Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not/Biography
In the year 1820, in Florence, that lovely city,
was born the younger of the two daughters of William Shore Nightingale, Esq.; and, in memory of her birthplace, its beautiful name was given to her who will be known to all time as Florence Nightingale.
Her father, William Shore Nightingale, son of William Shore, Esq., of Tapton, is a descendant of the ancient Derbyshire family of Shore — of which Lord Teignmouth is the representative of another branch. He assumed the name of Nightingale by the Prince Regent's sign manual in 1815, in accordance with the will of his maternal uncle, Peter Nightingale, whose niece and sole heiress his father had married. In early life, in 1818, he married Frances, daughter of William Smith, Esq., formerly M. P. for Norwich, a zealous laborer in the cause of slave emancipation, and a benevolent, earnest man. By inheritance, Mr. Nightingale possessed large wealth, and the ample estates of Embley Park, Hampshire, and the Lea Hurst, Derbyshire.
The early youth of Florence Nightingale was passed under circumstances well calculated to foster an elegant mind and a tender heart. The child of affluent and intellectual parents, surrounded by all that is beautiful in nature and rich in art, and beloved by all who came in contact with her, her heart and mind developed their rare qualities together.
Under the guidance of her father, she attained considerable proficiency in the classics, and in mathematics — studies which are rarely pursued by ladies in these latter days. Nor were the more feminine accomplishments neglected by the ardent student. She became an excellent musician, and conversant with most of the modern languages, speaking French, Italian, and German with fluency and purity.
During the course of her studies she travelled extensively, visiting most of the cities of Europe, and penetrating even to the remotest cataract of the Nile. While in Egypt, it is said, she tended the sick Arabs with whom she came in contact, and frequently, by judicious counsel and advice, rendered them important services.
The favorite home of Miss Nightingale's childhood — Lea Hurst, Derbyshire — is a most picturesque and romantic spot. The quiet and secluded hamlet of Lea abounds in lovely scenery, and in interesting historical and literary associations. Lea Hurst is beautifully situated on rising ground, "in one of the most charming and extensive of the Derbyshire valleys, and surrounded with hills and mountains, rocks and woods, of majestic and gigantic proportions, and watered by the winding Derwent and its tributary streams."
From her earliest childhood, Florence Nightingale displayed a constant and active sympathy with the suffering, the desolate, and the distressed among the poor around Lea Hurst and Embley. As a friend, a benefactress and a consoler, she was daily welcomed in many a cottage; and to the alleviation of pains and sorrows she devoted her personal energies and her large fortune. She was for many years, as a voluntary teacher, the principal support of the schools for the poor in the neighboring villages; for she never wearied of well-doing.
Having attained the age when young ladies of birth and fortune generally "come out" and partake of the brilliant gayeties of society, Florence Nightingale visited London, But it was for the purpose of frequenting and studying the hospitals, schools and reformatory institutions of the metropolis, a self-imposed duty, which she performed with untiring energy and diligence. Yet she did not neglect to fulfil the more immediate duties of her station with grace and propriety, even to a presentation at Court; which proved that she was not one of those who devote themselves to the cause of charity in order to avoid the onerous claims of social life.
From London, Florence Nightingale went to Edinburgh, and to the Continent, intent on perfecting herself for a high and holy mission, and gathering up stores of knowledge for present as well as for future use. In the memorable year 1851, when all Europe held festive holiday in honor of the Great Exhibition, when "the highlands of Scotland, the lakes of Switzerland, and all the bright spots of the Continent were filled with parties of pleasure," Miss Nightingale—so well fitted by birth and education to shine a star in her own proper sphere—took up her abode in a hospital at Kaiserwerth on the Rhine, where Protestant Sisters of Mercy are trained as nurses for the sick; and for three long months, within the walls of this institution, she remained in daily and nightly attendance, unwearyingly expending her health and strength in the cause of benevolence. Here she made herself thoroughly acquainted with all the rules and regulations required in the management of a hospital. The Pasteur Flieaner, director of the establishment, affirmed that during the progress of the institution, no one had ever passed so distinguished an examination or shown herself so thoroughly mistress of all she had to learn, as the young, wealthy, and graceful Englishwoman. With the institution she was so favorably impressed that she afterwards returned to it, and subsequently published a little book containing an account of its origin and management.
From Germany, Miss Nightingale returned to the happiness of home, the love of her parents and sister, and to the fresh, free air of Derbyshire and Hampshire, in order to recruit her health. But her sympathy and energy were speedily enlisted on behalf of the Hospital for Sick Governesses, established in Harley Street, London, which was languishing for want of proper management and judicious support. She was appealed to for aid. Most young and wealthy ladies in such a case would have given a handsome donation to assist the institution. With the heroism of pure benevolence Florence Nightingale gave—herself.
She took the active and entire superintendence of the Sanatorium, devoting herself with indefatigable energy to place it on a firm basis. Derbyshire and Hampshire were exchanged for the narrow, dreary establishment in Harley Street, to which she devoted all her time and fortune. "While her friends missed her at assemblies, lectures, concerts, exhibitions and all the entertainments for taste and intellect with which London, in its season abounds," says one writer, "she, whose powers could have best appreciated them, was sitting beside the bed, and soothing the last complaints of some poor, dying, homeless, querulous governess. The homelessness might, not improbably, result from that very querulousness; but this is too frequently fomented, if not created, by the hard, unreflecting folly which regards fellow-creatures intrusted with forming the minds and dispositions of its children as ingenious, disagreeable machines, needing, like the steam-engine, sustenance and covering, but, like it, quite beyond or beneath all sympathy, passions, or affections. Miss Nightingale thought otherwise, and found pleasure in tending those poor, destitute governesses, in their infirmities, their deaths, or their recoveries. She was seldom seen outside the walls of the institution, and the few friends whom she admitted found her in the midst of nurses, letters, prescriptions, accounts, and interruptions. Her health sank under the heavy pressure, but a little Hampshire fresh air restored her, and the failing institution was saved.
About this time, 1854, Florence Nightingale also took an active interest in the Ragged Training Schools, and several similar institutions. She felt, with Hannah More, that "the care of the poor is the profession of women," and all her talents were unceasingly employed in the amelioration of their miseries.
But while Miss Nightingale was recruiting her health and spirits in her beautiful home at Embley, a cry of dire distress and bitterest agony came from the East, piercing England nearly to the heart. It arose from our wounded brethren, huddled together, languishing in their rough beds, destitute of comforts or even necessary accommodations, crushed by the cold, unfeeling, iron heel of Routine, and by the heavy, murderous hand of Mismanagement. An enthusiastic desire to respond to it instantly sprang up in the breasts of all who heard it; and suggestions were offered from all quarters by warm and willing hearts. Undisciplined zeal, however, could do little towards supplying the wants of those dying heroes who were uttering the mournful cry for help; and it was feared lest the ardent feelings which had been roused might flag or be misdirected for lack of some systematic arrangement. Wealth was poured forth to aid, and food, clothing, medicines, and other necessaries were shipped in abundance; but something more was needed. A proposition, originated by Lady Maria Forester, to form a band of female nurses, to be despatched to the seat of war, was started, and found favor with the government and the majority of the public.
The idea being propounded, the chief difficulty was to carry it out; and there was a fear "lest a noble impulse should fail for the want of a head, a hand, and a heart to direct it." But, having engaged three nurses. Lady Maria Forester waited on Miss Nightingale, and entreated her to take the direction and entire control of the nursing establishment for our sick and wounded soldiers and sailors on the distant shores of the Levant. Lady Maria's request, earnestly seconded by that of the Right Hon. Sidney Herbert, then secretary-at-war, induced Miss Nightingale to yield a generous consent to undertake the management of the expedition. It is, indeed, affirmed by some, that, by a strange coincidence, the noble woman had herself written to Mr. Herbert on the very same day, volunteering her services where they were so direfully needed.
Immediately on her intention becoming known, horror thrilled the souls of those humane and wise Gradgrinds who, comprehending no "facts" but those which had undoubted precedents, had laughed aloud when Elizabeth Fry proposed to cleanse Newgate, and had coldly sneered when Hannah More hinted at Sunday schools. But, upheld by her noble and compassionate heart, and resolved to follow humbly and reverentially in the footsteps of One who had suffered from evil tongues, Florence Nightingale calmly held on her way up the steep and rocky road, nor heeded the discordant cries which would have called her back.
Not a moment was lost in unnecessary delay, or in preliminary preparations. Miss Nightingale formed, from some hundreds who offered, a band of thirty-seven nurses—many of them, like herself, volunteers from the higher ranks of life, gentle ladies, accustomed to ease and luxury, but not unused to tend the suffering or the dying, nor to lead lives of charity and self-denial. Twelve nuns from the Convent at Norwood, under charge of their superioress, an Irish lady, proffered their services, and were gladly included in the noble corps; for the holy leader of the band was no narrow-minded bigot, and did not doubt but that a basin of gruel, a glass of wine, or a cup of medicine, might perhaps be administered as tenderly by a hand which clasped a missal as by one which touched a Testament. When every thing was ready, Florence Nightingale bade farewell to her fond parents and her affectionate sister, renounced her friendships and her intellectual pleasures, and quitted the comforts of her home, the quiet liberty of dear old England, for a perilous journey to a land teeming with danger and disease.
She and her sister-laborers, prompted by the most sincere, charitable, and religious feelings which can inspire the human heart, and undaunted by the length of the voyage, the strange and distant country before them, the awful scenes they would encounter, or the privations they would have to endure, started for their destination on Tuesday, the 24th of October, 1854. Surely, if there was heroism in dashing up the heights of Alma, seeking glory at the cannon's mouth in defiance of death and of all mortal opposition, amid the shouts of the victors and the cries of the vanquished, there was heroism unparalleled in calmly volunteering to minister to the fever-stricken and the dying in a place reeking with deadly disease and polluted air, where "wounds almost refused to heal, and where the heavy smell of pestilence could be perceived outside the very walls," and surrounded by sights and sounds calculated to appall the stoutest hearts.
They were accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Bracebridge, a clergyman, and a courier. On their arrival at Boulogne, the self-devoted band was hailed with demonstrations of sympathy and respect by a crowd which assembled to welcome them on their way, and bid them "God speed." In passing through France, they were received with the utmost enthusiasm; hotel-keepers refusing payment for their accommodation, servants declining the customary fees, all emulating to evince admiration and sympathy. One of the Paris journals, on Miss Nightingale's passing through the French metropolis, observed of her that "her toilette was charming, and she was almost as graceful as a Parisienne." On the 27th, they sailed from Marseilles, in the Vectis steamer, for Constantinople.
On the 5th of November, Miss Nightingale, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs, Bracebridge, and her nurses, arrived at Constantinople; and the whole party was speedily established at their new quarters in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari. This was a handsome building, capable of holding an immense number of soldiers; the court-yard alone being sufficiently large to afford space for exercising twelve thousand men, and the corridors, running the whole length of the barrack, being estimated to comprise four miles in extent. On three sides of the building were galleries, in which were ranged in double rows the beds of the patients. Five rooms, which had been set apart for wounded general officers, were happily vacant; and these were assigned to Miss Nightingale and her friends.
The appearance of the delicate, tender, thoughtful nurses was hailed with delight and raptures of gratitude by the objects of their sympathy and devotion. One poor fellow burst into tears, and exclaimed, "I can't help crying when I see them. Only think of Englishwomen coming out here to nurse us; it is so homely and comfortable!" The heavy cares and duties which awaited them were terribly increased, within a few hours of their coming, by the arrival of six hundred wounded, sent down after the battle of Inkerman. The over-worked surgeons, "one and all," acknowledged that their services, at such a juncture, were invaluable; even the most "hard-headed old Scotch surgeons," whom some of the croakers had feared would be constantly resenting raps from the scented fan of Miss Nightingale, admitted that the tender nurses "were not in the way except to do good."
"Miss Nightingale," says one letter, in November, "appears eminently qualified for the noble work she has undertaken. Her labors will spare the clergy many a sad sight of men sinking for want of proper nursing, and because food cannot be administered often enough. This is impossible, with only the hospital orderlies; but with the nurses, all who need will be supplied." But food, clothing, medicines, and extra medical aid were wanting; and the men were constantly sinking through exhaustion, when, if it had been at hand, a timely stimulant administered might have saved them.
Linen, flannels, stockings, and other necessary articles of clothing, were not to be obtained; the vast freights which had been sent from England were either rotting under the snow at Balaklava, or hidden in the mud outside the custom-house at Constantinople. The strength with which Miss Nightingale supported the difficulties and duties of her position surpassed even the expectations of those who were best acquainted with her character and the resources of her nature. Every day brought some new complication of misery to be unravelled. "Each day," observes a qualified witness, "had its own 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. She has frequently been known to stand twenty hours, on the arrival of fresh detachments of sick, apportioning quarters, distributing stores, directing the labors of her corps, assisting at the most painful operations where her presence might soothe or support, and spending hours over men dying of choera or fever. Indeed, the more awful to every sense any particular case might be, the more certainly might be seen her slight form bending over him, administering to his ease by every means in her power, and seldom quitting his side until death released him."
Yet the difficulties of Florence Nightingale's position were increased tenfold by the continual struggles which she was obliged to undergo with System and the prejudices of individuals. By petty, daily contests, she was compelled to extort from the authorities a scanty allowance of the necessary materials required by her and her band of nurses. Etiquette and "service" regulations impeded her movements at every step; "indolence, indifference, and incapacity" combined to clog her exertions; for "no one would take 'responsibility' upon himself, even to save the lives of hundreds." Happily, the presence and able cooperation of Mr. Macdonald, the distributor of "The Times Fund," enabled her at length to lay in stores, to institute proper culinary and washing departments, and to introduce some order and comfort. Had it not been for their mutual exertions, a large proportion of the poor prostrate sufferers must have been condemned to wear the tattered, filthy rags, in which they where brought down from the Crimea. A washing contract had, it is true, existed; but it was totally inoperative, and the beds and habiliments of the men had been in a condition loathsome and foul beyond description. A house, well supplied with water, close to the Barrack Hospital, was engaged at the charge of the fund, and here the clothing supplied by Miss Nightingale was washed and dried. In ten days after her arrival an impromptu kitchen was fitted up, from which eight hundred men were daily supplied with well-cooked food and other necessary culinary comforts in abundance — beef-tea, chicken-broth, rice-pudding, jelly, chickens, and numerous delicacies. Heretofore the cookery, performed by soldiers, without any superintendence, and of course without any system, had been most detestable, when the sickly, fastidious appetite of a fevered or consumptive patient is considered. Meat and vegetables had been boiled in one large copper, the separate portions enclosed in nets, and served up either done to rags or half raw; and the delivery had been as devoid of system as the cookery. Sometimes it would be six or seven o'clock in the evening before, in individual cases, things ordered could be supplied, and then the means of cooking would be at an end. In subordinate as well as in leading points of arrangement, the same feminine, directing hand was now to be traced.
With rare thoughtfulness, the nurses were employed in making up needful articles of bedding or surgical requisites, stump pillows for amputation cases, and other things of a like nature.
One "rule of the service" was in existence which alone exemplifies the system bearing so heavily upon the helpless invalids, and which it required all the tact and firmness of Miss Nightingale to stand against; it demanded that all articles needed even for present use should be procured from home through the commissariat; and there was likewise a regulation appointing that a "board" must judge stores already landed, before they could be given out. On one occasion, the "board" not having completed its arrangements, and the men languishing for the stores sent from England, Miss Nightingale insisted that they should be at once dispensed. Red Tape, shocked at the audacity of such a singular proposition, interposed; woe betide the man amenable to martial law who should dare to touch even the cordage of one box! The noble-spirited woman, conscious that determination must effect what entreaty had failed to do, had the store-house broken open, on her own responsibility, and its contents distributed through their proper channels. But, on all other occasions, she paid the most scrupulous deference to the existing laws. Her name and angelic ministerings where the theme of frequent grateful praise among the men in the trenches; and it was remarked that she made the Barrack Hospital so comfortable, that the convalescents began to display a decided reluctance to leave it.
Not only in the scene of her arduous labors, but at home, was the self-dedicated Samaritan assailed by jealousies and suspicions. The circumstance of her having accepted the services of some Sisters of Charity from the nunnery at Norwood, and from St. Stephen's Hospital, Dublin, drew down upon her, in December, so invidious an attack from a clergyman of the Established Church, that the Hon Mrs. Sidney Herbert was obliged to step forward and defend her absent friend, and show "how cruel and unjust" were the aspersions thrown upon her. "It is melancholy to think," she wrote to the wife of the Rev. gentleman, "that in England no one can undertake any thing without the most uncharitable and sectarian attacks; and, had you not told me, I should scarcely have believed that a clergyman of the Established Church would have been the mouthpiece of slander. Miss Nightingale is a member of the Established Church of England, and what is called rather Low Church."
The Hon. and Rev. Sydney Godolphin Osborne adds his testimony to the pure religion of the object of these animadversions: "I found her myself to be, in her every word and action, a Christian; I thought this quite enough. It would have been, in my opinion, the most cruel impertinence to scrutinize her words and acts to discover to which of the many bodies of true Christians she belonged. I have conversed with her several times on the deaths of those whom I had visited ministerially in the hospitals, with whom she had been when they died. I never heard one word from her lips that would not have been just what I should have expected from the lips of those whom I have known to be the most experienced and devout of our common faith. Her work ought to answer for her faith; at least, none should dare to call that faith in question, in opposition to such work, on grounds so weak and trivial as those I have seen urged. . . . 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."
Early in January, 1855, the executive strength at Miss Nightingale's disposal was increased by the arrival of Miss Stanley, with fifty more nurses, who were terribly needed, for there were then on the Bosphorus and Dardanelles no less than eight hospitals, containing an aggregate of nearly five thousand sick and wounded, while there were eleven hundred more on their way from the Crimea. In the Barrack Hospital alone there were about three thousand patients, all of them severe cases.
But as Florence Nightingale was struggling against the disgraceful jealousy of hospital officials, her heart was cheered and encouraged by a glorious letter, filled with true English warmth and sympathy, written by Queen Victoria — "not a letter stiff with gold thread and glittering with gems," but womanly and queen-like, "with nothing of the ermine about it but its softness and purity."
"Would you tell Mrs. Herbert," wrote the Queen of England to Mr. Sidney Herbert, "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, &c., about the battle-field, 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."
It is easy to imagine that this letter, so gracious, kind, and tender, must have strengthened the heart of the noble Florence Nightingale in her arduous work. Touching and simple, those words of sympathy, "spoken right nobly as a queen, right affectionately as a mother, right eloquently as a woman," are worth a thousand times the brave speeches or heroism of any of the queens of "the jewel set in a golden sea." But Her Majesty has proved by many good deeds that she can feel for suffering and want, and has always evinced more especially a strong interest in her wounded or disabled soldiers, visiting and cheering them on many occasions.
By February, the great increase of fever was the chief point of remark; it raged destructively, and in less than a month it swept away no fewer than seven surgeons, leaving eight more, and three of the nurses, dangerously ill. Indeed, at that time there was but one medical attendant well enough to wait on the sick in the Barrack Hospital; and his services were required in no less than twenty-one wards. Drs. Newton and Struthers were tended in their last moments, and had their dying eyes closed, by Miss Nightingale. For "wherever there is disease in its most dangerous form," wrote Mr. Macdonald, in February, "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 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, making her solitary rounds. The popular instinct was not mistaken which, when she set out from England on her mission of mercy, hailed her as a heroine; I trust that she may not earn her title to a higher, though sadder, appellation. No one who has observed her fragile figure and delicate health can avoid misgivings lest she should fail. With the heart of a true woman, and the manners of a lady, accomplished and refined beyond most of her sex, she combines a surprising calmness of judgment with promptitude and decision of character."
Of the sublime courage which must have supported her during these solitary nocturnal rounds we may judge by the slight sketch given in another place. Speaking of the frightful and sickening sounds and sights in the wards and corridors, he says: "During the day little of this is heard; but when all is silent, and sleep has settled down upon the occupants of each ward and corridor, then rise at intervals upon the ear sounds which go straight to the heart of the listener."
Merely to see her pass along was an inexpressible comfort to the men. "She would speak to one," said a poor fellow, writing home, "and nod and smile to a many more; but she couldn't 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." In her rounds, to one she would administer words of consolation and hope, to another teach resignation, now cheering with a smile or sympathizing with a sigh — ministering to the necessities both of mind and body of the sufferers, who, following her light, soft footsteps with their tear-brimmed eyes, bent to "kiss her shadow as it fell." Such was her influence, that when men, frenzied by their wounds and disease, had worked themselves into a passionate refusal to submit to necessary operations, a few calm sentences of hers seemed at once to allay the storm; and the men would submit willingly to the painful ordeal they had to undergo.
Of Florence Nightingale's personal appearance the author of "Scutari and its Hospitals" gives a most interesting description. "Miss Nightingale," he says, "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 demeanor 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 I should 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. She seems to understand business thoroughly. Her nerve is wonderful. I have been with her at very severe operations; she was more than equal to the trial."
In April Miss Nightingale lost a very dear personal friend, one of the nurses, a young and amiable lady named Miss Smythe. This lady had commenced her occupation as nurse at Scutari, but, being requested to join Miss Bracebridge at Kululee, — which was on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus, five miles from Scutari, — she left for that place, much regretted by Miss Nightingale, who said she hoped that they would have labored together in the same hospital. Shortly after her arrival she was attacked by fever, and died deeply mourned.
Miss Nightingale's firm, systematic, and energetic thoughtfulness at length gained its way, and she had the satisfaction of seeing that the most important part of her work at Scutari was accomplished. She accordingly repaired to Balaklava, with the view of inspecting its hospitals, arriving there May 4, 1855. There she examined the general state of affairs, had new huts erected, kitchens built, and vigorous organization instituted; but no sooner were all these matters arranged than the long-continued arduous exertions which she had undergone told on her system. Her delicate and fragile frame was attacked by Crimean fever; and, completely prostrated, she was carried up to the hut-hospital on the heights.
For a fortnight the fever continued its hold; but at the end of that time Florence Nightingale rose, weak, yet pronounced out of danger, from her sick bed. She was earnestly entreated to return to England; but no persuasion could induce her to quit her post, or to proceed further than Scutari. Too well she knew that her presence on that sad spot was still urgently needed. She left Balaklava for Scutari, June 6; Lord Ward placing his steam yacht at her disposal, that she might have the advantage of change of air in sea excursions to recruit her strength. So exhausted was she that she had to be carried down to the vessel, tenderly and reverently in the arms of the men, amidst their heartfelt prayers for her speedy recovery.
Miss Nightingale's efforts for the poor fellows in the hospitals did not terminate with their death; for on her return to Scutari she originated a scheme for erecting a monument to the brave men who had died during the winter. This memorial has been only recently completed, and now towers in gloomy grandeur above the surrounding graves of our British heroes. It is simple and massive; a square base, surmounted by four figures of angels with drooping wings, who support a tapering shaft, which rises towards the sky. In four different languages on each side of the base is this inscription: —
By December, 1855, the greater number of the hospitals were closed; the Barrack Hospital was again used for its original purpose; and all seemed hopeful and invigorated. Her Majesty, to mark her warm appreciation of the inestimable services of Miss Nightingale, presented her with a beautiful ornament, adapted to be worn as a decoration of the most elegant and costly description. It was formed of a St. George's Cross, in ruby-red enamel, on a white field, representing England; this was encircled by a black band, typifying the office of charity, on which was inscribed the legend, "Blessed are the merciful." The letters V. R., surmounted by a crown in diamonds, were impressed upon the centre of the St. George's Cross, from which emanated rays of gold. Wide-spreading branches of palm, in bright-green enamel, tipped with gold, composed a framework for the shield, their stems being banded with a ribbon of blue enamel, inscribed with, the word "Crimea." At the top three brilliant stars of diamonds illustrated the idea of the light of heaven shed upon labors of mercy, peace, and charity. On the back of the jewel there was an inscription written by Her Majesty, recording it to be a gift in memory of services rendered to her brave army by Miss Nightingale. The ornament was about three inches in depth by two and a half in width. This gift was accompanied by an autograph letter full of deep feeling, and graceful, queenly kindness.
The sultan also presented Miss Nightingale with a superb bracelet, set in brilliants, as "a mark of his estimation of her devotion."
At the close of 1855 it was resolved that an acceptable testimonial of public gratitude should be offered to the generous Florence Nightingale; and a "Nightingale fund" was immediately raised. But, as the noble-hearted woman distinctly declined any purely personal reward for her efforts, a resolution was passed at a meeting held in Willis's Rooms, in December, that the fund raised should be invested to establish "an institute for training, sustenance, and protection of nurses and hospital attendants," to embrace the paid and the unpaid, for whom a home was to be provided, and a retreat for old age. Numerous meetings were held, over some of which presided a prince of the blood royal, who had been a witness of Miss Nightingale's labors in the East, and which were attended by men of the highest and noblest reputation. One important meeting was held at the Mansion House, December 26, at which the lord mayor presided, and at which the names of many of the most influential merchants, traders, and manufacturers were announced as having consented to become members of a committee. A copy of the proceedings of the meeting at "Willis's Rooms was sent out to Miss Nightingale; to this she returned, in January, 1856, a letter most characteristic of her firm, practical, and yet gracious, kindly disposition. "Exposed as I am," she says, "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 on it, it is, indeed, an abiding support to have such sympathy and such appreciation brought home to me in the midst of labors 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 (Mrs. Herbert) 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." This gift of gratitude was, in very truth, but giving its recipient more work to execute; yet, as her friend Mr. Sidney Herbert observed, "Miss Nightingale looks to her reward from this country in having a fresh field for her labors, and means of extending the good that she has already begun, A compliment cannot be paid dearer to her heart than in giving her more work to do."
In March, 1856, Miss Nightingale sustained a slight injury from the upsetting of a vehicle, in which, with some of the nurses, she was proceeding up to the front of Balaklava. Her back being hurt, she was obliged to remain for a short time in the Castle Hospital, which had been erected during the summer of 1855, in a lonely but healthy spot at the mouth of Balaklava Harbor. During the spring, despite her anxieties and responsibilities, she found time to attend to different minor affairs; through her exertions, "a considerable quantity of school materials, such as maps and slates, was supplied to the schools;" she advanced on her own responsibility a sufficient sum from "The Times' Fund" to complete the erection of the Inkerman Café; she aided the active senior chaplain in establishing a library and schoolroom, and warmly assisted him in organizing evening lectures for the men. She took a kindly interest in the private affairs of the men, and forwarded their savings to their families in England, at a time when there was no provision for sending home small sums; she wrote letters for the sick; she studied the comforts of those who were convalescent; and from the dying she took charge of bequests. She had a tent constructed, to protect from the glaring heat of an eastern sun the invalids who were permitted to enjoy the air, and endured the mortification of a refusal, from the hospital authorities, to have the tent put up.
M. Alexis Soyer, in his "Culinary Campaign," relates the following interesting incident:—
"Before leaving the battery I begged Miss Nightingale, as a favor, to give me her hand, which she did. I then requested her to ascend the stone rampart next the wooden gun carriage, and lastly to sit upon the centre mortar, to which requests she very gracefully and kindly acceded. I then boldly exclaimed, 'Gentlemen, behold this amiable lady sitting fearlessly upon that terrible instrument of war. Behold the heroic daughter of England, the soldier's friend!' All present shouted, 'Bravo! bravo! Hurrah! hurrah! Long live the daughter of England!'"
At length Florence Nightingale's holy work of Christian charity was accomplished, and she prepared to return to England. The period of this event was kept a profound secret, for she ever carefully shunned publicity; and, desirous of maintaining the strictest incognito, she declined the offer of a passage in a British man-of-war, and embarked on board a French vessel. Passing through France by night, and travelling her own country unrecognized, she quietly arrived at Lea Hurst, Derbyshire, Friday, August 15, 1856.
In October, Her Majesty invited her to visit the royal residence at Balmoral; and, at a ball given there, she was seated with the royal family and the court circle at one end of the hall. On this occasion, it was noticed that her hair, which the severe attack of illness she had suffered in the Crimea necessitated cutting off, was "quite short," but a charming little cap made a very graceful head-dress.
A subscription being raised by the workingmen of Sheffield to erect a monument in that town to the memory of their countrymen who had fallen in the Crimea, a request was made, in October, to Miss Nightingale, through her relative Miss Shore, of Meersbrook Hall, that she would consent to lay the foundation stone. Miss Nightingale, in refusing, sent a check for twenty pounds towards the object proposed, but said, "It is with real pain that I feel compelled to decline the privilege, which they offer me, of laying the first stone; but I believe I shall best honor the cause of those brave dead by abstaining from appearing to court that publicity which I consider to have been my greatest impediment in the work I have engaged in for their sakes—impeding it by arousing in some minds a care for worldly distinctions."
As an instance of her large-hearted benevolence, we may cite an incident which occurred on her return. In France there exists a charitable institution,—the "Œuvre de Notre Dame D'Orient,"—under the direction of l'Abbé Legendre, almoner of the hospital of Bourbonne-les-bains, a town to which large numbers of military men resort annually for the benefit of the waters. A relief fund being set on foot to aid infirm soldiers on their discharge from the hospital. Miss Nightingale forwarded a donation of one hundred francs, through Lady Fox Strangways, widow of the general who fell at Inkerman. Accompanying this donation was a graceful letter, addressed to the Abbé, in which she said, "I feel the warmest sympathy with you in the touching object of your work, and I am happy to join in it to the limited extent which my own engagements allow. I received, too, from the excellent religious ladies who were attached to the French army in the East, so many tokens of their friendship,—they gave me their assistance with such entire self-denial, and lightened my hard task in the hospital with so much devotedness, that I shall always seek any opportunity of showing my gratitude to France and to her brave children, whom I have been taught by these ladies to love and respect."
A graceful and interesting incident, in connection with the Nightingale Fund, occurred very recently. It will scarcely be forgotten that Mr. and Madame Goldschmidt contributed more than two thousand pounds to the fund, being the proceeds of a grand concert given at Exeter Hall for the purpose, when the generous donors not only performed gratuitously themselves, but insisted on defraying every expense connected with the concert. This munificence, showing that true genius is at all times kindred and sympathetic, excited such admiration, that several of those who took a deep interest in the success of the Nightingale undertaking resolved to present Mr. and Madame Goldschmidt, as a testimony of their regard, a copy in marble of Durham's bust of Her Majesty. This desire was carried into effect at the Mansion House on the 17th of last June, when the Lord Mayor, Lord Monteagle, Mr. and Madame Bunsen, Mr. and Mrs. George Grote, Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, Dr. Mackay, Mrs. and Miss Stanley, Mr. Bracebridge, and several other friends and subscribers, were present. The Lord Mayor offered the bust in the name of the subscribers, and truly remarked, in a very happy speech, that "gifted as Madame Goldschmidt was with the divinest faculty of song, it has been and is her greatest honor that she has ever been prepared to devote a proportion of the proceeds of her genius to the large purposes of charity."
One of the brightest, noblest names in the list of brave, heroic women, is —
- It is deeply interesting to learn that the apartments in the southern tower of the Barrack Hospital, formerly occupied by Miss Nightingale, now remain, even as regards the furniture they contain, precisely as they were during her residence there; a touching relic, which we owe either to our late ambassador, Lord Stratford, or to his successor, Sir Henry Bulwer.