from a County paper in a pamphlet, Stroll to Lea Hurst, 20 copies ditto, ditto, and a majestic effusion from the family grocer about “heroic conduct,” “brave and noble Miss N.,” “identified with Crimean success and sad disasters,” “posterity,” “arm of civilisation,” “rampant barbarism,” &c. &c., and so on.

(To Florence Nightingale.) Dec. 8 [1855]. It has been curious[266] (as your representative) how our Burlington Street room has seen Manning and Maurice, Mr. Best and the Chancellor, Lady Amelia Jebb and Mrs. Herbert, Lady Byron and Lady Canning, the extremes of all kinds crowding in to help you in every way that they could devise. Then come in tradespeople, all so intent on you; and working folk, your stoutest supporters, and those you will care most for. And we are tenderly treated and affectionately welcomed by one and all of all classes and opinions for your sake, my dear, and very sweet to me is kindliness for your dear sake; it seems as if it were part of you coming to meet me.


But Miss Nightingale's popularity was not limited to such circles as those in which her family moved. Letters from soldiers in the Crimea had made her known in thousands of humble homes, and she became the heroine of the cottage, the workshop, and the alleys. Old soldiers dropped into poetry about her, and rhymed broadsheets, with rough woodcuts of the Lady with the Lamp, issued from printers in Seven Dials and Soho. One of these songs, entitled “The Nightingale in the East,” and intended to go to the tune of “The Cottage and Water Mill,” was especially popular with its refrain:—

So forward, my lads, may your hearts never fail,
You are cheer'd by the presence of a sweet Nightingale.[181]

Then from the same class of printing-offices there issued “Price One Penny, The Only and Unabridged Edition of the Life of Miss Nightingale, Detailing her Christian Heroic Deeds in the Land of Tumult and Death, which has made her name most deservedly Immortal, not only in England,[267] but in all Civilized Parts of the World, winning the Prayers of the Soldier, the Widow, and the Orphan.” The poets and biographers were not only in Seven Dials. The Poet's Corner of every newspaper, from Punch and the Spectator to the smallest country journal, was devoted to the praise of the heroine. Ingenious triflers were at work, and it was found that her anagram was indeed, as an old definition has it, poesie transferred, and Florence Nightingale became “Flit on, cheering angel.” Prize poems at the universities pictured her, in the manner of such compositions, walking fearlessly

Where strong men tremble and where brave hearts fail.

Then the musicians took up the Popular Heroine, and both now, and after her return from the Crimea, sentimental songs, set to music, were inscribed to her: “Angels with Sweet Approving Smiles,” “The Shadow on the Pillow,” “The Soldier's Widow,” “The Woman's Smile,” “The Soldier's Cheer”—this latter “played by the band of the 97th Regiment,”—“Die Soldaten Lebewohl,” “The Star of the East,” and so forth. The stationers followed in the wake of the printers, and brought out note-paper with a picture of Florence Nightingale as the water-mark, or with lithographed views of “Lea Hurst, her home.” Portraits of her were eagerly sought; and as the family were unwilling to supply them, likenesses had to be invented to adorn sentimental prints. Life-boats and emigrant-ships were christened The Florence Nightingale. Children, streets, valses, and race-horses were named after her. “The Forest Plate Handicap was won by Miss Nightingale, beating Barbarity and nine others.” Tradesmen printed portraits and short lives of her on their paper bags. At Fairs there were “Grand Exhibitions of Miss Florence Nightingale administering to the Sick and Wounded.” China figures, with no recognizable likeness to her, but inscribed “Florence Nightingale,” were put on sale. The public would not be denied. “Yes, indeed,” wrote Lady Verney to her sister, “the people love you with a sort of passionate tenderness that goes to my heart.”

Miss Nightingale did not relish all this. They had[268] sent her various supplies for the sick, and also a packet of “Lives,” “Portraits,” and the like to Scutari. “My effigies and praises,” she wrote in reply, “were less welcome. I do not affect indifference to real sympathy, but I have felt painfully, the more painfully since I have had time to hear of it, the éclat which has been given to this adventure. The small still beginning, the simple hardship, the silent and gradual struggle upwards, these are the climate in which an enterprise really thrives and grows. Time has not altered our Saviour's lesson on that point, which has been learnt successively by all reformers from their own experience. The vanity and frivolity which the éclat thrown upon this affair has called forth has done us unmitigated harm, and has brought mischief on (perhaps) one of the most promising enterprises that ever set sail from England. Our own old party which began its work in hardship, toil, struggle, and obscurity has done better than any other.”


When it became known in England that Miss Nightingale had recovered from her illness, and had resolved to remain at her post until the end of the war, a movement at once sprang up for marking in some public manner the nation's appreciation of her services and her devotion. There was at first some idea, as Lady Verney wrote, of a personal testimonial in the “teapot and bracelet” kind. Mrs. Herbert, who was consulted in the matter, knew her friend well enough to be certain that Miss Nightingale would decline to accept any such proposal. The only form of testimonial to which she would ever listen was something to enable her the better to carry on her work for others. Miss Nightingale was written to, and replied, in accordance with Mrs. Herbert's expectation, that she must absolutely decline any testimonial of a personal character. Her friends knew well that what she would best like was the establishment in one form or another of “an English Kaiserswerth.” This suggestion was accordingly put before her, and she was asked to submit a plan. Her reply was, again, very characteristic. Immersed in the crowded work of the[269] moment, she was in no mood to make future plans; but she took the earliest opportunity of intimating that, whatever the plan might be, she must be the autocrat of it. “Dr. Bence-Jones has written to me,” she said (Sept. 27), “for a plan. People seem to think that I have nothing to do but to sit here and form plans. If the public choose to recognize my services and my judgment in this manner, they must leave those services and that judgment unfettered.” She was experiencing enough of fetters in the East to last her for a lifetime. An influential Committee was formed, on which Mr. Sidney Herbert and Mr. S. C. Hall served as honorary secretaries, and it was decided to raise a fund for the establishment of some School for Nurses, under a Council, to be nominated by Miss Nightingale. A public meeting was called for November 29, 1855, at Willis's Rooms, “to give expression to a general feeling that the services of Miss Nightingale in the hospitals of the East demand the grateful recognition of the British people.” The room proved far too small. It was crowded to suffocation; and never, said the Times, in reporting the meeting, had a more brilliant, enthusiastic, and unanimous gathering been held in London.

“Burlington St., this 29th of November,” wrote Mrs. Nightingale to Florence, “the most interesting day of thy mother's life. It is very late, my child, but I cannot go to bed without telling you that your meeting has been a glorious one. I believe that you will be more indifferent than any of us to your fame, but be glad that we feel this is a proud day for us; for the like has never happened before, but will, I trust, from your example, gladden the hearts of many future mothers. One thing will rejoice you. We were all as anxious as you were there that the good Bracebridges' devoted love should be publicly recognized, and Sidney Herbert has taken this occasion to do it most gracefully. The Duke of Cambridge was in the chair and made a simple, manly speech. Sidney Herbert's delighted every one. Lord Stanley, the Duke of Argyll, and Sir J. Pakington spoke capitally. Monckton Milnes was very touching. Lord Lansdowne as good as in his best days. All seemed inspired by their subject. Parthe and I, though we could not take[270] courage to go ourselves, staid it over; our informants came flocking in, and we were rewarded.” “Fancy if you can,” wrote Mr. Nightingale to his sister, “our joy at the universal oneness of the meeting which has honoured Flo with its absolute fiat of ‘Well done’ and well to do. I am not apt to be easily satisfied with the things which I see and feel or hear or think, but all people seem to agree that there was there nothing wanting.”

The speeches deserve, I think, all that the proud mother said of them. Mr. Sidney Herbert's was, perhaps, the best, if one can judge from the reports; and certainly it is the best remembered, for in the course of it he read out the soldier's letter, which, as mentioned already (p. 237), became famous throughout the world. But “the truest thing,” as Lady Verney wrote to her sister, “was said by Monckton Milnes. He said that too much had been made of the sacrifice of position and luxury in your case.” How true that was is known to all who have read the first part of this volume. “God knows,” said Mr. Milnes, “that the luxury of one good action must to a mind such as hers be more than equivalent for the loss of all the pomps and vanities of life.”

And Mr. Milnes, with the touch of a poet and the feeling of a friend, said another very true thing. He drew a contrast between the crowded and brilliant scene before him, and “the scene which met the gaze of that noble woman, who was now devoting herself to the service of her suffering fellow-creatures on the black shores of Crim Tartary, overlooking the waters of the inhospitable sea.” She was grateful for sympathy; but the glitter of praise and reputation was as nothing, or less than nothing, to her. She was wrestling by those bleak shores with disease and death, wrestling, too, with jealousies and intrigues and other difficulties. She cared for no recognition, except in so far as it could help her in her work. A contribution of £1000 to her private fund, sent by the people of New Zealand in November, greatly pleased her. “If my name,” she wrote to her parents, “and my having done what I could for God and mankind has given you pleasure, that is real pleasure to me. My reputation has not been a boon to me in my work;[271] but if you have been pleased, that is enough. I shall love my name now, and shall feel that it is the greatest return that you can find satisfaction in hearing your child named, and in feeling that her work draws sympathies together—some return for what you have done for me. Life is sweet after all.”

The form taken by the memorial, inaugurated at the public meeting in Willis's Rooms, was the establishment of a “Nightingale Fund,” to enable her to establish and control an institute for the training, sustenance, and protection of nurses, paid and unpaid. A copy of the resolution was sent to Miss Nightingale, who acknowledged it in a letter from Scutari (Jan. 6, 1856): “Dear Mr. Herbert—In answer to your letter (which followed me to the Crimea and back to Scutari) proposing to me the undertaking of a Training School for Nurses, I will first beg to say that it is impossible for me to express what I have felt in regard to the sympathy and the confidence shown to me by the originators and supporters of this scheme. Exposed as I am to be misinterpreted and misunderstood, in a field of action in which the work is new, complicated, and distant from many who sit in judgment upon it,—it is indeed an abiding support to have such sympathy and such appreciation brought home to me in the midst of labour and difficulties all but overpowering. I must add, however, that my present work is such as I would never desert for any other, so long as I see room to believe that what I may do here is unfinished. May I, then, beg you to express to the Committee that I accept their proposal, provided I may do so on their understanding of this great uncertainty as to when it will be possible for me to carry it out?”[182]

Public meetings in support of the Fund were held throughout England and in the British Dominions.[183] Among the speeches made at these meetings, one of the most notable was Lord Stanley's at Manchester. “There is no part of England,” he said, “no city or county, scarcely a considerable[272] village, where some cottage household has not been comforted amidst its mourning for the loss of one who had fallen in the war, by the assurance that his last moments were watched, and his worst sufferings soothed, by that care, at once tender and skilful, which no man, and few women, could have shown. True heroism is not so plentiful that we can afford to let it pass unrecognized—if not for the honour of those who show it, yet very much for our own. The best test of a nation's moral state is the kind of claim which it selects for honour. And with the exception of Howard, the prison reformer, I know no person besides Miss Nightingale, who, within the last hundred years, within this island, or perhaps in Europe, has voluntarily encountered dangers so imminent, and undertaken offices so repulsive, working for a large and worthy object, in a pure spirit of duty towards God and compassion for man.” Lord Stanley showed a true appreciation, too, of the facts in pointing out the strength of character which Miss Nightingale had shown as a pioneer. “It is not easy everywhere, especially in England, to set about doing what no one has done before. Many persons will undergo considerable risks, even that of death itself, when they know that they are engaged in a cause which, besides approving itself to their consciences, commands sympathy and approval, when they know that their motives are appreciated and their conduct applauded. But in this case custom was to be violated, precedent broken through, the surprise, sometimes the censure of the world to be braved. And do not underrate that obstacle. We hardly know the strength of those social ties that bind us until the moment when we attempt to break them.”[184] The Nightingale Fund was taken up heartily, but there was some carping criticism, and the jealousies which attended Miss Nightingale's work found expression against the Fund in her honour. There were great ladies who, strange as it may now seem, regarded the attempt to raise the status of the nursing profession as a silly fad. “Lady Pam,” wrote Lord Granville, “thinks the Nightingale Fund great humbug. ‘The nurses are very good now; perhaps they do drink a little, but so do the[273] ladies' monthly nurses, and nothing can be better than them; poor people, it must be so tiresome sitting up all night.’”[185] The existence of the Fund was notified in General Orders to the army in the East. “I hear,” wrote Dr. Robertson at Scutari to Dr. Hall in the Crimea, “that you have not (any more than myself) subscribed your day's pay to the Nightingale Fund. I certainly said, the moment it appeared in Orders, I would not do so, and thereby countenance what I disapproved. Others may do as they please, but though Linton, Cruikshanks, and Lawson have all subscribed, I believe the subscriptions in the hospital are not many or large.”[186] But this disgruntlement of the doctors was not shared by the troops, who subscribed nearly £9000 to the Fund. The Commander of the Forces, in sending to the Secretary of the Fund a first remittance of £4000 from “Headquarters, Crimea,” wrote (February 5, 1856) that this amount, “the result of voluntary individual offerings, plainly indicates the universal feeling of gratitude which exists among the troops engaged in the Crimea for the care bestowed upon, and the relief administered to, themselves and their comrades, at the period of their greatest sufferings, by the skilful arrangements, and the unwearying, constant personal attention, of Miss Nightingale and the other ladies associated with her.” The Navy and the Coastguard Service subscribed also. Nor was “society” all on the side of Lady Palmerston. A concert given by Madame Goldschmidt (Jenny Lind) brought in nearly £2000. The ultimate application of the Fund did not follow precisely the lines originally proposed, but it was the means of enabling Miss Nightingale to do one of the most useful pieces of her life's work.[187]

The sympathy and interest of the Royal Family in Miss Nightingale's work had been shown by the presence of the Duke of Cambridge in the chair at Willis's Rooms; but the Queen desired to associate herself in some more direct and signal measure with “the grateful recognition” by her[274] people. A few weeks after the Public Meeting the following letter was sent:—

Windsor Castle [November 1855].[188] Dear Miss Nightingale—You are, I know, well aware of the high sense I entertain of the Christian devotion which you have displayed during this great and bloody war, and I need hardly repeat to you how warm my admiration is for your services, which are fully equal to those of my dear and brave soldiers, whose sufferings you have had the privilege of alleviating in so merciful a manner. I am, however, anxious of marking my feelings in a manner which I trust will be agreeable to you, and therefore send you with this letter a brooch, the form and emblems of which commemorate your great and blessed work, and which, I hope, you will wear as a mark of the high approbation of your Sovereign!

It will be a very great satisfaction to me, when you return at last to these shores, to make the acquaintance of one who has set so bright an example to our sex. And with every prayer for the preservation of your valuable health, believe me, always, yours sincerely,Victoria R.

The jewel, which was designed by the Prince Consort, resembles a badge rather than a brooch, bearing a St. George's Cross in red enamel, and the Royal cypher surmounted by a crown in diamonds. The inscription, “Blessed are the Merciful,” encircles the badge, which also bears the word “Crimea.” On the reverse is the inscription: “To Miss Florence Nightingale, as a mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion towards the Queen's brave soldiers.—From Victoria R., 1855.”

“I hope,” wrote Lady Verney (Dec. 27, 1855), “you will wear your Star to please the soldiers on Sundays and holidays; because, judging from those at home, it will be such a pleasure to them to know that the Queen has done her best to do you honour.” At home, Miss Nightingale never wore the decoration. She wore it in the East, on one occasion certainly (p. 296); and possibly on other occasions. If so, it would have been for the reason suggested by her sister.[275] She loved the soldiers. Honours and reputation, so far as they were valued by her at all (and that was little), were valued only as a means to the end of further service. With what zeal, and to what good purpose, she was now devoting herself to serve the best interests of the common soldier, we shall learn in the next chapter.




Human nature is a noble and beautiful thing; not a foul nor a base thing. All the sin of men I esteem as their disease, not their nature; as a folly which can be prevented, not a necessity which must be accepted. And my wonder, even when things are at their worst, is always at the height which this human nature can attain.—Ruskin.

“What the horrors of war are,” wrote Miss Nightingale on her way to the Crimea in May 1855,[189] “no one can imagine. They are not wounds, and blood, and fever, spotted and low, and dysentery, chronic and acute, and cold and heat and famine. They are intoxication, drunken brutality, demoralization and disorder on the part of the inferior; jealousies, meanness, indifference, selfish brutality on the part of the superior.” Then she goes on to deplore the drunkenness she had witnessed at the Depot, and the seeming indifference of the staff to it. And yet, as her experience had shown, the men were quickly susceptible to better influences. “We have established a reading-room for convalescents, which is well attended; and the conduct of the soldiers is uniformly good. I believe that we have been the most efficient means of restoring discipline instead of destroying it, as I have been accused of. They are much more respectful to me than they are to their own officers. But it makes me cry to think that all these 6 months we might have had a trained schoolmaster, and that I was told it was quite impossible; that in the Indian army effectual and successful measures are taken to prevent intoxication and disorganization, and that here the Convalescents are brought in emphatically dead drunk (for they die of it), and officers look on with[277] composure and say to me, ‘You are spoiling the brutes.’ The men are so glad to read, so glad to give their money.” This passage serves to introduce us to a side of Miss Nightingale's work which occupied much of her thoughts and activities during the latter portion of her sojourn in the East. Her work in tending the sick bodies of the soldiers is that which is best known, but her work in appealing to their moral and mental nature was not less admirable, and hardly less novel. A high authority, who had been through the war, said of her at the time, “She has taught officers and officials to treat the soldiers as Christian men.” Not every officer needed thus to be lessoned, but Miss Nightingale's example, and the practical experiments which directly or indirectly she set on foot during the Crimean War, did much to humanize the British Army. She deserves to be remembered as the Soldiers' Friend no less than as the Ministering Angel.

Miss Nightingale, like all moral and social reformers, believed in the nobility of human nature. She had seen in the hospital wards at Scutari, and in the trenches before Sebastopol, the heroism of which the common soldier was capable. She refused to believe that the vices to which he was prone were inherent in his nature. “I have never been able to join,” she wrote to Lady Verney from Scutari (March 1856), “in the popular cry about the recklessness, sensuality, and helplessness of the soldiers. On the contrary I should say (and perhaps few women have ever seen more of the manufacturing and agricultural classes of England than I have before I came out here) that I have never seen so teachable and helpful a class as the Army generally. Give them opportunity promptly and securely to send money home and they will use it. Give them schools and lectures and they will come to them. Give them books and games and amusements and they will leave off drinking. Give them suffering and they will bear it. Give them work and they will do it. I had rather have to do with the Army generally than with any other class I have ever attempted to serve.” It was a common belief of the time that it was in the nature of the British soldier to be drunken. The same idea was entertained of the British nurse.[190] She utterly refused[278] to believe it, and she set herself, in her determined and resourceful way, to put measures of reform into practice.


Miss Nightingale, as I have already explained (p. 215), had the ear of the Court, and she took an opportunity of laying her views before the Queen. The immediate sequel is told in a letter from Lord Granville to Lord Canning:—

Dec. 21 [1855]. In the Cabinet an interesting letter was read from Miss Nightingale thanking the Queen for a handsome present, and discussing the causes and remedies for the drunkenness in the army. Pam thought it excellent. Clarendon said it was full of real stuff, but Mars said it only showed that she knew nothing of the British soldier.[191]

But Lord Panmure, though a believer in the original sin of the soldier, was moved none the less by the forces thus set in motion to sanction some useful measures of reform. Miss Nightingale, however, had not waited for official action. That was never her way. When she wanted a thing done, she showed on such scale as was possible to her how to do it.

Her first endeavour was to help and encourage the soldiers in sending home a portion at least of their pay. She formed an extempore Money Order Office, in which, on four afternoons in each month, she received the money of any soldier who desired to send it home to his family. About £1000 was thus received monthly in small sums, which, by post-office orders obtained in England, were transmitted to their several recipients. Her uncle, Mr. Samuel Smith, undertook the English agency for her. After the Cabinet Council, just described, Lord Panmure wrote to the Commander of the Forces in the Crimea, adverting to Miss Nightingale's “cry,” and remarking that if a soldier wanted to send money home he could do so through the Paymaster, but adding that it had been decided to increase the facilities. In the following month (January 1856) the Government accepted the hint of Miss Nightingale's private initiative and established offices for money orders at Constantinople,[279] Scutari, Balaclava, and “Headquarters, Crimea.” “It will do no good,” wrote “Mars,” convinced against his will; “the soldier is not a remitting animal.”[192] But in fact, during the following six months, a sum of £71,000 was sent home.[193] Miss Nightingale felt much satisfaction in having been the means of “rescuing this money from the canteen.” She was instrumental also in establishing a rival house, named, after a soldiers' battle, the “Inkerman Café.” This was pleasantly situated close to the shore of the Bosphorus, midway between the main hospitals at Scutari. Miss Nightingale devoted much attention to the details of this coffee-house, and framed the list of prices. In all such work for the good of the soldiers, she found a cordial supporter in Sir Henry Storks, who had succeeded Lord William Paulet in the command at Scutari in the latter part of 1855. Sir Henry agreed with her, as he wrote, “that drunkenness can be made the exception, not the rule, in the Army”; and in later years he referred in grateful recollection to the time when “we served together at Scutari.”

Her personal influence with the men was great. “I promised Her I would not drink,” or “I promised Her to send my money home,” they would say, “in such a tone,” as Mr. Stafford recorded, “as if it were ingrained in the very stuff of them.” A curious and, as I think the reader will agree with me, a pretty illustration of this side of Miss Nightingale's work, was brought under my notice during the preparation of this Memoir. On January 23, 1856, Miss Nightingale wrote the following letter from Scutari to the Rev. R. Glover, then Chaplain to the Forces at Maidstone:—

In reply to yours of Jan. 10—I have the pleasure to inform you that I have just seen Thomas Whybron, 12th Lancers, and that he has promised me that he will not only write to his wife, but transmit money to her through me after 1st of next month, when he will receive his pay. I trust he will keep his word. She had better also write to him herself, and send her letter through me. He tells me that he has had one letter from her. However he is well, but he has been in debt. However he sends his wife a kind message of love, which he begs me to give her through you, and to beg that she will not come out here. I[280] am myself of this opinion. Independently of the fact that, at this moment, I could not possibly receive any more nurses, there are many reasons against bringing out more soldiers' wives here, which you will readily apprehend. With regard to the Regiment, I consider the 12th Lancers the most “respectable” Regiment we have. They send home more money and put it to better uses than all the other Regiments here put together. And I hope that Whybron will improve in it.

In January 1912 Lieutenant-Colonel Clifton Brown, commanding the 12th Royal Lancers, then quartered at Potchefstroom in the Transvaal, bought the original of this letter, “beautifully written, not a blot or a scratch in it,” framed it with glass on both sides, and presented it to his regiment. Thus may an echo of Miss Nightingale's care for the British soldier and pride in his good name roll from soul to soul, and grow for ever and for ever.


Then Miss Nightingale set herself to establish and equip reading-rooms and class-rooms. She took measures to let her schemes be made known in England, and the popularity of the heroine led to a speedy and generous response from all classes—from the Royal Family to the humblest printer's boy. Miss Nightingale's relations at home received, and transmitted to her, the gifts. Her cousin, Mr. Henry Bonham Carter, was especially useful. “Harry Carter,” she wrote (Jan. 6, 1856), “must be a man of business; for I can assure you that the boxes he sent me are the only ones which have not lost me hours of unnecessary labour, because he has given me invoices of the contents of each box and bills of lading.” Her sister was receiver-general, and from Lady Verney's letters we obtain a lively account of the work:—

(To Miss Ellen Tollet.) [Nov. 1855.] I don't know whether Mrs. Milnes told you how hard we worked to send off boxes for F.'s education of the army! let me tell you, Ma'am, to instruct 50,000 men is no joke. Seriously tho', my love, it is small things any one can do amid such a mass, which made one the more anxious to enable her to do what she could, and we have sent a dose of 1000 copybooks, writing materials in proportion, Diagrams,[281] Maps, books illustrated and other. Macbeth (6) to read 6 at a time, and the music in the interludes, which Mr. Best (a pattern man whom I love more even than the Dean of H.) recommended as having been successful in his village. Chess, Footballs, other games, a magic Lanthern for Dissolving views, a Stereoscope (very fine!), plays for acting, music, &c. &c. Finally I thought a little art would be advisable, and had a number of prints stretched and varnished which are to be my subscription towards the improvement of the British army!

But, my dear, you can't conceive how pretty the sort of help is that everybody poured in; the P. & O. says, nothing is to be paid, Miss N.'s things all go free.

(To Florence Nightingale.) [Nov. 16, 1855.] Please, my dear, acknowledge a print which the Queen sends you for the soldiers. She heard thro' Lady Augusta Bruce that you had asked for one of her for the “Inkerman Café”; and she accordingly sends you the one of the Duke of Wellington presenting May flowers to the little Prince Arthur his godson; which is very pretty of her, for it combines so many things. It is sent to you to do what you like with, so I have said you most likely will wish to have it at Balaclava for your Reading Room plans. We have been racking our brains to get together amusing things for your men.… To mitigate the science I have slipped in the Madonna of the Sedia; which, my love, is domestic, if you please, not Popish. The Duchess of Kent sends a capital lot of books; she has been so pleased to be of use.

Both in the Crimea and at Scutari Miss Nightingale carried on, as opportunity offered, what her sister laughingly called “the education of the British Army.” But it was at Scutari, where she principally stayed, that the effort took the largest scope. Outside the Barrack Hospital a building was bought by Sir Henry Storks, on behalf of the Government, to provide a reading-room and a school-room. The reading-room, opened in January 1856, was supplied by Miss Nightingale with books, prints, maps, games, and newspapers. The other room was used as a garrison school; two schoolmasters were sent out; and evening lectures and classes were given. A second school was conducted in a hut between the two large hospitals at Scutari.[194] For the convalescents, Miss Nightingale had at an earlier date established[282] reading-huts in the Barrack Hospital, furnishing them with books, newspapers, writing materials, prints, and games. In all the reading-huts the men attended numerously and constantly, their behaviour when there being, Miss Nightingale added, uniformly quiet and well-bred. The good manners, no less than the uncomplaining heroism of the common soldier, made an indelible impression upon the Lady-in-Chief.

It was out of her experiences in the Crimean War that grew her love for the British soldier, to whose health, care, and comfort, at home and in India, she was to devote many years of her long life. In extreme old age, when failing powers were not equally alert to every call, she would sometimes, I have been told, show listlessness if her companion talked of nurses or nursing, but the old light would ever come into her eye, and the faltering mind would instantly stand at attention, upon the slightest reference to the British soldier.



(September 1855–July 1856)

I am ready to stand out the War with any man.—Florence Nightingale (Nov. 4, 1855).

On September 8, 1855, Sebastopol fell, after assaults, as every one remembers, which had filled the British cemeteries and hospitals. Miss Nightingale's time from this date to the end of the war was divided between the Crimea and Scutari. On October 9, 1855, she left Scutari for Balaclava, and she remained in the Crimea till the end of November, when she hurried back to Scutari on hearing of a serious outbreak of cholera in the Barrack Hospital at that place. On Good Friday, 1856 (March 21), she again left Scutari for Balaclava, in consequence of an urgent appeal from the hospitals of the Land Transport Corps, and she remained there till the beginning of July. She left Scutari for England on July 28.

Miss Nightingale's work during her second and third visits to the Crimea (of two months in 1855, and of three in 1856) was the most arduous, and in some respects the most worrying, of all her labours in the East. The distances between the several Crimean hospitals, enumerated in an earlier chapter (p. 254), were great; how bad were the roads is known to every one who has read anything about the Crimean War; and Miss Nightingale experienced much of the rigour of a Crimean winter. “The extraordinary exertions she imposed upon herself would have been perfectly incredible,” wrote M. Soyer, “if they had not been witnessed[284] by many. I can vouch for the fact, having frequently accompanied her to the [Castle] Hospital as well as to the Monastery. The return from these places at night was a very dangerous experience, as the road led across a very uneven country. It was still more perilous when snow was upon the ground. I have seen her stand for hours at the top of a bleak rocky mountain near the Hospital, giving her instructions while the snow was falling heavily.” She had for some years been somewhat subject to rheumatism, and in the Crimea she was at times tortured by sciatica. But she was “acclimatised,” she said, and was strong to endure. Sometimes she spent long days in the saddle. At other times she drove in a rough cart. Her first conveyance was a cart—drawn by a mule and driven, adds the lively Soyer, by a donkey; and she suffered a nasty upset in it. Colonel McMurdo, Commandant of the Land Transport Corps,[195] then kindly gave her the best vehicle procurable. It has been dignified by the name of “Miss Nightingale's Carriage,” but was, in fact, a hooded baggage-car without springs.[196] Some time later M. Soyer identified the vehicle among other “Crimean effects” which were on sale at Southampton. It was shown at the Victorian Era Exhibition forty years later,[197] and is still preserved at Lea Hurst.

In this hooded vehicle, or on horseback, or if the roads were very bad on foot, Miss Nightingale made her rounds in all weathers, her headquarters being sometimes at the General and sometimes at the Castle Hospital. She never presumed on her sex to save herself trouble or fatigue at the expense of others. She was now without Mr. Bracebridge's assistance, but she found that the absence of a civilian go-between was no disadvantage. “A woman,” she said, “obtains from military courtesy (if she does not shock either their habits of business or their caste prejudices) what a man who pitted the civilian against the military effectually[285] hindered.” She superintended the nursing in all the hospitals under her orders. Of the hospital huts on the Genoese Heights, there is a vivid picture in Lady Hornby's Travels. “The first day of our arrival,” she wrote, May 1856, “we took a long ramble on the heights of Balaclava, by the old Genoese castle. On one side is a solitary and magnificent view of sea and cliffs; but pass a sharp and lofty turning, and the crowded port beneath, and all the active military movements, are instantly before your eyes. Higher up we came to Miss Nightingale's hospital huts, built of long planks, and adorned with neatly bordering flowers. The sea was glistening before us, and as we lingered to admire the fine view, one of the nurses, a kind, motherly-looking woman, came into the little porch, and invited us to enter and rest. A wooden stool was kindly offered to us by another and younger Sister. On the large deal table was a simple pot of wild flowers, so beautifully arranged, they instantly struck my eye. How charming the little deal house appeared to me, with its perfect cleanliness, its glorious view, and the health, contentment, and usefulness of its inmates! How respectable their few wants seemed; how suited their simple dress to the stern realities, as well as to the charities of life, and how fearlessly they reposed on the care and love of God in that lonely place, far away from all their friends; how earnestly they admired and tended the few spring flowers of a strange land,[198] these brave, quiet women, who had witnessed and helped to relieve so much suffering! This was the pleasantest visit I ever made. Miss Nightingale had been there but a few days before, and this deal room and stool were hers.”[199] Miss Nightingale established reading-rooms, bored for water to improve the supply near the hospitals, had the huts covered with felt for protection against the winter, and brought her extra-diet kitchens, with M. Soyer's good help, into full efficiency. In her absence the work had met with many difficulties from the supineness or hostility of officials towards what some regarded as her fads, and others as her interference. “In April,” she wrote to Mrs. Herbert from the Castle[286] Hospital (Nov. 17, 1855), “I undertook this Hospital, and from that time to this we cooked all the Extra Diet for 500 to 600 patients, and the whole diet for all the wounded officers by ourselves in a shed; and though I sent up a French cook in July to whom I gave £100 a year, I could not get an Extra Diet Kitchen built, promised me in May, till I came up this time to do it myself in October. During the whole of this time, every egg, every bit of butter, jelly, ale, and Eau de Cologne which the sick officers have had has been provided out of Mrs. Samuel Smith's or my private pocket. On Nov. 4 I opened my Extra Diet Kitchen.”


Miss Nightingale's work in the Crimea was attended by ceaseless worry. She had to fight her way into full authority. She knew that she would win, but her enemies were active, and were for the moment in possession of the field. “There is not an official,” she said, “who would not burn me like Joan of Arc if he could, but they know that the War Office cannot turn me out because the country is with me.” She was beset with jealousies in the Crimea, both in military and in medical quarters; and to make matters worse, religious, and even racial animosities mixed themselves up in the disputes. Lord Raglan, who believed in her and always supported her, was now dead; and by some strange omission, the instructions which had been sent to him from London at the time of her original appointment were unknown to his successors in the command. The words in the published instructions—“in Turkey”—gave a sort of technical excuse (as already mentioned) to jealous officials for regarding Miss Nightingale as an interloper in the Crimea. The point, however, had no substance; for there was a female nursing establishment already in the Crimea, which had received no separate or independent instructions, and which was yet supported by Government. By what authority could it be there, except as delegated from the Lady Superintendent in Chief? But the intrusion of Miss Nightingale was, I suppose, resented by some military officers the more at Balaclava than at Scutari, in proportion[287] as the scene was nearer to the front; how keen the resentment was, we have heard from Colonel Sterling. And as Headquarters were unsympathetic also, Miss Nightingale had an uphill task. “We get things done all the same,” she wrote to Mrs. Herbert, “only a little more slowly. When we have support at Headquarters matters advance faster, that is all. The real grievance against us is that, though subordinate to the Medical Chiefs in Office, we are superior to them in influence and in the chance of being heard at home. It is an anomaly, but so is war in England.” There had been in England no due provision for all the needs of the war. Miss Nightingale, seeing things that needed to be done, preferred to get them done by anomalous means rather than that by rule they should not be done at all.

That her analysis of the situation correctly explains the jealousy and opposition of the Medical Chiefs in Office may be gathered from their correspondence. The personal situation in the Crimea had not been eased by the statements of Mr. Bracebridge, already mentioned (p. 213). On his return home, he had not only extolled Miss Nightingale, but had made severe strictures upon the whole medical service in the East. His speech, delivered at a public meeting, was reported very fully in the Times (Oct. 16, 1855). Miss Nightingale was doubtless suspected of complicity in this attack; but in fact she was innocent, and she was quite as angry as were the doctors when she saw the report. Mr. Bracebridge was her friend, but truth and expediency were greater friends; and she proceeded to give Mr. Bracebridge a trenchant piece of her mind (Nov. 4). She objected to his speech: “First, because it is not our business, and I have expressly denied being a medical officer, and rejected all applications both of medical men and quacks to have their systems examined[200]; secondly, because it justifies all the attacks made against us for unwarrantable interference and criticism; and, thirdly, because I believe it to be utterly unfair.” And she proceeded in much detail to defend the doctors against Mr. Bracebridge's aspersions. His indiscretion doubtless raised prejudice in medical[288] quarters against Miss Nightingale; but there were other and deeper causes at work. Dr. Hall, the Principal Medical Officer in the Crimea, was, in some sort, the person most responsible, individually, for the state of things which had stirred so much outcry in England; and Mr. Sidney Herbert at a very early stage had put his finger on Dr. Hall's touchy spot. “I cannot help feeling,” he had written to Lord Raglan in December 1854, “that Dr. Hall resents offers of assistance as being slurs on his preparations.”[201] Dr. Hall wrote fiercely about “a system of detraction against our establishments kept up by interested parties under the garb of philanthropy.” Some became detractors, he went on, “to make their mission of importance, and they wish the world to believe that all the ameliorations in our institutions are entirely owing to their own exertions or those of a few nurses; and I am sorry to say some of our own department have pandered to this, and have been rewarded for it.” Miss Nightingale's remark upon this tirade was characteristic: “One is tempted to ask, have no others been rewarded who have nothing to show for the result of this same boasted hospital system, but the wreck of an Army, which they did not advise even the most ordinary precautions (as to diet and clothing) to prevent, and the graves at Scutari.”[202] To me, after much reading of the documents, it seems that Dr. Hall was the victim of a false position. He had been appointed Medical Inspector-General in the Crimea when he was still in India, and he did not arrive on the scene in time to think out the preparations properly. Miss Nightingale never allowed personal feeling to affect the impartiality of her judgments. Dr. Hall disputed her authority and resented her interference. She fought him, and in the end she beat him; but there are passages in her letters which bear testimony to his good services and high capacity in many respects. Nor were their personal relations unfriendly; but she saw in him throughout an antagonist influence. The Deputy Purveyor-in-Chief, Mr. David Fitz-Gerald, regarded her coming[289] to the Crimea with equal, or greater, suspicion and dislike, and he sent home to the War Office a Confidential Report, criticizing the female nursing establishment, and making out an argumentative case against the desirability of sanctioning Miss Nightingale's claim to be the Lady Superior of the Crimean nurses. Miss Nightingale had been shown these reports by a friend, and she was angry at what she considered a campaign of secret hostility against her.

To add to the mischief, the professional difficulty (as I may call it) became entangled with the religious difficulty. Some of the nuns who had previously been assigned to the hospitals at Koulali, proceeded in October 1855, at Dr. Hall's instance, to the General Hospital at Balaclava. This was naturally regarded by Miss Nightingale as an act of usurpation upon her authority; it gave an undue proportion of Roman Catholics to a particular hospital; and, moreover, she did not consider these particular ladies, or their Reverend Mother, Mrs. Bridgeman, wholly efficient. They were most devoted and self-sacrificing, and their spiritual ministrations were admirable, but as nurses and administrators she thought less highly of them. Mr. Fitz-Gerald, on the other hand, was strongly prepossessed, as independent observers thought, in their favour. As ill-luck would have it, these ladies were for the most part Irish, and the matter was made to assume the aspect of a racial-religious feud. People who could not understand Miss Nightingale's single-minded devotion to efficient and business-like administration supposed that she was actuated by prejudice. Dr. Hall was not moved by any such suspicion; but the ladies, whom Miss Nightingale regarded as not among the more efficient of her staff of nurses, were his nominees, and he strongly backed them. There was a somewhat similar dispute about another transference of nurses in the Crimea made without Miss Nightingale's sanction; and some of the women, taking their cue from their superiors, were inclined to question and flout her authority. “I don't know what she wants here,” said one, when the Lady Superintendent appeared on the scene.[203]



All this controversy raised Miss Nightingale's vexation to white heat. On January 7, 1856, she wrote an official letter to the War Office, complaining of the encroachment on her department by the Medical Officer. In semi-private letters to Mr. Sidney Herbert (Feb. 20, 21, 1856) she formulated her grievances. Dr. Hall was “attempting to root her out of the Crimea.” Other officials were traducing her behind her back. The War Office was not adequately supporting her. “It is profuse,” she said, “in tinsel and empty praise which I do not want, and does not give me the real business-like efficient standing which I do want.” She begged Mr. Herbert to move in the House of Commons for the production of correspondence, so that the public might be able to judge between her and those who were traducing her, and striving to thwart her work. Mr. Herbert, in a reply[204] marked alike by good sense and good feeling, ventured “to criticize and to scold” his friend. “You have been overdone,” he said, “with your long, anxious, harassing work. You see jealousies and meannesses all round you. You hear of one-sided, unfair, and unjust reports made of your proceedings and of those under you. But you over-rate their importance, you attribute too much motive to them, and you write upon them with an irritation and vehemence which detracts very much from the weight which would attach to what you say.” There are letters to show that this was the opinion also of the more sagacious among Miss Nightingale's nearest friends. To move for papers would, Mr. Herbert added, be very injudicious. There was no public attack, and the publication of papers would call needless attention to disputes. The answers to her critics, which she had sent home, appeared to Mr. Herbert to be complete, and he understood that the War Office so considered them. Moreover the Secretary of State was about to issue orders which would clear up Miss Nightingale's position once and for all. And her own letters, though conclusive as to the facts, had in their tone done herself “less than justice.”

All this was excellent advice, and Miss Nightingale took[291] it in good part, but not, in a phrase now sanctioned in high politics, “lying down.” She replied at great length and with full vigour. The gist of her letter was that it was easy to be calm and “statesmanlike” at a distance, but difficult not to be angry and downright when you were on the spot finding your work for the sick and wounded hampered at every turn. She had been criticized, among other things, for interference in the Purveyor's sphere. Her reply to Mr. Herbert on this point is decidedly effective, and incidentally throws light on the hardness of her life in the Crimea. Happily, she said, she had brought with her adequate supplies for herself and her staff. If she had not, they would have been in danger of starvation:—

(Miss Nightingale to Sidney Herbert.) Crimea, April 4 [1856]. I arrived here March 24 with Nurses for the two Land Transport Hospitals required by Dr. Hall in writing on March 10.[205] We have now been ten days without rations. Lord Cardigan was surprised to find his horses die at the end of a fortnight because they were without rations, and said that they “chose” to do it, obstinate brutes! The Inspector-General and Purveyors wish to see whether women can live as long as horses without rations. I thank God my charge has felt neither cold nor hunger (and is in efficient working order, having cooked and administered in both Hospitals the whole of the extras for 260 bad cases ever since the first day of their arrival). I have, however, felt both. I do not wish to make a martyr of myself; within sight of the graves of the Crimean Army of last winter (too soon forgotten in England), it would be difficult to do so. I am glad to have had the experience. For cold and hunger wonderfully sharpen the wits.… During these ten days I have fed and warmed these women at my own private expense by my own private exertions. I have never been off my horse till 9 or 10 at night, except when it was too dark to walk home over these crags even with a lantern, when I have gone on foot. During the greater part of the day I have been without food necessarily, except a little brandy and water (you see I am taking to drinking like my comrades of the Army). But the object of my coming has been attained, and my women have neither starved nor suffered.

The memory of the petty persecution to which she was subjected by hostile and jealous officials in the Crimea[292] never faded from Miss Nightingale's mind. A reference to it will be found in a much later chapter,[206] and she often mentioned it in her notes and letters. But, though she fought the officials hard, she never showed temper in public, and she did not allow either the obstruction itself or her vexation at it to impede her work. She had come to the Crimea prepared, and her private stores sufficed to feed her staff till official obstruction was removed; whilst as for her vexation, she was careful not to show it lest her work should suffer.

Meanwhile a dispatch was already on its way from the War Department, which gave to Miss Nightingale the full support for which she had asked. The dispatch was not settled, however, without a stiff fight against it by subordinates at the War Office, who sided with Sir John Hall and Mr. Fitz-Gerald. The curious in such matters may consult the minutes and counter-minutes upon Miss Nightingale's letter of protest preserved in the archives of the War Office. Lord Panmure, however, took her view. Even when the lines of the dispatch were settled in accordance with his instructions, protests were still made against a policy which, in supporting Miss Nightingale, would censure Dr. Hall, but the Minister was not moved. He had already, on November 5, 1855, written to Miss Nightingale herself, stating that Mrs. Bridgeman was not justified in acting as she had done.[207] He now, on February 25, 1856, wrote to the Commander of the Forces directing that Dr. Hall's attention should be called to the irregularity of his proceeding in introducing nurses into a Hospital without previous communication with Miss Nightingale, and that the following statement should be issued:—

The Secretary of State for War has addressed the following dispatch to the Commander of the Forces, with a desire that it should be promulgated in General Orders: “It appears to me that the Medical Authorities of the Army do not correctly comprehend Miss Nightingale's position as it has been officially recognized by me. I therefore think it right to state to you briefly for their guidance, as well as for the information of the Army, what the position of that excellent lady is. Miss Nightingale[293] is recognized by Her Majesty's Government as the General Superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment of the military hospitals of the Army. No lady, or sister, or nurse is to be transferred from one hospital to another, or introduced into any hospital, without consultation with her. Her instructions, however, require to have the approval of the Principal Medical Officer in the exercise of the responsibility thus vested in her. The Principal Medical Officer will communicate with Miss Nightingale upon all subjects connected with the Female Nursing Establishment, and will give his directions through that lady.”[208]

Miss Nightingale's strong feeling in this matter was not caused, as a hasty, prejudiced, or uncharitable judgment might suggest, by wounded amour propre. It was based on the conviction which experience had given her, that only by the strictest discipline exercised through properly constituted authority, could the experiment of female nursing in military hospitals be made successful. In the Confidential Reports which were sent to the War Office criticizing the experiment, advantage was taken of mistakes and misdeeds which Miss Nightingale felt that she might have prevented had she been armed earlier with explicit and plenary authority.[209]

Armed with this full authority, Miss Nightingale proceeded to make such transferences among the nurses as she deemed necessary in the cause of efficiency. She had no desire to remove Mrs. Bridgeman and the nuns; she was anxious only to make some reforms in their administration, as she would now have express authority to do; and she begged Mrs. Bridgeman to remain. Sir John Hall and the Deputy Purveyor-in-Chief, smarting under the War Office's edict, seem to have laid their heads together, and advised Mrs. Bridgeman to resign.[210] “It must rest with you to decide,” wrote Sir John, “whether you wish to remain subservient to the control of Miss Nightingale or not.” She and her Sisterhood, resigning forthwith (March 28), returned to England, and Miss Nightingale filled their places by[294] others of the staff. In her retrospect of the whole campaign, she regarded the spring of 1856 in the Crimea as one of the three periods when her nurses gave the greatest proof of their utility.[211] There was then great sickness among the Land Transport Corps. The other two periods were on the arrival of the wounded from Inkerman at Scutari (p. 181), and “during the heavy summer work of nursing the wounded at Balaclava in 1855.” There is, I think, no memorial of Miss Nightingale in the Crimea. But on the heights above Balaclava, visible from a great distance at sea, is a tall marble cross, erected to the memory of the heroic dead, “and to those Sisters of Charity who had fallen in their service.” The words engraved upon it are, “Lord, have mercy upon us.”[212]

Miss Nightingale was much exhausted by her labours in the Crimea, and, a few weeks before she left it for the last time, she wrote some testamentary dispositions which, in the event of her death, were to be handed to General Storks, in command at Scutari: “As you,” she wrote to him (Balaclava, May 3, 1856), “are of all those in office, whether at home or abroad, the officer who has given the most steady and consistent support to the work entrusted to me by Her Majesty's Government, I venture to appeal to you to continue that support after my death, and to carry out as far as possible my last requests.” She expressed an “earnest desire” that Mrs. Shaw Stewart should be appointed to succeed her. She left messages of commendation and pecuniary gifts to the Reverend Mother of the Bermondsey Nuns, Sister Bertha Turnbull, and Mrs. Roberts: “To the Queen I beg humbly to restore the ‘Order’ with which Her Majesty was pleased to decorate me. If she sees fit to return it to my family, it will be prized the more by them. I cannot express the support which the approbation of my Sovereign has been to me in all my trials. But I would assure Her that neither by word or thought or deed have I ever for one moment been unworthy of Her service or of the[295] charge entrusted to me by Her. I would wish the Commander of the Forces in the East, in restoring to Her this jewel, to assure Her of this.” There were other requests, but her last thought was of the Army: “I would wish that I could have done something more to prove to the noble Army, whom I have so cared for, my respect and esteem. If the Commander of the Forces would put into General Orders a message of farewell from me, of remembrance of the time when we lived and suffered and worked together, I should be grateful to him.” She was to be spared to render services to the British Army greater than any she had been able to render in the Crimea.


At Scutari, during the last months of Miss Nightingale's sojourn (Nov. 1855—March 1856, and July 1856), her work was as continuous as in the Crimea. Her companions, Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, had returned to England in August 1855, and their place was taken by Mrs. Samuel Smith. From her letters we get a glimpse of Florence's daily toil at Scutari. “Mine,” wrote the aunt (Dec. 31, 1855), “is mere copying; hers is perplexing brain-work. I go to bed at 11; she habitually writes till 1 or 2, sometimes till 3 or 4; has in the last pressure given up 3 whole nights to it. We seldom get through even our little dinner (after it has been put off one, two, or three hours on account of her visitors), without her being called away from it. I never saw a greater picture of exhaustion than Flo last night at ten (Jan. 7). ‘Oh, do go to bed,’ I said. ‘How can I; I have all those letters to write,’ pointing to the divan covered with papers. ‘Write them to-morrow.’ ‘To-morrow will bring its own work.’ And she sat up the greater part of the night.” But with all this pressure, there was no flurry. “Such questions as food, rest, temperature,” wrote her aunt in another letter (Jan. 25, 1856), “never interfere with her during her work; I suppose she has gained some advantage over other people in her entire absence of thought about these things; that is, her mind overtasked with great things has not these little questions to entertain. She is[296] extremely quick and clear too, as you know, in her work. This I suppose has increased upon her, and she can turn from one thing or one person to another, when in the midst of business, in a most extraordinary manner. She has attained a most wonderful calm and presence of mind. She is, I think, often deeply impressed, and depressed, though she does not show it outwardly, but no irritation of temper, no hurry or confusion of manner, ever appears for a moment.” Mrs. Smith's work was not only copying. Mrs. Bracebridge had called herself “Boots,” because she did all Florence's odd jobs, and to this part Mrs. Smith had succeeded. “Aunt Mai,” who had helped so greatly in Florence's struggle for independence, must have felt rewarded for her self-sacrifice in leaving husband, home, and children, by being able to stand at her niece's side through some part of the life of action.

For Christmas Day (1855) Miss Nightingale accepted an invitation to the British Embassy, and another guest has drawn a picture of her on this occasion:—

By the side of the Ambassadress was a tall, fashionable, haughty beauty. But the next instant my eye wandered to a lady modestly standing on the other side of Lady Stratford. At first I thought she was a nun, from her black dress and close cap. She was not introduced, and yet Edmund and I looked at each other at the same moment to whisper Miss Nightingale. Yes, it was Florence Nightingale, greatest of all now in name and honour among women. I assure you that I was glad not to be obliged to speak just then, for I felt quite dumb as I looked at her wasted figure and the short brown hair combed over her forehead like a child's, cut so when her life was despaired of from a fever but a short time ago. Her dress, as I have said, was black, made high to the throat, its only ornament being a large enamelled brooch, which looked to me like the colours of a regiment surmounted with a wreath of laurel, no doubt some graceful offering from our men. To hide the close white cap a little, she had tied a white crape handkerchief over the back of it, only allowing the border of lace to be seen; and this gave the nun-like appearance which first struck me on her entering the room; otherwise Miss Nightingale is by no means striking in appearance. Only her plain black dress, quiet manner and great renown told so powerfully altogether in that assembly of brilliant dress and uniforms. She is very slight, rather above the middle height; her face is long and thin, but this may be from recent illness and[297] great fatigue. She has a very prominent nose, slightly Roman; and small dark eyes, kind, yet penetrating; but her face does not give you at all the idea of great talent. She looks a quiet, persevering, orderly, lady-like woman.… She was still very weak, and could not join in the games, but she sat on a sofa, and looked on, laughing until the tears came into her eyes.[213]

It was during this latter portion of Miss Nightingale's sojourn at Scutari that she made a new friendship, which was of some importance to her work. In October 1855 Colonel Lefroy,[214] confidential adviser on scientific matters to the Secretary for War, was sent out by Lord Panmure to report privately on the state of the hospitals. He formed a high opinion of Miss Nightingale's work and abilities, and a friendship with her then began which continued to the end of his life. Lord Panmure's confidence in her, and the full authority with which, as already related (p. 292), he invested her, were partly due to Colonel Lefroy's reports.[215] At the time when the matter was under discussion, he had returned to his post at the War Office, and the papers were sent to him. His view of the case was the same as Miss Nightingale's, and he expressed it with a force inspired by his personal observation, alike of her services and of her difficulties. The medical men, he wrote in one minute, are jealous of her mission. “Dr. Hall would gladly upset it to-morrow.” “A General Order,” he wrote in another minute, “recognizing and defining her position would save her much annoyance and harassing correspondence. It is due, I think, to all she has done and has sacrificed. Among other reasons for it, it will put a stop to any spirit of growing independence among these ladies and nurses who are still under her, a spirit encouraged with no friendly intention in more than one quarter.” For many years Colonel Lefroy was one of Miss Nightingale's most constant correspondents on subjects connected with military hospitals and nurses, and they often co-operated in schemes for the welfare of[298] the soldiers. Colonel Lefroy's services to the army, both in scientific matters and in philanthropic directions, were long and distinguished. Miss Nightingale had detractors and opponents in the service; but the more progressive an officer was, the more probably may he be included among her admirers and supporters.



(July–August 1856)

I love the people,
But do not like to stage me to their eyes.
Though it do well, I do not relish well
Their loud applause and aves vehement.


Peace was signed at Paris on March 30, 1856; but there was still work to be done in the Crimean hospitals, and Miss Nightingale remained at Balaclava, as we have seen, till the beginning of July. On her return to Scutari she was occupied in winding up the affairs of her mission. Meanwhile the nurses were already beginning to go home. The Reverend Mother (Moore), who had come out from Bermondsey with the first party, left the East at the end of April. She had been throughout one of the mainstays of Miss Nightingale, who wrote to her thus from Balaclava (April 29): “God's blessing and my love and gratitude with you, as you well know. You know well too that I shall do everything I can for the Sisters whom you have left me. But it will not be like you. Your wishes will be our law. And I shall try and remain in the Crimea for their sakes as long as we are any of us there. I do not presume to express praise or gratitude to you, Revd. Mother, because it would look as if I thought you had done the work not unto God but unto me. You were far above me in fitness for the General Superintendency, both in worldly talent of administration, and far more in the spiritual qualifications which God values in a Superior. My being placed over you in an unenviable reign in the East was my misfortune and not my[300] fault.” Another of those whom Miss Nightingale described as her mainstays was Mrs. Shaw Stewart, who served in the Crimea as Superintendent of the nurses, successively in the “General” and in the “Castle” Hospital, and of her Miss Nightingale wrote in terms of similarly grateful fervour. I quote a few of these appreciations (and many more might be added), because it has been supposed, on the strength of isolated expressions penned in moments of vexation or despondency, that Miss Nightingale was ungenerous in recognition of the work of others.[216] Nothing could be further from the fact. She was, it is true, unsparing in blame wherever she saw, or thought she saw, incompetence, or unfaithfulness, or a lack of single-mindedness; she was also impatient of opposition; and hers was not one of those soft natures which readily forget and forgive. But wherever efficiency and faithful zeal were to be found, she was quick to recognize them, and she was as unstinted in praise as in blame. Of Mrs. Shaw Stewart, she wrote to Lady Cranworth (who had succeeded Lady Canning in good offices towards the nurses): “Without her our Crimean work would have come to grief—without her judgment, her devotion, her unselfish, consistent looking to the one great end, viz. the carrying out the work as a whole—without her untiring zeal, her watchful care of the nurses, her accuracy in all trusts and accounts, her truth, her faithfulness. Her praise and her reward are in higher hands than mine.” Of the same “noble, brave” lady, Miss Nightingale had written to Mrs. Bracebridge (Nov. 4, 1855): “Faithfulness is so eminently her, that I hear her Master saying, Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” I could multiply Miss Nightingale's praises of her fellow-workers, for of every one of them she sent home to Lady Cranworth a terse character-sketch. This was done mainly for the sake of the professional nurses, in order that they might be helped to find suitable situations on their return. The sketches show how close a touch the Lady-in-Chief kept upon her staff, and they reveal no reluctance either to criticize or to praise. It would be invidious to particularize further than[301] to cite Miss Nightingale's appreciation of her third mainstay, Mrs. Roberts, who came out as a paid nurse with her in October 1854, and served throughout the war: “Having been 23 years Sister in St. Thomas's Hospital, her qualifications as a nurse were, of course, infinitely superior to any other of those with me. She is indeed a surgical nurse of the first order. Her valuable services have been recognized even and most of all by the surgeons (of Scutari, where she has principally been and where, after Inkerman, her exertions were unremitting). Her total superiority to all the vices of a Hospital Nurse, her faithfulness to the work, her disinterested love of duty and vigilant care of her patients, her power of work equal to that of ten, have made her one of the most important persons of the expedition.”


On June 3 the Secretary of State wrote to Miss Nightingale, “as the period is now fast approaching when your generous and disinterested labours will cease, with the occasion which called them forth,” to inquire what arrangements should be made for her return. “In thus contemplating,” he continued, “the close of those anxious and trying duties, which you imposed upon yourself solely with a view to alleviate the sufferings of Her Majesty's Army in the East, and which you have accomplished with a singleness of purpose beyond all praise, it is not necessary for me to inform you how highly Her Majesty appreciates the services you have rendered to Her Army; as Her Majesty has already conveyed to you a signal proof of Her gracious approbation. But I desire now, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, to offer you our most cordial thanks for your humane and generous exertions. In doing so, I feel confident that I simply express the unanimous feelings of the people of this country.”

There were things which Miss Nightingale valued more highly than the approbation of the people. One of them was correctly surmised by Sir Henry Storks. Writing to her from Headquarters at Scutari, on July 25, he said:—

I have received your kind note with mingled feelings of[302] extreme pleasure and regret—the former, because I appreciate your good opinion very highly; the latter, because your note is a Farewell. It will ever be to me a source of pride and gratification to have been associated with you in the work which you have performed with so much devotion and with so much courage. Amidst the acknowledgments you have received from all classes, and from many quarters, I feel persuaded there are none more pleasing to yourself than the grateful recognition of the poor men you came to succour and to save. You will ever live in their remembrance, be assured of that; for amongst the faults and vices, which ignorance has produced, and a bad system has fostered and matured, ingratitude is not one of the defects of the British soldier. I indulge the hope that you will permit me hereafter to continue an acquaintance (may I say friendship?) which I highly value and appreciate.

The gratitude of the British soldier was very dear to Miss Nightingale, and the disposition which she ultimately made of her Crimean decorations was characteristic. Before she left the East, the Sultan had presented her with a diamond bracelet and a sum of money for the nurses and hospitals, both of which presents the Queen permitted her to accept.[217] The bracelet, with the badge given by the Queen, may be seen to-day in the Museum of the United Service Institution, placed there in accordance with her desire that they should be deposited “where the soldiers could see them.”

At length it was time for Miss Nightingale, having seen off the last of her nurses, and filed the last of her inventories and accounts, to leave also. The Government had offered her a British man-of-war for the voyage home. The view she was likely to take of such a proposal had been correctly surmised in the House of Lords some weeks before. On May 5 Lord Ellesmere moved the Address on the conclusion of peace. He was something of a poet, as well as a statesman, and this was his last appearance in the House. In a speech, which was much admired at the time, and which may still be read with pleasure as a specimen of the more ornate kind of parliamentary eloquence, he paid a tribute to the memory of Lord Raglan, and then passed by a happy transition to the heroine of the war: “My Lords, the agony[303] of that time has become matter of history. The vegetation of two successive springs has obscured the vestiges of Balaclava and Inkerman. Strong voices now answer to the roll-call, and sturdy forms now cluster round the colours. The ranks are full, the hospitals are empty. The angel of mercy still lingers to the last on the scene of her labours; but her mission is all but accomplished. Those long arcades of Scutari in which dying men sat up to catch the sound of her footstep or the flutter of her dress, and fell back content to have seen her shadow as it passed, are now comparatively deserted. She may probably be thinking how to escape, as best she may on her return, the demonstrations of a nation's appreciation of the deeds and motives of Florence Nightingale.”


The offer of the man-of-war was declined; and Miss Nightingale, with her aunt, sailed in the Danube for Athens, Messina, and Marseilles. A Queen's messenger was in attendance to help the travellers with passports. They stayed a night in a humble hotel in Paris (August 4), and travelling thence, as Miss Smith, she reached London next day. The “return of Florence Nightingale is on every one's lips,” said a letter of the time, and all the newspaper-world was alert to discover her movements. “Weary and worn as she is,” wrote her aunt, “I cannot tell you the dread she has of the receptions with which she is threatened.” It became known that on her arrival in England she would proceed at once to her country-home. Triumphal arches, addresses from mayors and corporations, and a carriage drawn by her neighbours were at once suggested; but Miss Nightingale had prudently withheld information of her time-table even from her family, and the public reception was avoided. It had been proposed, too, that the reception should be military. “The whole regiments” of the Coldstreams, the Grenadiers, and the Fusiliers “would like to come, but as that was impossible, they desired to send down their three Bands to meet her at the station and play her home, whenever she might arrive, whether by day or by night, if only they could find out when.” But the attention[304] even of her soldiers was eluded. She lay lost for a night in London, and at eight o'clock next morning she presented herself, according to a promise given to the Bermondsey Nuns, at their Convent door. It was the first day of their annual Retreat, and she rested with them for a few hours. Then, taking the train, she reached her home on August 7, 1856, after nearly two years' absence in the East, arriving at an unexpected hour, having walked up from the little country station. “A little tinkle of the small church bell on the hills, and a thanksgiving prayer at the little chapel next day, were,” wrote her sister, “all the innocent greeting.”

Florence's spoils of war, as Lady Verney wrote to Mrs. Gaskell, arrived in advance, and were characteristic. There was, first, William, a one-legged sailor boy, who was ten months in her hospitals. Occupation was found for him. Next there was Peter,[218] a little Russian prisoner who came into hospital, and of whom, as he was an orphan, she took charge. “One of the Lady Nurses was his theological instructor, and asked him where he would go when he died if he were a good boy? He answered, ‘To Miss Nightingale.’ Thirdly, there was a big Crimean puppy, given her by the soldiers. He was found in a hole in the rocks near Balaclava, and was called ‘Rousch,’ which is supposed to be ‘soldier’ in Russian. A little Russian cat, a similar gift, died on the road; but the three remaining are the happiest things I have seen for some time, careering about in the intervals of school, where they are made much of, and ‘glory’ is more agreeable to them than to their mistress!” But Florence had another Crimean spoil, unknown, perhaps, to her sister, which she accounted one of the most sacred of her possessions. It was a bunch of grass which she had “picked out of the ground watered by our men's blood at Inkerman.”


“If ever I live to see England again,” she had written in November 1855, “the western breezes of my hill-top home will be my first longing, though Olympus with its[305] snowy cap looks fair over our blue Eastern sea.” It was to Lea Hurst, then, that she went on her return. It was there, ten years before, that she had found a fortnight's happiness in the humble work of parish nursing and visiting, and had thought to herself that with a continuation of such life she would be content.[219] The aspirations of her youth were to receive, as this second Part of the volume has shown, a larger, a fuller, and a more conspicuous attainment. Yet it would be a mistake to regard Miss Nightingale's mission in the Crimean War either as the summit of her attainment or the fulfilment of her life. Rather was it a starting-point.

Her work in the East did, it is true, attain some great ends, and satisfy in some measure the aspiration of her mind and heart. “She has done a great deed,” wrote a friend in December 1854, “not less than that of those who stood at Inkerman or advanced at the Alma; and she has made the first move towards wiping away a reproach from this country—that our women could not do what others do, irreproachably, and with advantage to their fellow-creatures.” She had proved that there was room for nurses in British military hospitals. She had shown the way to a new and high calling for women. “What Florence has done,” wrote Lady Verney to a friend (April 1856), “towards raising the standard of women's capabilities and work is most important. It is quite curious every day how questions arise regarding them which are answered quite differently, even when she is not alluded to, from what they would have been 18 months ago.” Lord Stanley, in the speech at Manchester already mentioned, had made the same point. “Mark,” he said, “what, by breaking through customs and prejudices, Miss Nightingale has effected for her sex. She has opened to them a new profession, a new sphere of usefulness. I do not suppose that, in undertaking her mission, she thought much of the effect which it might have on the social position of women. Yet probably no one of those who made that question a special study has done half as much as she towards its settlement. A claim for more extended freedom of action, based on proved public usefulness in the highest sense of the word, with the whole nation to look on[306] and bear witness, is one which must be listened to, and cannot be easily refused.” Lord Stanley was mistaken in supposing that Miss Nightingale thought little of the effect of her mission upon the position of women; for, though she had misgivings about “woman's missionaries,” yet to make “a better life for woman”[220] was an object very near her heart. When she was in the Crimea, working as hard as any of the men, confronting disease and death with the bravest of them, administering, reforming, counselling as energetically as the best of them, this resolute woman felt that she and her companions had raised their sex to the height of a great occasion. “War,” she wrote to her friend, Mr. Bracebridge (Nov. 4, 1855), “makes Deborahs and Absaloms and Achitophels; and when, if ever the Magnificat has been true, has it been more true than now, every word of it? My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden.” The words, which had often been in her mouth in moments of despondency and thwarted yearning,[221] came to her with the sense of happy fulfilment when she had been able to act as the handmaiden of God in the service of the sick and wounded soldiers. Her sister, understanding her better in the years of attainment than in those of aspiration, wrote to her (Nov. 15, 1855): “What anxious work you have upon you, my Greatheart, and yet in spite of it all have you not found your true home—the home of your spirit?”

All this was true. Yet Miss Nightingale's Crimean mission was, in the scheme of her life as she had planned it, and in the facts of her life so far as failing health permitted, not so much a climax, as an episode. It was an episode remarkable in itself, and it had given her a world-wide reputation; but in reputation she saw nothing except an opportunity for further work. “The abilities which she has displayed,” said Mr. Sidney Herbert in Willis's Rooms, “cannot be allowed to slumber. So long as she lives, her labours are marked out for her. The diamond has shown itself, and it must not be allowed to return to the mine.”[307] Her friend well knew that he was only expressing the feelings of her own mind. What she sought on her return to England was to utilize her reputation and her experience for the furtherance of her ideals. Her experiences during the Crimean War had enlarged the scope of her work. She had gained an insight into military administration, and had shown a grasp of the subject, which had caused the Queen and Prince to “wish we had her at the War Office.” Her first duty, then, was to use her experience, so far as opportunity offered, to improve the medical administration of the Army. But the main desire of her life had been to raise nursing to the rank of a trained calling. Her mission to the East had not accomplished this object. It had only advertised it, and for the rest had shown how urgently the thing needed to be done. The world praised her achievement. She was rather conscious of its shortcoming, and of the obstacles and difficulties with which it had been attended. She came back from the East more resolved than ever to be a pioneer in the reform of nursing.

But first she needed rest and seclusion. Rest, in which to recuperate from the long strain of labours, hardships, and anxieties. Seclusion, in which to hide herself from publicity and applause. The world praised her self-sacrifice. She felt that she had made none. Rather had she been privileged to attain that harmony between the soul of a human being and its appointed work, in which, according to her philosophy, lay the union of man with the Divine Spirit. She shrank from glory in dread of vain-glory. “‘Paid by the world, what dost thou owe Me?’ God might question.” “I believe,” she had written to her father in 1854, shortly before her Call to the Crimea came, “that there is, within and without human nature, a revelation of eternal existence, eternal progress for human nature. At the same time I believe that to do that part of this world's work which harmonizes, accords with the idiosyncrasy of each of us, is the means by which we may at once render this world the habitation of the Divine Spirit in Man, and prepare for other such work in other of the worlds which surround us. The Kingdom of Heaven is within us. Those words seem to me the most of a revelation, of a New Testament, of a Gospel—of[308] any that are recorded to have been spoken by our Saviour.” Her period of rest was to be very short, as we shall learn; but let us leave her communing silently in her chamber with such thoughts, till another Part opens a new chapter of activity in her life.


[69] For the actual number, see below, p. 149.

[70] Life of Lord Houghton, vol. i. p. 521.

[71] This famous letter—obviously private at the time—was printed in extenso, for a controversial purpose (see below, p. 245), in the Daily News of October 28, 1854. Miss Nightingale was much distressed when she heard of the publication, and her family could not think how it had “got into the papers”; but they had shown it, and copies of it, too widely.

[72] The text of the instructions may be found in the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, October 1910.

[73] Stanmore, vol. i. p. 342.

[74] Miss Jones resigned her appointment at St. John's House in 1868, owing to differences of opinion with the Council, and set up a private nursing establishment. She died in 1887.

[75] Stanmore, vol. i. p. 342.

[76] From the Life and Death of Athena, an Owlet from the Parthenon, a manuscript book charmingly written and illustrated by Lady Verney. She wrote it in 1855, and sent it to Scutari “to try and make Flo and Mrs. Bracebridge laugh when F. was recovering from her fever.”

[77] Letter to Captain Galton, May 5, 1863.

[78] The Statement (see Bibliography A, No. 5).

[79] Statement, pp. 3–4.

[80] Roebuck Committee, Q. 14625.

[81] Pincoffs, p. 79.

[82] See on this point the references given below, p. 210 n.

[83] Statement, p. 13 n.

[84] Notes (Bibliography A, No. 8), sec. iii. p. xxxiii.

[85] Grant, p. 174.

[86] For a lively description of like discomforts endured by her staff, see Eastern Hospitals, vol. i. pp. 91–94.

[87] J. B. Atkins, Life of Sir W. H. Russell, vol. i. p. 143.

[88] Notes, sec. i. p. xxii.

[89] This Commission is referred to on later pages as “The Duke of Newcastle's.”

[90] Notes, sec. iii. pp. iii., ix.

[91] If any reader desires to be sickened, I recommend to him the Report on the Hospitals by the Sanitary Commissioners of 1855. And if any one desires to find painful details under some of these heads detailed above, without recourse to Blue-books, he may be referred to the report in Hansard of the speech made by Mr. Augustus Stafford (an eye-witness of what he described) in the House of Commons, Jan. 29, 1855.

[92] Roebuck Committee, Fifth Report, pp. 17, 19.

[93] Dean Stanley, Memorials of Edward and Catherine Stanley, 2nd ed., p. 335. So, too, Mr. Sidney Herbert, in his speech at Willis's Rooms on Nov. 29, 1855, referred to her as “a woman of genius.”

[94] Statement to Subscribers, p. vii.

[95] See Pincoffs, p. 79.

[96] Eastern Hospitals, vol. i. p. 71.

[97] Notes, p. 152.

[98] Stanmore, vol. i. p. 349.

[99] St. John's House: a Record, p. 8.

[100] W. E. Henley, In Hospital.

[101] Memories of the Crimea, by Sister Mary Aloysius, p. 17. The “frightful scarf” was a plain band worn, I suppose, over one arm and under the other.

[102] Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Bibliography B, No. 52), p. 393.

[103] The manuscript of this document is preserved among the archives of the War Office. The text of these, “the earliest rules defining the position and duties of a female nurse in any military hospital,” has been printed elsewhere (Bibliography B, No. 52).

[104] Especially by Lord Stanmore in his Memoir of Sidney Herbert. He handles it, I think, with some needless asperity, and he might have mentioned Mr. Herbert's letter which is here quoted.

[105] See below, p. 241.

[106] It was Mr. Bracebridge who took the notes of the interview.

[107] Miss Nightingale made some criticisms in an official letter to the War Office, May 1, 1855; printed at pp. 389, 390 of the pamphlet No. 52 in Bibliography B. And in another letter (March 5) she begged Lord Panmure to relieve her of responsibility for the hospitals at Koulali.

[108] In an appendix to the second edition (1880) of his Memorials of Edward and Catherine Stanley.

[109] Roebuck Committee, Q. 6140.

[110] This fact, reported by the Roebuck Committee, barbed one of Mr. Kinglake's sarcasms against the males (vi. 427 n.). It also greatly impressed John Bright. See Mr. G. M. Trevelyan's Life of him, 1913, p. 242.

[111] Statement, p. 26 n.

[112] Letter to Mr. Herbert, Feb. 5, 1855.

[113] Narrative of a Residence on the Bosphorus, p. 49. Any reader who wishes to be harrowed should read the following pages in Lady Alicia's Journal. She died in July 1913 in her 95th year.

[114] Roebuck Committee, Fifth Report, pp. 20, 21.

[115] Eastern Hospitals, vol. i. p. 68.

[116] Scutari and its Hospitals, by S. G. O., p. 24.

[117] Kinglake, p. 430. He cites an example of the complaints in a private letter from Sir John Burgoyne to Lord Raglan (March 27, 1855). The complaint of the “groove-going men” has been revived in our own day by Lord Stanmore, who complains of Miss Nightingale (Memoir of Sidney Herbert, vol. i. p. 381) that she got things (which the Purveyor had failed to get) instead of informing him where they could be got. She acted on what is a golden rule in cases of emergency. When she wanted a thing done without delay, she did it herself.

[118] Pincoffs, pp. 82–83; and see Hall, p. 378.

[119] La Guerre de Crimée, by M. L. Baudens, p. 104. Miss Nightingale paid a tribute to the “wise and enlightened sanitary views” of M. Baudens. See her Subsidiary Notes, p. 133 n.

[120] For a reference to this matter by Miss Nightingale, see below, p. 224.

[121] My statements are based on a letter from Miss Nightingale to Mr. Sidney Herbert of Dec. 5, 1854.

[122] Statement, pp. 19, 26. How greatly Miss Nightingale's strict rules were resented is shown by attacks upon her administration printed by certain of Miss Stanley's nurses. The most bitter of these is to be found in the text and appendix of The Autobiography of a Balaclava Nurse, 1857 (No. 13, Bibliography B). See also Eastern Hospitals, 3rd ed., pp. 44–5, 52–3.

[123] I take them from Pincoffs, pp. 58, 79.

[124] Memoir of Sidney Herbert, vol. i. pp. 357, 360. It will be noticed that he adopts some of Miss Nightingale's expressions.

[125] Life and Letters of Sir John Hall, p. 403, where “Bracebridge” is misprinted “Bainbridge.”

[126] Roebuck Committee, Second Report, p. 723.

[127] The classical passage in this sense is in the Life and Correspondence of the Rt. Hon. Hugh C. E. Childers, 1901, vol. ii. p. 104, where it is said, in relation to the Egyptian Expedition of 1882: “The Queen with her well-known solicitude for the welfare of her Army, wrote many letters at this time to Mr. Childers to satisfy herself that all precautions were being taken for the health and comfort of the troops: one day alone brought seventeen letters from Her Majesty, or her private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby.”

[128] The Letters of Queen Victoria, vol. iii. p. 79.

[129] See, on these two points, above, p. 206, and below, p. 242.

[130] In a letter to Colonel Lefroy, Aug. 25, 1856.

[131] Hodder's Life of Lord Shaftesbury, pp. 503 seq.

[132] Report of the Sanitary Commission, March 1857.

[133] For the figures, see below, pp. 254, 314.

[134] Statement to Subscribers, pp. 9–10, and letter to Sidney Herbert, January 22, 1855.

[135] See Panmure, vol. i. p. 356.

[136] In 1865 Miss Nightingale, after an energetic correspondence with the War Office, secured payment, long before promised, to an English custode.

[137] This is the “Palace Hospital.” See above, p. 174.

[138] See Pincoffs, p. 55.

[139] See the words cited at the head of this chapter, and below, pp. 324, 325.

[140] Scutari and its Hospitals, p. 25.

[141] Letter to Captain Galton, June 28, 1862. On the general question, see vol. ii. p. 64.

[142] It was a mot of Mr. Stafford's that he had only met two men in the East, Omar Pacha (the Turkish Commander) and Florence Nightingale.

[143] Scutari and its Hospitals, p. 27.

[144] See Kinglake, vol. vi. pp. 43, 436.

[145] Miss Nightingale's camp bedstead was at this time behind a screen in the kitchen, for she had given up her room to the widow of an officer.

[146] He had died in hospital from his wounds, and his body was to be sent to England.

[147] Stanmore, vol. i. p. 373.

[148] Scutari and its Hospitals, p. 26.

[149] Daily News, June 2, 1855.

[150] Wintle, p. 113.

[151] Pincoffs, p. 78, where a particular case in point is recorded.

[152] Eastern Hospitals, vol. i. pp. 69–70.

[153] The lamp of famous memory was a camp lamp, and was taken possession of by Mrs. Bracebridge.

[154] Below, p. 270.

[155] Below, p. 303.

[156] Wintle, pp. 106, 108.

[157] Invasion of the Crimea, vol. vi. p. 425.

[158] Life of Lord Houghton, vol. i. p. 505.

[159] Kinglake, p. 436.

[160] Notes, p. 94.

[161] See above, p. 154 n.

[162] Scutari and its Hospitals, p. 26.

[163] Blackwood, p. 232.

[164] See above, p. 192.

[165] Grant, p. 165.

[166] See the Autobiography of a Balaclava Nurse (a Welshwoman), vol. ii. p. 146.

[167] Life and Letters of Dean Stanley, vol. i. p. 492. There is a curious echo of “the Religious Difficulty” in Purcell's Life of Manning (vol. ii. p. 53, 1st ed.), where a letter of Feb. 13, 1856, will be found from Manning to Cardinal Wiseman, discussing whether Roman Catholic chaplains should or should not encourage collections for the Nightingale Fund. The solution suggested was “to let the collection be passively made without any ecclesiastical recognition of it.”

[168] Wilfred Ward's Life of Wiseman, vol. ii. p. 191. And see Miss Nightingale's own words given below, p. 299.

[169] See below, p. 292.

[170] See Bibliography B, No. 15.

[171] Robert Robinson, on his return to England, was sent to school and an agricultural college by Miss Nightingale, and obtained employment on Lord Berners's estate in Scotland. Miss Nightingale was constantly befriending him, e.g. in paying his expenses for a visit to London to see the Exhibition of 1862, and in sending him illustrated newspapers, and even the Times. There was another Crimean lad, besides Tommy, one William Jones, with a wooden leg. See below, p. 304, where account is also given of another protégé, Peter.

[172] See, e.g., below, pp. 317, 488, and Vol. II. p. 411.

[173] Found among the Prince Consort's papers, and printed in Sir Theodore Martin's Life of him, vol. iii. p. 214.

[174] Letter on the Volunteers, 1861. See Bibliography A, No. 25.

[175] Panmure Papers, vol. i. p. 215.

[176] Blackwood, p. 115.

[177] Memoirs of Lady Eastlake, vol. ii. p. 44.

[178] She was especially pleased when in March 1856 her name appeared for the first time in General Orders; see below, p. 293.

[179] Above, p. 173.

[180] The words in inverted commas were quotations from Miss Nightingale's letters. These had been shown to a friend, who thereupon wrote the lines, above quoted, and sent them to her.

[181] For the text see Bibliography B, No. 7. An article in the Quarterly Review of April 1867, entitled “The Nightingale in the East,” is “a study of the Poetry of Seven Dials.” The popular ditty about Miss Nightingale has been sung under many skies and to many audiences; never to greater effect than on Christmas Day 1870 in St. Thomas's Hospital (then in the Surrey Gardens). The nurses had arranged a Christmas treat; the children had sung hymns, and older patients had given popular songs of the day. A patient in the Accident Ward, a coal-heaver with a broken leg, then volunteered; when the words of the refrain caught the ears of the Nightingale nurses, “we dropped all work” (says one of them), “and listened intently till the song was over, all enthusiasm for our Chief.” The singer told them that he was an old soldier, and had been nursed by Miss Nightingale in the General Hospital at Balaclava.

[182] Report of the Nightingale Fund, “Addenda,” pp. 1–2.

[183] Reports of some of the meetings are collected in the Report of the Nightingale Fund. At Manchester (Jan. 17, 1856), in addition to Lord Stanley, Mr. Herbert and Mr. Milnes spoke; at Oxford (Jan. 23), Mr. Herbert again spoke; at Brighton (Jan. 14), Mr. Milnes.

[184] Speeches of the 15th Earl of Derby, 1894, vol. i. pp. 16, 18.

[185] Fitzmaurice, Life of the Second Earl Granville, vol. i. p. 136.

[186] Hall, p. 449.

[187] See below, p. 456.

[188] Wrongly dated “January 1856” in Letters of Queen Victoria, vol. iii. p. 215. The gift was announced in the Morning Post of December 20, 1855; the brooch reached Miss Nightingale in November, and her reply had been received by Dec. 21 (see below, p. 278). An illustrated account of the gift appeared in the Illustrated London News, Feb. 2, 1856. It may now be seen in the Museum of the United Service Institution.

[189] In continuation of the letter quoted above, p. 255.

[190] See above, p. 273.

[191] Lord Fitzmaurice's Life of the Second Earl Granville, vol. i. p. 133.

[192] Panmure, vol. ii. p. 28.

[193] Statement, p. v.

[194] I take these particulars from a Memorandum, found among Miss Nightingale's papers, by the Rev. J. E. Sabin, Senior Chaplain at Scutari.

[195] Sir William Montagu Scott McMurdo (1819–94); K.C.B. 1881. Miss Nightingale had a very high opinion of his services in the Crimea, and Sidney Herbert appointed him Inspector-General of the Volunteers (see Miss Nightingale's Letter on the Volunteers, 1861).

[196] A woodcut of it appeared in the Illustrated London News, August 30, 1856.

[197] See Vol. II. p. 409409.

[198] For another reference to the Crimean flowers, see below, p. 450.

[199] Hornby, pp. 306–7.

[200] There are applications of the kind among Miss Nightingale's papers.

[201] Stanmore, vol. i. p. 369.

[202] Notes, vol. i. sec. i. pp. xxiv.–v. In a private letter Miss Nightingale's irony was more bitter. “K.C.B.” meant, she supposed, “Knight of the Crimean Burial-grounds.”

[203] The Autobiography of a Balaclava Nurse, vol. ii. p. 163.

[204] Printed in extenso in Stanmore, vol. i. pp. 416–420.

[205] The letter is printed in Hall, p. 451.

[206] Vol. II. p. 195.

[207] See Hall, p. 438.

[208] Hall, p. 450. The text of the General Order as issued on March 16 was printed in the Times of April 1, 1856.

[209] See on this subject her Report to the Secretary of State, Subsidiary Notes, pp. 1, 2.

[210] See the letters printed in Hall, p. 457.

[211] Notes, p. 158.

[212] It has often been stated that the cross was erected by Miss Nightingale, but this is not the case. The inscription was suggested by Mrs. Shaw Stewart. In 1863 a Maternity Charity was established at Constantinople “in honour of Florence Nightingale.”

[213] Letter from Lady Hornby to her sister Mrs. Vaillant, Jan. 5, 1856; Hornby, pp. 150, 152. The enamelled brooch was the Queen's jewel.

[214] John Henry Lefroy (1817–90), Lieut. R.A., 1837; engaged in a magnetical survey, 1839–42; F.R.S., 1848; at the War Office, 1854–57; inspector-general of army schools, 1857; afterwards governor successively of the Bermudas and Tasmania; K.C.M.G., 1877.

[215] See a letter of Sidney Herbert printed in Stanmore, vol. i. p. 417.

[216] Stanmore, vol. i. pp. 404–5.

[217] Panmure, vol. i. p. 278.

[218] Peter Grillage afterwards became man-servant at Embley. See Vol. II. p. 302.

[219] Above, pp. 53, 64.

[220] See below, p. 385, and above, p. 102.

[221] Above, p. 94.




We can do no more for those who have suffered and died in their country's service; they need our help no longer; their spirits are with God who gave them. It remains for us to strive that their sufferings may not have been endured in vain—to endeavour so to learn from experience as to lessen such sufferings in future by forethought and wise management.—Florence Nightingale (Reply to Address from the Parishioners of East Wellow, Dec. 1856).



(August–November 1856)

To shape the whisper of a throne.—Tennyson.

Whenever the British people have muddled through a war, there is a time of repentance and heart-searching. England the Unready turns round uneasily and thinks that she must now mend her ways. The lessons of the war must be learnt. The word “efficiency” is blessed in every mouth. Radical reforms, with a view to ensuring a better state of preparedness next time, are canvassed, and a few of them are sometimes carried out. And then to the hot fit, a cold fit succeeds. War and its lessons fade into the past. Economy displaces efficiency as the favourite word. Peace seems to be more likely than another war, and, if war should unhappily come, it is cheerily hoped that England will again “muddle through somehow.” The spasm of reform is over, leaving the permanent vis inertiae of ministers and departments once more in undisturbed possession. Reformers, familiar with this succession of flow and ebb, know that they must seize the favourable moment, and more or less is done, according as they are more or less prompt and energetic. In the field of the Army Medical Service, where the Crimean War had exposed deficiencies both glaring and terrible, large and far-reaching reforms were set in motion during the years immediately following the Crimean peace. Indeed it may be said that from this period dates the first serious and sustained movement for the application of sanitary science to the British Army.

That effective use was thus made of the spasm of repentance[312] which followed the Crimean War was due primarily and mainly to the zealous co-operation of two individuals, the same two whose alliance formed a principal subject of the preceding Part of this Memoir—Sidney Herbert and Florence Nightingale. When her friend died in 1861, worn out prematurely by unceasing labours for the British Army, Miss Nightingale devoted to his memory an account of his work during the years 1856–1861. In that pamphlet[222]—a model of lucidity and concision—while yet informed with comprehensive insight, and not untouched by emotion—she made no reference of any kind to her own share in the work. She described the reforms, and said that in all that was done “Sidney Herbert was head and centre.” And so in many respects he was. He was the Chairman of the Royal Commission and the Sub-Commissions. He was afterwards Minister for War. He was from first to last the official head of the reform movement. And he was much more than the official head. He worked with unfailing zeal, and threw his heart and soul into the work. Yet if Sidney Herbert had written the account, he might have said that Florence Nightingale was the head and centre of it all. If she could have done little without him, so also might he have done little without her. He was in the foreground, she in the background. His was the public voice; the words which he spoke or wrote were often the words of Florence Nightingale. He was the practical politician who carried out their common schemes. The initiating, the inspiring, the impelling force was hers. And she did much more than give general impetus. Her mastery of detail was ever at Mr. Herbert's elbow. “I never intend to tell you,” he wrote to her when the first of the Royal Commissions in which they co-operated was nearing its end (August 7, 1857), “how much I owe you for all your help during the last three months, for I should never be able to make you understand how helpless my ignorance would have been among the Medical Philistines. God bless you!” But between two such loyal allies and understanding friends, it were needless[313] to apportion the relative shares. They spoke and wrote of their working together as “our Cabinet,” “our Cabal,” or “our Mess.” It is the story of this comradeship, rich in human interest, and fraught with lasting benefit to the British Army, that is to form the main subject of this and the following four chapters.


What Miss Nightingale needed on her return from the East, and what, had she thought only of herself, she would have taken, was a long spell of rest. She had been through a campaign of labour and anxiety, under conditions of strain and distress, such as might have undermined the strongest constitution. Mr. Herbert, who was in Ireland when she returned to England, surmised from her letters that she was overwrought, and sent her the prescription of his Carlsbad doctor—ni lire, ni écrire, ni réfléchir. After such severe tension of mind and body, a reaction was inevitable. He sent the prescription, but he did not expect her entirely to adopt it. “I should doubt,” he wrote to her uncle, “with a mind constituted as hers is, whether entire rest, with a total cessation from all active business, would not be a greater trial and less effective for her restoration to health than a life of some, though very limited and moderate, occupation.” He seems to have hoped that she might be persuaded to take up comparatively quiet nursing work in a London hospital. Presently they met (Sept.) in the country-house of their mutual friends, the Bracebridges, and Mr. Bracebridge thought that Mr. Herbert was “lukewarm” on the subject of Army Reform. Perhaps it was that he wished to consider Miss Nightingale's health and keep her free from exciting activity. But nothing was further from her thoughts than neutrality or passive spectatorship. She was burning for the fray, and flung all consideration of health aside in order to devote herself to rousing the lukewarm and organizing the resolute.

To understand the passionate devotion, the self-sacrificing ardour, with which Miss Nightingale set to work immediately upon her return, we must remember what she had seen in the East. She had “identified herself,” as we have[314] heard, “with the heroic dead,” and she knew that many of her “children,” as she called them, had died, not of necessity, but from neglect. “No one,” she wrote,[223] “can feel for the Army as I do. These people who talk to us have all fed their children on the fat of the land and dressed them in velvet and silk, while we have been away. I have had to see my children dressed in a dirty blanket and an old pair of regimental trousers, and to see them fed on raw salt meat, and nine thousand of my children are lying, from causes which might have been prevented, in their forgotten graves. But I can never forget. People must have seen that long, long dreadful winter to know what it was.” Others might know the facts, but she felt them. The strength of her character and powers lay, however, in the combination of intense feeling with intellectual grasp. She not only felt the neglect which had sacrificed her children's lives, but she tabulated the causes. The facts which had come under her eye, the figures in which she summarized and analysed them, filled her with a passion of resentment. During her residence in the Eastern hospitals she had seen 4600 soldiers die. And as she studied the figures, the conclusion was irresistibly borne in upon her that the greater number need not have died at all. Many of the diseases to which they had succumbed were induced, and others were aggravated, in the hospitals themselves. Her personal observation told her that it was so; statistical inquiry proved it. “We had,” she pointed out, “during the first seven months of the Crimean campaign, a mortality among the troops at the rate of 60 per cent per annum from disease alone, a rate of mortality which exceeds that of the Great Plague in London, and a higher ratio than the mortality in cholera to the attacks.” By a series of reforms, largely the result of Miss Nightingale's own untiring efforts and vehement expostulations, this terrible rate of mortality was reduced. “We had, during the last six months of the war, a mortality among our sick not much more than among our healthy guards at home, and a mortality among our troops, in the last five months, two-thirds only of what it is among[315] our troops at home.” It was obvious from this comparison that the mortality during the first period was largely preventable. Here was “a complete example—history does not afford its equal—of an army, after a great disaster arising from neglects, having been brought into the highest state of health and efficiency.” It was the most complete experiment ever made in army hygiene. And Miss Nightingale was filled with a passionate desire that the lessons of the experiment should be taken to heart by the nation; that such radical reforms should be made as would render a repetition of the disaster and the neglects impossible in the future. She knew that nothing short of radical reform would suffice. “There is nothing,” she wrote in summarizing the neglect of sanitary precautions at Scutari, “in the education of the Medical Officer—nothing in the organization or powers of the Army Medical Department—nothing in the whole Hospital procedure—nothing in the Army Regulations which would have met the case of these Hospitals. And were a similar necessity to arise again, especially after the lapse of a few years of peace, the whole thing would occur over again. This is the frightful consideration which ought to make us recall over and over again this experience—otherwise, let bygones be bygones.”[224]

But this was not the whole case. Miss Nightingale carried further the principle, which in these days is perhaps at last coming to be understood, that success in war depends upon preparation in peace. “You cannot improvise an Army,” says Lord Roberts. “You cannot improvise the sanitary care of an Army in the field,” said Miss Nightingale. If the medical service in the field were deficient, if the lessons of sanitary science were neglected in war hospitals, it was probable, she perceived, that there were like defects at home. She put her thesis to the test of figures, and was appalled at the verification which they supplied. The idea had first occurred to her on meeting Dr. Farr, the statistician in the Registrar-General's office, at dinner with her friends Colonel and Mrs. Tulloch. Dr. Farr had talked of mortality tables in civil life, and Miss Nightingale resolved to compare them[316] with the death-rate in British barracks. She found that in the Army, from the age of twenty to thirty-five, the mortality was nearly double that which it was in civil life. This was the case even in the Guards, who yet were select lives, the pick of the recruits. “With our present amount of sanitary knowledge,” she wrote to Sir John McNeill (March 1, 1857), “it is as criminal to have a mortality of 17, 19, and 20 per 1000 in the Line, Artillery, and Guards in England, when that of Civil life is only 11 per 1000, as it would be to take 1100 men per annum out upon Salisbury Plain and shoot them—no body of men being so much under control, none so dependent upon their employers for health, life, and morality as the Army.” And again (March 28): “This disgraceful state of our Chatham Hospitals, which I have been visiting lately,[225] is only one more symptom of a system which, in the Crimea, put to death 16,000 men—the finest experiment modern history has seen upon a large scale, viz. as to what given number may be put to death at will by the sole agency of bad food and bad air.” She saw the facts and figures with piercing clearness, and personal recollections gave intensity to her convictions. She had deep pity for the victims of preventable disease, and still deeper admiration for the uncomplaining heroism with which such sufferings were borne. Nothing ever effaced from her mind what she had witnessed in this sort at Scutari and in the Crimea. “We hear with horror,” she wrote, “of the loss of 400 men on board the Birkenhead by carelessness at sea; but what should we feel if we were told that 1100 men are annually doomed to death in our Army at home by causes which might be prevented? The men in the Birkenhead went down with a cheer. So will our men fight for us to the last with a cheer. The more reason why all the means of health which Sanitary Science has put at our command, all the means of morality which Educational Science has given us, should be given them.” Then she turned to the Crimea, described in the words of Sir John McNeill and Colonel Tulloch[226] the sufferings and the endurance of the[317] troops, and drew her moral: “Upon those who watched, week after week and month after month, this enduring courage, this unalterable patience, simplicity, and good strength, this voiceless strength to suffer and be still, it has made an impression never to be forgotten. The Anglo-Saxon on the Crimean heights has won for himself a greater name than the Spartan at Thermopylae, as the six months' struggle to endure was a greater proof of what man can do than the six hours' struggle to fight. The traces of the name and sacrifice of Iphigeneia may still be seen in Taurus; but a greater sacrifice has been there accomplished by a ‘handful’ of brave men who defended that fatal position, even to the death. And if Inkerman now bears a name like that of Thermopylae, so is the story of those terrible trenches, through which these men patiently and deliberately, and week after week, went, till they returned no more, greater than that of Inkerman. Truly were the Sebastopol trenches, to our men, like the gate of the Infernal Regions—Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch' entrate. And yet these men would refuse to report themselves sick, lest they should throw more labour on their comrades. They would draw their blankets over their heads and die without a word. Well may it be said that there is hardly an example in history to compare with this long and silent fortitude. But surely the blood of such men is calling to us from the ground, not to avenge them, but to have mercy on their survivors!”[227] To that cry, Florence Nightingale, at least, responded through every fibre of her being. She was resolved to be “a saviour,” and to press home every lesson of the Crimean campaign.

The strength of her resolve was heightened by a sense of the responsibility which her opportunities laid upon her. She had enjoyed peculiar facilities for observing the whole medical history of the campaign. She had been able to take the measure of many of the military and medical officials; she knew which were the men from whom help might be expected in the work of reform, and of most of such[318] men she had the ear and the respect. Her popular fame added to the authority with which her experience and her services invested her. There were others who knew, or might have known, the facts as well as she. There were few who could exercise the same influence, and perhaps there was not one who could judge the facts with the same disinterestedness. She was not a politician. She had no party to defend, no officials to shield, no susceptibilities to consider. She had nothing to gain, nothing to lose, nothing to fear. She stood only for a cause; and, come what might, she was resolved to fling every power of mind and body into it. Among her private notes of 1856 I find this: “I stand at the altar of the murdered men, and, while I live, I fight their cause.”


The opportunity was not long in coming. For a week or two at Lea Hurst she was engaged in such laborious, but unexciting, tasks as settling accounts and claims with the nurses; distributing the Sultan's gift among them; answering congratulatory addresses and the like; escaping from public appearances;[228] and dealing with hailstorms, as her sister called them, of miscellaneous letters. She was besieged by Vegetarians, Spiritualists, Sectaries, and other birds of the feather that swoop down upon conspicuous personages. With distressed gentlewomen she was a favourite prey. “Can you find soldiers' orphans for me to educate,” wrote one, “because I don't like leaving my sisters?” “Please find a place for me,” wrote another, “where there will be something to do not derogatory. I am an Irish lady of family.” The begging-letters were innumerable, and the answering of these was taken over by her sister. “I think I can now repeat the formula to perfection,” she said, “and I could write a begging-letter at the shortest notice in the[319] character of every individual, from a staff-officer to a costermonger, and a widow with six children.” But here Lady Verney's lively pen suggests some little injustice. Officers did occasionally write to Miss Nightingale, I find, to beg her “vote and interest,” as it were; but of begging-letters proper, she told Mr. Kinglake that there had never come one to her from a soldier.[229] Mr. Kinglake, I may here say, made her acquaintance in the spring of 1857, when her mind was full of the McNeill-Tulloch affaire. She failed to make him take her view of that controversy,[230] and her first impression of the historian-to-be of the Crimean War was that he would write a book more brilliant than judicial. “Though I have no doubt he is a good counsel,” she wrote,[231] “he strikes me as a very bad historian.” Three years later, she wrote in a similar strain:—

I had two hours' good conversation with Mr. Kinglake. I found him exceedingly courteous and agreeable; looking upon the whole idea as a work of art and emotion, and upon me as one of the colours in the picture; upon the Chelsea Board as a safe (or rather an infallible) authority; upon McNeill and Tulloch as interlopers; upon figures (arithmetical) as worthless; upon assertion as proof. He was utterly and self-sufficiently in the dark as to all the real causes of the Crimean Mortality. And you might as well try to enlighten Sir G. Brown himself. For Lord Raglan he has an enthusiasm which I fully share but which entirely blinds Mr. Kinglake, who besides came home long before the real distress, to the causes of that distress. I put him in possession of some of the materials. But I do not hope that he will, I am quite sure that he will not, make use of them.[232]

Miss Nightingale here was wrong. Mr. Kinglake made considerable use of her materials, and drew from them and from his personal impressions an excellent picture of the Lady-in-Chief; though on the point about which she was concerned, the McNeill-Tulloch affaire, he remained of the same opinion still.

Of Miss Nightingale's demeanour during her short[320] holiday at home in August 1856, there is a pleasant account in a letter from her sister[233]:—

She is better, I think, but I quite hate the sight of the post with its long official envelopes. She will go on as long as she has strength doing everything which cannot be left without detriment to the work to which she has devoted her life. I cannot conceive anything more beautiful than her frame of mind. It is so calm, so cheerful, so simple. The physical hardships one does not wonder at her forgetting to speak of; but the marvel to me is how the mental ones,—the indifference, the ignorance, the cruelty, the falsehood she has had to encounter—never seem to ruffle her for an instant (and never have done, Aunt Mai says). It is as if she dwelt in another atmosphere of peace and trust in Him which nothing wicked can dim. She speaks of these things sadly and quietly as some one from another world might do, seeing so plainly the excuses for the wrong-doers, while the personal part never seems to come in, and there is such a charm about her perfect simplicity. There is not the smallest particle of the martyr about her; she is as merry about little things as ever, in the intervals of her great thought, and with as much interest about the little things of home as if she had not been wielding the management and organization of the material and spiritual comfort of the 50,000 men passing through hospital and out. If you heard all the evidence we have had lately from doctors, chaplains and officers, you would not think I am exaggerating in saying that these depended mainly upon her during the whole of these 21 months. As to her indifference to praise, it is most extraordinary; she just passes on and does not heed it, as it comes in every morning in its flood—papers, music, poetry, friends, letters, addresses.

The addresses and presentations which she most valued came from working-men. A case of Sheffield cutlery, presented by artisans in that city, was always treasured, and was the subject of a specific bequest in her will. She was much touched by an address from 1800 working-men at Newcastle-on-Tyne. “My dear friends,” she wrote in the course of her reply (August 1856), “the things that are deepest in our hearts are perhaps what it is most difficult to express. ‘She hath done what she could.’ These words I inscribed on the tomb of one of my best helpers when I left Scutari. It has been my endeavour, in the sight of God, to do as she has done.”

Presently there came to Lea Hurst a letter of much[321] importance in Miss Nightingale's life. Her friend, Sir James Clark, the Queen's physician, wrote from Osborne (August 23, 1856) begging her to stay during the following month at his home, Birk Hall, near Ballater. The air of Scotland would be beneficial, he said, to her health; and there were other reasons. The Court would shortly be moved to Balmoral. The Queen would doubtless invite Miss Nightingale there. Meanwhile Her Majesty knew of the present invitation; and there would be opportunity at Birk Hall for quiet and informal talk in addition to any “command” visit at Balmoral. Miss Nightingale heard in this letter a call hardly less important than that to the Crimea, two years before. She had served with the Queen's army in the East. Her services had received sympathetic support and approbation from the Queen and the Prince. She was now to have full opportunities for bringing to their knowledge, in personal intercourse, what she had seen of the soldiers' sufferings, and for enlisting their support, if she could, in what she knew to be necessary for the prevention of such sufferings in the future. She succeeded, as will presently appear; and she deserved her success by the thoroughness with which she prepared herself to make the best use of her opportunity.

The two men who had thrown light most searchingly on the defects of the campaign, in the matter of supply and transport, were Sir John McNeill and Colonel Tulloch. Miss Nightingale arranged to see and confer with the former at Edinburgh on her way to Ballater. Colonel Tulloch, though he was far distant at the time, agreed to join the conclave, and, meanwhile, he wrote (from Killin, Sept. 6): “If H.M. should afford you an opportunity of telling the whole truth, as I think it likely she wishes to do from her desire to see you under another roof, without her enquiries being noticed, perhaps you might bring to her knowledge,” etc., etc. [various points which he deemed of special importance]. Mr. Herbert's advice was more general. “I hope,” he wrote (Sept. 9), “that your Highland foray will do you good. I am sure it will, if you find help and encouragement for your plans. I hope you will talk fully, and illustrate by[322] facts and details. They explain best. Men and women require picture-books, just as much as children, when they are to learn something of which they know nothing previously.” She armed herself, by study of statistics, by collection of her notes and memoranda, by inquiries on all sides, for every occasion which the sympathetic interest of the Queen or the Prince might give her. She felt, and others felt, that great things might turn on her use of such occasions. The fullest and most suggestive letter which she received was from Colonel Lefroy. He was employed at the War Office. He knew the weaknesses of his Chief. He knew also the strength of the Department to resist. He had been employed, as we have heard already,[234] on a confidential mission to the Crimea, and had formed the highest opinion of “the glorious fidelity, the self-sacrifice, the heroic courage, and single-minded devotion” with which Miss Nightingale had performed her duties in the East. He looked for great results from her visit to Scotland:—

(Colonel Lefroy to Miss Nightingale.) August 28.… I never had the good fortune to have an interview with the Queen, but I have had several with Prince Albert. The Prince exhibited such a remarkable knowledge of the subjects he was enquiring about, so strong and clear and business-like a capacity that you will, I think, find it both expedient and necessary, or rather unavoidable, to enter into a full and unreserved communication of your observations, and be tempted irresistibly to let fall such suggestions as are most likely to germinate in that high latitude. If I am correct in this impression, a similar frankness with Lord Panmure follows. I was once amused by the Prince remarking on a point of military education, “I have urged it over and over again; they do not mind what I say,” showing that even he cannot always overcome the vis inertiae of Departmental indifference or prevail on people to move. It may be so in any question of medical reform. Lord Panmure hates detail, and does not appreciate system. He can reform but not organise. It is organisation we want, but which arouses every instinct of resistance in the British bosom, and it is this which can be least influenced by H.M.'s personal interest in it. Like a rickety clumsy machine, with a pin loose here and a tooth broken there, and a makeshift somewhere else, in which the force of Hercules may be exhausted in a needless friction and obscure hitches before[323] the hands are got to move, so is our Executive, with the Treasury, the Horse Guards, the War Department, the Medical Department all out of gear, but all required to move together before a result can be attained. He will be stronger than Hercules, who gets out of it the movement we require. I think I would recommend … [a long statement of suggested reforms, including “a Commission to enquire into the existing Regulations for Hospital Administration”]. In some form or other we have almost a right to ask at your hands an account of the trials you have gone through, the difficulties you have encountered, and the evils you have observed—not only because no other person ever was or can be in such a position to give it, but because, permit me to say, no one else is so gifted. It will be no ordinary task; and no ordinary powers of reasoning, illustrating, grouping facts will be requisite. Another might repeat what you told him, but the burning conviction, the vis viva of the soul cannot be imparted.… It appears to me that either a confidential report addressed to Lord Panmure upon a formal request, or evidence before such a Commission as I have proposed above would be suitable means—the latter the most so, as I fear that more publicity than attends confidential reports will be necessary. I earnestly hope that your interviews with the Queen and Lord Panmure may be the means of leading both to interest themselves effectually in the vital reforms required. The axe has to be laid to the root of the tree yet.

Various friends tendered advice as to what Miss Nightingale should say if she were to be asked what the Queen could “do for her.” She might petition to be placed in charge of the new hospital about to be built at Netley, or to be appointed Lady Superintendent of Nurses in all military hospitals, and so forth. Her own ideas were on the lines of Colonel Lefroy's letter. She would, first, tell the whole truth of the campaign, so far as it had come under her personal observation. If given any encouragement to proceed, she would explain in general terms the kind of remedies which she deemed essential. She would offer, if the conversation took a suitable turn, to embody her observations and suggestions in a written report. If further honoured by any suggestion of Royal favour, she would ask—for herself, nothing but for the sake of the soldiers, a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole condition of barracks, hospitals, and the Army Medical Department.



Thus armed, and thus resolved, Miss Nightingale set out for Scotland, under her father's escort. Between father and daughter there was genuine affection; but Mr. Nightingale was in indifferent health, and was constitutionally of a retiring disposition. After a few days he beat a retreat. It had been supposed that the “foray” would be short. In fact it lasted for a month. Miss Nightingale reached Edinburgh on September 15, and, staying there a few days, took occasion to inspect the barracks and hospitals. She left for Birk Hall on September 19, and two days later she was introduced to the Queen and the Prince at Balmoral by Sir James Clark. “She put before us,” wrote the Prince in his diary, “all the defects of our present military hospital system, and the reforms that are needed. We are much pleased with her; she is extremely modest.”[235] A few days later (Sept. 26) the Queen drove over from Balmoral to Birk Hall, and Miss Nightingale had “tea and a great talk” with Her Majesty. The impression made on the Queen has been already recorded in her letter to the Duke of Cambridge: “I wish we had her at the War Office.” The Duke, who was not exactly a red-hot reformer, must have been thankful that the wish of his August Relative for a new broom did not extend to the Horse Guards. “My hopes were somewhat raised,” wrote Miss Nightingale to Sir John McNeill (Sept. 27), “by the great willingness of the Queen, Prince Albert, and Sir George Grey, all of whom I have seen together and separately, to listen and to ask questions.” “I have had most satisfactory interviews,” she wrote to her Uncle Sam (Sept. 25), “with the Queen, the Prince, and Sir George Grey. Satisfactory, that is, as far as their will, not as their power is concerned.” Miss Nightingale is not the only impatient reformer who has been tempted to wish that knots of red tape could be cut by a direct exercise of the Royal Prerogative. The Prince knew “in what limits” he and the Queen moved. Nothing could be done except through Ministers, and the Minister for War would shortly be[325] in attendance at Balmoral. “The Queen,” continued Miss Nightingale, “wished me to remain to see Lord Panmure here rather than in London, because she thinks it more likely that something might be done with him here with her to back me. I don't. But I am obliged to succumb.” So she stayed on at Birk Hall, her “command” visit to Balmoral being postponed till Lord Panmure should arrive. The Queen sent a good character of Miss Nightingale to the Minister in advance. “Lord Panmure,” she wrote, “will be much gratified and struck with Miss Nightingale—her powerful, clear head, and simple, modest manner.”[236] The Queen had “accepted with great grace” the suggestion that any letter of recommendations sent by Miss Nightingale to Lord Panmure should be sent also to Her Majesty direct.


The point of interest among Miss Nightingale's Reform “Cabinet” now shifted from the Queen to her Ministers. The Court had been won. “Lord Auckland says,” wrote Lady Verney to her sister, “that he hears from Lord Clarendon that the Queen was enchanted with you.” But what impression would she make upon the less susceptible “Bison” (for so the burly Scot, Lord Panmure, was called by Miss Nightingale and her friends)? She had reported herself to him immediately on her return from the East, and he had replied politely, but postponed the pleasure of an interview. Mr. Herbert was not sure that much would come of it even in the sympathetic air of Balmoral. “I gather,” he wrote (Oct. 3), “that upon the whole you are pleased with the result of your conversations with the Queen and Prince Albert. I hope you will do equally well with Panmure, tho' I am not sanguine; for, tho' he has plenty of shrewd sense, there is a vis inertiae in his resistance which is very difficult to overcome.” Sir John McNeill was more hopeful. He attached great importance to the personal factor in Miss Nightingale's favour:—

“I anticipate considerable advantage,” he wrote (Sept. 29), “from your interview with Lord Panmure. He has seen your[326] name in every newspaper, and probably has no very accurate, or perhaps a very inaccurate notion, of what sort of person Miss Florence Nightingale is. He may perhaps think that a lady whose name is so frequently mentioned can hardly be indifferent to popular applause and that with so strong a hold upon the feelings of the nation, she is not unlikely to use it for the gratification of personal ambition. If he has such notions, he will be undeceived. He will find that influenced by higher motives you have no desire to employ your influence for any other purpose than to do all the good you can in the work which you have chosen, and that the absence of personal motive it is which gives you the courage and the right to speak fearlessly the whole truth, and to persevere in the direct line of duty whatever may be the difficulties or the obstacles. He will see that you have no desire to become in any sense a rival, and that it rests with him to make you a co-adjutor or an opponent, as he may be willing or unwilling to promote the good which you consider it your plain duty as far as in you lies to carry out.”

Sir John's attitude to Miss Nightingale was always a little paternal, and I think that we may perhaps read between the lines of his well-turned sentences a hint and a caution, under the guise of an encomium. The hint was not needed. She was entirely free from any temptation to use her popularity for purposes of personal ambition; but she was to show considerable skill in the use of it, as a weapon in reserve, for furthering her public objects. Mr. Herbert and Sir John McNeill were both right. The personal factor prevailed, as Sir John hoped; and Miss Nightingale won the Minister, even as she had won the Court—or seemed to win him. He promised all she asked; but it was also as Mr. Herbert feared, and the force of passive resistance was long maintained.

When Lord Panmure reached Balmoral, Miss Nightingale was commanded thither. The Court Circular (Oct. 6) chronicled her attendance at church with the Queen, and at the ball given to the gillies it was noticed that she was seated with the Royal Family. She had an opportunity to “tell the Prince the whole story” of her experiences in the East. Another side of her interests also came into play on this occasion. She had talks with Prince Albert “on metaphysics and religion.” Then Lord Panmure, following in the steps of his Sovereign, went to see Miss Nightingale at[327] Birk Hall, and they had long conversations. “You may like to know,” wrote Mr. John Clark[237] (Oct. 13), “that you fairly overcame Pan. We found him with his mane absolutely silky, and a loving sadness pervading his whole being.” “I forget whether I told you,” wrote Sidney Herbert (Nov. 2), “that the Bison wrote to me very much pleased with his interview with you. He says that he was very much surprised at your physical appearance, as I think you must have been with his. God bless you!” Lord Panmure, I suspect, was one of those men who presume that any strong-minded woman will be physically ill-favoured. At any rate Miss Nightingale greatly impressed the Minister, even as the Queen had predicted. In general terms, Lord Panmure seemed very favourable to Miss Nightingale's suggestions. It was agreed that she should presently write out her experiences with notes on necessary reforms for the information of the Government, and in this request the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, associated himself with Lord Panmure. The Minister for War seemed well disposed towards a scheme to which she attached great importance—the establishment of an Army Medical School. He agreed in principle to the appointment of a Royal Commission. So she had gained, it seemed, all she wanted, and the Minister threw in an additional point of his own.[238] The plans for the hospital at Netley—the first General Military Hospital—were at this time far advanced. Lord Panmure would send the plans to Miss Nightingale, and would be much obliged for her remarks upon them. Conversation on this and all the other subjects just mentioned was to be resumed when they would both be in London in November.


When news of the spoils, which Miss Nightingale had brought back from her Highland “foray,” reached her little[328] “Cabinet” of reformers, their hopes ran high, and arrangements were promptly made for meetings and consultations. The Lady-in-Chief broke her journey southwards at Edinburgh, in order to confer again with Sir John McNeill. On October 15 she was back at Lea Hurst, and entered into correspondence with other of the confederates. On November 2, she came to London, making her headquarters at the Burlington in Old Burlington Street, the favourite hostelry at this time of her family: a house which came to be known among those behind the scenes as “The Little War Office.” She drew up lists of an ideal Royal Commission, and circulated it among her allies for their suggestions, and, in the case of those whom she proposed to nominate, for their consent. One of these latter was her friend and physician at Scutari, Dr. Sutherland. “I have just received your letter,” he wrote (Nov. 12), “and am led to believe that there must be a foundation of truth under the old myth about the Amazon women somewhere to the East of Scutari. All I can say is that if you had been queen of that respectable body in old days, Alexander the Great would have had rather a bad chance. Your project has developed itself far better than I expected, and I think I see a way of doing good and therefore I shall serve on the Commission. Get Alexander. Nobody else if you cannot. He is our man. I am to meet you to-night at Sir James Clark's to dinner, and shall be very glad to talk over the subject further.” Dr. Sutherland assumed, it will be seen, that the Amazon would carry him in; and she did. Over Dr. Alexander there was a stiff fight. Miss Nightingale had been greatly impressed in the Crimea by his skill, fearlessness, and activity. He had now received an appointment in Canada, and Lord Panmure objected to recalling him; but Mr. Herbert made his own acceptance of the Chairmanship conditional on the appointment of Dr. Alexander, “the ablest and most effective man with our Army.”[239] Sir James Clark's consent to serve was doubtless secured at the dinner just mentioned. Sir James Ranald Martin was also willing, and he had a candidate of his own. “Farr,” he wrote to Colonel Tulloch (Nov. 11), “ought to be a member. I wish[329] you would take an early opportunity of bringing the question before Miss Nightingale with all the force of which you are capable.” She was already in correspondence with Dr. William Farr; they had a link in their common passion for statistics. She did not succeed in carrying him on to the Commission, but they collaborated in the preparation of statistical evidence for it. Then she approached Sir Henry Storks, who was willing to serve. She hoped to be able to include her friend Colonel Lefroy also, but there she failed. That Sidney Herbert was the Chairman of her choice goes without saying. The other appointment to which she naturally attached vital importance was that of a secretary, and her choice fell upon Dr. Graham Balfour.[240] Having settled the Commissioners, Miss Nightingale proceeded to draft their Instructions, and this draft also she circulated for criticism and advice.

She was now ready for the promised interview with Lord Panmure. On the morning of the fateful day, Sir James Clark wrote to her: “I think it would be well when you see Lord Panmure to make him understand that the enquiry is intended as, and must comprehend, an investigation into the whole Medical Department of the Army, and everything regarding the health of the Army.” A needless reminder to her who had everything cut and dried in that sense long before! “I long to hear,” wrote Mr. Herbert, “what results you obtain from the Bison.” Miss Nightingale preserved her note of the results written at the time, and it is so characteristic of her humour that I print it very nearly in extenso:—

[Nov. 16.] My “Pan” here for three hours. Wrote down—

President Mr. Herbert  
  General Storks
  Colonel Lefroy
  Dr. A. Smith  
Army Doctors.
  Dr. McLachlan
  Dr. Brown
  Dr. Sutherland  
Civil Doctors.
  Dr. Martin
  Dr. Farr
Secretary Dr. Balfour   Army Doctor.

Will have Drs. balanced. Not fair: two soldiers reckon as[330] against Civil element. Whenever I represented it (I did not know old “Pan” was so sharp), he offered to take off Col. Lefroy! So I had to knock under.

Won't bring back Alexander from Canada. Will have three Army Doctors. So, like a sensible General in retreat, I named [Dr. Joseph] Brown, Surgeon Major, Grenadier Guards, therefore not wedded to Dr. Smith, an old Peninsular and Reformer. Left Lord P. his McLachlan, who will do less harm than a better man. He has generously struck out Milton.[241] Seeing him in such a “coming on disposition,” I was so good as to leave him Dr. Smith, the more so as I could not help it.

Have a tough fight of it: Dr. Balfour as Secretary. Pan amazed at my condescension in naming a Military Doctor; so I concealed the fact of the man being a dangerous animal and obstinate innovator.

Failed in one point. Unfairly. Pan told Sir J. Clark he was to be on. Won't have him now. Sir J. Clark has become interested. Agreeable to the Queen to have him—just as well to have Her on our side.…

Besides things Ld. P. finds convenient to forget, has really an inconveniently bad memory as to names, facts, dates, and numbers. Hope I know what discipline is too well, having had the honour of holding H.M.'s Commission, to have a better memory than my Chief.

Pan has four Army Doctors really, ∴ according to his principle I have a right to four Civilians.

Instructions: general and comprehensive, comprising the whole Army Medical Department, and the health of the Army, at home and abroad. Semi-official letter from Secretary of State on Memorandum from President giving details. Smith, equal parts lachrymose and threatening, will say, “I did not understand that we were to inquire into this.”

My master jealous. Does not wish it to be supposed he takes suggestions from me, which crime indeed very unjust to impute to him.

You must drag it through. If not you, no one else.

(1) Col. Lefroy to be instructed by Lord P. to draw up scheme and estimate for Army Medical School, appendix to his own Military Education.—I won.

(2) Netley Hospital plans to be privately reported on by[331] Sutherland and me to Lord P.—I won.

(3) Commissariat to be put on same footing as Indian.—I lost.

(4) Camp at Aldershot to “do for” themselves—kill cattle, bake bread, build, drain, shoe-make, tailor, &c.—Lord P. will consider: quite agrees; means “will do nothing.”

(5) Sir J. Hall not to be made Director-General while Lord P. in office.—I won.

(6) Colonel Tulloch to be knighted.—I lost (unless I can make Col. T. accept an agreement, which I shan't).[242]

(7) About Statistics, Lord P. said (i.) the strength of these regiments averaged only 200, (ii.) denied the mortality, (iii.) said that statistics prove anything.—And I, a soldier, must not know better than my Chief.

(8) Lord P. contradicted everything—so that I retain the most sanguine expectations of success.

A good three hours' work! But many months were to elapse before Lord Panmure's promise to appoint a Commission was fulfilled. It will be convenient, however, to anticipate the course of events in one respect, and to finish here the story of the personnel of the Commission. Lord Panmure at once wrote to Mr. Herbert, asking him to accept the Chairmanship: “I wrote to Panmure,” he sent word to Miss Nightingale from Wilton (Nov. 25), “as agreed between us, as suaviter as I could as to the modo, but in re trying to name the Commission and define the Instructions. I hope I shall hear to-morrow from him, and I will let you know how the land lies the moment I get any sign from him. Supposing that he yields, it will be a task of great labour and difficulty, but one well worth undertaking with a fair prospect of attaining an immense good, even if we do not get all we want. If he stands out, we must hold another Council for which I will run up.” The text of Mr. Herbert's letter to Lord Panmure has been printed elsewhere.[243] On the matter of personnel, he suggested General Storks and Colonel Lefroy; two army doctors, one of whom he insisted should be Dr. Alexander; two civil doctors, one of whom should be Sir James Clark; a sanitary authority, Dr. Sutherland; and, lastly, a good examining lawyer. The[332] Commission, as ultimately appointed, consisted of Mr. Herbert (Chairman), Mr. Augustus Stafford, M.P., General Storks, Dr. A. Smith, Dr. T. Alexander, Sir T. Phillips, Sir J. Ranald Martin, Sir James Clark, and Dr. J. Sutherland, with Dr. Graham Balfour as Secretary. If the reader will compare the ten names resulting from Miss Nightingale's bargaining with Lord Panmure, it will be seen that there were four changes. She lost one friend, Colonel Lefroy, but gained another, Mr. Stafford. She gained Dr. Alexander in place of Dr. McLachlan, and Sir James Clark in place of Dr. Brown. Dr. Farr was struck off in favour of Mr. Herbert's “good examining lawyer,” Sir T. Phillips. He was the one dark horse; and, before the Commission sat, Miss Nightingale was asked to meet him. “We propose an irregular mess,” wrote Mrs. Herbert to her (May 12, '57), “as Sidney thinks Sir T. Phillips wants cramming.” There was on the Commission only one upholder of the old régime, Dr. Andrew Smith.

Had the facts recited in this chapter been known at the time, Miss Nightingale's opponents might have found some warrant for a suggestion that she had packed the Commission. But she and Mr. Herbert packed it only in the public interest. In discussions about women's rights it is sometimes said that women need no other opportunities for influence than such as have always been within their reach. Miss Nightingale, who was in favour of Female Suffrage, would hardly have gained more influence by the possession of a vote. But then very few women, and not many men, have the opportunities, the industry, the mental grasp, and the strength of will which in combination were the secret of “the Nightingale power.”

Lord Panmure delayed his formal reply to Mr. Herbert's letter of conditions, but sent a short note meanwhile of a friendly character. Mr. Herbert at once forwarded it to Miss Nightingale (Nov. 30, '56), and said: “I hope the note augurs well.… All I can promise is to do my best, and to postpone all other business to this one object till it is achieved. I shall require great assistance from and thro' you. I shall like to see all that you are writing as it goes on, if you see no objection. It would probably tell me much, and[333] lead me to question, and so learn more.” Thus, then, three months after her return from the Crimean War, broken in bodily health, was this indomitable woman thrown into the maelstrom of work which will be described in the next chapter. But it was work for the salvation of the British Army. She “stood at the altar of the murdered men”; and she shrank from no self-sacrifice.



(Nov. 1856–Aug. 1857)

You have sown the seed, and the harvest will come. God will give the increase.—Sir John Mcneill (Letter to Florence Nightingale, on her “Notes affecting the Health of the British Army”).

The power of passive resistance wielded by a Department, and the reluctance or the inability of an easy-going Minister to withstand it, are unintelligible to those who are not themselves part of an administrative machine, and they are exasperating to those who are possessed of an impetuous temper and a resolute will. The Royal Commission on the health of the Army had been settled “in principle” between Lord Panmure and Miss Nightingale at their interview on Nov. 16, 1856, and a week later the Minister had received Mr. Herbert's conditional acceptance of the chairmanship. It was not till May 5, 1857, that the Royal Warrant actually setting up the Commission was issued. Throughout the six months of delay, Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale were busily employed in endeavours to persuade or coerce the Secretary of State into granting the Commission effective powers; the War Office and the Army Medical Department were as busily counter-working in the hope of so restricting its scope that any recommendations it might make would be of a “harmless” character.[244] There is no reason, I think, to suspect Lord Panmure of insincerity, but he was not the man to force the pace.

There were moments during the months of delay when Miss Nightingale's patience was exhausted, and there was one[335] moment when her spirit for the fight quailed and she thought of taking service in a civil hospital. Lord Panmure from time to time was afflicted by the gout—“in the hands,” Mr. Herbert said to Miss Nightingale, “and this explains his not writing.” “His gout is always handy,” she retorted. Then there was the call of the birds to be shot and the stags to be stalked. “But the Bison himself is bullyable, remember that.” This was the word which she constantly passed round among her allies. At one time she pressed Mr. Herbert to issue an ultimatum. Let him renounce the chairmanship forthwith, unless Lord Panmure put an end peremptorily to the delays and gave a pledge that the recommendations of the Commission should be acted upon. Mr. Herbert and her other friends were for a more cautious policy, and she was overborne. “If you can get us out of the old, miry rut,” wrote Sir John McNeill (Dec. 19, 1856), “and put us fairly on the rail, though the plant may be defective and the speed small, we shall go on improving. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged by delays.” She was not in the end discouraged, but she was not the woman to sit still under the delays. She remembered her own mot d'ordre; and if she did not “bully the Bison,” I imagine that she sometimes administered a feline stroke or two. In December Lord Panmure asked leave to come to her quiet room in Burlington Street for a talk. And the talk was quiet, too, I doubt not, for Miss Nightingale, sometimes biting in private letters, was never vehement in conversation. But she could be quietly emphatic. She was fully conscious of the strength of a weapon which she held in reserve. That weapon was her popularity, and the command, which she could use, if she chose, of the ear of the press and the public. Lord Panmure must have been conscious of this factor in the case also. It had been settled at Balmoral, again “in principle,” that Miss Nightingale was to prepare a Report embodying the results of her experience and thought. If she and the Minister remained on good terms, if she felt assured that the Army in medical and sanitary matters would be reformed from within, her Report would remain confidential. But if she were not so persuaded, there was nothing to prevent her from heading a popular agitation for reform from without.[336] This was her weapon for “bullying the Bison.” In a note of self-communing, written during some moment of disappointment, she reproaches herself with having been “a bad mother” to the heroic dead, but pledges herself to continue the fight to the end. She had “begun at the highest, my Sovereign,” and had proceeded to work through the politicians. If all else failed, she would make a last appeal, “like Cobden with the Corn Law,” to the country. “Three months from this day,” she wrote in one of her letters of incitement to Mr. Herbert, “I publish my experience of the Crimean Campaign, and my suggestions for improvement, unless there has been a fair and tangible pledge by that time for reform.”


Miss Nightingale's exasperation was increased by the attitude of the Government towards the report of the “Chelsea Board.” The McNeill-Tulloch affaire, which filled a large space in public attention at the time, requires only a brief notice here; the dramatic aspect of the now forgotten scene at Chelsea is admirably presented by Kinglake who, however, is not to be accepted as an unbiased authority on the merits of the dispute.[245] Sir John McNeill and Colonel Tulloch, it will be remembered,[246] had been sent out to the East in 1855 to inquire into the transport and commissariat arrangements of the campaign. Their Report, issued in January 1856, was the one official document among the pile produced by the Crimean War which brought responsibility directly home to specified individuals. Every one remembers the story of Lord Melbourne's protest when he had accidentally heard a rousing evangelical sermon with a direct “application”: “Things have come to a pretty pass,” he said, “when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life.” Something of the same indignant remonstrance was rife when a Report on the Crimean muddle presumed to invade the sphere of personal responsibility.[337] The impugned officers raised an outcry, and the Government appointed an examining Board of other officers to report on the Report which had reported them. This Board—called after the “Chelsea” Hospital where it sat—removed all blame from individuals, and found in July 1856 that the true cause of the Crimean muddle was the failure of the Treasury to send out, at the proper moment, a particular consignment of pressed hay. Miss Nightingale had many a gibe at this ridiculous mouse; and, many years later, Sir John McNeill rebuked “the levity” which referred “the fatal privations so heroically endured by the troops to so ludicrously inadequate a cause.”[247] Some months were next occupied in the drafting, by the Treasury officials, of an explanation of the regrettable incident of the hay. The Government acquiesced, and the affair seemed to be over. And so it would have been, but for two factors—the press and public opinion. The Times led a spirited attack upon the Chelsea Board, and public opinion espoused the cause of Sir John McNeill and Colonel Tulloch. Their Report had been set aside, and Lord Panmure had omitted even to thank them for their labours. Sir John remained contemptuously silent, but Colonel Tulloch, who was of a warmer temper, was vigorous in self-defence and rejoinder. In several large towns sympathy was expressed with the slighted Commissioners—a movement which Miss Nightingale and her family, through friends in various places, did something to advance. Complimentary addresses were sent to the Commissioners from the Mayor and Citizens of Bath, of Birmingham, of Liverpool, of Manchester and of Preston, as also from the Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh.[248] Noting this movement of public opinion, which was beginning to be reflected in the House of Commons, Lord Panmure bethought himself of doing something. His expedient was signally ill-judged. He had “the honour to acquaint” the Commissioners “that Her Majesty's Government have decided to mark the services rendered by you in the discharge of your duties in the Crimea, by tendering to[338] each of you the sum of £1000.” This pecuniary estimate of their services was promptly refused by each of them. “To accept it,” wrote Mrs. Tulloch, “is almost the only thing I could not pardon in my husband, but, thank God, he feels as I do on the subject.” Miss Nightingale was equally indignant, but her political instinct was not at fault. “I am glad,” she wrote in reply to Mrs. Tulloch (Feb. 20), “that they have been such fools! I am sure the British Lion will sympathise in this insult, and if it does not, then it is a degraded beast.” She proceeded to rouse the beast. She told Mr. Herbert about the Government's offer, and he concurred in her view. It was decided to raise the whole subject in the House of Commons. On March 12, 1857, Mr. Herbert moved a Humble Address to the Crown praying that Her Majesty might be pleased to confer some signal mark of favour upon Sir John McNeill and Colonel Tulloch. The Prime Minister, noting the course of the debate, accepted the motion, which was agreed to without a division. “Victory!” wrote Miss Nightingale in her diary; “Milnes came in to tell us.” She thought she had lost in her round with Lord Panmure about Colonel Tulloch (above, p. 331); but she won after all. He was created K.C.B., and Sir John, who was already G.C.B., was sworn of the Privy Council. This episode, which in its initial stages exasperated Miss Nightingale so much that she was half inclined to throw up the fight, ended by giving her fresh spirit and encouragement. Her mot d'ordre had come true: the “Bison” had proved bullyable—by parliamentary pressure. “I direct my letter,” she wrote to the now Right Honourable Sir John McNeill (May 12), “with a great deal of pleasure. I consider that you and Sir Alexander Tulloch have been borne on the arms of the people—a much higher triumph than a mere gift of honours by the Crown. The poor Crown has been worsted. I am sorry for it. But it was not our fault.”[249]



It was her friend Mr. Milnes who had suggested that Miss Nightingale should go a little outside her “Cabinet” and increase her influence by extending the range of her parliamentary acquaintances. “Before the Estimates come on,” he had written (Feb. 1857), “you should surely have some people in the House who know what you want.” And again: “You should know Lord Stanley; he is the best man you could get in the House in whatever you wish to be done. Come and dine with him here on Sunday.” Mr. Milnes was right about Lord Stanley.[250] His public appreciation of Miss Nightingale has been mentioned already. He was not enthusiastic about many persons or things, but Miss Nightingale and her work were among the number. On now making her personal acquaintance, he sat, as it were, at her feet; he told her that he lived in hopes of being allowed to receive “future instructions” from her; he sent her early copies of papers and bills likely to interest her, and asked questions in the House of Commons which she suggested. When presently he became a Secretary for State they were to be associated in important work.

Miss Nightingale, for all her impetuosity of spirit, had plenty of tact, and knew how to adjust the means to her[340] several ends. In the spring of 1857, an expeditionary force was being dispatched to China, and she was very anxious that the health of her “children,” the British troops, should be better cared for than it was, at sea or on land, in the Crimean Campaign. Her ally, Sir James Clark, was on friendly terms with her opponent, Dr. Andrew Smith. So she used her ally to coax her enemy. “I had a very satisfactory conversation with Dr. Smith,” reported Sir James. “I find he has attended to almost everything I suggested—the ventilation of the ships, the diet of the troops; and they are to have fresh meat and vegetables during the whole voyage and while on the station when it is possible. Nothing seems to be forgotten or neglected on Smith's part, and the Duke of Cambridge backed our recommendations. So that the disasters of the Crimea are already telling for the benefit of the soldiers.”

In the fight over the Netley Hospital, Miss Nightingale was defeated by Lord Panmure on the main issue; but she had some success in minor matters; and, though on the main issue she lost in the particular case, she won the day for the future. She was a pioneer in this country in advocating the “pavilion” system of hospital construction, which she had studied in France. Well-known examples of it are the Herbert Hospital at Woolwich, and St. Thomas's at Westminster. The plans for the Netley Hospital, which Lord Panmure sent her, were laid on the old “corridor” lines, and she instantly condemned the plans on that and other grounds. Into this cause, as into everything that she took up, she flung herself with full energy. She consulted all the best authorities, she collected information at home and abroad, she drew up memoranda, she prepared alternative plans. Lord Panmure did not dispute that her alternative might, in the abstract, be better, but pleaded that in this case the cost of alteration, now that the foundations were already laid, would be too great. Besides, there were susceptibilities—his own and other people's—to be considered. Miss Nightingale thereupon appealed to the Prime Minister. “If Miss Nightingale's suggestions are good,” he wrote to Lord Panmure (Nov. 30, 1856), “it will be worth while to alter our intended arrangement of the building rather than have an[341] imperfect Hospital.”[251] Determining to press her advantage, Miss Nightingale went down to Embley in the Christmas vacation, and dined and slept at Broadlands. How great was the impression she made upon Lord Palmerston is shown by the peremptory letter which he next addressed to Lord Panmure (Jan. 17). It has been printed in extenso elsewhere[252]; and a sentence or two will here suffice. “I am bound to say she has left on my mind at present a conviction that the plan is fundamentally wrong, and that it would be better to pull down and rebuild all that has been built. She brought hither the ground-plan and elevation of the proposed Netley Hospital, and the ground-plan of the last new Military Hospital at Paris, which she says has been adopted as the model for the Hospital at Aldershot.” (The reader will note, I doubt not, Miss Nightingale's diplomatic touch; she only asked Lord Panmure to do at Netley what he himself was doing at Aldershot.) “It seems to me,” continued Lord Palmerston most characteristically, “that at Netley all consideration of what would best tend to the comfort and recovery of the patients has been sacrificed to the vanity of the architect, whose sole object has been to make a building which should cut a dash when looked at from the Southampton River.… Pray, therefore, for the present, stop all further progress in the work till the matter can be duly considered.” But even the most peremptory of Prime Ministers are not all-powerful. Lord Panmure immediately replied that the step ordered by his Chief “would involve us in great difficulties, as it would entail a rupture of all our extensive contracts, not to mention the reflections which it must cast on all concerned in the planning of those designs on which we have worked.… Many of Miss Nightingale's suggestions in the Report signed by herself and Dr. Sutherland can be carried out by alterations, but the total abandonment of the plan will be a most serious affair.”[253] It appears from Miss Nightingale's papers that the War Office's estimate of the cost was £70,000; and these 70,000 reasons, combined with the argument from amour propre, caused Lord Panmure to win. Though ever reluctant to acknowledge defeat till[342] she had fired her last shot, Miss Nightingale knew when she was finally beaten on one ground and she then made a stand on another. Foiled in her attempt to improve the Hospital root and branch, she used in good part the opportunities which Lord Panmure gave her of patching up “the patient,” as she called it, so far as was still possible. The corridor was thrown more open; more window-space was given to the wards; borrowed lights and odd corners were abolished; the appurtenances were separated; and the ventilation was improved.[254] With regard to the future, Miss Nightingale in her private Report, and in almost identical words the Royal Commission in its public Report, recommended “that all plans for the original construction of Hospitals be submitted to competent sanitary authorities before such plans are finally approved,” and “that all new Hospitals be constructed in separate pavilions, in order to prevent a large number of sick from being agglomerated under one roof.” This recommendation was stoutly opposed by medical officers of the old school. “Poor Andrew Smith,” wrote Mr. Herbert during a sitting of the Royal Commission, “swallowed some bitter pills to-day, including Pavilions.” The bitter pill, administered by Miss Nightingale, is now the recognized prescription in the building of Hospitals.


This fight for the pavilion was only an incident in Miss Nightingale's work during the latter part of 1856 and earlier part of 1857. Her main work was preparation for the Royal Commission. This involved heavy correspondence, many travels, and close application. Until August 1857, she resided principally in London, at the Burlington Hotel; but in the spring she had spent some weeks, within easy distance of London, at Combe Hurst, the home of her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Smith; and in April, a fortnight in Edinburgh, in order to confer with Sir John McNeill. She prepared for the Royal Commission by writing her own Report. The suggestion had been made at Balmoral in October 1856; but Lord Panmure, who seldom did to-day[343] what could be put off till to-morrow, did not write his official instructions until February 1857. In asking her “further assistance and advice,” he said: “Your personal experience and observation, during the late War, must have furnished you with much important information relating not only to the medical care and treatment of the sick and wounded, but also to the sanatory requirements of the Army generally.” She had, it will be observed, carried her point, that the Report was to be of general scope. “I now have the honour to ask you,” continued the letter, “to favour me with the results of that experience, on matters of so much importance to Her Majesty's Army. I need hardly add that, should you do so, they will meet with the most attentive consideration, and that I shall endeavour to further, so far as it lies in my power, the large and generous views which you entertain on this important subject.”

The Report which Miss Nightingale wrote in response to this request—entitled Notes affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army—is, I suppose, the least known, but it is the most remarkable, of her works. It is little known because it was never published. As in the end she extracted a Royal Commission from Lord Panmure, and as the Commission was followed by practical measures, she did not feel the necessity of appealing to the public. The War Office itself did not print her Report, and thus it never became generally known how much of the Report of the subsequent Royal Commission, and how many of the administrative reforms consequent upon it, were in fact the work of Miss Nightingale. But at her own expense she printed the Notes for private circulation among influential people, and upon all who read it the work created, as well it might, a profound impression. Kinglake describes it as “a treasury of authentic statement and wise disquisition, affording a complete elucidation of the causes which had brought about failure, whilst also showing the means by which, in the wars of the future, our country might best hope to compass the truly sacred task of providing for the health of its troops.”[255] Sir John McNeill, who read the proofs of the Notes as they[344] passed through the press, was impressed equally with the vigour of the style and the cogency of the reasoning. “Be assured,” he wrote, “that the Report will detract nothing from your reputation but, on the contrary, that it will greatly add to it, and make it very plain why you have been placed where you stand in the estimation of the country. No other person could have written it.” Of another batch of the proofs, he said: “It flows on so naturally, it gives so clearly the impression of being the genuine expression of earnest conviction, it has so much the character of good, sincere enlightened conversation on a subject which is thoroughly understood and appreciated, and so little the appearance of having been ‘got up’ or of pretension of any kind, literary or artistic, that you ought to be very cautious how you alter it in any respect that would at all detract from the unambitious and perfectly natural, but, at the same time, clear and vigorous, enunciation of important truths and wise propositions.” And again: “It does not signify much what Lord Panmure thinks or proposes or objects to. You have set up a Landmark which neither he nor any other man or body of men can remove. Permanent progress has been made, though but small, and your ideas and plans will be pirated and claimed as their own by men who now disparage them.” When the book was finally printed, and a copy of the volume sent to him, Sir John McNeill thought the same. “A few days ago,” he wrote (Nov. 18, 1858), “I read a passage to one of the most admired essayists of our time[256] without telling him what I was reading from. When I had done he said, ‘That is perfect, whose is that?’ I bade him guess. He said, ‘There are not many men in England who could have done it. I think I know them all, but I cannot quite bring it home with confidence to any of them. It may be some new writer.’ I said it was, and then I told him who it was. So much for the manner of the thing, which you care little about. But for the matter: after a very careful study of the whole, I am fully satisfied that it is a mine of facts and inferences which will furnish materials[345] for every scheme that is likely to be built up on that ground for several generations. No man or woman can henceforth pretend to deal with the subject without mastering these volumes and, if honest, without referring to them.… Regarded as a whole, I think it contains a body of information and instruction, such as no one else so far as I know has ever brought to bear upon any similar subject. I regard it as a gift to the Army, and to the country altogether priceless.”

These estimates, given respectively by the literary historian of the Crimean War and by the man of affairs who had probed most deeply into the Crimean muddle, will be confirmed, I am confident, by any competent reader of Miss Nightingale's Notes.[257] The wide range of the book, and its mastery of detail on a great variety of subjects, are as remarkable as its firm and consistent grasp of general principles. The key-note is struck in the Preface. The question of Army Hospitals is shown to be part of wider questions involving the health and efficiency of the Army at large. Defects, similar to those which occasioned so high a rate of mortality among the sick in Hospital during the war, were the cause why so many healthy men came into Hospital at all. Those who fell before Sebastopol by disease were above seven times the number of those who fell by the enemy. A large number fell from preventable causes; but the causes could only be prevented in the future by the adoption of new systems. The bad health of the British Army in peace was shown to be hardly less appalling than was the mortality during the Crimean War. The only way to prevent a recurrence of such disasters was to improve the sanitary conditions of the soldier's life during peace, and during peace to organize and maintain General Hospitals in practical efficiency. The necessity of reorganization, and the application of sanitary science to the Army generally, are the two principles of which Miss Nightingale never loses sight in any of the[346] branches of her subject. There is an Introductory Chapter giving the history of the health of the British armies in previous campaigns, and the book then contains twenty sections. The first six of these deal under different heads with the medical history of the Crimean War. Then come three sections dealing with the organization of Regimental and General Hospitals. The remainder of the book takes wider scope, discussing, in succession, the Need of Sanitary Officials in connection with the Army; the Necessity of a Statistical Department; the Education, Employment and Promotion of Medical Officers; Soldiers' Pay and Stoppages; the Dieting and Cooking of the Army; the Commissariat; Washing and Canteens; Soldiers' Wives; the Construction of Army Hospitals; and the Mortality of Armies in Peace and War. A twentieth section gives, after the manner of Royal Commissions, a summary of Defects and Suggestions. There are also various Appendices, Supplementary Notes, Diagrams and Illustrations. The first volume of the book consists of 830 octavo pages, some numbered in Roman numerals. The pages thus numbered were an after-thought. The main body of the book was ready for press in August 1857, but it was not desirable that the Nightingale Report should forestall, even in private circulation, the publication of the Royal Commission's Report. A final appendix to the latter Report contained a mass of official correspondence on the care of the sick and wounded during the Crimean War. Miss Nightingale pounced upon this, and prefixed to several of her sections a classified abstract of the principal documents. “A masterly analysis,” wrote Sir John McNeill, when she sent him the proofs; “it is conclusive, because it is quite fair, and nothing could be more fatal to false pretension.” Sometimes Miss Nightingale could not deny herself an ironical comment[258]; but the mere collocation of facts and utterances, as she arranged them, in deadly parallel, is more effective even than her sarcasm.

Lord Panmure's instructions to Miss Nightingale of February 1857 were afterwards supplemented by a request that she would submit a Confidential Report on “The Introduction of Female Nursing into Military Hospitals[347] in Peace and in War.” The request had an amusing sequel. “You directed me last week,” she wrote to Lord Panmure (May 3), “to make suggestions to yourself as to the organization of Female Nursing in Army Hospitals. The Director-General, Army Medical Department, directed, last week, the expulsion of all female nurses but two from the Woolwich Artillery Hospitals.… I have a little pencil composition, to be 'dedicated, with permission, to your Lordship,' exhibiting the order emanating from the Secretary of State to introduce nurses, and a simultaneous order from the Army Medical Board to turn them out. I enclose a memorandum (merely tentative and experimental) as to the duties of nurses. I cannot expect the Secretary of State to enter into the details. Perhaps I may ask to hear his decision as to the ultimate steps to be taken.”[259] The tentative memorandum was afterwards expanded into a treatise, forming the second volume (pp. 184) of the Notes. Its title—Subsidiary Notes as to the Introduction of Female Nursing into Military Hospitals in Peace and War—hardly describes the scope of the volume, which is, in fact almost a treatise on Nursing at large. “I read the Subsidiary Notes first,” wrote Mrs. Gaskell (Dec. 31, 1858). “It was so interesting I could not leave it. I finished it at one long morning sitting—hardly stirring between breakfast and dinner. I cannot tell you how much I like it, and for such numbers of reasons. First, because you know of a varnish which is as good or better than black-lead for grates[260] (only I wonder what it is). Next because of the little sentences of real deep wisdom which from their depth and true foundation may be real helps in every direction and to every person; and for the quiet continual devout references to God which make the book a holy one.”

As the work of a single hand, and that the hand of a woman in delicate health, the writing of Miss Nightingale's Notes on the British Army, in the space of six months, is an astonishing tour de force. Only the most intense application, assisted by great power of brain and will, could have accomplished[348] it. She had no staff of secretaries. Mr. Arthur Hugh Clough, then employed in the Education Office, gave her some help, out of office hours, with the proofs; and her faithful Aunt Mai did some copying and correspondence. But for the most part everything was written in her own hand, and not for one moment did she allow herself any relaxation. Nor were the Notes the only work of the same months. She prepared also (with some assistance from Mr. Bracebridge), and issued, in 1857, the masterly Statement to Subscribers which has been quoted frequently in the foregoing Part of this Memoir. “Why do you do all this,” wrote Mr. Herbert (Jan. 16), “with your own hands? I wish you could be turned into a cross-country squire like me for a few weeks.”


One peculiar advantage Miss Nightingale enjoyed in the preparation of her Notes, which, however, added as greatly to her labour as to their effectiveness and authority. Experts of many kinds were willing and eager to help her. There were in all branches of the public service broad-minded men who knew alike the needs and the difficulties of reform, and who recognized in her an invaluable ally. Just as in the East, reformers in difficulty “went to Miss Nightingale,” so now officials and officers—some openly, others with careful secrecy—approached her with hints and offers of assistance, or sometimes with petition that she would come and help them. Thus Sir John Liddell, Director-General of the Navy Medical Department, hearing what was on foot, begged her “to take up the sailors,” and to “introduce female nurses into naval hospitals.” She inspected Haslar Hospital at his request (Jan. 1857), and he consulted her on the plans for a Naval Hospital at Woolwich. “I return with many thanks,” he wrote (Feb. 17), “your very clever Report on the Construction of Hospitals [a section of her Notes], from which I mean to profit largely in both our new and old buildings; but as you have only allowed me the privilege of reading your Report privately, I trust that when you see your notions carried out in our Hospitals you will not reproach me with being a plagiarist without conscience.” Sir John in[349] return supplied her with facts which she needed about naval stores, dietaries, and statistics. He also escorted her on a visit of inspection to Chatham, a military, as well as a naval, station. She was received on all sides with the utmost consideration, and a Military Medical Officer gave her free access to everything. Dr. Andrew Smith was exceeding wrath when he learnt that she had been prying into his domain there. The Medical Officer wrote to her explaining that he had misunderstood the case, imagining that her visit had official sanction on the military, as well as on the naval side, and begging her, in fear and trembling, to treat everything he had said and shown as strictly secret. The main object of her inspection of Barracks and Hospitals was to collect data for her Report, but sometimes she was able to effect a stroke of reform by the way and at once. She was invited to inspect Chelsea Military Hospital by Dr. McLachlan, the Principal Medical Officer. She went, marked many defects, and wrote to him on the subject. He concurred in what she said, explained that “reform moves slowly in old establishments, obstruction coming from sources least expected,” and hoped that she might be able to exercise “a little pressure from without.” The chairman of the Board was Mr. Robert Lowe, at that time Vice-President of the Board of Trade and Paymaster-General. She sought an introduction to Mr. Lowe, who “had much pleasure in calling upon her.” The sequel is told in a letter from Dr. McLachlan: “If you have not already been made acquainted with it, I am sure you will be glad to learn that all the really important points mentioned in your letter to me some time ago have been conceded. Mr. Lowe's perseverance carried the Treasury. The men are to have flannel vests and drawers, knives, forks, spoons, plates, &c., &c.” And Mr. Lowe himself, who could be soft sometimes, wrote to her with regard to “the improvements which you were good enough to suggest,” that he was “happy to believe that the flannel is a very great comfort to the poor old men.” Many Crimean veterans were afterwards Chelsea pensioners, and I have given some of their recollections of Miss Nightingale in an earlier chapter. They probably did not know that they owed their hospital comforts at home to the same[350] woman's touch that had tended them at Scutari or in the Crimea. Miss Nightingale, during these months, inspected also the leading Civil Hospitals in London. Many of them had appointed her an Honorary Life Governor in recognition of her services during the war.

Military officers also tendered their assistance. “Ask questions,” says a letter from Wellington Barracks addressed to a friend of Miss Nightingale, “until you arrive at what you want. It is a pleasure to assist that excellent lady in her noble work”: “I was quite charmed,” wrote an officer from Aldershot, “with the opportunity of again communicating with Miss Nightingale. She is the most single-minded and benevolent person I ever met, and is truly the wonder of her sex. Do, pray, convey to her my desire to place my humble services and experience at her disposal whenever and however she may desire.” Within the War Office itself, she had influential friends. Sir Henry Storks was in frequent correspondence with her, and sent for her criticism drafts of new Regulations. Colonel Lefroy had, in accordance with her suggestion,[261] been instructed by Lord Panmure to draft a Scheme for a School of Military Medicine and Surgery. Miss Nightingale's notes on this Draft (Nov. 1856) include suggestions which might have come from some Royal Commission of our own day. She urges that the Board of Examiners should consist of the teachers. She suggests that the teachers in hospitals should not be doctors of eminence; “a man with an eminent practice rarely becomes an eminent teacher; many good men may be found to take the position of teachers at a moderate salary.” She forestalled the idea of Imperial inter-change, of which the War Office of to-day says much. “A most important part of this School,” she writes, would be to afford opportunities for study and comparison to Medical Officers from the Colonies. Like Dr. McLachlan at Chelsea, Colonel Lefroy at the War Office sometimes “came to Miss Nightingale.” He told her of a certain military hospital which was very much overcrowded. The Principal Medical Officer had represented the case to Headquarters and demanded extra accommodation, but in vain: “a letter from Miss Nightingale[351] might lead to better things.” Colonel Lefroy was helpful in another matter. Miss Nightingale was a pioneer, as we have heard during the account of her work in the East, in devising means for encouraging the better employment of the private soldier's leisure, and for promoting his intelligent recreation. And this effort, commenced by her among the soldiers on service during the Crimean War, was continued upon her return to England. To the initiative and generosity of Florence Nightingale, the establishment of soldiers' reading-rooms is due. Her friend, Mr. Sabin, who had been the principal chaplain at Scutari, was now stationed at Aldershot, and Miss Nightingale concerted measures with him for continuing there the experiment which they had made in the East.[262] After much negotiation, permission was obtained from the military authorities to use one of the canteens as a reading-room, and on June 17, 1857, “Divisional Reading-Room, H Canteen, Aldershot Camp” was opened. The funds were provided by Miss Nightingale. The experiment was so much appreciated by the soldiers that she determined to enlarge it. She invoked the good offices of Colonel Lefroy, who wrote to her on August 19 as follows: “A propitious moment offered itself yesterday, and I asked the Chief whether I was at liberty to accept the offer of ‘a private person’ to contribute to the amusement of the Soldiers, and the improvement of their Reading-rooms. He laughed, having probably a shrewd suspicion of the identity of the unknown, and gave leave. I am now therefore quite at your service.… There will be no difficulty in finding means of applying any funds you will supply, and I have but one regret in the matter, viz. that a duty so essential to the moral improvement of the soldier should be left to private benevolence. I should like to print Milton's IXth Sonnet[263] on everything you give us.” Miss Nightingale herself had no taste for[352] publicity or praise. She loved to do good by stealth, and most of her influence was exerted behind the scenes.

Statisticians, sanitary engineers, architects, and other experts were all in correspondence or personal communication with Miss Nightingale during the preparation of her Report. Dr. William Farr, the first authority on the former subject, was at work with her in January and February 1857 upon comparisons of the mortality in the army and in civil life. “It will always give me the greatest pleasure,” he wrote, “to render you any assistance I can in promoting the health of the Army. We shall ask your assistance in return in the attempts that are now being made to improve the health of the civil population. It is in the House and the Home that sound principles will work most salutarily.” Later chapters will show how readily Miss Nightingale lent assistance in that field. When she had finished the statistical section of her Report, she sent the proofs with her illustrative diagrams for Dr. Farr's revision. He found nothing to alter. “This speech,” he wrote, “is the best that ever was written on Diagrams or on the Army. I can only express my Opinion briefly in ‘Demosthenes himself with the facts before him could not have written or thundered better.’ The details appear to me to be quite correct.” He specially commended her diagrams for the clearness with which they explained themselves. She was something of a pioneer in the graphic method of statistical presentation. In every branch of her inquiry she was equally thorough; consulting the best authorities, collecting the essential facts. She was in communication with Sir Robert Rawlinson and Sir Edwin Chadwick, and with Sir John Jebb, the architect of model prisons. She collected plans of all the best hospitals and infirmaries in Great Britain and on the Continent. She consulted Professor Christison on dietetics, and procured dietaries from foreign hospitals. She corresponded with Army Surgeons whom she had met in the East, and with Army chaplains and missionaries. The feeling which fellow-workers had for Miss Nightingale appears characteristically in a note from Sir Robert Rawlinson to her aunt (1858). “To have earned the good word of Miss N. is most gratifying. I trust I may deserve a continuance of it. I learn with sorrow[353] that her health is so doubtful, but I have a full and abiding faith in the providence of God. She has sown seed that will give a full harvest, and mankind will be better for her practical labours to the end of time. Hospitals will be constructed according to her wise arrangements, and they will be managed in conformity with her humane rules. One man in the army will be more useful than two formerly, and reason will preside over comfort and health. So far as my weak means extend I will strive to work in the same field, and do that which in me lies to embody the lessons I have received.” “It is very pretty,” wrote her sister to Madame Mohl (May 2, '57), “to see these wise old men so profoundly convinced of her knowledge as well as of her disinterestedness, and looking up at her with such a mixture of reverence and tenderness, of desire that she should not overwork herself, and of desire that she should do the work which she alone can do so well.” “You cannot think what it is,” wrote her sister to another friend, “to watch a great mind like hers fully at work and fully equal to that great work. To see each emergency as it arises met and conquered, to see in her great plans for reform and improvement, how even each hindrance only seems to give a fresh impetus of power to overcome (if my heart was not in each move of the game it would be like watching a gigantic game of chess, whereof the pawns were men and the result the lives of thousands); how she collects the honey out of each man's information and binds it up into the whole that is to carry on the work.” Miss Nightingale's Notes were her own work in a peculiar degree and, as Sir John McNeill said, no one else could have done it. But it is also true that the book collects from many quarters the best that was known and thought at the time on the subjects with which it deals.


Miss Nightingale's own Report was more than half finished when the long-promised and long-delayed Royal Commission on the same subject was appointed. The importunity of Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale had at last “brought the Bison to bay.” On April 26 she received the[354] welcome intimation that Lord Panmure would call at the Burlington Hotel on the following day with the Official Draft of the Instructions for the Commission. She suggested a few alterations, and these were accepted, and the documents were sent for the Royal approval. Miss Nightingale kept a copy of the manuscript, and sent it to her friend, Dr. Graham Balfour, the secretary of the Commission. “Every one of the members of the Commission,” she explained to him (April 27), “was carried by force of will against Dr. Andrew Smith, and poor Pan has been the shuttlecock”; and with regard to the Instructions, “You will see curious traces of the struggle to exclude and to include all reform in the progress of the MS. I think I am not without merit for labouring at bullying Pan—a petty kind of warfare, very unpleasant.”

It throws an interesting side-light on the relation of Ministers to their subordinates to know, as appears from Miss Nightingale's papers, that Lord Panmure was careful to have the documents initialled by the Queen before submitting them to Dr. Smith. To those who have delved into the history of the Crimean muddle, few things are more curious at first sight than the long ascendancy of Dr. Smith. Perhaps no one was to blame, but only the system; but if any individuals were to blame for the medical defects, then surely the Medical Director-General must have been one. Lord Grey sent to Miss Nightingale a very long and elaborate Memorandum on her Notes. He admired the skill with which she marshalled the facts; but maintained that the true conclusion to be drawn from them was not that radical reform was needed, but that several persons (including Dr. Smith) should have been court-martialled. I doubt if Miss Nightingale differed from the latter proposition. But in fact Dr. Smith was decorated, and when the war was over he was allowed for many months to obstruct the course of reform. The explanation, however, is simple. The permanent head of a Department is a master of its detail, and if he be a man of any ability, this fact often gives him an ascendancy over his political chief. If the Minister be indolent, or incapable of detail, or for any other reason disposed to the line of least resistance, he becomes as clay[355] in the hands of his permanent subordinate, whenever a matter comes down from generals to particulars. So Lord Panmure, at the final stage of this affair, took the precaution of barring out details. Dr. Smith, who was a pertinacious man, had, I dare say, many criticisms to offer when the Instructions for the Commission were shown to him. But, if so, Lord Panmure had a general and a conclusive answer. What the Queen had signed must not be altered.

The Royal Warrant, instructing the Commission, was in very wide and comprehensive terms, and Mr. Herbert and his colleagues set to work without a day's delay. Six months had elapsed between his acceptance of the Chairmanship and the issue of the Royal Warrant. The Report of the Commission was prepared in precisely three months. To appreciate fully the industry which such a result involved, one must have looked into the mountainous mass of detail which the Commission accumulated and sifted. No praise can be too high for the unremitting attention, the incessant hard work which Mr. Herbert, as Chairman, threw into the task. But even so, such speed in the preparation of the Commission's Report would have been impossible, but that much of the ground had been already explored, and most of it exhaustively covered, by Miss Nightingale. In all Royal Commissions, as also in more august bodies, there is an Inner Cabinet, and sometimes an Innermost Cabinet as well. In the present case there was an Innermost Cabinet of three, and one of the three was not a member of the Commission—Mr. Herbert, Dr. Sutherland, and Miss Nightingale. There was no man so closely associated with Miss Nightingale's work for so many years, and in so many different directions, as Dr. John Sutherland. He was recognized as one of the leading sanitarians of the day. He had been an Inspector under the first Board of Health (1848), and had been employed by the Government in many special inquiries. As head of the Sanitary Commission sent to the Crimea in 1855, he had, as already stated, made Miss Nightingale's acquaintance, and from that time forth they were close colleagues. He served on almost every Commission, Sub-Commission, and Committee with which she had anything to do. If he was not nominated in the first list, she always[356] insisted on his inclusion. He sometimes exasperated her, as we shall hear in later chapters, but they worked together in constant comradeship. He was, as it were, her Chief-of-the-Staff; and also in large measure her Private Secretary for official matters. Upon Dr. Sutherland and Miss Nightingale the Chairman of the Royal Commission mainly relied. I have already quoted Mr. Herbert's general tribute to her assistance (p. 312). It is fully borne out by the evidence contained in her papers.

Throughout the proceedings of the Commission, Miss Nightingale was in daily communication—personal, or by letter—with Mr. Herbert or Dr. Sutherland, or with both. I have before me, of this date, fifty letters from each of them to her. She was an unremitting task-master. “My dear Lady,” wrote Dr. Sutherland one Friday (May 22), “do not be unreasonable. I fear your sex is much given to being so. I would have been with you yesterday, had I been able, but alas! my will was stronger than my legs. I have been at the Commission to-day, and as yet there is nothing to fear. I was too much fatigued and too stupid to see you afterwards, but I intend coming to-morrow about 12 o'clock, and we can then prepare for the campaign of the coming week. There won't be much to do, as the Commission is going to the Derby, except your humble servant and Alexander, who, for the sake of example, are going to see Portsmouth and Haslar to give evidence on both. We shall meet on Monday and Friday only. The Sanitary arguing goes on on both these days, and I hope to-morrow to be able to perform the coaching operation you desiderate, and as you don't go to church you can coach Mr. Herbert on Sunday. I have now sent you a Roland for your Oliver, and am ever yours faithfully.” Of the letters from Mr. Herbert, written after the Commission was appointed, the first defines the position: “We must meet and agree our course.” A few other brief extracts will fill in the sketch. “I am getting up the examinations; does anything occur to you?” “I send you Hall's correspondence. You know the matters treated with all the dates which I do not, and will see in them what I should not.” He consults her about the order in which to call the witnesses, “or we shall seem to be always[357] examining one another.” He asks her to look into a comparison of the mortality among marines and sailors respectively. She secured on another subject some damning documents. “I return your stolen goods,” he writes. “Pray keep them carefully. If ever we have to besiege the Army Medical Department, no Lancaster gun could be more formidable than this document; it is really almost unbelievable.” “I should very much like to have a Cabinet Council with you to-day. Shall I come to you at 5 o'c., or would you come here?” And so forth, and so forth, almost daily. But I can perhaps best convey an idea of the co-operation in terms of legal procedure. Miss Nightingale was the solicitor who gave instructions in the case to Mr. Herbert. As each branch of the inquiry came up, she sent him a memorandum upon it; often, no doubt, a copy of her own Report on the same subject. She suggested the witnesses, and often saw them before they gave their evidence, in order, as it were, to take their proof. In the case of some important witnesses, she prepared the briefs for cross-examination, as well as examination. In June, Sir John Hall, whom the reader will remember as Principal Medical Officer in the Crimea, was to be in the box. “I have been asked,” she wrote to Sir John McNeill (June 12), “to request you to give us some hints as to his examination, founded upon what you saw of him when in your hands. My own belief is that Hall is a much cleverer fellow than they take him for, almost as clever as Airey,[264] and that he will consult his reputation in like manner, and perhaps give us very useful evidence, no thanks to him.… I would only recall to your memory the long series of proofs of his incredible apathy, beginning with the fatal letter approving of Scutari, Oct. '54,[265] continuing with all the negative errors of non-obtaining of Lime Juice, Fresh Bread, Quinine, etc., up to his not denouncing the effects of salt meat before you.… We do not want to badger the old man in his[358] examination, which would do us no good and him harm. But we want to make the best out of him for our case. Please help us. I understand that Dr. Smith says he was much afraid of ‘the Commission’ at first, and ‘thought it would do harm.’ But now ‘thinks it is taking a good turn.’ Is this for us or against us?” Sir John McNeill thought “for us,” and advised that Dr. Hall should “not be put too much on the defensive,” but should be led in examination “to slip quietly into the current of reform as Dr. A. Smith seems from what you say to have done.” Still, if he proved obdurate he must of course “be put in a corner”; and so Sir John McNeill assisted the lady-solicitor to prepare posers for a possibly refractory witness. It was difficult, however, to be refractory with Mr. Herbert. “He was a man of the quickest and most accurate perception,” she wrote of him in later years, “that I have ever known. Also he was the most sympathetic. His very manner engaged the most sulky and the most recalcitrant of witnesses. He never made an enemy or a quarrel in the Commission. He used to say, ‘There takes two to be a quarrel, and I won't be one.’” Then, again, Miss Nightingale was always at Mr. Herbert's call to supply details, missing dates, and references. Every one familiar with the courts knows how even the ablest counsel will sometimes stumble over a date or fumble among his papers for a particular document, till a junior behind him or the solicitor in front of him comes to his rescue. That was another rôle played by Miss Nightingale, though behind the scenes. “Sidney is again in despair for you,” wrote Mrs. Herbert; “can you come? You will say, Bless that man, why can't he leave me in peace? But I am only obeying orders in begging for you.”

A difficulty arose upon the question whether Miss Nightingale should or should not give evidence herself. She was averse from doing so, and Sir John McNeill strongly supported her. In his paternal way he did not like the idea of her exposing herself to such a strain, and indeed her physical weakness at the time was great. In the present day she would of course, in like circumstances, have been made a member of the Royal Commission. In those days the idea of[359] calling a woman as a witness caused some qualms. Her own objection was founded rather on regard for Mr. Herbert's susceptibilities. She could not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth without going into the past, and such evidence might seem to cast reflections on the conduct of her friend as Minister during the earlier part of the war. Mr. Herbert, however, brushed this point aside, and urged her to come and tell the whole truth. Her friend Mr. Stafford was yet more emphatic. “Let me entreat you,” he wrote (June 11, “to reconsider your determination. You have done so much, you ought to do all. This is our last effort for the soldier. No one can aid us so well as you, and you can aid us so well in no other manner; even if your opinions should offend some few individuals, the fault is theirs, not yours. The absence of your name from our list of witnesses will diminish the weight of our Report, and will give rise to unfounded rumours; it will be said either that we were afraid of your evidence, and did not invite you to tender it, or that you made suggestions, the responsibility of which you were reluctant to incur in public.” There was obvious force in Mr. Stafford's arguments, and it was decided that Miss Nightingale should give evidence in the form of written answers to written questions. Her evidence, which occupies thirty-three pages of the Blue-book, is in effect a condensed summary of her confidential Report. None of the evidence given to the Commission was more direct and cogent. “It may surprise many persons,” wrote an army doctor at the time, “to find, from Miss Nightingale's evidence that, added to feminine graces, she possesses, not only the gift of acute perception, but that, on all the points submitted to her, she reasons with a strong, acute, most logical, and, if we may say so, masculine intellect, that may well shame some of the other witnesses. They maunder through their subjects as if they had by no means made up their minds on any one point—they would and they would not; and they seem almost to think that two parallel roads may sometimes be made to meet, by dint of courtesy and good feeling, amiable motives that should never be trusted to in matters of duty. When you have to encounter uncouth, hydra-headed monsters of officialism and ineptitude,[360] straight hitting is the best mode of attack. Miss Nightingale shows that she not only knows her subject, but feels it thoroughly. There is, in all that she says, a clearness, a logical coherence, a pungency and abruptness, a ring as of true metal, that is altogether admirable.”[266] “I have perused with the greatest interest,” wrote a member of the Commission (Sir J. R. Martin) to her, “your most conclusive evidence now in circulation for the perusal of the Commissioners. It contains an assemblage of facts and circumstances which, taken throughout their entire extent, must prove of the most vital importance to the British soldier for ages to come.”


The Report of the Commission was written by Mr. Herbert in August 1857, with much assistance from Miss Nightingale. “A thousand thanks,” he wrote to her (Aug. 5). “The list of recommendations and defects is very clear and good. I have noted one or two additions.” A comparison of the Recommendations at the end of Miss Nightingale's Report with those at the end of the Royal Commission's Report shows how closely the latter document followed the earlier. The Report was not issued to the public until January 1858. The reason for the delay is intimately connected with the story of Miss Nightingale's life during the latter half of 1857. The salient feature of the Report was its adoption and confirmation of the appalling figures which she had first tabulated many months before. “It is of infinite importance to the success of all you have still to accomplish,” wrote Sir John McNeill (Nov. 9) when she sent him a proof of Mr. Herbert's Report, “that the accuracy of your statements as to the condition of the Barracks has been established beyond question. It deprives interested cavillers of all right to be listened to when they desire to question your other propositions.” It was shown conclusively by the Royal Commission that, as Miss Nightingale had said, the rate of mortality in the Army at home[361] in time of peace was double that of the civil population. A comparison of the civil and military mortality in certain London parishes was yet more startling. In St. Pancras the civil rate was 2·2; the rate in the barracks of the 2nd Life Guards was 10·4. In Kensington the civil rate was 3·3; the rate in the Knightsbridge barracks was 17·5. Every one who knew the contents of the Report perceived that this was the point which would cause a sensation. The Crimean War and its muddles were beginning to fade into the past, especially in view of the Indian Mutiny; and reorganization of a department of the Army would never be likely to arrest popular attention. But the case was different with facts and figures showing that the health of the Army, even when at home and in peace, was shamefully sacrificed by official neglect. There was to be a sitting of Parliament in December, and nasty questions would assuredly be asked unless something were done. There was a masterful and importunate woman behind the scenes who was firmly resolved that something should be done. Without a moment's rest, without thought of recess or relaxation, Miss Nightingale flung herself into a new campaign.



(August–December 1857)

The Nation is grateful to you for what you did at Scutari, but all that it was possible for you to do there was a trifle compared with the good you are doing now.—Sir John Mcneill (Letter to Florence Nightingale, Dec. 1857).

Reformers, who are familiar with the ways of the political world, more often sigh than rejoice when they hear that a subject in which they are interested has been “referred to a Royal Commission.” They know that the chances are many to one that the subject, like the Report, will be placed on a shelf and stay there. Sometimes the reference is a well-understood euphemism for such an intention; and even when it is not, there are many things which may bring about the same result. The Commission will perhaps produce a litter of Reports from whose discordant voices no definite conclusion can be drawn. In any case the Report, or Reports, will have to “engage the earnest attention” of His or Her Majesty's Government, and the attention, earnest or otherwise, is sure to be prolonged. Before the process has come to an end, many things may have happened to overlay the subject in question. Every generation of reformers sees a certain number of subjects on which its heart has been set deeply interred under a pile of Blue-books.

This was the danger with which Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale were confronted in August 1857 in the case of their Royal Commission on the sanitary condition of the British Army. Against the risk of an equivocal Report they had, indeed, guarded themselves in advance; but the danger of a definite Report leading to no immediate action had still to be met. Mr. Herbert was no less anxious than[363] Miss Nightingale to meet it. He had devoted unsparing toil to the Commission; his toil would be reduced to futility if the Report were merely to be pigeon-holed. They laid their plans on the consideration mentioned at the end of the last chapter—namely, the effect which the disclosures of the Royal Commission was likely to have on public opinion. Mr. Herbert communicated the gist of the Report privately to Lord Panmure. It could be officially presented and published sooner or later as the negotiations with Ministers might go. Mr. Herbert pointed out to Lord Panmure that the Report was “likely to arrest a good deal of general attention”; that there was time to take measures towards reform before the Report became known to the public; that the simultaneous publication both of its recommendations and of orders and regulations founded upon them would “give the prestige which promptitude always carries with it.” Mr. Herbert would gladly give every assistance in his power towards that end. He put the case with his usual suavity. But there was iron within the velvet. The publication of the Report could properly be postponed for a while, but not indefinitely. Lord Panmure had to choose between committing himself to instant reform, so as to whitewash the Government beforehand, and postponing reform, in which case he would have to reckon with a public opinion inflamed by the disclosures of the Report. And meanwhile Miss Nightingale still held her Report in reserve, for use in an appeal to public opinion, should the negotiations fail to secure any guarantee for prompt reform.

The plan of active reform agreed upon between her and Mr. Herbert was that four Sub-Commissions should be appointed, with Mr. Herbert himself as Chairman of each, to settle the details of reform, and in some measure to execute it, in accordance with the general recommendations of the Report. These Sub-Commissions were severally (1) To put the Barracks in sanitary order, (2) To organize a Statistical Department, (3) To institute a Medical School, and (4) To reconstruct the Army Medical Department, to revise the Hospital Regulations, and draw up a Warrant for the Promotion of Medical Officers. This last, from its comprehensive and cleansing scope, was called by Miss Nightingale[364] “The Wiping Commission.” Mr. Herbert sent these proposals to Lord Panmure on August 7,[267] and two days later he wrote to Miss Nightingale: “Panmure writes fairly enough, but he has gone to shoot grouse. I have asked Alexander to meet me at the Burlington on Wednesday at 3, to discuss and settle things. So I have disposed of your time and rooms.” The grouse, however, were not quite ready, and on the 14th Mr. Herbert caught Lord Panmure on the wing. Mr. Herbert seemed to carry his point, the four Sub-Commissions were agreed to in general terms, and, as he sent word to Miss Nightingale on the same day, he was “able to leave for Ireland with a lighter heart after seeing Pan. But I am not easy about you. Here am I going to lead an animal life for a month, get up early, pursue your animal, catch him, eat him, and go to sleep. Why can't you, who do men's work, take man's exercise in some shape?… This is my parting sermon. I use, for the purpose of scolding you, a liberty which nothing gives me but my hearty regard and affection for you.”

Mr. Herbert had well earned his month's fishing. But as Dr. Sutherland presently wrote to her, “one thing is quite clear, that women can do what men would not do, and that women will dare suffering knowingly where men would shrink.” Miss Nightingale would not, and could not, take man's rest because she felt her cause too intensely; she could not be of so light a heart as her friend, because she knew “her Pan” a little better than he did. Dr. Andrew Smith, she heard, was putting up a stiff fight against reform. Lord Panmure stayed on in the Highlands late into the autumn, paying only a flying visit or two to London. His subordinates were as laborious as ever in piling up objections. He became frightened at his own acts, and at one time revoked (but afterwards, under pressure, reinstated) the authority he had given for the Wiping Sub-Commission. Mr. Herbert returned to England in September, and came up to London to see Miss Nightingale before the first meeting of the first Sub-Commission. Many weeks elapsed before all of them were set on foot. She meanwhile was incessantly at work, and Dr. Sutherland, who lived at Highgate, was[365] constantly with her. She wrote reminders to Lord Panmure, “although I hear you saying, There is that bothering woman again,” and she begged Mr. Herbert to do the like. She drafted instructions and schemes for each of the Sub-Commissions. As each of them set to work, there were meetings in her rooms to settle the procedure. There were periods, as Miss Nightingale afterwards recalled, “when Sidney Herbert would meet the Cabal, as he used to call it, which consists of ‘you and me and Alexander and Sutherland, and sometimes Martin and Farr,’ every day either at Burlington Street, or at Belgrave Square, and sometimes as often as twice or even three times a day.” A few extracts from her correspondence will show the extent of her work and the eagerness of her temper:—

August 7 (Miss Nightingale to Sir J. McNeill). The reconstitution of the Army Medical Department as to its government has been carried by the commission almost in the form which you recommended. I have been requested by Mr. Herbert, who went out of town last night for a few days, to draw up a scheme as to what these new men are to do. And I now venture to enclose it to you, earnestly begging you to consider it and send it me back with your remarks in as short a time as you possibly can. We have carried the Barracks Sub-Commission with Panmure, Dr. Sutherland to be the Sanitary Head.

Sept. 29 (Mr. Herbert to Miss Nightingale). Pan is still shooting. It is to me unconscionable. In future you must defend the Bison, for I won't.

Oct. 10 (Miss Nightingale to Sir J. McNeill). I will not say a word about India. You know so much more about it than anybody here. We have seen terrible things in the last 3 years, but nothing to my mind so terrible as Panmure's unmanly and stupid indifference on this occasion! I have been three years “serving in” the War Department. When I began, there was incapacity, but not indifference. Now there is incapacity and indifference.… Panmure's coming up to town last Thursday week was the consequence of reiterated remonstrance.… And he is going away again after the next Indian mail. That India will have to be occupied by British troops for several years, I suppose there is no question. And so far from the all-absorbing interest of this Indian subject diminishing the necessity of immediately carrying out the reforms suggested by our Commission, I am sure you will agree that they are now the more vitally important to the very existence of an army. I came up[366] to town [from Malvern] on Thursday week and met Mr. Herbert for this purpose. Panmure had not done a thing. It was extracted from him then and there that the four Sub-Commissions … should be issued immediately. The Instructions had been approved by P. seven weeks ago. A week, however, has elapsed, and we have heard nothing. I shall not, however, leave P. alone till this is done. Mr. Herbert's honour is at stake, which gives us a hold upon him. Without him, of course, I could do nothing.

Nov. 9 (Sir J. McNeill to Miss Nightingale). We may now reckon on something being done to rescue the country from the sin and shame of having so culpably neglected our soldiers. I rejoice that you are to see the fruits of your labours in their behalf.

Nov. 15 (Miss Nightingale to Sir J. McNeill). Here I come again. Panmure has granted the wiping “Commission” with such ample instructions for “preparing draft Instructions and Regulations,” defining the duties of etc., etc., and revising the “Queen's Q.M.G's., Barracks', Purveyor's and Hospital Regulations,” as you may guess them to be, when I tell you they were written by me.… Mr. Herbert is, besides, to send Panmure a “Constitution” for the Army Medical Board, and a Warrant for “Promotion” himself. All that is necessary now is to keep Mr. Herbert up to the point. The strength of his character is its simplicity and candour, with extreme quickness of perception; its fault is its excessive eclecticism. Ten years have I been endeavouring to obtain an expression of opinion from him and have never succeeded yet.… This new Sub-Commission entails upon me a labour I most gladly undertake of putting together Draft Regulations to be submitted to Mr. Herbert, as suggestions for the Draft he will propose to the Sub-Commission. These Regulations must, of course, rhyme with the Report. I think you would recommend, etc., etc.

Dec. 1 (Miss Nightingale to Sir J. McNeill). This is the first rough proof of the Regulations chiefly written by myself, which Mr. Herbert will submit to the Regulations Committee on Monday. I send them to you with his sanction, begging you to cut them up severely, and to send them back as soon as possible. I, in my own name, direct your particular attention to criticize the Regulations for Nurses. You will of course understand that my name does not appear. We are so sorry to give you this trouble, but feel the necessity of having your advice.

Dec. 14 (Mrs. Herbert to Miss Nightingale). Dearest—Sidney wishes me to send you these, if you will be so kind as to look over them. I know it's wrong.



A later letter from Sir John McNeill is quoted at the head of this chapter. He considered that compared with the work which she was doing now, what she had done at Scutari was “a trifle”—“mere child's play” was the phrase which she herself used in making the comparison. Preceding pages will, I think, have inclined the reader to the same conclusion, or, at any rate, have enabled him to understand what Miss Nightingale and Sir John meant. And this large and difficult work was being done by a woman who had already taxed her physical strength dangerously in the East, and who was now threatened, in the opinion of competent observers, by a complete breakdown. Of the members of what was called her “Cabinet,” Sir John McNeill was the one for whose intellectual power and judgment she had the highest respect, to Mr. Herbert she was personally the most attached, but to Dr. Sutherland also she sometimes opened her inner thoughts and feelings. He was of a somewhat wayward disposition, which alternately pleased and vexed the business-like Lady-in-Chief, but he was an indispensable helper, whilst in his wife Miss Nightingale inspired deep affection, and the two women interchanged intimate religious experiences. All Miss Nightingale's friends, and Dr. Sutherland as a medical man more especially, saw that she was over-working. Change of air and seclusion she herself felt compelled to seek; and she found them at Malvern, in the establishment of Dr. Johnson, who had moved thither from Umberslade[268]; but rest from work she would not, and could not, take. She was at Malvern in August and September, and again in December. Her faithful Aunt Mai—her “true mother,” as the niece at this time called her—kept watch over her alike at Malvern and in London. The society of her own mother and sister, with their many and lively interests, she found distracting. Whether at the Burlington or at Malvern, she desired to use every hour of strength for her work and for nothing else. And when Dr. Sutherland joined the others in begging her to desist, her[368] heart was heavy within her. She was sore that her friend should understand her so little. She surmised that he had been prompted by her sister. She was morbidly anxious at this time that no member of the family except Aunt Mai should know how ill she was. She had attained her freedom for the life of independent work, at a great price, as the first Part of this Memoir has shown. Perhaps in her present over-wrought condition she was haunted by a dread lest the galling solicitude of her family might lure her back into the cage. Dr. Sutherland had written two letters at the end of August begging her to put all work aside. She was thinking of everybody's “sanitary improvement,” he said, except her own. “Pray leave us all to ourselves, soldiers and all, for a while. We shall all be the better for a rest. Even your ‘divine Pan’ will be more musical for not being beaten quite so much. As for Mr. Sidney Herbert, he must be in the seventh heaven. Please don't gull Dr. Gully, but do eat and drink and don't think. We'll make such a precious row when you come back. The day you left town it appeared as if all your blood wanted renewing, and that cannot be done in a week. You must have new blood, or you can't work, and new blood can't be made out of tea, at least so far as I know. There is a paper of Dr. Christison's about 28 ounces of solid food per diem. You know where that is, and depend on it the Dr. is right.… And now I have done my duty as confessor, and hope I shall find you an obedient penitent.” To this letter she replied as follows:—

(Miss Nightingale to Dr. Sutherland.) And what shall I say in answer to your letter? Some one said once, He that would save his life shall lose it; and what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? He meant, I suppose, that “life” is a means and not an end, and that “soul,” or the object of life, is the end. Perhaps he was right. Now in what one respect could I have done other than I have done? or what exertion have I made that I could have left unmade?… Had I “lost” the Report, what would the health I should have saved have “profited” me? or what would ten years of life have advantaged me, exchanged for the ten weeks this summer? Yes, but, you say, you might have walked or driven or eaten meat. Well, since we must come to sentir della spezieria, let me tell you, O Doctor, that after any walk or drive I sat up all night with palpitation. And the sight of animal[369] food increased the sickness. The man here put me, as soon as I arrived, on a sofa and told me not to move and to take no solid food at all till my pulse came down. I remind myself of a little dog, a friend of mine, who barked himself out of an apoplectic fit, when the Dog-Doctor did something he had always manifested an objection to. Now I have written myself into a palpitation. Do you think me one of Byron's young ladies? He, it was, I think, who made a small appetite the fashion. Or do you think me an Ascetic? Asceticism is the trifling of an enthusiast with his power, a puerile coquetting with his selfishness or his vanity, in the absence of any sufficiently great object to employ the first or overcome the last. Or, since I am speaking to an artist and must illustrate and not define, the “Cristo della Moneta” of Titian at Dresden is an ascetic. The “Er ist vollbracht” of Albert Dürer at Nuremberg is a Christ—he whom we call an example, though little we make of it. For our Church has daubed that tender, beautiful image with coarse bloody colours till it looks like the sign of a road-side inn. And another has mysticized him out of all human reach till he is the God and God is the Devil. But are we not really to do as Christ did? And when he said the “Son of Man,” did he not mean the sons of men? He was no ascetic.

But shall I tell you what made you write to me? I have no second sight, I do not see visions nor dream dreams. It was my sister. Or rather I will tell you that I have second sight. I have been greatly harassed by seeing my poor owl[269] lately, without her head, without her life, without her talons, lying in the cage of your canary (like the statue of Rameses II. in the pool at Memphis[270]), and the little villain pecking at her. Now, that's me. I am lying without my head, without my claws, and you all peck at me. It is de rigueur, d'obligation, like the saying something to one's hat, when one goes into church, to say to me all that has been said to me 110 times a day during the last three months. It is the obbligato on the violin, and the twelve violins all practise it together, like the clocks striking 12 o'clock at night all over London, till I say like Xavier de Maistre, Assez, je le sais, je ne le sais que trop. I am not a penitent; but you are like the R.C. Confessor, who says what is de rigueur, what is in his Formulary to say, and never comes to the life of the thing,—the root of the matter.

(Dr. Sutherland to Miss Nightingale.) Highgate, Sept. 7.[370] What can I say, my dear friend, to your long scold of a letter?… You are decidedly wrong in passing yourself off for a dead owl, and in thinking that I have joined with other equally charitable people in pecking at you. It is I that have got all the pecking, altho' I hope that I am neither an owl, nor dead; and your little beak is one of the sharpest. But like a good, live hero, I bear it all joyfully because it is got in doing my duty to you. I want you to live, I want you to work. You want to work and die, and that is not at all fair. I admire your heroism and self-devotion with all my heart, but alas! I cannot forget that it is all within the compass of a weak, perishing body; and am I to encourage you to wear yourself in the vain attempt to beat not only men, but time? You little know what daily anxiety it has cost me to see you dying by inches in doing work fit only for the strongest constitution.…

Dr. Sutherland urged her to take at any rate a week's complete rest. But she would not. Her cause was her life, and she could not for the sake of life lose what alone made life worth living. While they were delaying, the soldiers were dying. Her work would not wait. She begged him to come down to Malvern and work with her in order that they might have everything ready to put before Mr. Herbert in London by the time he returned from his fishing. Dr. Sutherland wrote pretty excuses. Mrs. Sutherland made counter-suggestions. Why should not Miss Nightingale stay on at Malvern altogether? “Would not Mr. Herbert,” she wrote (Sept. 11), “go to you for a few days, settle all the points, and then communicate daily by letter? You have so much tact that you would be able to maintain your influence. Do think if this be possible. It is quite against my own interest to desire it, for if you come to London, I may get a glimpse of your dear face.” But Miss Nightingale persisted, and Dr. Sutherland surrendered. He went down to Malvern, was himself ill there, and Miss Nightingale reported progress of “the sick baby” to his wife. But the two invalids, we may be sure, talked of other things than their ailments.


So little was Miss Nightingale in a mood to succumb to her physical weakness, that she had offered to go out to[371] India, where her friend Lady Canning was at the Viceroy's side during the Mutiny. “Miss Nightingale has written to me,” wrote Lady Canning to her mother (Nov. 14); “she is out of health and at Malvern, but says she would come at twenty-four hours' notice if I think there is anything for her to do in her ‘line of business.’ I think there is not anything here, for there are few wounded men in want of actual nursing, and there are plenty of native servants and assistants who can do the dressings. Only one man, who was very ill of dysentery, has died since we went to the hospital a fortnight ago. The up-country hospitals are too scattered for a nursing establishment, and one could hardly yet send women up.”[271] Miss Nightingale was very serious in the offer, for she had made it twice; first through Mr. Herbert, and then in a personal letter, carried by her cousin, Major Nicholson, who had been ordered to India at this time. She thought of herself as a soldier in the ranks; and absorbed intently though she was in her work for the Army at home, she would have considered active service in the field a superior call. Had the Viceroy felt the need of accepting Miss Nightingale's offer, it is possible that her power of will and the excitement of activity might have carried her through the ordeal; but she had barely strength for the work on which she was already engaged.

Of her daily life during this period, at Malvern and in London successively, her sister's letters give a vivid description:—

(Lady Verney to Madame Mohl.) [September 1857.] The accounts of F. have been very anxious. Aunt Mai says she does not sleep above two hours in the night, and continues most feverish and feeble, and cannot eat. She never left that room where you saw her, was scarcely off her sofa for a month. Now she goes down for half an hour into a parlour, to do business with a Commissioner who has been there to see her. Aunt Mai says it throws her back more to put off work for “the cause” she lives for than to do a little every day—so we reconcile ourselves. Tuesday, she says, was a very uneasy day, and F. said she felt as she had done when recovering from the fever at Balaclava. Still both doctors say there is no disease, that it is only entire exhaustion of every organ from overwork, and that rest will alone[372] restore her—rest for much longer than she will give herself, I fear. She has two “packs” a day; this is all the water-curing; it seems to bring down the pulse, and she lies at that open window the chief part of the day, not reading or writing, only just still. She cannot be better anywhere, no one can get at her; Aunt Mai is a dragon, and the Commissioner is the only person who has seen her. Aunt M. says, “I cannot disguise to myself that she is in a very precarious state.”

(Lady Verney to M. Mohl.) [Dec. 5, 1857.] Aunt Mai's bulletin is generally the same: “Mr. Herbert for 3 hours in the morning, Dr. Sutherland for 4 hours in the afternoon, Dr. Balfour, Dr. Farr, Dr. Alexander interspersed.” They are drawing up the new Regulations (but this you must not tell. F. is as nervous of being known to have anything to do with it as other people are of getting honour).… Dr. Sutherland burst out to Aunt Mai the other day that F.'s “clearness and strength of mind, her extraordinary powers, her grasp of intellect and benevolence of heart struck him more and more as he worked with her—that no one who did not see her proved and tried as he did could conceive the extent of both.” “The most gifted of God's creatures,” he called her. And the determined way in which she will not let any one know what she is about is so curious. She will not even tell us; we only hear it from these men. She is killing herself with work (which they all say no one else can do, no one else has the threads of it, or the perseverance for it), and yet no one will ever know it. Others will have all the credit of the very things she suggested and introduced, at the cost one may say of life and comfort of all kinds, for it is an intolerable life she is leading—lying down between whiles to enable her just to go on, not seeing her nearest and dearest, because, with her breath so hurried, all talking must be spared except what is necessary, and all excitement, that she may devote every energy to the work.… Aunt Mai says again to-day how Mr. Herbert is in sometimes twice a day and Dr. Sutherland the whole day (but please don't tell any one), because she alone can give facts which no one else hardly possesses, because she knows the bearings of the whole which no one else has followed, has both the smallest details at her fingers' ends and the great general views of the whole—what is to be gained and what avoided.

While Miss Nightingale was lying ill at Malvern, she was being courted in counterfeit at Manchester. Her parents and sister were visiting Manchester to see the “Art Treasures Exhibition,” and the newspapers had included Florence in the party. The sightseers, wrote Lady Verney, took Lady Newport, “a very sweetlooking[373] woman in black,” for Florence and “treated her like a saint of the Middle Ages. ‘Let me touch your shawl only,’ they said as they crowded round, or ‘Let me stroke your arm.’ Mrs. Gaskell told me we could have no idea how deep the feeling is for you in the hearts of the people.”

The feeling would perhaps have been yet deeper if the people had known the work which Miss Nightingale was still doing, and the delicate health from which she was suffering. At the end of 1857 she thought that death might overtake her in the middle of her work with Sidney Herbert, and she wrote this letter to him “to be sent when I am dead”:—

30 Old Burlington Street, November 26, 1857. Dear Mr. Herbert—(1) I hope you will not regret the manner of my death. I know that you will be kind enough to regret the fact of it. You have sometimes said that you were sorry you had employed me. I assure you that it has kept me alive. I am sorry not to stay alive to do the “Nurses.” But I can't help it. “Lord, here I am, send me” has always been religion to me. I must be willing to go now as I was to go to the East. You know I always thought it the greatest of your kindnesses sending me there. Perhaps He wants a “Sanitary Officer” now for my Crimeans in some other world where they are gone.—(2) I have no fears for the Army now. You have always been our “Cid”—the true chivalrous sort—which is to be the defender of what is weak and ugly and dirty and undefended, rather than of what is beautiful and artistic. You are so now more than ever for us. “Us” means in my language the troops and me.—(3) I hope you will have no chivalrous ideas about what is “due” to my “memory.” The only thing that can be “due” to me is what is good for the troops. I always thought thus while I was alive. And I am not likely to think otherwise now that I am dead. Whatever your own judgment has accepted from me will come with far greater force from yourself. Whatever your own judgment has rejected would come with no force at all.—(4) What remains to be done has, however, already been sanctioned by your judgment:—(i.) as to Army Medical Council, Army Medical School, General Hospital scheme, Gymnastics; (ii.) as to what Dr. Sutherland must needs do for the Sanitary branch; (iii.) as to Colonial Barracks,—Canadian, Mediterranean, W. and E. Indian.—(5) I am very sorry about the Nursing scheme. It seems like leaving it in the lurch. Mrs. Shaw Stewart is the only woman I know who will do for Superintendent of Army Nurses.—Believe[374] me ever, while I can say God bless you, yours gratefully, F. Nightingale.

Then she asked her uncle to assist her in making a will. She was anxious about the Nightingale Fund, to the management of which she had not as yet been able to devote attention. She proposed to leave it to St. Thomas's Hospital. The property to which she would ultimately be entitled upon the death of her father and mother she proposed to apply to the building of a model Barrack according to her ideas; “that is, with day-rooms for the men, separate places to sleep in (like Jebb's Asylum at Fulham), lavatories, gymnastic-places, reading-rooms, etc., not forgetting the wives, but having a kind of Model Lodging-House for the married men.” In a letter of instructions to her uncle, she named Sir John McNeill, Mr. Herbert, and Dr. Sutherland as the men who would best carry out such a plan. She included a few family bequests; but what was nearest to her heart at this time was to leave personal keepsakes to Mrs. Herbert and other friends who had “worked for her long and faithfully.” For this purpose, in order that there might be no question about possession, she begged her sister to send up to London from Embley various goods and chattels which had personal association with herself. And she had one other wish; it related to her “children.” “The associations with our men,” she wrote to her sister (Dec. 11), “amount to me to what I never should have expected to feel—a superstition, which makes me wish to be buried in the Crimea, absurd as I know it to be. For they are not there.




With aching hands, and bleeding feet
We dig and heap, lay stone on stone;
We bear the burden and the heat
Of the long day, and wish 'twere done.
Not till the hours of light return,
All we have built do we discern.

Matthew Arnold.

“You must now feel,” wrote Sir John McNeill to Miss Nightingale (May 13, 1858), when her work for the health of the British soldier at home was beginning to bear fruit, “that you have not laboured in vain, that you have made your talent ten talents, and that to you more than to any other man or woman alive, will henceforth be due the welfare and efficiency of the British Army. Napoleon said that in military affairs the moral are to the physical forces as four to one, but you have shown that he greatly underrated their value. The rapidity with which you have obtained unanimous consent to your principles much exceeds my expectations. I never dared to doubt that truth and justice and mercy would prevail, but I did not hope to live long enough to see their triumph when we first communed here of such things.[272] I thank God that I have lived to see your success.” Sir John's thanksgiving was caused by the tone and the result of a debate which had taken place in the House of Commons upon May 11, 1858. Lord Ebrington, prompted by Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale, had moved a series of Resolutions with regard to the Health of the Army, founded upon the Report of the Royal Commission. He had laid[376] special stress upon the figures, due to Miss Nightingale's insight and industry, comparing the mortality in the Army and in civil life respectively; he called attention to the horrible state of the Barracks, and his Resolutions concluded thus: “That in the opinion of this House, improvements are imperatively called for not less by good policy and true economy, than by justice and humanity.” The Government accepted the Resolutions, and Miss Nightingale's campaign had thus obtained the unanimous approval of the House of Commons.

She had worked indefatigably, and through many channels, and she continued so to work, in order to focus and stimulate public opinion in the sense of Lord Ebrington's Resolutions. By the end of 1857 the Sub-Commissions on Army Medical Reform were making good progress, and the Report of the Royal Commission was about to be published. She devised an effective means of forcing its salient feature upon the attention of every person most concerned in the evils or most influential towards securing the necessary remedies. I have referred already (p. 352) to her diagrams illustrative of the mortality in the British Army. As finally prepared with Dr. Farr's assistance, they showed most effectively at a glance, by means of shaded or coloured squares, circles and wedges, (1) the deaths due to preventable causes in the Hospitals during the Crimean War, and (2) the rate of mortality in the British Army at home: “our soldiers enlist,” as she put it, “to Death in the Barracks.” She now wrote a memorandum, explaining the diagrams and pointing their moral, and had 2000 copies printed. This anonymous publication—entitled Mortality of the British Army—is called in her correspondence Coxcombs, primarily from the shape and colours of her diagrams. She had proposed, and Mr. Herbert agreed, that the memorandum and diagrams should be included as an appendix in his Report, in order that her pamphlet might appear as “Reprinted from the Report of the Royal Commission,” and thus be given the greater authority. So soon as the Report was issued, she distributed her Coxcombs to the Queen and other members of the Royal Family, to Ministers,[377] to leading members of both Houses of Parliament, and to Medical and Commanding Officers throughout the country, in India and in the colonies. She had a few copies of the diagrams glazed and framed, and three of these she sent to the War Office, the Horse Guards, and the Army Medical Department. I do not know whether these Departments hung up the present. “It is our flank march upon the enemy,” she wrote in sending an early copy to Sir John McNeill, “and we might give it the old name of God's Revenge upon Murder.”

The Report of the Royal Commission appeared at the beginning of February (1858), and the Secretary sent one of the earliest copies to Miss Nightingale. “I like him very much,” she replied (Feb. 5); “I think he looks very handsome. Lady Tulloch says I make my pillow of Blue-books. It certainly has been the case with this.” She did not sleep over it, however. She was immediately up and doing. Among her papers there is a curious collection of letters and memoranda, partly in her handwriting, partly in that of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert, showing how industriously they set to work to pull wires in the press. The monthly and quarterly Reviews were in those days deemed of great importance in influencing public opinion, and Miss Nightingale drew up and sent for Mr. Herbert's criticism a list of the principal among them, entering against each magazine or review the name of the writer whom she designated as the ideal contributor of an article upon the Report. They had as much trouble in adjusting the parts as a theatrical manager finds in settling his cast. Lord Stanley, for example, promised to write, but he was particular about his place of appearance. It must be the Westminster Review or nowhere, and Miss Nightingale had already allotted that place to the principal star, Mr. Herbert himself.[273] And, moreover, the managers in this instance were drawing up a cast for other people's houses, and the editors did not in all cases prove amenable. Mr. Elwin, the editor of the Quarterly, rejected the article submitted to him. But Mr. Reeve, of the Edinburgh,[378] was an old friend of Miss Nightingale, and he accepted her nominee, though he displeased her by mangling the article in the Ministerial interest. However, in the dailies, the monthlies and the quarterlies, the Report had, on the whole, “a good press,” and, what is no less important for influencing public opinion, a prompt press.


These things had hardly been arranged when there was a political crisis, and this involved Miss Nightingale and her allies in additional work. Lord Palmerston's Government was defeated on the Conspiracy Bill, and resigned. Lord Derby came in (Feb. 25), with General Peel as Secretary for War. Here, then, we say good-bye, for the present, to “the Bison.” He had been dilatory to the last. Mr. Herbert had hoped to see the Army Medical School established in January, and had written to Miss Nightingale to nominate suitable men for the various chairs—“not,” he added despairingly, “that Panmure would appoint any one even if the Angel Gabriel had offered himself, St. Michael and all angels to fill the different chairs. He is very slow to move.” Miss Nightingale took formal leave of Lord Panmure later in the year, in sending him a copy of one of her books. “You shock me,” he replied from the Highlands (Nov.), “by telling me I once called you ‘a turbulent fellow.’ Had any one else said so, I should have denied it, but I must have been vilely rude. Accept my apology now; and to bribe you to do so, I send you a box of grouse.” Mr. Herbert at first cherished high hopes of Lord Panmure's successor. Miss Nightingale and Mr. Herbert were particularly anxious upon a personal point. The Army Medical Department had not yet been reformed, and it was known that Sir Andrew Smith would shortly retire. By seniority Sir John Hall would have claims to the post, and his appointment would, the allies considered, be disastrous to the cause of reform; it would be useless, they felt, to frame new regulations without an infusion of new blood. This, therefore, was the first point on which representations were made to Lord Panmure's successor. “I have seen General Peel,” wrote Mr. Herbert to Miss Nightingale[379] (Feb. 27), “and he promised to make no appointment nor to take any step in regard to the Medical Department or sanitary measures till he has conferred with me. I think Peel may do well if we can put him well in possession of the case.” General Peel duly did what they wanted on this personal issue. “I hope we may assume,” wrote Mr. Herbert to Miss Nightingale (May 25), “that Smith is really gone. It is no use trying to realize the enormous importance of such a fact.” They must now, he continued, “fix the appointment of Alexander.” Three days later he wrote to Dr. Sutherland: “Please tell Miss N. that I warned Peel against the expected recommendation of Sir J. Hall, and he will, I think, be prepared to turn a deaf ear to it. I wrote yesterday to him on another subject and threw in some praise of Alexander.” Such is the gentle art of influencing Ministers. On June 11 Dr. T. Alexander was appointed to succeed Sir Andrew Smith. Dr. Alexander unhappily died suddenly at the beginning of 1860, but it was a great thing for the Reformers, at a time when the Army Medical Department was being recast, to have one of themselves at the head of it, instead of a supporter of the ancien régime. “I cannot say,” wrote Mr. Herbert to Miss Nightingale (Sept. 16, 1858), “how glad I am to have your account of Alexander. Everything in futuro must depend on him. You cannot maintain a commission sitting permanently in terrorem over the Director-General, and Alexander seems able and willing to be his own commission.” So the allies had done at least one good stroke of business with General Peel. Another of the new ministers—Lord Stanley, the Colonial Secretary—was also helpful. “He will send the Coxcombs out to the Colonial Governors,” wrote Mr. Herbert (March 16); “he offered any service his position can enable him to give to assist our cause, and suggests that a Commission should inspect Colonial barracks, and he proposes to discuss the matter with you.” Presently, however, Lord Stanley was moved from the Colonial to the India Office; where Miss Nightingale enlisted his interest in another sanitary campaign, which was thenceforward to fill a large space in her working life, as will appear in a later Part. So, then, the new Government seemed promising; but it soon[380] began to appear that at the War Office the cobwebs were beyond the power of the new broom to sweep away. Some reforms were carried out, but the permanent officials were as obstructive under General Peel as under Lord Panmure. “These War Office Subs.,” wrote Mr. Herbert to Miss Nightingale (June 29), “are intolerable—half a dozen fellows sitting down to compose Minutes just for the fun of the thing on a subject which they cannot possibly know anything about! Peel ought not to let these Subs. interfere, spoil and delay as they do. That office wants a thorough recasting, but I doubt whether Peel is the man to do it. He has a clear head and good sense, but I think he is over-powered by the amount of work which Panmure by the simple process of never attempting to do it found so easy.”

But alike amid hope and care, amid fear and anger, Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale worked away at their reforms unceasingly. Throughout the year 1858 she was in a very weak state of health. She divided her time, as before, between Malvern and Old Burlington Street, travelling backwards and forwards in an invalid carriage, and escorted by Mr. Clough, now sworn to her service. Her aunt, Mrs. Smith, was still in frequent attendance upon her. Her father was with her for a while at Malvern, and, like every one else, enjoined the desirability of rest. “Well, my dear child,” he wrote afterwards from Lea Hurst (Sept. 25), “it's no small matter to see your handwriting again, and to make believe that you are a good deal more than half alive. But the worst of it is, that there's no depending upon you for any persistence in curing yourself, while you have so many others to cure. I often wonder how it is that you who care so little for your own life should have such wonderful love for the lives of others.” She seldom saw her mother and sister. In June 1858 her sister married. “Thank you very much,” wrote Miss Nightingale to Lady McNeill (July 17), “for your congratulations on my sister's marriage, which took place last month. She likes it, which is the main thing. And my father is very fond of Sir Harry Verney, which is the next best thing. He is old and rich, which is a disadvantage. He is active, has a will of his own and four children ready-made, which is an advantage. Unmarried life, at least in[381] our class, takes everything and gives nothing back to this poor earth. It runs no risk, it gives no pledge to life. So, on the whole, I think these reflections tend to approbation.” For herself she “thinks,” wrote her aunt, “that each day may be the last on which she will have power to work.”

And her ally, Mr. Herbert, was also feeling the strain. He had all the four Sub-Commissions at work, and from time to time during this year (1858) he broke down—on one occasion under a sharp attack of pleurisy. It was now Miss Nightingale's turn to lecture him. She wrote to Mrs. Herbert, begging her not to let Sidney call. “I really am not ill,” he wrote (March 18), “only washy and weak, while I always recover wonderfully, and paying you a visit to-morrow will do me no harm but the contrary.” She wrote to Mr. Herbert himself, suggesting a cure at Malvern. “I should like to come,” he said (Sept. 16), “and look at the Place which I have a notion I shall some day go to, and see you episodically, unless you had rather not be seen.” But I do not think that either of the allies expected, or desired, the other to take the advice which they interchanged. Well or ill, each of them worked unrestingly.


Upon the matter of Barracks, Mr. Herbert did the harder work.[274] He inspected barracks and hospitals throughout the Kingdom; he wrote or revised each report upon them. But he or Dr. Sutherland, or Captain Galton, or all of them, reported the results of each inspection to their “Chief,” as they sometimes called her, and she was unfailing in suggestions and criticisms. When the London barracks were being overhauled (for General Peel had obtained a substantial grant from the Treasury for immediate improvements), the “woman's touch” came into play. She called into counsel her Crimean colleague, Mr. Soyer, and took the improvement[382] of the kitchens in hand. The work was only just begun when Mr. Soyer died suddenly. “His death,” she wrote to Captain Galton (Aug. 28), “is a great disaster. Others have studied cookery for the purposes of gormandizing, some for show, but none but he for the purpose of cooking large quantities of food in the most nutritious manner for great numbers of men. He has no successor. My only comfort is that you were imbued before his death with his doctrines, and that the Barracks Commission will now take up the matter for itself.” In the work of the other three Sub-Commissions Miss Nightingale had a large share. Mr. Herbert, Dr. Sutherland, Dr. Farr (Statistics) were in constant consultation with her, personally or by correspondence. There are hundreds of letters to her at this period, full of technical detail. “I give in,” writes Mr. Herbert; “your arguments are not to be answered.” “I want your help very much.” “I send a disagreeable letter I have received from Sir J. Hall. I will call on you to-morrow and talk it over.” “I send you a copy of the Instructions.” “I want help and advice.” At every stage of each transaction the allies were in close co-operation. The correspondence with Dr. Sutherland is sometimes in a lighter vein, and Mrs. Sutherland's letters to Miss Nightingale are deeply affectionate. But the doctor, who was not always very business-like, sometimes tried the patience of the exacting Lady-in-Chief. Her aunt records a day when a tiff with Dr. Sutherland caused her niece a serious attack of palpitation of the heart. Mr. Herbert was ill at the time and was waiting for a draft, which Dr. Sutherland was to prepare, for submission to the Secretary of State. Miss Nightingale was requested to put pressure upon the doctor. At last the draft came, and Mr. Herbert did not like it. He begged Miss Nightingale to use her influence in obtaining some revisions. Dr. Sutherland did not take this move kindly, and declined to call upon her. The quarrel, however, was speedily composed. At a later date, Miss Nightingale spent some weeks in the house of William and Mary Howitt at Highgate. “It is not a mere phrase,” wrote Mary Howitt, “when I say that we shall feel as if she had left a blessing behind.” I suspect that this visit was in order to enable[383] Miss Nightingale to keep a firmer touch upon the “Big Baby,” as she and Mrs. Sutherland sometimes called the doctor. “This is the first day of grouse shooting, Caratina,” wrote he, when the Barracks Commissioners were in the north; “but as you will allow none of your ‘wives’ to go to the moors, the festival has passed off without observance.”

Thus, then, the Reformers worked during 1858. Their main labours were interrupted in the middle of the year by a last fight over the Netley Hospital. Lord Panmure had gone ahead with the building in spite of Miss Nightingale's objections and of her conversion of Lord Palmerston to her views (p. 341). But since then, the Report of the Royal Commission had appeared, the Hospitals and Barracks Sub-Commission had presented an interim report against Netley, and there was a new Secretary of State. Mr. Herbert and Miss Nightingale made a hard fight, and she wrote a series of newspaper articles[275] in the hope of stirring up public opinion. But General Peel was actuated by the same motives that governed Lord Panmure. He appointed another Committee to report on the adverse Report, and proceeded with the building. “Unhappily, the country which has led the van in sanitary science,” says an impartial authority, “has as its chief military hospital a building far from satisfactory.”[276]

Miss Nightingale's final defeat on this particular issue suggested to her the importance of instructing public opinion upon the whole question of Hospital Construction. She accordingly contributed two Papers on the subject to the Social Science Congress at Liverpool in October 1858. Her friend, Dr. Farr, who was present, reported the marked attention which the reading of the Papers attracted, and at the request of Lord Shaftesbury, the President of the Congress, Miss Nightingale presented her manuscript to the city of Liverpool as a memento of the occasion. These Papers were the germ of her famous Notes on Hospitals, to which we shall come in the next Part of this Memoir.



On the main issue of Army Medical Reform, Miss Nightingale sought to influence public opinion by the distribution among carefully selected persons of her Notes on Matters affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army. The Notes were written, and for the most part printed, in the preceding year, and I have already described them. The distribution of them at this time brought her letters of encouragement from many of the most illustrious and influential personages in the land. The Prince Consort, in an autograph letter of thanks, took occasion to assure her once more of “the Queen's high appreciation of her services.” The Princess Royal, then Crown Princess of Prussia, begged for a copy; and Miss Nightingale, in reply (Nov. 9), asked Sir James Clark to express for her how “very gratifying the Princess Royal's kind message was. I cannot tell you the deep interest I feel in that young heart so full of all that is true and good, or with what pleasure I anticipate the benefit to her country and ours from her being what she is.” These two women, between whom there were many points of sympathy, were often to correspond and to meet in later years. The Duke of Cambridge, in a particularly cordial letter, assured Miss Nightingale “that the whole Army is most sensible of the devotion with which you may be said to have sacrificed yourself to its work on a recent memorable occasion, and I cannot but add my personal admiration of your noble conduct on that as on all other occasions.” The Duke added the hope that from time to time he might have it in his power to carry out her “valuable suggestions for the comfort and welfare of the troops.” Miss Nightingale often trounced the Commander-in-Chief in her correspondence. He had so little sympathy with any radical reform that she could not consider his popular title of “The Soldier's Friend” to be really well deserved. Yet she had a certain fondness for him, and was alive to his better qualities. She had seen him first during the Crimean War, and she recalled a characteristic incident. “What makes ‘George’ popular,” she wrote, “is this kind[385] of thing. In going round the Scutari Hospitals at their worst time with me, he recognized a sergeant of the Guards (he has a royal memory, always a great passport to popularity) who had had at least one-third of his body shot away, and said to him with a great oath, calling him by his Christian and surname, ‘Aren't you dead yet?’ The man said to me afterwards, ‘Sa feelin' o' Is Royal Ighness, wasn't it, m'm?’ with tears in his eyes. George's manner is very popular, his oaths are popular, with the army. And he is certainly the best man, both of business and of nature, at the Horse Guards: that, even I admit. And there is no man I should like to see in his place.”[277]

Miss Nightingale was careful to send copies of her Notes to those who, by their pens, could influence public opinion. Among these was Harriet Martineau, to whom Miss Nightingale wrote (Nov. 30): “The Report is in no sense public property. And I have a great horror of its being made use of after my death by Women's Missionaries and those kinds of people. I am brutally indifferent to the wrongs or the rights of my sex. And I should have been equally so to any controversy as to whether women ought or ought not to do what I have done for the Army; though a woman, having the opportunity and not doing it, ought, I think, to be burnt alive.” Miss Martineau, promising to be discreet, asked if she might make use of Miss Nightingale's facts and suggestions. The offer was promptly accepted, and Miss Martineau was supplied with copious powder and shot. Miss Nightingale was probably the more attracted by Miss Martineau's offer to popularise her Notes owing to a very earnest letter from Dean Milman. He had read the Notes “with serious attention and profound interest,” and asked (Dec. 18): “Is all this important knowledge, this strong practical good sense, this result of much toil, thought, experience to be confined to half-averted official ears, to be forced only on the reluctant attention of a few, and most of these too busy and perhaps too opinionated to profit by it? Is it to be buried in that most undisturbed grave of wise[386] thought and useful information, a blue book? that most repulsive, unapproached, unapproachable place of sepulture? Surely you have not lived and laboured your life of devotion, your labour of love, to leave public opinion untouched and unenlightened but by what may creep out, as the general result of your views, or what may be adopted by Government, perhaps imperfectly and parsimoniously? Are the many, who alone by the expression of their judgment and feelings can keep the few up to their w