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.